Our webhost was hacked on January 23rd, they had to take all of our sites offline, and everything was moved to a new data center. Unfortunately the most recent backups were also unavailable. So we are slowly rebuilding this site, jamesaowen.com/, and herethrebedragons.net. Please bear with us while we try to get things back to normal. Jamesaowen.com/ is almost completely back up and we hope to be adding news and updates there soon.
I am often asked to speak at schools, but many booksellers, educators, and students have been surprised to realize that when I do, I barely talk about my books at all.
That’s because I believe that there are reading groups, and dedicated librarians, and community-active booksellers, and best of all, excellent teachers who are more than happy to discuss the Dragons, and Myth, and Legend, and storytelling in my Imaginarium Geographica books with their students. But if I am given the attention of five hundred middle-school students for an hour, and only that hour, I’m not going to talk about my books – I’m going to talk about the things that I believe are most important in this life; about things I believe are True, and meaningful, and worth sharing.
I’m going to tell them stories drawn from my own life: examples about overcoming obstacles and adversity; stories about how making choices in their lives is like drawing a Dragon; vignettes about how I came to do what it is that I love most in the world for my job. But most importantly, I’m going to tell each and every one of them that they can make the same kinds of choices that I did – and that I believe in them.
Sometimes, being told that is the thing that we need most in our lives. And I think it’s the most important thing that I can say to anyone: I believe in you.
Until now, most readers could not experience that presentation unless they attended a school, or some signing event where I was speaking – and in part because of that, we have long considered putting those stories, those things I most believe, into a book.
A book that is, I feel, the most meaningful thing I’ve ever written.
Drawing Out The Dragons: A Meditation on Art, Destiny, and The Power Of Choice – This is not fiction, but stories drawn from my own life and experiences, which I hope will inspire and motivate readers all over the world. The back cover has a quote from my friend LeVar Burton, which reads, “In this book, James inspires and motivates both the young and young-at-heart with personal stories that share an important belief: that you can choose to lead an extraordinary life if you will just persevere, stay focused on your goals, and believe in yourself. James believes in you. And I believe in him.”
Presenting a special offer from James A. Owen and the Awesomist Revolution: you can download a PDF of the book Drawing Out The Dragons: A Meditation on Art, Destiny, and the Power Of Choice for free during the first 10 days of September. Then in October, all three Meditation books (Drawing Out The Dragons, The Barbizon Diaries, and The Grand Design) will go on sale in all ebook formats from all online distributors. Please pass this link along to friends and family any anyone else who might need a boost of inspiration and moxie. Then start reading, and make the choice: how extraordinary do you want your life to be?
UPDATE: the offer has been extended through the rest of the month of September, and perhaps after that as well. Some stories are too important not to share, and I want everyone who comes to this link to be able to download and read the book.
From the end of chapter nine of DRAWING OUT THE DRAGONS: “Some people see what I chose to do as ‘enduring’, but I think the idea of ‘enduring to the end’ is a terrible philosophy, and an awful way to live one’s life. How you spend your days is how you live your life – and if you’re spending them ‘enduring’ anything then you’re doing it wrong. I feel the same way about regret. If everything in the past has value, then there’s no reason for regret, ever. With no regret, and no fear, there’s nothing left but possibility, and joy – and the realization that it is a wonderful world we live in, after all.”
There’s been a lot of discussion about your recent addition to Amazon of an app that people can use to scan items in stores – items which they are then asked to purchase from Amazon instead of at their local store. In addition to (in all probability) getting a lower price on the same item, they’ll also get five bucks for using the app. I think, as a business move, this is brilliant. As a PR move, it seems to have been a bit of a misstep.
I’d like to make a suggestion to undo a lot of that PR damage, and in the same move give you some positive PR that will be all but unassailable by your critics.
I’d like to suggest you create a new app – a seasonal one, that’s valid from the day after Thanksgiving until midnight on Christmas Eve. For the purposes of my suggestion, and because it’s the field I work in, the app would be limited to use in independent bookstores. With this app, which we could call “Santa’s Apprentice”, for any customer who scans a book in an independent bookstore – and then purchases that item at that store – Amazon would donate five bucks to a program that provides free books to kids at Christmas.
You still get the market data that all the experts seem to think you’re after – but the independent bookstore gets the sale, and some kid who may otherwise be getting nothing under the tree will have a chance to get a beautiful book of their very own. I’m already doing something similar as an individual, but charities like Kids Need To Read would be an excellent recipient for those donations, and are practically primed to start just such a program.
Making smart business choices has been the hallmark of your professional career, and it has certainly benefitted your company. Doing something like this is another arena altogether: it’s doing something that would not only help your competitors in a time of economic uncertainty, but would also help to give children some hope and happiness at a time in our world when both are sorely needed. And as PR, it’s as simple as Gimbel’s sending customers to Macy’s in Miracle on 34th St. It’s a move that generates both goodwill and profits.
Too often, I’ve seen kids – who will never get a Christmas present – out on street corners at this time of year with their parents, who are selling decorated pencils, or other little odds and ends just to try to make ends meet. Those are the kids I’m going to be giving presents to this year – as many as I am able. And I can’t for the life of me imagine approaching such a kid and telling them, “I have the ability to give you a book of your very own for Christmas – but I can’t, because my shareholders wouldn’t like it.” I bet you couldn’t, either.
Mr. Bezos, you have demonstrated beyond any doubt that Amazon is both successful and powerful. I hope you’re willing to demonstrate, to your own benefit, that Amazon can be good, too.
With all best wishes,
James A. Owen – Author, Independent Bookstore Owner, and Senior Apprentice to Kris Kringle
And just in time for the holidays? Crossroads Books now has all four paperbacks in the Chronicles of the Imaginarium Geographica series, all five hardcovers, and a special reader’s set of the paperbacks in stock. We’ve finally sorted out all the computer problems that plagued us this Spring and Summer, so all orders ought to be processed and sent in a much more timely manner. Any orders of these books placed by December first will be signed, sketched-in, and shipped in time for Christmas – but sooner is better, so start making your gift lists and get your orders in! Just go to the Coppervale Marketplace page to browse what’s available, and send a note if you have any questions.
I would not be able to do ANY of the cool, interesting, fun, and exciting things I do without the support of the fans who enjoy my work, and especially the support of the friends who believe in me and have been there when I needed them. I work hard – but there are a lot of people pushing the cart I’m driving, and for all of them I am truly grateful.
Anyone even peripherally exposed to comics knows that there’s a paradigm shift underway at DC (publisher of Superman, Batman, and a gazillion other well-known characters) right now: they are rebooting most of their line, and starting EVERYTHING over with new number one issues. They’re also rebooting most of the iconic characters’ backstories, in order to re-present the entire pantheon as an anywhere-you-like-jumping-on-point.
I popped over to the local shop (Moose Cave, in Show Low, Arizona) to grab the lead title, JUSTICE LEAGUE, because 1) it was Wednesday; and 2) I’m a huge Superman and Justice League (of America) fan, and I really wanted to read it.
I also really want to read a handful of the other upcoming titles, like ACTION (because they made some changes to Superman) and GREEN LANTERN (because they’re changing very little). But the one book I’m MOST looking forward to reading this month? The original NEW TEEN TITANS graphic novel “Games”, by creators Marv Wolfman and George Perez. It isn’t part of the reboot, but a twenty-years-in-the-making completely retro book set in the creators’ (and, to me, the characters’) heyday.
It will have NOTHING to do with the new continuity, at all. But having only read about it, and seen a few pages of art, I already know I’m going to love it – because it pushes all of MY particular buttons – and it fits the continuity that means the MOST to ME: one set a quarter-century ago, in terms of the publishing timeline.
Continuity has long been an embedded part of the comics reading and buying experience; commercially speaking, it feeds the ‘habitual entertainment’ that Larry Marder observed our hobby had become. New comics day (which always existed, but merely shifted from the convenience store to the specialty shop) is the day you popped in for the newest issue of whatever you were reading. And the continuity – the larger arcs as well as the smaller details – kept you hooked.
Every once in a while though, the publishers would drop a cherry bomb into the continuity of things, and shake everything up. And in recent years, that’s meant interweaving tighter and tighter threads of continuity into EVERY title, so that missing ONE ISSUE might throw you off with your understanding of everything else going on in the line. (Or worse, realizing that missing one issue or five makes no difference at all.)
Which brings me back to ‘Games’. One reason I’m expecting to enjoy it is that it’s going to be a COMPLETE story. A ‘Done In One’, as Maggie Thompson says. And that’s a great, rare thing these days. It’s also where I have to wonder if DC, in their pursuit of the reboot goal, might have missed an even cooler (and possibly more lucrative) one.
In recent weeks DC released a number of ‘Retro’ books: single issues with the tone (and relevant creative teams) of books from the 70’s, 80’s, and 90’s. I’ve only seen the house ads – but obviously SOMEONE at DC recognized that there was value in, say, reuniting Giffen, DeMatteis, and Maguire on a JUSTICE LEAGUE book. Even if only for a single issue.
My question is, why aren’t they doing this ALL THE TIME?
Elsewhere on the net, my friend Mario Boon commented, “Imagine if they did the entire relaunch of the nuDC as 52 done in one issues? Imagine that? An entire story in 20-30 pages? With a beginning, middle and end? A real “pilot”?”
That would have been PERFECT. But imagine this: what if the Retro Books/Done in One idea were part of the ongoing publishing plan? What if continuity were more of a storytelling convenience than an apparently necessary foundation?
It isn’t important for me to reconcile the TEEN TITANS of my kids’ generation with the TEEN TITANS of mine. I enjoy them both, even though they are COMPLETELY different. The look, stories, everything – but I love them both. What if this were not the exception, but the new norm, to have different creators doing THEIR versions of the characters?
A few years back, during one of the mega-event-crossovers, a writer pal suggested that I could draw one of the segments (knowing I love DC stuff, but have never done much with the company professionally, outside of writing ONE introduction). He said he could get me in the door – but I’d have to match the current ‘house style’, and mimic the eleven OTHER artists working on the books. I declined, in part because that wasn’t a career goal of mine – I wanted my OWN identity, and I wanted any work I did to be recognizably MINE.
Friends who have worked for DC maintained a similar creative integrity, and to great results: Paul Pope did a glorious turn on BATMAN YEAR 100, and it looked like few Batman stories published before or since. Jeff Smith did a great turn on Captain Marvel. And Wednesday Comics was, in many ways, a near-perfect creative experiment – partly because they selected some great creators and then mostly let them Do Their Thing.
There are lots of great reasons for DC’s line-wide reboot. I hope it brings – and keeps – lots of readers. But after missing a few months’ worth of comics (due to working on deadlines and, until recently, no local place to shop) I find myself caring a LOT less about reading BATMAN INCORPORATED #8, in which I have no clue what’s happened since Bruce Wayne died, was replaced, came back, was replaced, died again, etc… even though I love the writer and thought the art was nice. It was still part 56 of a 70 part story (I’m being facetious – but only just barely).
TEEN TITANS: “Games” will be one book, by two of my favorite creators, set in my favorite continuity. And I’m excited just at the thought of it – as I’d be for a LEGION OF SUPER HEROES book by Levitz and Giffen…or WONDER WOMAN by Perez… or BATMAN by Bill Sienkiewicz or Garcia-Lopez… or SUPERMAN by Barreto… or…You get the picture.
Continuity is great (see: last few decades); new approaches are great (see: animated TEEN TITANS); but Done in One stories can be created for both NEW readers as well as the longtime fans. And to me, that would really be the best of all: not to have a thousand-part Batman story, but to instead have a thousand brilliant Batman stories – whether or not they all fit into the continuity.
Power has been restored. The Fortress of Solitude is back online. Twice the memory; double the speed; and all the Awesome. If you hear the echo of thunder in the distance, fear not – that is simply my barbaric yawp, and it is an harbinger of things to come. Soon.
Lots of people are waiting for lots of things: correspondence, books, a benevolent totalitarian regime based on a love of comic book digests – but all of that is temporarily on hold while we await the replacement hard drive for the primary work computer (i.e., MINE) here at the Fortress of Solitude. Updates to follow shortly.