Hello and welcome to my blog.
I'll be voicing my thoughts and opinions on the creative process as well as other random topics that enter my mind. I can't promise to be entertaining or informative, but if you like genre fiction, movies, TV or comics then there should be something to interest you.
Any errors and foul language are my own.

Friday, 7 November 2014

Hinterkind: The Waking World

I picked up the first volume of Hinterkind on a whim, purely because I liked the concept. Humanity has almost been wiped out by a plague called The Blight; streets are deserted, while plants have been left to grow unfettered. Wildlife has spread into the empty cities, but so has something else. Mythical creatures - cyclopes and goblins, fawns and sidhe - have left their darkened corners, proving they are more than fiction, more than a tale told at night-time.

Hinterkind takes two teenagers and throws them out of their comfort zone (a village in what used to be Central Park) and into this world of the mythic. Unaware of what's happened to the world, they're our eyes and ears and they and we explore writer Ian Edgington's creation. It's a harsh world, where humans are now an endangered species, and along the way we meet various species, such as a troll who lives under a bridge (where else?) as well as a foul-mouthed punk-rock fairy. It's incredibly entertaining and, naturally, raises the topic of racial persecution and prejudice, but in a way that's never preaching but certainly thought-provoking. For all the strangeness, it's still what humans are capable of doing to each other that shocks and frightens the most.

Perhaps inevitably, it's been compared in a good light to Vertigo's Fables, which I absolutely adore. It's a fair comparison, what with creatures from fairy-tales kicking around, but Hinterkind is a different beast altogether. I'm a huge fan of the 'mythic monsters in our world' style of tale (more so than I am of elves and the like in fantasy novels, for some strange reason), but Hinterkind takes that a step further with its post-apocalyptic vision and unknown threats looming over the horizon.

Edginton's script is accompanied by beautiful art from Francesco Trifogli, who is equally adept at panoramic cityscapes and facial expressions, giving away a character's mood with a kink of the lips or a narrowing of an eye. This is enhanced by sublime colouring from Cris Peter (that troll I mentioned? It's pink, and suitably so), a palette that changes to suit the location, giving the eye that first impression of the atmosphere the scene intends to evoke. Add to this the lettering from Dezi Sienty, whose scratching-style on the penultimate page captures the menace of those speaking, and it's easy to see why Hinterkind has attracted so much praise.

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

A Reason To Change

A nip and a punch for the first of the month – welcome to October. It’ll soon be Christmas, I’m told.

The last couple of months have been very interesting. I’ve spent most of 2014 wondering what novel to write. Should I go with a world I created for a short story, or try to emulate my favourite authors? Believe me, I tried both and more besides. Nothing seemed to gel, I ran out of steam, there was stuff to watch on TV.

Then, at the start of August, I made myself a promise – write every day. Get my backside in the chair, and just write. My problem is I want a first draft to be perfect, tweak it for spelling, make sure characters have the same colour eyes at the end as they did at the start, then get it sent away. Of course, it doesn’t happen like that; I read a comment on Twitter that the first draft is the clay, which will be re-shaped and moulded until it’s correct. I like that image. I also recalled something Stephen King said in his book On Writing (I’ve read far too many books, ahem, on writing, but King’s is the only one I’ve kept hold of, along with Sometimes The Magic Works by Terry Brooks) that the first draft should be done in three months. That works out at just over 1000 words a day.

Pessimist that I am, I aimed for six months, 500 a day. I blitzed it, doing 7000 words in the first week, so I decided to take Mr King’s advice. Today, two months on, my first draft stands at 64400 words. How pleased am I? Very. And yet, I haven’t made any spectacular changes in my life, other than just write when I have the time. My first draft is a mess, but that’s ok. It’s allowed to be; it’s meant to be.

I knew the end of my story before I started, as well as the half way point, so I’m sure that’s helped, but it all feels very organic, as if something more than the word count has grown with each day. I’ve surprised myself with some of the turns the story has taken, but they all feel right, true to the characters and the world I’ve created. I’ve fought my fear (yes, fear; stupid, I know, but that’s me) and won, simply by doing what I love.

Why the change of name for my blog, then? Truth is, as the trees are starting to lose their leaves, so I’ve shed some (not all) of my doubts as to my abilities as writer. I feel different, but the last thing I wanted to do was ignore the past, all the posts that have gone before this one. I’d already tried creating another blog this year, yet killed it off in its infancy. Another reason is that there’s a book called Flash Of Midnight, and I wanted that writer’s work to be as original as (and separate from) my blog.

So, here we are. New web address, based on a name a favourite manager called me years ago; a new title inspired by the combination of that nickname, a documentary Jonathan Ross made about Steve Ditko, and a song by The Hoosiers that is one of my favourites. I’ve changed my approach to my fiction, simply by just doing it, now it’s time to do so with this blog, too, and put the effort in to make it all it can be.

Friday, 13 June 2014

Keeping Summer Special

This week, I travelled back in time.
Fortunately, rather than find out I’m my own great-grandfather or accidently erase a relative from history (meaning I wouldn’t be here to type this), it was a simple trip: for half an hour, sat in the garden on a sunny summer’s day, I was ten-years-old again.
Back in the summer of 1981 – when I was about to turn eleven and start the ‘big school’ – the 2000AD Sci-fi Special made an appearance in my home. I can’t remember if it was bought for me or if I picked it up while shopping with my mum. Perhaps I asked for it; I was no stranger to the comic, having read it a couple of years beforehand when Judge Dredd was on the cover, about to be sacrificed to a dinosaur in the Cursed Earth – “This is so good, I’m going to get it forever”, I remember saying.
Suffice to say, for reasons I can’t recall, I didn’t. But, in 1981, the Sci-fi Special changed everything. It had a cover by Brian Bolland – one of his immaculate Dredd images – but the story inside outshone even that. Drawn by Colin Wilson, this art was even cleaner than Bolland’s, those crisp images almost shining out of the page. It was a great story, too; if I haven’t confused myself, it was Dredd on the trail of supplier of ‘white powder’, an illegal substance that turned out to be sugar. What other stories I read in those pages escape me (I could have a look on the internet later, I suppose), other than a Nemesis the Warlock story that would, as the cover promised, see NEMESIS REVEALED! Now, I didn’t even know who Nemesis was, but I can recall the story of a young man sent on a quest – “you may kiss the hem of my garment,” says Torquemada – only to be scuppered at the end by Nemesis himself. This story is more vivid in my mind than the Dredd one, because it’s in the collected Nemesis stories from a few years ago. Having had a look at it again, it was every bit as good as I remembered. Possibly, now I’m a bit older and wiser, it’s even better. Back then, it got me hooked on the weekly comic (that was its job, I suppose) and memories from that time include moving house, and having to wait three weeks to have the complete Rogue Trooper Total War poster on my new bedroom wall, cut out to perfection from four back covers and mounted on cardboard, no less.
Back to the present, and this year sees the first Sci-fi Special released for eighteen years. It’s good – it’s very good – filled with familiar characters and not-so-familiar writers and artists. The Special feels like an ideal outlet for new voices, and I have to applaud 2000AD for making this happen. I was wary initially, but that quickly passed, and I found myself immersed in the stories, just as I had all those years ago. The stories are all brand new and self-contained, all to a high standard, but for me it’s Robo-Hunter that stands out; Sam Slade was always one of my favourites, and The Bodj Job – although told by a new writer – contains the same dry wit and cynicism of the character, while placing him in a situation that is both highly amusing, as well as being a commentary on a certain aspect of society.
If hadn’t already jumped back on the 2000AD spaceship, this year’s Sci-Fi Special would have me rushing out for it. As a showcase for new talent – the faces of the future – it works perfectly, and as a teaser for the Galaxy’s Greatest Comic, I hope it gets 2000AD the extra readers it deserves. Me, I’d like to thank them for making me young again, even if it was just for half an hour.

Monday, 26 May 2014

MULP Fiction

"MULP is an anthropomorphic comic book, a Pulp adventure set in a world of mice, by Matt Gibbs and Sara Dunkerton."

As soon as I heard about MULP, back in the beginning of April, I was intrigued. As a fan of Blacksad, Mouse Guard and Grandville, it sounded like another comic book that would be right up my street. As such, I wanted it to be my first review.

When an ancient stone tablet is unearthed in Egypt, it leads to the disappearance of Professor Walter Harvest-Scott's assistant, Sellsey. This prompts Cornelius Field to call in his friend Jack Redpath; Jack's an adventurer, and we can tell he's been around from what looks like a bite out of his ear. Also drawn into this is plucky reporter Victoria Jones who, along with the Professor's daughter Elizabeth, forms our tight band of heroes.

MULP hooked me from the very first page and didn't let go until the last. Sceptre of the Sun is an Indiana Jones-esque style of adventure that not only introduces its reader to an array of wonderful characters, but does the job of setting-up the world without ever feeling like the exposition gets in the way of the story. It's an entertaining plot - one told brilliantly by writer and artist alike - with every panel leaping from the page to capture the reader's attention; there's an intricacy to almost every panel that keeps the eye on it long after the words have been read.

Colours add to the period feel and no two characters look the same. There are some wonderful transitions between scenes (that trick of not-quite-overlapping dialogue works brilliantly), some of which feature the characters looking out of the page to another whose point of view we share, drawing us into the action. There are double-crosses aplenty, fistfights, sinster henchmen, and a femme fatale which - combined with the myths and legends of the world - serve to emulate rather than imitate the genre. It never feels like a spoof, or something that's been made deliberately quirky to attract attention. The care and detail is evident on every page - even the pyramids are to scale, being no taller than the palm trees that grow next to them.

Matt and Sara have created something wonderful here, a tale that will appeal to fans of Indiana Jones and Rick O'Connell, making MULP everything I hoped it would be, and more besides.

Wednesday, 23 April 2014

The Storm Passes...

... or "Why I Killed A Blog".

It seemed a good idea at the time. The End.

Back in the mists of time, before even this blog was a twinkle in the cat's eye, I setup a blog called Storm Brewing. It never saw a post until earlier this month, when I decided it would be my new site to review comics. Why a separate site? I don't know, but I supposed it was there for a reason, and I wanted to separate a 'serious' review site from this much more personal blog.

Now some time has passed, I've decided I can also review on A Flash Of Midnight, as well as share my usual witty banter/inane drivel* (*delete as applicable). You see, even in the three brief posts I've written for Storm Brewing, I wax nostalgic about comics and, admittedly, repeat a few things I've already said here in the past. I can't help myself; even my review of the Newcastle Comic Con was filled with the emotions that make me, rather than a straight-forward descriptive piece. It's hardly a world-shattering revelation, but perhaps it's one I had to make, to be comfortable with my presence in the blogverse.

There's no need for a 'new me', no need for another blog or another Twitter account. Just A Flash Of Midnight and @awdscrawl - along with all the right words, hopefully in the right order.

And you, of course. Thanks to everyone (both of you?) who reads this, has enjoyed it, and will hopefully enjoy it in the future. And, if you know anyone who makes comics, pass my name their way; I'd love to read and review their work. It warms my heart that those who followed my new (also soon to be erased) Twitter account now follow me on @awdscrawl, too.

So that's goodnight from me, and a farewell to Storm Brewing. I've not been away, yet it feels great to be back.

Sunday, 30 March 2014

Book Reviews

I recently had the good fortune to review a couple of brilliant books for Starburst Magazine.

The first was The Forbidden Library by Django Wexler, a YA portal fantasy that really struck a chord with me. Click on the link below to see what I thought:


The second was The Three by Sarah Lotz, which I devoured in a couple of days. The concept of it intrigued the 1990's Dean Koontz fan in me, but the book is utterly unique, thought-provoking and chilling. Again, the link is below:


It's difficult to condense thoughts and feelings into a few hundred words, suffice to say both books hooked me for different reasons. I haven't linked to reviews before, but I still feel the urge to SHOUT about these two.

Consider yourself shouted at, dear reader.

Wednesday, 19 March 2014

History Lessons

History is fascinating.

I've learned that this week, simply by dipping my toe into the waters of research for no more than fifteen to twenty minutes. The sad thing - which I'll brush over, although I'm sure it's incredibly important - is that humanity doesn't seem to have learned too many lessons over that last couple of centuries. Wars are still fought for all the wrong reasons (is there a good one?), the divide between rich and poor is huge, and politicians are still, well... politicians, I guess.

A bfief aside: Tony Benn has died in the last week and, whatever may have been thought of him, I'll always remember him (albiet vaguely) as someone who stood up for what he believed and never swayed from it. His best quote? I'd go for "I left parliament so I could become a politician", which sums it all up quite nicely. Aside ends.

What's amazed me about my research is the discovery of what's happened over the last two-hundred years in the area where I live. It's steeped in history, both good and bad, most of which has come as a surprise. Bryan Talbot's Alice In Sunderland had much the same effect, making me feel sadly ignorant of the nearby world around me. I've known about the myths of dragons in these here parts, but to know that I may have walked on the same paths as Lewis Carroll is equally amazing.

Anyway, all this history has given me a world for my two characters - Adamson and Wood - to inhabit. That world ties in with a role-playing campaign I'm about to start, along with a completed short story set several decades later in the 1960's. And, while I'm still riding on the enthusiasm I encountered at Newcastle Film and Comic Con, if there's anyone in the know who would like to help me create a comic based on any of the above, I wouldn't be adverse to having a chat.

I'm ridiculously excited about all of this, and enjoying the writing too, in a way I haven't been since finishing my fantasy novel Requiem for the Grey Man. A couple of years of struggle, trying to come up with the next 'great' idea, have resulted in several starts, but nothing concrete, other that that short story I've just mentioned. I'm feeling good about this one.

Wednesday, 12 March 2014

A Story for Lent

I once likened a large gap betweeen blogs as having to blow the dust off an old book - for this one, you've had to travel across the world, outsmart some villains, then dig for it like buried treasure. Indiana Jones and Jack Colton, eat your heart out.

Anyway... hello. How are you? Good, I hope.

I've no excuse for not blogging for so long, other than to admit it's slipped my mind for many months while I've been plotting/throwing away various ideas for my next writing project. It's been tough, to be honest; there's been various crises of confidence, worries that I'm a pale imitation of those I admire, or simply just not good enough. Now, though, it all feels like it's coming together.

Lent has inspired me to get back to this blog. Traditionally a time of denial and absintence (I've given up chocolate and the multitude of biscuits I scoff on the sly), I've looked at it another way and given up... ahem... not just putting my backside in the chair and getting on with writing. This blog is part of the plan (after all, I managed the A to Z challenge last year) and, as well as my stories and - if it pays off - an original roleplaying campaign along side them, I've setup #40daystory on Twitter.

Basically, this involves me trying to tell a story in the format of a tweet a day over Lent (47 days including the Sundays), coming to it fresh every day, unplanned and quite raw. As I've no idea where it's going to go, it may turn out to be utter garbage, but it's an idea I've acted upon, whih is the whole point.

So, I'm back. This time, I intend to hang around a bit longer, and I'd be delighted if you joined me for the ride.