Friday, 21 February 2014

Remembering To Forget

I'm not sure whether many people are reading this blog any more, but here we are anyway...

I will be relaunching Tom Hickathrift on the Saturday of the weekend of 11th-12th April 2014,making my contribution to this year's Big Read: Norfolk Narratives at Downham Market Library. Hoping to see adults and children there for a reading, talk and Q&A. Although I've relocated to another part of the country I'm still very much connected to Norfolk.

I've resumed work on the new project: Amnesia Agents is a novel I'm working on intended for an older audience. I'm currently on a new draft after the lost-files disaster of last autumn. Good old pen and paper, then typing up when complete.

Wednesday, 1 January 2014

Review of 2013

2013 was a year in which I was reminded in the most dramatic way possible that there are some people who are capable of extreme kindness, but also others are driven by extreme cowardice and still others by harmful intent. I shouldn't be surprised but still it's a sad, sad thing to recognise. Kurt Vonnegut once said that the only thing worth learning is that we have to treat each other with kindness in this life. He's right.

Here's to 2014 being a year of kindness. Be kind to each other and have a great year.

Coming up from me in 2014 will be the return of Bulldog in Paragon. Don't forget, you can still download almost the entire Bulldog back catalogue for free from Beyond that, I'm still rebooting...

Sunday, 6 October 2013

BAM! and Paragon - Full Circle

#16 Bulldog is back!
Captain Winston Bulldog is, in a way, my life's work. I created the character many years ago, and he made his debut in his own comic back in 1993. (See previous post below, where you can see details of where to buy collections of his adventures) He hasn't been in print for a few years now, the last time being in the Bulldog Clips collection. Attempts to interest publishers in picking up the character since his last major appearance in The Mammoth Book of Best New Manga have failed significantly, despite a few blind alleys. Rejections have ranged from 'it's too young for us', 'it's too old for us', 'we don't do funny animal books' to 'it's too notorious' (never understood that one) or 'it's creator-owned so we won't pay your artist enough'. So. A few attempts to kick-start a self-published revival have hit the skids too. Until now. Davey Candlish at Paragon Comic , a small press anthology in a similar mould to Bulldog's old home in BAM! (Bulldog Adventure Magazine), kindly offered to give Bulldog a new home. He's back in his old environment, but hopefully able to reach a new and exciting readership as well as the old. Go to Davey's blog for more details - I've been trimming down a graphic novel-sized story I had to manageable chunks (6-7 pages per episode). It's an ideal jumping on point for readers new to Bulldog and/or to Paragon (which is available in print and ebook versions) and I'm really looking forward to it. Hope you are too!

In other news: it doesn't look as if Tom Hickathrift is going to get a sequel, but I'm hoping to set aside some time in early 2014 to write one anyway, so we'll see what happens. I have an idea for a Tom-related Christmas story which may wend its way into the world for the Yuletide season, though, so watch this space. In the meantime, I'm plugging away at Amnesia Agents when I have time (of which there is little at the moment)...

Tuesday, 27 August 2013

FREE Captain Winston Bulldog EBooks! UPDATED!

Added to the free Bulldog Ebooks Bonanza is BULLDOG CLIPS - with artwork by Andrew Wildman, Mike Collins, PJ Holden and many many more!!! It also features Samurai Commander Keiko Panda in her first solo adventures since her epic in The Mammoth Book of Best New Manga volume 2, Hugo the Zombie and a host of other strips. Keiko Panda is also the cover star of the first Mammoth Book of Best New Manga, where the epic Bulldog: Empire series (see below) is presented in its 63 page entirety!

Perhaps the most enduring character I ever came up with was Captain Winston Bulldog, aerial adventurer in a world of warring nations of Humans, Mammalians and Arboreans. Winston was the only Mammalian airship captain in the Aerial Defence Force of Union Britain. His adventures lasted many years, totalling 28 issues of his own magazine, then a 2 issue US format mini series. I wrote the stories, and the artist roster is a veritable who's who of the UK comics scene at the time. A couple of years ago, I collated a wide selection of Bulldog stories into 2 paperbacks. Now, until the end of September, I'm making them both available as ebooks completely for FREE. Go here to download your copies and delve into the world of Captain Winston Bulldog. I had high hopes at one time that the character would make the breakthrough into the big time, and made several attempts to relaunch as a series for children, but could never get publisher interest. I'd love Winston to make a comeback at some point, but in the meantime, here's some free comics - appropriate for all-ages!


Sunday, 25 August 2013

A Reader and A Writer - Ending and Beginning

In my day job, parents often ask me how to help their children improve their writing. My answer is simple: read. Read with them. Read to them. Encourage them to read. Anything. Read yourself. The last one often gets me funny looks, as if that's the last thing a busy adult should be doing. For me, it's the first, last and always (to semi-quote The Sisters Of Mercy - that ages me). And so it is that my summer began in earnest with plans to read at least two books a week. At the same time, my 8 year old daughter enrolled in the Summer Reading Challenge at the local library - read 6 books, get prizes; keep going get a medal (there's a ceremony and everything!); read 20 have your name on the wall as a Super Achiever. I think she's up to 12 books now, sometimes reading one in a night (having trouble sleeping in this weather anyway). As for me: well, I've managed one a week since she started the challenge. The plans are there: my pile of unread books is probably the height of the average 8 year old. Still, anyway, here are my thumbnail reviews of my summer reads:

Product DetailsThis doesn't really need much of an introduction from me. Banks's passing was very sad - I'll miss the leftie, compassionately angry voice that we had from him. The Crow Road and Espedair Street are amongst my favourite novels, the latter a wee bit of an influence on what I'm writing at the moment (just a bit as it has a fading rock star in it). So it was then that I came to The Quarry with as high expectations as anyone. In the end, this tale of a meeting of a man and his old friends as he nears the end of his life, narrated by his possibly-on-the-autistic-spectrum son, is slight but affecting. Banks's voice shines through. There's not much plot but this is a book about people and, although not one of his greatest works, is a fitting note for Iain Banks to go out on. I'll miss his words, and miss his presence in our culture. Interestingly, a friend of mine, Lucy Carter, is the lighting designer for the operatic stage version of Banks's The Wasp Factory which is coming to the Royal Opera House soon. It's a pity that Banks didn't live to see it.

Product Details

My wife gave me this as a birthday present, and it couldn't have been better chosen. On the face of it, it's science fiction but is much more about... well, that would spoil it. We have a very flawed narrator who only gradually discovers what's really happening to him. He is a journalist aboard a privately-funded spaceship sent out with a varied crew to, well, explore and see how far they can reach into space. They are set to turn back at a specific point, so it is as much a PR exercise as anything else. But of course, not everything quite goes according to plan. What Smythe does brilliantly is rattle you through a rapid sequence of events quite early on, and you begin to wonder whether he's wasted opportunities to tell a more engaging story. But then. We get to look at those events from a different perspective and everything changes. It's the best novel I've read yet this year. It's just out in paperback, so treat yourself!

Product Details
Like the rest of the universe, judging by the queues at the Ely event (see below blog entry), I read Gaiman's latest novel this summer. I'd read all the publicity, and was a little wary of over-hype. Like a lot of people, I followed Gaiman's Sandman series, and I really liked his abruptly arrested run on Miracleman, so that was my way in to his work. The Graveyard Book remains a classic of children's literature - my daughter's not quite ready for it yet, but she will be. 'Ocean...' seems more slight than it is. I'm a big fan of shorter novels, and this tells as much story as it needs to - it's about growing up, and the notion of how we remember our childhood.There's fantasy in there, and some potentially nasty stuff, but some glorious stuff too. It's sad and joyous, and worth the hype.

Product Details
I don't often plug books by people I know, but I can't resist. Dave deserves all the praise that has been heaped upon him. I described this as 'Magnus Mills for kids' on Twitter, and I still can't think of a better way of describing it. A young boy books passage on a small boat captained by a bear. Pretty soon, they get lost. Arguments, adventures and bonding ensue. It's funny, it's fast-paced, it's accompanied by Dave's brilliant illustrations, and it's actually pretty moving. There are questions left at the end, and it doesn't end in the way I expected. But it does end in the way it should. So much more than a children's book. In fact, I don't think there's any such thing. There's just books for people. And this will touch you, whether you're 8 or 48.

Now, I guess I'd better get back to that pile of unread books! 

One quick plug for myself before I go:

Product DetailsVolume 3 of The Graphic Canon is out now, which features my comic strip adaptation of Wilfred Owen's Dulce et Decorum Est, which I did for Classical Comics a few years ago. Find out more here.

And, of course, you can still get copies of my books! If you'd like a personalised signed copy of The Legend of Tom Hickathrift, look me up on the 'Contact' tab above and drop me an email.
Reviews, comments, feedback from readers always welcome!

Product DetailsProduct DetailsProduct DetailsProduct DetailsSo, summer comes to an end. Back to the day job, but writing continues. Endings and beginnings. More on my next book when I have it...

Friday, 23 August 2013

Handing books out: reading at Waterstones

If there's one thing I'm good at, it's sitting down. Sitting down is always better, though, with a bit of an audience. Today's visit to King's Lynn Waterstones was great - the store is redesigned with a great new layout. Graphic novels at the front of the store! How great is that? So it was that I had a prime spot to do some readings from 'The Legend Of Tom Hickathrift' and sign some copies. It's always a great pleasure to meet parents with kids who decide to take the book home, and it's humbling. I've had a good week.

Not for the first time, I've been asked whether it's the first in a series. I don't know yet, but how's this for possible titles:
Tom Hickathrift and the Ghosts of the Smeeth
Tom Hickathrift and the Search for the Moon
Tom Hickathrift and...

Oh, but I've said too much already! :-)

Wednesday, 21 August 2013

Handwaving in a Library: Meeting Kids!

Today we had a steady trickle of parents and kids into Downham Market library to hear me read about Tom Hickathrift's fight with the Ogre, Swoddy the dog's encounter with The Black Shuck, and Princess Isobel's escape from the dragon's cave. I seem to wave my hands about a lot. And I wore the same shirt as yesterday. Fashion faux pas. Next up is a similar thing again at Waterstones King's Lynn on Friday. I'm available for children's book festivals and the like. But not weddings. You'd need a disco. Or a band.