Monday, 15 August 2011

bombardier's eyes images #2

my copy of the book has now arrived! even though it's a not entirely complete first draft, i am more excited than words can adequately express about this. after a trail of unfinished novels going back years, i have now as good as finished something other than an issue of the common swings for the first time since i was 16. that was when i battered out comedy time travel nonsense "neil redburn in aulis" for my own amusement whilst waiting for my GCSE results. it wasn't very good. this probably isn't either, but it IS better. and after a few more months the serialisation and next draft will commence! HUZZAH!... so onto images now i suppose!

Friday, 12 August 2011

bombardier's eyes images #1

been ill this last week, but am still trying to update this thing more regularly. as such, here are some of the chapter images i did for "the bombardier's eyes", the epic that waylaid me for so long these last few months. someone has foolishly ordered a copy who isn't me - i hope they know what they're in for. in the meantime, this is a flavour of what the next draft will be - a pastiche of old boys' magazines and the like as i serialise properly the first "thursday night league" novel

in the meantime - enjoy (sorry they're out of order. not got the hang of this blogger mullarkey yet!)

Friday, 5 August 2011

early ideas

early ideas for the non bunny mcsniff project are developing slowly:

more as and when...

Thursday, 4 August 2011

The Story of Horace

so. i'm working on two projects at the moment. one, is by definition, a very bitty and eccentric idea which allows me to pop down the maddest of concepts as and when i think of them. but the other, tentatively entitled "bunny mcsniff and bruiser mcgann", is much more structured. it is also, to all extents and purposes, an extension of what i was trying to do with the hadrons - me having a go at children's picture books

my interest in children's picture books has been slowly but steadily developing over the last couple of years. partly it was a way of extending my interest from simply comics, to the punch cartoonists i grew up with (i was an odd child) and then onto other forms of graphic art. and also partly because i began to realise in no uncertain terms that the best picture books are among the greatest pleasures anyone of any age can have. it's been an absolute delight to uncover new and wonderful things and chief among those joys is finding something like "the story of horace"

i can tell you *exactly* where i first came across "horace". i follow a lot of children's book blogs for inspiration and ideas, and one of them posted this image below:

now, maybe i'm judging unfairly here but i suspect it takes a peculiarly uninteresting sort of person to read a page like "horace has eaten great-grandma!" with a picture of a bear nibbling at an umbrella and not be even a *bit* intrigued by what comes next

thankfully, came to the rescue. orginals of the book seem to be a bit tricky to come by (and we have heard tell of versions of it drawn by other people - my wife and i have become rather zealous in our evangelism for this book), but you can find it online here. i won't detail the plot because... well frankly by the time i have done so you could have read it and i PROMISE you i couldn't do it with the same level of wit and style and humour as alice m coats does

i will admit i know very little about alice m coats beyond what i can find online and mostly that is with regards to her more famous life as a gardener. yet she does seem to have popped out a couple of other children's books as a sideline. i've yet to find these because they're pretty much out of my price zone, but i do hope to discover them one day. but even if "horace" was her one effort in the genre, it would be enough to make her an all time hero of the form

as a child i disliked any book with the remote whiff of self improvement about it. i liked something a bit more... dark or silly or mysterious i suppose. my preferences were pretty much roald dahl, the uncle books of j p martin, the mr browser books of philip curtis, the mcgurk mysteries (the british version i hasten to add - i was mortified to find an american one in my late teens), enid blyton (but only when poking around a castle or pursuing smugglers), tintin etc - all this was what i read before the grip of sherlock holmes, susan cooper, the three investigators and countless doctor who target novelisations set in. i liked things a little off beam and any book which seemed even slightly improving or had a looming moral got particularly short shrift. i can't really remember what my picture book tastes were, but what entranced me in the ones i can remember - the alfred bestall ruperts, the what-a-mess books of frank muir and joseph wright - were again the slightly off kilter stuff: the fact that anthromorphic bears lived in happily middle class co-existence in a typical english village or the strange details in the background of the what-a-mess books. it had to be something *more* than just a simple story for me

as such i'd have loved "the story of horace". i'd have loved how the dawning reality of what the book is about creeps up on you. i'd have been fearful we were up for maximum tweeness with the family set up at first, and then slightly bemused by the sudden twists and then absolutely DELIGHTED by the outcomes. part of the joy of the book is the way coats repeats the central joke so many times, and uses her pictures to build the joke. every time you have another "incident" involving horace and the family and the dad, the joke just grows and grows. also, i adore the way in which the family genuinely don't seem to be too upset by what horace is doing - every time they approach after father has gone out hunting (even the fact father still hunts after what has happened the *last* time he left the house alone is ridiculously funny) they look just as happy as they did before. just... well... happy but one less in number. and then the wonderful understatement of how much they all "took on so"... beautiful

as much as the pictures are perfect (and they are - sparingly, beautifully drawn, all variations on what has gone before but also full of such life and humour), it's the choice of words that makes the book. "took on so" has become a catchphrase in our house, and the delightful touch of the phrasing on the last page of the book is (so beautifully phrased! coats is such a brilliant example of using sparing prose with maximum impact. if any of the text had been even slightly overcooked, the thing would collapse. it's a delicately written and drawn creation that really only works because of understatement. overstate the text or the art and it would be a lesser creation. something like "not now bernard" works because it is very much one kind of book (and drawn and written consistently in that manner) until the curveball that takes you to the end. this is what separates the wheat from the chaff, the true bits of genius from "lady milksops' magical geese" or whatever

and what can i learn from this book? that i'm nowhere near as good as coats. not even close. but it's good to have aspirations isn't it?

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

and so just as i was wondering how to start work on the next project, simone lia reads my mind and presents us with a beginner's guide on how to draw bunnies

it's a very close fight between lia and sarah mcintyre for who's best bunny artist at the moment, but i think lia just edges it. much as i love "vern and lettuce", i never got moist at the eyes at it like i did at "fluffy" (a bit disengenuous - "fluffy" doesn't have the same anarchic genius that mcintyre does, but you get the general idea of what i'm saying...)

bunny mcsniff won't reach the heights of either, but it's good to get a bit of guidance from one of the masters

in other news: to get this blog being used a bit more, i'm going to write about children's picture books i've discovered in the last year or so to get me in the right frame of mind for the new project. first up? the best of the best - "the story of horace". keep eyes peeled...

Monday, 1 August 2011

and he's back...

goodness - it's been a good seven months since i last updated this blog. there have been various reasons for this but they mainly boil down to three:

firstly i moved house, which in itself wasn't so bad as it was only two doors down the road... but still meant i have had to trim books and records and focus on housey things...

secondly, my dad's period of ill health peaked in may as he was hospitalised and eventually died. the disease - lewy body disease, a particularly nasty strain of dementia which combines alzheimers and parkinsons - claimed him in june so it's been a strange old time. i knew it was coming, but even then it's been a difficult time for me and my family


thirdly: in november i rather foolishly decided it might be a good idea to have a crack at a NANOWRIMO again. fifty thousand words in one month? easy. i had a nice, simple plot for a pulpy crime novel which i could use... what could go wrong? wel... 300,000 words later it's sort of rumbled to an end. sort of. because of the above two it's not as complete as it should be, but i took the end of july deadline offer of a free copy of a book from lulu as as good a point to finish the thing. it's about 90% finished with the rest of it in notes forms... so i know what's happening and where

"the bombardier's eyes" is now available in overwhelmingly dense lulu form, but for those sensible types who want to wait until i've taken scissors to it and pruned it down there will by the end of this hopefully be a newer, easier to deal with version. because the idea of the book is to do a sort of tribute to pulpy british writers from the beginning of the twentieth century, i intend to issue "the bombardier's eyes" in a series of pamphlets/ booklets which will be illustrated and full of diversions in the manner of the first couple of issues of "the common swings". once THAT is done, there'll be a further edit and another version, hopefully the ultimate one, which will be the end of this damnable book!

but in the meantime, if you enjoy lulu type things, go here:

in the meantime, i'm going to hopefully spruce this blog up. i want to add more entries hither and thither and focus on it a bit more. i also have two new smaller projects i'm working on - one is a tragic children's story called "bunny mchuggles and bruiser mcgann" and the other is... a bit odd. i'll leave that til after the more normal one. it's a nice thing to think of twenty to thirty pages as your finishing point... rather than six hundred or so


hope all are well!

First Show in Two Years!!!

 This Saturday! The old college! Todmorden Folk Festival! I will be selling all the things! Come and buy them and tell your friends!!! (And ...