Saturday, 24 September 2016

So I Read... Hadrian's Wall.

I took a trip to my local comic store once again to fish around for any new material and low and behold, something caught my eye. As those who read this blog would know, I have a thing for science fiction and this comic certainly hit the right notes with the cover alone. But does it deliver a good story?

A man wakes up in space, only to suffer a gruesome death (the cover is a hint) and an investigation is soon under way to find out what happened and maybe who did it. The main character, Simon, is hired by the company that owns the ship the dead man was working on to go out and find out what happened, the catch being that the man got together with his now ex-wife and shot him four times. He reluctantly agrees to it, not only for the large sum of cash he is offered but probably also for a little payback to the ex, who happens to be working on the ship.

The writers, Kyle Higgins and Alec Siegel, tell a story with moments of mystery and tension which will leave you wondering as to the outcome, it is complimented nicely by Rod Reis' art and especially the colours used in the scenes such as the cold scenes in space. It is a great start to what hopefully will be an interesting story and I plan on sticking around to see what happens, it also an example of how to start of a good story without using a cheap gimmick... are you listening, Nick Spencer?

Another thing to see with a series like this is that there are no variant covers for this, the first issue of what hopefully is a long running series. I know in many instances in the past I have gone after too many variants and it is something I will always stick to my guns about, and when I see a series like this launch I am always pleased.
Check it out.


The Long Road.

To say that Nomads did not do well at the time of writing this would be an understatement. I took a look and saw that it had sold just a single copy, something that depressed the hell out of me but then a small part of me thought "well at least somebody brought it".

I have often been reminded that writing is not a guaranteed overnight success but the conclusion I reached that the book has pretty much failed did knock me back for a while, it didn't help that the GoFundMe I had set up for the equipment needed to record audiobooks at home only attracted one donation so I chose to shut it down and just focus on the here and now. As much as I liked the idea of recording stuff for Audible and so on, it is best left for the future when I can raise the money myself.

I instead decided to plow ahead with book number 2 but take a much more relaxed approach with it and improve on what I should have done with Nomads and get to know the characters a bit better. As the story has progressed, I have noticed a big improvement due to this approach and it has made me quite happy each time I have typed along and I have a good feeling about it all. Am I being presumptuous here? Yes, it can be argued but I took a look at the work in progress earlier and saw that even though the story was just beginning (in my mind) it had reached 17k words and I was quite pleased because in hindsight I wish I had taken my time a bit more with Nomads.

Whilst Nomads did not do well and did put me down in the dumps for a bit, I did notice something interesting this morning before I wrote this piece, the views on my other blog posts had jumped up quite a bit and I was both surprised and pleased by this. I write this blog just to put what I think out there, I do not mean to stir up controversy, attack people outright (although I have criticized some) or muck rake like some people do, and yet more people are reading this site. I am grateful to those who do, I really am, I am just a guy who cares about the storytelling platform in whatever form it takes and I worry for its future if more original material from more original people is not added soon. We live in an age where remakes are a big thing and others who have a platform those of us like myself can dream of using it to attack people who's politics they don't like, I don't like seeing that at all so I speak out against it.

I do not use this blog to big myself up at all, just to write my thoughts and tell stories, so I shall end this piece by saying thanks to all who take the time to read it and I wish you well.

Sunday, 18 September 2016

So I Read... Monstress.

If there was any justification in my mind as to why I had left the likes of Marvel behind and gone to the smaller publishers, Monstress is a prime example of it. I do not think I have come across such a fine combination of writing and artwork since I can remember and it is no surprise to me that I had such a job on my hands finding some of the back issues.

A young lady named Maika faces an ongoing struggle to control a psychic link she had with a very powerful monster as she and her friends are hunted as a potential war rages around them. That is as much of the story I can go into without spoiling anything but the writing for this series is wonderful, it focuses on the story and does not try to shove in any unwanted politics and as a result; flows through the issues nicely. It is especially awesome that the first issue is 66 pages long, talk about kicking things off with a bang, so credit to Majorie Liu for writing such a wonderful start.

Sana Takeda's artwork is a thing of beauty and to describe it as anything less would be an injustice, I can only wonder how long it takes to do but it is some of the best that I have ever seen in a comic.

It is also amazing to see that there are no variant covers for this series, there are second prints for some of the issues but in my mind, they do not count when it comes to this sort of thing and I can understand it as the series has been quite popular.

I cannot recommend this series enough, the trade paperback of the first story arc is out now and if you cannot be bothered to track down the back issues, I would go with that but either way I can guarantee you will not be disappointed with the content of this one, not by a long shot.


Friday, 16 September 2016

Top of the Mountain.

So finally, my book came out on Amazon last night and what hopefully is the first leg of a journey for me was reached. It has been long in the works, the book took a while to finish due to a busy life at home with a family and some obstacles that appeared along the way but I did it in the end. The journey was not without its painful moments though, and that is what this post is mainly about.

I do not want this to sound like sour grapes but I will understand if people see it as such, crying foul or victim on the internet is all the rage these days. For those who know me and those who read this little blog, I entered the book into the Kindle Scout program to see if I could get started with a bang. A short explanation is that if anyone is successful in a Scout program (they get enough votes) they get a writing contract, some good advertising, and an advance, it sounded really cool to me so I shilled it as hard as I possibly could. I blogged about it, tweeted about it, and even tapped people up at work about it, the eventual page views of my campaign were just over five hundred and I had an awesome feeling about the potential result. The campaign had run for a month and when it finished, I received an email informing me they were now going over the result and I was confused, surely it was just a case of now counting the votes and saying "yes" or "no"?

The email was waiting for me when I woke up for work on Wednesday morning, they told me I had been unsuccessful and thanked me for taking part, I was not told how many votes I received or any kind of feedback on my book at all. The email was simply saying "Thanks for taking part, bye", and I was so upset it tainted my mood for the whole day. Going to work with that on my mind was not good in the slightest and to my shame I admit I did snap at one person who approached me whilst it was running through my mind, it is something I regret very much. I don't mind failing at things at all, I see these moments as a learning curve and try to take something from them, but to fail at something and not be told why was an absolute killer and I would wish it on nobody.

Thankfully it is times like this that I love the community and the people I know within it.

I had tweets and messages of support from people as those who had voted for my book had received the email informing them of the campaign's failure, my wife was there for me and it reminds me that I am so lucky to have her and all the support took the sting out of it somewhat. I had voted for other books in the Scout program that I had liked the look of and during the course of mine I had received emails that these authors had also been rejected, it saddened me that there were other people going through this mystery rejection.

I did not want to be down in the dumps about it so I published it through the original method through Kindle and it is now on sale (I'll put a link in at the bottom, in case anyone wants to check it out *wink*) and once again I shilled it as best as I could. Friends tweeted about it and the response was so uplifting it made me think that maybe I should have just done that to begin with, I even had a congratulatory message from Mundane Matt, a Youtuber whom I am very much a fan of, it was one of those moments where the side of your head pops because it was so awesome.

I had thought of originally ending this by advising people away from the Kindle Scout program as in retrospect I really didn't like it, but perhaps that would be wrong of me. Instead, I would say to anyone who is considering trying it, think carefully before you do so. At the time of writing this, I do not know what the sales have been like yet because I am more interested in the reviews so I can take on any valid praises or criticisms from all this. I have decided to use beta readers as I have heard it's a good practice, anyone who would be interested in this, I would love to hear from you. For now though, I am already writing my second book and I know this is going to be fun because it is quite a personal story to me. In finishing I would like to say this: Thanks to all those who supported me in my journey, the first leg is over, the next has already begun.
See you there?

Friday, 9 September 2016

Another Series of Thank yous

The last month has been an interesting one for me as I have been doing the absolute best to shill my Kindle Scout campaign and see if my book wins and gets published. In order for it to stand a chance, I reached out to the community, my friends and family to get them to vote for it and the result was more than I realised was possible.

The campaign page for my book tells me how many visits it has had, but not votes. This annoyed me a little because it was an unknown element to all this, at least with things like KickStarter you can see your progress so it became a little bit of a guessing game and a little part of my mind hoped a visit equalled a vote. Thankfully I have a lot of friends on Twitter who voted for the book and promoted it on their timeline for me and I simply cannot be grateful enough to them all for doing so. I see some people who like to criticise the platform and in some cases they have a point but I have had many pleasant experiences being on there, my book promotion is right up the top and I think it will stay there for quite a while.

Without further delay, I shall say a lot of thank yous now to those online who promoted my book as it is the least I could do right now, so in no particular order:

Scott Hall: The man who I once referred to as a "silver haired, smooth voiced, good looking bastard" and has been a guest on many of my streams, he is a fine gentleman and has been very helpful to me with advice on various things I have asked him about since knowing him.

Mr Wombat: referring to him by his handle in case he does want me to use his actual name, a man who I have spent many hours talking to since 2014 and am grateful to know, his encouragement knows no bounds.

Peta: My book's cover artist (as well as the picture above) and Wombat's wife, someone who I have decided to use when ever I need a cover doing or any kind of art as a reference point for my future works as I love her art.

Brian Niemeier: A writer with a massive following who took his time to promote my campaign even though I kept getting his last name wrong when we streamed together a couple of months ago.

Jennifer Medina: Jenn is someone whom I think very highly of, a beautiful lady with a razor sharp mind and certainly knows how to hold her own online. She is someone whom I would love to have a good debate with sometime.

Karisma Singh: Karisma was someone else who took the time to shill the link to my campaign on her Twitter, I once had her as a guest on a previous stream, one of my best, but sadly a badly timed storm prevented her from talking here and there. I hope to have her back on at the end of the year for the follow up.

Victor Gischler: A well established writer of The Ink Mage Trilogy and Gestapo Mars, to name but a few, he also tweeted the link and it meant a lot that a man in his position, much like Brian, took the time to help someone like me achieve their big break.

MegaMike: One part of the Shemworld (and Shemfest) team who tweeted about my book a number of times, he has been so helpful to me with that and with the ongoing project that is building my PC. An awesome dude.

Shemmie: The other part of Shemworld (and Shemfest) and a man who not only as kind enough to promote the book, but he also took the time to write an article about it. Knowing people like him truly has been a blessing to me.

There are probably others that I have forgotten and for that I really do apologise, feel free to let me know and I will add you in. My favourite time promoting my book has been at my work, I have been working in another department this week and have had access to email so I got to talk to different people and promote myself. I sent the email with the link to various people who gave it a vote but the best one was when I approached the General Manager. I won't name him in case he doesn't want that, but he is a top gentleman and an all around nice guy, I spoke to him just before the end of shift on Wednesday and told him about the campaign, he really liked the sound of it and was happy to help.
"Thank you, I shall email you the link now," I said.
"No problem, I'll forward it to everyone in my inbox too," he said.

To say that my head exploded would be putting it mildly.

I checked the page views shortly before he did that, it sat at around 320. When the campaign finished early this morning, it was just over 500 views. I wrote him a thank you email before I left work today and haven't smiled so much in ages, even if the book doesn't get accepted and I have to publish it via normal means on Amazon, this has been a wonderful experience for me, the support has been amazing.

I try not to be big headed about all this, but I like to think of myself as not a community funded author, but a community backed author. I really do like the idea of that, but is that fair?

You tell me.

Tuesday, 6 September 2016

A Day at the N.I.C.E Convention.

This Saturday just gone was a great day for me and my daughter as we followed a routine that we have done a couple of times before when my son lost interest in the conventions I went to and she took his place quite happily. We got up at 6am on Saturday morning and went into our local town center to grab a cooked breakfast before we caught a bus to Bedford, my hometown, and a place where my heart will truly be. When we arrived outside of the convention venue, we couldn't believe our luck when we realized we were second in line. Whoever the group was that got there first, I dread to think what time they got up at but fair play to them all the same.

The N.I.C.E convention is where primarily British writers and artists gather to sign comics, draw sketches and meet their fans once a year and inside and as usual, Jeff the organiser had done a great job with the guest lineup he had assembled and credit to him for doing so and pulling off a wonderful event. To go through the list would take some time (you can find the list here) I have to say the highlight of the show for me was meeting Andrew Wildman. He was an artist on the Transformers comic when it was being written by one of my favourite writers, Simon Furman, and the series was a good one until it was cancelled but then revived many years later and even continued with its original issue numbering. I will always be one of those Transformers fans that will always prefer the Generation One version of the characters and was so thrilled to have him draw me two sketches of my two favourite characters.

Sketches like these are the very best thing or things that you can take away from events like this as they are truly one of a kind and can never be repeated. Wildman has a Patreon and usually I would not promote these things because of the way some people use them, a way to make a cheap buck off of gullible idiots (Yes Wu and Harper, I am looking at you) but I shall provide the link and let you judge for yourself.

Another highlight was meeting Matt Hollingsworth, a colourist who had worked on such great titles as Wytches and Tokyo Ghost. After a brief conversation with him in which he informed me Wytches series two was on the way, I brought this wonderful piece of artwork from him.

It shows how the colouring for an issue works from stage to stage, left to right, start to finish and was number four out of five made and he even signed it at the bottom. I also came away from the event with a ton of loot, my daughter too but there was one comic I purchased right at the end that is my prize from the convention. For those who don't know, I was a massive fan of Michael Turner's artwork and Fathom in particular but I sold them and the rest of my comics when the children started to roll in almost 14 years ago. Turner sadly died from bone cancer back in 2008 and the industry lost one of its best talents and anything that he had signed went up in value, there is an issue of Black Panther which he did the art for that at the time of writing this, is going for £149.95 on eBay. This all happened whilst I was out of the game but after I got back into it and learned about it, I said to myself that I would get something of his signed, preferably something that had been given the CGC treatment.

A dealer had the above comic, a Swimsuit Special of the main character from Fathom that Turner had signed in 2007, one year before his death. He originally wanted £80 for it but informed me he would take £60. I told him I would come back to him at the end of my day and see what I had left and he agreed. I came back to him with my last £45 and asked if he would accept it and my head nearly popped when he did and handed it to me. On a personal level, I feel I gained a wonderful part to my collection from a man who's work I loved, on another level I cannot believe I managed to get it at such a good price.
Its times like these I love comics.

All in all, it was a grand day and I cannot wait for the next one, N.I.C.E is one of the few conventions that I happily return to each year as not only is it an affordable one but it feels like a very personal one to me in more than one instance. I really can't wait.

Thursday, 1 September 2016

So I Read.... The Discipline.

If Glenn Close could not steer people clear of playing away from home when she played Alexandra Forrest in Fatal Attraction, then god knows what would. In this case though, it is the wife who strays but things take an entirely different turn as Melissa, the main character of this story, a twenty something wife who is bored of her husband and continuously fighting with her sister, strays down the path of temptation. These ingredients when mixed together steer her into the arms of the tall, dark and handsome stranger called Orlando and in this case it is not so much who he is, but more of a case of what he is and it goes down hill from there.

This is a story of darkness, sex, seduction and violence told with an engaging story from Peter Milligan and some very quirky artwork from Leandro Fernandez, but whilst it follows what appears to be the standard format of an opening story by being six issues long, I was left wishing that it had been longer so that it delved into the characters a little more. Also (and possibly a result of the six issue "cap") the ending feels a little abrupt and rushed, without giving the story away I was left wishing that the final scene had been a bit longer but the characters were believable in the story, especially Melissa's husband and he bares the brunt of her frustrations in more ways than one.

Respectably there are no variant covers in this series at all, issues one and two have second prints but those are never counted against a series and in fact, are quite for it in my mind. For those who wish to collect the back issues and read them, at the time of writing this they are still at a standard cover value and not difficult to pick up. Either that or you can wait for the trade paperback and check that out but yet again, Image shows that they can tell an interesting and different story unlike Marvel and DC who are still trying to reinvent the wheel.