Homespun Fun Comics

castle-walls

I managed to take some time last month for a social trip around England, kicking off with the Midwinter Comics Retreat, hosted by Sophie in her family home. This year was a bit different as I joined Jay Eales on the writing duties, shipping out scripts to seven artists. The experience was true to the MCR ethos of ‘fun comics’ and I feel enthused and inspired about making comics in the future. Crisis on Infinite Captions should be out from Factor Fiction Press later this year. Thanks particularly to Sophie, Jenni & Richard,  Arsalan, Glenys, Sean, Ciaran & Adrian and Suzanne for making it a holiday I won’t forget.

Helen Gomez runs The Girly Comic Club, an event in which she opens her home to trusted friends to draw comics two or three times a month. Isn’t that a beautiful thing? To come off wet streets and get handed a cup of tea, some cake, and draw comics in comfortable surroundings! Four or five people collaborating on a mini-comic or two, within hours! I’m hoping to try hosting something similar soon. It’ll be a LGBT-friendly called Boys Club, of course.

If you’d like to see what we’ve been up to try a wee comic-zine about Houses, or ones about Jeans or Monkies.

Sam Finnegan has attended a few of these. He’s a cartoonist in Bangor, NI, working out of Boom! Studios, and now SyncSpace in Dufferin. Sam has set up a zine and comics library there, with a great gallery, a regular Flea Market event (on Sundays), and some prog art exhibits planned.

An update on the Axel America coverage in form of a reading given at The Book Reserve. It’s from Chapter 10 a.k.a Masculinity Under Threat: The Effeminate Ephemera of FEMA. I also got a nice column in the February edition of Writing Magazine, and a mutual love-and-anger chat with Rob and Janelle Alex of the Authors Talk About It Podcast. And you can now buy Axel America at SyncSpace!

 

Post-novelisation depression

Via Thomas Shahan, CC license.

Disclaimer: Thanks to anyone who hasn’t been thanked. This article is not intended to guilt trip, or finger specifically. If you find it triggering you might want to surf elsewhere.
Clinical depression: there’s wretchedness, no doubt. It’s as random as banana. Doctors and authors writing about mindfulness track down how it can strike a physically and mentally healthy person, without even the decency to explain itself. It’s an especially rude and stupid ailment on an irrational course. One sector it seeks out for trolling is creatives, but thankfully there’s been a huge growth in writer’s guides that talk about well-being. Dorothea Brande’s Becoming A Writer is a good one, and I’m looking forward to starting Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way, which is on my wheelie table.

I spent the better part of October suffering from a type of clinical depression I’m choosing to call post-novelisation depression. A quick search tells me I’m far from a one-off, but I’d not seen the like referred to in any writer’s guides.

‘Oh, but it’s only natural you’d feel some burn-out after all the work you’ve put in’.

‘You shouldn’t feel bad. You’ve written a book, that’s a huge accomplishment’.

Both of those are fair and helpful comments, but let me be clear. I’m not talking about burnout, or a lack of time off, or the parts of the book that were weak – no, blaming myself? Too easy. Maybe it was the dull administrative tasks making up over half the job.  I was smart enough to combine promotion and recreation: in a podcast tour and at social events which make up the bulk of my sales. What I mean is a full-on inability to write, days not getting out of bed, feelings of worthlessness and self-harm. The best advice I got before publication was ‘manage your expectations’. So I researched, and found Man Booker finalists selling under 3,000 – in one case, 900 copies. That didn’t stop the overwhelming misplaced (yet un-uttered) frustration towards bookselllers, journalists, friends who might have supported me yet signalled no interest. Yes, I knew I had no right to expect anything, or did I? Random fucking bananas! After fifteen years making cool stuff, my first novel is a big deal. I thought of having myself sectioned and, professionally, I wanted to jack it all in. It didn’t/doesn’t feel like an illness, more a moment of clarity.

White Collar, c. 1940 – Linocuts by Giacomo G. Patri, Via Thomas Shahan, CC license.

I mentioned inability to write: not just the block, this was like a paralysis. Writing is therapy as well as my job. I attend the best writing group in East Belfast, maybe the city: but in October I went there like a zombie. I think things began looking up when I returned to reading The World in a Flash: How to Write Flash Fiction, by Calum Kerr. Kerr put me off by filling the book with exercises, but under the October low it was exactly the crutch I needed. The ethos in Kerr’s book is not just about honing flash fic, it’s about mentally equipping yourself to building story tiny piece by piece.
A moment of clarity: I felt a sheer overwhelming feeling that I didn’t want to do this again, something I genuinely believe right now. I don’t know if I’m healthy enough to manage writing for a living. That’s not weak to think like that. Kevin J. Anderson in Million Dollar Productivity makes the point that mechanics and grocers can’t afford to wait for their muse to strike, which is fair. He also goes on to say it’s entirely realistic to write five good books a year. Maybe I could. As I begin writing a new book full of my heart, I think I cannot cope with all the pain that comes after. Anderson and others advocate getting your team in: people beyond the shopkeepers to sell for you, agents, marketers and promoters. I think this is a necessity, but from where I sit it looks as hard as winning every single customer. So I ponder the future: is this post-novelisation depression, or a moment of clarity?
Other great books on writing I’ve indulged in recently include The Story Book by David Baboulene and Shadows Beneath: The Writing Excuses Anthology by Brandon Sanderson. You can check out my reviews of these on Goodreads, and there’s more information about my novel, Axel America, here.

Free Comic: The Beastly Box of Bumcrack!

beastly-box

Ooh…

Professor Kraken, Master of the Science of the Supernatural, narrates his study of the village of Bumcrack, where an eldritch box bombards him with adverts from some ethereal plane.

Beastly Box is by Terry Wiley, Lee Kennedy, Motodraconis, Selina Lock, Jay Eales, Lee Kennedy, Jeremy Day, Alan Rowell and yours truly.

Edited by Jay Eales and published by Factor Fiction Press, you can download Beastly Box by clicking on the image below.

beastly-box

20mb download

There’s plans forming for another of these sometime in January. If you’d like to hook up when I’m in London, Oxford or Brighton, make me a message.

The Weariness of the Unsolicited Project Manager

authorstalkaboutitreview

My touches of depression generally come from recognisable causes (grief, stress, displacement), and completely unrecognisable causes (feeling completely shit despite major accomplishments). The latter was something we talked about in Nimlas Studio’s Mental Health in Fiction show, where the round-table was full of useful insight. Show’s two hours, bear in mind, but, wow.

The illness has seen me doing less press this month.  Ten years ago I lapped this stuff up and made sure to Mark McCann made time to interview me for Following the Nerd, which made for a thorough discussion of conspiracy theory, news and entertainment, and I was pleased with how that turned out.

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Also, a nice phone call from Caiman O’Shea, which found it’s way to Corncrake Arts Magazine.

corncrake

There’s also a second piece on the way from the Downbelow B5 Introcast, and an discussion of Mad Max 2 with Travis and Patrick of Reel Comics Heroes pod.

After a solid year working on Axel, I’ve felt I’ve lost the fresh-faced cogniscent speaker I was and am not always able to deliver as entertaining a presentation as I might have five years ago. Last week my health was failing and I’ve thought seriously about giving this career up.

On the other hand, I went out to the pub last night and a lot of people bought books, talked to me, embraced me and filmed a chat I was having with PJ Holden into an interview. Look at those lovely smiles.

So I probably won’t give up in hurry.

SF & F: Axel America and the News Election Race

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Everyone’s keen to talk to me about Axel America and Donald Trump. Huddled together neighbours at a car crash, gleefully hiding terror. Never mind the politics, glance at the news media: photo-fit and run. The novel is about communication sciences: propaganda and cyber-stalking, everyday rather than futurist. It has many of the elements of science-fiction: Manchurian Candidates, super-intelligent defence systems and Tesla technology in the first five chapters and more throughout. Then there’s the psychology/SF cross-over: a presently advanced world subjected to Axel’s delusionary perception of global pandemics and martial law, holographic waves, time travel, light and sound weapons. It’s a book on the border of the news and conspiracy theory, fused by recent advances in social media. Threaded through it are themes of order versus chaos, war and peace, authoritarianism versus free will. One question I get a lot is ‘how do you satirise the satirical?’, and I say it’s a challenge, and we chuckle. Rupert Murdoch, Kay Burley, Piers Morgan, Donald Trump, Alex Jones: how do you look at the dark human cartoon and study their projections? One answer is to go right past the fiction of SF and into Fantasy. The novel pulls on the strings of bible prophecy, distant Pangaea, mercenary assassins, secret caves and valuable artefacts and more fitting elements to frame these dark cartoons. They’re comfortably enjoying their lives which disrupt. The incoherent, or unacceptable, nature of these news media antagonists and their rules requires hacking: not from the choices they give us, but from every choice.

I’ve been invited as a last minute guest to Titancon in Belfast this weekend at the Wellington Park Hotel. There you can pick up a copy of Axel America and the U.S. Election Race from myself at the AGPublishings stall.

You can support bookstores in Belfast by purchasing it from No Alibis, The Thinking Cup, Comic Book Guys and Forbidden Planet International. Or in Dublin, from Sub City Comics or The Winding Stair. The book is also available on Kindle and Smashwords.

belfast-89fm

Lisa Flavelle’s Morning Talk-In, Belfast 89FM.

We’ve had some good reviews in The Irish News, Authors Talk About It and Belfast 89FM, which you can find on the Axel America page, along with a round-table vid-cast I’m on, produced by Nimlas Studios, talking about mental health in fiction.

Cover artist Sean Duffield models Axel America.

Cover artist Sean Duffield models Axel America: oh, the pride!