Enniskillen Comics Fest

enniskillen comics fest

I’ve told less than ten people this month, and now I can reveal I’ll be interviewing Alan Grant, the Guest of Honour at the first Enniskillen Comics Festival. Phew! Alan, is of course, a massive influence on comics, having co-written most classic Judge Dredd stories, thirty years, about ten years on the US Batman comics. He’s the author of some of my favourites: The Bogie Man; the House of Daemon, Manix and Doomlord for Eagle. He’s written Lobo and L.E.G.I.O.N. and JLA for DC, but it’s 2000AD for which he’s best known, on Strontium Dog, Ace Trucking, Robo Hunter and Judge Anderson.

Massive, massive honour. I expected to be the last person to be called on, never having been with the Class of ’77 hardcore 2000AD fans. The organisers, gods bless their mad, mad minds, think I’m a unique choice. Well, you could say that. I’m giving this my best and hope to do Alan and yourselves proud.

Closer to my comfort zone is the self-publishing panel I’ve been asked to host. I’ve been on ten of these and hosted a few. This time I’m putting together something with a lot of pizzazz and I’d really like attendees to put their heads through the door. I’m pleased to announce those joining me are Una Gallagher (Two Lives, Faust, Something in the Tae), Austin Flanagan (The Revenants), Jenika Ioffreda (Vampire Freestyle, Midnight Tea), Danny McLaughlin (Zombies Hi, Andrew’s Comic, Revolve Comics.) and…oh, I couldn’t possibly say. We’ll be talking about more than the boring copy-shop slog, we’ll be talking character and story, ghouls and tea. Please come by.

The Enniskillen Comics Fest is the first such event in the town. It’s a free event with an all-ages focus and a wise choice by the Arts Council funding body. It’s on May 6th-7th, at the McArthur Hall, Wesley Street, and Enniskillen Library on Halls Lane, just five minutes walk. Just look at who they’ve got:

All that linkage! No biggie, I had all the info to hand for posting to their Twitter account, which you can search for. My friends at The Comic City podcast are doing a feature on the Fest in the next few days so keep an eye out for that, or visit the #EknComicFest Facebook page for more details.




Alphasmart: Built-to-last writer’s tool



I get a lot of questions about it, questions I asked a NaNoWrimo author, my tongue hanging out of my mouth like an idiot who forgets what fairgrounds are like. These computers are popular with the NaNoWrimo lot. You see, Alphasmarts are portable lightweight word processors, with fantastic battery life. They’re cheap and dependable, with documents auto-saving, (as you type), and superb functionality for restoring files that have gone skewhiffy. There’s no internet capability (except on the Dana model), which means no disappearing into Wikipedia or bigger holes. You can just write. Storage wise, the Neo and Neo2 (the ones I’d recommend), hold a good size novel across eight files. They’re also durable. I stepped on one, cracked it side to screen, and it continues to work a treat. (Right Alex?)
Transfer takes place via a USB cable, slower than a stick or card, but charming in it’s own way when you hit the send button and watch the text cross to the desktop document, scrolling quickly as if typed by a highly trained phantom. It’s both Mac and PC compatible, and you can also connect straight to a printer, if that’s your bag. It’s not particularly good for editing, as you can view only six lines at a time, but for travelling and noting it’s perfick. The keys are high, inspiring those who came up on typewriters to really let loose without worrying about the sensitivities of say, a laptop.
The earlier models I’ve owned, the 2000 and 3000 do the job and no more. The 2000 doesn’t, if I recall, have cut/copy/paste. I’ve not owned a Dana, which will talk to a Palm OS. I’ve currently got a Neo and a Neo 2, both of which come with find/search/replace, limited spell-check and dictionaries, along with mini applets: a calculator; a typing tutor. There’s a mains supply but I’ve never used it for the three AA batteries last about six months under daily use. Should it go kappoof, any story I have in there will return when the powers back on.

The backside: easy instructions!

The backside: easy instructions!

Initially Alphasmarts were a schools resource for students with dyslexia and other issues. Sadly, the line was discontinued in 2013. For a while, the manufacturers are selling kits of spares, bags and the infra red receivers at discount. The essential USB leads seem much easier to lay a hand on, and I got one new there for £6. As for the computers themselves, that’s begun to get a little tricky. Buying them in the US seems easy with job lots popping up everywhere. To buy from the UK, eBay is currently the only option. The price is holding at about £45 for a Neo or Neo2 model, which usually comes with the USB lead and a bag. If you can stomach the 2000 or 3000, or just want to take them for a trial, expect to pay under £20. (My first Alphasmart was a 2000, purchased in 2014 from eBay for £2 plus a tenner postage)
It’s un-cluttered word processing in an age of apps. A hip modern equivalent featured on Kickstarter a while back, the Hemingwrite, looks to be going out at, (I guesstimate), around 」400.
Then there’s Alphasmart’s recent heir, Forte, retailing at £178. Forte does all the same things as a Neo, along with word prediction, text-to-speech and USB stick compatibility. I’d like to try one out. For now, I’m still in love with my Neo.



Universal Journey: Magic and Multiverse


My first commissioned work as an author went live today at http://universaljourney.org

The site explores the three Abrahamic faiths from an agnostic perspective: symbolism; history; stories; and legacies. I’ve authored sections on Saints David and George, but my star turn is an expanded piece on magic and the multiverse. It was an exciting opportunity to write about my own religious beliefs and I’m grateful I had the opportunity. (I’m not sure I did so since entering a design and content competition hosted a YA bible magazine competition in the 80s; I was listed as a runner-up) Universal Journey introduces me as, ‘ a polytheist christian.’ It’s a long time since I thought of myself as the latter, but part of being the former is that it’s all-inclusive, so why the heck not? Away you have a browse; oh but first…

Thanks everyone who’s voted Flesh Mob for Best Story over at http://orb-store.com/tense.htm and bought copies of Tense Situations into the bargain. Superb bees.

Flesh Mob – Update

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I made the tough decision to put novella, Axel America, to one side for a while. The notion was to have it out for Belfast Book Week, but in a nutshell, the ratio of I’d-be-a-wreck to post-production-readiness is too wobbly. I feel sure the tale will resurface somewhere. I’ve been thinking over my working habits and how it might be time to go back to shorts.

In other news, my short story ‘Flesh Mob’, is in the running for a Titania (best of anthology) prize. Here’s a pitch I found behind a box,

Corpses move and feast on the innards, and city folk cram into the Occupy Belfast building! Now 99% are assembled, will they hold their safe-haven against the rotters as the summer brings another threat from outside? Andrew Luke, author of  Absence,  Twelve  and  To End All Wars,  draws on his knowledge of the Occupy movement, abuse survivor therapy and neuro-philosophy to create an all-inclusive edutainment of chomping rotters and ways to hit them.

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Oh look, got paperback! That’s Art reading the anthology at Farset. We were both so excited by the story, this is the only photo where he sat still.

‘Flesh Mob’ is in Tense Situations, which you can get through lots of different book-stores around the world. A good percentage of the sale price goes to Action Cancer. For a short while you can vote for the 2016 Titania Award for best story in collection at http://orb-store.com/tense.htm so please do. More info at that link.

 Right, I’m off to see Mark Thomas at the Black Box. Have a good evening you.

It’s just a job

In some respects, writing fiction is harder when it’s a job. In between the tax and benefit forms, the business of writing guides and Yearbooks, you find the market listings: the who’s publishing what this month, and how much hummus they’re paying. I simplify writing to market by thinking of it as homework, which is okay for a while. Then again, I’m not my favourite tutor, and I’m certainly not the five of them handing out this semester’s work. So I read what they’ve wrote, and I search to see if I’ve done something they like that’s in the story bank of eighty odd tales and pomes. My first six months I kept a short-list of competition deadlines which I wanted to write for. It was harder than it seemed. Sometimes, chasing the assignment can grind everything to a halt. Often I’d write up down cul-de-sacs, or Schrodinger’s cats. It’s a challenging work, like a fierce sea, writing things for people you don’t know, to a short 1,500 word count. Sometimes it pays off. I’d been meaning to write ‘The Call’ shorts for eight years, and I think I nailed it. ‘Green Desert’ came to me brilliantly, and it’s still good, but some of the essential character got lashed out in the count down.

Lately, I’ve been very lax about this working scheme. February 29th, for example. In the morning, I attended a creative writing class where we began with a read through of a fifteen minute radio play. A delight, as the readers involved were open to the text, and laughing in all the places I hoped they would.  We looked at poems by W. H. Auden and Don Paterson, and each wrote two. The play forms part of a book I’m scribing, based on experience, and I’d arranged to interview a friend about those times early that afternoon. As luck had it, we were joined by another, and soon the three of us were laughing our sides off and spinning enough yarns to satisfy a sequel.

Next I got a few pages of the graphic novel script finished up, and packed these off to Ruairi Coleman. It’s probably called Watch Thief, and there’s rarely a tale like it. Then some proof-reading for a website I was commissioned to build. I was also hired to write some content on the subject of polytheism and the multiverse: announcement next post!

Some days are just good days, and it’s a delight to swim in those rivers. I think there’s room for two vastly different approaches to both be the right answer.



I toured with the Jazzabelles

c. Paddy Brown

Saturday 13th February
Listening to ‘Snake Oil’ performed in audition at the Island Arts Centre, Lisburn, which has great acoustics. The show is centred around three very talented singers: Ella (Claire McCartney), Prissy (Beccy Henderson) and Vera (Nuala Davies), the Jazzabelles. Their rise to the top of the 1950s Belfast swing scene is hampered by a cashflow problems from their manager, Vince, (excellently portrayed by Stephen Beggs), who’s not all he appears.
The Lisburn rehearsals are a particular treat, great lighting and sound giving clarity to the voices enunciating the details. Some rehearsal nerves on opening in Omagh were dropped by the time we made it to an excited crowd, similarly on the second date, Antrim, the air sizzling with cheeriness.
The Lisburn soundman tweets and ticks across the mikes. On a stage with clusters of collaborative talk on music and props, the drummer checks his cymbals and an actress sits in the armchair from Prissy’s home, studying a mobile. Then, we’re backstage for top and tails of each scene, and I’m facing curtains, imagining a radio play, flashes of backs of legs. Then the last few notes of a song and from wings, Debbie McCormack (stage manager) and I scramble on with sheets and phones or an eight track, or ‘that’ armchair.

And that was my last day as stage-hand on a musical, across Omagh, Antrim and Lisburn; dressing rooms, fridges, biscuits, stunning frocks and formal wear, pretty dress for prettied people. The tour has ended, for now. Unfortunately I was too ill to cover the Downpatrick and Armagh dates, but seamless cover had been arranged. The musical was booked out, thanks to coverage by folk like Culture Northern Ireland (Article: Listen to a Preview Track from Nick Boyle’s New Musical) and Discover Northern Ireland’s Ten Things To Do list. Paddy Brown got me into this, himself a singer, actor, and stage-hand, and Debbie, I also know from self-publishing comics, was a splendid talent to work with. Thanks to all the crew and venues for giving me this excellent opportunity.



Link: Paddy Brown blogs about the promotional image

and HERE he blogs about the tour with a trailer.

Jazzabelles L to R - Nuala, Beccy, ClaireJazzabelles L to R – Nuala, Beccy, Claire, Source: Jazzabelles Facebook page

My life is a whiz


Stuff I’m up to these days:

Here’s a great short video of The Jazzabelles rehearsing! Have a listen to the wonderful Beccy Henderson, Claire McCartney and Nuala Davies! Appearing live from the 11/2/16.

Posted by The Jazzabelles Musical on Friday, January 29, 2016

  • Wow.


  • Skyping with talented Sean Duffield about the Axel America book cover.
  • Teaching Writing for Radio at a local writing class.
  • Contributing an article on polytheism and the multiverse to an upcoming website on religious belief.
  • Doing something very special for Enniskillen Comics Festival, 6th-7th May. (I can’t say what, or announce who will be there), but comics fans probably want to be there.

enniskillen comics fest

Facebook – Link

Quite a January at Farset Labs. Farset’s a co-working creative environment, my desk of choice since November. We’ve been bouncing names around for Jonathan Knight’s driving invention, I’ve been testing excerpts from Axel America, Ben Matthews has been giving advice on SEO – I’d really like more people to appreciate this post.

The month ended with the Labs hosting the Global Game Jam. While I worked on a story about sleep deprivation, the developers were hard at work on things like… Cat Baptism.

Sleep well.