The Questions…


Now I hope I’ve understood this correctly… I just came across a really interesting blog  classicsandcraziness  and a series of questions people could use to introduce themselves. The idea is to tag the last person who answered the questions, and then answer them yourself…. I think.  So here’s my version: 

 

THE QUESTIONS

Appearances!

 Name: Elaine Jackson (writing as EJ Jackson)

 Nicknames: I don’t really have one; our parents apparently named us Elaine and Jean because they didn’t want people to give us nicknames (no idea why!) but one of my managers found a great way around that – he used to call me MissElaineious and I loved it! When I married he briefly toyed with MrsElaineious but it didn’t trip off the tongue quite so easily…

 Birthday: 9th October – I do it the other way around because I’m in the UK and we put the day before the month! I’ll be *ahem* 60 this year (eek). Mostly I don’t feel it… if I could find an anti-ageing pill/machine/gene I’d go for it. As the Tenth Doctor famously said, “I don’t want to go”.

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Hair colour and length: My hair used to be dark brown, but these days I’m silver/grey. I’ve had it in a chin-length bob for years now – and I try to keep it trimmed, because (a) it looks better and (b) I love the scalp massage you get when you go to the hairdresser’s!

Eye Colour:  hazel.

 Braces/Piercings/tattoos: Nope. I did have my ears pierced in the 1980’s (I was okay until they put the stud in and twisted it, and then I fainted dead away – very embarrassing) but I kept forgetting to put earrings in and the holes closed over. I can’t bear the thought of getting it done again, so…

Righty or lefty: I’m right-handed

Ethnicity: Caucasian.  British – Scottish, Irish and Welsh roots and, according to a DNA test, a link to the Caucuses area of Russia…

First…

 Book Written: a short story collection, that I published on Amazon in 2014. I’d written lots of fan-fiction (mostly Dr Who with some crossover with Torchwood, Sherlock and (don’t ask) Crime & Punishment, some of which will never see the light of day…. But in 2011 I decided to write original fiction and haven’t stopped since.

 Journey Cover

Novel Completed: A time-travelling detective mystery set (mostly) in present day about how gene therapy might go horribly wrong… published it in 2016. It represented about four/five years of writing off and on, and hair-tearing out (time-travel really messes with your head).

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Award for Writing: None. Somehow or other I never get around to entering competitions, even though I know it’s a Good Thing to do.

Publication: Oops, I think I jumped ahead with this one. So, they’re called ‘The Journey & Other Short Stories’ and ‘The Methuselah Paradox’ (both sci-fi) and ‘New Leaf’ (a romantic novella, because I felt like it). All available on Amazon and other platforms. 😉

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 Conference: If by that is meant have I been to any writing conferences, then yes!  Went to The Festival of Writing at York in 2013 (where I met a lovely lady I’m still friends with today, although she’s shy & doesn’t do social media so I can’t give her a Shout Out here). She was a huge help with my magnum opus (the time travel/gene therapy story).

 Query/Pitch:  My motto is ‘Imagination is the highest kite one can fly’ and it was said by Lauren Bacall.

 Favourites!

Novel (that you wrote): ‘The Methuselah Paradox’ is very close to my heart, partly because it took so long to write and partly because the core premise (is it okay to tweak genes so people live longer) is of Great Interest to me … but my current project is a post-apocalyptic comic book series which I’m SO excited about because I think it has Potential (and I say that with a cringe because, being a Brit, I’m not good a blowing my own trumpet – at all. It’s like pulling teeth.

Genre: science-fiction – first, last and foremost. I grew up watching Dr Who, Captain Scarlet, Star Trek, Blake’s 7 – the idea that there might be life Out There has always captivated me. Although these days I’m quite likely to run for cover at the first sigh of an alien spaceship. I saw ‘Alien’ and quaked in my boots. I also saw ‘Close Encounters of the Third Kind’ a ridiculous number of times (I was working in a cinema at the time) but it’s sods law they’ll be of the ‘Aliens’ variety!.

Author: Oh goodness, too many to remember. Isaac Asimov, Frank Herbert, Ray Bradbury, Carl Sagan… Philip K Dick… Douglas Adams  (oh yeah, I founded the official HHGTTG appreciation society in 1980 – and it’s still going strong!  One of my proudest achievements) and lots and lots of newer writers. It would take forever to list them all, honest.

 

Writing Music:  I wrote a LOT of my Dr Who fanfic listening to Avantasia, Eryon, Tangerine Dream (still got a vinyl box set somewhere in the loft)… but also love Mike Oldfield, Jean Michael Jarre, Muse, The Moody Blue…. And loads more.  I tend to prefer instrumentals for writing. But I don’t always listen to music when I write, it depends.

Time to write:  Whenever I can get time on my own, so it could be early morning before work or late at night before bed.

Writing snack/drink: Coffee.  Tea (usually peppertmint) but I can’t eat and write at the same time. Or even drink, really – I’m Queen of the Undrunk Tea.

Movie:  ‘Blade Runner’, ‘I, Robot’, ‘Avatar’ and, perhaps bizarrely you might think, ‘The Remains of the Day’.

 

Writing Memory: My first ever fanfic – a Star Trek story titled ‘The Berengaria Dragon’ when I was in my teens. It was pretty dire, and the illustrations I did to go with it even more so. But I still published it in our local Star Trek group fanzine and nobody threw things at me, so maybe it wasn’t so bad.

 Childhood Book: ‘The Magic Faraway Tree’, various ‘Noddy’ books and ‘Black Beauty’. I still have the ‘Black Beauty’ I was given for my 9th/10th birthday. I drew horses on all the blank pages in it…

 

 

Currently…

Reading:  ‘The Quartet Murders’ by J.R. Ellis. I like detective stories, too!

Writing: My blog, updating my websites and a kickstarter campaign for my current project, ‘Minding Mama’ – the post-apocalyptic comic book. My art isn’t anywhere near good enough, so I’ve got a brilliant artist, Dan Schaefer, who’s illustrating it.

Listening to: nothing, for a change! (well, my son sneezing)

 Watching: Well, not right at this moment, obviously, but currently hooked on ‘Gotham’, and looking forward to the new John Simm drama, ‘Strangers’, which starts on the 10th. Also partway through ‘Sense 8’ on Netflix. Oh, and will get to watch Season 2 of ‘WestWorld’ eventually…

Learning: All the time! Studied creative writing at Faber Academy in The Writer’s Workshop in 2013/2014 and screenwriting and self-editing with The Writer’s Workshop in 2014; I’ve got a couple of Udemy courses I signed up to and can’t find time to complete and I’m learning the art of marketing as an Indie Author the long way round… also taught myself how to make book trailers. And although I’ve got a dear friend who records and edits my live-action trailers for me, I still love learning how to make them using a program called Filmora. I’ve made a couple of book trailers myself and one for a friend, I love it.

 Future!

 Want to be published: well, I’m self-published, but I’d be fibbing if I didn’t admit that the idea of getting traditionally published doesn’t have some appeal (mainly, the advance, so I could maybe give up the day job – I have another 6 years to work before I’m eligible for the State Pension!).

Indie or traditional: Oops, I’ve skipped ahead again! Done the first, would love the second. It’s unlikely I’ll be the next JK Rowling, but it’s useful to have a dream! The idea of my stories reaching that many people is quite mind-blowing.

 Wildest goal: To have one of my books made into a TV series or film. If I can achieve that, I’ll go happy. Well, maybe not happy… fulfilled. I don’t want to go!

 

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We’re up and Running – ‘Minding Mama’ Trailer goes live on Kickstarter!


mama poster2 internet copy
art by Amanda Fullwood

The trailer is finished – and our campaign to crowdfund production of  Issue 1 of our comic book series is now live! 

There’s no denying it’s been a long haul – fitting in the creation of a four-minute, part-live action trailer around busy workaday lives has been a constant challenge for everyone on our team, with members living far apart: the Hampshire/Surrey border, the south coast, Nottingham and Oregon (USA) but we finally got there: and the result is even more exciting and spectacular than I could ever have imagined when we began the process!

Those of you who have followed this blog for a while may remember that this isn’t my first trailer – back in 2015 with the help of my good friend Sue Turner of www.elephantinscarlet.co.uk , artist Catherine Archer-Wills , composer Matthew Thomason and lots of other very lovely people, I created one for my sci-fi novel, ‘The Methuselah Paradox‘.  Whilst that trailer did have real, live people in it (take a bow, Simon Bugg, Richard Oliver and Amelia Wray) there were no costumes, props or special effects to complicate things … just some very nifty video-editing by Sue!

As you’ll see from the finished trailer if you click on this link,  the ‘Minding Mama’ team managed to create a small corner of future Earth in a drama studio in Surrey on a very small budget. We used polystyrene packing, old electrical equipment, as well as a prop robot.  We had a brilliant Mama in Kate Davies-Speak, and the voice of Cyril the FarmBot (and our narrator) was none other than David Learner, who has played Marvin the Paranoid Android on stage and TV, and was one of our very first celebrity guests when I ran the official appreciation society back in the early 1980’s.

We’ll be running a series of interviews with the team over the duration of the campaign (which ends September 23rd), so please do check out the campaign

Neon Sky Books will also be at Reading Comic-Con on Saturday & Sunday October 13 – 14th, so please drop in and say ‘Hello!’!

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Indie Comics – to bravely go….


… 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!

CAPTAIN SCARLET 1967
my Captain Scarlet annual only looked this good for a little while… not my copyright, by the way.

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?

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Looks a bit like Mars, doesn’t it? Not a world I’d like to inhabit – except in my imagination! (I’ll let you into a little secret – it’s Iceland with a pink filter, thanks to videographer Sue Turner’s magic touch. (It was also her holiday footage!)

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 .

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A sample page from Issue 1, before text is added. Art by Dan Schaefer, colour by Grant Kempster. How much do I want to see the rest of Mama and Cyril’s adventures in page after page of full, glorious colour?  I can’t even begin to tell you…

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!

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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.