A Year of Books, Films and Random Lunacy

It’s been a year to this very day since the launch of Books, Films and Random Lunacy, a period of time that has felt as brief as it has remarkable. When I first clicked the button and my blog went live, I didn’t know if it would find an audience; or be seen by a living soul for that matter. My only concern at that early stage was crafting a vessel in which I could house my writing. An online realm to share a few of my short stories and prose pieces, as well as improve my journalistic work such as reviews and articles, with the goal of creating an eclectic and imaginative body of work. Beyond that my expectations were modest. Like every determined and hungry wordsmith, I hoped it would take off, become a springboard that would propel me toward bigger opportunities, but my primary endeavour was to hone my skills. When I began to create my first tales and ramblings, I had nothing more than my imagination, and an outstanding piece of artwork by my genius friend The Astral Gypsy to offer to the gods of writing. With these debut blog posts in my virtual grasp, I cast them forth into the universe and tentatively awaited the verdict.

As the stats started to rise and a modest yet hungry social media following began to accumulate, I lowered my head to the keyboard and hammered away.

I write all my pieces from a small pet-ladened dwelling in Warwickshire, and it still baffles me when something I’ve written is read somewhere as far away as Canada or Kenya. It’s truly incredible how interactive our world has become with the advent of the Internet; it’s fantastic to think how many people we can reach and converse with via our computers and Smartphones. Thanks to this, Random Lunacy has become a universal language.

These last twelve months have been wonderful, I’ve gained commissions and publications, met and worked with many extremely talented people and come face-to-face with some of my biggest inspirations who have bestowed life-changing advice upon me.

So many people have supported me and aided my creative growth over the past year; forgive this indulgent moment as I thank but a few…

Thanks to ‘The Master of Young Adult Horror’ Darren Shan for giving me the opportunity to review an advanced copy of ‘Sunburn’ and for being the subject of my very first professional interview.

Thanks to my fellow writer and good pal David Court for supporting this blog from its humble beginnings.

Ta very much to my tea-chugging mentor and all-round nice chap William Gallagher for all his generous support, time and guidance. Couldn’t have done it without you my good man.

Thanks a lot to everybody at Writing West Midlands for all the opportunities they’ve gifted me and for constantly encouraging me to challenge myself artistically.

Thank you to my friends, from across the pond: writer and podcast personality Darrel Smith for his feedback, support and for giving my work a platform on The MailMan’s Survival Guide to the Galaxy. Big up John and Brandon from the Games and Graphics podcast. All the best you guys.

Thanks to Rees Finlay, it was a true pleasure to be a part of The Indie Project Magazine.

Thank you to my friends Al and Maggie Davison, to Al especially, for the mind-blowing Shakespearian skeleton that sits scratching away with its quill at the head of this page.

Most importantly though, thank you dear reader. Yes, YOU. None of this would be possible without your good self. If you didn’t take the time to visually consume this very sentence, I wouldn’t be doing this. I truly appreciate it, you’re the best.

Expect more random lunacy as 2016 rolls on.

 

 

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A Chat with… David Court

For the debut instalment of ‘A Chat with,’ the newest segment to fill the virtual pages of Books, Films and Random Lunacy; I talk to the author of ‘The Shadow Cast by the World and ‘Forever and Ever Armageddon’ David Court.

Hello David, thanks for taking the time to chat with me here at the ink-stained headquarters of Books, Films and Random Lunacy. Could you tell the reader a bit more about yourself?

I’m a carbon-based lifeform who has thrown himself into the world of literature far later than he would have liked. By day I’m a mild mannered manager of a software department, and by night I’m typically scribbling the kind of stuff to make you laugh, think, or give you nightmares. All three, if I’m feeling particularly mischievous.

 

You have 2 published anthologies of short stories and another on the way, but where did it all start? When did the writing bug first sink its teeth in?

 

I’ve always been a keen writer, but have never been that confident in what I could produce. It was a few years back when I joined a site called “Readwave”, which is basically a place where you can submit stories and people can comment on them. I’d written a horror story for myself – “The Shadow Cast by the world” (my first published work) and it went down really well. I submitted more stuff, and people seemed to like it. It was only after a year or so that I realised I had enough stories to bung together into a reasonably sized anthology collection. Even though I’d always poo-pooed self-publishing, I did it to test the waters and people only went out and bloody spent money on it, the rotters.

 

Who would you say are your biggest literary influences?

 

I love reading, always have. I developed a Daredevil like sense of spatial perception as a child, able to walk with my head in a book whilst avoiding walking into people or walls. Because of my love for comics, I think my writing has a bit of a comic book sensibility to it – writers I’m heavily influenced by in that field are people such as Alan Moore, Grant Morrison, Neil Gaiman and Garth Ennis. With regards to your more traditional literature, I adore Stephen King and Kim Newman and the sweeping fantasy epics of Tolkien and Feist and they had to have influenced me somewhere along the line. Although my favourite book of all time is “Bad Wisdom”, a drugged up road trip about the escapades of Bill Drummond (formerly of KLF fame) and Zodiac Mindwarp. Go figure.

 

Let’s talk more about your anthologies, ‘The Shadow Cast by the World’ and ‘Forever and ever, Armageddon.’ How would you describe them to those who may not be familiar with your writing?

 

I’ll be brutally honest in that they’ve been hopelessly mislabelled on Amazon. Somehow they’ve both ended up categorised as fiction anthologies, whereas “The Shadow Cast by the World” is supposed to be an in-depth analysis of Northwestern Native American Cuisine (including my favourite part; a long lost traditional recipe for Psindamoakan, a foodstuff made from parched cornmeal and maple sugar). “Forever and ever, Armageddon” fared even worse, as that’s supposed to be a collection of sheet music designed for the Maori Nose flute, or nguru.

In all seriousness though, both books are a collection of all my written work for the past few years. There’s no overall theme to either of them, but looking at them they’re predominantly science fiction and horror. There’s a bit of experimentation with poetry, and I’d like to think there’s a bit of dark humour in there as well. I’ve been compared to Neil Gaiman by a few people which is incredibly flattering, but I’m not sure I see it myself…

 

As well as those books you’ve also had your work featured in a number of other short story collections, the newest of which being a book entitled ‘Caped’. Would you be so kind as to tell us more about it?

 

I’ve always been a huge fan of superhero stories. When the fiction bug grabbed me a few years back one of the first stories I did was a superhero one, but as it featured a raft of DC characters I wrote it more for fun than to ever see it published (pssst.. drop me a line and I’ll let you read it). A little while back one of my friends saw a submission call for a superhero anthology by Local Hero Press LLC – an American publisher. I’d had an idea floating around for a little while, having wanted to play with the concept of the continuing rivalries of retired superheroes and supervillains way past their prime, and thought it’d be a nice fit. It was a story I thoroughly enjoyed fleshing out, and I sent it off. They wrote back to me a while later saying they liked the story, but with a few reservations – the ending didn’t work for them. After I’d done my petulant author stomping around, I realised that they were right. I developed a better ending, and they’ve printed it in that sweet spot of the final story in the anthology.

(As an aside, and as a shameless plug, the story from Caped – “Sovereign’s Last Hurrah” – will be printed in my next anthology collection “Scenes of Mild Peril” which is tentatively scheduled for the middle of 2016. I’ll print this story as well as the one with the original ending, so the audience can decide which one they prefer. It’s like a Directors cut, or something. Personally, I think Local Hero Press were right in pushing me to write the one they eventually went with).

 

As you’ve mentioned, you have a great appreciation for the comic book medium, not only as a reader but a writer. You’ve recently worked with ‘Twisted Dark’ writer Neil Gibson of the indie comics imprint T Pub. As a result, one of your scripts is soon to be included in the first volume of the new ‘Twisted Sci-fi’ graphic novel from T Pub. Can you tell the reader about how that project came about?

 

I’m often being accused of not self-promoting enough and when a good friend of mine told me about Indies Day (an event originally organised by Neil Gaiman in which independent authors would help out a local bookshop) I decided to ask if I could tag along. Michael at the Big Comfy Bookshop at Fargo Village (Coventry) was good enough to let me take part – and it neatly coincided with the release of “Forever and Ever, Armageddon”. At the same event were Elizabeth Earle (a very good local writer), Mike Carey (of “The Girl with all the gifts” fame) and Neil Gibson from T Pub. I purchased a copy of all their books, and most of them purchased mine. I didn’t think anything more of it until I got an email out of the blue several months later from Neil. He liked my stuff, and wanted me to do something for Twisted Dark and their new title Twisted Sci-Fi. We chatted about it in London, and he now has an assortment of my scripts for both. I’ll let you know more as this gets closer to fruition, but it’s very exciting.

 

Aside from your prose and comics writing, you also have a blog, a very well-written one if I may say so, called FoldsFive. I would strongly urge you to check it out dear reader, it’s well worth a few minutes of your time. How long has FoldsFive been going, and what got you started on the highly addictive drug known as blogging?

 

You’re too kind. I’ll come here again. The FoldsFive blog has fallen by the wayside as I’ve been too busy, but back in 2008 I started the page just as a way of doing something slightly creative. It seemed to gain a bit of a following, and I found it particularly cathartic at certain traumatic periods of my life (the death of my mum, my own struggles with mental and physical illness) and other people seemed to like reading it. It became a kind of all-purpose notice board to throw anything I could think of at; rants, bits of satire, some of my earlier fiction. Every now and then a guest writer would come along and stick something on there, and it was just a nice collection of articles. It’s been superceded by the www.davidjcourt.co.uk stuff now though, and I might just have to officially retire the old foldsfive site

 

We’re both from the Midlands, an area of Britain that with the exception of Shakespeare, is not renowned for its writers. When I started writing my eccentric tales and creative ramblings, I was under the false impression that there were no outlets for creators in our region. However, when you look beneath the surface, there is a vibrant and eclectic scene in the Midlands. What are your thoughts on all the talented people doing big things in our home region?

 

I think there’s always been a surplus of home-grown talent in the Midlands. I blame the bleak weather and the difficulty of being distracted by the seaside. In the brief time I’ve been involved with the local literary scene, I’ve met an incredibly talented bunch of people – the writers from KnightWatch press, Elizabeth Earle. It’s always been there, you just need to look for it. Rees (Finlay) and his team are doing incredible stuff with the Indie Project, and I’ve heard rumour of this sneaky urchin called George Bastow who is writing some great stuff and is – apparently – a damned nice chap as well. He is clearly a threat and must be destroyed.

 

It’s been a pleasure talking to you David, before you go back to your keyboard and your highly intricate plan to take over the world, what new writings can the reader expect from you in the future?

 

I’ve halted work on the robot army, as it just wasn’t going anywhere. That sentient Artificial intelligence is a bugger to debug – So at the moment I’m putting the finishing touches to Scenes of Mild Peril, mainly working out what’s going in it and what isn’t. I’m also still sending my stories out to a variety of different anthologies and waiting for some of my already approved stuff to appear out there. I’ve got an inkling of a comic script idea, which a local illustrator (Simon Myers) and myself keep threatening to start working on – which will quite honestly be awesome. Anything to keep the Amazon Author page updated. So, more of the same basically – it seems to be working quite well so far.

Find out more about David and his work by clicking here: http://www.davidjcourt.blogspot.co.uk

Follow David on Twitter: @FoldsFive

Anniversary Announcements and My Thoughts on ‘The Department of Ability’

January; an important month that brings with it new beginnings and rejuvenating starts. Four weeks, in which the plastic is torn from calendars and the spines of virgin diaries are bent as their pages accumulate information and data in preparation for the coming year. A period of time in which plans are made and discarded and resolutions are broken and obtained.

January has always been a significant time for me as I celebrate my birthday on its 11th day, and as we near the middle of January 2016, it no longer represents a time of a New Year and a birthday for me, but an anniversary. The end of this month marks a year of Books, Films and Random Lunacy, and to celebrate I will be launching the first in a new segment to be found on this blog entitled, ‘A Chat with.’ Where I converse with fellow writers and creators about their work, discovering more about their individual creative processes and what inspires them. Expect the first instalment next week and feel free to join my talented guest and I as we discuss random lunacy in all its forms.

Whilst I have your attention dear reader, I would urge you to check out a wonderful piece of artistry I recently discovered through social media.

‘Department of Ability’ is a comic book series written and illustrated by artist Dan White which centres on a unique group of superheroes with extraordinary powers. White created the title for his nine-year-old daughter Emily who was born with Spina Bifida but remains fun-loving and courageous despite her limited mobility.

When the family realised there were no characters in movies, TV or literature who their daughter could relate to, White set about creating a story featuring a collective of heroes whose greatest strengths lie in their disabilities with Emily herself as the main character.

As you know dear reader, I have a condition called Quadriplegic Cerebral Palsy that affects all four of my limbs to various degrees and means I am a full-time wheelchair-user.

For as long as I can remember I have been frustrated and quite frankly saddened by the lack of disabled characters and personalities on our television screens and in the pages of magazines. It surprises me in a century as enlightened as ours, where the majority of lifestyles and body-types are catered for that disability somehow remains a taboo.

All my life, I have longed to see more positive and complete portrayals of disabled people in the public domain. A wish that was granted in 2012, when the Paralympics received much wider mainstream coverage and Channel 4’s comedy show, ‘The Last Leg’ gained vast popularity stretching far beyond its Paralympic roots. However there’s still a long road to travel before an equal representation is achieved within mainstream media; hopefully this comic will help shorten the journey.

Nothing thrills me more than seeing people like Super Emily and her dad not only embracing her differences but celebrating them as well. I am happy to say that this truly heart-warming project is building quite the following with supporters including the charity Scope and Paralympic legend Dame Tanni Grey-Thompson. It is inspiring to see people creating something delightful and empowering from the toughest situations and with luck the ‘Department of Ability’ are not only born to be different and save the world, but to change it as well.

 

Check out the Department of Ability at: www.departmentofability.com

Follow them on Twitter: @DeptOfAbility

Find them on Facebook at:   Department of Ability Facebook

Comic Book Review: ‘Papercuts and Inkstains’ issues 1 – 3B By Madius Comics

Madius Comics are a comic book imprint that are making a big splash on the British indie scene with their multitude of inventively quirky titles created by writers Rob Jones and Mike Sambrook and a motley crew of illustrators. They are the brains behind an array of indie comics including ‘The Kings Leap.’ ‘Ramlock Investigates’ and their flagship anthology series ‘Papercuts and Inkstains.’

 

Papercuts and Inkstains #1

In the debut issue of the above-mentioned anthology, the reader is thrown headfirst into the wonderfully wacky realm of Madius Comics with a strip entitled ‘No.’ This amusing chunk of sci-fi serves as an interesting insight into the occupational lives of Time Adjudicators, individuals who have the hectic job of controlling time. This futuristic black and white tale is a collaboration between one half of Madius’s writing duo Rob Jones, and one of the indie scene’s foremost illustrators Nick Gonzo. It focuses on a Friday afternoon in the workplace of the Time Adjudicators as they try to keep the complicated and overlapping elements of time and space in check whilst rushing towards the end of another week at the grindstone.

The second story in this instalment is a hilarious tale written by Rob Jones and illustrated by Kevin Pospisil that explores what would happen if the zombie apocalypse began in a small Yorkshire town. ‘By ‘Eck on Earth’ is a delightful horror comic which is unapologetically British in both its humour and tone. Each panel is overflowing with dark gags that are expertly stitched into the narrative like a satirical tapestry. The application of Northern dialect in each word balloon is a joy to read; seeing any sort of British vernacular or regional slang in comics is a true rarity and something Jones uses to fantastic affect in ‘By ‘Eck on Earth.’

The final strip in issue one introduces the reader to The ‘Profits of Doom,’ a group of inept Druids who attempt to bring about the end of the world. Rob Jones and Mike Sambrook’s exquisitely penned script is only enhanced by Mike Smith’s charming monochrome art. The first of countless jokes in this strip takes the reader by surprise like a comedic punch to the gut as these four occultists begin to bicker about the components of their apocalyptic ritual. The story reads like an illustrated comedy sketch as we go from panel to panel being slapped in face with absurdist gags. Sambrook and Jones have created a unique niche for themselves with ‘Profits of Doom’ and have injected indie comics with a powerful syringe full of laughter.

 

Papercuts and Inkstains #2

‘Cast Adrift’ is a sci-fi comic written by Rob Jones and drawn by Rory Donald that centres on an astronaut sent to explore an alien colony on a distant planet. This sinister strip is an unexpectedly serious one that gives the reader a glimpse into the more dramatic side of Jones’ imagination. It is nicely written but possesses very little of Madius’s trademark wit and doesn’t fit naturally with the overall vibe of the issue. The illustrations within ‘Cast Adrift’ match the creepy undertone of the narrative perfectly, but although well-rendered, Donald’s heavy black colour palette is fairly overpowering to the eye.

‘Together Forever’ is a werewolf tale with a difference, as the police are called to investigate the disappearance of an overworked family man and his loyal pet dog. This darkly comedic tale marks the first time Sambrook takes sole charge of the writing duties in the series and he definitely leaves his own stamp on the book. The story is just as funny as any of Madius’s offerings, but there is a beautifully macabre shift in plot.

It has the sensibility of a Tim Burton film and a quirkily satirical narrative that is exquisitely re-enforced by Jim Lavery’s professional-level art.

In the closing strip of this second issue, we reconvene with the Beatles of black magic, the ‘Profits of Doom.’ In this comic the boys find themselves struggling to restore the humanity of George’s wife Mary after she has been transformed into a demonic monster. The strip serves as yet another example of the writing and illustrative talents to be found at Madius Comics with consistent work from Jones, Sambrook and Smith.

Papercuts and Inkstains #3A

The third issue is split into two halves, 3A and 3B like two sides of a vintage record

The A-side begins with a comic entitled ‘A Role of the Dice’ penned by Jones and Sambrook and illustrated by Angela Sprecher. The Old West strip about a cluster of renegades who plan to overthrow a casino that is draining the town of all its collateral, is an eccentric mixture of a Randolph Scott picture and the Looney Tunes. Sprecher’s classic cartoonist style is akin to ‘The Beano’ and ‘The Dandy’ that harks back to the good old days of British comics, giving the reader a brief but heart-warming reminder of those timeless comics that are sadly falling into extinction.

‘Vampire Wonderland’ is a horror strip written by Rob Jones with artwork by Paul Moore which centres on a courageous young woman attempting to outrun the bloodsuckers in the vampire apocalypse. The first person narrative is well-written, amusing and as sharp as the sword our protagonist wields. Paul Moore’s artwork is by far the best thing about this strip.

The composition and look of the art is akin to Ian Gibson’s work in ‘The Ballad of Halo Jones’ and is overflowing with delicate manga influences.

The final tale in this issue, a slot that is normally reserved for George, Reginald, Colin and Keith (AKA the Profits of Doom) is filled by a comedic and bloodthirsty story called ‘Slaycation.’ Written by Mike Sambrook and illustrated by Rosie Packwood, this unexpectedly chilling tale chronicling the holiday of a group of friends with rather unorthodox pastimes is yet another fine example of Sambrook’s delightfully dark imagination. The Tarantino-esque violence displayed within the strip is perfectly balanced by Rosie Packwood’s monochrome artwork.

Madius have made a brave decision by choosing the unpredictable option of replacing ‘Profits of Doom’ with an alternative strip and therefore simultaneously refusing to pigeonhole themselves.

 

Papercuts and Inkstains #3B

Now we come to the B-side of this comic book L.P. with a strip entitled ‘F.P.S.’ an intense tale chronicling a battle between interplanetary soldiers and alien insurgents penned by Rob Jones and illustrated by Dan Butcher. The highlight of ‘F.P.S.’ is without question Butcher’s innovative artwork, as the majority of the comic is drawn as if being witnessed first-hand through a sniper’s visor.

‘The Perplexity’ is a unique piece of graphic storytelling written by Nick Gonzo and illustrated by Brian Burke. This intriguing story works as both a pastiche of and homage to the superhero genre. Nick Gonzo’s narrative is full of stereotypical comic book situations that are lovingly satirised to fine effect, before we meet our quirky antihero and the storyline transforms.

The genuinely thought-provoking dialogue which this eccentrically illustrated Crusader speaks is not only well rendered but a salute to some of the anarchic heroes who have graced the pages of comics in generations past. Gonzo and Burke have created a memorable tale which serves as a fine example of comic book noir.

In the last strip of this issue, the reader returns to the world of the ‘Profits of Doom’; As the quartet of Druids attempt to defeat the demonic god they have accidentally summoned who is intent on destroying the world. In the course of this comic we see boys on a desperate search to locate a copy of an ancient tome called the Grimoire in order to put an end to the a apocalypse and stop their favourite pub from being demolished in the process. This strip not only contains the usual array of laughs, but some outstanding artwork and panel designs. Mike Smith portrays an apocalyptic landscape perfectly with a well-balanced blend of horror and absurdity. From a mutant cat who favours toying with buses over balls of string, to a gigantic human meatball forged from terrified bystanders, Smith’s pen knows no limit. Another cracker from the minds of Jones and Sambrook.

‘Papercuts and Inkstains’ is a truly unique and funny anthology series that is testament to the level of diversity and talent to be found in British indie comics. The title possesses a sense of levity and nostalgia which is far too rare in the medium today. Madius Comics have many qualities that sets their work apart from most creators, but if Jones, Sambrook and company should be known for anything, it’s making comics comical again.