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Fantastic Vault Four issue one!!!!

FFSo I’ve been off drawing again hence the lack of words from me (also my wife is on holiday – she works in a school and so we have six whole weeks together!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! – and because of this I tend to find writing somewhat harder. I’m one of those people who need absolute quiet to work in. My wife is not quiet!)

So I have been drawing and I must say I am rather impressed with the result. As with the Spiderman one its a homage to both classic Marvel Comic covers and Fallout. So we have the Fantastic Vault Four from – of course – Vault Four. I’ve had prints made (the A3 looks amazing) and we’ll be selling them at Nineworlds next weekend – they will then go up on Etsy so just look for my sons shop there JowyStudios.

I will also be trying y hand at the Hulk, Iron Man, X-men, Daredevil and the Avengers most of which will be classic 1960’s covers redone in a Fallout style.

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Humanization Issue 1

Actually that should really read Level 1. Y’see Humanization.com is a comic book set within the internet. Now I can see what you’re thinking – we’ve taken the red pill in the Matrix – well no we haven’t. The internet is now a million years old, in our comic, and mankind is long dead; but life, intelligence, has sprung out of all those 1’s and 0’s and a society has been formed. Of course they looked at all the stuff we left behind and decided to base that society on our memes and video clips (hence the profusion of cats!)

Humanization.com is the story of Cadra who had lived with her aunt and uncle working the codefields around their farm until all three are attacked. She escapes, her family less lucky, and meets up with a group of freedom fighters starting with Kono and Chimra in Level 2.

The comic – you can buy it at Etsy; just type in Jowy Studios (and there  is a website at http://www.humanizationcomic.com that spills the beans on Easter eggs etc.) – is written by myself and drawn by Jowy. Now he decided that a comic set within the digital realm of the internet could only be created one way – by pencil and paper!!!!!????? Yep he hand draws each page and hand inks them. The only digitalising we do is to add speech and clean up any extraneous marks. The first Level was released a year ago.

So why m I talking about it now? Well we finally got around to putting it out on Kindle so as of this week you can download (for less than the price of a pint of beer) the comic onto your Ipad or Android device. An advantage to this is I’ve added a little colour to the artwork. Not a lot. When you see Jowy’s art you’ll understand why we’re keeping it mainly black and white. So please look at the web page and buy our brilliant comic.

Good evening/night/day/morning/afternoon/King Wenceslas

Ste 🙂

 

What I did this weekend

So I have spoken about writing but I did mention a while back that originally I wanted to be a cartoonist. I gave up that particular dream years ago but I have dabbled occasionally. What brought this particular effort about is that my son tours the odd Convention selling his own artwork. (We are actually working on a comic book together called Humanization.com) and I support him.

Usually these are My Little pony conventions (he’s a Brony) but we’re attending NineWorlds this year in London and he’s being busy sorting out a load of pony-less artwork (Jon Snow as James Bond anyone?) So I had the idea of a mash-up between the Fallout universe and Marvel. Fallout already has Hubris Comics and I’m a big Marvel fanboy so I could see other people going for the idea.

My son sort of gets it – he did a Spiderman with a pipboy in a bombed New York – but he didn’t really want to run with the idea; so I have instead. Drum roll as I unveil ‘The Amazing Arachnoid-Man issue 1’. (See below) It’s Amazing Fantasy 15 Spidey’s first appearance but set within the Fallout universe. He is carrying Pipboy and there are ghouls on the roofs of a bombed out New York. His costume is a cross between a normal Spidey and the Vault dwellers uniform complete with a spider/pocket motif under his left lapel. Please note the ‘stamp’ which signifies that it is approved by the ‘Fallout Code Authority. Hubris comics appear in Fallout 4.

I am in the process of completing Fantastic Vault Four issue 1. If you are in London between the 12th and 14th August head to Hammersmith and NineWorlds and we’ll see you there.

Good bye/evening/luck/day/morning/night

Ste 🙂Hubris Spiderman copy Copy.jpg

War and Peace

And no I’m not talking abut the existential struggle at the heart of British democracy; with debate having been replaced by the ‘who -can-shout-the-loudest’ party. (And both extreme ends of the spectrum shouting the loudest; ie the extreme left in labour and the extreme right in Conservatives {but also UKIP}) It appears that we have lost the ability to even think “I may disagree with what you say but will defend your right to say it”.- I can remember having debates (!!!!!!!!!?????????!!!!!!!!) in 6th form with the National Front.

No I am actually speaking about the book; by Leo Tolstoy; the one with 1400 pages (I know some peoples libraries that are little more than 1400 pages – I lie but tbh there probably is someone somewhere with about twenty Disney books who considers themselves the proud owner of a library – children exempt obviously from this statement – – (Two -‘s ‘cuz I started with one and then added another without thinking – gods been sooooo scatological hurts people!) But 1400 pages!? Now I usually calculate when I’m a tenth, fifth etc. of the way through a book but this time 14 pages in and I’m only 1% of the way?

So War and Peace. I’d seen the BBC series earlier this year and I’m always I  for a little self-improvement so I decided to read it – libraries are wonderful places where you can receive actual books for nothing. I must say that the whole novel was so much easier to read than I thought it would be. I tried to re-read Robinson Crusoe recently and found it hard going so I initially approached with trepidation- but joy of joy’s it was so easy to read.  Of course having seen the series it was a lot easier to visualise the characters. ‘Oh that’s that woman from ‘Humans’; she played the robot who looked after the old man who . . .and she was Simon Amstell’s mom in Grandma’s House’. So it was easy to put faces to the names and run them through my mind as I read.

There were still some issues though. Firstly I’m unsure who Boris is (in the TV series) and I’m pretty sure I ‘thought’ of the wrong character in a few places. In fact I mistook the younger Rostova lad for the older son and read a whole section trying to work out why certain people did not seem as upset as I thought they should be. ) Also, and I am not sure if this is a nineteenth century writer thing or a Russian thing or just Tolstoy, but his depiction of the proletariat (the poor people) was a bit weird.  It seemed at times that he was in awe of them, as if as genuine ‘salt-of-the-earths’ they had transcended wisdom at their finger tips whereas every kid at my comprehensive school seemed a little dim (and I include myself trust me) still I really would recommend anyone to read it.

In fact thinking about the prols part I can see that at that time been a writer would mean having an education and also either having independent money hence you can write, or a well paid job so that you can write. Neither of these options would be open your common or garden bloke/bloke-ess and so Tolstoy could only write from a position of authority which may have given him a different view of peasantry and all that. Believe me knowing that your options after school are factory or factory (only having an A Level in Art doesn’t help at all) in Wolverhampton is really restrictive.

So please go and read while I go back to my SF – The Long Mars is next on my list followed by Foxglove Summer by Ben Aaronovitch (as I said the library is a wonderful place – but a bit of a pain when you suddenly find two or three books there all at once)

 

good day/night/afternoon/evening

Ste 🙂

 

 

Exposition; or how the hell do I tell you something

So I’m writing today and have the odd bit of exposition to contend with and I wonder; how to tell you what I want you to know without preaching or making you read an essay before hand.

Do I carefully explain something only never to come back to that subject or do I just drop it in and wander off? I think that this comes down to how intelligent do I think the reader is. Now one of my favourite sayings (i.e. something I say a lot that annoys the hell out of my kids) is ‘people are inherently stupid.’ It even has its own cool acronym – PAINS (People Are Inherently Stupid.)

But of course this is disingenuous  as I consider my readers to be of a higher intelligence; its just everyone else who is . . . . . well lets hurry on shall we? (By the way I do include myself in this saying – I am a firm believer in the Darwinian Awards) So often I drop stuff in and hope that people pick up on the nuances. If its the modern world then saying ‘The President’ is fine; if its some fairy magical land then The President can mean a lot of different things. Do you explain which country, how he or she became president, what powers they wield,  does it correspond to our worlds or is it completely different?

How far do you go in explaining all of this stuff? I mean often I have a really good idea of the background of my world right down to its politics and liking for silk under-pants (I lie about the silk under-pants but you get my meaning) One of the worst things a budding writer can do is ‘show your research’. Yes the need to show how bloody hard you have thought about the colour of a dragons wings and WHY they are that colour may be important to you, if only to justify locking yourself away for hours on end with only two lines of prose to show for it, but lets be honest; unless you’re writing some gratuitous sex scene no one wants to know.

I therefore try to aim for a balance in my writing. Dropping some stuff in as hints, almost easter eggs really, while offering up the odd half a page of ‘this is what my world is about.’ On one level I can understand why people write biographies, histories or about real life. Why add to your woes by having to explain what that winged, reptilian that breathes fire actually is when if you just add the words, my son, cancer, child you have pulled on pretty much all the heart-strings you need.

Well good afternoon/day/night/morning/life

 

Ste 🙂

 

“Through the misted valley’s”

As I mentioned in an earlier blog, Terry Prachett once said, and again I’m just running with a near amalgamation rather than the gospel, that writing was rather like viewing hills receding into the distance. These were your plot points with which you aimed your story, but the valley’s were filled with mist and what occurred underneath this veil was, as yet, unknown to you. That in a nutshell is my writing style, bearing in mind that sometimes I don’t even know where the hills are!

And so I wonder hither and thither almost aimlessly. For me this valley of mists is almost Brownian motion in effect. I write a sentence which contains something spur of the moment which I then think – ‘by the gods; that’s an idea’ – and I run with it until the next ‘little collision’ which sends me elsewhere. It’s this constant rush of the new and the well trodden path that creates the tension that, hopefully, becomes my novel.

This randomness is also a reason why I could never have made it as a novelist before the invention of search engines. a stray idea becomes lodged in a sentence and I find myself Googling  away like crazy trying to find an Arabic translation for a Greek word. And do you know of any Arabic translator that does not translate into Arabic script? I want to write my word in English. (that was two wholes days I will never live through again.)

Ideas also bring their own problems. what appears great initially can then cause more problems later. As an example; just this week as part of the ‘fleshing out’ of my latest novel I suddenly decided that my two protagonists, A and S, would confront a third character, lets call her C (although in reality her name begins also with an A and so she should be A2), in a shopping Mall. Bearing in mind that in this present world of mine The City in which all of this occurs sits alongside The Euphrates River so an American style Mall doesn’t seem out of place at all.

I then come up with the idea that this particular Mall will straddle the river and be constructed out of glass. I mean London has numerous glass edifices, as does Dubai etc., so its not too much of a stretch? – and this is a slightly futuristic present day world set in an alternative universe type thing (I really did not want to run through a hell of a lot of research for this book – so one set in ‘our world’ but one step beyond appeals. Hey look guys they had a second world war also! Really really easy; or so I thought at first.)

But then I had to wonder; did the Euphrates on my world cater for trade? Were vast container ships sailing up and down it? Shit! I’ve just blocked the river! well an easy answer is to either believe that no one is going to ask that question themselves (but then I did, and I’m not that smart) or write the damn Mall on land. Of course by then I had fallen in love with the idea of The Bridge – my glass answer to London Bridge before the great fire. So do I make it arched enough for ships to pass under? I decided to plot out a large canal and so have the Mall cross half the river. This actually then answered another issue. I had conceived of the glass floor as giving people access to clear running water and fish – a sort of aquarium cum glass-bottomed observation deck. But pollution was a big issue on my world so the Euphrates was sluggish, brown and smelly (I’m not saying that this is its state on our world – I’m writing fiction remember) but a purpose built shallow trough would make the river look clean and sparkly and it would be swift flowing.

Of course not one iota of this is necessary to the plot of the novel; it’s just a chunk of exposition/colouring/world building. But is that so wrong? Some of the best places I remember come with world building that in affect has no real purpose. Virtual Light by William Gibson is an excellent example, and one I re-read only recently. His San Francisco is vividly alive and thus a character in its own right. Much as Ankh Morpork  is in the above Sir Terry books. So where does useful world building end and useless exposition begin? Well if I knew that I’d have probably sold a load of books now wouldn’t I?

Good day/afternoon/night/evening/sir

 

Ste 🙂

What it means to be a writer – part two

I realise that what I said yesterday was more about the how of my writing than the why. or what  So to continue in that theme:

As I told you last blog/yesterday; I tend still to start and just go where the characters go until I come to the end. I personally find that each character grows as I write them and then I end up being surprised at something. They definitely have a life of their own! Having said all of that I am actually writing my next novel in a slightly different way. I actually sat down and worked out the main bones of the plot/story and then started to write. Weirdly so far I have written over 16,000 words and I’m only about 250 words into the synopsis. This could be a looooooooong book!

I do find it helpful although the actual process by which I write is pretty much this: I spend the time at night while I’m waiting to fall asleep to flesh out the synopsis; to run through a scene in my head and see what turn of phrase comes up. I have a notepad and pen by my bed in case I feel particularly inspired and need to jot something down. (Don’t worry about my wife – I am an extremely loud snorer and we sleep separately) Then the following day I write down as much as I can remember. (I also take ‘power-naps’ where I again run through parts of the script – but please don’t tell my wife; she thinks that I’m extremely busy at work writing – which in effect I am; it’s just all in my head!) Here is where the interface between what I can remember and what I write begins to breakdown. In other words I usually hate pretty much whatever it is I’ve written. This does NOT mean that I rewrite there and then; although on occasions I do.

Instead I try carry on with the gist of the story/sentence. I once held the fond belief that once it was down on paper all it needed was an editor. Now I’m much more pragmatic. The story I’m writing today will probably not be ‘ready’ for another year or two. By which time I will have left it alone for a good few months before running through a second draft. I find that new ideas or elements to the story come to me then; I envisage the original 80 – 90,000 words as the skeleton and the second draft is where I apply flesh and organs. A third draft covers it all in a nice pleasing skin of . . . . .whatever – I’ve run away with the metaphor a bit too far.

This is where the ‘what makes me think I could be a writer?’ bit comes in. I am a voracious reader; daily paper, various magazines, comics and since I retired I have managed to read almost a book a week. (this of course depends upon the size of the book – I am actually reading War and Peace at the moment and a week in I’m not yet half way through – 1400 PAGES!!!!!!!!!!!!!) So with all this experience I think I can spot a ‘bad’ bit of prose. This then becomes a subjective/objective thing. I come back to my writing sometimes a year or more after and still find it interesting. now can any writer ever be truly objective of their own words? Who can tell. I mean obviously I can do better but overall I enjoy my own writing. Now is that a bad thing?

Not that I am uncritical; I always strive to improve. Could I have written that character differently; do I convey the landscape well enough; have I put too much exposition in? I know that critics hate exposition. When you read a review of a novel often the complaint is ‘a page of exposition’ runs loud. In fact I made a virtue of it for my comic. At the top of the first page of the first issue were the words ‘Large Exposition Dump’ followed by two pages of. . . . you guessed exposition! To read more about Humanization.com follow the link to http://www.humanizationcomic.com

One last thing, for today. When the end is in sight, or at least only about twenty five thousand words away, I sometimes get a bit. . . .fed-up. I will have usually had this novel on my mind for at least five months, lived and (as I indicated earlier) slept on it. What makes me think that I am a writer is that I sit and write even when it pisses me off. ‘Gods do I have to write about roman Steampunk today?’ – well yes I do. I sit and write – I guess I fall into the write everyday group. I do hear of people who appear to find writing difficult and struggle to make a few hundred words a day but I can, honestly, knock out up to three thousand words in a day. I don’t, at least not always, but I aim for about a five thousand a week. Partially this is because I find I need complete and total silence and my wife works in a school so term times are mostly the only time I can write (I’m not saying my wife is noisy but. . . . . . . )

So most of this will probably appear as BS to people but if it helps just one person to aim to be a better writer?

Good day/evening/night/afternoon.

Ste 🙂

 

AN EVIL EMPIRE, BENT ON SELF-DESTRUCTION (BUT WHY?)

Fantasy Author's Handbook

Though I tend to shy away from a direct examination of current politics, let’s dip our toes in another troubling month in this country and take a look at present day America as a worldbuilding exercise. This could be considered a sequel to my March 17, 2015 post “An Evil Empire, Bent on World Domination (But Why?),” which was itself a “sequel” to “An Evil Genius, Bent on World Domination (But Why?)” from August 7, 2012. The former ended with this conclusion:

And just as with villains, it’s not nearly enough to just say that an empire is “evil.” If a villain is someone whose motivations we understand but whose methods we find abhorrent, that same criteria should be applied to an evil empire.

We live in a country where the daycare center in which my wife works just went through an “active shooter drill.”…

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What does it mean to be a writer?

Or to be perfectly honest why do I think that I’m a writer.

What differentiates someone who writes stuff from a writer? Is it inherent or can it be learnt? (obviously a lot of people think that it’s the latter judging from the number of Creative Writing courses there are – and I’ve taken two of them so I’m not really in any position to comment) Today when literally anyone can blog or vlog their way into the human consciousness how can I sit here and say I am this thing and you’re not?

Well I suppose the simple answer is obviously I can’t. If you write and they come and read then you’re a writer; what I’m trying to get a grips with is what makes me feel within myself that there is something different about me?

Well if I go back a zillion years, give or take a few, then I’ve always written stories or been interested in them. More specifically what happened next? What did Cinderella do after the wedding? how did the world recover from all those Triffids? One of my more defining moments came when I watched an episode of the original Star Trek. Kirk and co had landed on a planet as they do and found an idyllic world. after a while they realise that its run by some benign dictatorship computer, blow up the thing and leave the newly freed peoples to rule themselves. Me and Neil (Caron – my best mate at the time) were livid. how dare they!? They come swooping in take away the one thing that organised everything and left them to their own devices – I bet a return visit would have shown a desolate wasteland with cannibalism and as much violence as could be shown on TV in the 60’s.

My reaction was to write my first novel about such an event but from the peoples POV. I learnt so much from the experience. Firstly; that I hated to write in long hand! This is V. important. Writing long hand sucks; not the least because even I cannot read my writing! (An English teacher once wrote on my report ‘please get a new spider – I cannot read this one!’) I hated writing in long hand so much that my next novel was not written until almost 40 years later!!!

Secondly: I learnt that I cannot spell.  Thakn thr gods fpr spelchecl? I also learnt that I love to tinker with a sentence. I still have the reams of paper from my first effort and every page has at least two pieces of paper stapled to it where I’ve crossed out a sentence or added a bit more. Can you imagine if I typed it all? I would never finish. (Been honest for a second – well serious really – I have been told time and time again to rewrite, but somehow, from the very first I understood this – except that I actually rewrote it almost a nano-second after the first draft.) Again thank gods for Word. I can rearrange, delete, add, whatever I want. I am a man born for only this time!

Thirdly I learnt that actually having an idea where you are going does help. I started at the start and finished at the end. To be fair I still do that; I could not jump in somewhere else and carry on with a novel. I have improved, I know what the end is going to be, but I go by what Terry Pratchett once said (I may be paraphrasing here so apologies if I’ve got bits wrong) ‘when you write its like standing on a small hill. You can see other hills in the distance where you aim to go but the valley’s are full of mist and who knows what is going on there?’ You see I tend to have a lot of ‘up in the air’ type of thinking. I’ll give you an example. Just today I wrote a scene in a Mall where my two main characters confront a third. One character, Afua, is a police detective and I had written a brief description last week of her in a regulation suit and sensible shoes. Today as I’m writing I come up with the dialogue and this third person recognises Afua as a detective but shouldn’t (a bit of plot development there.) Now I had the detective say “So you recognised me as a detective like this?” meaning her clothes. ‘Whoops!‘ So I had to go back and change her into ‘mufti’ I do this ALLLLLLLLL the time; so if I actually jumped ahead of a story and then came back I may write in something that then means I need to change the later bit (I hope I haven’t lost you – I’m pretty borderline here but bear with me. So ends are as important as beginnings (and for the record I shifted the ending halfway through the novel.)

Lastly I realised the importance of character. This is the tricky bit for me. I read voraciously and most of it has some element of darkness running through it, even Terry’s Discworld, but I do struggle to write character. By this I mean a voice that is not merely my own. Now I’ve not had a cossetted life; long term bullying, distant parents, only child, interests that no one seemingly liked, disabled son, born again atheism, anger issues, loss of a job, depression – and that’s just this week! Seriously though I’ve not lived a charmed life but really find it hard to create truly unlikable characters. Not impossible mind, just hard. Part of the reason I reckon is that I am made up of about 99% sarcastic genes. It is called the lowest form of wit but why aim higher? I’ve been a children’s nurse and a nurse in an STI clinic (just as AIDS was sweeping the nation) I have always seen the ‘funny’ side of darkness and that then creeps into my writing. Life is shite and then we die is pretty much my motto so why not have a laugh? So I usually lace my stories with humour. Someone can be almost dead one minute and then cracking a joke about farts the next (actually – I haven’t ever written a scene like that but now that I think about it I’ll try and fit it in somewhere) Life is just like that; joking with a mate at night while cleaning someone who has just died (not at their expense – really I suppose just reminiscing about the times they had made us laugh over something silly).

Okaaaaay! Well I had lots more to write but if I do I’ll leave you brain dead – so I’ll pick up tomorrow with the rest of my ‘what makes me think I can write?’

Good day/might/evening/afternoon

Ste 🙂

 

The Second Day

Can I just start with a mini rant(ish). Why is there no way to tell if you’re typing all in capitals (if you’re an idiot like myself that is.) I had just finished typing in some codes (Walkers Crisp’s – will they EVER release a K or D or C?) when I came straight here. I’m one of those older types who needs to actually look at the keyboard to see what he’s actually writing; so I type away, look up and lo and behold. Not only am I shouting in text but all my capitals are lower case. Yes – yes I have a little light on my lap top that comes on when cap-lock is on but its the upper left corner and who looks there? (Well not me obviously)  Now the people (whoever ‘they’ are) need to organise one of two things. A sound that blarts in the background when you obviously begin to type sentences with the cap-lock on; OR a way of reversing the text. You know what I mean; Click and drag to highlight the text, another click and all lower case become upper case and versa visa.

So anyway onto why I’m blogging today. A handful of people have been very gracious to take notice and have ‘liked’ me. (Do a hundred likes add up to a bushel – I can never tell) so I just want to say thank you and wow! – people actually listening to me; what is the world coming to? I have two grown up children and a wife; as a father and husband been listened too is not in the job description. Talking of jobs I was a Careers Advisor before redundancy/retirement (Also known as Connexions in the UK – see even the Government cannot spell) and so I have a long history of no one listening to me; so to you guys (and I mean that in a none gender defining way obviously – as I said years in local government – you get to be very undiscriminating) I give a hearty thanks. Is there a wavy hands symbol? I can emoticon pretty well the simple things (Well only a smile face if truth be told) but surely there is an emoticon for waving and cheering – or is that the one with the tongue sticking out?

Gods; perhaps I should have thought this through a bit more. In my day (when we used slate and dug our own iron ore for cutting into the slate) all I ever had to write was the odd thank you note at Christmas.

So anyway that has been the jumbled ravings of my mind today. Again thank you for reading (or if you have given that off to a bot somewhere – 0011001001 100100101 0010 0101110010101 001010)

Good day/night/evening/

 

Ste 🙂