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This week I’ve been working with Andrew Gallagher on his 2nd draft/my 7th draft of Axel America. Yes, novels are usually worked through with proofers and publishers and done six months or more prior to publishing. In this case, I didn’t begin talking with AG Publishings until two months ago. It’s not as if it can be put off either – the story of Axel America takes place between April and October of this year, and a release any later kind of robs it of some of it’s power. You’ll see. We’re in the very unusual position of altering the story up to one month before publication. I think the novel is more functional because of this error of mine and it’s a guilty pleasure too, where I’m able to include in references to current events. It’s also a double-edged sword. Mick Falk is a character obsessed with the European conspiracy, and with the Referendum gone the way it has, I’m currently re-writing Falk’s character in the second half. The second draft is gruelling. Positively stress-inducing aargh, because I’m letting go, delivering the bloody baby. The third draft will be a final check for typos, punctuations etc., should be a dawdle.

So that’s why I’m still writing about editing, when other writers had all this done moons ago.

The advance information sheets are just waiting for clearance, but the promotionals have begun.  I’ve been writing tweets for @TheAxelAmerica and @TruthLive_TV to coincide with the annual Bohemian Grove festivities which start today.

If you’ve been by @andrewluke on Twitter, you’ll see I ran a ’60 Great Small Press’ list of comics that have touched me. These are being collected on John Freeman’s Down The Tubes, and the first part went up a few days ago. 

The novel, Brexit, and the Aran Islands holiday

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Work carries on with ‘Axel America’. Unfortunately the previous copy editor didn’t work out, but on the plus side, it’s being done in-house at AG Publishings. Andrew Gallagher is such a joy to work with: thoroughly professional and a big fan of the book, his support fills me with confidence that we’re going to shift some copies when the novel is released two months from now. As it’s set >now< (now being just after Chapter 7), last minute re-writes are required under Brexit, but we’re getting there.

It’s been a lot of work, and so I took a long weekend away. I did consider asking social media for an update on post EU Ref / Brexit, all the political developments of my week away, but on second thoughts, I’d really much rather have an update on my friends and know they’re coping and surviving it. Westminster politicians aren’t far enough down my caring list, yet they carry on trying to make out this ever-shifting landscape is completely about themselves.

The weekend away began in Galway, and a reunion with Emmett Taylor, cartoonist behind Dope Fiends, and several Dublin Comic Cons. Emmett was one of the first comics creators I worked with, and it’s been fourteen years since we saw one another. Here’s us in a famous Salthill pub enjoying the craic.

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Sarah and I set off the following morning for Inis Mor, the largest of the Aran Islands.

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I’d fun meeting the locals, including John, a talented muso seen here playing the bars.

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John and other musicians regularly hang out at this island cafe run by Roland and Angela, who make a mean morning smack-me-up brew.

Our B & B, Ard Mhuiris came as part of the Aran Islands ferry package, worth finding. A homely little place near the harbour run by Cait, who came over as very sweet, attentive and likeable. No pictures snapped but for this rather unusual 3d picture on the wall, which resembles both a horse and the face of a strange old man.

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Oh, right, you liked the ones with fields and sea…

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There’s no barriers or handrails up there. Beautiful? My legs were like jelly. Dun Aonghas is 300 foot cliffs.

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The fort from another angle. The Burren, the stone-field in foreground, is all over the island.

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The road to Dun Ducathair (The Black Fort), includes twenty minutes of walking on stones.

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Right, I have to get back to work now. I’ll leave you with a photo with less stones in it.

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Condensed Game of Thrones

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Four seasons, five actors, 15-20 minutes.

Season 6 of HBO’s Game of Thrones makes use of  an excellent compressed version of the Joffrey arc.

I wrote one too, and it seems a bit redundant now. I tried to produce it for Titancon in 2014, and again in 2015, with two different casts. I think the best thing is just to put it out there. Read it, enjoy it, if you want to perform it (including edits), I’d be happy to hear how you get on.

I should note thanks to Jim McClean, Wendy Duly, Cat Jones and Alex Groves, each of whom suggested a few lines.

Download PDF version  /   Download .doc version

Game of Throneses c. George R.R. Martin and HBO respectively

Probably the best bus ride I’ve ever been on

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Titancon is a fan-organised event mixing Game of Thrones with the best of Northern Ireland’s Horror, SF&F literature. From it’s first outing in 2011, they’ve run a Game of Thrones coach tour, chasing down new shooting locations. There’s great camaraderie, too. Organiser Phil Lowles’ habit of assuring passengers “They were only ten minutes away,” formed the basis of a poem I co-wrote with Cat Jones and Stephen de Meulemeester, which has become something of a favourite.


The two coaches have built up some rivalry over the years. This year it boiled right up, including some small trolling by yours truly. I created Twitter accounts for the coaches, and automated tweets where Coach 1 would routinely name-drop it’s direct line to the GoT stars, and Coach 2 would tweet about how it had hit an iceberg.
Over breakfast, I’d bragged to Titancon’s security man Ade Beattie about the twitter stuff. Ade was called out to pick up Miltos Yerolemou (aka Syrio Forel), who was running a little late. As they sought to catch up to us, the pair of them set up an account  for their journey: Coach 3 account.

Meanwhile, I gave Coach 1 people passwords to both twitter accounts so honest updates went out, as well as on personal handles giving us hashtags like #coachinthenorth and #miltosiscoming
Add to the mix, Cat, and Pebble, had decided they would make Coach 1 a sure extension of the Friday/Saturday format. Grabbing the on-board microphone (and one they’d brought with them), they arranged an improv con. The programme included:
Panel: Aragon economics

Crowdsourcing: What ghastly aberration will befall Titancon this year?
(Seals with rocket launchers, parallel universe collapse etc)

Tutorial: Milting
(Came about from a pun on Miltos’ name. It turned out we had an academic specialist on board for an informative talk and Q&A. Milting is fish sperm, sperm poured over eggs and grown in a box; the male dies. This also formed the basis of the sandcastle competition, photos on Werthead’s post below.)

Singalongs:
Popular tunes with the word ‘love’ replaced with ‘bum’. Other replacements included ‘Prostitute’, and ‘Hodor’.
SF Author Paedar O’Guillin teaches us An Poc Ar Buile (The Mad Puck Goat)
The Rains of Castamere – Rehearsals of the Red Wedding Song, for freaking out Coach 2 at the banqueting hall at the end of the day.

Game Quiz:
Google random images and assign as kitten or boobs

Limericks by Coach Poet Laureate:
Coach 1 is the greatest / We’ve songs and literary theatres / But Coach 2 know / Nothing like Jon Snow / Nothing like Barcelona waiters!
Champion blogger Adam Whitehead (aka @Werthead) has collated the best of all the Twitter activity at https://storify.com/Werthead/titancon-2015-coach-trip
Phil Lowles has just announced Titancon’s return for 2016. You can book for this year’s day event, at http://titancon.com/ and be sent an announcement when coach trip seats open later on in the month I imagine.

Blogging Axel America: Me and A Publisher

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The week of the 16th May began with a meeting with Pieter Bell, an affable bar-fly of Belfast stores which stock comics. At the Enniskillen event under much lager, Piet had unmasked himself as an editorial bod and was keen to try out proofing the MS. Also from Enniskillen, an interview lining up with Andrew Gallagher for May 22nd. Initially, for guidance, but I couldn’t resist asking the purveyor of well composed sensationalist literature in neat smooth bound form would be interested in publishing Axel America. So, I push on with re-drafting. The daunting, dull task was tidying up the timeline which was a major challenge. I marked cut-off dates in the chapter listing and altered the temperature on a few details. Plot seeds and plants of different growths were uprooted and re-flowered and all other relevant small gardening metaphors. I shared the document link with Andrew and with Pieter on Wednesday, two more days to go.

Not in my notes was the fact a minor character disappeared from the final third of the book. He wasn’t essential to the plot but his character, like Axel, calls out for attention. Again, back to the chapter listing and marking up where he should be seen and what he’d be doing there. One final speed read over I see another characters doesn’t have traction to action demanded. Eventually, more spell and grammar, format and punctuation, (damn those commas wriggling into prohibited areas,) finally its done. 46k.

THe meet with Andrew Gallagher got off bumpy with my epileptic absences flaring up. On the plus side, Andrew is now a big fan of Absence: a comic about epilepsy. He dealt with it as a gent and both of us were so revved with lists of questions for one another that we made short work of the time. Andrew guided me through the process of publishing as he saw it, reeling out figures and processes with nary a glance at his laptop. A very productive day. I’d highly recommend would be authors to hire Andrew for a consultation. Having done a fair bit of self-publishing already I was able to bring enough to the table to compliment and enhance what Andrew has on offer.

So, I’m pleased to announce AG Publishings will be putting out Axel America, on September 5th.

And here’s a copy of Sean Duffield‘s mock up of the cover:

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Pretty cool eh? He’s been sending me bits and pieces of the finished version and it looks ace!

Axel is a patriot with questions. Torn between two loves: his family, and his one-man media crusade, news won’t be the only thing that’s breaking. Axel seeks to regain the love of his children and to cover the Presidential race. However the satanic forces he’s been warning about all his life come out from the shadows and are determined to pull him in.

25/05/2016: Joyful deadlines: Blogging Axel America

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Axel America is set around the November 8th U.S. elections, so I’ve plenty of reason for getting it out there soon.

Some authors disparage deadlines and writing for the market. Underneath those there’s structure, definition. In the emotional storm times, those can be something to cling to, a way forward. Late April, early May, the time between drafts, took a lot out of me; demanded time to recover. Time I’d set aside for scratching my arse and watching Babylon 5 repeats was replaced with great mourning and celebrating. When I was ready to go back to work, there was plenty, but thankfully I had lots of plans.

Richard wasn’t keen on a show-down in Chapter 4, between Axel and his foe Morgan Rump. “It comes out of nowhere,” he said, and he was right. I printed out the chapter list and decided a re-shuffle was in order. My solution was to bring forward Chapter 5 re-establishing Rump as a threat, but as Chapter 3, thus better establishing him in the rising action. Chapter 1 is an ensemble piece, but doesn’t focus on Axel. (A surprise, as Axel dominates every scene he’s in.) I was loathe to create a new Chapter 2 and alter the opening act structure, being as how I’m at third re-draft but starting out from the vaguest scenario, Axel in studio, I got building, centralising his own world of chaos, and complimenting the new arrangement. The new Chapter 4 also benefited from an extra few pages settling the reader into a more casual read. The original chapter 3 was also set-up, but got pushed back, which is alright as its non-essential, except for being a real peach.

Above: Sean Duffield’s thumbnails for the characters on the cover

My redraft.txt detailed three vital sub-plots I’d identified as not getting their due. Re-reading the MS, I made notes on the chapter listing where they’d been mentioned, and where they could be grown and expanded on. Then, I wrote those in, and noted that I had. Then I discovered spelling mistakes. And more spelling mistakes. The whole document, infected with them! A look under the hood revealed my version of Open Office was not playing ball. Everything got exported to Word. Spells and grimoire re-working took much less time than expected; two days. I think this must be the easiest re-write I’ve done for the reason detailed notes were kept, the sort a scrutinising editor or proofer might hand me. It always seemed another job had to be done, but I knew what the job was. I ran across new tasks on the way there. In one chapter I’d scrupulously pinned down location details. When I put the address in, I realised the text could be made so much better by capitalising on why I’d chosen that location above others, and so strengthened the atmosphere. Spell and grammar checks on new lines and paragraphs, the document by now edging towards 43k.

By now, its May 16th and Sean had sent through the finished rough cover which looks incredible. I’m talking with Enniskillen author Andrew Gallagher about the route to publication on his own books. I met Andrew at the Enniskillen Comic Fest selling his fictions, ‘Escape from Fermanagh’ and ‘Fermanagh Exorcism.’ Both are published out of his own house, AG Publishings. The books are well formatted and clean, the stories are easy-read riveters, horror hoots. We talk about my visiting him for a chat to see if he can’t talk me through the process, which frankly I’ve not had a handle on since carting ten supermarket trolleys of Absence to the post office. There should have been a photo of that. Self-publishing is all fun and games until somebody loses control of a cart on a kerb. Thankfully Andrew has an iron grip and a peer talk will help steer me right. Enough puns. I’ll leave it there for now and update again in a few days.

20/04/2016: Blogging Axel America

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Written back in April…

I’ve just laid down a chapter of Axel America, the final one, and wanted to share with you some thoughts and experiences on process. The novel’s an adaptation of my 2011-2012 comic book Hold the Phones, It’s Alex Jones. The comics were written through a series of story sessions with my best friend and longtime collaborator, Richard Barr and along the way attracted other co-conspirators: Benjamin Stone; Adam Lively; Geoffrey Wessel and Sean Duffield. We produced the comic over two ‘seasons’, and collected them behind a madly wonderful cover by Richard. Bleeding Cool covered the digital launch. That same night, Adam and I were drinking when we learned Jones had gone ballistic on Piers Morgan’s show. A Google image search for Alex Jones led with Richard’s cover for hours, and our main ebook seller, Myebook registered 15,000 previews. Sadly I later learned they were going through bankruptcy and we got nada cash. Further suckiness? Our collected comic just got too expensive to produce. (Though, the Kablam version looks great.)

Fast forward a few years. I’m writing prose shorts, about thirty to date, and gearing up for a book. I’ve a special one in mind, a favourite child if you will, but I wondered if it might be possible to ressurect Hold the Phones and put those stories out quickly as a novella. Well, there’s no such thing as a quick novella. Not a good one. I missed my own deadline by three months, but it’s happening. Richard was happy enough to let me run with what builds around the Co-Opted story he wrote, and which Adam drew. It’s about Alex nee Axel’s manipulation by a news network’s chosen Presidential candidate, and Axel’s children on the run. Adaptation can get pretty dull without new material so I crafted a Season 3 of stories that linked it all together, and introduced new characters. Axel insisted on seeing real enemies everywhere, so to give him a break and me a story, I should created a few. My own epic from the collection, ‘Global Agenda 2012,’ didn’t fit the feel of the novel, but I knew I wanted to include his fellow conspiracy theorists. Pretty soon they went from two chapter supporting characters to part of an ensemble.

Re-drafting: I’m quite happy to admit I’m good at this, but it’s laborious. In this case, it’s been the most fun I’ve had writing anything. I’ve laughed uproariously at my own jokes again and again and that’s not a bad sign. I made good time on the second novel draft, each chapter contained simply in a .txt. file. Richard saw about a third of the .doc and was keenly enthusiastic and critical. Fingers crossed, there’s a few back-lines to plant and a character to re-name as noted in my re-draft.txt. Also, two extra scenes to write because the piece needs them and Richard wants another go round, so we’re breaking those later in the week. Of the other authors from Hold the Phones, I could only bring back Sean Duffield (working on the cover), but there’s a strong sense the spirit of collaboration had something to do with how well this has turned out. Concerns? Getting it out before the November U.S. election; making a decision on publishing – once your first book is out, certain doors are closed. Overall? No disposable quickie, this book affirms why I chose to be an author. As a reader to another, you’ll love it.

Andy Luke, 20/04/2016

Gosh, that was only a month ago. I’m surprised how hard I’ve been working on it since then, and where it is now. I hope I can put out another of these this week. I’ve got news!