National Novel Writing Month is back once again, marking the 20th year since the event begun. If you’ve never heard of it, or if you’re only vaguely aware, I think it’s always worth sharing what this is at this time of year, because hey, even if you’re not ready to take the plunge yourself this year, there’s always time to get yourself ready for the next one! In today’s article, I’ll discuss a bit of the history of National Novel Writing Month, what you can do to get involved and also some tips on how to work through your writing bug, without breaking the bank balance.
Publishing is hard to get into, especially for brand new artists who are looking to have their first proper shot at getting seen. But could there be a new way for artists to be seen, for comics to be read, for writers to be exposed to the world and media to be consumed.
Bristol and Cardiff Anime and Gaming Conventions are now both over and there was a lot of cross-over between the two. One of the crossovers was within the guests, where some of the guests from Cardiff were also a guest at Bristols event. They are Crownroot Publishing, a small group who are bringing small artists, comic artists, writers and more together to bring about magazines to those who want to get their voice out there.
It’s a great premise too. They will publish peoples works for free. In return, these aspiring comic artists and writers get their pieces seen by many. It’s a great cause and I’m glad to know that a publication such as these guys exist. They wandered around the convention and for just £5, I was able to get a hold of a brilliant array of artists and writers stuff. It was a great read and there are some truly talented artists and writers with Crownroot!
This piece was simply just to highlight the work they do – I’ve yet to find them on Twitter and Facebook, but once I know more information, I’m sure we’ll be able to share more information about their services.
Growing up in the 90s, I played a lot of what we now call classic video games. From Sonic the Hedgehog to Mario; Pac-Man to Tetris, I think I’ve played some of the greatest games of the early eras of video games and I’m happy to keep playing modern games. Now comes a time that these older consoles aren’t as easy to get a hold of, but there are ways to go ahead and get games of yesteryear.
Here on Ubuntu, there’s a wealth of emulators available for a variety of different old school consoles. Windows has even more native built emulators and I’m sure Macs have more unique ones to add to this list. With this in mind, I thought I’d pause and pose an open question to all of you.
What are your thoughts on emulators?
Now, considering I’m a fan of video games, I see them as a potential nuisance for a company. There’s a chance all of their hard work is stolen away by these emulators, which allows people to play whatever game they want on whatever device: But then there’s the gamer inside of me that says that it’s time we embrace the openness of open source and share older games without scrutiny. It’s a seriously grey legal area, so what are your thoughts on emulation?
I personally feel that emulators should be legal if a console is past a certain age, in hopes to provide users access to a console they might not be able to get. For example, SNES certainly isn’t still in production and a lot of video games from the SNES era are considered a “must play”. Same as how a book can end up for free in a library, is it so wrong to presume that video games get the same sort of catalogue available to the public?
They say reflection is a form of mental processing, so when I think about it, it’s only logical that I would finally do an article on why I started to blog and why I think you might want to consider it too. After all, it’s not like I produce the highest quality of articles, but I’d like to think the topics I touch upon are at least vaguely interesting to someone out there. Except perhaps my personal cosplay posts, those are a whole different beast.
We’re going to go quickly into the history of this website, along with the future of the site and what I believe are some universal truths about blogging. Hopefully someone out there will benefit from this knowledge from an “insiders point of view”, so if you benefited from it in some way, just leave us a comment and let me know.
I know a lot of people actually start blogs with the intention of making a lot of money off of their free blogs. If you start with the intention of making money, let me tell you now: You may make a couple of quid, but you’re going to win no friends this way. I’m not sure about all of you out there, but I think the majority of you will agree with me that networking is one of the coolest things in the world.
If you don’t believe me, welcome to GeekOut South-West, a website built around the concept of having a geek social group. We exist: 450+ members of us. We have over 930 Twitter followers and rising. We have over 130 of you on Facebook too. We thank each and every one of you for every click, every like, every share you do of our little corner of the internet and don’t think that’s me just trying to appease our regular readers.
This is from the bottom of my heart – I honestly love seeing the, albeit small, sense of community we have here on this website… But more to the point, I love the community spirit of the greater blogosphere. Whilst all of this is great, it’s not why I started blogging, so now let’s go back and look into why I started blogging.
Ayacon Apocalypse 2013
Those of you who know the website well enough will be aware of the events of Ayacon, all the way back in 2013. This was when I first met Joel and this was actually a sort of prequel to the story of this website. Before this website… No, before Ayacon… I was really in a rut. There was nothing for geeks here in Bristol, not really. Now, suddenly, Bristol has exploded with geek activities and events… But let’s talk about this site.
When I begun, there was very little here in Bristol. The highly praised and much loved Bristol Video Game Social wasn’t a thing. Bristol Bad Film Club was still quite new, as they started around summer 2013 (to my knowledge). Other than this, we already had the amazing BristolCon… If I’m going to be brutally honest: Other than the Bath and Bristol RPG Meetup Group… There really wasn’t much else! I mean we had some cool shops, but that’s about it.
It was bleak, very bleak. So back in late 2013, I thought to myself that I would give myself a little bit of a run for my money. After Ayacon 2013, I needed to see more people so positive, so ready to allow themselves to be freely geeky and freely up for chatting to other geeky people. I attribute a lot of this to my fellow GeekOut writer, Joel… More on that shortly.
At Ayacon, I went with a costume that was so bad, I refuse to link to it. I say it was bad, but people somehow recognised it. So, clearly, something was right about it. The nicest thing was: People cared. They wanted to talk to me about the costume and the things I had made. They wanted to know how things were made. They wanted to know the cost. Everything. It wasn’t just one or two people: It was tens of people. A lot to me.
I knew these people had to exist in my home town of Bristol, so I thought to myself: How can I bring a convention feeling to the every day of Bristol, without running a full blown convention every single month? Simple: I had to form a social group.
Quotes from the Tabletop
Occasionally in life, you meet someone who far exceeds your expectations. Joel was this person and if he reads this, I hope you don’t feel so mushy about this post. Joel was a large part of why GeekOut South-West was even brought to life. I’ve told countless stories of this, but it bares repeating. One of our most important partner sites, Quotes from the Tabletop, is one of the pivotal points of this websites fledgling life.
When I met Joel, he was an incredibly enthusiastic individual who came literally rushing over to me and my friend Rob. I was wearing a shirt that I’m wearing as I write this post (don’t worry, I’ve washed it between then and now). It says: “I KNOW KARATE (And like 2 other Japanese words” I put a blonde wig in as my cosplay was completely destroyed… and I put a blue band around my head. Why? Because I was just having fun at the event and you know – it was funny to me.
When Joel rushed over to us, he wanted to chat to us about everything geeky and that to me was something I aspired to see more of. More positivity, more unification of a geekified world… So after I grabbed some details off of him, I bugged him day and night. No, really: I did. I bet he got fed up with having a little me bugging him whenever I felt like it. I set up the initial website of GeekOut… But never did I expect to get anywhere near the numbers that we received. The positivity of the scene alone was something I had always wanted to see.
I set the website up, I started to blog and when we got big enough: I asked Joel if he’d like to get involved. Interestingly, I think because of our friendship, he started to watch the website more and more. It was good to have a second pair of eyes, an ally, as it were, in my quest to bring a more geek front to the UK – Even if my initial reaction was to bring more of it to the south-west. Eventually, we’d like to expand and have more events happening across the UK… But this is a way off yet.
The point to take away from this is: You must always begin with a goal in mind. You need to have a reason to start a blog. Are you a gamer? Why not start a blog about your favourite video games and all of the really cool things you know about them that not everyone does? How about a writer? You need to have a blog about your upcoming releases! A blog can change someone for the better… So this begs the question:
How you can start blogging
This post focused on the life of GeekOut, which is more or less how I expected it to be, but I want to send you away with a positive lesson out of all of this. You’ll notice I’ve mentioned that I didn’t start this for money. I didn’t even think a site like this could make money (for the record, we’re currently not making money. A lot of expenses comes out of my own pocket!)
Don’t let costs of anything deter you. You don’t have to pay a penny to run a WordPress blog. In fact, it can even make you money for absolutely nothing if you really must earn money off of it. But what I want you to take away from this post is that you need to find a subject that not only are you passionate about, but you think others will be interested in too.
A writer doesn’t usually write just for themselves… Although I’ve known a few writers write just because they enjoy writing. If you’re one of these people, do it. If you’re not one of these people who writes because they like to write, you don’t need to matter yourself too much. I don’t write for the sake of being a writer, I’m afraid to tell you all. I write because I believe people will read it… and people will come together, even if my writing isn’t the most riveting of prose written.
I hope you feel that you’re passionate about a subject enough to start writing. If you’re already a writer: Why did you start? Let’s talk about what makes someone a blogger, or a writer, and let’s share it with the world. Are you new to blogging and looking to other blogs for the first time? Share your experiences in the comments below, over on Twitter and Facebook.
Welcome readers to another issue where we celebrate the works of writers.
This week, I’ve had the chance to have an interview with the awesome Stark Holborn, who is close to releasing more books in his or her series Nunslinger. If you want to meet Stark, he or she will be attending this years BristolCon! If you’ve not yet got your tickets, please do remember to do so! A few of us in the GeekOut crew will be attending, so do stop by and say hi. I’ll… probably have knocked up another costume or something for the event. It is me, after all.
So, read on and read about what the awesome Nunslinger series is all about and even learn a bit about the writer in the process.
Interview with the Writer – Stark Halborn
Q: Welcome to GeekOut South-West! As is customary, could you introduce yourself for our readers?
A: Stark here. Small time liquor bootlegger, moonshine brewer, purveyor of Penny Westerns and author of the Nunslinger series. Currently hanging my hat in Bristol, UK.
Q: So, you’re working on a series of books called Nunslinger. Before we go into the series, how did you get into writing?
A: I reckon reading is what did it: my parents read to me and my sister every night for years. Not just children’s books either. Pa started reading us The Lord of the Rings when I was 2 and my sister was 4. Took him nearly 3 years to read us the whole thing. I still remember hearing the end for the first time. My parents read us all sorts, basically whatever they were reading at the time, from William S. Burroughs to Brian Aldiss. Anyhow, that showed me that stories came in all shapes and sizes, and got me used to always having a book in my hand. From then, I guess it was natural to want to try writing them, too.
Q: I’ve read the first Nunslinger book which is awesome and really well priced on the Waterstones website. Can you tell me a little bit more about Nunslinger and how you began writing it?
A: Nunslinger follows Sister Thomas Josephine, a nun of the Visitandine order, who leaves her home in St. Louis, Missouri, to set out on the perilous journey west, in order to join a mission in Sacramento, California. It’s 1864, the heart of the Civil War, and the road is bristling with dangers. Of course, her journey is far from smooth, and before she knows it, she’s a wanted fugitive. Add in a mysterious drifter, a dangerously obsessed Cavalry Lieutenant, shoot outs, jailbreaks, snow storms in the Sierra Nevadas, deserts, bandits and steamships and you’ll be on the right track.
I began writing it… Well, to be honest I was sitting one Sunday morning, nursing a hangover and watching an old Western on TV. It was particularly bad one, featuring a nun who – when confronted by an objectionable grizzled ol’ cowchaser – seemed to forget every vow she’d ever taken in order to fall in love with him. “Jeez,” I thought, “that nun isn’t sticking to her guns at all.” (Sorry). So I decided to write one who would.
Q: I’ve noticed you’ve written a number of books in the Nunslinger series. How many more books are there and are there more books for this series? When are the next books due?
A: Nunslinger is a twelve-part series. The first nine e-books have been published in three-monthly instalments throughout 2014, with the final three due on 11th September. The Complete Series paperback is due for release on 4th December 2014.
Q: Who are your inspirations as a writer? Are there any common themes in their writing or do you like them all for completely different reasons?
A: You know, when I was 12 or 13 I was all about Tamora Pierce; she always had brilliant female lead characters and I wouldn’t be surprised if some of that influenced my approach to Sister Thomas Josephine – at least subconsciously. From a more modern angle, David Mitchell is definitely an inspiration: he makes me want to be a better writer (after I’ve finished sobbing “WHY DO I EVEN BOTHER I’LL NEVER BE THIS GOOD” into the corner). In terms of Nunslinger, I’ve taken inspiration and research from Patrick deWitt’s The Sister’s Brothers, which I think has helped nudge Westerns into people’s attention once again, to Elmore Leonard, Mark Twain, Walt Whitman, Mary Hunter Austin and even 14th century mystic Julian of Norwich. So a bit of a mixed tub.
Q: What sort of research went into writing Nunslinger? How did you start the research and how do you keep track of it all?
A: Apart from the writers mentioned above, the quick answer is A TON. The American Civil war is a particularly well-documented time, which has its upsides and downsides. On the one hand, if you want to know what a fully functioning Philadelphia Derringer from 1859 looked and sounded like, there’s probably someone online who knows, and has posted pictures of it. On the other hand, it means that getting things wrong is pretty inexcusable. But there are some incredible resources out there, from internet archives to podcasts like Backstory, which help present a nuanced view of historical sources.
I keep track of everything using Evernote, and tend to research as I go. It certainly results in some weird Google searches, like: “which desert lizards are edible?”, “how to skin an iguana”, “history of mattresses” and “recipes for groundhog”. I also watched a man cauterize a wound in his own arm with gunpowder. He didn’t look very well afterwards but he put the video up on Youtube anyway.
Q: You seem to be quite active in producing eBooks. Do you think eBooks are a good thing for writers, or should people be actively promoting physical purchases of books still? What’s best; digital or printed books?
A: I wouldn’t want to champion one over the other exclusively, but my heart, like those of many other readers, will always belong to print books. However: ebooks and digital works do have the ability to do things that print books simply can’t. My pa had a stroke, for instance, and isn’t physically able to hold print books open or follow the text from page to page. Not a problem with a Kindle. But rather than just shifting texts from print to ebook format and leaving it at that, I think it’s important to look at the differences between the two, and the potential of digital to explore not just what we read, but how we read and address that. That way, it’s about different experiences rather than competition.
Q: If anyone wants to keep up to date with your works, how can they get a hold of you or see any updates?
A: Y’all can always reach me on Twitter (@starkholborn) and that’s where most updates appear. But other than that, there’s my website, where most of the important things feature, but without tweet-based ramblings. There’s also Hodderscape for other SFF news, pictures of dodos and general taxidermy.
Q: Here on GeekOut South-West, we celebrate all things geeky. So what geeky hobbies do you divulge in?
A: I ain’t had much time for hobbies of late, apart from drinking bourbon and writing, but y’all can’t go wrong with watching and re-watching Firefly. Except that isn’t geeky, that’s MANDATORY. Recently, I’ve become partial to a board game or two of an evening, mostly Dominion, because I’m the sheriff in that town right now.
But first and foremost, reading. Always reading, and usually until far too late at night. I’ve just chomped my way through fantasy-western The Incorruptibles by John Hornor Jacobs and can definitely recommend it, it’s like Cormac McCarthy meets The Hobbit with a steamship and a bar brawl.
I’d like to extend my thanks to Stark for his or her interview with us today (we still don’t know). The enthusiasm he or she brings for their work is a delight to read and honestly, it shines through in the Nunslinger series. You can buy all of the released Nunslinger books from Waterstones.
Have you ever wanted to write a book but just didn’t know where to start? Just contact people who’re already releasing their works to the world, most of these authors are eager to share their experiences with people who are interested. Have you read any of the Nunslinger books before or ever heard of them? Let Stark know what you think of them, I’m sure he or she would love the conversation!
Semi has an amazing art style and a really nice story behind it, featuring “Gods, Demons, Angels, Monsters and a spunky little girl who wants to be a gangster!”
Even better, there are 2 chapters available for free on Inkblazers.
After finding out about this lovely project, I decided I wanted to speak to the creators of Semi so I sent out an e-mail and secured us an exclusive interview with the wonderful duo! Let’s see what goes on with the creators of Semi!
Interview with the Comic artist and writer – Eudetenis (Artist) and Nezumi (Writer)
Q: Welcome to GeekOut South-West! First of all, as is customary on this site, please can you introduce yourselves?
Nezumi: I go by the name of Nezumi. I’m twenty-seven years old, and in my last year of college. I’m pursuing a bachelor degree in Creative Writing for Entertainment. Can’t wait to be done with it!
Eudetenis: I’m Eudetenis, the artist. I’m almost 24 years old, and it’s nice to meet you! :)
Q: You’re working on a new comic called Semi, which looks wonderful. What’s the inspiration behind the story?
Nezumi: I always wanted to create a long running story with a powerful females surrounded by equally powerful males. I’m a huge fan of series like, Yu Yu Hakusho, Naruto, Inuyasha, Baki the Grappler and Hajime no Ippo. I’m also really big on mythology, demons, angels and all kinds of supernatural craziness! All of that basically came together to create the plot of Semi!
Q: What about the art direction? Why did you opt for a manga styled visual?
Nezumi: My love for anime/manga stems back to my childhood days of watching Sailor Moon, Dragon Ball Z and Yu Yu Hakusho on Toonami. It was the highlight of my day and during school the only thing I thought about. I fell in love with the Japanese art style and to this day I am a huge fan! I just love the look of it.
Q: You’re looking to raise $4,500 for this project. Most of the money is going towards getting the comic printed; How hard has the process been to get to this point so far?
Nezumi: I’ve been planning the Kickstarter campaign for the last year. I wouldn’t say the process was hard but I dealt with a lot of research. I literally had to read up on everything as I knew nothing about how the website worked. I also had to contact many, many different printing companies. Overall it was a lot of time-consuming work and I spent more hours then one would think on it!
Q: How long have you both known one another? Has this affected anything in the comic in any way?
Nezumi: I’ve known Eudetenis for over a year now! I can’t believe the time has gone by so quickly. In my opinion the length of time that we have know each other has made our relationship better. I don’t feel as if I’m dealing with just a ‘business associate’ I feel as I’m dealing with a friend and trust me this makes the experience far better. We get along pretty damn well and I hope that continues for years, and years to come.
Q: You’ve been featuring two chapters for free via Inkblazers. Why Kickstarter and why now?
Nezumi: The volume is set to be complete by the end of this year, which means its time for us to go to print! I’ve started the Kickstarter so that we could make this happen! To have the actual book in my hands is going to be enough to have me dancing around the room with pure joy!
Q: The art looks absolutely stunning and the story is great; What advice would you give any would be writers or artists out there, looking to make their own comic?
Nezumi: As a writer the first advice I would give is to write a character, not a stereotype! Build your story around that character and what they have experienced in life. From there, craft your plot and jot down all the things you want to happen. As you continue to work on the story it will come together and you’ll notice that your characters will develop their own voices making them easier to write! All in all creating a story should be FUN! No matter what remember that! Write what YOU want to write not what OTHERS want you to write!
Q: What’s in the foreseeable future for you both? Will you continue to create comics together, or is this a one off?
Nezumi: I really hope to continue making more comics with Eudetenis! I have a quite a few other ideas that would look great as comics! However, for now Semi is the main focus and will be for a great deal of time!
Q: You come across very enthusiastic about your comic and it’s obvious that a lot of care and attention has gone into every page. Other than your comic – What are your passions and “geekdoms”? What do you enjoy doing the most?
Nezumi: I really enjoy watching Star Trek and Dr. Who! I’m also a huge fan of reading fanfiction! Like… I’m a major fanfiction reader and use to write the stuff all the time. I still would if I had the time! I do enjoy MMORPG as well. I used to play WoW nonstop and recently I got into Elder Scrolls Online! It’s great and I’m totally looking forward to the justice system they should be introducing soon!
Q: Last question now; If people want to keep up to date with your future endeavors, is there any way for us to see what you’re both up to? Any websites or pages to watch?
Nezumi: You can follow me here: http://www.inkblazers.com/authors-and-artists/Aka-Nezumi/detail-page/29035 and http://aka-nezumi.deviantart.com/
Eudetenis: You can check out my works at: http://www.inkblazers.com/authors-and-artists/EUDETENIS/detail-page/69301 and http://eudetenis.deviantart.com