October 2020: New Hope

Hey folks,

Happy Samhain/Halloween! I’ve managed to put together an actual update this month, so grab some sweeties or another seasonally-appropriate snack and enjoy.

The Usual

Sitting down to write this month’s update definitely feels like less of a struggle than last month’s – we’ve managed to stabilise our living situation a little, and while there are still a lot of things to work through, I’ve been able to take a breath and relax more than I could last month. I haven’t done any substantial writing this month, so it’s mostly been about incremental progress on my current projects and laying down ideas for new things.

Given the state of this year, I don’t feel bad about giving myself some “time off” – I work full-time during the week, and that coupled with the uncertainty around the pandemic, the upcoming US election and everything else means that writing can feel like an insurmountable hill to climb when I’m already exhausted. There are two schools of thought here – one is that you should push through it and “just write”, even if you’re churning out crap that you’re unhappy with because at least it’s done; the other is that it’s okay to take a break and not force yourself into doing something that makes you angry and upset at your inability to smash words together. All things considered, I’m definitely in the latter camp at the moment!

The Record

*As noted above, no substantial page-count progress on anything
*However, I have smashed a few ideas together in my head for SPACE COWBOYS in order to try and figure out a way past the current blockage
*A sheaf of notes made for a 60-page graphic novella inspired by forest folklore, British myth and magic

I want to talk about the “forest folklore” idea a little first – last weekend I decided I’d been cooped up in the house for too long, so while the weather was lovely and crisp and autumnal, I headed out for a walk along Rivelin Valley, a beautiful forested area on the outskirts of Sheffield:

I wasn’t planning to be inspired (it was mostly just about getting some fresh air and listening to the trees), but I’d been out about an hour when I started getting hit with a wave of ideas for a story that could smash together a lot of the British myths and legends I’ve grown up with – Robin Hood, the Green Knight of Arthurian legend, the primal magic of the deep forest. There were benches along the route so I sat down and tapped out a huge stream of consciousness – here are a few highlights:

-The mystery of English woodlands
-Robin Hood and his Merry Men as elemental force of nature
-Sprites, fairies, the fae – a Midsummer Night’s Dream
-The Green Man – a Knight of Arthurian times, unflinching protector of the woods
-What lurks in the forest? Take only memories, leave only footprints… or else
-A huge, lightning-sundered oak tree in the depths

Do not tread on the bluebells!
-An ur-forest – all woodlands in England link into the same otherworldly sylvan realm

I still need to make all this into some semblance of an actual story, but it’s been taking shape in my head, which is always a good sign!

In other project news, HOCKEYTOWN has moved firmly into the art stages, which means it’s now become a real thing that we can share with people. The team for the pitch is set – the incredible Russell Mark Olson is on interior art, with colours by Dearbhla Kelly and letters by Kerrie Smith, both immense talents. Hugo Boylan has been the editor on the project since the early stages of me writing it and continues to be a force of enthusiasm and encouragement. Here are Russell’s finished inks for the first page of the story, because I’m utterly in awe of his work:

Utterly stunning, right?

Character bios and turnarounds are done, I’ve been tackling the pitch document, and once Dearbhla and Kerrie have worked their magic on these pages we should be ready to put it all together and start actually approaching publishers. I’ll be honest – this is all new to me, since I’ve never pitched anything before, and it seems to be quite mysterious (with everybody having their own approach). As we go through this process I plan to share it through these newsletters in an attempt to demystify the “how do I pitch to a publisher” question, for my own benefit if nothing else!

The Tunes

This month’s playlist is a very chilled out one, by and large – soothing tunes have been a requirement. First up is a nice little drum interlude from Lord Almighty which sets the tone nicely, followed by a big chunk of space jam (a Spotify discovery) from Dallas Acid. TPR does beautiful, melancholy piano renditions of video game themes, and this is one of my favourite tracks from Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker reimagined in a lovely fashion. Next up is a bit of classical from Hilary Hahn and Natalie Zhu which has been soundtracking some of my working afternoons, then a lovely new ambient track featuring Sigur Rós. After that we segue into more metal territory – new music from Liturgy (one of my favourites for their extremely avant-garde approach to black metal) and Zeal & Ardor (who have come out swinging with this EP, clearly inspired by this years Black Lives Matter protests and the continuing issue of police brutality in the US and across the world). Next up is long-song territory – a classic Summoning track inspired by me finally re-watching Lord of the Rings after having not seen them for years, new Pallbearer which is excellent, and finally a track from the new Ba’al album which dropped yesterday. Ba’al are a Sheffield band who I’m friends with, and they’ve outdone themselves with this album – it’s an absolute tour-de-force, and I’d recommend it to anyone who’s in the mood for an album of extremely well-crafted post-black metal.

Enjoy the tunes and let me know if you have any other recommendations! I’m always interested in hearing new music.

All the best,

Chris

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