Sunday, 20 December 2009

Round-Up of the Year

The recent and very unexpected failure of Borders has, of course, left its mark on Fenriswulf's current production schedule. Gone (but not forgotten) is the ashcan project - small freebie (or low-priced) paperback samples of our catalogue to date, designed to sit by tills in similar locations in-store. Once we find another bricks-and-mortar outlet for books again, this project will return. (It is in fact complete, and good to go straight to the printers - but as with all print-on-demand, I will get them printed when there is actually some possibility of demand...)

Mr. Chaz has been happily busy with drawing and illustration commissions since the Spring of this year which is why not much has been happening on the new books front, and this looks likely to continue well into next year too. Fenriswulf in general is not so much on the backburner, but rather branching out. There's a possibility of new personnel appearing on the scene before too long also, so watch this space.

A new comic strip, originally conceived as a traditional 3-panel webcomic, is also due to make an appearance somewhere in the very near future. A couple of publishing collaborations may also be on the cards in the New Year, but with nothing definite as yet, we can't say too much at this juncture. More info, of course, will be revealed as and when we have it, however, with Fenriswulf becoming at least as art-oriented now as book-oriented, we're in the process of considering some projects based on visual art - such as those listed in the experimental Cafe Press store - for example, a series of T-shirts, greetings cards, or calendars (which is looking like the most likely option so far).

In the meantime, have a good holiday and we'll see you all in the New Year for what we hope to be a busy and productive 2010.

Friday, 4 December 2009

Bad Day at Borders

Wednesday night: I had the rather unpleasant task of stopping off at Dundee's Borders store for the final time. I'd heard that they were closing down very soon and were selling off stock, so had decided to reclaim all of FB's remaining in-store copies before they vanished completely off the face of the planet. The huge "Closing Down! 50% Off!" banners had attracted browsers like vultures to a dying buffalo - I have never, in the past year and a half of regular visits to the store, seen it even so remotely busy.

After I'd navigated the knots of bargain-guzzlers, I asked the staff ( pleasant and polite as always, despite the circumstances ) if I could remove my stock. The whole business was over in a few minutes - a cancelled receipt signed, a chat about the general crumminess of the timing of the closure 3 weeks before Christmas, and I left with thanks for their support so far, and an armload of Maranathas and Mandrakes. One or two seemed to have been sold, but I didn't have the heart to hassle the staff to find out for me - I only hoped the buyers were happy with their purchases.

A strangely dispiriting experience, all told. One shouldn't feel sorry for huge global chain stores, who have systematically wiped out the smaller independent and family-run shops - and I don't, really. It's the ordinary people at the sharp end of it all which makes you feel sorry. At the end of it, I have a stack of books that I can split up and redistribute elsewhere, but they're all looking for a new job at the most expensive time of the year, should an unlikely last-minute buyout not occur.

What it does mean for FW is that I should probably get off my proverbial in the New Year and seek some smaller, more varied, stockists for the back catalogue, as well as the forthcoming new titles. We shall just have to wait and see what 2010 brings...

Saturday, 28 November 2009

Bad News for Borders and Bookstores Everywhere

I was very unhappy to hear the news during this week that Borders had filed for administration, having hit a very rocky trading period:

Link to UK Reuters

Of course, Borders, with their policy of stocking and promoting local writers and publishers, have been the main high street outlet for Fenriswulf Books to date. The view that the online book stores such as Amazon are responsible for this slump is probably not inaccurate - online stores have no overheads, don't need to pay expensive high street store rent, electricity, or pay staff to stand around all day when business is thin. You can order just about anything from Amazon, and not have to queue up to buy it, or wait 6 weeks for the retailer to import it from abroad.

The problem is, if Borders suffer, what about all the other bricks and mortar stores? If this was the start of a trend, then it's a rather depressing one. I'm sorry, but for all the hype over Kindle and paper-free books of the future - for all the convenience of online shopping - there's still no substitute to browsing through endless shelves of interesting book covers in a real shop, looking through real books at beautifully-printed pictures or illustrations. Sometimes a book can seem fascinating and an essential purchase until you flick through it and realise it's not really what you expected - you can't do that with most books online.

I view the whole electronic book reader concept as little more than a gimmick, and an overpriced one at that. It's really no contest, like trying to compare the experience of watching a movie like Gladiator on a portable DVD player with a 3" screen, against viewing it on an HD home cinema system with surround sound. OK for sitting on a long train journey, but pretty worthless as a long-term replacement.

On a personal note, it's a pretty lousy time of year for the 1000+ UK staff to find out that their jobs are at risk. Especially, from my point of few, those few in my local store whom I've had such great assistance from, and rapport with, over the past year or so. I do hope this isn't the end, and that Borders will continue to stay around, in some form or another, for the foreseeable future.

I certainly don't want to see the day when I have to rush in to reclaim unsold copies of books before a final closing down sale.

Tuesday, 29 September 2009

Slow But Sure...

...is how things have been Fenris-wise lately. Chaz has been (and still is) insanely busy with art commissions and other projects, but is currently working on an "Ashcan" project to promote the current, and forthcoming, Fenriswulf catalogue. In the comics industry an ashcan is a small, usually cheap or free sample issue designed to gather interest for a new series, and it seemed like a good idea to apply that concept to a "free sample" to be placed in bookstores. Based on the format of sample chapters of new novels given away free with Sunday newspapers, a sample of chapter from "Maranatha", a few short stories and comic strips from "A Surfeit of Mandrake" are already in place, with possible inclusion for the "Last Gas Pump" and "Sword of Lochglen" graphic novels.

The first and most obvious store for these would be the local Borders store, with others possibly to follow. But Fenris is still very much alive and gnashing...

Saturday, 11 July 2009

Just Checking In...

Yeah, it's been a long while since I posted, the reason being (still) due to commission work having to take precedence. Paid work is always a priority, I find! And speaking of getting paid, I finally managed to reach a settlement with Borders over my outstanding pay cheque - yep, the same one I submitted an invoice for back in January - since head office don't seem able to. I've been lucky that everybody in my local branch has bent over backwards to help me out on this venture, with polite and totally professional communications at all times.

I hooked up again with my man Frang to talk about the next project for Fewnriswulf. A compendium of all the "Arf & Mo" strips that were written and drawn over a period from 1998 - 2005, which will be collected into one big daddy volume. The complete unpublished Issue 2 of the titular duo's adventures will form the backbone of the book (in graphic novel format), and will include sketches, one-off character pieces, portraits and other nonsense for the discerning lowbrow funny-animal underground comic book fan. This one will take some time to pull together, and I'm still wondering quite what to do with the Black Flag. I realise now that drawing a graphic novel in pencil was a pretty dumb thing to do, but I didn't know any better back in January 2000. Hell, back then I was still getting over the fact that the world hadn't come to an end...

Due to the projected timescale on the Arf & Mo book (which I don't expect to see completed before the end of the year, and will also have a corresponding website), I've given some thought to what we could bring out in the meantime. Work on "Venus in Saturn" is coming along beautifully, with multi-laytered plot threads weaving a story that grows more complex every time I work on it, but again, that's a loing-term plan. I don't particularly want Fenriswulf not to be able to put out new product for the rest of this year, so possibly another medium other than printed books could be next.

In a possibly related note, my band Jeremiah have just self-pressed our first full-length demo CD. Watch this proverbial space...

Sunday, 24 May 2009

Catching a Breath...

...between commissions, writing, and er, new commisions...

After a month or so in Cuba, Dundee Borders' sales manager returned full of enthusiasm and I had a good chat with him about taking on comic books in future. Graphic novels with ISBNs are the way to go it seems, so I'll be looking to farm out the "Black Flag" project to a new publisher as soon as I have the time. He also helped me restock the shelves with copies of "Mandrake" and "Maranatha", and I was content to leave it at that for the meantime while I press on with the business of writing, and drawing for fun and profit.

Meantime, here's a sneak preview of the proposed cover for "Venus in Saturn", the prequel to "Maranatha", which links to my Deviantart.com account. The book is coming along nicely and has taken some startling twists and turns of late, setting up the backstory for the sequel nicely. The mind-stretching complexity of it all does, however, make me wonder if I'm capable of writing anything that isn't epic, cosmic and labyrinthine in equal measure:


Venus in Saturn: Cover WIP by ~Lord-Retsudo on deviantART

Friday, 17 April 2009

Last Gasp for Lulu

I received an email from a loyal fan of the "Last Gas Pump on the Left" comic the other day. He was pleased with the product and really enjoyed the story but was mystified by the presence of blank pages in the middle of the book. He'd sent me photos explaining the problem, and I realised then that I've now had enough of Lulu's outsourced cowboy printers to abandon them completely.

It's impossible for me to understand how a 28-page PDF file can be turned into a 32 or 36-page book with blank inserts, unless somebody at the local print depot was physically plugged into the mains power supply while setting up the print job. Even then, it's unfathomable.

As this is now the fourth serious issue I've had with Lulu, it's time to move on and take my business elsewhere. The last problem, that with the "Black Flag" pencil art printing too faint to be usable, I can almost, just about, write off - although the fact remains that identical artwork in the "Mandrake" book has printed perfectly across two separate batches.

It's not like I'm making a huge profit at Lulu either. Although a full-colour interior comic would normally be prohibitive for a tiny indy comics outfit to produce, a cover price of £3.99 is as low as I can go while still actually scratching a few pence profit for myself (in this case, about 37p per copy). Add the cost of three useless proof copies, review copies and shipping, and the "Last Gas" project has made a terrific loss to date. However, it has its fans from the days when it existed as an online strip over at Drunkduck, an enthusiastic amateur website for free webcomics (which also currently hosts the complete "Black Flag" graphic novel), and projects such as this were never about the money, anyway.

I've submitted my formal complaint to Lulu regarding this botch so my customer can be provided with a product that isn't a complete disaster, and in the meantime am considering my options for future comic works. With the "Black Flag" graphic novel still good to go, plus forthcoming comics projects "The Sword of Lochglen", "Gruoch" by Frang Mchardy and "Arf & Mo" by Frang and I, Fenriswulf will be putting a lot of comic printing business to Lulu's replacement very soon. We've already discussed getting comics into Forbidden Planet stores and other local comic shops.

The two companies who stand out at present are

Comixpress, and Ka-Blam. Ka-Blam have no set-up fee but seem overall more expensive, while Comixpress have a set-up fee (unlike Lulu) but have a correspondingly lower individual price on single issues.

For me, and Fenriswulf, I think Comixpress have the edge when it comes to print on demand comics. They have a decent attitude, though it seems both companies have their fans, and their good qualitties. A very informative web page: Comixtalk describes it in better detail than I have time to do so here.

Looking at the comments on this page, I'm also glad to see that I'm not the only one affected by the sloppy quality of Lulu's European (Spanish-based) printers. I'll begin talks with my assistant art director (Frang) soon, and once my customer has received a copy of the "Last Gas" comic he actually wanted, it'll be time to move on to the next print company.ka-

Tuesday, 14 April 2009

Intermission...

Well, things went a bit Pete Tong last month, finally. Unfortunately, at the worst possible time. After author Lesley-Anne & I scrambling around like mad thing for a week or more trying to knock her "Medieval Medicine" book into perfect shape, we pushed through a bulk order from Lulu to get to us in time for her historical talk on the 27th. Unfortunately, a strange and not-very-well-explained Lulu-induced FUBAR concerning the front cover put paid to that project.

I felt pretty rotten, in fact. Hated myself for having to tell Lesley the news, especially after all the effort we, and one of her friends, put in to get the text fully up to scratch. Complaining at Lulu wouldn't get us the cover fixed, nor the order in time. Of all the things to mess up, it had to be the one project that really mattered, the one that I had someone else counting on me for...and so on.

As if that wasn't enough, my printed proof of the "Black Flag" graphic novel was a loser, too. The interior inks printed beautifully but the pencilled artwork...well, to say it looked like a bad photocopy is being polite. My complaints were heard but not upheld. I didn't have the energy or the will left to fight it after the failure of the medicine book, though I couldn't understand how "Mandrake", which contains many pencil illustrations, printed out fine across several batches and "Flag" (which strangely, was sent from Spain) fared so badly.

No matter. I'm currently seeking a new printer for the "Flag". All this, plus some on-the-side commission work (and a birthday) explains why I haven't posted here in 5 weeks. I needed some time out from printing, editing, and publishing. However, being positive, I'm determined to bounce back. A long chat with old-time collaborator Frang at the weekend has rejuvinated my interest, and a new comic-strip series will soon be unveiled.

Added to this, some rather startling news from Borders. While continuing to chase up my royalty cheques, I was informed by the way that apparantly they have had some customers in recently, asking about my next book, and suggesting that we discuss my next title later in the month...

...which would be wonderful if I had actually completed it. "Venus in Capricorn" is still in production, but I've been inspired of late, and currently have over 160pp of prose finished. The overall backstory is still developing and I doubt I'll have anything of any finished quality ready by the end of the month when Borders' sales manager returns, but it's a target to aim for, nonetheless. After all, the first draft of "Maranatha" was written in 4 months flat.

The intermission is now over, and I've just picked up the baton again. Keep watching this space...

Thursday, 5 March 2009

Taking Five

Busy, busy old week I've had of it so far...and it's only Thursday night.

Last weekend and most of this week's evenings were spent fretting and working away on Lesley-Anne's manuscript and PDF files for the "Medieval Medecine" Book. It occurred to me at the weekend that we only had 3 weeks to order a sample copy, wait for it to arrive, check it over, order a bulk order, and wait for that to come...all before the 26th of March. Cutting it very very fine, and after some rapid-fire emails to and fro, we finally agreed to go for the final order tonight without seeing the sample first. It's a case of cross fingers, cross legs and hope the printers (and the Royal Mail) do their bit. Lulu's delivery options have had us rather bewildered, with new options I've never seen before and prices far in excess of anything I've ever paid. But the hard work has all been done, to my (and Lesley's) satisfaction, so all we need do now is...wait.

A trip to Borders last night didn't locate my slightly late royalty cheque from Head Office, but I did notice that "Maranatha" had sold out - again - and we seem to have shifted most of the "Mandrakes" too (2 left on shelves, from 5 or 6 copies delivered). I spent most of Saturday shredding "Maranatha" and have now submitted the 9th revision of the text...with luck it'll be the last, too. Every time I picked up a copy of the book lately and read a paragraph, another glitch jumped out me and made me cringe. So I decided to eliminate all those little problems, some of which definitely have been caused by very late cuts to the text, others by rushed revisions that I didn't have time to proofread properly. Some few, no doubt, have remained simply because having read the entire thing several dozen times over, the eye and the mind tend to skip certain portions of text. I'm a bit peeved at myself for having released books out there with those tiny (but irritating) glitches. But the new edition will put paid to all those annoyances soon. It leaves me, however, with five print copies of the old flawed edition which I'm now rather unsure what to do with.

Last week, flush from the "Last Gas Pump" review, I threw together another little video trailer for that project, which now joins the "Maranatha" clip at the bottom of this very page. I recorded the cruddy slide guitar work completely live and unrehearsed - having aimed at a "retarded Ry Cooder" kind of sound. I think I nailed the first half of that, at least.

As a result of all of the above (as well as my little-mentioned, but still time- and energy-consuming day job), I am now officially Taking Five in the company of some flat cider and a Velvet Underground DVD.

Cheers.

Thursday, 26 February 2009

Onwards and...well, Onwards

Fenriswulf continues to gather momentum (and he's a big lad, so beware. Swallowed Odin back in the day, so he did).

Soon to be released is the new, 1-volume edition of my graphic novel "The Black Flag". Originally published in four issues in 2005 by Brigid's Hearth Press, I had always wanted to collect the four parts of the cycle into a single volume edition, and now that wish is about to come true. A dark, satirical and pretty brutal piece, it's a work I've never quite managed to let go of, which is possibly ameasure of quite how much the characters and the story meant to me. In any case, I'm very glad to have the means now to get the "Flag" out there in an accessible form, and as polished as it can be without me spending six months working on a "director's cut" ultimate edition - unfortunately I had to cut a lot of the concept sketches and storyboards from the art gallery section to keep the page count within Lulu's limits for a saddle-stitched book. But it will keep.

In other, more radical, news, Fenriswulf is also just about to branch out into non-fiction. I'm currently taking a break from working on "Medieval Medicine" by the Cure-Craft Carline, an informative textbook on the working method of medieval doctors, herbalists, and healers. The curative powers of many plants and substances are described at length, as are the legends attached to them and all in all it was a perfect opener for the FW non-fiction catalogue. Release date for this manual will be the end of March, '09, to coincide with a public talk by the Carline herself.

Finally, I managed to secure a review of the first issue of "Last Gas Pump on the Left" over at Horrornews.net. Even though there's not much 'horror' in it, I was still happy to win a favourable and fair write-up.

It's always a nice feeling to see someone else's views on your work. Makes it feel somehow more "legitimate".

Thursday, 22 January 2009

Sold Out

The title refers to Borders' stock of "Maranatha", by the way. Not my artistic principles or integrity (I'm sure I have some, somewhere...)

Yes, that little fact took me quite by surprise last night, as I managed to catch their sales manager just before he left the store (harrassed and rushed, as always, yet still with time to be corteous and helpful). Lucky I also happened to have a couple of copies on my person as well. I'm to deposit an invoice for monies due as soon as I can, most likely this weekend.

"Mandrake" is also out on the shelves too, possibly with a couple of sales notched up already, as I noted a few missing. As such, a new bulk order is on its way. I don't want to flood Borders out with product, so a few copies will be getting plugged at the Dundee Contemporary Arts centre, also. When I have the time.

Saturday, 17 January 2009

Now Open for Trading!

With my new bank account finally set up today, I decided to act upon previous promises to release some Fenriswulf merchandise to the general public. The store is now open, over at cafepress.com. Currently we have a couple of designs - ol' growly chops himself (as I now refer to our wolfish mascot) on a dark t-shirt, and the "Last Gas Pump" front cover artwork which also features the tagline as a backprint. More designs will go up in due course, featuring characters and art from Fenriswulf publications, and other designs which will be in the same vein as our printed works.

Let's face it, it was always going to be only a short step from "Let's publish our own books and comics" to "Let's print our own T-shirts, mugs, mousemats and boxer shorts". I've used cafepress in the past and was always happy with the quality of their work, so I ordered a couple of shirts up for myself. Because one can never have enough T-shirts. At the last count, I think I own about 90 or so. There'll be more to come.

Friday, 16 January 2009

Pump'd Up

Wednesday night finally saw me deposit the stack of half a dozen copies of 'Mandrake' in Borders. Still have a few things to discuss with the sales manager, like pricing and 'Maranatha' royalties but the book is finally out in the public eye, albeit a month later than planned. It's a good feeling, to see your hard work out there in the real world, and one I doubt I'll ever get tired of.

Also out now is the aforementioned 'Last Gas Pump' comic book horror/schlock parody of 1970s drive-in movies. Printed in glorious technicolour yet - my first colour product from lulu and one which I'm very impressed with. The oversized US comic format is very appealing, and one I'll definitely be returning to for future comic projects. No ISBNs or even ISSNs this time, so the first issue of 'LGPotL' will only be available via this site, or at lulu.com. I'm also planning merchandise, initially in the form of T-shirts via DIY clothing store cafepress.com, featuring artwork and imagery from our works to date. In any case, the Fenriswulf catalogue looks ready to expand greatly within the months to come.

Friday, 9 January 2009

More Things In the Pipeline

A number of creative things have been happening lately with me, on and off the periphery of Fenriswulf.

Recently went through "Maranatha" with a scalpel, trimming out the few remaining textual inconsistencies and superfluous lines, mostly in the penultimate chapter which received less proofreading than the rest of the book. Tiny, tiny edits (certainly nothing remotely requiring a change of ISBN) but big glaring oversights to me. Have also had some fine feedback from friends on the work. Lulu finally got my bulk order of "Mandrake" in transit, and I'll be visiting Borders with them as soon as they arrive (as well as to claim "Maranatha" monies.)

Right after New Year, I went into jobseeking mode to pick up any loose illustration jobs going over at Deviantart.com, where I have an account. As it happened, I got one. The work is cheesecake pin-up cartoons, something I'm not exactly a stranger to, and has been great fun so far. Contributing to client projects is something I always feel the need to keep at, as too much time spent working to one's own specifications can lead to easy stagnation and lazy habits. Knowing that someone else will be judging the work, and providing payment for it, is an incentive almost as powerful as a firecracker up the Aswan.

Further to this, I've been encouraged to pick up my sometime comic exploitation spoof series "Last Gas Pump on the Left". It'll need a bit of tweaking for print I think, but is definitely on the cards.

Also in the pipeline is a work of medieval medicine, by "Mandrake" contributor Lesley-Anne Brewster. We're currently sourcing royalty-free contemporary illustrations for this, and this project is also looking good to go pretty soon. As it stands, Fenriswulf's catalogue is looking to increase considerably in the months to come.

Thursday, 1 January 2009

Happy New Year...

...and Happy Third Birthday, "Maranatha".

It was exactly three years ago to the day that I watched a TV documentary on the Spear of Destiny, which inspired Fenriswulf's first release, "Maranatha". The first draft was completed in four months flat, but further editing and revision took another two years.

All that time later, and now we're looking ahead to our next releases. Comics or graphic novels, most likely - more details as and when they become finalised. That's the fun thing about being an editor, and having so much material to draw upon - there's always something exciting in the pipeline.

I received my receipt from the British Library as well last week, 6 months after I'd sent them a copy of the first impression of "Maranatha". It took a while but at least I was glad to know that it hadn't been lost in the works somewhere.

In the meantime, I seem to have lined up an online review of "Maranatha" with horrornews.net. Perhaps not the most obvious place to seek a book review of this kind as it's not exactly a genre piece, but I felt there was enough dark and disturbing imagery in the story to more than justify it. Besides, the folks at horrornews have been very helpful and responsive so far. Certainly moreso than most I have approached in recent months.

So here's to 2009!

Underground British Metal for Discerning Listeners

Underground British Metal for Discerning Listeners
Because Chaz is a fan of these guys and their music. Help support the British metal music scene!

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'Sword and the Ring' Book 1

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