Spide: The Lost Tribes is out on Thursday. In case you missed it, capsule review: two Belfast louts get roped into a Free Presbyterian grail quest, sped by the Dublin-Belfast Enterprise train and through the pages of history. The narrator, Dan Spide, is sat backwards on the journey, now that I think to tell you. I’ve caught most of everything else in the wee novella. The link to give out is https://tinyurl.com/thelosttribes – why not pre-order it in case Amazon crashes?
The excellent cover is by @TheMarcSavage who was shooting for the Drew Struzan movie poster scale and succeeded. You can also find Marc at @media_large. I’ll be talking about it to Eileen Walsh on @Drive105 FM in Derry Wednesday morning.
At the weekend I was in Derry for Comics City Fest where a good time was had by alcohol. My comrades for the too-old-to-do-this nights drink were the wildcard Darren McCay, and No-Selfie Will Simpson. Here’s a shot of ‘The Ambassador’ with Lightspeed Stephen Downey.
The Comic City event at the Guildhall was bustling popular. Thanks to Dave Campbell and all the staffers who worked to make it be.
National Novel Writing Month is upon us: extreme prose writing and I’m using it to catch up on an outstanding project. When not smashing up telephones, I’ll be scowling at loud grandparents in cafes up and down the country.
Righty-oh naughty blank page, off to Kingpin’s wall with you. Sector House 13 Dredd story written, poems – check. Patreon project on in three weeks. New novels coming. Lots of readers. New comic, at 44 pages or more, 33 laid down. No idea of the title – polling Facebook / Twitter next week. It’s an anthology, many different writers, thus far confirmed:
Danny Pongo – Titanic Theme Park, What we too, and Madeley Feeds Africa.
Dek Baker and Richard Barr – Wee Hard Man
Mark McCann – The Game is Rigged
John Robbins – Real Irish Avengers, The Belt
Laura Reich – Gus
Ben Stone – Sir Reginald
Dan Lester – Bush Dream
I will be drawing from my own writing my too. Hands hurt but enjoying working with different creatives: one big comics hurrah. It debuts at the Enniskillen Comics Fest on May 6th, cost £3-£5. If you’d like to pre-order I’ll post it UK for £3.50 or digitally for £1.25. Paypal drew. luke@gmail with a note.
Meantime I’ll leave you with some excerpts of the thing to come, whatever it’s called. Words by Lester, Pongo and Robbins.
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.
Axel America at No Alibis, Belfast.
Signing Axel at Comic Book Guys, Belfast
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.
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: oh, the pride!
That’s this Monday, just around from the Duke of York where I’ll be tasting beer after.
The books have arrived, big chunky things. Michael at Northern Visions TV assures me he’ll be getting through it before we shoot on Friday for two shows: Focal Point (news), and Novel Ideas.
Tomorrow, I’ll be in Dublin to talk to sellers, meet some pals and attend the launch of The Call, a new novel by Peadar Ó Guilín. He’ll be in Easons with Oisín McGann and a group of fans and pals. (Link: FB event) It’s published by Scholastic/Fickling and is a children’s book about child abduction (!) by the Sidhe faeries. [More about that on Publisher’s Weekly]
The Axel America Election Tour has begun, kicking off with the folks at Downbelow, a podcast about Babylon 5. A double episode on Secrets of the Soul (dismissed), and Day of the Dead (applauded). I took a while to warm, fighting the prevailing opinion on the first episode, but I was roundly welcomed and it put me in a good mood to start. (Thanks Ian for the on-air sale!)
Next day, the first of the email interviews with Pro Media Mag, and talking to Seemi about comics and the making of The Invisible Artist show. I really enjoyed this one and you can find it linked with the otherson the Axel America page.
The weekend began with a night out at Sector 13, a local group of ‘mature’ comics readers and cosplayers. I was picked up by Peter Duncan of great British comics blog Splank!, and we hooked up with social Laurence McKenna, Paddy Brown (soon appearing in Hawaiian shirts), the jovial Ryan Brown, the omnipresent stoic Bruce Logan, teller of tales Glenn Fabry and Ishtar, an author visiting Glenn from Brighton. It was a night of fine craic and welcoming faces and I’d recommend it for folks in the area. More setting up and more interviews. Writers Community is a local site with an interview. Alan asked me questions where I’ve gone into the mechanics and politics of the book, and given some advice on writing.
Old friend Ciaran Flanagan phoned me up on Sunday for a segment on the ComicCityCast and it was a delightful lapse into casual (but excitable) chat about the origins of the book and where it is now. On Monday, US blog Literary Links got in touch to ask about Axel’s showbiz links and the creative lifestyle.
Today, it’s more attempts to bribe journalists and bloggers with a free lunch, and some house tidying so when publisher Andrew arrives on Monday, he isn’t sleeping in a hammock of cobwebs. Keep an eye to @TheAxelAmerica – there’s things I’ll announce there that have blown our socks off.
Me old pal Stephen Downey is working on a game based off the beloved comic, created with Rob Curley and Maura McHugh. For those unfamiliar, Jennifer Wilde follows a French artist and Oscar’s ghost as they solve mysteries in London, Paris and New York.
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.
Sarah and I set off the following morning for Inis Mor, the largest of the Aran Islands.
I’d fun meeting the locals, including John, a talented muso seen here playing the bars.
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.
Oh, right, you liked the ones with fields and sea…
There’s no barriers or handrails up there. Beautiful? My legs were like jelly. Dun Aonghas is 300 foot cliffs.
The fort from another angle. The Burren, the stone-field in foreground, is all over the island.
The road to Dun Ducathair (The Black Fort), includes twenty minutes of walking on stones.
Right, I have to get back to work now. I’ll leave you with a photo with less stones in it.
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)
(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.)
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.
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.
Since last post here, the world lost John Grandidge, a dear friend off exploring the flora and fauna of the after-life, looking out posthumously from future poetry collections of those he influenced; he peeks out from between the panels of my last few years of comics, of which he was an audible fan and supporter. He was my favourite drinking buddy; he warmed my soul when it was cold and weeping. He touched a multitude of people in the same way and he did it with style and love. He told us he’d cancer a few months ago, thinking it was an upset stomach. When it claimed him, it was years ahead of what many of us thought. He was at home with friends and a cat.
I’ve written a lot about John in pro-active grieving, which might find it’s way out, but he’s glimpsed beautifully in verse by Becca Heddle. If you didn’t know him, I’m sorry for your loss.
JG, John, Leonard Rat, Grandidge, John Wood Dragon, Jackfirecat – probably not all the names.
Poet, artist, cleverclogs.
Approaching fast, long-legged stride, black coat flapping, sweeping you up with a surprising hug.
Expressive hands full of knots and angles, drawing thoughts in the air.
Skewering pretension, dissecting hypocrisy – ach, rrr – cutting through the crap.
Delighted swift turn of the head and dart of a smile aimed just at you.
Red Shift; Little, Big; Possession; Robert Graves.
Doing everything with all of him, glint in his eyes, walking moors, riverbanks, hills.
Glorious in spleen, generous with love, hating sentimentality.
Energy, spark, fire.
New conversations, not repeats – ‘No, we’ve done that one.’
Yes, Genesis, Brand X, Billy Bragg, Prince, the Stranglers.
Notes in Elvish; gifts of poems, drawings, time, jokes, joy.
Suddenly standing, black bag to his shoulder, ‘Bye’ – and he’s gone.
Less than a week later, I’m at the hand-fasting of Margaret Dalzell and Richard Barr; Richard being my nearest and dearest. It was at the beautiful Ballygally Castle and an informal gathering of old friends. Sarah and I, no we’re not a couple, stayed at Cairnview Bed and Breakfast, with Adam, and I heartily recommend it to anyone visiting the place, just on the coast outside Larne. Adam and Sarah looked after me above and beyond the call. Margaret was full of empathy and humour, so much so I had to laugh behind plants when she’d make jokes about people right in front of us. Richard, who hates being the centre of attention, handled it as the professional gentleman I’ve always known him to be, even taking time out to share his latest thoughts on our novel, and suggest a few web researches.
Oh, and they both looked wonderful.
Then to Enniskillen, which is where Sarah’s from, and the town’s first comics festival. There I met the brilliant five-man committee and after some painting polystyrene shaped rockets. I’d a lovely chat in the pub with Hunt Emerson, Laura Howell and my boyhood idol, Lew Stringer, with Hunt making us laugh with his Frank Miller cover versions. On Friday, we’d a screening of Judge Minty, introduced and summarised by Mr. Michael Carroll, very entertaining. I’d a pub chat with lovely Sue Grant, struck up a friendship with Enniskillen horror writer Andrew Gallagher and wowed at the appearance of Pieter Bell, who I’ve known over twenty years, but rarely seen outside a comic shop. “What? Is there something going on here?” he asked. “No seriously, we just came from the caravan. What’s going on?”
Photographer: Do you think you could flirt a little bit? No, not you, Kitty. I mean Andy.
Saturday morning was unloading of comics from the old Black Panel distro, which creators had donated to the event; then preparing to host a morning self-publishing panel featuring Jenika Ioffreda, Una Gallagher, Danny McLaughlin and Austin Flanagan. The main venue was in McArthur Hall, actually a church hall, a real part-of-a-church hall, (ie the comics fest was in a church), and the panels were in the nearby library. I set out in good time, and fell badly down several stairs. The pain was brutal. It cleared up Sunday but I have a massive ankle swelling, though can get about. The panel was small press + first event of the day = poorly attended, but we made up for it by inviting the audience to join us and make a roundtable. Those arriving early for the 2000AD panel were just a little envious on finding Una Gallagher holding court on tales of families aural tradition of storytelling.
Glenn Matchett made this video for the panel, on writing for comics.
And a few hours later, my big turn: Alan Grant and an audience with. I’d met Sue and Alan on Thursday night, shortly after we arrived. (Sidenote: The guests came from the airport via a party bus, which had disco lights and a dancer’s pole.) The three of us (who had not met before), were shattered, awkward small talk shared between ciggy puffs. On Friday, Alan and I kept missing one another; resting or walking or taking smoke breaks at different times. Sue was absolutely lovely and among other things, talked about the comics festival in their home village, which I’d love to get to.
I mean, just look at that guest list.
Moniaive Comics Festival programme: packed!
So, Alan and I got to chat a few hours before we were due at the library, and the rapport picked up right away. A massive relief, because I was more nervous than I knew. On the panel, I went through half my pre-written questions on Anarky, deadlines, research, philosophy and got gratefully off-track talking about living with John Wagner, writing horror and romance. The audience were wonderful, filling up the room with questions about 2000AD’s Strontium Dog and Ace Trucking, The Bogie Man, Lobo, and afterwards a number of people came and shook my hand saying what a great job I’d done. Alan was very generous with his experience and his time – we sat twenty minutes late, and considered sitting on but I didn’t want us locked in the library.
The organisers were brilliant: Stephen Trimble gave me a bed for a night before they put me in the hotel. James Eames took us to his home where his parents treated us to coffee, biccies and chat. Chris Fawcett was funny and cool under pressure with the pub quiz; Mark Kenyon flowed between committments. Organiser Paul Trimble did a lot of heavy lifting but still found time to celebrate 30 years of his Banbridge comic shop, Thunder Road, perhaps the first in Northern Ireland. Oh, and Matthew Gault, a tiny Quentin Blake illustration of good humour and muscular intellect. And sometimes, he drinks way too much.
“But at least he doesn’t snore like a chainsaw.” Photo by James Eames.
The event was a great success and I join with the other guests in thanking the organisers for brill treatment. A few more quick snaps.
My new friend, Andrew Gallagher, iron grip author of ‘Escape from Fermanagh’
Beer Garden: Andrew Gallagher, Clint Langley and the debonair aristocats, Ryan Brown and Glenn Fabry
Organisers James Eames and Matthew Gault, and Aaron.
Mark Bromage, Paul Trimble, myself and Pieter Bell.
I’ve another funeral to attend on Friday, my adorable god-mother’s mother. She passed away this morning. I didn’t know her terribly well, but of course, people I love did.
I wonder if part of growing old is not that you slow down, but that life comes and goes faster and faster. If you read this far, thanks. Love with all the heart while you can.
The sense of camaraderie at McCuaig’s, the sheer craic, and personal investment, coupled with beautiful landscape made my time on Rathlin second to none. Special mentions to the hostel-runners: Fergus and Tania; but especially Sean, Patsy and Rohan, who made me feel like a member of the family. How could I not take another
week? On my final day we spotted blue whales jumping in Mill Bay, right in front of the hostel.
DVD for Always Sunny in Philadelphia Series 1-2 arrives. Check out the box’s audience warning marks.
Sean (McFaul) reckoned I’d experience culture shock on return to Belfast. At first, little things; then the rising noise of the traffic, the internalisation of city folk, and a return of claustrophobia. Still, Rathlin’s weather taught me to appreciate the colours and patterns closer to home.
Enter, Sean Duffield, cartoonist of Paper Tiger Comix, who I’d invited to come from Brighton and be my guest in N. Ireland. Sean had one request.
Belfast to Ballycastle, often it’s needed to change buses at Ballymena. We discovered a small park five minutes from the station with these beautiful Four Seasons statues.
Sean gets comfortable seal-spotting down at Rue Point, earning the nickname ‘Manimal’.
We take the round-island coach trip.
Even saw a peregrine falcon at West Lighthouse. It’s a pleasure having Sean D around. His sticking to daily writing exercises provides the perfect context for professional practice myself. Sean is also an awesome cook. There’s not much pub time, as Sean wants to walk e v e r y w h e r e.
We do make a visit to Yvonne Braithwaite’s Breakwater Arts Studio, hosting Rathlin’s first ever Culture Night. It’s an intimate evening of songs and stories from islanders, handed down through generations, as the sun goes down accompanied by deelish cheeses and warming wines.
Watershed Cafe Suzie shows us around some caves.
And we’re introduced to a healing pool, legend having it that if you bottle this water and give it to a friend, it will clear foot ailments of all descript. Though you can’t use the water on yourself…
…No. It really has no effect.
We set sail for home like every visitor to Rathlin, forever changed.
I’ll be returning this weekend (5th December), for a few drinks in the bar. You’re invited to join us.
Two scatter-brained friends on the roads of County Donegal review the sights they’ve seen, and verbalise excrement as the sun shines out of their asses. In this episode, the daring duo visit Carey’s Viking House aka The Daniel O’ Donnell Hotel and sing the praises of Árainn Mhór Island. Announcing our Daniel O’ Donnell slash and viking fiction competitions. Poached eggs are on the menu and trousers must be worn over the knee!
This Friday night, wood, tyres and berries burn in Northireland. The same night, San Diego Comic Con will announce the Eisner Awards, where ‘To End All Wars’ has been nominated, twice.
I’ve felt quite alright about singing my part in the commendation. Although barely ten pages (under 1000 words most likely), I started work on ‘Bottomley – Brand of Britain’ in 2009, when political expenses and public austerity were daily headline news. Even on that trail, I didn’t realise how accurate a reflection of the time Bottomley’s tale was.
Born in 1860, ‘The Chief’ made a stack of cash from hostile takeovers, before moving into the papers. He’s all but forgotten now, but as Pat Mills says, he was a sort of Robert Maxwell of his day. Bottomley launched the Financial Times, and the first UK newspaper called The Sun. He’d be remembered only through his lead paper, ‘John Bull’. You know the icon of the fat hat with the bulldog? That was Horatio Bottomley, art commissioned by Bottomley. That dude was real, ugly.
The re-telling started as a sub-plot for a graphic novel, but the intensive part-time study called for it to be it’s own piece. Three years later, I was still at it. I’d three drafts together when editors Clode and Clark put out the call for submissions for TEAW, and my script went under another three drafts to tailor it to the collection.
Out of work and out of money, I took a three month Invest NI course to receive a grant, a pittance really, but it would pay the illustrator something. Thankfully, both Ruairi Coleman and letterer John Robbins were on board already. John has been a long time friend, confidante and critic, and he’s probably the best comic book letterer in Ireland.
Ruairi Coleman, I didn’t know quite as well. He were young, always a sure sign of trouble, yet remarkably talented. From the get-go he was everything I hope for in a creative work partner. Ruairi took in the bundles of visual reference I sent, with eagerness, no complaint. He took it on himself to go through a number of articles on Bottomley, and sat through the hour and a half televised 1972 docu-drama featuring Timothy West, with it’s agonising awful cut-aways.
Bottomley’s story is that of the Britain’s major recruiting agent. He sold the war largely through gallons of racism. As editor, publisher and columnist of ‘John Bull’, as well as frequent pieces in The Times, the papers were packed with anti-German sentiment: Germ-huns, bayoneted babies.
The same was true for four years of nationwide speaking tours for which he was handsomely paid. He brought theatre to sacrifice, including a two-part speech in which he staged a mock trial defending Britannia against the Kaiser, dressed as a judge. The photo above is from his earlier performance in Pickwick Papers. Eventually his greed got too much and jail finished him off.
Cowling, M. (2005) The Importance of Bottomley (Ch. 2, p.45-60), in The Impact of Labour 1920-1924: The Beginning of Modern British Politics, Cambridge University. Retrieved at Google Books. [Accessed: 8th July 2015]
Messinger, G. S. (1992) The Wrong Kind of Immorality: Horatio Bottomley (Ch. 13 pp.200-213), in British propaganda and the State in the First World War, Manchester University Press. Retrieved at Google Books. [Accessed: 8th July 2015]