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Now that the bulk of the work on the Small Tales and Fairy Fails Kickstarter campaign is over, it’s time to talk Firelight Isle again! January was an especially productive month for the re-write. I’ve finished another draft, and as far as I’m concerned, this is it! I still have a meeting with the editor later this month to confirm that he thinks I’m on the right track, but fingers crossed I’ll be back on to drawing thumbnails in March! ^_^ I’m very excited for this, especially given how long this re-write has taken. Since there hasn’t been anything visual to show for quite some time, I’ll leave you with an image of the pile of drafts I’ve accrued (not including the latest one, which is still on the computer at the moment).

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Between 2011 and 2012, I produced a number of short comics for The Phoenix Weekly Story Comic, a fantastic magazine for all ages. Since then, I’ve been plotting to self-publish them as a 42-page collection. So it was that Small Tales and Fairy Fails was born! The comics have all been drawn and made, the book has all been put together, and I’ve picked out a printer (the fantastic comicprintinguk.com), but unlike the other mini-comics I’ve self-published, the cost to print a 42-page, perfect bound book is beyond my reach to pay for up front.

That’s where Kickstarter comes in! By pre-ordering the book, you can help me to raise the cost of a small print run ahead of time, and get a neat collection of short stories whilst you’re at it! As of now, there are only 48 hours left to preorder a copy! Click here to check out the perks and get more details!

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I have sent the following email to my MP, MEPs and several Commissioners in the European Parliament. If you have a small business or are a sole trader affected by the new EU VAT and VAT-MOSS rules, you can make your voice heard by doing the same – ideally use your own language and describe your own situation in your email.
You can find who your MP and MEPs are here (google their names to find their email addresses once you’ve identified them): https://www.writetothem.com/
And the following Commissioners should be copied in:
David Gauke: gauked@parliament.uk
You can find more information on who to include in your email here: http://euvataction.org/
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At the heart of storytelling for comics lies the relationship between language and image. A comic is defined by that particular mix of the two that makes it a comic. But when you try to pin that relationship down, it gets slippery! Comics can morph from Posy Simmonds’ prose-hybrid Gemma Bovery to “silent” stories like Jiro Taniguchi’s The Walking Man without anyone batting an eyelid.

These two examples lie on opposite ends of a huge storytelling spectrum that sometimes feels too broad for one medium to contain comfortably. When we say “comics”, it really encompasses a lot! Despite this amazing diversity of expression, the idea that comics lack cultural or literary merit is still common, and the lack of public understanding about comics is still startling.

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Here’s another part of the process of making The Firelight Isle that I haven’t discussed much… the editor!
As I’ve mentioned before, the lovely and incredibly experienced David Fickling has been editing The Firelight Isle since very early on in its life. David has had an incredible career and knows story-telling inside out… he’s helped to take The Firelight Isle from a collection of related themes, character sketches and events, to a genuine story, all without directly suggesting what I should do with the writing, or where the plot should go. Here’s a little snippet from his bio:

In his first job at Oxford University Press he signed up Philip Pullman’s The Ruby in the Smoke, and has published Philip’s books ever since, including the multi-million selling His Dark Materials trilogy. Later he set up Doubleday’s program of original children’s books: the launch list included Philip Pullman and Jacqueline Wilson (whom David teamed up with artist Nick Sharratt). David is the man behind both the Goosebumps and Horrible Histories phenomenon, he remembers being told kids don’t like history! In more recent years he published Mark Haddon’s The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time (bestseller and award winning play) and John Boyne’s The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas, Jenny Downham’s Before I Die and Andy Mulligan’s Trash – all international bestsellers and big time Hollywood movies.

He’s now publisher at the newly independent David Fickling Books, and I’m hoping that after The Firelight Isle has finished it’s run on the web, that it will eventually be collected by DFB into a lovely printed edition. The details and certainty of that publication are still up in the air though, because the way we’re approaching the creation of this story is as a whole… both David and I are keen that no corners are cut in the writing, and that (although the story is being released episodically) we approach the overall narrative with as much attention and care as any novel receives in editing. There’s no commitment to the book until it’s all top notch from beginning to middle to end, and last time we met, we agreed that the story needed quite a bit of work.

Given that, I’ve gone out on a limb somewhat in even drawing and publishing Chapter 1, but I feel that there are some concessions to be made for the webcomic format. I wanted to get the first part of the story out there so that I could gauge how the story was sitting as a series of stand-alone episodes and chapters, and I’m glad that I did. Having finished these 30 pages has really solidified how I see the characters and world, to the point where I don’t think my re-draft would have been effective if I hadn’t already finished Chapter 1.

The only snag with this method of creation is that webcomics should run to a tight schedule, but editing a 300+ page graphic novel runs to a different kind of time-table. David (having just set up a publishing company) is a pretty busy guy, and handing in a draft for him to look at means waiting until we can discuss it properly. I have a meeting set with him for the end of July, but until then I can’t really do anything more on The Firelight Isle.

This is kinda frustrating, so please bear with me over the next three weeks or so. I’ll be posting news about how things went after the meeting is done!

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I’M DONE!!! This re-draft has ended up taking up a massive amount more time than I expected, but it’s fantastic to see it all together. The first third of the story is all in finished pages or thumbnails, the second third is a hybrid of thumbnails and script, and the last third (which has had the most re-working done to it) is all script. I’m pleased with how it’s all gone, I feel like the focus is much tighter and the story more engaging around the end of the second third/beginning of the last third. Now I just gotta run the gauntlet of edits…! More soon.

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No new pictures to show this week, but hey, words are exciting too right? And I haven’t talked much about the writing process yet, cause the drawing had been so all-consuming up until now.

Last time I checked in, I mentioned having to redraft chapter 2. The redraft was necessary because actually knuckling down and drawing the first chapter of this story has had a much more profound impact on the way I think about the characters and their environment than I expected. Bringing the little nuances of finished storytelling into being – like contemplating the small, practical details of finished environments – has set all sorts of ideas tumbling in my head, and brought my grasp of the  wholeness  of the world of The Firelight Isle into sharp focus.

This may sound pretty vague… I mean the story has been written and thumbnailed, already. None-the-less, there are scenes later on in the story that I struggled with whilst writing them, and this nebulous new understanding I’ve arrived at has shed light on why that was the case. I’ve also worried on and off that the middle third of the story lacks focus, and the reasons for that have suddenly become very clear!

In what has been a slightly fevered few weeks of writing, I’ve dragged together all my old notes and put together a comprehensive and organised database of info on the story, updating details that have changed and adding new entries on culture, tradition, character and theme when appropriate.
Having done this means that I’ve been able to dig into the story, tighten up all the loose bolts and restructure the weaker sections… all without running into any frustrations other than the regular interruptions of life!

The rewrite is still in progress… I’ve restructured the whole story in synopsis form, and am now going through each chapter in detail, writing new scenes and editing dialogue on old ones. The final result will be a real Frankenstein’s monster of script, cut-up thumbnails, and notes-to-self, but I can’t wait to have it finished so I can start bringing life to Chapter 2!

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So, last week I was at MCM Expo promoting The Firelight Isle! Here’s a quick snap of my table set-up:

I’m especially excited about the table cloth, which I got printed at woven monkey, (who had excellent customer service) and is actually a pattern that appears in the story a little later!

I had a great time, and the comic seemed to be received quite well. Thanks so much to everyone who stopped by and chatted, bought a copy or got a sketch! I’m hoping to do October MCM as well, and I’ll be at Lakes and Thought Bubble later this year too!

On the down-side, exhibiting meant that I had to spend the twodays I would normally have spent working on the comic itself on preparation and travel, so no progress to announce for Chapter 2 yet. Watch this space!