Pictonaut Short Story Challenge: ‘The Iron Count’…

The end of the month is upon us and, thus, it’s time to file in a Pictonaut story effort. What happens is this: every month the Sagacious Sage John Steele picks a picture and challenges people to write a short story about it. I take up that challenge every time, though sometimes I end up doing something a bit unusual but it doesn’t matter ’cause it’s all creative experimentation and, hey, I have fun. I like creative experimentation and fun.

November’s Pictonaut image was this piece of concept art from the Dishonored videogame…

Concept art from Dishonoured which is, I’m told, an excellent videogame…

I have not played the game because I tend to only play retro games or games that feel like retro games ’cause I’m trapped in a weird game rut. I also don’t play videogames as much as I’d like to because I’m distracted by films and the constant feeling that “I should be writing stuff and not playing videogames!” Ultimately on a cosmic scale this is a non-problem so I will be at peace with it. Getting back on track to talk about more pressing matters, I wanted to write something inspired by this picture and so I did. Here it is – a short vignette titled The Iron Count: or The Solemn Subjects of Zarltivania and Their Uncle Rati Who Was Loved and Feared or, Rather, Loved Because He Was Feared. I got ideas about making it a pointed epic with an explicit message or maybe adding a meta-heavy epilogue but it all felt pointless and pretentious. So it stands and feel free to read into it what you will. The Iron Count then, for you consideration if you’re in the mood for some short slightly-absurd fiction…

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Thought Bubble 2013: Reflective Post-Comic Con Round-Up…

Thought Bubble 2013 happened and it was quite a happening. I had a great time over the weekend and came away in a discombobulated state of upbeat energy, worn-down exhaustion and fresh creative impetus and inspiration. All those different forces are not necessarily compatible so I’ve been sort of drifting around in a smiley-but-weary slightly-dissonant post-geekout Zen fog. Still, even though I think I’ve recovered now I’m still feeling the comic convention rush and that is a right-on feeling that can just run and run and run, heck yes. (And I feel like I’ve been overdosing of awesome experiences lately. A couple of days before the con I got to see the Pixies live and meet comics writer hero Matt Fraction on a pre-con signing tour within the space of a few hours. I’m on a high! I’m surfing waves of euphoria and beatific double rainbows all over the damn show! Yeah yeah whoop whoo!)

Back to Leeds, and at TB I occupied an exhibitor’s table in the Allied London Hall which was an overfill venue rigged up to meet high demand. There I sat/stood touting my wares and here is an iffy action shot of me and my wares at my table…

Showin' off my stuff with jazz-hands showmanship...

I took the James Clayton show on th’road…

Though it can get a bit lonely sitting behind a table for long, quiet periods (as you can see from some of the pass-the-time con doodles I’ve posted on my sketch blog), I really enjoyed it. People might not buy much of your junk and shower you with coins but it’s worth it just to be there, in that space and soaking up that atmosphere. Having people pass by my stall, speak to me, spend a moment contemplating my creations and pick up my cards is a bonus. Smiles, compliments and positive responses when I explained my ‘Meanwhile, in an alternate reality…’ shenanigans, talked about The Working Barbarian and my other activities were an extra-bonus. I’m a lonely guy who spends most of his time creating in complete isolation so I appreciate those rare occasions of social engagement. I therefore would like to say a big thank you to all those souls who hung around for a bit and said nice things. You are all lovely.

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Come Find Me at Thought Bubble Comic Convention…

Pa-zow comics people! The Thought Bubble comics convention is hitting Leeds this weekend and I’m going to be there. I’m going to be there as an exhibitor (because I’m a repressed exhibitionist) on Table 105 in the Allied London Hall. That’s on the map below so please do come and see me to say hello, show off you amazing cosplay efforts and maybe take a look at stuff I’ll have to hand.

Things I will have to hand and available to buy will be the first newsletter edition of Alternate Reality News and some new horror Christmas cards that have nightamarish Lovecraftian dread angels on them (because some people like that kind of thing, right?). Plus I’ve got old stuff like the Subspace Radio Marriage zine and some postcards and prints though the most bitchin’ bits I’ve got to give away are my free calling cards (I’m loath to use the term ‘business cards’).

Things I've doodled that look a bit like this will be available...

Things I’ve doodled that look a bit like this will be available…

If you don’t see me at my table in the Allied London Hall you’ll probably find me wandering around the Royal Armouries and New Dock Hall soaking up the  atmosphere, spending small fortunes on comics and prints and generally trying not to be too starstruck around artists and writers I really admire. When I’m doing that you’ll probably find ace artist/environmental scientist Chris Fairless manning my stall and he’s lovely, so make sure you say hello to him.

To round-up then, I’m all psyched up and ready to adventure over the Pennines for Britain’s biggest comics party. Saturday and Sunday in Leeds is gonna be a good time and I’ll be hanging around. Say hey, and yay for comics!

 

I'm at Table 105 in the Allied London Hall.

I’m at Table 105 in the Allied London Hall.

Call If You Want Christmas Correspondence…

Yo ho ho, whoa no now! Christmas is coming closer. It’s just a shade under six weeks away and there are decorations in shopping centres and weather is chilly. I’d say that talk of Christmas is still premature but I’m going to commit that crime because I’ve got festive things to plan and can’t ignore the winterish bite in the air.

I feel a strange urge to go out and buy a kitschy jumper. I’ve also started to get that urge of wanting to make stuff and send things to people. Forget the yearning for ironic woolwear. Let’s unravel with the latter urge…

Here how I roll when the festive season rolls around: my favourite thing about the yule period is writing Christmas cards. That’s how I get my pre-Christmas kicks in the bleak mid-early-winter. Christmas is all about giving and I only really enjoy it as a celebration of giving. The giving is definitely better than the receiving. I also rate Christmas as a time to really concentrate on spreading joy, celebrating human life and just everybody being ‘good people’.  (And all people are ‘good people’ – it’s just a lot of people get distracted, y’know?)

All I have to offer is some creative zest and willingness to try to be ‘good people’ by sending nice things to ‘good people’. I don’t like the idea of the Christmas card tradition going extinct just because we have text messaging, email, Twit-uh-huh and the Matrix Fakebook. Where’s the fun in sending tokenistic yuletide salutations via those cyberspace platforms? It’s more fun handwriting Christmas cards, doodling over bits of paper and tripping down off to the post office with them all. For old time’s sake and to spread some festive cheer, I take great pleasure in producing Christmas correspondence and I’ll be doing that in coming weeks.

The point of this premature post then is this – say hello if you’d like to get something from me in the post. It’s an open offer to anyone and everyone – if you want a personalised festive letter and some other hand-inked thingies and random bits in a jiffy bag just let me know and I’ll add you to the list and get your address down (Just for the postage – not for stalking or other nefarious persons because that is not what ‘good people’ do). If I know you on Twitter or Facebook send me a message or you can send me an email (jamesclayton.web@gmail.com). It doesn’t matter if we don’t know each other – I like you anyway and I want to send you Christmas correspondence…

I apologise for talking about Christmas when it’s too early to be talking about Christmas – I just wanted to flag it up in advance so I can be prepared and am not posting things that will only arrive in 2014. Say hello if you want me to send you stuff and, for now, just go about being good people and we’ll really get it on with full-throttle festive cheer in December…

Flagging Up Friday Film Features…

It’s Friday and Friday was of course named after the God of Glorious Madness, Dwight Frye. (Behold his brilliance and hail him!)

Friday is also the day that the very excellent people at Den of Geek publish my ramblings about movies. Every week you can find a fresh column written by me, all of them aiming to explore topical issues in cinema and/or irreverently riff on new releases.

I hope they stimulate people and give film fans a moment’s entertainment or something of interest to read and ruminate upon. I raise them today in case anyone coming by this site isn’t aware of the column. I also figure it’s a good time to flag it up in a proper blogpost because the message of today’s article is particularly important and I want to hammer it home and make folk think “Hey! Maybe I should listen to that guy and adopt his perspective and approach to this astounding artform!“. That message is “Don’t watch trailers because they wreck the cinema experience!” It’s all explained in this week’s Den of Geek column, so go forth and find it there if you’re interested.

And that’s all I have to say for another Friday (he says as he goes back to writing several Friday columns at once). I encourage you to enjoy your weekend, enjoy the myriad marvels of Den of Geek and enjoy the heck out of movies (Writing these columns is great because it allows me to express my passion for the movies and possibly makes me enjoy the medium all the more).

Oh, and enjoy this trailer – the only trailer that gets my seal of approval. *Laughs like Dwight Frye…*

No NaNoWriMo, Yes Nah-No-Wri’-Mo’…

Oh! November! NaNoWriMo? The answer is ‘No’ for NaNoWriMo where NaNoWriMo means ‘National Novel Writing Month’. (Though the fact that it’s an international phenomenon makes the ‘National’ part a bit suspect and has me me wondering whether it should be WoNoWriMo for ‘World Novel Writing Month’. Note the apposite “Woe!” or “Whoa!” homophone in there.)

I want to write a novel. It’s a creative challenge I’d like to apply myself to. So why not now? Because I also want to do everything else. This, as I keep on finding, is a conundrum that causes a hell of a lot of creative frustration and feelings of inadequacy. When you want to do all the things all the time you find that you inevitably can’t do all the things all the time. You realise that you are not superhuman and that you are, sadly, a flawed mere mortal meatvessel with limited ability to master time and space and, boo hoo, that’s not what you want. Then you have stompy feet and grindy teeth and self-beaty-up shadow-boxing moments as you ‘fail’ over and over in your constant impossible pursuit of some unobtainable perfection or sense of Universal mastery.

You then collapse into multiple existential crises and succumb to fear and loathing, ripping your skin off and howling desperately at the malevolent gods who are laughing at your pitiful humanity. And then we wrap up the pity party and go about pursuing perfection and attempting to conquer the impossible all over again because we just do not learn and those gods and the cosmos are indifferent to our lamentations. At least they are if you’re going to be so overly-melodramatic and wretched about it. Mostly, everyone – gods, animals, other humans and other humans who want to be gods and/or animals – prefers you with your skin on and a smile on your face.

So, yes, enough sorry shadow-boxing because there are better things to do and one of those things is writing (or at least shadow-boxing with a smile). Getting back on track, I’m not going to do NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) because I need and want to focus on other creative stuff (like these and this and this and trying to prepare more stuff for this as best as I can before it happens). I want to do all the things all the time but I accept that it isn’t the right time to be doing this, as much as I’d like to have a crack at it. High five to me for working that out all on my own and acknowledging that I just cannae take it right now, Captain! Maybe I am learning! Whoop whoop!

What I’m going to do though is continue to want to do everything and work hard at doing everything as best as I can in hope that I can transcend my tragic humanity or, at least, be highly productive and juiced up on constant creative mojo. I’m going to channel some of the underlying principles of NaNoWriMo – daily writing, prolific mojo-a-go-go, creating without hesitancy or doubt – as I go through November and into months beyond. I’m embracing an an attitude of Nah-No-Wri’-Mo’ which means ‘Nah! No! Write More!’ which basically means “You should be writing more and more and more and more.” It doesn’t necessarily have to apply to writing – generally, I’m all about creating and having an upbeat, proactive creative mindset.

Rockin’ with that energy means I may have a chance of doing about 1/27th of all the things I want to do and I’ll feel good about it instead of getting downbeat about not achieving anything and being a fallible human who can’t master space and time. It’s a matter of mindset, shifting poor mood (too much of that lately), the sense of slacking and going through the motions and punching out Demon Apathy, Demon Pity and Demon Procrastination (The Unholy Trinity that terrorise us all into insidious inertia). Cut down those killjoys, quit the kvetching and crush creative frustration whenever it rears its irritating and ugly head. Get working. Get writing. Follow that Nah-No-Wri’-Mo’ groove and there will be more writing and momentum and, thus, more creative energy and good feeling and thus more writing and so on, so on, so on…

All I’m doing is harking back and holding on to the same philosophical ideas expounded in manifestos like Less Talk More Rock,  Making Things Fast and so many other motivational self-help articles, blogs and suchlikes that are out there. Long story short, moop is unacceptable and writing makes me happy and is so much fun so let’s do lots of that and enjoy it. Positive Mental Attitude, zealous determination to kick out the jams, remembering the fundamental inspirational mantras (Nah-No-Wri’-Mo’ at every pause point) and yeah, having fun.

No NaNoWriMo for me, then, but yes to writing more and more and mo’, mo’, mo’. The start of November is a perfect, auspicious time to think “Yeah! Write on!” so I’m flicking an internal switch, refocusing and rebranding this ‘Yesvember’ as I rumble on into bleak winter. I’m punching the air with plucky determination to defy the gods and my own limits! I’m going full gusto at my hopeless dream of mastering the Universe and doing everything all the time even though these things are unachievable! I’m in manic uptempo Positive Mental Attitude mode and it’s do or die and I’m a doer!

Yay writing! Yay right attitude! It’s Yesvember and the action is go! All is righteous because I’m writing and if I’m not writing I’m doing something to generate extra creative enthusiasm and energy to fuel more writing. Hey! I may even end up writing a novel! Write on… *Beats chest and burns up his keyboard, laughing maniacally all the while as he goes about conquering all the impossibles…*

(As a footnote, high fives to anybody reading this who is taking the NaNoWriMo challenge this month. Write on…)