Thursday, October 26, 2006

Quick and dirty

This week's update is just as its title suggests; nothing long and rambling (or that's certainly what I plan – we'll see how long this is by the time I'm done). Instead, this will be a nice short bullet point batch of stuff off the top of my head. Not sure where it'll take me, but we'll see.

- I've just finished Issue Three of the secret comic series I'm being paid to write. Despite the large amount of research it's taking, I'm enjoying it in the way I hoped I would enjoy monthly comic book writing. It's a massive challenge; I've never had to write monthly scripts before, it's in a genre I've never done and there are certain things I need to do to get from point A to B, but despite my early worries that I'd be hopeless at it, it's actually something I look forward to each month. And I'm given a large amount of freedom, which personalises the project largely. Also worth noting is that I'm working on another series of my own making at the same time and finding it doesn’t conflict with this one. I seem to have certain 'frames of mind' for each one as they're totally different types of story. All this bodes well for something I really want to do full time, as a comic writer really cant survive off one book a month and many pros write around 2-3+ per month with other work on the side. Here's hoping I'll be able to get to that position in the near future.

- If you've manage to go to the cinema any time soon, try and catch The Departed. If possible, at least twice (along with the superb Chinese original, Infernal Affairs). The first time will potentially be a bit manic, especially the end which borders on farcical. But the second time the breadth of the themes and subtleties of the amazing script become clear. The performances are amazing, the soundtrack excellent and there are moments so memorable you'll take them away and talk about them for months.

- After selling my Nintendo GameCube and several games, my Nintendo Wii fund has reached around £150 in credit notes. Which means I'm now within spitting distance of being able to afford one come its December release, without actually spending more than £20 of my own money. If you don’t know what a Wii is, I guarantee you will by Christmas. The marketing will be beyond huge.

- Even though I've been reading comic books for over 23 years, I went to my very first signing this week; pro comic artist Sean Phillips. Great guy, very friendly. He signed some stuff for me and then drew some sketches on the fly (only took him a few mins to do), all of which look AMAZING (one I cant show here as it's a present for a friend). Sadly the reproduction quality makes them suffer a little here, but you get the idea:

You can check out Sean's blog over here:

- I STILL haven’t done my self assessment tax forms online for the sins of being self employed. This is the number two reason why self employment isn’t all fun and games (the first reason being the problems of actually keeping the money coming in). Next week, dammit, I promise.

- I recently got some promising news that one of my short story comic scripts could be picked up by another indy publisher, although it's hinging on a large and important factor before it gets greenlit. Fingers crossed. I'll let you know how it goes…

- Videogame, Bully, (renamed 'Canis Canem Edit' in the UK) has picked up a lot of bad press, long before its release this week. The reason being, the moral majority (Daily Mail, lawyer Jack Thompson, Middle America etc) thought it was a "bully sim" or worse, a "Columbine simulator". These claims were made not only without any knowledge of the game's content, but also without anyone actually playing the game and (failed) attempts were made to ban it (although high street chain Currys decided to 'take a moral high ground' and refuse to stock it, for utterly spurious, hypocritical and weak willed reasons). So when it was reviewed and released, it was to much egg on face to the aforementioned dopes that it was none of the above; it's about as controversial and 'harmful' as an average episode of Grange Hill… or maybe even Byker Grove. And it's a really good, well thought out and and witty game to boot, actively DISCOURAGING bullying. What really pisses me off about the large scapegoating of this innocent game is not just the fact it was prejudged without any basis in little things like 'fact', but the VERY FIRST PRESS RELEASE said it was nothing to do with encouraging bullying people but rather, standing up to them. This is what developer/publisher of the game wrote in (wait for it) MAY 2005. That's right, OVER A WHOLE YEAR BEFORE THE GAME'S RELEASE:

"As a troublesome schoolboy, you'll laugh and cringe as you stand up to bullies, get picked on by teachers, play pranks on malicious kids, win or lose the girl, and ultimately learn to navigate the obstacles of the fictitious reform school, Bullworth Academy."

Now, regardless of this very clear statement about the content, people tried to wrap this game as 'violent and a morally repugnant encouragement of bullying' just because of its title. "Columbine simulator"? Bit like saying based off the title, something like 'Star Wars' encourages real life wars, no? Foolishness.

- I made the bizarre realisation that writing fiction on a regular basis requires me to do a lot of stuff that would sound strange to many people. So I decided to share it. For example, this week I spent nearly a day researching interrogation and torture methods used by world government agencies. It was a… eye opening experience. Needless to say, I now know the basic methods of how to perform an interrogation that leaves no physical marks or scars, yet plenty of mental ones, using just water, a cloth and two pairs of handcuffs. Hmm.

Wow, this entry turned out to be quite long after all. Even though it only took about 10 minutes to write (and 20 to edit. Bah).

Quick and dirty indeed.


Yeah, sounds good.

Once I've finished this torture scene. *maniacal laughter ensues*

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Stage Fright

Well after a week of carnage on more levels than I'd like to admit, I've finally got off my backside to update. Now, I've a million things swirling around my head at the moment, but realistically I'm only going to blog about a few of them. None of those select few are going to be too personal, so let's stick to writing related missives. Okay, first one:

I officially became a comic book writer recently.


And this, funnily enough, is before anything of mine has actually been released.

Confused? Yeah, it's kinda weird. But let me explain.

I got paid for my first couple comic book scripts for Super Duper Secret Comic Book Series due for release next year. The cheques came in, I did a bizarre 'this cant be real smile', realised the significance and then I cashed them (my long suffering bank balance was very grateful). The comics themselves, once drawn, won't see daylight till sometime between late 2007 and early 2008. A long way off. So long that my unpaid comic work will see publication before it. But rule of thumb states that if I'm getting paid for work, then it IS actually work and thus I'm now -presto!- magically a comic book writer. Sure, I'd rather see the stuff being read and enjoyed and getting this status via that, but after 12 months of delays and set backs (and a dream dating from when I was about 14), this is a start I'm happy to take and chew on like a crazed canine.

This naturally got me thinking about how the stories will be received should they reach the shops, something that always crosses my mind when I place those words "the" and "end" at the end of a manuscript. So I'm officially a 'writer' now, but that doesn’t necessarily mean I'm a good writer (ack, nebulous and subjective terms there – I'm sure you know what I mean). Neil Gaiman once said that it's important to get your stuff out and on the shelves so you know the fear of people having to pay real life money for your bad writing, which in turn forces you to get better very quickly. Right now, with several stories not being in that position till potentially another 5-6 months, I'm lacking that fear. But it sure as hell doesn’t mean I'm not afraid. You can almost see the sweat in-between the spaces of these letters if you look hard enough…

Pretty much every week I wonder if any one of the 9 stories I've completed that are waiting for publication (in one way or another) are good enough. I'm kinda grasping at intangible thin air here because, heck, who's to say what's 'good' enough and what isn’t. Some people enjoy things others don’t. Not everyone likes The Godfather or The Breakfast Club despite their widely deemed classic status (although if you don’t like The Breakfast Club you're soulless – soulless!). A 'good' story doesn’t even have to be technically sound. It just has to be liked in that indescribable essence. It touches you and does something to make you laugh, or cry, or think, or well, something, anything of an emotional response that you appreciate and take away with you when the story is over. It doesn’t have to be long, short, complicated or simple. You can layer it with multiple meanings, deep themes and amazing characterisation, but ultimately unless it touches an audience and creates a spark within them, it won't matter.

It just has to be enjoyed.

Because of that, the pant-brown dread is still slowly creeping its way up (or is that down?) my spine, despite feeling relatively happy with most of my stories. They're a little bleak at times, which is a slight worry, but seem (seem!) to appeal to people on some level, for which I'm grateful. It's just getting the damn stuff out there.

Which is something I'm currently working to fix on my own, separate from my other projects. Not sure how viable it is yet, but needless to say, here will be the first place I unveil it… if I get past the potential stage fright, of course.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Control me like a puppet on a string

Writing is difficult.

The process of creation can be a bit of a strain on not only your mind, but various aspects of your life too. There's many times where you're closed off from your family and friends because, simply, you need to write. You'll need to get the thoughts out of you or you'll go insane (I've actually written a story about this which an artist is currently looking over for me, so it'll be easier to explain then).

Worse, when you're actually not locked away in a room hitting a keyboard repeatedly for hours on end, even when you're with people, there are these... moments. Moments of staring into space, trying to fix a 'problem' with your story or making little dialogue snippets or constructing scenes that you hope a reader will throw up with enjoyment. Then the frantic moment of trying to capture those thoughts before they fly away, only to be seen in eluded fever dreams.

It can't be helped.

These things never leave you. While some jobs can be switched off the moment you leave the office, it's the plague of the 'home job' that you can never truly leave behind the stress when work invades your personal space. And when you write, you carry it around everywhere with you. It's inescapable.

It can't be helped.

Writers, by nature, are insane daydreamers living in a world of tired-closed eyes that only open when something is finished. And it's never truly finished. It's difficult.

But what's even more difficult is the waiting.

I'm waiting on a billion things right now. Talented artistic partners to complete the visualisation of my scripts. Editors to tell me if they want other scripts for their anthologies/publications. Pay cheques to clear for accepted stories. Unfinished labours to come into daylight clarity so I can add another fiction piece to my portfolio. It all takes time and effort to stop going over the edge when these things threaten to drag you off with them. But I wait, in the hope that the waiting will be worth it. Because writing is difficult.

So in this phase of waiting and writing, I ask you a question. What would you like to see here? I cant always keep throwing out extracts of my work, as it creates problems with what I can show and how often – and you'll probably get bored anyway. So, in an effort to be a little more interactive and provide some breadth to my space here, I'm asking this:

What would you like to see in this blog?

As long as it's writing connected (and doesn’t break any NDA/confidentiality contracts I'm involved in) I'll take consideration of your suggestions. And I don’t even have to know you to take it on board. I'm aware of a fair few lurkers on here, some more regular than others, so it doesn’t matter if you visit often or are just passing by. Throw something out there and I'll read it. After spending most of my days in a room, by myself, typing and listening to voices in my head, it'll be nice to have something and real people to bounce off.

So hit me with your rhythm stick.

Hit me.