Brett Fitzpatrick's Blog

May 15, 2019

2000 AD - issue 105

I write a lot about 2000 AD, reading it as a child was a very formative experience for me, and I still read it today. I have a 2000 AD page where I link to all the issues I have talked about on this site. Judge Dredd is on the cover of issue 105, which came out way, way back on 24 March 1979. The cover is a scene from this week’s story where a hideous and insane tyrant is manufacturing fake news. With Trump in the White House, it is so timely it is a little spooky. This cover is by Brian Bolland, even though the interior art on the story is by somebody else, which has become the standard way for Bolland to work. His covers on DC books such as Animal Man, Robin, The Invisibles, and Wonder Woman have won him numerous awards.

The Judge Dredd strip is the first story presented this week. The story is drawn by Brett Ewins, who has a style that suits the horror elements here. Ewins passed away a couple of years ago, which makes looking at his art quite moving. This week, Cal (the Trump-like dictator) punishes one of his minions by having him pickled by his pet space alligators. I prefer my Judge Dredd to be its usual sci-fi self, but the kind of suspense and psychological horror we get this week works for me too. Stylistically, Judge Dredd has been all over the map recently, which is strange for the most popular character in the whole comic book, and you would think 2000 AD would know what they wanted him to be by issue 105. You would expect them to be more disciplined about presenting a consistent story, but they were still getting to know the character, even after over 100 issues.

Robo-Hunter is the next strip and I am not a fan of its broad antics. Also it doesn’t help that the offensive rabbi robot from last week is still hanging around. The artist, Ian Gibson, is so talented, but he is wasted on this rubbish. He is so confident at shading and designing technology, suggesting it with just a few strokes of the pen, that it is annoying to see such talent squandered on a “humorous” comic strip.

Strontium Dog is the next strip and it is not much more than a beautifully drawn, extended, and frenetic fight scene this week. (That is not a criticism, by the way). This story will go to some strange places over the coming weeks, but it already has a great bad guy in Fly’s-Eyes.

Dan Dare is next, and as usual the art is the best thing about this strip. Just look at this gorgeous Alien Swamp Complex. It turns out this complex is like Lourdes and the Mekon (the bad guy who has brainwashed our hero, Dan Dare) needs to visit it in order to heal and rejuvenate.

There is a lovely panel of crowds coming to visit this complex. The drawing of all the different aliens, dwarfed by huge hospital ships landing in the background, is evocative and wonderfully drawn. This is the sort of thing I read sci-fi comic books for. It’s just a corner panel, half way through a second-string story, but it is a thing of beauty.

Next is Ro-Busters which features robot designs by Kevin O’Neil drawn this week by Mike McMahon. This, for me, is the best of both worlds. We get the intricate droid designs of Kevin O’Neil, drawn with the weight and dynamism of McMahon. Where O’Neil’s droids are shiny and static, McMahon’s are dented, scratched, dirty, and dynamic.

There is a great scene here where the robots play “swopsey” to annoy their robot overseer. The way this overseer is drawn, with a robot version of a beer belly and obscenely large nipples is just lovely. It is sitting in the shadows, in its lair, watching over the other robots on a vid screen. The game that annoys the overseer so much is where the robots swap their arms and legs with each other. Many of them have the same attachment joints for their limbs, making this relatively simple.

After the game of swopsy, we get Hammerstein's war droid body with Ro-Jaws’ shark-like head, which is an awesome combination, specially when drawn by McMahon. This is a great episode of what will be an epic story, and it makes me very happy that the robots escape the destruction their owner had planned for them.

The robots briefly debate whether - now that they are unexpectedly free - they should give themselves up or not. This question is answered for them when the Robot Investigation Police arrive. We have seen these guys before, a few issues ago now, but this is McMahon’s take on them. It isn’t subtle but it is iconic. Instead of their previous look, which was futuristic Roman gladiators in leather fetish gear, McMahon imagines them as intimidating, none-too-bright skinheads in a Nazi half-track. Their appearance at the end of the installment is genuinely chilling, and I remember being really worried about what was going to happen to Ro-Jaws and Hammerstein when I read it the first time. It is a real cliff-hanger ending to a classic episode of a classic strip.

The back page of the comic this week is an advertisement for a treat called a Sherbert Fountain. This, for those who don’t know, is a cardboard tube of sherbet with a piece of black licorice sticking out. It is wrapped in yellow and red paper, and the licorice just pokes out the top. The licorice is hollow, so you use it to suck up the sherbert. I was debating whether to use the past tense when writing about the sherbert fountain, but they do still make them, except...

Except now the manufacturers have replaced the cardboard with a plastic, resealable tube which is designed to make it more hygienic and keep the product fresher. But it was the devil-may-care attitude to hygiene and the special taste of stale sherbert and hard licorice that was what this treat was about, back in the 1970s.
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Published on May 15, 2019 12:37 Tags: 2000-ad

May 14, 2019

How to use social media to self-promote

I was just listening to The Dork Forest, episode 517, and it was really inspiring. This week's guest is Melanie Vesey, and Jackie Kashian, the host, bills her as knowing about all the social media platforms and how to use them, but the conversation was about even more than that. Melanie is talking about the entire process of being somebody who does something creative and needs to publicize it: self-promotion, if you will.

Jackie is most interested in social media in her questions - aren't we all - but Melanie's very first point is that you need your own website. I must admit, this is something that has been on my mind - whether it is still useful to have your own site. To hear her confirm that it is necessary to have a website, so early and so emphatically was nice. She explains that your website is where you are, it is the key and the focus of everything else you do, because it is where you send people to in order to sell them stuff.

As well as moving product, you can also use your website to introduce yourself to the audience, and give people a timeline of who you are. These are all solid suggestions, and as I said they confirm my own feelings on the subject. Melanie then gets specific, saying that a website you make yourself, on Squarespace for example, is better than having somebody create one for you. The website should be simple enough for you to alter easily, without having to send an email to your website person. However, although she recommends Squarespace for its simplicity, she does admit that it lacks flexibility, and you should chose the platform that's right for you.

Jackie agrees, and admits that even though The Dork Forest is built with WordPress, she doesn't understand WordPress, to the point that she can't add images to her content, and that hampers what she can do with the site.

It's only after she has emphasized the importance if having a site that Melanie moves on to talking about social media. She starts with Instagram, and notes that the free lunch period there has ended. Now, if you want people to see your important posts, about new product that is about to drop, you have to promote the post. You pay to promote it, and to target it, usually - according to her - in the region of one dollar per day.

To do this you need a business account, so you should be switching your personal Instagram to a business version right away, which is done in the settings. Similarly, she advises having a business page on Facebook, along with your personal one (on Facebook you need both). She says this is because other business pages can only tag your business page, not your personal one, therefore you have to have it.

She says to just treat the two pages as the same thing, post all your posts on both. After talking about Facebook and Instagram, they move on to talk about other platforms, like Snapchat, and Melanie advises being everywhere. Don't concentrate only on Twitter.

With all this talk of self-promotion, Melanie takes a moment to remind people that you should he doing 80% content and 20% promotion, don't swamp. Then came the most interesting part of the discussion, for me.

She said to release your latest content, be it a podcast or whatever, the same day every week. This has a Pavlov’s dog sort of effect where people start to expect this weekly content, and keep coming back to find it. She said not to be one of those places where you just disappear for a week or two, then come back, say sorry, and then expect people still to be interested. This is my biggest failing in trying to self-promote. I just started a serialized sci-fi novel, for example, released a thousand-ish words at a time. I did four or five installments then forgot about it. I have to put that right, and start releasing this content on the same day, round about the same time, every week, just like Melanie Vesey suggests.
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Published on May 14, 2019 15:51 Tags: self-promotion

April 16, 2018

The Cabalist

I live in Italy, in Venice to be exact, and I’ve lived here long enough now to start thinking of it as my adopted home. My Italian isn’t perfect but I can read a book. I don’t understand every word, but I can usually guess the ones I don’t know from the context.

I was browsing through a second-hand bookshop in the nearby city of Trieste, which is just up the coats from Venice, and I found a sci-fi book set in my adopted home town. It’s a book called The Cabalist by Amanda Prantera.

The Italian version I picked up has an impressive cover by Franco Brambilla, an Italian illustrator who does a lot of sci-fi. The lovely cover was a big factor in me picking up this book, and is much better than any of the covers of the UK editions I have seen. It suggests Cthulhu and threat, and you can see the modern boats on the Venice canal, telling us that this is not a historical novel.

By the way, if you think you are ever likely to read this book, be warned, this blog post is really quite spoilery.

It’s spoilery because I’m reading the book in Italian, like I said, so I’ve looked up a bunch of reviews and recaps of the story, to help me understand some of the more difficult passages that I’m reading.

The LA Times, for example, wrote a review of The Cabalist, and they say, in a nutshell, that the hero, Joseph Kestler, thinks he knows the solution to the age-old question of what the cosmos is really about. He is a Venetian magician and, through the power of words, he has discovered he can manipulate raindrops, locusts and even a puppy.

From other reviews, and from the part I’ve already read, I’ve also learned that he is terminally ill and wants to secure a worthy successor to carry on his work after he dies. Kestler works desperately to complete his cabalistic project as well as to devise a plan to ensure its preservation for future generations. All the while, he is aware of a small and obnoxious neighbour, a malevolent child demon called the Catcher (or Catfisher), who lures cats to their deaths. This character’s presence proves surprisingly relevant to the work, apparently.

The author, on her website, says that the critics were generous to the book. She thinks there is a terrific story hidden within it but it is buried under too much wuffle. The author’s website is the first time I’ve encountered the word, wuffle, but apparently it does exist.

I’m just a little way into it, twenty or thirty pages, but I am already enjoying it. There has been a very beautiful description of Venice, for example.

I’m not looking forward to reading about the Catcher. The idea of killing cats is very disturbing, and it reminds me of Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami. Some delightful images of a stage version of the book can be found on JC-NYC. In Kafka on the Shore, Nakata, a kindhearted old man, who had a strange accident while on an elementary school outing to pick mushrooms, can sense otherworldly events - such as raining fish - and has a special power to communicate with animals, which allows him to earn extra money by finding people’s lost cats. His love of cats leads him to murder a cat-killer who calls himself Johnnie Walker and dresses like the Scotch whisky mascot, among other surreal adventures. I read the book quite a while ago, and I vividly remember the cat killer, when a lot of the rest of the work has faded from my memory.

Anyway, I haven’t gotten to the cat killing yet, and I’m looking forward to reading this book about my adopted home town. It will take some time, of course, because I’m also spending a lot of time writing. Cabalist
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Published on April 16, 2018 15:03 Tags: sci-fi, venice

April 15, 2018

Branding My Fantasy Books

I have written a few books now, and they are a little all over the dial when it comes to genre. I have written sci-fi, fantasy, and horror, and I’m working on another in a genre best described as Stranger Things-ish. The various series all have different looking covers, and my name is usually written quite small. Today I have been thinking that this might be a mistake. I have decided that I should make more of a “brand” for myself as an author, and that means that my books shouldn’t all look so different. Instead, I’ve decided to make my books look more homogeneous.

I’ve started this process of “branding” my books with the first fantasy book in The Dragons of Westermere series, a book called The Pet Dragon. The new cover keeps the art of a dragon in a cave, but changes the font used for the title. I’m replacing the previous version with the font I have used on the covers of all my sci-fi books, which is Orthodox Herbertarian, the same font used on the cover of the Dune books by Frank Herbert.

Orthodox Herbertarian was painstakingly traced by a dedicated Dune fan from scans of the typeface that was used on the American Ace Edition of Dune. It was also used on many other Frank Herbert books, such as Whipping Star and The Jesus Incident, and it saw service for around a decade, from the early 70s through to the early 80s. Nobody knows what the font is called or who made it. It is likely that it is not a specific typeface but something done in house by the publisher – this fits with the fact that there are non-standard elements that vary from book to book (2 different As for example). The most likely candidate for its original creator is a man called Jeremiah B. Lighter who designed the Dune Encyclopedia and went on to work as a typographer.

On the covers of my sci-fi books, the title has a blue line above and below, so I have done this on the cover of The Pet Dragon, too. While changing the font for the tiles, I have also made my name bigger on the cover of the book. The idea behind this is that my name is my brand, as an author, and that is why this blog is called simply BrettFitzpatrick.com. I quite like the results of the redesign of the cover, and I think it works well for a fantasy ebook.

Covers are often the strongest, most influential selling point for a book. They have to draw a customer in, while giving hints about the style, genre, and subject matter of the book. People buy what they know they already like, so the cover has to reassure them that this is what the book is going to give them. The problem with this approach, of course, is that the books become indistinguishable from one another. They look like just another fantasy novel without any originality whatsoever.

I think my slightly unusual, old-school cover font might help differentiate the book a little from all the other books with dragons on the cover. The cover signifies to consumers that it is a fantasy novel, giving a feel of familiarity but also a tiny, tiny bit of originality. The cover is a marketing tool and serves a very important purpose as the commercial representation for the book. Yet it must be both artistic and commercial, where one does not preclude the other. Any cover has to succeed both as a lovely piece of art, and a powerful tool to get the book into the hands of readers. It takes a lot of work, and this is my third attempt at a cover for this book. I’m almost certain that it won’t be my last.
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Published on April 15, 2018 14:19 Tags: fantasy

April 30, 2016

Proofing for a Self-Publisher

As I mentioned in my previous post, I'm reading the first book in the Dragons of Westermere trilogy again. I'm doing it to refresh everything about the setting and characters in my mind, before starting work on the latest book.

This first book, The Pet Dragon, was my first self-published novel from way back in 2012, and this must be the third time I'm reading through it.

The crazy thing is that I'm still finding the odd typo here and there, about one every two chapters. It's a little frustrating, and probably something to do with this being my first book, and me not yet being quite so aware of what kind of problems can creep into the text.

Still it got me thinking about proofreading. I'm searching out advice right now, in articles like http://www.thebookdesigner.com/2015/0... but the truth is you just have to sit down, concentrate and read that book all over again.
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Published on April 30, 2016 15:14 Tags: self-publishing, the-dragons-of-westermere, the-pet-dragon

April 26, 2016

Starting the Third Book in a Trilogy

I'm starting work on the third book in the fantasy trilogy I have been writing. It has been quite a long process, with the first book published in 2012, so step one, for me, is to reread the two books from the trilogy that are already out there.
It's an interesting task. As I read, I'm reminded of details that I made up, more or less spontaneously, at the time, and then promptly forgot.
For example, there is a little scene where Willowtide, the young elf woman who is the hero of the book, buys an amulet just before she sets off on her first adventure. I had completely forgotten about this, but now I am very tempted to somehow weave this forgotten detail back into the ongoing story.
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Published on April 26, 2016 11:42 Tags: dragons, fantasy