Tuesday, February 27, 2024

An Interview with Comic Book Artist/Author Sandy Plunkett

 

An Interview with Comic Book Artist/Author Sandy Plunkett

Originally from New York City, Sandy Plunkett is a wizard with a pencil. A long-time resident of Athens, Ohio, Sandy is an icon in southeastern Ohio. Beginning his career drawing for DC and Marvel Comics, he creates scenarios and characters that engage and amaze; fantastical creatures, superheroes and heroines, magical beasts, and so much more.  

Welcome, Sandy!

GM: How in the world did you land in Athens, Ohio from New York City? 

SP:  Yeah, I've gotten asked that a lot since landing in Athens. The simple part of the answer is that I was in a relationship with a woman in NYC who had friends here. She'd visit every spring for an annual dance party hosted by John Thorndike. One year she convinced me to tag along (I'm not wild about dance parties in really) we stayed the weekend, mostly at a community near Amesville called, at the time, The Helpless Far. I was taken with what I saw and the people I met, the kind of lives they'd carved out for themselves. Eventually I started coming to Athens on my own, visiting folks I'd me, exploring the area.

At the same time, I found myself dealing with bouts of depression back in New York. I think there might have been a number of reasons for this, but a big factor were the changes the city was going through in the 80s. It was rapidly becoming gentrified, its PR machine having convinced half the world that Manhattan was the coolest place on the planet to live. This meant wonderfully grizzled old ethnic neighborhoods disappearing overnight and rents going through the roof. The tone on the streets changed- everyone seemed to be on display, 24/7. The working class was just forced out and with it, a lot of the city's true character. So, around 1990 I decided I'd had had enough and flew the coop.

GM: What do you find most likeable about the Athens culture and environment? Where in Athens is your favorite place for creative inspiration?

SP: I've been in Athens over 30 years now and, as you would suspect, the town has changed a lot in that time. And a lot of what first attracted me has disappeared. It's hard to put a word to the quality the town had back then. It felt very much like the small, Appalachian college town it was but the influence of a somewhat anarchistic, back-to-the-land community added a sense of  possibility and unity I hadn't experienced elsewhere. There seemed to be endless invention in how people were shaping their lives. I'm still impressed by how positive many Athenians are about constructing a better world, for themselves and others, but OU has grown so dominant, the real estate market has grown so prohibitive, that it's made Athens seem like a more serious, money-orient environment, stifling that sense of freedom.

My favorite place for creative inspiration? Well, that to has changed over the years, but once the students have cleared the bricks for the summer, I love to take a sketch book uptown and sit outside the Donkey Café, watching the light fade in the evening, just absorbing the atmosphere.

GM: Your creative portfolio is extensive; Spider-Man, Batman, Daredevil, Dc Comics, Marvel Comics, etc. Who is your favorite character to create?

SP: Well, when I have worked on a copyrighted character like the ones you mentioned, I'm not actually “creating” a character- I'm just trying to add something to a preexisting “property” while still sticking to the core of what makes that hero work. It's an interesting and enjoyable challenge- seeking out possibilities no other writer or artist might have found yet. Alan Moore did this brilliantly with DC's Swamp Thing. When working at Marvel regularly, I'd seek out their lesser known characters to work on, mostly because they weren't quite so closely scrutinized by the marketing people who were always very concerned about writers going “off message”. You'd have a little more latitude, creatively, doing the more low profile heroes. I enjoyed working on Ant Man and the Black Panther for that reason. Hardly obscure figures now, but back in the 80's, they were definitely considered second-stringers. Also, they had simple costumes- easier to draw than, say, Galactus.

GM: How did your childhood play a role in developing your artistic abilities? Are you a natural? Formal training? Are/were your parents supportive?

SP: My childhood shaped my artistic development tremendously, but not necessarily the way your question implies. I actually avoided most art classes in school because the assigned projects always seemed boring. My memories of drawing start at around age 5, when I was plunked down in front of a TV for the first time. I immediately fell in love with the old Tarzan movies, Flash Gordon serials and the Superman TV show, all of which being endlessly replayed on local stations. All this stuff, including Marvel Comics (which I discovered a couple years later) helped spark a desire to create my own fantasy worlds on paper. But I stopped drawing at the beginning of junior high because I kept being told I'd reached an age where I'd outgrown those sort of childish things and that it was time to start reading the newspaper and follow events in Israel or Viet Nam. Without the inspiration of comics and jungle movies and heroic spaceman, the world seemed like a much duller place and the inspiration to draw- and create comics of my own- withered. Fortunately, I managed to come back to my senses sometime near the end of tenth grade and started buying comics again. It was something of a watershed event. Buying comics was definitely not considered cool back then and so this was something of an existential decision for  me. And once I was back in the fold, I began drawing again.

GM: What are you currently creating? 

SP: By the time anyone reads this, I'm pretty sure I'll already have moved on to other commissions. But right now, I'm doing a t-shirt design for the Southeast Ohio History Center, finishing up a large Justice Society of America drawing for a private collector and starting  work on a poster for Rural Action.

GM: Who is your favorite all-time artist?

SP: Well, there's no way I could ever isolate one artists from the dozens (hundreds?) of artists whose work I love. And even a list of top ten given right now would probably change if you asked again in a year. As far as the fine artists go I'd put Rembrandt at the top. And as for comic book artists and illustrators, I'd say Frank Frazetta, Carlos Nine, J C Coll, Herge, Jeffrey Catherine Jones and many, many others.

GM: Describe your studio and where you work... do you have a muse, listen to music, special lighting, or something else to spur creativity when you work?

SP: How would I describe my work space? Rustic, bordering on primitive. (See drawing at end).

Not inspired by music so much anymore. I get excited (and inspired) when I discover artists that are new to me, whether they be architects or photographers or print makers. Even better, when a faded interest in some art movement or genre is rekindled. Recently I picked up a beautiful book of early movie posters, many of them lithograph prints, that made me swoon. Both consciously and I'm sure unconsciously, I start to incorporated design elements or approaches to composition or color schemes from those artists into my own work.

GM: What is your best advice for young artists finding their way in the comic book industry?

SP: Learn to live frugally.

GM: List some things that your fans may not know about you...

SP: What fans don't know about me would probably best remain unknown. But, listing a few of the less embarrassing ones. I’m a hopeless romantic, a believer in magical thinking, always fantasized about being a night janitor.

GM: What's for lunch?

SP: Whatever I can scrounge from the fridge. If not, a peanut butter and jam sandwich- always a great fallback.

Sandy's studio (c) Illustration by Sandy Plunkett

Connect with Sandy:

https://www.plunkettcomicart.com/

Southeast Ohio History Museum

https://www.comicartfans.com/comic-artists/sandy_plunkett.asp

https://www.marvel.com/comics/creators/3733/sandy_plunkett

WOUB Interview (November 2023)

Meet the Artist Sandy Plunkett (WOUB/PBS)

(The Athens News 2009)

Wiki

Blogger’s Note: It was December 2023 when I first met Sandy Plunkett. As the sponsor of a first-time book fair at The Dairy Barn, my planning was off and I overbooked authors. Sandy, who had called prior to let me know, was running late to the book fair. In a room full of round tables (not configured for author book signings), zealous authors, and stacks of books, everyone scrambled for space. In the frenzy, I forgot to hold a table for Sandy (the most prolific artist/author in southeastern Ohio). When Sandy arrived, I was humbled by his kindness. My offering was a small desk in the middle of the room. Sandy was fine with the space and the event went well. My son was thrilled to receive an autographed copy of Sandy's book. We will be sponsoring the book fair at The Dairy Barn in 2024 with rectangle tables. Sandy, I hope you will headline the event!

 


Monday, February 26, 2024

Milliron Monday: Letters Home Sept 10 1960

   

Abbott "Pete" Smith D.V.M.:  June 16, 1938 - February 22, 2010
Virginia Joyann "Jody" Haley Smith: April 2, 1938 - May 9, 2021
Welcome to Milliron Monday where every Monday we celebrate the legacy of Milliron Farm and Clinic, Dr. Pete and Jody Smith. 

"Pete and I went for a beautiful ride up into the foothills the morning of our anniversary."
― Jody Smith

Jody's letter home to Mansfield, Ohio. After Jody passed away, I remember seeing "two very nice bound (blank pages) books." The pages are still blank.

Route 1
Fort Collins, Colorado
Saturday, August 20, 1960

Hi,
    Sorry I haven't written for so long but things are awfully busy around here what with Jessica, remodeling the apartment, and getting ours and the Field's furniture switched around.
    Jessica is now eating carrots as well as her cereal. Tuesday, September 6, she weighed 9 lbs. 12 1/2 oz. and was 23 1/2 inches long. She's also been doing "pushups" lately. She raises her head clear off the bed and supports herself on her hands.
    Steve Field stopped a week or so ago and the first thing he said was, "You've painted the door. Makes the whole place look better," so I guess your work hasn't gone unnoticed, Mom. That meatgrinder has been a real timesaver. Sure makes great hash and we really are using the stepladder after all, painting the apartment.
    I didn't forget your birthday, Dad, but I never seem to get time to write, so Happy Birthday, a bit late.
    I keep saying I'll write every night before I go to bed but I'm always too tired, so this is being written at 6 a.m.!
    Pete and I went for a beautiful ride up into the foothills the morning of our anniversary. We borrowed Saha - Birky's half-Arab and Pete and Mary Lou Matthews took care of Jessica for us.
    Pete's folks sent us two very nice bound (blank pages) books for our "paper anniversary." Hope we get time to write in them.
    Thanks for the anniversary card, Jess.
    Bye for now.
Love, 
Jody
     
Previous Letters Home: 

~  ~ 

  
Through captivating, powerful, and emotional anecdotes, we celebrate the life of Dr. Abbott P. Smith. His biography takes the reader from smiles to laughter to empathy and tears. Dr. Smith gave us compelling lessons learned from animals; the role animals play in the human condition, the joy of loving an animal, and the awe of their spirituality. A tender and profound look into the life of a skilled veterinarian.

  

Tuesday, February 20, 2024

An Interview with Ohio Author Tim Bookman

 

An Interview with Ohio Author Tim Bookman

From SE Ohio USA, Tim Bookman is the author of Homegrown, a suspense thriller about “a young man who, through bad circumstance after bad circumstance, is driven to turn on society. Through his high intellect, he develops a plan that could possibly bring the nation to its knees.”

I recently caught with Tim and asked about his new book and much more.

Welcome, Tim!

GM: What is the premise for your new book Homegrown?

TB: I originally tried to develop the idea of how soft and fragile we are in the USA. Through Covid, I have seen how divided our country becomes when anything affects the general population personally. We get angry when attacked, but feed up when we are affected personally. So, I gathered facts about our infrastructure and modeled an unfortunate character in the mold of Ted Kaczynski (Unabomber), then coupled the character with a knowledge of our infrastructure and the backing of an extremist group. The premise imagines the effects of their actions and the response of the American population. I use real-life personalities that are put into situations that cause people’s demeanor to change, and through that change how their behavior impacts the people they interact with.

GM: What would you like readers to take away from your book?
TB: My book Is intended to move America awake of the need to better protect our infrastructure, and the access to information that makes locating it possible. Also, it is meant to raise awareness of our reliance upon our infrastructure and the need to have alternatives to compensate it’s interruptions.

GM: Who is your favorite author?
TB: Clive Cussler is my favorite author. The way he uses existing technology to interact with his stories, then uses that technology to help solve his storyline is brilliant.

GM: What are you currently writing?
TB: I’m writing a short non-fiction on my belief in forest farming. Taking small tracks of forested properties then, without destroying the wooded property, transforming it into a property that pays for itself; self-sustaining forest farming.

GM: What are you currently reading?
TB: I am reading articles and literature on the Hopewell Indian tribe. I am trying to understand the various formations they built throughout the mid-west.

GM: List 5 things your fans may not know about you…
TB: 1) I didn’t go to college. I started in construction straight out of high school and have been in the industry for 45 years.
2) My wife and I (of 42 years) have lived in Hocking County Ohio our entire life. We raised three children and have eight grandchildren – all reside in Hocking County.
3) I have raised my family to love the outdoors – hunting, fishing, and hiking. We are excellent morel mushroom hunters and can identify most species of plants and trees found in Appalachian forests.
4) I love to build. I have been part of building structures all over northeastern USA, all different styles, including historical, new builds, factories, churches, and office complexes. I even built the house I live in.

Connect with Tim:
Homegrown on Amazon




Monday, February 19, 2024

Milliron Monday: Letters Home August 20 1960

  

Abbott "Pete" Smith D.V.M.:  June 16, 1938 - February 22, 2010
Virginia Joyann "Jody" Haley Smith: April 2, 1938 - May 9, 2021
Welcome to Milliron Monday where every Monday we celebrate the legacy of Milliron Farm and Clinic, Dr. Pete and Jody Smith. 

"She still howls nearly all day long but at least that's better than at night."
― Jody Smith

Jody's letter home to Mansfield, Ohio. Backstory: Jody is enjoying living in the country with Starboy (her gelding) nearby, but motherhood is paramount and nurturing a new baby takes most of her time. Pete is a senior at Colorado State University. (In 1960, the cost to mail a letter was 4 cents.) 

Route 1
Fort Collins, Colorado
Saturday, August 20, 1960

Dear Mom, Dad, and Jessie,
    It was nice to hear your voice, Mom; I'd gotten so spoiled though, being able to talk to you whenever I wanted for a few weeks, it seemed strange for it to be an expensive luxury again. Thank you all very much for putting the money in the account. Pete was quite relieved and pleased and went out that afternoon to pay off the loan. I'm certainly glad that's off his mind before his studies begin.
    Jessica did an amazing thing last night - she slept from 10:30 pm to 7:30 am! She's getting two feedings of cereal a day and sometimes takes 6 oz. of milk, other times three or five. She still howls nearly all day long but at least that's better than at night. The bathinette is certainly a big help. I just cart it into the bathroom and fill it up and give her a bath. I've been rocking her for a while each evening and taking her out for a couple of walks during the day - a practice which she seems to enjoy. I took off her diapers and laid her outside on a blanket in the shade while I hung up the wash this morning.
    I'll try to write a bit longer letter when I get the time and energy.
Love, 
Jody
     
Previous Letters Home: 

~  ~ 

  
Through captivating, powerful, and emotional anecdotes, we celebrate the life of Dr. Abbott P. Smith. His biography takes the reader from smiles to laughter to empathy and tears. Dr. Smith gave us compelling lessons learned from animals; the role animals play in the human condition, the joy of loving an animal, and the awe of their spirituality. A tender and profound look into the life of a skilled veterinarian.

  

Sunday, February 18, 2024

This Week @ Monday Creek: Time for a pedi...


Time for a pedi…

February greetings! It has been a good week – planning the spring garden, managing horse hair as Zubie sheds her winter coat (it can be overwhelming at times and is a sure sign of spring), working on new titles at Monday Creek Publishing, including Achim’s Pocket by Todd Linder, and Bandit Lost in the West by J.A. Hall. Both titles are for middle grade readers and will be released this spring. Besides that, I'm writing a fiction novel based on The Truants, a 1960s garage band from Jackson, Ohio. Still in its early phases, the first draft is almost complete, but somewhat still in my head.

My fun time this week was going for a spa treatment. I would like you to meet Mandalyn, my manicurist. She’s amazing! Last week was my first gel-pedicure. It was an hour of pampering in an ergonomic, vibrating chair while my feet soaked in a whirlpool of lavender water. The pleasant aesthetics of Mandalyn’s spa room was the perfect Valentine’s Day experience. I highly recommend Mandalyn (and gel polish for every cowgirl – it doesn’t come off, even at the barn). Mandalyn loves horses and is an artist. We talked about horses and her creative nail designs. Follow Mandalyn on Facebook.

There is not much happening in the event arena for us in March, just working on new titles and planning four Hocking Hills Book Fairs in 2024! Follow our Facebook page for book fair announcements. However, we are looking forward to April events! We have tickets to the Jackson Pro Rodeo and Equine Affaire Fantasia! Tickets for these two events are almost gone, so get your tickets now! The Apple City Book Fair hosted by the Jackson City Library is Saturday, April 6th, 10 am – 2 pm. I hope to see you there! We will have several Monday Creek Publishing authors signing books and I will be giving away free Creative Packs as well as other ways to encourage writing, reading, journaling, and creativity. In the meantime, I will clean my saddle, keep writing, and dream of spring.

 Planning for spring @ Monday Creek

Friday, February 16, 2024

An Interview with Ohio Author Evan Graham

 

An Interview with Ohio Author Evan Grahm

Science Fiction Author Evan Graham writes stories to take you to another place – another realm. Through engaging characters and captivating scenarios, Graham finds a way to drive you into his storytelling, creating an encounter that entices every reader.

From Evan’s Bio: “I am, among many things, a writer, although that word doesn’t fully encapsulate my experiences with story-crafting. “Junkie” might be a better term. I am absolutely ravenous for stories, and have been all my life. I love them. I love hearing them, I love sharing them, and I love the pseudo-life they take on inside your head, where the seed a story plants in your imagination can bloom in a hundred unpredictable ways.”

Welcome, Evan!

GM: What is the premise for your new book?

EG: Tantalus Depths is a sci-fi horror-thriller story about a woman fighting for her survival on a mysterious world filled with unfathomable threats. When Mary's crew arrives on Tantalus 13, they discover quickly that the planet is not what it seems. In fact, it's not even a planet, but an ancient megastructure built thousands of years ago by an unknown alien civilization. Mary and her crewmates take it upon themselves to explore the vast inner workings of the alien structure to learn its secrets, but the thrill of discovery is soon tainted with horror as tragedy strikes the mission. To make matters worse, their AI assistant, SCARAB, seems to know more about this world than it lets on, and the lengths it's willing to go to pursue its own agenda could put the lives of the entire crew in deadly peril. 

GM: Do you use close friends and family for developing characters and scenarios?
EG: I try to avoid basing any of my characters too heavily on any one real person. I like my characters to live a life all their own on the page, with personalities and motivations tailor-made to suit the story they're in. I do take bits and pieces of inspiration from people I've known throughout my life, but it tends to be on a case-by case basis. I might meet someone with a conversational quirk I like and incorporate that into a character's dialogue, or pick up on a particular nervous fidget someone does and slide that into a character who gives the same kind of vibe that person gives me.

In a broader sense, I'd say most of my strongest heroes and heroines are built on a foundation of all the people I've most admired in my life. Family, close friends, romantic partners; the same strengths of character that draw me to form strong bonds with people in real life are the ones I integrate into the core identities of my protagonists. General virtues like compassion, perseverance, curiosity, self-awareness, humility: these are traits I look for in the people I surround myself with. In my opinion, they're some of the best features humans can embody, and I try to show them abundantly in characters I want my readers to respect.

On the flipside, I have also definitely taken some inspiration from people I do not respect for characters as well. Commander Gorrister in Tantalus Depths, for instance. He's supposed to be the leader of the mission, but his leadership skills are abysmal. He doesn't know how to handle a crisis, he takes himself way too seriously and undervalues the competence of his crew, he's more beholden to corporate regulations than he is to common sense. He's the kind of guy who gets into a position of authority because he wants to boss people around, not because he's a skillful leader, and his by-the-books leadership style causes serious problems when problems arise outside of the regulations he wants to follow. I took quite a bit of inspiration for his character from many of the bosses and managers I've had in various jobs who I didn't have much respect for. That was a cathartic experience, in many ways.

GM: How do you maintain thoughts and ideas for storylines?
EG: Storylines come very naturally to me. Worldbuilding is my biggest writing strength, and the world of my stories is a constant living entity in my mind. Many of my stories bud off of each other naturally: I'll create a character or a planet or some other concept in the course of writing one story, and it'll interest me enough that it stays at the forefront of my brain long after the story I wrote it for is done. It's like a grain of sand in an oyster's shell, teasing me with potential as more ideas start to stick to it until it becomes a pearl big enough to be a story in its own right. When I started this writing journey, all I had was Tantalus Depths, but in the course of developing that book I ended up creating five short stories from little seeds of inspiration that grew from that first book. I've got a whole anthology series now, The Calling Void, with more short stories and another whole novel coming soon.

GM: What else have you written?
EG: Good segue, I guess. Tantalus Depths is my first novel, and I am currently working on the standalone follow-up novel, Proteus, set in the same universe but with a totally new plot. I've written five short stories so far in the Calling Void series, published in various anthology collections with Duskbound Books (formerly Writing Bloc). The newest, Neurophage, came out in last year's Passageways: Mythos collection. More are on the way!

GM: What are you currently writing?
EG: Proteus is a really, really ambitious follow-up. Set on a city-sized starship halfway into a 150-year journey across the galaxy, Proteus revolves around a crisis among the crew as mutiny has erupted regarding the fate of the mission and the thousands of cryonically frozen colonists aboard. One man seeks to resolve this crisis through any means necessary: Jacob Sicarius: cyborg war hero and intended future leader of the new colony. The problem? Jacob is a bloodthirsty tyrant. Now the three women he has most wronged must focus their efforts on preventing the future of an entire new human civilization from being decided by a monstrous despot.

There's a lot going on in this one. It's a science fiction reinterpretation of Richard III that I've been plotting for more than 14 years, so I definitely did not pick an easy project for my second book. I'm really proud of what I've written so far, though, and I cannot wait for people to get to read it when it's done.

GM: What are you currently reading?
EG: At the moment I'm actually reading an ARC copy of another author's book, but I can't talk about that one just yet. Outside of that, I most recently started on the Locked Tomb series by Tamsyn Muir. It's really good!

GM: Who is your favorite author?
EG: It's hard for me to pick just one, because I like different things about different authors, but I think if I had to pick just one it would be Isaac Asimov. His contributions to the science fiction genre really shaped what it would become over the course of the 20th century, and I really don't think his influence in the genre can be understated. Also, his direct influence on my personal writing style, for that matter. I've never been shy about how much inspiration I've taken from the greats.

GM: Do you have advice for novice writers?
EG: My one big life hack for being a productive writer is to set aside a section of your home that is your permanent writing sanctum. Your brain can associate a certain place with a certain activity, so if you are vigilant about only ever sitting in a certain chair or corner of the room when you're getting ready to write, your brain will start associating that space with the act of writing. If you're diligent about keeping that spot dedicated for writing and writing only, the simple act of sitting there can start your creative juices flowing. The crucial thing is you have to keep that space sacred. If you start letting yourself get distracted and watch videos on your phone while sitting there or some other temptation, it'll ruin the whole thing.

GM: Authors say that writing is easy, but marketing takes more momentum. What are your recommendations for book marketing and promotion?
EG: Honestly, the hardest part for me is just balancing writing and promotion. Neither one is that hard once you get into it: the trickiest thing is balancing your time. I had a very productive year promoting my book last year, but it came at the cost of my writing productivity. When you're going to a convention or a book fair every other weekend, it doesn't leave much time for actually writing the next book. If you want to be a successful writer, the most important thing you need to worry about is time management. You can't spend all your attention on writing, or there's no promotion and no one will see your work. You can't spend all your time on promoting, or there's no writing and no one will see your work. Find a balance, where you can manageably spend your time promoting yourself while saving enough time and mental energy to write a few hundred words every day. 

Also, leave room for a social life and some me time. You need to keep your own mental health up, or you'll burnout and burnout hard.

GM: What does authorship mean to you?
EG: For me, authorship is an almost divine imperative to create. I have stories that dwell inside my brain; people who live and die, nations that rise and fall, whole universes born and destroyed, all in the confines of my mind. If I don't put those stories to paper, they never become real to anyone but me, and that's a shame. I feel an obligation to these narratives: they deserve to be real, and no one can make them real but me, therefore I must do so. We've all got stories to tell, and no one can do it but us.

Connect with Evan...


 


 


Milliron Monday: The Recordings 4

  Abbott "Pete" Smith D.V.M.:   June 16, 1938 - February 22, 2010 Virginia Joyann "Jody" Haley Smith: April 2, 1938 - Ma...