Creating “Skye Sparkler”

“Dad spent a LOT of money to get me drawn by THIS guy, so he’s showing me off as much as he can!”

It began in 1987, when I decided to create a new Supergirl.

The previous Supergirl, the classic Supergirl, Linda Lee Danvers/Kara Zor-El, had been killed off in 1985 in the maxi-series Crisis on Infinite Earths. Her death contributed to a severe depression that eventually cost me the best job I’ve ever had, Staff Editor at Comics Buyer’s Guide.

At the same time, I was a member of Interlac, an APA (ask your grand-parents, kids) devoted to the Legion of Super-Heroes. I had a great fondness for The Legion because I had designed the costume that Saturn Girl wore in the 1970s.

In Interlac, there were great lamentations when Supergirl was killed off. And anger. I learned that Interlac was composed mostly of old-fart comic book fans who didn’t like anything changed from when they were kids reading comic books. Personally, I mourned Supergirl, but, eventually, I did move on.

And then, knowing that DC would want to hang on to the name for trademark purposes, I decided to try my hand at creating a new Supergirl. Because, among other things, I knew it would tick off a lot of my fellow Interlac members, which was always fun.

When I started the project, I knew one thing I wanted to do was I was make a Supergirl who was an actual girl, not a woman. When Kara Zor-El first arrived on Earth, she was definitely a girl. But, by the 1970s, when she had graduated college, she was a woman.

But then, the metamorphiliac in me had an idea. I would make my heroine age-regressed. She would be Shazam! in reverse: A 25-year-old woman who became a 12-year-old super-heroine. I wrote up her backstory for her and sent it to DC. I got a very nice letter from Dick Giordano informing me that John Byrne had dibs on creating a new Supergirl.

I had done too much work on her to just toss her aside. I came up with more of her story. Her other self, Marcy Martin, did data processing. She had younger sister who was attending college, which would complicate the age change more. Marcy’s job kept a roof over both of their heads. And Marcy’s story would be more to prove to the world who she really was, so she wouldn’t lose everything she had to get by growing up. There would be no super-villains. Marcy/Skye would be the only fantastic element in the story.

Finally, I had a name for her. She would give off a coruscating aura whenever she used her powers, especially when she was flying. And that led to her heroic name, Skye Sparkler.

I wrote a couple of scripts for her, but something wasn’t quite right. I came to realize I didn’t want to sell her to DC or Marvel or any comics company. I wanted to keep her for myself.

I did some work to better understand who Skye was. I role-played her in a friend’s Champions campaign. I even ran her in a Champions game at GEN Con and took the prize for best character. And, she survived the Champions campaign I ran her in until I had to retire her because she had become too powerful for the villains the other players had to face. (I also made time in a super-hero RPG part of Skye’s origin.)

Then I was in a bookstore when I spotted something in the Writer’s section. A book called How to Write a Damn Good Novel by James N. Frey.

I had checked out and purchased books on writing before. I even subscribed to Writer’s Digest for a few years. I had written some short stories. But I had never gotten anywhere trying to do a complete book. That changed with Frey. I can’t recommend this book enough to any future writers. What he had to say about getting to know your characters, being able to state a book’s premise (the most important thing to Frey), how to make the building blocks of a novel before you start to actually write it, these were all vital to writing the book.

I started writing on April 20, 1994. And how I got it written was a very simple technique. I wrote some of the book every day. Even if it was just a paragraph or a sentence, I wrote something. I took great chunks out of my personal life to give life to Skye and those around her. And, if I went to a movie or watched something on TV, there was the most nagging voice in my head asking why I wasn’t at home writing.

On April 5, 1995, I finished the rough draft.

(There was one thing shortly after that caused some rewriting, and it was far more tragic beyond that. There was a scene in my book where Skye flies off with a semi-trailer that explodes while she’s high in the sky with it. It’s later learned it was filled with a cargo of ammonium nitrate fertilizer, and I spent some time explaining why ammonium nitrate would explode. On April 19, 1995, the Oklahoma City bombing happened, and everyone then knew why ammonium nitrate would explode.)

Next came the really hard part: Trying to find an agent and/or a publisher. No one was interested in representing or publishing a book about a super-hero no one had heard of before. I shared it on disc with some friends and even one professional writer, who gave me some good tips. But I couldn’t get it published.

Then, in Writer’s Digest, I saw an ad for Xlibris, a print-on-demand publisher. Print-on-demand means that, as the book is ordered, copies are printeded. You pay for the book to be typeset, for copy editing, and the copyright if you want to, and then let people know the book exists. I had the money, and I decided to go with this route, with a plan to sell the book through Diamond Distributors, the main distributor of product to comic book shops.

Then two things happened.

Xlibris raised the price on the books by ten dollars. This was not as drastic as it first seemed, as I was able to find another publisher, Booksurge (now CreateSpace), which would print the books and I could set the price.

The other problem was bigger. Diamond wouldn’t carry my book. I had set a price so it would be profitable to them, but they wouldn’t even reply to my inquiries, not even when I went up to them at Chicago ComiCon. They accepted a copy of my book, but they ever called back. They pretty much have a monopoly on their business, so they don’t have to accept anything for distribution that they don’t want to distribute.

I found Cold Cuts distribution, which handled independent product, and they accepted Skye Sparkler, but the sales weren’t great. And, they’ve since gone out of business.

More recently, however, CreateSpace (which sells a lot of product through Amazon) has started turning their books into e-books through Amazon’s Kindle. I’ve set things up so people can buy the Kindle edition for five dollars, or go on Kindle Select to read it for free. I get 70% for each book sold, I’ve been doing my best to make sure people know about it, but I don’t know yet how many are actually buying it. I should be getting the first check soon.

So, that’s my effort to transform myself into an author. Maybe there won’t be a lot of sales. But I’m a life-long bachelor. I’ve never been a father. (And I’ve reached the age where it’s a moot point now.) Skye Sparkler is my child. She is what I leave behind to let at least some of the world know that I was here.

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