We Shall Not Be Stapled

Shout it in the streets. Get down to the Orange band and tell them too. Tell your friends carrying messages over the border.

The Comic Book Guys have been immensely supportive of Axel America. I’m delighted to be featuring in this cosy spot lunchtime launch. There’s a raft of old and new material (see here) including pieces by myself, and an unseen Sir Reginald piece from 2006.

I’ve been working on the launch of my exciting Patreon project and my new book, Ignacz the Watch Thief. The campaign starts on Tuesday 9th at http://patreon.com/andyluke – there’s little there, but you can bookmark it.

Before that, I’ll be appearing at the Enniskillen Comic Fest this weekend. On Saturday morning, hosting a ‘Breaking Into Comics’ panel featuring Colin Mathieson (Accent UK), Jenika Ioffreda (Midnight Tea), Ciaran Marcantonio (Neon Skies) and Grainne McEntee (Bubbles O’Seven: Simian Agent) From there, I can mostly be found at the Sector House 13 table. They’ll be selling a zine edited by Laurence McKenna and Peter Duncan…well, it’s a glossy zine, with a strip beautifully painted by Ryan Brown, and marvellously written by Laurence, a feel much like The Shield, which is a perfect tone for a Mega City One Judges story. I’ve a prose-poem in there. I’m Likin’ It. Actually, that’s the name of the story. It’s good.

 

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Probably the best bus ride I’ve ever been on

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.

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

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.

Belfast Art – Almost 40 Pictures

Crikey. Here’s the 170th post (out of 185 maybe-score)

01 Gift

This is from the Arts and Disability Forum on Royal Avenue, because beginning the late night art trail at 3pm means I can check into galleries like this that shut early.

02 Gift

Splodged together slacker two-shots of candles, jewelery, chocolate; the members show ‘Gift’, with items priced between £3 and £300.

03 Gift

Lucid, spooky and in flow pencil line pieces, with YOMmiest chocolate underneath.

04 Gift

If I’m not mistaken Leo Devlin arranged the show (he does most of the gallery arrangements I think), has done well.

05 Gift

Gallery opp. Central Library opens Tuesday to Friday from 10-4pm, and there’s a seasonal celebration on Thursday 19 December from 5-7pm.

06 Gift

I hear you can buy these cards from https://andy-luke.com/shop (UK) or Zazzle.co.uk (US)

 07 Gift

Amazing. Next, off Royal Avenue by Ann Summers, The Red Barn Photographic Gallery.

 08 Before our time

The Red Barn is clinging by finger-tips financially these few months, it will need a bolster to stay open.

09 Before our time

These photos were taken by an unknown photographer between 1870-1920 and only recently time and technology are compatible to access them like this.

10-before-our-time

There’s a frank honesty to them which made this one of my galleries of the night.

11 Before our time

But then: Space Craft, and those snowflakes made from wooden intersections are awesome.

12-a-christmas-trilogy

13 A Christm… Trilogy

Zoom in. Jenna Magennis’s baubles are filled full of Kandorian (miniature bottle resident) delights.

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DUCKS, ducks, Quack Quack, Quack Wuack!

15 A Christm… Trilogy

SpaceCraft: it’s the one up that escalator!

16 Catalyst

Catalyst Arts now and Fiona Larkin’s Backstory featuring collaborations from seven other writers and artists and a Ruckenfigur – this seen-from-the-back scarved woman.

17-catalyst.jpg

We’re invited to read into this: to create stories of hypernarrative upon our interaction, “the observer to become active collaborators who construct new meaning”.
Sorry Lass, I thought it was shit, atypical of privelege. You want collab-story, there’s a few writer’s groups around the city. Get details. Future nourishment, loftier plateaus smile.

Moving onto :

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19 Boycottin…ke Bombs

‘Boycotting Cake Bombs’, concrete, string, wire, Barry Mulholland.

20 Barry Mulholland

Photographed from different angles.

 21 Barry Mulholland

A greatest show all round actually.

22-origami.jpg

And that IS over seven foot high. “Reject Indecision Construct your Own Good Fortune”, double wall corrugated cardboard by Rachael Campbell-Palmer.

 23 Caravan

Teensy wood Birdhouse Caravan by Catherine Roberts, and there’s something about the colours of this that moved into my head like rejoining something there long ago.

24 Surrealism at Platform 13

More psychonaut colours. A very high standard all round.

 24a With David Mahons Electric Organ

David Mahon’s Electric Organ piece was looking a bit lifeless so I got inside it.

Upstairs in Belfast Belfast Exposed I bumped into a few friends for ‘Aftermath’, Laurence McKeown and Anthony Haughey’s photographs of Northern Irish residents who fled for the border upon the outbreak of the Troubles and their own stories. The opening was a bit too crammed to get an assessment of the work but there was a beautiful speech by the outgoing gallery director about the lost mindset of our politicians and the job upon artists to educate them.

Downstairs, the continuing exhibition focussing on the lost Yugoslavia.

24c Belfast Exposed

Black Lamb and Grey Falcon is the name of a travelogue written pre-WW2 and followed by the photographer just before immense changes re-wrote the landscape.

 25 Yu The Lost Country

The exhibition is called ‘The Lost Country’ and I’ve not described it justly here. It’s eminently worth seeing.

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Christ, here comes Winter Christmas Andy.

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Re-cast him as that goggle eyed organ player from earlier and look at the warm rug and trails of fairy lights, ribboned gifts, snow grounded and hanging and candy canes.

28 Christmas PS2

Christmas grows through the walls as kodaks at PS2.

29-christmas-ps2

One of my favourite themes of late, re-booting Christmas – make it more palatable, relevant and meaningful.

 30 Book Tree

PS2 have that atmosphere in a bottle with animations and decorations in motion, Christmas as creativity.

And a book tree. Feck. Yeah.

31 Graffiti

Graffiti in Joy’s Entry.

32-sketchys.jpg

An absurdist game of chess at The Black Box, I’m there for Real Sketchys.

Cold, I draw this instead, inspired by a Lee Kennedy, Terry Wiley conversation last week.

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PJ Holden and Aimee Downey at the final formal Belfast Comics Pub Meet, for the time being.

36 lazer lizard

Someone mentions lizards briefly: it’s enough to set me off.

And there it is. Happy birthday me.

39 Happy 40

A 1986 FA Magazine (with some great commentary), BlexBolex’s graphic novella Abecederia and a big X card from John Robbins.

40 Robbins Big X

Blogging new art daily has been great for my creative muscle. I’m keen to keep going! I’ve learned a lot about other people coming to this point and my expectations of the world around me. Life is falling short, so aiming high I’m always going to do better than not aiming.

I probably deserve a gallery showing after all this. Catalyst, are you paying attention?

La Table

La Table - Merville House - Abel Mehablia

La Table is in Merville House, ‘the main house of the estate were the mayor lived in the nineteenth century’, Abel tells me. ‘There was a hunting accident in theLa Table - windo family, he was shot by his own gun. This was in the 30s or 40s and his widow didn’t want to live there anymore’. Dark times indeed. ‘During the war the army took it for a barracks, in the 50s…it was given to the people, or abandoned or something. There was a lot of money put in to renovate it. 1.2 million I think. This was in the 60s.’ It doesn’t look like a new building, I remark. It’s a beautiful stately room, chandeliers, oil paintings, ornate wallpaper. ‘Well it’s not. It’s 17th Century, Georgian? Or maybe 200 years old. It used to be offices, grey carpets.’

Now it’s a spacious tea room, a patisserie school and a function event just behind Belfast’s AbbeyCentre. I met Abel Mehablia at a Business Enterprise course early last year. He’s from Paris previously. The tables have grabbing Teapigs menu presenting thirty teas, funny, and engrossing reads. I wish I’d taken my time before ordering coffee, I could have gone through these. Do you get much uptake on these?

‘People have conservative tastes here. They won’t try new things.’ We both like that about coffee. He reflects that La Table is ‘not on the road, it looks like a private street’ but remarks optimistically, ‘If you do something special people will come to you.’ Reputation planting. ‘There are no tea-rooms in Belfast. Malone, Lisburn..’ But these are National Trust or the type, I say. They tend to be place orientated: castles, notable buildings. “The coffee is just right here: it’s strong, not bitter”, I tell him. Abel tries to find the word: ‘character?’ “Yes, that’s It goes down cosy, compatible.

La Table - Pear and Almond Tart

Abel is running the cafe under the Steps to Work Test Trading scheme, which facilitates self-employment for six months. Earned money must be declared but cannot be spent during the period and traders get £10 on top of their fortnightly benefit. (A full-time worker on the scheme gets about £10 a day) Abel has two of his six months left. The set-up took too long, ‘there was not enough time’, and every-day he’s losing money. Worry is foremost on his mind. La Table though is in beautiful grounds, it’s off-street, and even on this rainy day it’s surrounded by pretty flowers and trees. While just off the Shore Road, it feels like the countryside. A squirrel passes. I tell him about Rathlin will all of my enthusiasm, and he recounts the tale of a man in debt in Greyabbey or Portaferry, who got from the bank a loan to buy a house on a hill to turn into a cafe. It was a remote space, with land all around it. ‘It was madness. There were no neighbours, it shouldn’t have worked, he was told. But now it’s a thriving business.’ It’s grown from a cafe into a quality restaurant, nursery, farm shop and has it’s own tourist centre. I’m not sure Abel can manage the same but we can at least try. La Table is a little enclave haven in the middle of commercial industry, safe, quiet from it’s excesses.

La Table Cafe (and the upcoming Patisserie School), are at Merville House, Merville Garden Village (off Shore Road, behind the Abbey Centre) in Newtownabbey, BT37 9TH. The cafe opens Tuesday to Sunday.

Links
http://www.mervillehouse.com/
https://www.facebook.com/LaTableBelfast

La Table - Merville House 2 - Abel MehabliaPhotos by Abel Mehablia, from the Facebook page.

 

The Invisible Artist: Youtube with Subtitles

The Invisible Artist: a contemporary history of Belfast’s comic book culture is a 2011 TV documentary written and presented by Andrew Luke and directed by Carl Boyle for Belfast station NVTV. Patrick Brown was interviewed, and also provided much of the research that went into the film. Other interviewees include John Killen of the Linen Hall Library about his exhibition, The Unkindest Cut, of political cartoons about Northern Ireland in the 20th century,Davy FrancisJohn Farrelly, Jim McKevitt, owner of Atomic Collectables, P. J. Holden and Stephen Downey.

Subtitles are exhausting. Your feedback is still appreciated.

Interview with Adam Lively, poet of Rainy Days

It’s quite nice watching an evolutionary leap running through both the Belfast comedy and poetry circles lately, and it’s not restricted to both Down and Antrim I’ll wager. Last December, while loyalist protestors…actually can we stop calling them that? The protest isn’t what we disapprove of – its the litter, the violence, the tying bags of shit to lamp-posts, it’s the rioting. So, last December, while loyalist rioters pushed the city into gridlock folk took part in Operation Sitdown. Pubs and clubs were filled with commerce to make up for the protests which lost Belfast hundreds of jobs, myself included. This later was co-opted by the City Council to become Backin Belfast, but of course, as it was run top-down rather than grassroots, they messed it up. Still, we had LAD to keep our spirits up.

I met my friend Adam Lively for a pint. Adams a more pleasant creature than me. Intently gentle, self-sacrificing, a little jittery but a little is alright, calm and silent with a black observational wit. I had a camera on me to ask him about his poetry collection, Rainy Days, a title which well sums up our capital.

You can buy Rainy Days through the Lapwing site and Paypal. It’s £10 in print or £5 digital, and they’re currently running a 2-for-1 offer from their vast e-book range.

Cheers

Andy