Saturday, 11 September 2010

A Taste of Things to Come

Recently my partner-in-crime David Miles Golding and I collaborated on a one-off publication for San Diego Comic Con. Entitled Tales of Dynamic Adventure, it showcases not only Dave's incredible artwork with a fabulous collection of sketches, but also two short comics drawn by Dave and written by yours truly.

By chance Ain't It Cool News got hold of a copy. Their subsequent review, as seen on their world-famous website, went a lot like this:-

"Those of you lucky enough to pick up this little ditty at SDCC this year know what I mean when I say that the artist & writer featured in this book are definitely going places. This is more of a sketchbook with two short stories
than anything, but it is a perfect sample of the awesome talent of the gentlemen who put this book together.

Artist David Golding, who I’ve seen mature into an amazing artist in Dare Comics’ THE HUNTER and STARMAKER LEVIATHAN books shows here with his “Pardus: The Last of the Leopard Men” strip that he can do pulp just as well as he can do the cosmic. Pardus is an amazing jungle man character and this short story is overflowing with teeth-gnashing action and art that pops off the page and slaps you in the face. “Legendary Gods” written by Paul Mathews and drawn by Golding is a Kirby-ian tale of a cosmic conqueror in search of a world to overthrow. This book is old school comic booking and those who love those old NEW GODS and other Kirby greats will love all of the winks and nods to this type of story. There’s even a very cool TWILIGHT ZONE-like twist at the end which caused me to chuckle.

The rest of the book serves as a sampler of sorts with many character designs and pin-ups by Golding. Some we see the evolution of both the character and the artist’s style through the years. I fully believe that in the coming years, we’re going to be seeing a lot of David Golding’s stuff. The pages in this book look simply outstanding. "

If you'd like your very own copy of the limited edition Tales of Dynamic Adventure then please don't hesitate to e-mail me for details. Each and every one will include a unique sketch of any character of your choosing by Dave. You won't be disappointed. Just ask Ain't It Cool News...

If you have enjoyed this blog, please consider making a donation to my preferred charity, the Myasthenia Gravis Association. Thank you.

Saturday, 22 May 2010

Flesh for Fantasy: A mini interview with Jonathan Green

A freelance writer, Jonathan Green has written for the likes of Games Workshop, Abaddon Books, and the Fighting Fantasy series of adventure gamebooks. His other credits include not only non-fiction books but stories and gamebooks featuring popular characters such as Doctor Who and Sonic the Hedgehog.

PLM: Having written novels and short stories for the likes of Games Workshop and Abaddon as well as Fighting Fantasy books for Wizard Books, how does the challenge of writing an adventure gamebook differ from writing a conventional piece of prose?

JG: In some ways, writing an adventure gamebook is easier than writing long form fiction. Characterization is more straightforward, because other than the protagonist (who is the reader anyway) characters appear only very briefly. Also, psychologically you’re only ever writing a few hundred words at a time, per section, rather than several thousand words for one chapter.
The other thing I like about gamebooks (because I’m quite an indecisive individual) is that you can include every option of what could happen and what you would like to appear within a book.
However, plotting gamebooks is another challenge altogether. Then there’s balancing the game play and the whole muddling up the sections to accommodate clues, puzzle answers and illustrations evenly spaced throughout the finished book.

PLM: One assumes from the number of titles you’ve written for Abaddon and Wizard that you that you have a strong relationship with them. How important is it for writers to develop such a relationship their clients?

JG: I would like to think I have good relationships with all the various publishers I’ve worked for. If you want to make writing your living, then I think it’s very important to develop strong relationships with those who are likely to employ you. Partly because if people know you’re easy to work with and can take criticism well, and meet deadlines (although that last one isn’t always my strongest area), quite simply they’re going to be more likely to come back to you again in the future.
An example of this is that having written my Doctor Who Decide Your Destiny gamebook The Horror of Howling Hill, the editor I had worked with on that title approached me to write a Clone Wars DYD which became Crisis on Coruscant.

PLM: I understand you were a full-time teacher when you first started writing. How long did you wait before leaving your previous profession and becoming a full-time writer? Was it a difficult decision?

JG: Technically, when I started writing I was a full-time student. My first book was published when I was still at university. When I left uni I had a go at being a freelance writer for two years, doing supply teaching to pay the rent. However, I did end up teaching full-time for twelve years. I’ve been a full-time for two years now.
There was a fair bit of soul-searching involved in the decision to give up because I now have a young family. However, as a friend of mine said ‘You’ll never lie on your death-bed wishing you hadn’t given it a go’ and although things haven’t always been easy, I’ve never regretted the decision.

PLM: How challenging was it to balance the rigours of such a demanding job with the time required to get your writing career off the ground?

JG: Very hard. I would be in work for just after seven, leave about eleven hours later, then put the children to bed, have something to eat, do what school work I had to do for the next day and only then could I sit down to write – when I was feeling completely knackered.
And then the weekend came along and that was family time and everything else that’s involved in keeping house and home together.
While I was teaching I was writing one or two books a year. Now it’s about five plus various other projects.

PLM: And, finally, what advise can you offer nascent writers in a similar situation?

JG: If you want to be a writer you need to write – everyday. There’s no point talking about wanting to be a writer unless you’re prepared to put the work in. And you should read everything you can, and not just the sort of thing you want to write either. And develop a very thick skin, ready for all the times people reject your stuff. Oh, and good luck!

If you have enjoyed this blog, please consider making a donation to my preferred charity, the Myasthenia Gravis Association. Thank you.

Friday, 9 April 2010

War of Words: A mini interview with Dan Abnett

As a writer I've always wanted to be able to tell stories in different genres and in a variety of media. So, looking for a few tips and an insight into the mentality required, I approached one of the UK's most successful genre writers, Dan Abnett.

An industry veteran with more than twenty years experience in books, comics and audio plays, Dan Abnett has written for high-profile publishers like Marvel, DC, 2000AD and Games Workshop. His most successful creations to date include 2000AD's Sinister Dexter and Games Workshop's Eisenhorn trilogy.

PLM: How long had you been writing before you made your professional debut with Marvel UK.

DA: I’d always done it as a kid and a teenager. It was my ‘hobby’ - writing stories and drawing pictures (or doing both at the same times a hand drawn comics).

PLM: Whilst you’ve enjoyed very obvious success since then, were there darker days when it wasn’t apparent where the next cheque was coming from? How did you deal with these fallow periods?

DA: When you’re a freelancer, there are always tight times, especially in the early days. You work through them. You use the time to develop possible material of your own, and you pound shoe leather (metaphorically, usually, but on the phone and email) to develop contacts and find new lines of commission.

PLM: You now work for a variety of publishers including Marvel, DC, Rebellion and Games Workshop. Is it challenging switching genres and disciplines to meet the needs of these diverse employers?

DA: Yes, it can be, and it might not suit everybody. I find it keeps me fresh, and allows me not to get ‘stuck’ into one thing for so long it goes stale. Variety, as they say, is the spice of life...

PLM: With reference to your forthcoming titles from Angry Robot, how does working on our own original fiction differ from working on titles in a pre-defined universe like Games Workshop’s?

DA: It’s not all that different, actually, you simply have to set the rules yourself rather than follow someone else’s. It’s still a set of rules to work by, and it’s still a world that’s got to function and operate properly.

PLM: Finally, you’re a very prolific writer. Can you tell us an insight into how much time you spend at your desk each day to make your deadlines? And what do you do if you find your flow interrupted by, say, writer’s block or illness?

DA: I get to my desk between six and seven, work through until a lunch around twelve-thirty, and then again through until about six. Sometimes I do a morning or afternoon during a weekend too. I used to pull evenings and all-nighters, but I gave that up because I never used to see any of my family. It was also not a good idea getting over-tired when my epilepsy kicked in (I developed late-onset epilepsy last year). Writer’s block you simply have to write through. It may be something else you write to get the cogs moving, but that’s the only way.

PLM: Thank you very much indeed, Dan.

Dan Abnett's first work of original fiction, Triumff: Her Majesty's Hero was released in 2009 by HarperCollins' Angry Robot imprint. You can keep up to date with all Dan's future releases at both his website, and his blog.

If you have enjoyed this blog, please consider making a donation to my preferred charity, the Myasthenia Gravis Association. Thank you.

Friday, 19 March 2010

The Future: A mini interview with Dave Evans

Click for the FutureQuake website

Rejections are not only part and parcel of being a writer, but also of being an editor. I was curious to get an insight into what makes an editor choose one story over another, so I asked Dave Evans...

Dave is the editor of small press publisher FutureQuake, which publishes leading ttitles like Something Wicked, FutureQuake and MangaQuake. He is also the editor of 2000AD [Britain's leading sci-fi and fantasy comic] fanzines Zarjaz and Dogbreath

Click for the FutureQuake website

PLM: Why and when did you first begin work on FutureQuake, and has your role become more challenging since FQP took over the likes of Zarjaz and Dog Breath?

DE: FutureQuake began when Arthur Wyatt [FQ's founder] was trying to get work on 2000AD. He kept all his rejected ideas and decided to put them out himself. I first became involved in 2004 when I was asked to provide the artwork for a story that ran in FQ03. That story was written by a chap named James Mackay, with whom I had produced some Judge Dredd Fan fiction for the 2000AD Online website (now known as Barney). After FQ03 Arthur decided to stop as he was preparing to flee the country as a tax exile for the money he made in SPress.

James Mackay contacted me in October-or-November 2004 to ask if I would join him in picking up the reins from Arthur and carrying on. Along with also new editor Richmond Clements we started work and FQ04 launched at Bristol 2005.

As for the changing challenge since taking over Dogbreath and Zarjaz: It is difficult to say. There is a massive difference between the two sets of titles, with FQ being much more difficult due to the desire to produce the best comic we can. Zarjaz and Dogbreath are immense fun; we all get to play with these incredible toys that Tharg has given us, and as long as we don't go too far we are free to do as we please. My biggest problem with Zarjaz and Dogbreath is sharing: I want to keep it all to myself!

PLM: What are the highs and lows of your position at FQP? For instance, I'm sure that for every gem you discover you have to sort through a lot of dross...

DE: Highs: The first time I saw FQ04 in the box at the printer. I doubt anything can top that first issue for emotional impact for me.

Seeing the cover to FQ06 in the pages of the Megazine. An immense sense of pride seeing that, especially as I designed the character and had the initial plot ideas that were developed into the strip.

Getting TWO strips in as part of the Small Press section in Judge Dredd Megazine [2000AD's sister publicatiob]. As far as I'm aware we were the only team to get away with that.

There are loads of other things I could say. Having big name creators stop by and talk to us about contributing, meeting childhood heroes and finding them a pleasure to drink with, really it is a most rewarding pastime.

Lows: Personally I wish we sold more: not just for financial reasons, but because there is some simply amazing work in each an every issue and it is a crime that these guys and girls aren't getting paid.

PLM: What is you look for in a story? What makes a successful submission to FQ?

DE: That is difficult to say, as each of us on the editorial team will often see something different in every script. Ideally for me I want to read a script that keeps me guessing till the end. If I work it out on page 1 then I lose interest unless the writing is very good.

PLM: Matt Smith of 2000AD has stated in the past that Britain only produces one good writer per year. Is this a theory you subscribe to?

DE: Matt knows what he's talking about: after all he is Tharg's mouthpiece on this planet. Many writers that have appeared in the pages of 2000AD have their roots in SPress: Al Ewing, Arthur Wyatt, Alec Worley, Michael Carroll, and probably more that I can't think of right now, have all worked on SPress titles. The chance to have scripts in print and get feedback from peers is a great way to learn and progress ready to try out for Tharg.

PLM: And finally, what does the future hold for both you and FutureQuake? Do you, for instance, keep a covetous eye on Matt Smith's job should he ever move on?

DE: The Future? Heh, more comics. FQ is hopefully going to be three times a year for the next year or so, to capitalise on the Hi-Ex convention in Inverness that is co-run by my good compadre Richmond Clements ( as well as new issues for MangaQuake and Something Wicked alongside Dogbreath & Zarjaz.

As for Tharg's avatar: he has my email. Let's just leave it at that.

PLM: Thanks, Dave.

If you have enjoyed this blog, please consider making a donation to my preferred charity, the Myasthenia Gravis Association. Thank you.

Thursday, 11 February 2010

Still in Love

Valentines Day 2010 marks the third birthday of The Valentine Chronicles...and no birthday is complete without gifts, right? And no, I don't mean chocolates or flowers. I'm talking a really, really cool gift...

As with last year's Valentine's Day celebration, I'm very proud to present the Chronicles's brand new gallery, which features sketches and artwork by some of the UK's best talent, including:-

Alan Davis (ClanDestine, Excalibur, Marvelman)
Duncan Fegredo (Hellboy, Judge Dredd, New Statesmen)
Sean Phillips (Marvel Zombies, Hellblazer, Third World War)
Jon Hodgson (Dragon Warriors, Dungeons and Dragons, Magic: The Gathering)
Staz Johnson (Civil War: War Crimes, Catwoman, Detective Comics)
David Hitchcock (Gothic, Springheeled Jack, Spirit of the Highwayman)
Dylan Teague (Judge Dredd Megazine)
James McLean (Quarry Grove, Beowulf, M.A.S.K.)

Also I'm thrilled to announce rising Filpino star Dexter Wee (Swerve, The Reserves, Anna Chronistic) has graced the gallery with a fantastic sketch of the Witch of Bleakwinter!

As ever, all this good stuff is FREE, and on a site devoid of ads and pop-ups. Now that's what you call a Valentines present!

If you have enjoyed this blog, please consider making a donation to my preferred charity, the Myasthenia Gravis Association. Thank you.