January 2021: Vitamin Tree

Hey folks,

I know I fell prey to thinking that at midnight on December 31st, 2020 would turn into a pumpkin and we’d all get our lives back… as unrealistic as that was. Nice of 2021 not to slow down much, eh? Let’s get into it.

The Usual

Since we’re in month 216 (or so it seems) of lockdown and still paying the price of our government tacitly encouraging people to socialise over the Christmas break (before changing their minds at the very last second), there haven’t been many of the usual markers that I rely on to emphasise that one year is changing into the next – usually there’s a tangible feeling of “newness” in the air, a sense of possibility in the year ahead. This year, thanks to the continuing uncertainty of COVID, the only sense of possibility is a hope that maybe this year won’t be as bad as last year was. Still, I’m trying to stay positive and keep inching forwards with project progress.

Part of maintaining that positive mindset has been making the time to venture outdoors (safely and alone) and soak in some greenery – whether it’s pseudo-science or a real thing, there’s something about going for a forest wander that really chases away the brain-weasels. Yesterday I had a nice walk around Wyming Brook on the outskirts of Sheffield, somewhere I’ve never been before, and spent most of it just gawping at the scenery and whipping out my phone to take pictures every 30 seconds:

There’s Uruk-Hai in these hills…

It was truly delightful and I’d strongly recommend soaking up some ‘vitamin tree’ if you have the ability to – absolutely beats staring at the same four walls all week and weekend!

The Record

*8 pages of SENGOKU written
*SPACE COWBOYS issues #2 and #3 sent to my wonderful editor Claire Napier for her input and suggestions – next step is redrafting
*HOCKEYTOWN pitch document mostly finished
*Lettering work – 4 pages of Professor Elemental: NEMESIS lettered

I’ve finally broken ground on SENGOKU and actually started writing – I’m taking a much more detail-oriented approach for this script than I have done before, because it’s important to me that I don’t fall prey to the mistakes that are present in a lot of stories told about Japan/Japanese culture by Westerners. I’m linking in tons of visual reference for each scene, and my intent once the first draft is written is to work with a Japanese sensitivity reader who can tell me whether there’s anything glaringly obvious that I’ve missed. The result (of course) is that it’s going to take me a lot longer to write, but it’s not as though I have a deadline!

SPACE COWBOYS (still a working title, I really need to come up with something better) is still trucking along too – since Claire’s happy with the shape of the story thus far I need to start a) firming up exactly where I want to go with the remaining three issues (since my previous draft outline doesn’t quite match up to the story we’re now telling) and b) thinking about reaching out to some artists and putting together a pitch for it! I have a couple of people in mind, but as with everything, it’ll depend entirely on whether they’re interested in the story. Fingers crossed!

The pitch document for HOCKEYTOWN is basically a chunky Powerpoint which contains bits of artwork from the pages that are done so far, the story synopsis, a detailed breakdown of the story and an explanation of why we think it’s a comic worth publishing. The pages (once they’re coloured and lettered) will be stored in a Dropbox and accessible via a link on the pitch document. I’ve never pitched anything before (I’m using a template that another writer shared online) so I have no idea if it’s any good, but hopefully it presents the story in the best possible light.

The Tunes

This month’s playlist follows a fairly straightforward progression from heavier stuff to lighter, commencing with the mighty Earth – Zé Burnay (@Ze_Burnay on Twitter, a phenomenal artist) mentioned this album a while back and it reminded me that I haven’t heard it in far too long. After that we have one of my personal favourite Children of Bodom songs – their singer/guitarist Alexi Laiho passed away this month at the too-young age of 41. I spent most of my teenage years trying to learn how to play his songs, and almost as much time lusting after his signature guitar on the ESP Japan website – this one hurt, but I know he’d been suffering from ill-health for a while and I hope he’s partying up a storm on the other side. Next up are a couple of tracks fed to me by the Spotify algorithm by Countless Skies and Green Carnation, and after that we’re taking a brief diversion into Tolkien-inspired metal (in the vein of the mighty Summoning) with Moongates Guardian. I have a real soft spot for this kind of super-atmospheric, not particularly heavy metal with tons of keyboards! After that, the final “metal” track on the playlist belongs to Elder, whose album art really caught my eye before their proggy doom metal impressed my ears. The “cool-down” section of the playlist starts with some Eastern-inspired trip-hop courtesy of Xori, then a song which I already recognised despite never having listened to it before – the opening part of ‘Telephone and Rubber Band’ by Penguin Cafe Orchestra was used in a TV ad campaign for a telecoms company for years so it was weird to have it pop up halfway through the album! Finally, the playlist closes out with some wintry acoustic music as a nod to the blizzards we’ve been having semi-regularly over here – TPR with a mournful piano rendition of a track from Final Fantasy 7, and Myrkur with a new haunting folk single that builds on last year’s incredible Folkesange.

That’s all for this month – congrats on making it through January, the days are only going to get longer and warmer from here on out!

All the best,

Chris

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