A few days ago I published ‘Minding Mama and Other Short Stories’ , my second short story collection.
and here’s the back cover, which gives you a little summary of the stories:
Thanks for your time!
A few days ago I published ‘Minding Mama and Other Short Stories’ , my second short story collection.
and here’s the back cover, which gives you a little summary of the stories:
Thanks for your time!
… Or to go bravely to! Indie Comics are uncharted territory for this author. So why would I leave my comfort zone (long-form novels) and venture into the unknown? The answer is pretty simple: I wanted to see this particular story visualized in glorious colour. Preferably, with moving characters – animation or even (the holy grail for me) live action. But I also love art – used to dabble a little bit myself many years ago, but didn’t think I was that good and got out of the habit. Although I came to them late via back issues once I was earning, I do remember the ‘Captain Scarlet’ strips in TV21 – Mike Noble, Ron Embleton, Frank Bellamy… names familiar to many of you, I’m sure. I would stare at the pages for hours, enjoying the detail and colour. Since we (like most people then) only had a black & white TV, the printed adventures were the only way to see Spectrum and its personnel in colour. On our TV, Captain Scarlet was Captain… well, grey, Captain Blue was also grey… ) I had a Captain Scarlet annual, I remember, and I looked at it so much the front cover came off!
So… A couple of years ago, I penned a short story about a post-apocalyptic vision of Earth in which the ozone layer had been all but destroyed by decades of intense solar flare activity, forcing humanity underground. This scenario had really captured my imagination because, as I discovered some time later when revisiting my first draft, there is more than a kernel of scientific fact in the premise. It could happen. Let me explain…
In October 2016, the then-US President Barrack Obama issued a Special Executive Order requiring that the nation be prepared for ‘Space Weather Events‘. Whether this mass education of US citizens about the perils of Space Weather ever happened, I don’t know. But I do know that the release of this Executive Order seemed to be very providential – almost as if it was confirming my decision to write the story. The premise chilled me to the bone. What kind of world would any survivors of this mass-extinction scenario inhabit?
Well, actually it would be a horrible world. We already know that UV levels are higher than in the past; when I was a child (in the ’60’s and ’70’s), we could stay out and play in the sun (often without any kind of sunscreen, either because it wasn’t available or my parents didn’t think to get any/couldn’t afford it) for hours before getting sunburned. Nowadays, if you happen to forget to apply sunscreen, it doesn’t take very long at all before you begin to feel that ominous prickling warning you your skin is under attack. Imagine it magnified many times as the ozone layer thins; people, animals and plants would all suffer terribly. Even undersea creatures and plants would not be safe. Incidences of cancer (especially of the skin) would likely rise many times their numbers today. Without crops to feed livestock, humanity would also likely be deficient in the protein derived from meat, as well as green leafy vegetables.
So, I did a lot of research, and began to world-build (one of my favourite parts of the writing process – I can lose myself for days, weeks…).
The result was a tale of small, fragile communities struggling to grow enough crops to feed themselves; a society splintered and reliant on old technology to grow anything at all underground; a society desperate to find a way to return to the surface without dying from UV-induced cancers; a society probably deficient in vitamin D, and a society increasingly reliant on robots (specifically, FarmBots) to create new strains of food crop which could be grown on the surface. Incidentally, the precursor to my FarmBots already exist – check them out here .
After almost two years of research, world-building, finding artists who also saw the potential in this post-apocalyptic tale, developing the idea from my initial idea to create a short animated feature into a comic-book series, building a crowdfund campaign to enable us to create a live-action trailer to head up the main campaign to help fund the production of Issue One, we are on our way! On 27th August, our main campaign went live on Kickstarter, but we already have an ongoing campaign in place on Patreon, which we’ll use to help fund future issues and (who knows) maybe that animated feature I originally envisaged!
With a week to go on the first Kickstarter campaign (we used Patreon and Go Fund Me to raise funds to make the live-action trailer with Kate Davies-Speak and David Learner as Mama and Cyril) I don’t know if we’ll meet our goal this time… but it has been and continues to be an education and if we don’t make it, we won’t be the first (or the last). But we won’t stop – one way or another, ‘Minding Mama’ will see the light of day!
Our official ‘Minding Mama’ poster by Amanda Fullwood. Not ashamed to admit it brought tears to my eyes. Can I imagine it as a movie? Oh, yes…!
Thanks for reading.
Elaine Jackson, England, September 2018.
‘Keep writing!’ Sound advice from creative industry ‘old-timers’ (by that, I don’t mean those authors are older than me, but that they’ve been writing long enough to know how it all works – and sometimes, why it doesn’t). Finish one project, and move onto the next, practice makes perfect (I hope) and all that… luckily I’m never short of ideas!
With ‘The Methuselah Paradox’ published and the last of the rewards about to go out, I’ve found my thoughts turning to my next project. Another book? Well, yes, but not in quite the same format, this time.
Do you like it? It’s the lovely and rather intriguing logo created by emerging concept artist Amanda Fullwood (The Flock, Chasing Shadows, Word Bohemia) for my next project, ‘Minding Mama’ – a science-fiction tale set in a future where mankind is forced to live underground in order to avoid exposure to lethal levels of UV radiation. Why is planet Earth in such dire straits? You can find out on www.mindingmama.org – but since it will be a little while before the crowdfunding project goes live, I wanted to get the word out to all my ‘regulars’ – and to ask you all to tell anyone you know who might be interested in an opportunity to be in at the start of a new graphic novel – with some beautiful and unique comic art rewards!
Producing a graphic novel is a new challenge for me – but I have a very experienced hand at the helm, in the form of the talented Oregon-based Dan Schaefer, who will provide the artwork for the graphic novel, and who will also be in charge of the story-boarding for the animated feature (did I mention that yet? Oh, I just did…) which will be my next challenge. Those of you who know about comic books and story boards will doubtless know Dan’s work as a concept artist (Grimm; Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles) and artist (Peter Parker: Spider-Man). I couldn’t believe my luck when Dan applied to the project; and having already seen his rough drafts of the first few pages and his early concept work for the AI characters in the story, I am really excited to be working with him.
As mentioned earlier, I’m also delighted to be working with Amanda Fullwood – a graduate of Nottingham Trent University, Amanda’s enthusiasm for the science-fiction and horror genres and her work as a production designer and concept artist were evident at our first meeting in London in March 2016. By the time myself and Sue Turner of video production company ElephantInScarlet waved goodbye to Amanda and headed for our respective trains, I knew I had to have her on board as lead concept artist. I can’t wait to share Amanda’s visualisations for ‘Minding Mama’ on our crowdfunding site! That’s still a WiP at the moment, but you can check out more of Amanda’s work on her film and visual art journal .
So, if you (or someone you know) would like to own an original piece of Dan Schaefer art, in addition to many other unique goodies, please do visit www.mindingmama.org and sign up for notifications – the rewards are going to be something really special! You can also contact me direct if you have any queries. We’re not into spamming, so we’ll only email you when we have news.
Thanks for reading!
If you think ‘Doctor Who’ is “wibbly wobbly, timey-wimey”, then prepare yourself for the mental gymnastics of Netflix’s first German sci-fi thriller series, ‘Dark’. If you enjoyed ‘Stranger Things’ (which is actually much lighter in tone) and ‘Fringe’ then you will, I am quite certain, enjoy ‘Dark’.
Netflix describes Season One thus: “A missing child sets four families on a frantic hunt for answers as they unearth a mind-bending mystery that spans three generations.”
You may, like me, be slightly concerned at first to learn that the series was recorded in German and dubbed in English; but don’t be! The quality of the writing, the exceptional cast, amazing music and beautiful cinematography very quickly won me over. I hardly noticed that the dialogue didn’t always quite synchronise with the actors’ lips after a few minutes, and in fact, I think the quality of sound the recorded dialogue – plus sound effects- lends the show an even more surreal ambience.
One thing I did notice about ‘Dark’ is that it doesn’t have the frantic pace of many shows. Which is a good thing, because of those mental gymnastics I mentioned earlier. ‘Dark’ is not an ‘easy’ watch; you will need to pay attention.
Hooked after the first two episodes, I found myself binge-watching ‘Dark’ (at least two episodes most evenings over approximately a week) because quite simply, I couldn’t wait to find out what happened next! I challenge you not to do the same. The first series aired in December 2017 and comprises ten episodes. Series 2 followed in June 2019 and is slightly shorter at just eight. The third (and apparently final) series has already been commissioned, but no airdate is known as yet. On past history I’d imagine it may grace our screens sometime in 2020.
I won’t give too much away (NO SPOILERS HERE!) – but according to the Wikipedia entry, Dark is a German science fiction thriller web television series co-created by Baran bo Odar and Jantje Friese. Set in the fictional German town of Winden, Dark concerns the aftermath of a child’s disappearance which exposes the secrets of, and hidden connections between, four estranged families as they slowly unravel a sinister time travel conspiracy which spans across three generations. Throughout the series, Dark explores the existential implications of time and its effects on human nature.
And on a final note, those of you (like me) who pay attention to soundtracks, the music (some of which was written for the show) is a very important element. You can find out more about that here – but you might want to watch Season 1 first, as there be spoilers…
E Jackson, July 2019
I mean, just look at that sunset!
Of course, it’s not a real truck… I don’t have a license to drive HGs (Heavy Goods Vehicles, for those unfamiliar with the acronym) and I have never sat in the cab of one in my life.
So let me explain…. For my birthday in 2017 my son gifted me a driving simulation game on the game platform Steam, called Euro Truck Simulator 2 (or ETS2). I’d seen him playing it on his PC and had admired the graphics, which looked very realistic. I’d never been much into computer games so although I was pleased with the gift, I wasn’t sure if was really going to be my ‘thing’.
Well, a year and a few months later, I am hooked. At the present time I have 9 small (3 bay) garages and 1 large one (5 bay) which means I ‘own’ 32 virtual trucks based all over the UK and Europe, and ’employ’ 31 drivers (myself being based in my London garage, from which I drive a Volvo. I also ‘own’ a flat-bed trailer, but when I had it ‘delivered’ one of the other drivers in London nabbed it for a job, so I have never used it myself (the cheek of it).
As you can see from the second image, I get to carry some interesting items! Most challenging on the narrow roads of Europe are the oversized loads. In ATS (American Truck Simulator) the loads I have most problem with are the double-trailers – I have yet to master reversing one without getting into a complete pickle! The earnings are lower in this game but the roads are much wider and easier to navigate, even with a double trailer (unless you’re reversing).
What I like most about ETS2 and ATS is the realistic quality of the graphics – the detail, especially in ETS2, is AMAZING and I can barely imagine the hours of coding it must have taken to get to that level of detail. If you have your graphics set to ‘high’ then you can see the grime, the road texture, and after rain, the spray coming up from the wheels of the vehicle in front. On my current ‘job’ I’m really enjoying the way the light changes as clouds race across the sky, momentarily obscuring the sun. It really is amazing. As are the sound effects – obviously I’m no expert when it comes to real trucks, but all the truck models (Volvo, Scania, Iveco, Man, Mercedes, DAF) have different engine sounds (apparently SCS, the makers, record real engine sounds – and they also use real peripheral sounds like air brakes, the noise a truck makes as it goes over an uneven road surface… the sound of a truck driving over gravel or snow is to die for! Yes, I know I’m weird…) which adds to the realism. You even get the sound of other vehicles driving in the opposite lane as they fly past you.
I’m not sure if the towns and cities in the game are exact replicas of the real ones – some generic views are almost inevitable, given the complexity of the virtual world. One day I will look up a town from ETS2 on Google Street View to see if ETS2’s version is accurate… until then, I can still enjoy travelling right up to Scandinavia and even parts of Russia. I’ve even been to St Petersburg, and without a passport!
If you set your options for ‘roadside incidents’ to mid or high, you have the added challenge of crashed trucks and cars to contend with, which can loom up on you around a blind corner with little or no warning – I’ve totaled a few trucks that way! You can always get your truck repaired, though, however bad the damage – but you will most likely lose the cargo you were transporting at the time and, of course, the payment you would have earned for the job!
My son also gave his father the same gift, because he loves vehicles and driving. However, it turns out he much prefers real vehicles. He took his truck out and crashed it almost straight away…. Apparently it is still lying there, blocking the road and annoying the other virtual drivers! I would like to go and retrieve it for him, at least put it back safely in the garage, but he’s forgotten his password. Ah well…
Although each game is single-player, you can go onto the Multi-Player version and engage with other players. My son and one of his Uni friends meet up online from time to time and have their own little convoy. I’ve been invited to join them, but until I can work out how to install MP (or my son can help me) I’m confined to my own version of the game.
You can also sign up to ‘World of Trucks’ and get a wider range of job opportunities – the pay is often better, too! As you expand your trucking empire you can ‘buy’ trucks online. I drive a Volvo (I like the throaty engine sound – the Scania is very popular but I think it doesn’t sound nearly as powerful).
It does take time to get used to using the W A S D keys to control stopping, starting, braking, etc, and using the mouse to control turning and indicating. The first time I tried the game, it took me ages to even drive the truck off the Eurostar and I almost gave up…. but I persisted, and I’m so glad I did. It has given me a whole new appreciation of the skill of real truck drivers, and it is a great way to relax. I also find it useful for thinking about writing – I often come up with ideas when driving to my day job (not so much coming home) and the same is true when I am driving a virtual truck. (That’s how I justify spending time on the game when perhaps I could be writing…)
In case this rather rambling post has made you curious about ETS2 or ATS, there is some info (and links) here. Do let me know if you take up ‘truck driving’ and what you think of it!
Elaine, March 2019
With so much informative content available online, it can be hard to sift through it all to find something really useful that won’t take an age to learn to implement (I’ll be writing a seperate post about that quite soon). And having multiple email subscriptions which, let’s be honest, most of us never have time to read, can feel like so much clutter in your inbox – even though you must have thought they’d be useful because you signed up!
But every once in a while, something really, really useful pops up in my inbox, and the latest one from Theaterish has just landed in mine. Thank goodness I didn’t cancel the sub!
Theatreish is primarily aimed at – yes you guessed it – those in theatre production. But they have some really useful stuff for writers and creatives generally, and their blog post on How To Create a Show Program in Google Docs is exactly that. If you are looking to create a program for your book fair, convention, book signing event or even an advertising brochure, look no further! They even have a downloadable, editable template for just $5, bless them.
I haven’t tried it out yet, myself, but just glancing through the instructions and at the downloadable content, I can see this would be very useful if you are running a book fair and want to produce a printed program to hand out at the door, or if you want to create a publicity booklet promoting your own work. Trying to create any kind of booklet in Word is a bit of a nightmare (for me, anyway) – I always end up with the pages in the wrong order, or it won’t print in the required size/format. I will try it out (I have a project for which it may be just the thing) and report back. Watch this space.
In the meantime, a big Thank You to Theatreish for being such lovely people!
Elaine, February 2019
I don’t know if there is a correct answer to that question – I think it’s pretty much down to personal preference, really. Certainly JK Rowling writes in different genres, and uses different names for each. Although, since (I believe) most people know they’re both the same author, I’m not sure if it has made any appreciable difference! I was at an event in 2012 where the line of readers clutching Ms Rowling’s first ‘non-Harry Potter’ book and hoping for an autograph, was easily the longest in the building (and it was a BIG building with a very long and windy staircase…) which made getting anywhere in said building quite difficult… I wasn’t in the queue by the way.
I’m best known for writing speculative science fiction (usually, stories which have some basis in known science, and in which I explore themes and consequences and how they might affect people, whilst (hopefully!) entertaining. I do try not to moralise – if my stories get people thinking about where science might be taking us, that’s good enough! ) – ‘The Journey & Other Short Stories’ and ‘The Methuselah Paradox’. But two years (ish) ago, I released a romance story, ‘New Leaf’. I wrote it because (a) I was curious to see if I could and (b) I had a particular story in my head which was fun and relatively easy to write – it was one of those which almost seemed to write itself and I didn’t spend months/years agonising and editing it. I’ve been told it’s really good by people who wouldn’t fib just because I wrote it, which is lovely! I’m very bad at blowing my own trumpet, however, so you’ll have to take their word for it!
I used my own name (having briefly published it with a different cover under a pen name when I thought I might get into writing erotica – it wasn’t sci-fi and it wasn’t erotica but that’s about as reasoned as I ever got about it!) but for reasons I’m not entirely sure of, I haven’t really promoted it very heavily – perhaps because I’d rather be known for writing my first love, sci-fi. So perhaps I should have stuck to a pen name… too late now, though. It’s out there. With my name on it.
If you’re a writer who crosses genres, do you use a pen-name(s)? How has that worked for you? Do you think you made the right decision (to use -or not use- a pseudonym)? I’d love to know!
Thank you for reading!
My husband has been of this opinion for a long time. For most of that time, I didn’t agree with him’ I enjoy their drama output (I think of my favourite shows and documentaries and the majority were either made by or purchased by the BBC) and the suggestion that ditching the licence fee might mean their loss had me firmly in the ‘the BBC is sacrosanct’ camp.
But no longer. Why?
Their news and current affairs bias, mostly. The slow realisation that I (and millions of other householders) are paying for them to spout EU propaganda at every available opportunity has finally alienated them to me.
Whether you voted in 2016 to Leave the EU or to Remain in it (or didn’t vote at all) you’d have to be pretty disinterested in current affairs not to have noticed that the BBC’s coverage of Brexit is heavily biased against Leave. It’s not uncommon for their televised debates to have a preponderance of Remainers who proceed to try and shout down any Leave representative, who are always underrepresented. It’s not just the BBC – most MSM (mainstream media) is biased, too. But that’s another blog for another day (perhaps).
Secondly…. if you read newspapers or go onto social media at all, then I’m sure you’ll have also noticed the commotion regarding the proposed rise in the TV license fee – which for non-Brits reading this, means that even if you never watch any of the BBC channels (BBC1, BBC2 and online BBC3 – Channel 4 is also owned by the BBC), if you have a television set in your house, the law says you must pay for a TV License (currently about £12 a month). Other channels (ITV) pay for themselves via advertising. Incidentally, it used to to be that there were no adverts on the BBC – but nowadays, promotion of other BBC shows feels just as annoying as the commercial advertising you get on ITV and the online channels. They even have a horrible habit of talking over/cutting off the credits as a show ends. *sigh*
So… back to the issue at hand. Widespread condemnation of the price hike, often accompanied by phrases such as ‘paying to hear biased views/propaganda’ is rife on social media. The BBC now has a new nickname – the ‘Brussels Biased Corporation’. (It may have had one before, but if so I’m unaware of it)
Then the clincher – I learned that the BBC receives hugemongous sums of money in funding from the EU. So it’s perhaps no wonder they march to the same drum/sing from the same song sheet… impartial journalism, gosh – what might that be?!?
So I would really, really like to watch impartial reporting of the facts, and to hear how events might affect the UK (either way) – NOT biased reporting skewed to a particular agenda. I would think the same if Remain had won the vote and the media was all for Leave. It’s just wrong. So much positive news regarding Brexit goes unreported on the BBC (and other MSM sites) because it doesn’t suit their pro-EU agenda. I know that many people who voted to remain are just as fed up with it. I would like to watch and learn from programs like ‘BBC Question Time’ and ‘The Andrew Marr Show’… but they are so very biased it is painful to watch. All one learns from them is just how low journalists/anchors/interviews will stoop, and how very rude they are to those they don’t agree with. Whatever happened to good manners?
So, I am finally cutting my emotional ties to ‘Aunty Beeb’. I think the BBC should either use advertising to raise revenue like every other channel, or become subscriber-only, like Netflix. They should not be allied/affiliated in any way to the government of the day and so should have their corporation status removed. And most importantly, the license fee should be scrapped. It’s a mystery to many social media commentators how the BBC can rake in all that license fee money, get additional money from the EU and STILL feel entitled to put up the fee… astounding. Looking at Companies House online, you cannot see the current accounts, because in 2006 the BBC was granted a Royal Charter, which presumably means they don’t have to reveal their accounts to the public anymore. Somehow that seems somewhat ‘dodgy’ to me…. what do you think? Here is a link, if you are at all interested: BBC 2006 companies house.
So whilst perusing the reaction to the License Fee hike news on Twitter last weekend, I was astounded to learn that many people have been withholding their license fee for years, without being fined or sent to prison. Apparently one is not obliged to allow any representatives who might visit, into your home (they can’t break in)…? Whether one is brave enough to stand up to them is another matter, but hundreds of thousands (perhaps more) of people do. Whoever knew? I’m not sure I’m that brave, but I rather wish I was!
Ironically, one of my favourite BBC shows is ‘WIA‘ – a comedy satire series about the inner workings of the BBC – commissioned by BBC2! Running from 2014 to 2017, ‘Twenty Twelve’ and ‘WIA’ are rare and delightful examples of Brits poking fun at the BBC establishment. How it ever got made, I’m not sure, but it’s a gem.
I’d be interested to hear your thoughts about the BBC, whether or not you agree with mine! Do you think the license fee should be scrapped? You can vote in a poll here, if you’ve a mind.
So I’m sorry it has come to this, Aunty Beeb… but you and I have now fallen out!
Thank you for stopping by!
Edit: just as I posted this blog, a new mail alert popped up in the corner of my screen. “Thanks for renewing your TV Licence by Direct Debit. You’re now covered up to the end of February 2020.” Oh, the irony…. !
In April 1975, a Television series written by Terry Nation (creator of The Daleks) hit British TV screens. It wasn’t like anything I, as a sci-fi-loving 16-year old, had ever seen before. Over three seasons, it told the story of a group of people who had survived a man-made plague which brings humanity to the brink of extinction. I was enthralled.
So… you know what it’s like when you remember a show/film/book you loved as a child/young adult, and you wonder if you should revisit it, or keep it as a fond memory, because just perhaps it won’t have aged well? I decided to be brave and take the plunge, and invested in a box set of all three seasons (thank you, Amazon). No wonky VHS tapes, thank goodness! “We’re re-watching ‘Survivors’,” I told my long-suffering husband. He didn’t argue.
Would it stand the test of time? Gentle reader, I am here to tell you that (mostly) it does! Production values were different in the ’70’s, of course, and I have to say there are a few cringe-worthy moments (mostly involving dialogue), and the pacing is rather slow compared to today’s sometimes frenetic drama. It was also slightly strange without the sometimes omniscient music we are accustomed to (and occasionally complain about), but there is no doubt but that music does help to heighten emotion. Without it, the action can sometimes feel a bit like a fly-on-the-wall documentary!
As I write this, we have watched Seasons 1 & 2 (I have no memory of watching the second series when it originally aired, but I’m sure I must have. My husband is certain he didn’t) and are about to start the 3rd and final season.
Overall I think ‘Survivors’ has aged well – the story is as engaging today as it was then, and still as thought-provoking. What do you do when you think you’ve caught a murderer but there is no legal system, no police, anymore? Should all women of child-bearing age have children to ensure the survival of the species, even if they don’t have a permanent partner and may not particularly want to be a mother? How do you learn survival skills when the nearest library is miles away and in a rat/wild dog-infested state? What do you do with power-crazy individuals who want to set up a protection racket in your vicinity? What do you do without medicines, antibiotics, electricity? An awful lot of people would die; certainly anyone who relies on regular medication for good health (I am one). People living in cities would very quickly run out of food, sanitation would very quickly become a problem.
The one area where ‘Survivors’ fails to be completely realistic (apart from occasionally rather clunky/dated dialogue) is actually the very thing which would have insured a very short series, and throughout our re-watch my husband would make remarks about it. It got a bit annoying! After a year, the survivors are Getting On With It and managing subsistence farming pretty well. Except, as my husband says, in reality they would probably soon be dead or dying of radiation exposure…. Think about it: Britain today has seven active nuclear power stations, and about the same number of inactive ones. All fourteen need constant monitoring to ensure they don’t dry out and explode (as happened in Chernobyl in 1986). In a ‘Survivors’ scenario, where the majority of the population have died of the plague, it would not be more than a year before the UK’s nuclear power stations became instruments of death. Radiation would enter the water table and the atmosphere – after the Chernobyl disaster, sheep in North Wales were found to be contaminated with fall-out which had been carried on the wind. Are you scared yet?
Having said that, I can understand why Terry Nation decided (as he must have done) to ignore the nuclear threat – it would have made for a very depressing drama if his characters survived the plague only to be wiped out by radiation poisoning a few months later!
So if you like post-apocalyptic drama, and don’t mind it being slightly dated (but what fun to be reminded of Life Before the Mobile Phone!) then I would recommend having a box-set binge. You can pick up used box sets on eBay or buy it new on Amazon.
Thanks for reading!
Post Script: It is now January 2019. I wrote this in September 2018, and it has languished in my ‘Drafts’ folder ever since. Oops! So, we did finish the third series, and enjoyed it. Truly a classic.