The Obligatory 2013 Review Blog Post!Well, 2013, you were full of what I'd have to call ups and downs...
I think it's safe to say that this year - like last year - was a pretty mixed bag, but heavily leaning toward having more bad stuff than good. I didn't seem to get anywhere close to what I wanted to achieve this year (although, God knows, it wasn't for the lack of trying) which was pretty frustrating, really. I fell down the old "maybe I should quit this writing game" hole more times than I should probably admit during the year, but given the economic realities of the UK and the, frankly, horrible mess the current
I realise I used that same image for the last two "end of year" blog posts I've done, but it still perfectly sums up my feelings on the current political climate. Having grown up through the 80's, under a Thatcher and then Major led government, it's hard not to see that history's repeating itself. The Conservative's haven't changed since they were last in government; they still have the same, tired old rhetoric about "free market competition", single parent families, Europe and benefits (only this time, they seem to finally have a free hand to make their policies a reality). I won't vote for a Conservative MP (or a Lib Dem one, come to that), but given how far Labour have leaned to the right, it makes me wonder if it's actually worth voting for them (although, I will, because my local MP, Ian Lavery, is one of the few good politicians in Westminster, who's there to help his constituents).
And, I guess I should say something about Margaret Thatcher's death... But I'm not going to, because doing so would give her more thought than she deserves. All I will say is that I'm very much on the side of those who didn't support her or her policies. I take no pleasure in her death, because, let's be honest, her legacy is very much alive and well and being actively nurtured by the current government.
But, of course, not being obscenely wealthy or part of the "squeezed middle", my opinions and feelings on the political make up of the state of the UK are of no interest to anyone, so I'll shut up and talk about other stuff...
Ballin'Earlier in the year, I bit the bullet and took a shot at publishing something on the Kindle. It was an old short story given a George Lucas style makeover (but one that actually improved the original) called 8-Ball, and I even managed to talk Bryan Coyle into doing the cover for it:
Twitter), but it did make want to do more... OK, I have actually done more, but just haven't got around to formatting or posting any of them yet, because, well, 8-Ball sold one copy... I'm under no illusion that writing fiction is all about ego, so it's a pretty safe bet that I'll probably end up releasing more of these in the new year.
Anyway, you can sample 8-Ball for yourself via Amazon UK and Amazon US at a ridiculously small price. It's also available via Smashwords for other e-readers.
Quakin' Into The FutureLate in 2013, I managed to claw my way back into FutureQuake - issue 24, to be exact - with a story called Power & The Glory, featuring art by the ludicrously talented Jim Lavery - who also ended up doing this proposed cover that went on to become a promo piece:
Power & The Glory represents something that's quite rare for me: a script I'm actually really proud of. It's difficult to describe, but it felt like I'd turned a major corner when it was done, and obtained some serious confidence with my scripting abilities along the way. As I've already pointed out, the whole thing was conceived and written in a day, which still amazes me (and bloody terrifies me, because I've really struggled to do it again). But, it has to be said, Jim Lavery took the story and turned it into something utterly mindbogglingly awesome; it really feels like a living, breathing alternative world, loaded with possibility and ripe for further exploration. Looking at it now, I'm kind of stunned we managed to squeeze so much into five pages... You can see more about the strip over at Jim's blog, if you're so inclined.
Power & The Glory can be found in FutureQuake #24, currently available from the FQ Shop and the FQ Comicsy Shop, priced £4.00 (plus shipping). It features a cover by by Mauro Lirussi, which looks like this:
Thrill Power Overload!Last year, I managed to land in every issue of Zarjaz and Dogbreath that was published. This year... Well, I managed two issues of Zarjaz:
And the only issue of Dogbreath released in 2013:
And, the more eagle-eyed among you will notice the Ben Wilsher covers on Zarjaz 18 and Dogbreath 27, which lock together to form this:
I can honestly say I was lucky to team up with some amazing artists for these three issues. FutureQuake editor/in-house letterer Bolt-01 showed he's one of the UK small press's best kept secrets when it comes to sequential art with the Durham Red strip in Dogbreath #27; Stephen Downey proved to the world he's ready to tackle Dredd in the pages of 2000AD proper, with Collector's Market in Zarjaz #19, while Stewart Moore pretty much blew everyone away with his art on Judge Dredd: Jurassic Farce in Zarjaz #18. Which features Judge Dredd riding a dinosaur.
I should point out that Stewart is currently the artist on the Judge Dredd game book The Dark coming in 2014 from Tin Man Games. He posted some images from the game itself (which I posted on this here blog earlier in the year), and, man, it's shaping up to be something pretty damn amazing...
Last year, I came to realise and appreciate that writing for Zarjaz and Dogbreath was a way to stretch myself as a writer, by playing with existing characters and sticking to the "rules" that come with them, and that was only reinforced this year. Each character in 2000AD comes with their own unique language (both written and visual) that goes beyond knowing the minutiae of continuity. It's a hell of a lot trickier than it sounds to write these characters, really, but, to me, writing isn't much fun without those kinds of challenges.
But, on the flipside of that, I've come to realise that having to concentrate on doing shorts means you get through a lot of material which has the added effect of making you burn out pretty quickly (I've got a bunch of notes written down (both for Zarjaz and other stuff) that I've never moved on because of that) and it's left me wondering if I should start concentrating on longer form stories to try and ease that back.
Anyway... All of those issues of Zarjaz and Dogbreath (as well as several more back issues) are available from the FutureQuake Shop and the FQ Comicsy shop, priced £3.00 (+ shipping) Earth money. So go and check 'em out and find out why they truly are the galaxy's greatest fanzines.
Babble...I can't really talk about 2013 without mentioning Babble, can I?
January saw the book finally make it into print, as well as the good reviews continue to roll in - I mean, seriously, the number of reviews we ended up with is utterly staggering. Here, go and take a look!
It was, I think, one of the most widely reviewed graphic novels to come from the UK in a long time, but with that came the realisation that, frankly, no one outside of those critics seems to have read it... It's a weird thing to pour that much of yourself into something, see it well received critically, but then hit a wall of total indifference from readers - especially here in the UK (it still bugs me that I couldn't even walk into one of my "local" comic shops and see it on the shelves, even though both of them are branches of two of the biggest chains in the country). It left me wondering, if you don't have a presence at UK cons, do people know you even exist in the scene over here? That may be something worth unpacking in a future blog post, I think.
But, we got the book together, which counts for a hell of a lot, in my, er, book, and we had some fantastic support from Com.X, which I doubt we would've got with any other publisher on this side of the Atlantic. We were "longlisted" for various categories in the British Comic Awards, which was pretty cool (although I don't think either of us expected to get anywhere near the shortlist - and we didn't, but, hey, no biggie) and, more importantly, Bryan was nominated for The Russ Manning Promising Newcomer Awards. That was a well deserved, nomination, I reckon; from a personal point of view, it's been a pleasure and a privilege to watch him grow and improve as an artist to the point where he's actually been recognised for his prowess. But why he hasn't been snapped up for commercial work yet is anyone's guess...
To wrap up the incredible year of PR the book's enjoyed, Com.X pieced together this rather nifty little trailer:
Of course, Babble is still available in print and digital editions from these fine retailers:
|Buy from Amazon UK||Buy from Amazon US|
|Buy from Forbidden Planet||Buy from Things From Another World|
|Buy from Comixology||Buy from Comics Plus|
Oh, and just for the fun of it, here's the only copy of the book in existence signed by both of us:
...And BeyondSo, what next for me and Bryan, then? Well, as of writing this, it looks like our follow up to Babble is dead in the water. We've had a mixture of rejections and non-responses from publishers, which - I won't lie - has been gutting. We poured a lot of work into it, doing research and refining the characters to make it something different (in this case, a female led action thriller set very much in the here and now that plays with a lot of action movie tropes), but, alas, it's not to be.
I could speculate on the reasons why it hasn't been picked up, but I suspect it's largely to do with the fact that we're just not established enough as creators to get our foot in the door anywhere (as I noted above, as well received as Babble was, it's amazing how few people have even heard of it, let alone read it - and, also, I'm not quite prepared to admit it could've been a bad pitch. Yet). So, we're back to square one. As hard as it is to admit defeat on this, it's been a valuable lesson, and one not taught enough when it comes to making comics: be prepared to lose a lot of time (and, sometimes, money) on pitches that will go nowhere. And, of course, make sure you have something else waiting in the wings to pick up and roll out.
But, we're already kicking something new around that should, hopefully, be ready to pitch very early in the new year, and we've got feelers out for some other stuff that may or may not come together in the new year. We shall see...
Personally, I should be back in the pages of FutureQuake, Zarjaz and Dogbreath next year, too; I've got collaborations with Paul Williams, John Hutcheson and Bolt-01 on the cards, and, maybe, the emergence of a long gestating project with Dunk Nimmo (I've seen some pages from this and it's shaping up to be something truly special). 2014 should also finally see the release of the long awaited Victoriana anthology from Accent UK, too.
Hopefully, there'll be even more as the year rolls on.
Con-ingWith no Canny Comic Con proper this year, that left Thought Bubble for me as the only UK comic con that I could affordably attend this year. Which I spectacularly failed to do due to unforseen circumstances that meant having to cancel at the last minute. Still a bit gutted about all of that, to be honest, but what can you do? I'd dearly love to get to more cons in the new year, but given the ever rising costs of public transport (plus accommodation on top), it's just not feasible at the minute. With a bit of luck, that'll change.
[Anti] Social MediaEarlier in the year, I ended up closing a lot of unused social media accounts (such as Friendster and Bebo - remember those?), and, in the process, started to think about how I can use what little social media presence I have more effectively. At the minute, I'm pretty much only using Twitter, with the occasional foray into Grooveshark and Tumblr - which, I know, isn't really a social media platform, but, hey. Facebook is pretty much dead to me now (come the new year, I think I'll be closing my account down for good) and Google Plus is now - thanks to Google demanding it be tied to all their services - a necessary evil.
While discovering IFTTT was been a Godsend for keeping everything up to date and maintaining a presence across a number of platforms, I just felt like I'd hit a tipping point with social media in general and some of those accounts had to go. It was strangely cathartic, getting rid of them, too, like I was freeing myself. It probably sounds horribly pretentious, but I don't think people realise how shackled to social media they are these days; I briefly deactivated my FB account earlier in the year, and it was incredibly liberating knowing I didn't have to log into the site and see what everyone was up to.
But, there's also been more times than I care to count where I've yelled at the screen at some utter load of bollocks that people have tweeted and had to walk away lest I get into some online slanging match with them (I try to never argue with people online; it's not good for the soul). On top of that, I've come to realise that a lot of my opinions and personal experiences jibe with the majority and I find myself reluctant to share them in case I'm accused of being a troll. I'm not saying that I have any kind of fabulous insights into the world at large (clearly, I don't), but I understand that, sometimes, I'm the lone dissenting voice in my timeline and it's not worth the hassle it would bring if I was to express my unwanted opinions.
Which is, basically, a long winded way of saying that I'm going to continue scaling back on social media and try and use what tiny presence I do have more effectively.
Roamin'While 2013 has been great for new music (and, man, there's just been so many good albums this year), the one tune that sums up my 2013 has to be Roam by The B-52's, which has just been a constant pick me up in some of my darker moments. And, let's face it, it's just one of the greatest pop tunes ever recorded. And, because I'll take any excuse to play it, here it is:
To The FutureAs for 2014... Well, the most important thing is to get something new into production and print, and then into the right hands (which is easier said than done, let's be honest). Or maybe 2014 will be the year I finally give up the comics side of things and go for broke writing prose. Or just give up writing. I dunno. All I am sure of at the minute is that I need to use the early part of 2014 to re-evaluate a lot of things, take a good long look at where I am in life and where I actually want to be, and then see if those are achievable goals.
For all the work I've put in this year, it's galling to realise I've made very little real progress in getting to where I wanted to be (and, looking back now, I realise there's more that I could've done - isn't there always, though?), so I know, in 2014, I have to work smarter as well as harder, even though I know that'll mean having to write things I potentially don't want to, but given my desire to get out of the small press and try and build a writing career, it's something I'm going to have to look at seriously. Which is a slightly downbeat note to end on, really...
So, why not have a [slightly late] seasonal tune in the form of Christmas Chime by Orbital - which, for my money, is the best "new" Christmas record I've heard in ages:
Right, then, 2014, let's see what you've got in store...