Sunday, February 25, 2007

The update channel

Here I was, all set to do some preview snippets for Bad Luck Inc., but realised it's probably a little too early to start the countdown quite yet. Publication is still at least a month off, and while I've a fair bit to explore I don’t want to peak and exhaust what I have planned for promotional material too early and lose momentum. So this week will be a detailed examination of Descartes' key philosophical writings…

I'm just kidding.

In truth I'm pretty tired and jaded today, but a few good/interesting things have happened over the past week to keep me slipping too far into irritation.

- The games industry continues to give with one hand, and take away with another as I find myself simultaneously embraced and kidney punched by a particular company. Lies, lies and damned lies get dripped into my ear far too often. Just like old times, then. However, this is all meat for the grinder, allowing for more examples of How Things Work in a project I'm working on. While I'm not going to give away all the times I've been angered or mistreated by an industry I've worked within for the past 6 years, this project will certainly lift a few lids. And while I'll be the first to admit this wont change anything, at the very least it will make me feel a hell of a lot better about being pretty much impotent in doing anything about it, prior. Everything is experience and experience is everything.

- Another artist has signed up to work with me for one of my scripts, which has put a smile on my face considering I was starting to think that particular story was cursed. Still a long way to go before I can totally get past that perception, but she's very very good and taken a great interest in the project, which is always a promising sign. As soon as things start to develop, I'll do a showcase on her so you can see some of her work; it's fantastic stuff.

- If you've known me for a while or been reading this blog for any duration, you'll likely know of the frustration involved in getting fiction published (both for myself and in general). It's a long, painful process that can be hamstrung by a number of different factors, many of which I've seemed to come across in the last year and a half; the publisher going bust, the editors not communicating with their staff (or each other), losing artists, illness, unforeseen circumstances, equipment failure, crossed wires, brains going pop… you wonder what's going to be around the next corner. Well, this weekend I experienced pretty much the opposite (so far) to the prolonged frustration of publication and creation. A publisher was looking for writers for a new webcomic project where creators send in their stories and their artist(s) does them; however, the twist is this – the stories can only be between 4 and 6 PANELS. Not pages, PANELS. So we're talking super short stories that can be read literally within a minute or so. Micro stories.

Now, I love this sort of challenge. Anything which stretches my storytelling is a welcome push. So when I saw the ad, a few switches instantly started to flip on in my brain. I mulled it around my head for a short while, went to have a shower (guaranteed to give me ideas – simply because there's no way I can write them down while showering. It's a similar process to getting in the bath if you want the phone to ring), came out with a ton of ideas and wrote the story within an hour. Spent another hour editing it, then sent it off. Got a reply a few hours later from one of the editors saying they'd love to use it, and it should be published within the next couple months.

Wow.

For frame of reference, this is how the creative and publishing process usually goes by comparison:

I get an idea. Make some notes.

I develop it over the space of several weeks, along with research.

I create a full issue or large snippet for editor consumption within the month.

The editor gets back to me anytime within a week to another month.

If I need an artist, I spend another 1 to 5 months trying to get one.

The artwork is finished around 2-4 months later.

Publication MAY follow (if everything has gone right) within the following 2-3 months.

So we're talking over a year on average for effectively one story to get off the ground. This is standard for me, being an indie writer – a pro would obviously have less hassle, although that brings its own complications – so an accepted process. So you can imagine how refreshing it was to get all of that done in less than a day, with publication in less than 2 months. Of course, it's a far shorter story hence the reason why it's so quick (it also happens to be the most depressing story I've ever written – which is to say, it's REALLY bleak stuff) but it's nice to experience fewer problems after 2 years of constant ones.

And writing a story of that length really is very interesting; it's like having to write a short story under 1,000 words, but the 'language' of comic books allow for certain advantages and disadvantages. One thing that became very clear is that if you want a short webcomic story to have a clear beginning, middle and end, you have to boil the story down to its bare essentials. Everything is shrunk to fit the space limitation and you wont get to know the character too much but what you DO know about them has to be essential. 'Plot' becomes almost a side-effect to 'story'. And dialogue is stripped to either being the essence of the story or reduced to almost like a highlight reel. It's a fascinating process.

What I tried to do with my story (which I'll go into more detail when it's published) is offer some metatextuality and depth to a format that doesn’t allow large parts of either. So to try and take advantage of the story format and almost literally put the reader inside the character.

Guess we'll find out if it works or not in a couple months.

Next week, if things go to plan, I'll start some Bad Luck Inc. promo shots.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

A light bite

Got to get back to story research, so this week will be another light teaser…



This is the recently unveiled cover of Futurius Tales From the Plex Volume 2, still on schedule for release within the next 8 weeks. We're counting down now as the promotion starts to kick in. The book has been featured twice in large comic book site Silver Bullet Comic Books (this and last week) and hopefully one more time when we launch, while flyers, ads and such will be flaunted around like cheap male floozies in the coming weeks. If you want to advertise in the book (as there's ad space going) then get in touch ASAP.

In terms of the story, Bad Luck Inc., here's a quick refresher:


TITLE: Bad Luck Inc.

TYPE/MEDIUM: Comic book short story. Drawn by Yui Marr.

GENRE: Sci-fi

YOU'LL LIKE IT IF YOU LIKED: Minority Report, The Matrix, if you've ever wanted to escape a job you don’t like...



PREVIEWS: http://cbrotherson.blogspot.com/2006/08/bad-luck-inc-preview.html


More in-depth info coming in the following weeks…

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Mad world in a shaken-up snow globe

Strange, strange week.

But before I get into that, some of you may be wondering exactly what's going on with my post yesterday, below this one. What that is, is the promotional poster for Futurius Tales From the Plex Volume 2, due for sale in 4-8 weeks time. It's an anthology which has one of my stories, Bad Luck Inc., along with a large number of other tales in a HUGE package. Lots of talented people have worked on it, and should be a great book when it hits. There'll be more information in the coming weeks, along with links to vendors, more page previews and lots of promotional pieces to help spread the word, which I hope you can help with. Independent comic books are a tough sell in a medium which doesn’t see the sort of numbers it used to – and as an indie book we're not going to see any money from sales as that goes straight back into promotion and printing. So expect plenty of pushing as we try to get the book on the radar.

As for the week… whew. It started off quiet enough, with pretty much a slow burn for the first few days as things sped up into 'crazy' come Friday. The snow made things difficult for a start, as funnily enough, the gritters were ready for it on Thursday, but not Friday. The result was a gridlock that pretty much crippled the whole city. Most people I know took 3-4 hours to get home for what would have normally taken 30 mins tops. My journey home from town was equally amusing. After spending the better part of an hour getting barely two miles out of town, the bus driver eventually declared "it's too dangerous" and told everyone to get off the bus. Of course, no one would have if it weren’t for the fact the traffic wasn’t moving anyway. So I walked it most of the way home, in the driving snow/sleet for the remaining couple miles.

This was not fun.


I think this 'being' was behind the snow chaos last week. It is evil incarnate. I call him:

SNOW-BLOR the DESTRUCTOR


Then work offered some soothing discomfort as well. With last week's WiiChat feature up- an analysis of future Wii games that haven’t gathered much press , this week was an in-depth feature on how Western developers feel about Nintendo DS and Wii given their general output is generally less well received than their Japanese counterparts(http://www.wiichat.com/nintendo-wii-articles/17067-wii-east-vs-west-developers-speak-out.html#post228679).

The story broke larger than I expected, although comically, I took a small amount of flak from some who didn’t actually read the article all the way through/properly or in some cases, at all. All part and parcel, although it raised some stuff I'm actually writing about in my most recent novel project. Should that ever see light of day (and currently it's going full tilt, with over 21,000 words through 14 chapters, first Act finished) I imagine there's going to be an interesting look back over times like this, given the novel's subject matter. As cruel as the internet can be -or rather we as people make it- it always makes things interesting, that's for sure.

My other article this week, a review of Spider-Man: Reign #3 went up yesterday over at ComiX-Fan - http://www.comixfan.com/xfan/forums/showthread.php?t=41367 – which I'm watching with extra intrigue given the attack I got for my review on Issue 2. One to keep an eye out for, although I suspect things will be quite quiet this time around, simply through The Invisible Rule of Review Thumb. Simply put, the rule is this:

Whatever you expect for your article, chances are you'll get the opposite in varying extremes.

So since I'm expecting an extreme response, I'll probably get apathy this time around. Hell, I don’t think there's a writer out there at the moment who doesn’t fear the dread of apathy; getting people to actually do stuff like, you know, read is as much a goal as it is writing a good piece.

I don’t know. Sometimes I just feel… old. And drained. Only so many times you can shout into a vacuum before you lose your voice.


Hmm. Think I'll use that for the novel.

It's good that even tired laments have their uses…

Meeeery Christmas, suckers!

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Taking it all in... and then taking it all back out (again)

And so the week of hell is done.

I use that term lightly, as it really wasn’t that bad a week, although I had the joyous fun of four deadlines coincidentally hitting the same day – a rarity for my freelancing given the sporadic nature of it, but something that will start happening more frequently as I get more work. A couple deadlines are monthly and weekly, so that was just bad luck they hit on the same Thursday, but two reviews to do into the bargain turned me into a zombie for all of the day as I scripted, edited, wrote, edited some more and then edited until my eyes were bleeding red pulps. When Friday 12am hit and it was all done, I ended up playing my Wii for another 2 hours like a fool, which did my eyesight wonders. I also managed to squeeze out another chapter of my most recent project too, which is good given the work load. Although my reward for all this work at the end of the week is a stomach bug and cold that has me sneezing 20 times in the space of one minute. It's impressive when you see it live. A bit like the Aurora Borealis.

One assignment this week had me review Superman Returns on PlayStation2, which turned out to be one of the worst games I've played in about… oooh, a year. Times like that, where I rip into a game and then give it a terrible review score I tend to think back to when I was working at Games Domain and went into full demolition mode against a British made racing game. One day later I got an email from one of the members of the development team, which pretty much said the following:

":("

I felt so bad. Not for the score or destruction of the game, mind, but it's time like that you realise just how much time and effort people put into making these games, sometimes years of their lives, just so you can tear it a new body cavity in the space of a day. Not to say it still wasn’t a bad game, but it's something to consider when pouring scorn upon something. It must be far worse in the film industry, where people literally end up moving away from their homes for years just to finish something that can be consumed within hours and then rejected. And typically there's about 100 more people working on a movie than a game.

Which is why I'm a little more careful with my fiction than I was when I first started all those years back. Because if anything goes wrong with what you read, there's no one to blame but myself. In my comics, yes, the artist can share some blame if something doesn’t work properly, but I see it falling on my shoulders because the vision is largely mine. And my prose, it's 100% me. Nowhere to run or hide. It's easy to get paralysed by the whole process. Thankfully I've had the last 6 years to get used to people attacking me/my work, so some of the sting has been taken off a tad, along with the obvious fact you simply can't please everyone. After all, there are many people out there who think The Godfather, Watchmen, Illmatic, Zelda and Hamlet are overrated/terrible. They're deluded, but entitled to their opinion ;)

This week's spotlight is on the lovely Yui Marr, an artist who's proven to be an increasing rarity in the independant comic book industry (especially for an indie writer like me); she's good, fast, a great person, willing to learn and has no unrealistic expectations of her craft (ie, didn’t ask me for money). Yui has completed her work on one of my scripts for this year, Bad Luck Inc., and will hopefully go far - she more than deserves it.


Here's an example of her work:





And a page from my story, Bad Luck Inc. (unlettered - proper, fully scripted previews are on the way later this year).

Her website is over here: http://www.geocities.com/rinaportf/index.htm

Oh, and before I go, there's likely still many of you looking for a Wii in the UK (stock is still very sporadic). This site helps keep track of units online, so may be worth a look: http://www.wii-consoles.co.uk/wii_console_realtime.asp

And usual, recent work includes: