The book that I wrote, 7 Nissan, is now on Goodreads. If you bought it and liked it, or just liked the comics online, please feel free to leave a review.
Also, for the past year or so, I’ve made it a project to review every book that I read as I finish them, which I think makes me a more thoughtful reader and maybe even a better writer. I’ll be doing that for the foreseeable future, so if you want to follow along then . . . I guess there’s nothing stopping you.
More artwork soon! Watch this space.
In early 2012, living in the unmitigated Hell that is Hawaii and having just finished a mini-comic version of The Iliad, I was once again bored out of my mind. I thought that my artwork had improved enough in the course of illustrating The Illiad that I could take a stab at doing a comic version of some stories that were more or less seared into my brain during my year-long deployment to Iraq as a combat engineer in 2008-9, right at the tail end of “the surge.” I sat down at the typewriter over a few weeks in January and came up with a bunch of little stories: some too short, some much too long, but finally decided on one that was likely to run to about 100 pages. What took about four days to write took fully two years to illustrate, lay out and revise, but now it is complete and I have an actual, physical book (and Kindle edition).
In the mean time, I managed to develop three more books’ worth of ideas, which should keep me in the comics business well into my 40s. The next one, tentatively titled “The Best Iraqi Ever and Other Stories,” collects a bunch of the shorter stories that I wrote when I was hashing out this one, which are all too short to stand on their own. I’m going to try to get some of them published elsewhere before I put them all together into a collection. The two after that move away from the war and back to America, but I’ll leave the spoilers for later.
I intend to keep updating this website as I go, so be sure to bookmark it and check back every week or two for new updates. If you like what you see, feel free to stroke my ego by buying a Kindle copy for $3.99, or — if you’re really feeling generous — a paperback for a good bit more, depending on what level of discount Amazon feels like giving you.
Special thanks to those who have provided feedback over the course of this project, and to those who have already ordered!
This is, of course, the back cover, spine and front cover in one document.
Probably the most maddening thing about writing this book has been the fact that after I finished drawing the last page there turned out to be several months’ worth of stuff to take care of before it turns into an actual, physical book that I can sell. This is almost at and end, however, as I ordered a proof copy from the printers this afternoon, so make sure that the images are correctly placed on the page and the colors came out all right, and so on. I’ll probably find about three typos in it, too, if the last few weeks have been anything to go by.
The whole thing will be ready in a few weeks, and will be available as a paperback and as a Kindle download. Every panel is online at this point, and I’ll probably post them all in order once I’m ready to start selling books, but if you pay the money you get it in full resolution, with a glossary of terms and acronyms and some other stuff I put in the back.
While that’s in the works, I’ll be publishing some sketches and other artwork that I did over the past few months, as a way to keep these updates regular. I got out of the habit of putting something up here every week once I didn’t have a new panel at the end of the weekend, and traffic has started to fall as a result. I’ll be back into the one-a-week cycle in the next couple months, though, as I start on my next book!
As I continue to make final edits to my graphic novel about the Iraq War (six words that I’m getting tired of typing at this point), I’ve come to several pages that I had previously not published due to concerns on my part about the necessity of getting the work cleared for public release by the DA/DOD. However, a more careful reading of the regulations indicates that this is not necessary for “works of fiction (to include those based on real events),” as long as I’m confident that there’s no classified information disclosure. I am very confident in this, due to the extreme vagueness written into the story.
AR 360-1, Para. 6-6 (c)
So, without further ado, here are some previously unpublished pages to tide you over while the editing continues.
Pages 37 and 38 will appear side by side in the final print version, like so. They explain the basics of what is going on to the casual reader. I had originally written this as a big block of text, but I think that this is much more clear and reads much better.
This section is the culminating point of the book, and cuts a clear contrast to the later pages when they’re handing out candy to little kids. It’s based on one particularly frightening incident that happened to me in 2009 in which an Iraqi driver, who may or may not have been guilty of anything, only escaped being stapled to the pavement by 7.62 rounds because my vehicle gunner didn’t have that last cup of coffee before setting out. We would almost certainly have been within our rights to shoot him, but in retrospect of course I’m glad we didn’t. I included the escalation of force scene here, instead of something more violent, because the point of writing the book was to show an unremarkable mission on an unremarkable day by an unremarkable unit in Iraq, and while shootings and IED attacks did happen, they were much rarer, whereas even to this day in Afghanistan you have 18 and 19 year-old vehicle gunners making these kinds of shoot/no-shoot decisions every single day. Hopefully that comes across.
Anyway, I’ve got the first 75 pages edited at this point, and I’ll post the whole thing once it’s complete before I move on to .pdf and print layouts.
All eleven regular readers will have noticed a long delay since my last update. This is not because I haven’t been working, but rather because I’ve been editing, and it’s boring as hell. It turns out that there’s a big difference between having drawn enough pages to fill a book and having completed a book. There are three main steps to bridging this gap:
1. Un-fuck the pages that I already drew. This mainly stems from the fact that I got much better at drawing over the past couple of years (100% due to practice and 0% due to natural talent) and so the later panels look better than the earlier ones. I also didn’t draw model sheets when I began this project, which started off as something — anything — to fill the time while I sweated out the purgatory of living in Hawaii, and turned into a first novel once I realized how long it would be when it was done. This means that some of the characters and objects change appearance incrementally but noticeably between the beginning and the end when I wasn’t paying attention, which won’t do. Anyway, this means making a lot of little changes to details in the earlier pages, as below. See if you can spot them!
2. Put all of the pages into a .pdf file, laid out for printing. I use Adobe InDesign for this, and will format it for Amazon’s CreateSpace POD publishing business, although the same document will be for sale as a .pdf and will be sent to publishers to see if anyone’s interested.
3. Draw a cover. This is the most fun part, but also the most challenging, since it’s a different sort of design challenge than drawing the interior pages. I can pretty much visualize what’s happening in the story, sometimes all too vividly, and most of the time it’s not hard to just draw that. Drawing a cover is different, because I have to accurately convey the artwork that’s inside without making it too complex to catch the eye. I also have to write a synopsis for the back that’s meaningful but not pretentious, which may be the hardest part of the whole project.
I have a lot of downtime at work around Christmas, so that’ll probably be when most of this gets done. I’m uploading the final pages on my Tumblr as I complete them, and I’ll put the whole thing up on this website in one long post once it’s finally done. Stay tuned!