Spilled Blood - video trailer

Wednesday, 29 December 2010

On Marketing One's Own Books

In the last month or so, Chaz has been making new online friends, seeking (and finding!) reviews for Maranatha (remember that?) and also, considering the vast and, at times, rather intimidating world of marketing - specifically, how, and how not to go about it.

Having done the easy bit (write and publish a book), the self-published or small-press writer then decides that a quick plug somewhere like Myspace or Facebook with a hyperlink and a begging note attached will get sales. Typically it will follow this kind of formula:

"Buy MY book! Look at MY stuff! Vist MY website!"

To which the neutral, casual viewer could be forgiven for replying: "Why?"

This is little short of spamming, and usually about as successful.

That question "Why" is one of the biggest, and stickiest problems, of any kind of marketing campaign - how to convince an apathetic somebody that their life experience will somehow be enriched by the end of whatever sell (hard or soft) you're about to unleash upon them. That's if they stay around long enough to get to the end. (One way to ensure this is, of course, to make your marketing tag-line exceedingly short - but that takes skill, and practice.)

Film studios, publishers, record companies and such spend very large sums of money to people whose job it is to do nothing but answer that "Why?" question for thousands and millions of their potential customers. Authors are by their nature not generally pushy salespeople. Yet in the field of self-publicity, they will have to assume some aspect of that role in order to get their works to the widest possible readership.

It's really a case of psychology. How many people in all honesty would really buy something from someone who was basically begging you to do so? "It's great, you'll love it, honest". A certain coldness, detachedness, can be desirable in this situation. Look on the work as a product, not your personal beloved baby. Decide why it's worthy, why you spent so long on it, and how well it ought to sell. Get inside the head of your ideal customer (not reader - customer) and give them a quick sentence or two advising why they really must buy YOUR book, look at YOUR stuff, visit YOUR website. Appeal to their emotions, to their mind, to their desires, to their fears, even. Hint at a great mystery to be solved, an unthinkable conclusion, a dastardly conspiracy, of success against all the odds. There's a reason why many successful writers produce formulaic work - they found a way to give readers what they were looking for in a certain genre.

Look closely at how succinct and punchy most adverts are. Be the customer, that indifferent, apathetic slob who couldn't care less whether you were a writer or an air-traffic controller. Then tell them why they should care.

As an example, here's a quick tag line I constructed for a hypothetical ad campaign for Maranatha:

Through the dark, distorted mirror of history and religious heresy, it is the dawn of the Second Coming...and the Fourth Reich.

Or, to elaborate: So, it's a dark book - great for anyone who likes gritty, graphic, sinister stuff. It's got historical background. Good for people who like something that's got a bit of research behind it. It's got heretics in it. It's got Jesus, and nazis (and they're always popular subjects for all kinds of fiction). And it sounds like people are messing with the past in order to really mess up our future. How can they be stopped? Will Jesus return and save us all, or is it He and His name that is being manipulated by bad guys? What sort of heroes can stand up to such strange unpleasantness? Why is this happening?

...and so on. I only gave that five minutes' thought, but I'm sure you could all do a lot better for your own book. After all, it's your book - you must love it to have come this far - so share that love and enthusiasm.

Try a role-playing situation:

"Buy my book."
"It's amazing."
"Prove it."
"You have to read it first."
"No-oh. I'm not one those who was born every minute."
"Look, have you ever read X written by Y?"
"Well, if you liked X, then you'll love this!"
"OK. Tell me more."
"It's a rollercoaster ride of emotion, and a physical adventure from the plains of South Africa to the highlands of Scotland...all in the name of love!"
"Sounds vaguely interesting."
"And you'll never believe how it ends...but you'll love the journey that takes you there, a journey you'll wish you had taken yourself!"
"Fair enough. Where can I see some samples? I'm a miserable cheapskate, you know."
"Just visit this website. You can buy a book there too. But don't take my word for it. You can read some reviews of people who loved it."
"Awesome. I'll buy an e-book now, then."

That wasn't so hard now, was it? So we went from desperate to sold in less than ten steps.
You may not always get the sale. But you surely won't get anything if you don't pique the interest of the casual browser, give them a reason to do more than glance over your first half-dozen words and move on to the next random website or distraction. And these days, you have to grab people from the word 'go' - web browsers have attention spans shorter than hey look up there, a helicopter!

Sunday, 26 December 2010

A Very Geeky Christmas...

Jeff Swenson, over at Freethunk, recently commissioned Chaz to produce a 2-part festive edition of his ongoing tech-support webcomic series, Geekz, which is usually published every Monday at 2Laugh.com.

There's an interesting interview there too detailing the origins of the strip, its characters, and development. Part 2 will be following soon.

Here's the link.

You can follow the Geekz series every week at: 2Laugh.com.

Sunday, 19 December 2010

'Waiting for Anais' - a midwinter horror tale

Another horror story commission from the good folks at Freethunk, this may be one of the darkest things I've ever written. It was conceived as a story set around Christmas which wasn't remotely festive, and as bleak as the season and its weather can be (and looking out my window right now, believe me - it doesn't get any bleaker).

Here's the link.

The inspiration came from the accompanying illustration, something of a random sketch I started a few months back. It was nice to have a reason to finish it off.

Thursday, 16 December 2010

The Sword of Lochglen continues...

Chaz & Frang's surreal Scottish satire sees the release of Issue 2, both in print and in downloadable digital format. Wherein our hero William Stanley MacFaddyen realises he has fallen hopelessly in love with his tutor, Dr. Jeanette Mackenzie, and finds a finds a serious obstruction to his romantic ambitions in the form of her stoic and snobbish husband, Gregor.

Deciding to use the grim facts of his life as fuel for his fantasy fiction, MacFaddyen casts those around him as the heroes and villains in his epic novel, 'The Sword of Lochglen'. As reality begins to blur, life begins to get very complicated indeed...

You can pick up a copy of Issue 1 or 2, or read more, at the Lochglen homepage.

Monday, 13 December 2010

A Change of Tone...

Made an executive decision to "jolly up" the Fenriswulf home page tonight. After two and a half years of sombre black with splashes of red and white, Chaz decided that enough was enough and that it was time to let a little light shine through these wolfish pages for once. After all, it's dark enough outside as Midwinter and the Solstice approach...is it any wonder that the most popular and widely-celebrated festival of the Western calendar is held only a few days after the shortest day of the year? Even Muslim friends at work buy into the cheer and warmth which is so necessary at this bleakest point in our eternal voyage around the Sun. Decorations and seasonal greetings are universal, and speak across all boundaries.

All of which was a rather highbrow attempt at explaining why Chaz didn't want his beloved website to give the wrong impression to any passing visitors. Black can be very oppressive, and upon reflection, the choice of supporting colour scheme (white and red) does have unfortunate political and historical overtones, though none of which are at all relevant to either the public works of Fenriswulf, or any thought or overriding philosophy behind the scenes. The original red/white/black concept was chosen purely as a striking graphic design element. However, again, upon reflection, its connection with Old Norse pagan imagery was perhaps somewhat unfortunate - especially when such concepts and ideas have often been distorted and forced to serve sinister motivations in the past (which is itself something of a recurring theme through the Trinity Chronicles).

First impressions can linger, and some viewers can, and will, look beyond the innocent and accidental to find hidden meanings where none actually exist. Of course, those who know Chaz personally and who have read his works know that no explanation is required; the two heroes of the Trinity Chronicles are a Nigerian, and a Spaniard of mixed heritage (Jewish, Muslim & Catholic) - not in any cynical attempt to be "politically correct" but to underscore Chaz's eternal desire to promote the 'underdog' to heroic status, and show up the inherent lie within all racialism - that there is only one race, the human race.

After all that, to conclude: we hope you like the new colour scheme! Any suggestions or comments will be more than welcome.

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

Networking Works!

During a busy old week of being snowed in, Chaz decided to use all that time in the house to do some real networking online, meet like-minded people and even try to find a couple of book reviews. Result: success, in spades...

Facebook has been a bit of a revelation lately. At first very sceptical about its use for an unknown writer, Fenris managed to make some very interesting, and extremely helpful and kind contacts (you know who you are!), with the result that both the blog and the books are now getting some attention. In return, we'll be doing what we can to promote anybody via this very page, or on Facebook, with links, banners, or anything else that can be conceivably useeful.

Also highly recommended is the site Goodreads.com where authors and book fans can meet, talk, share views and texts.

On top of all this activity, Chaz has still found time to re-edit Venus in Saturn (again), keep on top of illustration commission works, and a new un-festive short horror story may also be making an appearance before too long. Keep watching this here space ;)

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Venus in Saturn: Sneak Preview

Something a little different: a taster of some content from Venus in Saturn, the soon-to-be-released prequel to Maranatha.

Wherein Inspector Jack Carpenter expresses his frustration with his top freelance CSI investigator, Vanessa Descartes, for going above and beyond the call of duty...

“You’ve gone and done what?”
Carpenter threw his pen to the desk in exasperation, though Vanessa knew he would have preferred to have stabbed it into her eye at that moment.
“Look, someone needed to get close to them.”
She had guessed that Carpenter might have had some quiet reservations about her activities that morning, but the volume of voice was far in excess of what she had ever feared. “Now, you can’t get any closer than being on the inside, can you? I won't be billing you for it. Call it freelance undercover work.”
“No. I'll tell you what I call it: sodding up our enquiry. You realise I can’t do anything for you in there? Any possible future sting or inside job we could have had planned, is out the window for as long as you’re involved with that shower? And if you make one slip - one wrong word - and blow your cover, then they could do a moonlight and then we're all stuffed! Or even worse – they suss you out, and you're the next one to end up gutted like a bloody kipper.
"Now think, Vanessa. If they’re involved, then we have to approach very carefully. And if they’re not involved and it’s just a coincidence, you’re gonna get yourself all stressed out over nothing. You can't be neutral and rational in there, because you have an emotional stake in all of this. Worst case scenario, anything you pick up gets thrown out as inadmissible, and there'll be no justice for Sandra.”
“Then why can’t you set up something, using me as a decoy?”
“Jesus, what did I just say? I know we all think they’re involved, in some kind of way. Whether they had anything to do with Sandra's death is up for debate, but you’ve already convinced yourself that they were responsible for what happened to your big sister as well.”
She shrugged, jerked her head. Not so much of a nod, more an acknowledgement of his words. “I’m still hoping I can be proved wrong.”
“But you’d prefer to be proved right. Because it gives you a rationale, someone to blame. Right?”
“Wrong. There's a connection somewhere in all of this, Jack, and I intend to find it. It combines me, my sister, this case, and this unorthodox religion on some level and if I don't get a better idea of where they're coming from, we may never solve this one. I've had weird shit happen all through my life when I never asked for it. It's time I went looking for some answers, to all of it.”
Carpenter's gnawed fingertips played a slow funeral march on the edge of his desk.
"You know, Vanessa, you're brilliant. You really are. You've helped me get results on every case I've worked with you in nearly two years. But sometimes, you really piss me off. Now get out, and don't come back until I call you, or you have some facts so hard, they could crack diamonds. Okay?"

Work-in-progress illustration for the above scene:

All content (c) C. Wood, 2010.

Of Swords, and Other Tools of Mayhem...

The second issue of 'The Sword of Lochglen' comic series is now just about to be released! The cover is a true collaboration between Chaz and Frang, with Frang pencilling the whole thing and doing much of the inking and colouring. As a result, 'Lochglen' now has its own dedicated webpage, located here. Currently we're only awaiting the arrival of the first set of proof issues from Lulu.com (which with the current weather could take us into 2011...though I seriously hope not!). Once the proofs have been approved, then the direct link to buy a download, or a print copy will become active on the Lochglen homepage.

Speaking of which, it appears that Lulu are current working on some new APIs to improve the digital commerce side of their services - out of all the new improvements, the addition of a 'shopping cart' for creators to place on their websites looks like the most useful so far.

In other news, Fenriswulf has now made it onto Facebook. The profile page is here, where we're looking forward to meeting lots of interesting people, and sharing opinions on comics, books and other things.

Monday, 8 November 2010

The Black Flag Finally Flies

After the near-disastrous attempt at producing my turn-of-the-millennium darkly futuristic graphic novel in print a year ago, I thought it was about time I had another go at getting it out there.

The story of Irish urban guerrilla Georgina Buadach Macdubhgaill is finally now available, as a digital download. I'm staying clear of print this time due to the problems the printers seemed to have in rendering the subtle pencil artwork, so at least now it can be viewed and read exactly as it was intended to be.

You can read more and buy the download (in PDF format) here.

One of these days I may still get around to creating a complete digital 'remaster' of the whole thing, suitable for the printed page...but not before I invest in my first A3 scanner.

Saturday, 16 October 2010

A Halloween Horror...

Mr. Jeff Swenson (who helped me get my IT Support webcomic online) recently commissioned a pulp horror story from Yours Truly as a Halloween treat for his Freethunk website.

It was a lot of fun to get back into commissioned writing again, especially something that was designed to be short and punchy like this. Entitled "Witch Fire", it's currently online for you to read here. (The illustrations on the page are mine, too.) 

While writing this piece a couple of weeks ago, it occurred to me that composing a decent short story (at least, in the horror and ghost-story genres) is not so dissimilar from writing a joke, or a gag. If the punchline doesn't work, nobody's really going to care how well-written and beautiful the prose is up to that point, if the final lines just unravel themselves and flop off the page in a flaccid anticlimax. I thought about the classic works by M.R James, Le Fanu, Poe and Lovecraft, where often the whole dynamic of the thing is channelled in towards the last paragraph, the last few lines, or even the last half-dozen words - the needle-sharp point at the end which pokes the reader and makes them cry "Owch!". It was one reason why I decided to go with a triple-whammy ending on this one, because it is Halloween, a season of excess. I hope at least in that respect that I succeeded.

Perhaps I had some of those classic old Hammer House of Horror episodes floating through my mind too, where the final scene is built up to have the viewer chittering over the end credits, or even a Twilight Zone quickie.

I'll have more prose up on Freethunk in the future too, it appears. More on that nearer the time...

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

The Secular Trinity...

After a bit of trial-and-error, I succeeded this evening in adding a new dimension to the Fenriswulf site. Take a quick glance at the top of the main page, just underneath the title bar, and you'll notice some new hyperlinks.

The first of these has just been added, leading to an information page of characters featured in Maranatha and the other forthcoming books in the Trinity Chronicles series. It also features  sneak preview of some of the illustration work which will feature in the new books. I figured that the Fenriswulf page ought to be a little more forthcoming in promoting the book (and subsequent series) which kick-started the whole project in the first place, so now the heroes and villains of Maranatha have their very own page.

Next up will be a page for plot synopses, and any other interesting trivia and bits-and-bobs that the casual browser may find to be of interest. Suggestions, of course, are more than welcome.

Sunday, 3 October 2010

Spring Cleaning...in Autumn?

It's getting darker, colder, and Fenriswulf's Chaz is spending a lot more time indoors again. With that comes the availability of more time to spend on books and writing. The "Trinity Chronicles" (begun with Maranatha) is still shaping up very well, and the prequel "Venus in Saturn" now looks set for a 2011 release, with the first of half a dozen interior illustrations recently completed. The third book is being written concurrently, and that too is coming along nicely.

Somewhat inspired by a fellow writer, Chaz has also trimmed down this very Fenriswulf site with a view to adding more content relevant to books and prose. The site had begun to gain some fat, and as a result, the comic-book and more lowbrow content has migrated to its own dedicated home page, led by the scruffy kings of cutting-edge underground toilet humour, Arf & Mo.

Saturday, 14 August 2010

"Surfeit of Mandrake" reviewed

Ant, over at the rather good sci-fi and fantasy book review site has just posted his review of "Surfeit of Mandrake". All in, it's a fair and balanced one, given the eclectic and wildly uneven nature of the material.

The full review is for you to read here.

Saturday, 24 July 2010

Start Press

(Or, Better Late than Never?)

In between art commissions, Chaz finally found the time to query one of his clients on good sources of reviews for self-published and small press books. A fair old list was put together and not before time - in almost 2 years, neither Maranatha or Mandrake have had much in the way of publicity, apart from a few column inches in the local newspaper and some self-penned press releases back in the day (however, some kind buyer or passer-by has recently awarded our Lowbrow Pinup Art Calendar a 4/5 star rating...)

The delay was mainly due to other ongoing projects getting in the way, and Chaz's total distrust of any company or individual requesting payment for book reviews - which also happen to be the ones most likely to show up in internet searches on the subject ("Professional marketing packages for YOUR book from ONLY $499! Use your credit card NOW!" screams the typical blurb on such sites, and their associated spammy/scammy robotic emails which find their way into the Fenriswulf mailbox on a daily basis).

So, some reviews for Fenris' two full-length books ought to be forthcoming before too long. Watch this space...

Sunday, 27 June 2010

Dundee Comics Conference 2010...Been there, done it...wore the t-shirt!

A long day for Mssrs. Chaz and Frang began early on Sunday morning, and involved a frustrating argument with Dundee city's increasingly annoying system of 1-way traffic and strategically-placed roadworks, seemingly engineered to make their timely arrival at the opening of this event in the Dundee Literary Festival calendar as difficult as possible. There were times when reality felt as if it had been substituted for an interactive episode of TV's "Spaced", with comic geekiness and eternal obstacles intertwining to create a rather surreal journey to the Dundee University tower building.

Chaz left Frang in charge of setting up the stand after a brief and breathless Bisley-esque conversation before dashing off to move the car to a less illegal parking spot (which turned out to be 10 minutes' walk away...)

Following this inauspicious opening, Fenriswulf eventually staked out their merchandise stand at the far end of the main entry hall, sharing space with George Cordeiro's Black Hole comics store table, and a couple of other stalls selling relevant merchandise. The main point of the event for us had been more networking than profit, as well as meeting some very interesting people, and all of the above was happily accomplished. George sold a few of his self-penned "Far Out" comics titles (with art by Frang), and also agreed to promote Fenriswulf as much as he could - by taking on stock for his shop, as well as distributing business cards to customers throughout the day.

Chaz caught up with - surprise, surprise - Neil Cunie, onetime sales manager of Dundee's Borders store, who had been instrumental in getting Fenriswulf's first products out there to the public in the earliest days of the project. Frang attended a talk while Chaz chatted happily with the chap behind the "Fine & Dandy" DC Thomson licensed merchandise stall - and in the process learned much about the complex business of licensed products.

While the event wasn't as well-attended as maybe had been hoped, all those who were there seemed to enjoy themselves and all of the talks were educational, funny, and interesting. Alan Davis gave his personal angle on drawing comic art for the American market; a very animated Dez Skinn shared many amusing anecdotes related to the birth of his early editorial projects with IPC and UK Marvel in the 70s; and Pat Mills contributed some fascinating personal details of the differences between working in the Franco-Belgian, and the British, comics markets.

Friendly books signings concluded the day, which also included a genuinely-heartfelt tribute to the late local Beezer comic artist Bill Ritchie, and everyone adjourned to the DCA art bar for after-conference relaxation. Frang and Chaz spent the rest of the evening in discussion over the next phase of the Fenriswulf campaign for independent writing and comic art, with plenty of new material on the horizon. Products haven't been mega-selling yet but then nobody expected them to be - at this still very early stage in the game, brand recognition and networking are really the prime goals. Profit is mere vanity and was never even figured into the equation, though the day will come - not before too long, with any luck - when it does become a serious goal. Rome, after all, wasn't built in a day.

Monday, 14 June 2010

The Fenriswulf Corner

Only a few weeks now 'til the Dundee Comics conference. My man Frang has secured us a spot on a local comics dealer's stall...but some serendipity came my way today when I found this rather handy rotating display stand dumped literally outside my house.

Cleaned up and customised in a couple of hours, it was pressed into service and fits the full range of Fenriswulf products really well! Also hoping that my custom URL t-shirt should attract some interest on the day.

In other news, I've this week had to renew the domain name "fenriswulf-books.co.uk". Has it really been two years since I kicked off this very website on the back of a single tentative release, "Maranatha" ? So much seems to have happened since then. In the meantime, here's to another two years of creativity and independent publishing!

Wednesday, 9 June 2010

Arf & Mo...are Coming!

Now available: the first issue of Arf & Mo - anarchic animal antics featuring the titular duo of Chaz & Frang's warped creation: Arf, a bloated beer-swilling German Shepherd and Mo, his psychotic and twisted white lab rat buddy. Together, the pair have lurched through a series of bizarre, satirical and downright crazy lowbrow adventures over the last ten years, and this compilation brings together some of the best moments of their cartoon careers to date.

The original Arf & Mo was privately printed in 2001 and barely saw the light of day, but now they're back, in a big bumper collection that no fan of scabby, underground toilet humour should ever be without. At 40 pages, including a new foreword from creator Chaz detailing the misfit duo's origins, it's a must!

Thursday, 3 June 2010

The Geeks are Out There...

...thanks to a couple of buddies across the water (well, one in the US and one in Israel).

A high-profile home for my gang of IT support clowns has been found at last: here.

My man Jeff Swenson (he of "The Cynic" fame) has taken on colouring duties to scrub up my low-fi scribbles into something a bit more presentable, and it looks like these will be published on at least a weekly basis. New stuff due at the start of next week.

Watch this space, as they say...

Friday, 28 May 2010

"Last Gas Pump" Now Out of Print...Thanks, Lulu

Busy old week.

While desperately trying to knock together final editions of "Lochglen" and get "Arf & Mo" issue 1 re-issue, I thought it would be an idea to update and revise the "Last Gas Pump" issue 1 and take some copies of the X-rated spoof along to the Comics Conference next month.

Until I saw the price shoot up mysteriously from £3.99 to £5.59 as I tried to complete the update.

"Obviously a mistake," I thought. Tried numerous updates, but the price hike remained. One communication with Lulu support later, and seemingly: "We recently repriced many of our books. Our most popular books have had a drop in price...by reducing the price of these books we have had to also increase the price of some specific sized books. Unfortunately the books you have revised have been affected by the price change and the price you are currently seeing is accurate."

Ah, so I see. With no warning, update, or any other kind of announcement...in other words, fairly typical of the kind of service I've come to expect now.

Which means that as of now, the "LGPotL" is officially out of print (£5.59 is a ridiculous price for a 28-page colour comic, even before adding creator commission and punter's postage & packing) and is now downloadable only - at least until I can find more favourable print costs elsewhere.

Thursday, 13 May 2010

Dundee Comics Conference 2010: A Prelude

Much business followed a get-together with Fenriswulf collaborator Frang the other week. The hot topic of conversation was comics, and what we should be doing to get those that we have out there.

Arf & Mo is still hot on the agenda, but currently long-term collaboration project "The Sword of Lochglen" has finally seen print. Book 1 "Bejants & Blethers" of this quirky Scottish historical/fantasy satire is now available to buy online (see banner on left!), with Book 2 to follow later this year. Lulu didn't disappoint this time, and delivered a spot-on proof of Book 1 with sharp black and white interior printing, and a very good job on the front cover which does justice to Frang's painted artwork.

So, with the 2010 Dundee Comics Conference just a few weeks ago, we decided to get ourselves out there and put ourselves about at the event.

Highly professional Fenriswulf business cards were knocked up in good time by the highly-recommended Cards Made Easy, while I also banged together a US comic-format folio art book, showcasing some of my more professional art pieces from the last couple of years (just in case any talent scouts happen to be hanging around at the bar after the Comics exhibition!)

Local shops in Dundee are likely to be badgered before too long with regards to stocking some Fenriswulf products, as Frang & I work together to raise our local profile and branch out from online sales back into bricks and mortar stores, following the sad and very unexpected demise of Borders.

Actually going out into the outside world and mixing with human beings, rather than the electrons which clump together to form the Internet, can be a bit daunting for head-in-the-clouds hermit writers and artists, especially when it involes pushing their work in people's faces and saying "Look at this, isn't it funny?", but what better way to kick off that process than mixing with like-minded comics fans in a relaxing environment? Especially when the legendary Pat Mills of 2000 AD fame will be in attendance...

For more info and tickets on the Dundee Comics Exhibition, see here.

Wednesday, 21 April 2010

Beware Geeks Bearing Gifts...

...especially if it's any of this bunch of dysfunctional IT support clowns.

The idea of a webcomic based around an IT support desk came to me a couple of years ago but it was only last year in 2009 that I started to do something about it, and only now that I've found a (albeit temporary) place to display them publically.

As anybody who draws comics knows, it's really 80% writing and 20% artwork. Most of the real work is in thinking, writing, fine-tuning a few words for the best possible payoff. If the gag, the joke, the concept are great, it doesn't matter how lame the artwork is - two of the greatest cartoonists of the 20th Century, Schulz and Thurber, had minimal technical ability.

If the joke is a dud, or the writing lame, I don't think it matters how eye-catching the art is, the strip will fail. As such, in this series I'm seeking to focus my energy on honing something that is written as succintly and with as much character as I can pack into three frames. This means that the art is more minimal than I would normally prefer, but that is also a bonus - it means I'm not spending countless hours drawing the thing, and on a different level, the recycling of stock scenes and characters throughout helps to enforce the sense of repetition and familiarity of life day in, day out, in an office environment, a sense of tedium which perhaps only the off-the-wall personalities of the characters can penetrate.

As to why I decided to write about a bunch of geeks on a technical helpdesk, this was in no way related to my own personal experiences of working beside a bunch of geeks on a technical help desk. Reality could never translate into the world of Tomasz, Arnie, Mungo and company, which is more akin to a little-remembered 1990s TV comedy show I used to enjoy a lot, titled "Dweebs".

For sure, there are plenty of other IT-related strips out there. But this one has one difference: set on an email-based helpdesk, many of the gags are text-based rather than sight, or dialogue, based. This is where the writing comes in that I mentioned earlier, though I will be mixing it up with a variety of humour styles.

In any case, it's early days yet but enjoy these free samples, I hope. I may post more in future here if a more high-profile home can't be found in the short term...

Tuesday, 30 March 2010

Back to Books

Well, it's been a while but with heavy commission work, illness and day-job upheavals over the last couple of months to contend with, I am, just about, back to books again. Specifically the prequel to Maranatha.

A friend on Deviantart recommended a fine book entitled "How to Write a Damn Good Novel", and I picked this up at the start of the year. It's not a big manual, it isn't stuffed with the usual "Thou Shalt/Shalt Not" statutes that most books in this field try to ram down the writer's throat. It gives concepts and advice, and illustrates them amply to show why this advice should or should not be followed. It was rather heartening to go through many of the chapters with "Maranatha" in mind and mentally tick many of the boxes which James N. Frey presents. So, in a roundabout way, it got me back to "Venus in Saturn", the prequel, which has remained a bit stuck since last year due to the enormity of the story arc, and the need to build up the concluding backstory which concludes in the sequel, "The Keys of Heaven".

Slowly but surely, I'm beginning to see the emergence of the finished first draft. And in the meantime, because I've been on a bit of a roll artistically, took another shot at putting together a new cover for "Venus":

Venus in Saturn WIP 2 by ~Lord-Retsudo on deviantART

It still needs work but I'm a lot happier with this one now. And it helps that my digital art ability has improved enough for me to be confident enough to put it out on a book cover. But paid client commission work can have that effect!

Monday, 1 March 2010

Cafepress deliver the Goods

I ordered a few bits and bobs for myself from the Fenriswulf Cafepress.com store the other weekend, and they arrived today. It's always nerve-racking when you first open a package of something you've created this way - suddenly you have crises of thought: will the printers have messed it up in some weird and totally unfathomable kind of way? Was my original source file formatted properly, and of a high enough resolution? Or will the quality overall be a bit disappointing - just a general kind of "bleargh" ?

I needn'e have worried. I'd used Cafepress in the past for a couple of T-shirts, one of them designed to promote the "Last Gas Pump" comic (available here), and their quality really impressed me. To be honest, the art has printed beautifully, on really high-quality glossy stock. Sure, they're not cheap - and I wouldn't like to have to use them regularly for stuff that wasn't a one-off or a present - but they definitely do deliver the goods, and don't seem to outsource to unreliable third parties the way Lulu do (that said, I'm still with Lulu for the meantime - they continue to hold the entire Fenris back catalogue to date).

The print of the mythical Princess Andromeda really blew me away. It's the first time I've ever seen digital artwork of mine reproduced profesionally, and I can foresee a few more before too long. It's almost worthwhile considering a Premium cafepress shop, to be able to sell an entire series of such things...maybe once I've been paid from my current book illustration job, and have some money to invest. I'm also looking ahead to getting some Fenriswulf-branded postcards or notecards produced for my next (as yet unscheduled) trip to a new bricks-and-mortar store to try to offload some produce...

Saturday, 27 February 2010

Amazon A-No-Go

Well, as expected I didn't get selected for the second round of the amazon.com book contest, but that was hardly a surprise. A rush job at best on my part in order just to get the full submission in on time, from looking at the number of next-round contestants it would appear that selection was based pretty much on who could come up with the most intriguing 300-character storyline pitch.

In other words, this part of the filtering process is more about marketing than anything literary, where a snappy title and a few buzzwords are probably all that could be required to fox the panel. Good luck to those who made it through, but I do get the feeling that an awful lot of rather good stuff has probably fallen by the wayside simply because the writer wasn't quite able to come up with the kind of advertising tag-lines that seem to be required nowadays.

Which has made me think, that the marketing side of FB hasn't quite been allocated as much time and attention as the works deserve. It's all very well knowing that the stuff is out there for the world to see - and copies are selling, now and again - but I do still need to do more. Everyday I get a Spambox filled with junk from US-based businesses trying to screw cash out of me for book promotion, guaranteeing me reviews in high-brow publications and exposure to trade: all for a price, of course (in USD, via credit card). This is the backside of promotion, where it's assumed that somebody vain and rich enough to publish their own book is also willing to be ripped off blind for the possibility of "getting it noticed", for a price. I have no doubt that "the Trade" are perfectly well aware of such companies and how they operate, and I don't believe for a minute that they treat many, if any, books which come via those channels on the same level as real-world published works - in much the same way that all known "Vanity Presses" are blacklisted by stores worldwide. (On a side note, Vanity Publishing - paying a third party, usually on the strength of exuberent promises, to publish and promote a book used to be equated with self-publishing - simply going it alone. In the last 10 years, the advent of DTP, DIY web-publishing and POD services have helped to distinguish between the sharks, and the writer-creators).

With more works planned for later this year, and FB also looking to branch out into other media, marketing is going to be big on the agenda. How much promotion and marketing is enough? To be honest, there's probably never enough. There are always new avenues and openings to be explored, though finding the balance between being a laid-back lazybones and a pushy nuisance probably takes trial and error. I feel awkward about pushing my work at people I know, and slightly intimidated doing the same to total strangers. It's not easy, though I do understand the background theories of sales and promotion - possibly because it's my works that I'm pushing, for my own benefit, not somebody else's. Had I been busier with the promotional side of things up to this point, things may have turned out better with the Amazon contest - I would already have had a half-dozen juicy pitches, tag-lines, and 2-line soundbite Tweets or Twits or whatever the hell you call the things people post on that website, all good to go and geared up for grabbing the attention.

But nobody said going it alone was easy...

Saturday, 20 February 2010

Of Books, and More

Taking a break from commissions and artwork for a moment (okay, for a whole day...), Mr. Chaz decided to get back to basics and get some more Wolfish "product" out there. The old Cafepress.com shop has had a new batch of stock added, including greetings cards featuring lowbrow comic characters Arf and Mo in their first piece of merchandise their debut small-press comic of 2001 (at the Fenriswulf shop, here). This is but the beginning of what Chaz is intending to be Arf and Mo's renaissance year, with the duo's comic strips repackaged and rebound for a whole new audience (insofar as there was ever an old audience...). Art prints and other items featuring one-off characters and concepts are also up for sale there, and more will be added in months to come. The limitation of the free cafepress store is that we can only produce one design of any particular item. If sales allow, we will consider looking at a premium package but at the moment, overheads need to be kept to a minimum. I'm a bit bummed that cafepress don't have lower prices, but I'm still shopping around for the best long-term deals.

This month we notched up another couple of US sales of "Maranatha", not long before entering that same book in Amazon.com's Breakthrough Novel Award, a contest for unpublished and self-published works. It may not make the grade as all the supporting material for the entry was written and thrown together the night before the closing date, finding out about it only by chance while cleaning out my spam email folder. Still, never having previously considered entering any such competitions in the past, it gave me the idea of actively looking for more in future.

In other news, Mr. Frang, Fenriswulf artist and contributor to the "Surfeit of Mandrake" anthology, has joined Chaz on his commercial commision adventures due to the arrival of an unexpected, but rather welcome, deadline. So everyone has been busy with artwork of late, and the end of March may see a little relaxation and the commencement of some serious work on the Arf & Mo volume for production.

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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