Tag Archives: Dr Sylver

Backedy back

Hey guys, miss me?

I jest. Hi Mum.

What’s changed since last I was on? Hmm well, most pertinently to my calendar I’m now program manager for not one but two courses (because if you do a job well my employers believe in then throwing obstacles in your path to try and stop that from happening again) and heavily involved in a third which will come on stream in Sept 11. Also: my class sizes will double in ’11.

Hey ho. In ways I can’t complain – even the troubling students I have this year I have a like for and enjoy their company, when they’re not doing the things that may find them leave the institution they currently reside in. have had a couple of issues with anger management, drugs, drink and all that jazz but, for the most part the likeable side of the kids involved has never been blotted out by the less likeable actions they fall into. Hopefully the words passed on will make a difference, that’s the plan. Then again maybe my waffle floats away like all other sermons they’ve been subjected to. Time will tell and unlikely I’ll know the end result, just a small window of time and emotion.

Also: been doing a lot of covering classes for sick or stressed teachers.


Also also… well, loads to tell but for the moment but tired as a clam at the moment so will shut up for a while. Sylver news not really forthcoming – too tired busy and stressed to do much on that score bar pray which is awful but utterly in keeping with the gestation and release of the book. Artwork news slightly less tumbleweed like only because while on a bus I can draw happily and ignore the world I’m travelling on in a metal box at the time. Did draw this:

which somehow has ht 100,000 clicks on Twitpic. Yowsa. Whether that can be leveraged into anything I don’t know… Hmmmm again. Am aiming to send a pitch of the book this is from to a couple of publishers (it’s a children’s book, fully illustrated, very emotive). I;ve got a nice idea of how to show the pitch but hope that it leads to a face to face meet so that I can go through it outside of writing the bare bones.

Anyhow, time to clam up:

(pics taken from a series of 50 which are the backbone of my new business cards. Gotta love Moo 🙂 ) They’ll also be a part of the pitch that I send out – nearly all of my artwork – and all that I want to do on the illustrated book side – being done on the Brushes app on an iPod touch, generally on a number 34 bus).

Video file of the clam? Comin’ rightatcha:


Music by the lovely Mr Jon Black.

Night all 🙂

Dr Sylver book 3. Paul’s book no. 7. Nightmare no. 73.

Forgive the slight allusion to Larry Norman. He’s still one of the masters of storytelling and I couldn’t resist.

In two weeks time Dr Sylver 3 finds its way to shops. Which shops? Well….

It’s been a protracted, hard, tricksome and odd slog, the writing of this book. In ways it’s put me off writing for life and in others I’m more excited about this project than any I’ve worked on. I love drawing, I love writing and each has a different place in my heart. Tapestry is the best thing I’ve written, a couple of editorial issues possibly aside (thanks Nick 🙂 ) and the end is a suitable finale for Jamie’s tale.

but OH BOY, have there been problems. A rewrite to excise a character that I decided to hold into for book 4, if such a thing comes to be, an update to the end to make it a hundred pages more punchy 🙂 printer/publisher issues, file corruptions in transit, you name it this book has done it, write, right and rong.

Sorry, couldn’t resist that also.

Anyhow two weeks time, Oct 22nd, it hits the shelves, on the eve of a collaborative artwork I’ve been setting up that I’ll mention later. Let’s just say that this is a glitch of timing that seems perfectly in keeping with the project from the get go.

In other news I have almost a hundred new students and three new courses to work on. Hmmm, how to get them to buy a book each 🙂 Say there’s an extra 5% mark in it for them?

I jest and actually that points to my greatest failing – I’m rubbish at mentioning I’ve even written a book. I find it still hard to tell people I write because so many know me as a happy scribbler I feel that the likely expectation is that I’ve written carefully constructed sentences of 10 words or fewer, no more than 20 syllables on each page. Presumably all in crayon although, truth to tell, I prefer water soluble pencils, Albrecht Durer if they’re going, thank you very much.

So now I come to the same old problem – I need to sell my wares all the while preferring to be the one who chats to teens, does shrink plastic artwork with them and tries to tease out the best in them, helping them to overcome/defeat the worst. Funny old world. But this time I feel a little more imperative: this is book 7, surely something I do should gain some notice (if it’s worth it, that said).

So far the previews have been good, the reviews, well they’ve been hard to come by but work’s a doozy at the moment and my alleged four day week has yet to show any care to arrive and greet me. I HAVE clocked up a fair amount of TOIL at the mo but the likelihood of me getting any of it? Hmmm…

I shouldn’t complain and I’ll try not to over the coming weeks. I’ve been gifted a lot and to have a book published is something I’m mindfully grateful for. For the most part I wish I could help the publisher receive the reward for the faith he’s shown me, at the time a new writer with only a story to offer. Now that I’m a city eating egotist I feel he and Highland deserve to be seen as the ones who let Egozilla loose on the world 🙂 As a friend mentioned when I joked about it “I should own my inner Mr Rampaging Egotist” but I do think it’s something I should also share with others 🙂

Righto as ever – miles of paperwork to do – the nemesis of Dr Sylver but hey ho. I need to find the balancing act if I can. That starts with a second cup of coffee I think…

((The Daisy filter – named after one of my new students who’s taken to adding this effect onto pictures but does it better than I do. Still makes me smile to see students coming up with new stuff, this filter being one of my favourites after the past three weeks of taking on the new class…))

Long story writ quick…

Ok so yesterdays post alluded to a long story (although if you were looking forward to it I dare say you’ll be left unsatisfied as it ain’t that interesting and I’m not going to tell all of it, not just yet)….

For the past year I’ve been snowballed under a stupid amount of projects – some legacy that I had to finish, others ones where the idea or concept took over my sensibilities. Sometimes I should have said no to people, more often I should have said no (or wait) to myself. Often I think I have to get a project worked into before someone else comes up with the idea, as if my ideas are that valuable or unusual, and sometimes I just want to get to the end of a story myself, having come up with the set up and being interested in where things go. That bounced back at me this morning as I noticed that one of my ideas for a Doctor Who story (which I’m assuming has overtaken the Great American Novel as what most authors would like to write?) seems to have been used in an audiobook due for release in the next few days. Very demoralising although it shouldn’t be. I remember fighting at a computer games company for a particular feature which struck me as very emotive (having an adventure game character follow your mouse movements with his head as you played a game. It struck me as something that would break the fourth wall well and lo and behold Grim Fandango did it six months later and it was hailed as revolutionary. Sigh… Sometimes I have ideas but rarely in the right place at the right time).

Because of that all ideas have suffered because instead of working on one project and following through on the stuff I’m less good at – marketing, ego driving, that sort of thing, all ideas flourish in small walled gardens at best. This year, as of now, I’m determined to do just the one thing and then if another comes up I’ll choose which to chase. Working on multiple projects, while holding down two part time jobs and the added rigours and joys that a family blesses me with, doesn’t work and the older I get (nearly forty, shudder 🙂 ) the less I’m able to juggle things that occasionally burst into fire.

So, ten ideas or so in the forefront of my mind, all shouting ‘pick me’ and jostling for position. I know which I’ll choose and, true to form with me it’s the most recent I’ve come up with in my head so maybe I’ve not entirely learnt my lesson. In all likelihood my main joy is having its hours reduced this academic year coming (their choice, not mine) so it’ll be a level of focus on specific days. I can write, I can draw but in neither case have I gone out of my way to say ‘that’s it, this is the business I’ll focus on for a set amount of time.’ Withe the country and the academic world in the doldrums it looks like I’ve got little choice. Making burgers out of roadkill or whatever the phrase is… 🙂 The current idea – that which I’m determinedly focusing on, started out as a theme in a sketchpad exchange and has since (in the week since it formed in my mind) into something a little more. This time I’m going to work out a pitch, package it nicely, and send it to the book publishers who it’s always been my dream to work with. Maybe, this time, things will work out better than anticipated.

So the past picture and this one are linked to the new thing, vaguely, soko (sort of kind of). What will come will come, it’s just time to trust in my abilities a little more than I have and hope that the hard work of the past few years now pays off at a time when I need it to a little more.

That said – I still suck at self promotion as the past months semi-disastrous Waterstone’s signing proves. I can do some things well and uber confidently: I can youth work with no problems at all and have had a wonderful week of working with a wide range of young people. Talking about my writing? I end up sounding like the shiest, quietest lemon in the bag. So we’ll see how it goes, but the next couple of terms are forcing my hand so I’ve got to learn to swim quick.

The speech bubble aims at the fact that of the 12 of us on the current sketchpad exchange I’m expecting themes like ‘happy fruit’ or ‘mecha – nuns’ or something. Mine is a little bit more specific and maybe a bit more of a hospital pass 🙂 We’ll see what people say when they get the pad in the post….

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.

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….

Life’s a doozy, no mistaking.

So where we at? Previously on Planet Kercal: chaos all ways round, tired most of the time. College none too pleasant, Sylver… arduous, Book Draw…. loads of work, loads of fun, loads of work still to come.

I’ve just had a meeting and, during it I described my year as not really much fun. That’s true and fair, although not 100% correct. Some parts have been fun, meetings with friends, new friends made, new classes of students, each with their own unique character and so on. It’s just the bigger things, work, health of those around me etc, that’s been the harder sea to sail. And of course the next book, Dr Sylver and the Tapestry of Time, has had a troubled culmination. It’s a corker of a story, just wish I could share it with you quicker than I will have the chance to. Speaking as a complete and utter raging egotist I do think Tapestry is the best thing I’ve written so far but it’s the project which has had the most challenging final process for a variety of reasons, no-ones fault per se, just…. well, stuff, really.

Anyhow, meeting today was about book… 8? 9? Who knows. A: I have one project in mind which is mostly done and I hope makes it to the shelf sooner rather than later and B: do I count the Big Book Draw mini-book? There’s only forty of them but it’s a story and a book and I like it loads. Do I count it? I think I will 🙂

So, book 9? It’s been on the cards for a while, and mentioned at a couple of book shows type things. Apparently it’s generating some American interest at the mo’ which is why its come to the fore now. We’ll see where it goes but today is the day it possibly got greenlit so here’s a preview image.


I hope it works out because, as much as anything else, it may allow me the chance to collaborate with someone who I am a total fan of which will be a very cool thing for me to be involved in.

Apart from that? Started work on, of all things, a sitcom with another good friend and collaborator. We’ll see where that goes but the chat sessions which are there for testing out material leave us both giggling so, if nothing else, it’s good therapy.

Apart from that? Making up the mini-books which will be sent to a variety of people (sponsors, friends, fish doodlers and the like) and a couple may well make it to places as competition prizes which will be cool if they do so; would like to see them in a variety of hands. They take a good 30 mins or so each to make (I’ve managed to streamline the process a little. The first ones took an hour each) and I hope I finish them soon to pass them onto those who deserve to receive them, ideally before Christmas.

From a creative standpoint then life is OK, bobbling along nicely. I just wish there were more sleep involved along the line somewhere 🙂

((no idea why the formatting of this post is broken, sorry, and I’ve tried to update it four or five times now with no luck, even taking out the paragraph breaks and readding them… Sorry…))

Drawing with words.

I’ve taught typography a number of times during my college working years so far but a new app on the iPod touch has got m playing with it more than I had in the past. It’s called typedrawing and, as the title suggests, you draw with words and sentences.

It’s a lot of fun but the tool is a lot more limited than I would like. There is no way of outputting the file to your computer to upres it, which is a crying shame. Similarly there’s no colour tools, import tool, save tool… You get the jist. I know this is a little hypocritical bearing in mind I often applaud Brushes for it’s ability to do so much with so little, but at all time Brushes allows you to do what you need, typedrawing doesn’t.

Still it is loads of fun and I’ll keep playing with it… This came out of yesterday night post youth group.


Youth group was ace, incidentally. We’ve got a few new faces this term since we reopened the books and, for the most part, they’re slotting in really well. The one caveat is that a group uses the halls prior to us now and, where we used to have forty minutes to set up we now have four.

Not easy.

Anyhow; back to the pic:

The Tapestry has been breached.

Which will make sense post Oct when Dr Sylver three comes out.

Big Book Draw day stuff…

OK so October is shaping up to be a doozey. For a start I’m fairly sure we’ll see Dr Sylver and the Tapestry of Time hit the streets (third and final book in the Everything series although, not necessarily, the last we’ll see of Sylver).

Then I’ll be doing the Big Book Draw with my youth group kids, a couple of friendly teacher helpers, some students and all sorts. Should be ace. The venue is BRILLIANT for drawing and creating in and they’re keen to be involved which is always good in a partnering venue. As well as all that the story is strong (although I always say that, egotist that I am) and the beginning and end doodles look pretty cool (massive ego ahoy). (Well, I like them anyhow 🙂 )

Better than that this years book draw is different because I’m approaching well known people and asking them if they could fill in a template of doodles for inclusion into the whole piece. So the kids (of all ages) can go away with a book written by them and Tom Merritt (Buzz Out Loud host and writer of Boiling Point), Jan Pienkowski (Meg and Mog), Paul Cornell (writer of Marvel comics and Dr Who novels), Emma Dodd (loads of books for Templar publishing). Nick Page (The Longest Week, Whatever happened to… and many more books) and more. Which is great… So far spent a good portion of the evening sending out more begging letters so shall see what I get back. But whichever way round it’s going to be an interesting day.

I think we’ll be doing a second book draw day but that’s very much tbc so we’ll see what happens on that score. More info later, maybe.

And then, lastly, someone offered their venue as a host to an exhibition in Oct for the Brushes artwork for the BBD and more besides so it looks like that one may be a goer too. We’ll see. All exciting stuff.

Less excitingly wifey was DIYing (I was doing kid duty and setting up youth work stuff for tomorrow) and… hmm… let’s just say that one tin of paint should have had a top on. And not be trodden on. And catapulted over two carpets, a wall, two library books, four books of photographs etc. Oh well, we’ll look back on it and laugh I’m sure.

Righto, onwards. Loads to do, just fancied a rest from it for a min.

I also write…

… Thought I’d better add that to the blog ‘cos it’s beginning to look like an art blog and, more than that, a Brushes/Youtube blog.

So, for the benefit of new readers, I also write books. I mention that for a couple of reasons: one I’ve been asked to spec up a book that I’m excited at the possibility of working on, especially if I get the chance to do a couple of the stranger, sillier things I’ve suggested, especially one silly idea which I’ve sort of nicked from comic books in a vague sort of way. Two: I’ve got a new book out in October – although I have a meeting about that next Monday to work out the timings and all and three: it’s something I’ve actively come to enjoy doing, although mainly by the back door and only recently.

When I wrote my first book (Dr Sylver and the Library of Everything) there was a purpose: I was trying to tell a story to youth group members that would help them where they were at. Some kids were struggling with bullying so I added a little of that, others with teenage pregnancy so that went in and so life sort of dictated the story, I just copied the words from the air onto the page. Book 2 (Repository of the Past) came along and one specific kid pushed the story along in and out real life so, again, I felt like I was doing something for someone else in a way. Then I wrote Messenger, but that comes into the story later.

I’d finished Messenger and was taking it around places, occasionally, over the course of a year when Spring Harvest came around and gave me a brief for teaching materials. It changed a couple of times and a couple of deadlines were left to pretty late notice but I loved working with them and was pretty happy with the result: The Exile Road. It was the first collaboration, surprisingly, of my writing and drawing in one place. I was signed up to do Exile 2 but, part way through production it was cancelled and although that was thunderously disappointing I carried on doing other stuff. The idea for Exile 2 was something I was excited to be carrying out and I hope it comes to fruition one day, somehow.

Then comes Messenger, published last year. A story written entirely in chat room text speak it was.. a funny one to work on. Loads of fun but the layout: that was a hospital pass and DLT did a fantastic job of putting it together and out on a shelf. It’s the strange story of a week of relational chaos for teenagers told only by the conversations they had after each days events.

In October we see the end of the Dr Sylver trilogy (although not necessarily the end of her stories, we’ll see). It’s called Dr Sylver and the Tapestry of Time and… well, this is the thing y’see: I like playing with conventions and Tapestry is my most playful book yet. The end… Well, I’ve seen some how to write webpages and documents that say an ending shouldn’t take more than two or three chapters – for what reason I don’t know – and Tapestry has an end sequence that’s… a little longer than that. I also get a chance to play about with the design of words on the page again and that’s something that’s come across from Messenger.

Anyhow: I’ve just started enjoying it… And the reason for that is a little circuitous: I met up with a student recently who said that I was his favourite teacher (naaaaaaa) because I wrote the best briefs. They felt more like stories that the students participated in and because of that encouraged a greater response. Truth to tell I probably do wind up some of my teacher colleagues because I’m not happy with a brief to be given to a class unless it has ‘the hook’: something that they’ll look at and say ‘cool, I want to do that.’ I wasn’t happy with a recent collaborative CD cover project for example because… well… CD covers are a part of our wallpaper, 12 x 12 cm squares of design taken for granted. After a good few meetings we extended the brief to add a caveat: mid-way through the designers work with the band the musicians had made it big and the record company was now paying for a special edition CD to be created. We gave the students the nets and said re-engineer the imagery to fit that. It was the hook I needed to get excited about it and that transferred over to the guys we were teaching. It was also more true to real life than some of the briefs we get and though the students moaned when we changed things half way through it taught a valuable lesson 🙂

Next year the course changes a lot (mixed feelings about that one and lots of good people are affected) and I (think I but we’ll see) get the chance to write the year. Looking forward to that loads. Not that it’s for anything more than a limited audience but I like the collaborative stuff loads 🙂

Which also brings me to the Guildford Big Book Draw and busses as ‘the zone’… But those are posts for later. Need to get onto non-computer stuff for a while…

New projects new challenges.

Another screenshot from the new project I’m working on. Dr Sylver 3 is dated for the week commencing October 10th this year so it’s exciting to have a release date to hang on it and now, teacher training portfolio aside (which I REALLY must get onto although the irony of that statement is subject to a confidential document I can’t share with anyone) I’m now full time on this project and one other. Roll on July 3rd when I can start giving attention to them with less guilty feelings alongside.


This week has also been defined by uber athletes foot (which erupted in blood and other disgustingness on my big toe) and then a night of ‘both ends fighting the middle’ as one of my colleagues charmingly put it. Whether it was a bug caught from the doctor’s waiting room or an allergic reaction to the foot cream I don’t know but Tues – Thurs were not comfortable days. At all. Today is the first day I’ve been up to much so, like a twit, I walked son boy to the shop to buy a Slush Puppy (which came out with a completely different name on my phone when I tried to text wifey) and came back feeling like a poached slug. Still, it’s been a very positive day too so that’s a good ‘un.

Also: did this y-day using Brushes on the iPod touch. It’s surprising in a way – I’m so used to tools and layers and modes and styles and warps and filters – but Brushes is a joy to play with and watch the results. When I see the movie file play away I see areas that I would have changed had I not seen them from the outside in so it’s a fascinating process. I noticed @skottieyoung did a similar thing using (I think) Artrage Pro and Ustream in an interactive fashion. Not that I’m anywhere near having an audience such as his but that seems the nest step in the Brushes play – to have people chatting as I go but hey, step by step and all that.