Tag Archives: graphic novels

Latest news from Hopeless Maine

Those of you who have been with me for a while will know that aside from writing about Druidry, I also write fiction and graphic novels. At time of writing, there are three Hopeless Maine graphic novels out there, two prose books, an array of videos from our live performance stuff, a great deal of art, and copious amounts of contributions from other people. This is the project that brought my husband and I together and it remains a big part of our lives.

The latest development is a film project, which we’ve only gone public about in recent weeks. We’re going to make a Hopeless Maine silent film on a period camera, with a soundtrack, and a mix of actors and puppets. We have most of the team to do this in place.

I’ve started charting the journey over on the Hopeless Maine blog, so if you’re curious, there’s going to be posts every Friday, and two are up already as this post goes live. https://hopelessvendetta.wordpress.com/category/hopeless-film/

If you’re super keen and you follow me at any level aside from Moon over on Patreon, you’ll get a monthly update about what’s actually happening right now with the project, not just the back history. https://www.patreon.com/NimueB Sign up as a dustcat and you can read one of the aforementioned Hopeless prose novels as a series. There is also Druid stuff over there – the level called Bards and Dreamers, or combine fiction and non-fiction streams by becoming a Steampunk Druid.

To avoid duplicating too much, I won’t put much film content on this blog, but I may be going to talk about the creative and collaborative processes here as that content won’t be going anywhere else. I’m really excited about the people I’m working with and the creative possibilities in all of this.

And yes, that post I did a bit back about Gregg McNeil is part of all this – https://druidlife.wordpress.com/2020/01/04/the-glorious-work-of-gregg-mcneil/

Out of love with novels

I read novels of course – usually one or more in any given week. I read widely in different genres, historical and contemporary. I’ve read disposable comfort fiction, although most of the time I prefer to be surprised. I’ve read the self-proclaimed literary stuff, although most of the time I prefer the work of thoughtful people who want to entertain their readers. One way and another, I have spent much of my adult life thinking about books, and novels most especially.

Child me wanted to be a novelist and wrote a lot of short stories. Teenage me wanted to be a novelist and started trying to write novels and novellas. Twenty something me got quite a lot of novels written and published as ebooks. Somewhere in my thirties I slowed down. I lost the drive, the passion and the love that had kept me writing and for a long time I wasn’t sure what was wrong. Yes, the industry sucks, and it is nigh on impossible to make enough money to live on. But, suffering for art, and putting your creativity ahead of profitability and doing it for love, and knowing there are at least a few people who appreciate what I write – that should have been enough, surely?

It’s taken me until the last few days to realise a few things. I have not ceased to love books and novels. I have not ceased to love storytelling. I am not out of ideas, and I am not out of creative impulses. I just don’t enjoy writing conventional novels anymore. The form itself no longer speaks to me as a creator. Looking back over my last few projects (stalled and languishing) I can now see what the common thread is. I can see my own resistance to the form, my trying to push for something else and not knowing what it was, much less how to do it.

There is a fledgling form, somewhat akin to the Japanese light novel – a form mixing prose, illustration and sequential art. It’s a young form, there are no hard rules about how it is supposed to work. I’m excited about it. I think it would free me up to find new ways of presenting and exploring stories, worlds and characters. It would allow me to work collaboratively with my husband, and it would mean if we shift to this form, that he isn’t spending 6 months a year full time on graphic novels. We’re going to do the two remaining books in the Hopeless Maine graphic novel arc, and then that may be it for us with big comics projects. We’d have more time, we could tell a story faster and with more depth and breadth than comics allow. We could tell stories with more visual interest and with all the artistic magic a regular novel does not permit. We can have fun with this.

It’s going to be an adventure!


Good art and entertaining

“The list of 55 titles, drawn from 98 official nominations, is presented annually at the ALA Midwinter Meeting. The books, recommended for those ages 12-18, meet the criteria of both good quality literature and appealing reading for teens.”

That quote comes from http://www.ala.org/yalsa/booklists/ggnt/2013 and the Young Adult Library Services Association selection of Great Graphic novels 2013. There must have been thousands of potential candidates.
All on its own, that quote would make me very happy. The recognition that good quality creativity that is also accessible and entertaining, should be available, is vital. Dull if worthy books do not get readers excited. Vacuous books… well, I think we’ve established what I think about throw away content. It makes me grumpy. More time spent shouting out the good stuff, the stuff that has content and is also fun and enjoyable, is time well spent, so there’s a list of 55 things that it is well worth waving at teen readers, and people who like teen reads. Do give it a look if you like graphic novels.

We found out about this yesterday, and we found out because we made the list. Hopeless Maine only came out last November, we never expected anything like this kind of attention. It’s startling, and we feel profoundly honoured. We’re also delighted to see Rust and Cowboy – other titles from Archaia – also on that list. Archaia put out unusual books, they aren’t driven by market trends or assumptions about what is ‘in’ this year. They take risks – they took us – and those risks are resulting in kudos and sales. There are enough people out there who want something new and surprising after all. It feels like a huge victory. The comics industry is dominated by DC and Marvel, people in what looks to me like fetish gear, thumping each other. But evidently there is room for other stuff too, and that makes me happy. Diversity is a good thing.

A matter of weeks ago I had run out of hope. The whole business seemed impossible, demoralising, a bit… hopeless. To be recognised as both good art and entertaining is so important to me. I want to do both, be both. I don’t want to write the kind of stuff only a handful of academics could ever be interested in, and at the same time, I don’t want to write the kind of stuff I don’t enjoy reading. I was so close to quitting, because I kept feeling I just couldn’t do it on my terms. 5000 librarians and library workers apparently think otherwise. That’s huge.

I’m in a process of doing some serious rethinking about how, and why, I want to work. I’d reached some decisions that are, in many ways, reinforced by what happened yesterday. I’m not interested in ‘being a professional writer’ I need to do work that is meaningful to me. If I can do that with the writing, excellent. If not, then tutoring, workshops, editing and whatever conventional stuff I can find will be more in the mix. My terms, or not at all. Which leaves me asking the interesting question of what ‘on my terms’ means to me these days. In all the crap and fear and stress, I lost my way. Figuring out what I want is a big part of what I need in place to move forwards. I have some ideas –more on that soon. In the meantime, I just feel a bit vindicated, which was timely, and a lot encouraged, which is helpful.

The good side of pop culture

For balance, I need to talk about the good things and what I love, having griped a lot in Why I don’t like bookshops about all the lame TV rip off celebrity rubbish. There are many aspects of popular culture that I do like, but it tends to be a process of picking through to find the good stuff.

In essence, pop culture is of the people for the people, and is classed as ‘low brow’ by the more ‘up market’. Well, I’ve read literature and listened to classical music. Shakespeare is full of sex and death. Much of the ‘up market’ end is wilfully obscure though, self important and mind numbingly dull. There’s good stuff there too, but plenty of it I can live without.

Graphic novels, having evolved out of that most lowly of forms, the comic, are considered more pop culture than not. Yet there’s an incredible array of art styles and storytelling out there once you get past Batman and his friends. Assuming you want to. Some people like that sort of thing and even the most clichéd comic is capable of moments of innovation and vision. I listen to the chart show on Radio 1 most weeks, to see what’s out there, missing the top ten so that I can catch Genevieve Tudor’s folk program. A lot of popular music is, and always has been so bland that you can forget it even while you’re actually listening to it. Music written to sell to a market, music by people who want to be famous, music written by committee to tick as many commercial boxes as possible. Blandsville. But now and then there’s someone who has something to say, or who loves what they do, someone passionate about their thing, or political, or funny. So I’ll confess to liking Rizzlekicks and that Dizzy Rascal’s Filthy Stinking Bass makes me smile, but if I never heard Rhianna again, I’d be entirely happy about that.

I come from a folk background, there’s something from that tradition hardwired into who I am. Plenty of folk music is bland and insipid too – depends a lot on how you do it. I like my folk music raw and dirty. Once it gets too shiny and over produced, I don’t want to know. Music Hall used to be an urban equivalent of folk, again there are gems amongst the piles of mawkish sentimentality. Where pop culture works, it does so by grabbing something so basically human and widely recognisable that we all engage with it. Harry Potter pushed all those buttons. That which is popular can also be good, and that which sets out to be high art can be bloody tedious.

Whether I like the precise content or not, a performer who is driven by a vision, by love of their work, by attitude, a creator who has inspiration, is someone I respect. It doesn’t matter what genre. I’ll take raw enthusiasm and passion over technical skill as well. That which is smooth and shiny, built on assumptions about how to make a commercial success, mostly makes my skin crawl. The manufactured bands, the glossy celebrity stuff where what matters is fame and attention, not the quality of what you do.

Basically what I want is arts industries that are driven by creative people, not by people in suits who are only interested in exactly how many yachts they can afford to buy this year. Yes, arts industries are businesses too, but when the only consideration is the money, and you have no place for soul, you kill the market. Music sales are down. Book sales are down. Bookshops are closing. That says something. HMV closed. What it says to me is that the model is wrong, the product is wrong. You won’t get everyone to fall in love with a creation by trying to make the exact thing that everyone will fall in love with. It doesn’t work. Risk and innovation are the lifeblood of creativity. Try to strip the risk out, and you take way the things that most engage people, and they take their hard earned money somewhere else.

Pop culture, when it works best, is by the people for the people. It comes up from the grass roots, it’s not dripped down upon us from up from above. It has roots, and the people doing it have experience, and dedication, and are not skyrocketed to success in ways that are likely to induce mental health problems. I like that kind of pop culture. I want more of it. I want fewer people in suits, in distant offices trying to imagine what I’ll cough up money for. That’s not pop culture, that’s a cynical industry that is suffocating itself to death and taking everyone else with it.