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May 25 2014

Unearthing artefacts

Vulkan Lives has finally reached its small paperback format release (or small ‘squishy’ as it is known in some quarters), so my time is turning once again towards the Horus Heresy, specifically the sequel to Vulkan Lives.

Beyond the fact I have a third of the plot down in a Pages document, half of it on a bunch of blue coloured Post-Its and a quarter (just under…) still to noodle (that’s a technical writing term, by the way), I can’t actually tell you that much about it. I can say it follows on from the partial sequel to Vulkan Lives, The Unremembered Empire and that, chances are, the Lord of the Drakes’ body ain’t staying on Macragge. But that’s about your lot for now.

I can discuss ‘Artefacts’. This was the lead short story in a hardback novella collection called Sedition’s Gate, launched at the most recent Horus Heresy Weekender this month.

I suspect it’s going to have a few folks scratching their heads. Good. I won’t elucidate further on that, because it’s up to you guys to figure it out. One quick thing, though: could Vulkan’s forgeship have fit in that vault? Yes. A vault has no predetermined size. It’s as big as I needed it to be. In this case, big enough to house a massive forgeship. That’s the thing you’ve got to bear in mind about 30 and 40k – everything is always huge. Keep that in your heads, okay.

‘Artefacts’ is an important story in the Vulkan ‘arc’, as I’m now referring to it with my august Heresy colleagues. It introduces a new character, a Forge Master called T’kell. He gets a namecheck in Salamander by the way. His story is integrally linked to the artefacts, the Nine as they are known in 40K lore, and will be the lead in a storyline I am planning to write about them.

Since I know a few folks don’t do Twitter and like to get in touch via the website, I figured that rather than you having to piggyback on posts about comics, monkeys and Batman, I’d provide a post right here so you can do so in context. In fact, it’s something I plan to do for all of my stuff from here on out. Want to have a longer discussion about a short, audio, novella or novel? This will be the place to do it. Of course, I’ll still be on Twitter, so you can reach me here too.

So, if you have questions about ‘Artefacts’ or the Vulkan arc (can’t promise I can answer all of those, depends what you ask) then this is the place to do it.

Thank you.


Apr 28 2014

Comixapology…

And let’s face it, I think we’re all due one!

Miffed is putting it mildly when describing my reaction to the decision my Comixology/Amazon to remove the store front from their once awesome app and turn it into a glorified reading app only. Suddenly, an excellent, easy to access and user friendly interface between us, the comics consumers, and the comics we love was made that much harder.

Sure, you can visit the website, buy your comics through PayPal, port them over to your app, close said website and then open the app and then your comics. What the f*!k!? That just sounds like a massive pain in the ass compared to what we’re used to as good honest comic consumers.

Comixology had it down. They had it all going for them and we the comics consumer really benefitted from a slick interface that was hassle free and really intuitive to use. An extra, wholly unnecessary, unwanted and (and this is what really sucks) unheralded, change to a process That. Was. Working.
Every Wednesday, I used to look forward to New Comic Books Day, that one day of the week when I was guaranteed to find something cool and inspiring to read through my Comixology app.

That experience has been tainted by this greedy move. No longer is it a painless, user friendly experience – it’s an irritating, fiddly and frankly off putting one. If I sound petty, then perhaps I am on this subject but my understanding was technology and the advancement thereof was meant to make things better, not worse and more annoying (at least in terms of the consumption of digital media).

I read an interesting blog post on this subject that described comics as having been living in a ghetto for the past thirty years. I’ll echo that esteemed bloggers comics in saying that I love comic book shops, but they are dying out and dying on their arses. They have been for a long time. Digitisation of this media not only made it really accessible, it also played to the inherent strengths of the visual medium with panel view and Marvel’s wonderful guided view in a way that only comics can really exploit.

So what do the biggest retailer of digital comics do? They superbly and selfishly scupper that digital outlet by reducing it’s accessibly and attractiveness to a growing market of digital comic book readers. And this is just the bought and paid up members of the comic buying community; what about the initiates who are yet to experience how great digital comics are? This clunky, hamfisted approach is going to put them off and could very well endanger the future of the digital medium for comics.

When you are the market leader, you have to lead and move forward, not backwards. This, however you might wish to spin it is a backwards step. I felt compromised moving to the new app and the new clunky system, I felt like my years of loyalty to this digital industry was effectively being reduced to the dollars and pounds signs in the eyes of big businesses. Not businesses who are here to promote comics and make it a more profitable, wider reaching medium but a business that purely wants to line its own pockets and doesn’t care what damage it does during the process.

I hope that Comixology feel they’ve been backed into a corner with this move. I hope that the genuine fans of comics and the comics through the digital storytelling medium are regretful and can see the damage it has already done.

I for one feel betrayed, and I’m sure that a lot of other fair-minded consumers of digital comics feel the same.
Don’t let’s make this about the difference between an iPad and a Kindle guys, why can’t it be about the comics. Somewhere in between the lines this message has become lost…


Apr 19 2014

Monkey business

Took a very pleasant trip to the Monkey Forest at Trentham today. I think next to house rabbits, monkeys are a pretty close favourite beast of the wild. ;)

What’s lovely to see at Monkey Forest is that the Macaques are kept in a natural reserve and allowed to roam freely, rather than being cooped up in cages and behind glass. I’m not expert, by any means, but from what I could observe the monkeys looked happy, settled and well cared for. It was also very gratifying to see how respectful visitors to the park were.

We managed to get up close and personal with a lot of the park’s inhabitants and they were a joy to see and photograph. Below, there’s a mini-gallery.

If you want to check out Monkey Forest for yourself then here’s a link:

Monkey1

Monkey2

Monkey3

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Monkey5

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Monkey9

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Apr 16 2014

Short, not sweet

Short stories have been on my mind of late, and my keyboard. I have a slew of them that I’ve been gradually writing, finishing and second drafting. Three down and counting.

I’ve learned a lot throughout the process. There’s nothing that focuses the mind quite so much on the actual story aspect of writing than a short story. There’s not a lot of time for character development or meaty subplots.

By their nature, short stories are… erm… short. You need to get on with it as soon as you keystrokes manifest on the blank page.

Lots of exposition is a big no-no. Don’t use it as a way to pack a lot of story in to what is a short form piece of fiction. That’s not to say you can’t suggest a bigger story is going on, just do it more organically. The show not the tell.

Tell is very boring. I skip the tell. Don’t write that if it’s avoidable or doesn’t serve some cleverer, loftier purpose.

Short stories are a great way to home your craft. Firing off one after the other really focuses the mind and creativity. Ideas are key, cool twists, scenarios. Fast, pithy, easy to get into, shocking, surprising. A good short story has all of this. Writing lots of them one after the other is a really good way to test your story creation ability.

Two novels with similar traits, you can mask behind subplot and characters – it doesn’t matter as much. Most genre fiction readers like more of the same anyway. Short stories, though… ah, that’s different. Every one should be a fresh take, a fresh scenario with something different to say.

It’s a great writing discipline to work on. It’ll hone your craft.

Make sure you know the difference between what is really just a vignette (not self-contained, a piece of a larger fiction not seen or expressed in the writing, or… *gulp* a bit of colour fluff) and an actual short story. A reader needs to be able to appreciate it without having to read anything else. Personally, I also like short stories than give something more to the completist reader, the person who reads everything about a given faction. Connectivity and cheeky Easter eggs are fun to write in. I like rewarding the diligent fans, the True Believers.

So, short stories. Give it a go. Learn something about the craft. Or, if you’re not a writer, I’ve got a stack of them coming up. I hope you enjoy reading them as much as I’m enjoying writing them.


Apr 13 2014

Talking about darkness

There’s a shadow over most writers, I think. A darkness. It’s a creature, an anima that stirs from time to time. It can’t be controlled or quantified, it just is.

Doubt, fatigue, dare I say.. depression. I sometimes feel a weight of sadness overcome me. I’m reminded of all I’ve lost in my life, the relationships that ended and the latent grief associated with them. I recall the memories of my dad, some sixteen years passed now, and my grandad, who left us more recently.

I embrace this darkness, because it’s a part of me, and I believe helps me to connect with the darker, more tragic elements sometimes required of the stories I write.

It’s an odd sort of melancholy, and tough to qualify. I guess some people would call it a funk, or burn out. It rises when I’ve been working over hard, trying to hit a tough deadline. Sometimes it shows up if I’ve seen a particular film or listened to a song that holds emotional connotations in kind with this feeling.

Whatever the cause, the only cure I’ve found is expression. I talk to my loved ones, my closest friends, I write (rambling junk like what’s before you now).

I am not much of an open book, I wear armour. I’ve had to forge it thick and strong over the years, otherwise I might not have emerged on the other side. I’m not one to share my woes on Facebook and make the social networks a forum for the expression of every minute issue and tribulation, so I’m trying not to lock this down to an incident or issue (there isn’t one I can peg it to, it’s not about that), rather I’m letting you into a glimpse of my cathartic process.

It’s a form of therapy, it feels therapeutic. And as I talk and type, I can feel the darkness recede like a shadow retreats from the sun, which is a little ironic as I’ve always preferred a roiling storm to a sunlit day. Still, the analogy doesn’t work otherwise.

Thanks for listening.