Another year has come and gone, and as I sit here bored at work, it seems as good a time as any to reflect on the end of what I like to call “the 2Ks.”

2009 was both a good and a bad year for me, personally. On the good side, I got off my rear and put the left side of my brain to work writing a few short stories and poems. I also started to pursue voice acting: taking lessons, getting into a studio for the first time, and doing some podcasting.

Interestingly enough, the shove that got my creative ball rolling again was Mizuumi-con, held on March 21st. There, I attended two panels; the first was a voice acting panel held by Kevin M. Connolly, which gave me an idea of what to expect going into the voice acting business. The second was Chris Holm’s “Inspiring Artists” panel. He and I had won the “My Cage” art and writing contests a while back, and it was my first time meeting him. At his panel, he told his story about (quite literally) where his art took him.

I started by going back through old ideas I had written down, thinking over which ones would be worth the effort to bring them to reality. I got started on a few things, and then a number of weeks later, Chris Holm emailed me. He wanted me to sit in on a meeting of an artists’ group that was starting up. I thought that it would be fun, and so I found myself at a coffee shop that Saturday afternoon. That group would eventually jell into First Storm Manga. My involvement with them has introduced me to some new friends, provided me with a creative outlet and led to some fun times spent at anime conventions.

Career-wise, the best I can say is that I had the same job at the end of the year as I did at the start of it. I was introduced to Military Flavored Baloney, as opposed to the Corporate Flavored Baloney I am used to having. At the end of the day, its still baloney, but the money’s good and the work isn’t too hard, so I’ll ride it out.

Moving on to the less-pleasant events of 2009, I lost two people that were important to me, namely Melinda Garcia, wife of my good friend Carlos Garcia, and my grandmother, Manuela Soliz. They are already sorely missed, and their passing has made me think about the direction I want to take my life in, but that is a topic for another time.

I had also hoped to have a house by the end of this year, but that got put aside due to the uncertainties of my job. Now that I feel more confident about my employment situation, I will start looking for a home in earnest, and my hope to have purchased one by summer.

In my opinion, 2009 was “The Year of the Attention Whore.” Maybe its just because we see them in the news more frequently, but I don’t recall the last time we had this many nutballs jumping up and down screaming “LOOK AT ME!” Just off the top of my head, we have Dick Cheney, Octomom, Joe Wilson, the Balloon Boy parents, Jon and Kate, the White House Gate Crashers, Lady Gaga, some prison escapee in England that has been taunting the cops via Facebook, and the various women that slept with Tiger Woods. Now, I’m not claiming any level of moral high ground, because I was admittedly watching and talking about them just like everyone else, so I guess I’m part of the problem.

It was bittersweet to have to say farewell to some folks in 2009, but new friends were also made. Thus, as a new year begins, I find myself a little more appreciative of my station in life and hopeful for the many possibilities that lay ahead in The New Year.

Here’s to you, 2009, don’t let the door hit ya where the Good Lord split ya!


RealmsCon Day 1: In The Ghetto

Originally posted at J2GAMES.COM

First a disclaimer: I am from the Corpus Christi area.  Thus, my opinions are colored by the fact that I think Corpus Christi is a podunk town that only has only had one good thing come out of it, and that’s Whataburger.  I went to Realms-Con to preach the gospel of First Storm Manga and also out of curiosity to see what kind of con they could throw, especially after experiencing the uber-goodness that was San Japan.

It started out well enough on Friday morning.  First Storm Manga “Roadie” Javier and myself headed to the Holiday Inn Emerald Beach to set up shop.  I had expected a big hassle getting our badges because of the fun times I had running back and forth between the Municipal Auditorium and the Holiday Inn during the start of San Japan (YES I’M STILL BITTER).  The original plan was for us to use half of Chris’ table for FSM and the other half to sell his leftover stuff from San Japan.

First, we had to FIND the registration table.  This was made even more fun by the lack of signage.  As REAL men don’t ask for directions, we simply hung a left at the hotel’s front desk.  Walking down a hall, we saw some tables, and at the end, we found one with a “First Storm Manga” sign on it.  I was enthralled that we had our own dedicated table, but just a bit disappointed when I realized we had been placed at the ass end of the convention.  The only thing nearby was the video game room, which wasn’t even open yet.  My confidence would have been more inspired if it hadn’t been for the flickering fluorescent light over our table.  Great, I thought, I’ll be drained AND blind by the time this is all over.

But hey, a table was a table, and it would be all ours.

We still needed our badges, and so we headed back the way we came to find the registration desk.  As we walked around, we passed by Chris’ table, located right in front of the panel rooms in a high-traffic area.  Wow, isn’t he Mr. Cool.  We soon found the registration table OUTSIDE of the hotel.  I would later learn that they were forced outside to avoid a long line of people inside the hotel, which made sense, but at the time I remember thinking who could have thought that was a good idea.

Now for the fun part: “Hi, I’m Eduardo Soliz from First Storm Manga, and I am here to pick up our badges so I can set up our table.”  Now, technically, I was supposed to be under Chris’ table, but after seeing they had a table assigned to us, I logically reasoned that they would have badges set aside for us as well.  As the registration-gal flipped through the packs, I saw one with Chris’ name on it, which I hoped meant he would have an extra badge for his guest.  Much to my relief, I would later discover that was the case…once they figured out who he was, that is.

Badges around our necks, we headed back to the Reliant (my 2005 Dodge Neon) to get our wares and head over to our table “in the ghetto” as I would refer to it throughout the day.

Traffic was miserable at first, partially because of our location, partially because it was a school day, and partially because the video game room was running late getting set up.  The sign at the door that originally said “Open at 12:00” was quickly edited to read “12:15” then “12:30” then “12:50” and then was taken down.  We kept seeing the same people walk by over and over again as well as the occasional hotel guest walking to and from the pool.  Luckily, traffic picked up around four, once school let out, and except for a quick run to Subway and a trip to the hospital to visit some folks, the day was pretty uneventful.  We gave away almost all of our copies of Manga Madness, each with a copy of San Japanic! inside.

I kept wondering what was taking Chris so long, because he had told me he was going to be there at 3.  He showed up much later, but by that time, the other tables were closing down, so I figured we would do so as well.  We all rode in the Reliant to the two-story Whataburger By The Bay where we chowed down and discussed Saturday’s plans.

It was decided that we would move over to Chris’ table for the improved traffic, and so that we could peddle his wares (no free lunch and all that).  The move would turn out great in one way, and not-so-great in another…


San Japanic! The Director’s Tale – Part I

August 13, 2009 – 1130 AM

The busy day lay ahead.  I was the point man for preparing First Storm Manga’s table for San Japan, and my duties consisted of securing a table at the Municipal Auditorium for our group and obtaining our badges.  The day started off well enough. I went to work, and my short day was quickly eaten by meetings and busy-work; as usual, not much got actually done.

My mission was made easier by the fact that we had someone “on the inside.”  Laken is a good kid, cat ears and all.  Our youngest member thus far, her initial shyness at her first meeting (she refused to let anyone see her art until I secretly photographed it using my cell phone’s camera, earning me her ire) got her unfairly labeled as being ditzy, but she can be counted on when there is a job to do.

Laken is also a San Japan volunteer.  She had also contributed to our first compilation and we were hoping for her assistance in navigating the confusion that is often associated with cons.

I had read on the San Japan forums that setup was going to start at two o’clock.  Thus, my plan was to get out of work at eleven-thirty, get home at noon, take an hour nap, and then drive to the Auditorium to setup the F.S.M. table.  We wanted to get a good location across from a known artist that we knew would attract a crowd.  To make sure I was on the right track, I sent a text to Laken once I got home, and I was all but ready to fall into sweet slumber for an hour when my phone beeped.


Well, frak.  I cursed Randomizer’s Dumb Luck ™ as I quickly got up and ready to leave.  About a half an hour later, I exited the Reliant after parking in front of the Holiday Inn El Tropicano where the convention was to be held, and luckily ran into another First Storm Manga member.

Chris Holm has a table in Artist’s Alley, and for the most part, he was doing his own thing at the con.  He was also helping us rookies out, and his previous experience at conventions, and San Japan, in particular, was to be of great help.  He also contributed to our first manga, “San Japanic!” and would be checking up on us as the con went on.  He was there to setup his table, and I was glad I wasn’t going to be going it alone as my San Japan adventure began.

For the moment, though, he looked as lost as I was, and he asked me where we were supposed to go.  Not having any idea myself (we only had two choices, the hotel or the Auditorium) I sent Laken a quick text and we started walking toward the El Tropicano.  Laken responded by telling us she would meet us in the lobby, and there we met.

Much to my disappointment over the lost nap, I soon found out that the Auditorium was closed until two o’clock, and we had an hour to burn until we could get our tables.  Instead of spending it lounging around the hotel lobby shooting the breeze and browsing the Internet, Chris and I were put to work stuffing goodie bags to be given to the con attendees.

It was lots of fun.  Being the only geek in my family, it is very seldom that I find myself in the presence of other geeks; so being in a room filled with geeks was a delight.  That said, I have an unfortunate tendency to show my age when I talk shop, and I soon discovered that more than a few of the kids in the room weren’t even born yet when Robotron 2084 came out in the arcades.

Pardon me for a moment while I grow OLD…er.

The hour soon ticked away, and the Auditorium was open.  Laken accompanied us as we walked over.

We were the first ones in Convention Alley.  The place was pretty much ours; we had our pick of tables.  After debating the merits of getting the end table (as opposed to the second-to-the-end table) we got the second-to-the-end table and I laid down our tablecloth and taped up our cheesy paper logo signs.

We kept the setup low-key for a reason; there is a fan group in town that has a penchant for tampering with other groups.  While I’m sure most of their members are decent folks, we know that there are a few miscreants in the bunch.   Some of our members have had dealings with them in the past that had come to unpleasant endings.  We kept a careful eye out for them; we wanted to afford them as little an opportunity to tamper with our table as possible.

Content that all was at the ready, Chris and I took the opportunity to go to Sam’s Burger Joint to scarf some good burgers and shoot the breeze for a bit.  I then headed home to relax and start packing for The Big Day.

Frankly, I was feeling pretty good about myself.  Everything was proceeding according to plan…just as the Emperor had foretold.  Actually, “The Emperor” was more nervous about the whole thing than I was, and I would soon discover that he wasn’t being entirely paranoid.



Artists Are Jer…um, I Mean, Interesting People!

I’ve never been in any “leadership positions” in any of my jobs thus far, save for the occasional minion or two that got tossed my way.  Thus, being “in charge” (big finger quotes there, I’m just the writer) of our first project at First Storm Manga is a new experience for me.

One thing I learned quickly is that artists are a lot like programmers.  We are touchy-feel-y people, prone to being easily distracted, and believe that we are special because what we can do something that not anybody can.

Oh yeah, we can also be jerks…especially that jerky-jerk AUSTIN!

In the workplace, programmer ire is generally directed at management (for example, Dilbert).  I am rapidly learning that artist ire tends to be directed at writers such as myself.  It also doesn’t help that I am out-numbered.

I am the only person at First Storm Manga (so far!) that does not draw, I could call myself a “pure writer” with an exaggerated air of self-importance if I wanted to sound like an arrogant jerk.  I was puzzled for awhile as to why I was getting all the writer-hate from the other guys.  Actually, “writer-hate” is a bit strong, it was actually more like “treat the writer like a red-headed stepchild.”

After awhile, though, I figured it out: when doing a manga (or comic), the art is done first, and then the words are slapped on top of it.  Thus, the more words I come up with, the more the art is covered up! So, yeah, I guess they have a point.  I suppose the occasional barb or two is a small price to pay for seeing a “pure writer’s” story come to life in pictures, though. *smug*

They’re still jerks, though.


San Japanic!

San Japanic!

Page 1

Our first First Storm Manga project is a commission: we have been ‘hired’ to create a short manga (a Japanese-style comic book) to promote the San Japan 2.x Japanese Culture and Anime convention.  The manga is supposed to feature the convention’s four mascot characters: a bat named Dios (like most folks, I was all, wait, that means “God” in Spanish!  I presume its something different in Japanese) a longhorn named Suzaku, an armadillo named Hinode, and a girl named Sana.

The story will consist of all four characters encountering some kind of (hopefully) funny situation as they voyage to the convention.  I am the storywriter/editor (because I can’t draw) and we have three different artists working on the project.  Its lots of fun working with them, and I think it will come together quite nicely when its all said and done.  Click the picture above for the full image, and stay tuned!


Super Happy First Storm Manga Group Hey!!

Okay, so I got a little silly with the title…

First Storm Manga is a group of artists and writers that I joined recently.  We get together on Saturday nights at the La Taza coffee shop to go over various projects that we are working on for self-publication.  Our stuff is going to be done in the manga style of Japanese comics.

Well, the artists, stuff, anyway…since I can’t draw, I suppose that makes me a writer-slash-idea man.

I am working on a project right now, though I can’t say much beyond that.  Its neat to have a creative outlet and to meet and work with other Creative Types.  Its also like herding cats in terms of trying to keep things organized, and I admittedly don’t make things much easier, but we solider on, and if all goes well, we’ll have something to show for all our work.

I’m pretty excited about it, though, the thought of seeing something I created in words come to life in pictures is an exciting one!