Category Archives: books

Wombat and Wambot…

One of the things I’ve been working on, well, two of them actually, comes to leave my hands and go to the hands of others soon enough.

The first, Dr Sylver and the Tapestry of Time, hits shelves in April after the most protracted birth of any of my projects, ever. Oh boy.

The second hits shelves before hand, despite only having been worked on since Christmas in any real sense. It’s been a theraputic piece of work in some ways, exciting in others. Ladies and Gentlemen meet Wombat and Wambot. It’s the tale of a small, furry amnesiac and his large robotic counterpart. Fairly obviously the name came first and the story… Well, there’s a little bit of this and a little bit of that in there. Sometime soon it becomes my own and then, shortly after, it’s going to be given over to others: much like the Big Book Draw the fun of Project Wombat is that others will fill in the middle up until the last page or so. That part will be the most fun of all. I had intended to show the project off sometime in the Summer but with the release of Brushes on the iPad in a months time it makes more sense to try and hit before then which has compressed my stretching out and relaxing time to a small, stressed ball of lack of time off. Still, I do love working on a project so hey ho, all part of the game.

Anyhow if you’re so inclined you could join the twitter feed at @wombatwambot or add the facebook page here… The more the merrier (and of course the more would help me out in showing the project off to others in the future so any adds would be gratefully appreciated).

Long story…

Sign: Now entering Convoluted Central.

Ext shot of train slowing gently before stopping. Steam comes from the wheels. Slightly confused orange haired person steps off train and onto platform, watching and waiting and wondering what’s out there in the cold, dark, city he’s stepped onto…

Ahem, by which I mean, yet another step of the bizarrely tortuous journey of the third Dr Sylver book is upon me and therefore you, as I’m going to blog it to pieces.

So, the story so far. Five years ago (really only that short a time? Yowsa) I write a book, give it to youth groupers and enjoy the fact that they like it. Weekly they end up nagging me to get it published (because, yes, it is as easy as that) and in the end, after sending it to a number of places, Highland books publishes Dr Sylver and the Library of Everything. Reviews are better than I can ever have hoped for, especially as I only expected people to have a go at me for clumsy writing and typos (‘better than GP Taylor’ one lovely person said, ignoring the fact that it probably wasn’t – but thanks Phil, it was a high point – and sales wise I don’t think I was ever anything other than an amusement between the camps).

Then, over the next four years I write the sequel, Dr Sylver and the Repository of the Past – which again is reviewed well but less so as a sequel rather than as a computer games artists first book – create the Exile Road for Spring Harvest and Messenger for DLT. Somehow I manage to accidentally begin a fight with Bear Grylls in the pages of a religious newspaper which fortunately never spilled into the realm of him burying me up to my eyelids in limestone. It’s been an interesting journey and I can now exit my house without looking out into the bushes to check for movement before I start running off to work, just in case.

And then I wrote Dr Sylver book 3: The Tapestry of Time.

Oh boy has this project not been smooth. Not really any one fault per se, problems with the ending here, missed print windows there, distributor goes bust, original cover files lost in a hard disc explosion, incorrect files sent to print etc etc. Highland sent off for a sample collection of books before Christmas and, one way or the other, they turned up this week. Not to mention life in all its fullness distracting events. From serious illness in the family to redundancies and so on it’s been… Well, it’s a book all on its own.

But today I picked up a box of advance copies of Dr Sylver 3 and it’s fun to just see them in the flesh. They’re not the final FINAL copies – one more scan through has shown of about 100 areas where a couple of trimmed words make a much larger impact than would be first thought but this time it’s tangible, in my hands. DSTT exists and is getting there.

Anyhow, three hour meeting today was… interesting. We’ll send copies out and beg reviews here and there, write articles and all that jazz. All the stuff a micro publisher and a barely known author have to do to make themselves noticed in a world of louder loudspeakers and marketing budgets that don’t resemble a coffee budget. Hopefully DSTT will be read and enjoyed and all that work and hassle and issue and upset will have been worth it. The first couple of reviews have already been lovely and, personally, I think it’s the best ending I’ve written… So we’ll see.

Anyhow, if anyone lives next to Simon Mayo and doesn’t mind delivering a cake and copy of the book then by all means pop me a mail (some things I’d love to achieve in life – though I suspect I never will – including having Mayo and Kermode saying ‘and hallo to Paul Kercal, loved the book,’ having something linked on Adbuzeedo’s Daily inspiration site and having the Wombat comic liked by any of the guys I admire and respect in the comic book field. I am to dreams and hopeful fantasy what Icarus was for altitude…)

Righto, onwards, loads to do and times a wasting.

The Final Three….

((said in a deep, ominous Battlestar Galactica voice)).

First off: this is not they.

Jumped into the photography studio today between classes with two of the final three books. One is being sent off tomorrow and I wanted to capture it afore it goes. (The bottom book of the three in the top pic is the working copy I keep on me most of the time. It’s torn and bent and creased and ragged but has a nice character regardless – a little like me I guess. Small also).

Anyhow this, hopefully, represents the last but one step of the Book Draw. It’ll be strange to see it all go but there you go, it’s been a lovely thing to be involved in.

Glutton for punishment…

OK yes, I know, I should have gone to sleep the moment I had the chance but this project…. This project… It sort of takes over my brain in strange ways.

So, been a while since I’ve done anything Big Book Draw related. For some reason I picked up the files the other day to have a look through and doodled about with a little bit of colour.


Which leads me to this. Another night gone but three books – colour throughout – made. One I’ll keep, one will be for someone I’m fond of and truly hope can be a part of the final action of the Book Draw and one will probably end up as a competition prize in some way.

So, 43 books. Should do something with them. What I’d like to do, what I’ve always wanted to do, is have an exhibition/book launch day where the people who helped come to recieve a mini-book each to say thank you. That’s what I’d love to do but whether I can we’ll see. It’ll take a smidge of organising and sometimes I have the energy and sometimes I don’t. The icing on the cake would be if we can get a story teller to tell the story with asides and jokes and comments as he/she reads the story aloud. That would give the media students the chance to film it as a Jackanory type story and would be a wonderful post script to a project that took over so much.

That said I am happy with the three coloured in versions. They look pretty sweet. We’ll see if they go anywhere.

That there Wombat project…


Another couple of pages from the Wombat side of things.

Which, to clarify, is the sort of semi-sequel to the Dragon and Princess side of things.

Although that may not have clarified. So, backtracking a little bit:

For the past 5 years I’ve been doing a collaborative/community art day called the Big Book Draw. Basically a hundred or so people (sometimes more, sometimes a lot more) get together and draw a story together. It’s been a lot of fun. There may be a sixth one (I’ve got the idea for it) but, at the moment, it’s looking a little unlikely for various reasons. I’d love to do another one but we’ll see, depends on other avenues.

However this is the ‘other’ book draw that’s in my mind: a four issue comic where a group of people, preferably teens, preferably ones who’re not as enamoured with the school process as they could be, do the grand finale. A 20 plus page fight scene between a good guy and a bad guy. It’s a long story and, the point of it is that the bad guy need not always be but why? That’ll take fifty pages or so to tell before we get to that point.

As ever it’s drawn in Brushes, the iPhone/iPod touch application, and, so far, I’ve doodled out 20 odd pages with the next few getting drawn in my free time between now and Easter when I hope to get the collaborative stuff sorted.

You can catch more details on the Big Book Draw at the Wombat stuff’ll follow but it depends on my free time and there’s precious little of that sometimes.

Project Wombat.


Which sort of leads me to Project Wombat. That’s not its final name, which I’m currently a little protective of as I like it loads and have not seen before, but it is the sort of semi-sequel to the Big Book Draw. Sort of.

Basically the Book Draw was all sorts of ace yet, at its heart, the subject matter was mainly suited to young people, 8 yrs and younger or so. I wanted to come up with a similar idea which could appeal to teens with the same aim in mind: there’s the start of the story and then there’s a group there to finish it off, as long as it hits a specific point to finish on. I’m trying to get things moving for March or so with an Easter doodle day in mind. We’ll see but I’d love to see it happen.

And now it really is time to sleep.


Christmas reading…

Every Christmas I tend to get a book that ignites my imagination and I’ll find myself reading it late into the night nursing a glass of Jack Daniels (another Christmas standby).

Often it’s an old favourite. Cerebus the Aardvark has often been my Christmas read and sometimes it feels wrong to read it at any other time of the year. It’s a weighty tome, a 3000 page graphic novel that defies simple explanation and rewards investigation. Its brim full of ideas, some good, some bad, and artwork that often makes me wish I could draw and writing that makes me wish I could write…

Similarly my love of the Silent Planet trilogy comes from a holiday readathon and I’ve not read the books since, just in case the Christmas feeling is a required part of the process of enjoying the books.

This year the winner, hands down, of the book I’ve loved spending Christmas with is Heston Blumenthal’s ‘The Fat Duck Cookbook.’

I asked for it for the artwork, I’ve long been a fan of Dave McKean’s amazing and awe inspiring artwork. Alongside Neil Gaiman and Don Bluth he is the one who got me excited about wanting to be someone who visualised their ideas and tried to make them palatable for others. Blumenthal I knew little about as I don’t watch much TV and earn, as a youthworker, a salary that doesn’t stretch towards eating the work of artists who deserve higher recompense than basic staples deliver. That’s not to say I wouldn’t love to eat out at a fine restaurant… One freelance job part paid me in a meal at a posh London restaurant and I was thrilled to enjoy their tasting menu. It’s just not something I follow because I only have so many avenues my mind can cope with remembering the paths down.

Anyhow: the artwork in the Fat Duck Cookbook is beautiful, to begin with. I knew it would be, I wasn’t disappointed. What I wasn’t expecting was how enticing the text would be. Blumenthal is a fascinating character, the recipes strange and extraordinary. I’ve nearly completed the book and though I won’t be trying the recipes (my skill at transferring recipes from a page to a plate is limited as is my wallet although if I thought there was a hope of persuading wifey that the Fat Duck’s tasting menu was worth the trip as a family holiday and the price of a theme park I’d give it a go. Sadly I know that it’s not to be in a big way, all caps, underlined).

So: Fat Duck Cookbook. Recommended in a big way and in more ways than I’d anticipated.

In other news back in the saddle tomorrow. Wifey has an inset day which has her unsettled before its begun (long, unhappy story), kids back at school, son awake last time I checked as he’s lost a tooth and is waiting for the tooth fairy, both kids back at school and me back at teacher training and freelance doodling. Sigh. Busy busy busy. Onwards to sleep afore chaotic Monday ensues.

This old chestnut again…


Sorry to bore but… well…

Tapestry’s troubled upbringing continues apace with cover problems causing issues all over again. This is the newly redone one which astounded me by having a very small gamut issue (the difference between an rgb monitor and a cmyk printer) when I thought it would have a million problems.

Still going to be the very beginning of next year although we’re hoping to have a limited number ready for Christmas. By all means get in touch if you want to buy a copy. The bizarre thing is that if you had a copy from the Guildford Book Fest and a copy from this printing (and one from the final shelf version) you’d have something oddly rare and unusual which doesn’t make the issues and roadbumps any smoother for me, just makes me smile that, in more than one way at least, my mums going to be one in a million 🙂

Artwork all done in Pixelmator which I retain a huge love and affection for, even though it struggled badly doing the cover at the print res it had to be outputted at. Lots of frustrated waitings about and teeth clenching but, for what it is and what it delivered, still like it loads.

Similarly, well, with less issues to be frank, the Brushes 2.1 update is due to hit the apple store anytime now. It’s a corker and no mistaking well worth a look-see. I’ve become wedded to the app and my iPod touch and it is my favourite art application of all.

In other news: birthday yesterday and, apart from the fact I was working on this cover for 12 hours straight, it was  a lovely one filled with friends, family, food and facebook comments 🙂 Onwards, although slightly blearily….

1-39 all done…



And now, in on the sofa (which is not the best place to present them but I’m very impatient) vision, here are 39 of the 40 mini-books for the fifth Guildford Big Book Draw (also known as the project that tried to kill me).

Got home from work dog tired but too close to leave these uncooked and unfinished. Number 40 eludes me and, tbh I don’t think I should be the one to do the fortieth book covers and I have a young person in mind to do them so that ones for a later date. Apart from that? Done, dusted and in need of sleep. Night all.

((Incidentally ‘The Book of Droor’ is by far and away my favourite cover. Love it loads)).