Monday, March 25, 2024

I hate [most] Westerns, Part 2 (guest post)

 



*NOTE: All the posts this month will be written my by husband, Jamin Hillwig, as I do my darnedest to make headway on the published version of my Hex history project.  Enjoy!

Last week, I mentioned that the Young Guns movies are among the few Westerns I like, and I think I know why that is. It’s an ensemble piece and very action packed. But sadly, even these movies aren’t perfect.  Nowhere in them do they state that this is “Based in true events” because it’s not. It’s way the fuck off! For example:

- John Tunstall was not old and didn’t look like General Zod. He was only 24 years old when he was murdered, just 5-6 years older than Billy.

- There was no Dirty Steve Stephens. There WAS a Dirty Dave Rutabaugh who was called “Arkansas” Dave Rutabaugh in Young Guns 2.

- Dick Brewer was shot in the face, not the gut… that was probably more MPAA than anything.

- Charlie Bowdre survived the attack on Alex McSween’s house and died at the shoot out at Stinking Springs. Billy and company escaped the burning house during the night.

- Billy the Kid did not shoot L.G. Murphy in the head or anywhere for that matter. Murphy was living in Florida at the time.

- The were a lot more Lincoln County Regulators than the 6 guys in the movie. It was more like 10-20 men.

- Doc Scurlock was never a teacher in New York City and was not killed at the gun fight at Stinking Springs. He lived to be an old man married to a Mexican (not an Asian) and refused to talk to anybody about Billy the Kid or the Lincoln County War.

- Jose Chavez y Chavez died peacefully in his bed at the age of 72-73.

- Billy the Kid was “likely” killed by Sheriff Pat Garrett in Fort Sumner, New Mexico. They probably knew or knew of each other but they were not friends.

- “Brushy” Bill Roberts has been proven by modern science to absolutely not be Billy the Kid. But as a matter of historic fact, many people claimed to be Billy the Kid.

I’m really sorry if you’re all pissed at me now. But this is one of the beautiful things about this movie. When I say I love this movie I mean I REALLY love this movie! It made me want to learn more! So after seeing it, me and my brother went to the library and read anything and everything we could on Billy the Kid. These movies are like the comparison between Gone With the Wind the movie and Gone With the Wind the book. The true history is a hell of a story with a lot more players. I suggest you look in to it.

Anyways, I’ve talked your ears off or read your eyes out (if you prefer). That’s it for me. "Assistant Editors' Month" is over. I hope you all have enjoyed these stories as much as I enjoyed writing them.

Monday, March 18, 2024

I hate [most] Westerns, Part 1 (guest post)


*NOTE: All the posts this month will be written my by husband, Jamin Hillwig, as I do my darnedest to make headway on the published version of my Hex history project.  Enjoy!

I hate Westerns. I do. With a few exceptions. I like the Young Guns movies. I like The Quick & The Dead. I like Two Mules for Sister Sarah and High Plains Drifter. I like The Cowboys and The Shootist with John Wayne. And that’s it. Anything else puts me to sleep. I remember way, way, way back when, when me and Susan were dating we rented The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. We took it back to my mom and stepdad’s place and popped it in the VCR and sat down to watch: me, Susan, and my stepdad. 15 minutes in and I’m out cold. The next thing I remember is opening my eyes to the credits and Susan and my stepdad talking about what a great movie that was. I don’t know about great movie but the experience ranks in the "Top 10 BEST Naps I’ve Had in My Life".

The Cowboys is a whole different story. Lots of stuff goes on in that movie. There are no great expanses of one man riding his horse across the open plains with no dialog. And it’s got John Wayne. For my money, John Wayne and Optimus Prime are the same guy. Sure, the man advocated war when he himself never served, but that’s not the point. Watch the movie. There is a part near the end where all the cowboys (just kids, literal cow BOYS) are gathered around John Wayne and he starts talking about “how proud he is of them” and “how every father wants their children to be better than them. And you are.” If you are a guy…. If you are human, this scene will get at you. The Shootist is kinda the “long form” version of that scene.

Two Mules and The Quick & The Dead are just good action movies. You could change the era and location and it would make little difference. That’s not a slight to the movie or the writers. They’re both movies anybody would like because they are easily relatable.

High Plains Drifter is a ghost story. That’s my wheelhouse. It’s a slow burn, but when it gets good, it gets REAL GOOD. Not gory but creepy as Hell!

Young Guns has a sequel… Just like this post. I’m devoting a whole post to both movies. I’m a huge fan and it’s a lot to unpack.

Monday, March 11, 2024

What's it like having your name in a book? (guest post)


 *NOTE: All the posts this month will be written my by husband, Jamin Hillwig, as I do my darnedest to make headway on the published version of my Hex history project.  Enjoy!

You’re going to laugh but, before Swords & Sixguns came out, my name was already in a book. A famous book. It’s called the Holy Bible. The name "Jamin" is only in there a few times, 6 to be exact throughout the Old Testament, mostly in reference to the Sons of Simeon. My mom thought it was pretty. The fact of the matter is that me and Susan were broken up at the time she decided to name a major character in her book after me… So, I don’t want to hear any nepotism crap, okay?

Here’s a funny story: My older brother got a copy of Susan's book. He was really digging it because he likes the Old West. Anyways, he’s reading and enjoying the story then “Jamin” shows up. He said, (and this is a direct quote) ”I could mentally hear the needle skip across the record.”… Yeah, I know. He’s just jealous.

Actually, seeing my last name "Hillwig" in a comic was pretty cool. It about scared the shit out of me, too. So, there we were years and years ago, sitting on the couch reading our new comics and Susan starts screaming, screaming like she’s dying! “WHAT?! WHAT?! WHAT, DAMMIT?!? ARE YOU OKAY?!? WHAT?!?” , I scream at her. She points at the page in her comic. Then I start screaming like I’m dying. Susan and the authors of the comic book had been corresponding for awhile and I guess they decided to give her a little surprise.

I looked around the internet. There are a few noteworthy Hillwigs. One is a doctor, one is an astronomer, and at least one was a Union soldier in the American Civil War. But how many of them can say they have their name in the Bible, a novel, AND a comic book?

Monday, March 4, 2024

The #1 Fan's Opinion (guest post)


*NOTE: All the posts this month will be written my by husband, Jamin Hillwig, as I do my darnedest to make headway on the published version of my Hex history project.  Enjoy!

It’s “Assistant Editors' Month". That means I get the center chair while Susan concentrates more on writing books than posting silly memes and giving us all her two cents. And since I now control the horizontal and the vertical, I’m going to try to post stuff that’s a little different than what you get here. And since I am Susan’s #1 Fan, were going to start by answering this question:

WHAT IS IT LIKE TO BE MARRIED TO AN AUTHOR?

Well, since I’ve only been married to one person, I can’t really compare unless I use examples I’ve seen in real life. It’s not all too different from what any of you know. The main difference I can think of is: along with the regular stuff people do, writers write. Yeah, no shit. But really, I mean it. Some days she’s on a streak and she’ll just be plugging away. Other times, she’ll get just a few sentences out. And if you’re a helpful guy like me, this is when you’ll want to help.

Don’t.

Not unless they ask. Because you really don’t know what’s going on in the story. Even if you think you know what’s going on, you don’t. So, I hate to break it to you kids. Don’t expect me to drop in juicy tidbits of what’s coming up in the next book. I only have the vaguest notion…. Though, one time about 10 years ago, I did pin Susan down and make her tell me at least the broad strokes of the story. And I'd  love to tell you all what I know. But I’m certain that’s all changed. Trust me, the original ideas she had from over 25 years ago are wildly different…. I don’t know if that is a writer’s thing or woman’s prerogative.

And that is really the long and short of it. Everything a normal husband or wife does, but they also type, and on rare occasion ask for an opinion on something they totally made up.

Sunday, February 11, 2024

The decision is made!



At the end of my last post, I asked y'all to weigh in regarding which project should take priority for 2024: my second novel or the Hex history book.  I got two responses -- one for each project -- so I had to do the tiebreaker myself.  In the end, I decided on the Hex history book, not only because it's closer to completion, but I can also put an ad in the back for Swords & Sixguns at the low rate of absolutely free (the advantages of self-publishing!).

Since making the decision, I've made some progress in multiple areas:

- I've figured out how to scale up the images I need to 300 dpi with minimal fuss.  There's still a ton of work to be done there, but at least I've narrowed it down to a few mouse clicks as opposed to the clunky method I thought I'd be stuck with.

- The Introduction is done, plus I've added three new pages so far to Chapter 1, giving readers a "lay of the land" as to what the comics landscape and Westerns in general looked like at the time of Jonah's creation.  Like I said in my previous post, those first couple chapters are a kinda bare-bones compared to the later ones.  I'm aiming for at least 10 pages per chapter, not counting images.

- While I don't know how long the final book will be, I can tell you it won't exceed 500 pages, because that's the maximum amount I can do through my printer.  Each chapter will have at least two images in it, to be certain, but whether I include more than that -- along with how much extra stuff I can pack at the end beyond the already-written Appendix A and B -- will depend on how much of the page count is taken up by the main text.

- For those curious about dimensions, I'm currently formatting the book at 7x10 inches, since this is as close to "comic size" as my printer offers.  The idea is that, when complete, you can comfortably slip it onto your bookshelf next to your Hex trades and have it blend in fairly well (it might also fit into a comic box with minimal fuss, depending on the type you use).  Both the paperback and hardcover editions will be roughly the same size...and yes, there will be a Kindle version!

- The Afterword is already complete, and it's not written by me!  I asked actor Johnathon Schaech -- who initially spurred me into turning this blog series into a book -- to write some thoughts about playing ol' Jonah, and boy oh boy, did he deliver!  He's also sent me various photos over the years, some of which will end up in the book.  Plus Seth Albano -- grandson of Hex creator John Albano -- has agreed to write the Foreword, and I'm hoping he'll supply some photos as well.

That's about all I have to report at the moment.  Between working on the book and the fast-approaching con season, I likely won't have much time for blogging over the next few months, so in my absence, my husband has volunteered to write a few guest posts in March.  We're referring to it as "Assistant Editors' Month", so expect a bit of shenanigans.  See you then!

 

Friday, January 19, 2024

5 at 50



Ten years ago, I did a post about turning 40 and signing my very first publishing contract.  To say I was giddy at the time would be an understatement.  Sadly, as I mentioned in my post two weeks ago, that contract fell through, and I eventually went with self-publishing, which mainly consists of making up your own deadlines and blowing past them most of the time (or at least for me it does).  But dangit, I’m gonna change that!  I’m officially old now -- got an application from AARP in the mail with my name on it and everything – and the clock is ticking, so I gotta quit screwing around and GET STUFF DONE.

With that in mind, here’s a list of  the five works-in-progress I have in various stages of completion, it’s all just a matter of getting it down on paper (so to speak):

Swords & Sixguns: Crossing The Line - As you probably figured by the title, this is the sequel to my first novel, Swords & Sixguns: An Outlaw’s Tale.  At the moment, I have 136 double-spaced pages written, meaning somewhere between one-third and one-half of the story is done, and has been for quite a while.  I’ve got the beats worked out for the rest of the novel, so it’s not a problem of writer’s block, just time.  I also have the beats for the third and fourth novels, plus rough ideas for the others after that -- things in the overall storyarc have changed a bit since I first began plotting it out in 1994 (yes, that’s how long I’ve had this idea!), mainly because I’m a better writer than I was when I started, so I’ve been weeding out some of the clich├ęs I’d originally put into the plot.  Thankfully, many of them were so far down the line, story-wise, that it’s only taken a few tweaks in the upcoming stuff to avoid them.  This is the ONLY advantage I’ve had in regards to how slow I write!

Hero to Some, Villain to Others: An Illustrated History of Jonah HexThis is my long-running, non-fiction work that’s going head-to-head with my second novel in terms of “Who’s gonna get to press first?”  It has the advantage of being closer to completion -- only 5 chapters left to write, plus another appendix for two -- but some disadvantages.  The first is that I have to format it differently than my novel, since this will include multiple pictures throughout, not just a couple pieces of clip art like my first novel.  The second is how little material is in the first few chapters compared with the later ones (again, I’m a better writer now), so I want to beef them up.  And third is that there’s still a couple of interviews I’m trying to arrange, but I haven’t got a hold of the people yet (I’ll likely just have to let those go and deal with the info gap).  I’m still kicking myself for missing Jonah’s 50th anniversary, but so did DC, therefore I don’t feel too awful.

Godheart - One of two works that are currently exclusive to Kindle Vella, which are released chapter-by-chapter instead of one fell swoop.  It began life as a fanfic I wrote at the request of a site that was launching out of DC2, but when the new site fell through, the fic was never used, and it’s been sitting in my files for years collecting dust.  When Vella launched, I decided to file the serial numbers off of the fic (i.e. remove anything that would identify it with the property it was originally riffing on) and post it as a test of what this new site could do -- if anything went seriously wrong, I wouldn’t lose a property I’d put a massive investment into.  That’s not to say I don’t like the story -- I kept it for years, after all -- it was just a low-priority thing.  I put up four chapters, with a note at the end of the fourth asking people to contact me if they want to read more, and so far, I’ve had zero responses.  I think part of the issue is the paywall: the first three chapters are free to read, after which the reader must buy tokens to go further, and I get a small percentage of that token’s worth.  Other than a “signing bonus” of sorts from Kindle due to me being a beta tester, I haven’t made a dime off of it.  So this is on the back burner for now, though it will eventually get finished so I can at least publish it in physical form sometime later.

Forgotten Be Thy Name -  My second Kindle Vella work is in the same boat as the first, though it’s further along in regards to chapters due to me having stronger ideas for it.  This tale is pretty much “Jonah Hex in Hell” without mentioning him by name because copyrights (fiction work goes by different rules than non-fiction).  I thought it would do better than the previous one since I’m a known quantity when it comes to Hex, but again, I think the paywall is stopping people.  Like Godheart, it will get finished so it can be published.  Matter of fact, I’ll likely do both in the same volume, along with another finished story I’ve been submitting here and there for many years (I’ll talk about that in another blog post).  One shortie, one midrange, and one novella…that sounds like a nice package, don’tcha think?

Miscellaneous DC2 work - This entry is a bit of a cheat because it’s not one work, it’s three, all of which are loosely connected.  Despite having my own original universe to muck about in, I enjoy putting various DC characters in predicaments, so that’ll likely never stop.  To be sure, I need to finish writing the final installment of Omega Crisis -- which is plotted and a couple of scenes completed -- and once that’s out of the way, the other fics can proceed.  There’s at about 5-10 more issues of Weird Western Quarterly that need to be done so I can wrap up the long, winding storyline that I’ve been weaving since WWQ#0 hit DC2 in November 2005.  And Jonah Hex: Shades of Gray is just getting started in terms of where the story is headed, but I realize now that it will likely never have a solid end just because I have so many other things to work on and a finite amount of time.  I’ll get out as much of that story as I can, though, because I’ve got as lot more to say about Hex living in the 2010s (yes, I’m sticking with the original timeline, no bumping it up to keep it in synch with the here-and-now…which means I’m still writing in the past despite setting it in the 21st Century!).

So that’s the state of my WIPs at this moment in January 2024.  And now I put a question to you fine folks: would you rather I polish off my second novel by the end of this year, or should the printed version of my Hex history project take priority?  Drop me a line here, on Facebook, or at swordsandsixgunsnovel@gmail.com and let me know!

 

Tuesday, January 2, 2024

New year, new plan


 

Okay, kiddos, time for serious talk.

The #1 reason I joined Facebook back in 2014 was to promote my novel, which -- at the time – had just been picked up by Permuted Press.  I figured I’d get the ball rolling on creating a fanbase and all that.  Well, those of you who were around back then know how that publishing deal turned out…and the next one…so I finally nutted up in 2016 and decided to self-publish.  When you go that route, every single bit of promotion falls upon you, so you have to find a way to balance your writing and your personal life and being your own hype machine.

Let’s be honest: I suck at balancing all that.  My personal life (i.e. working at my paying job) eats up much of my time and energy, and scrolling FB tends to eat up a couple hours every day as well, leaving little time to decompress and do things with my husband and…you know…actually write.  This past year was semi-productive, as I did get a couple of things out there, but while I got to have a bit of fun while writing them, they made me no money and the public’s enthusiasm for them seemed middling.

Don’t get me wrong, I knew this whole writing gig would make very little money, so don’t look at this as a veiled plea for donations or something.  Us here at Casa Del Hillwig are doing just fine (again, I have a paying job), I’m just frustrated that not only did I pass the 7th anniversary of my first novel’s publication without releasing the second book (though you can read the first chapter of it if you buy the hardcover edition of Swords & Sixguns: An Outlaw’s Tale!), but for the first time since 2011, I didn’t put out another installment of “An Illustrated History of Jonah Hex” when November rolled around (though one of those writings I previously mentioned did kinda fill that gap).  Big miss on both of my major projects.  So I’ve been telling myself the past couple of months that I’m gonna do better next year, I’m gonna buckle down and get at least one of those things completed and published and all that jazz so I can offer more than just one dang book at the cons.  I just have to figure out how to get rid of distractions, or at least manage my free time better.

This brings us back around to Facebook.  One of the writers I follow is James Fell who wrote two volumes of Today in History Shit Went Down.  He announced recently that he’s going to devote less time to FB because it literally isn’t paying off anymore.  Like many pros on the platform, he’s been getting fucked over by the algorithm, which is showing his posts less and less to people who’ve actually liked/followed his page in favor of paid advertising, aka sponsored posts.  So he gamed the system: He literally bought a sponsored post so he could tell his followers that he’s cutting back on FB in favor of Substack.  I admired his chutzpa, so I subscribed to James Fell, along with Dr. Heather Cox Richardson, whose daily history/news wrap-up is usually the first thing I read every morning when I log onto FB.  Substack sends the stuff directly to my email instead, meaning I don’t need to go to FB anymore to read her post, which then leads to me getting sucked into a doomscroll through the rest of the site.

In other words, I just discovered a way to wean myself off of that daily FB login.

I’m not quitting Facebook, mind you.  It is a useful tool, it’s just I now have proof that the reason I made the account to begin with doesn’t work as well as it used to.  It’s taken me close to a decade to get over 300 followers, so if someone like James Fell -- who has literally a thousand times more followers than me -- is getting buried by the algorithm, then I have no hope at all of reaching anyone new unless I shell out money…and even that is a shot in the dark.

So things will likely get quiet around Facebook as far as my posts are concerned, both personal and professional.  I’m thinking like once or twice a month, I’ll put up a fresh post with a link to my blog attached – as I’ve done for this one – and probably share a meme or two in the interim like usual, just so you know I didn’t die.  Matter of fact, expect the next blog post around the 19th or so, because I’m turning 50, and that seems like a good as time as any to step back, reassess all these little projects I have going on, and give y’all a sit-rep.  See you then!