Wed, 22 April 2015 Witchfinder trade out

A bevy of Witchfinders

Another lovely day in Ireland, and gosh don’t my contributor copies of the Witchfinder trade paperback collection glow in the sunlight.

This is the collection of the five-issue Sir Edward Grey: Witchfinder story, which I co-wrote with Kim, with art by Tyler Crook, coloured by Dave Stewart, with a cover by Mike Mignola, lettered by Clem Robins, and edited by Scott Allie, published by Dark Horse Comics. All set in the Hellboy universe created by Mike Mignola.

As well as the five issues, the trade paperback also includes a Sketchbook section, and a small comic book short story, ‘Beware the Ape’, by Mike Mignola, Ben Stenbeck, Dave Stewart, and Clem Robins, which originally appeared in Dark Horse Presents, #36, May 2014.

I was over in London last week and we had a signing in the Forbidden Planet megastore. Thanks to everyone who turned up! I really enjoyed chatting to new and old fans of the comics, and Kim and I signed the entire stock of trade paperbacks in the shop.

It’s unlikely there will be many chances in the future to nab a copy with both our signatures, so pop by Forbidden Planet in London if you want it.

Afterwards we went for drinks in the Seven Dials Club, which was a great venue, and more people turned up for that part of the evening. Hurray for all the trusty souls who came along!

There have been a couple of interviews with Kim and me recently about Witchfinder:

We really appreciate all the support for the comic, and those who have blogged, tweeted, and interviewed us about it. Kim and I had a lot of fun writing the series, and it’s been great to know that so many people enjoyed our story.

Mon, 16 March 2015 Reviewing Cell

Writer Mark West began a intriguing project in 2015, a blog called King For A Year, in which a reviewer discusses one of Stephen King’s works each week. 52 Reviewers, 52 novels, 12 months.

Mark asked me to participate, and today you can read my exploration of King’s 2006 novel Cell.

There are extensive spoilers in the piece, just so you know…

Thu, 05 March 2015 discussing Trigger Warning

I’ll be discussing Neil Gaiman’s latest short story collection, Trigger Warning: Short Fictions and Disturbances, on RTÉ Radio 1’s culture show, Arena, this Monday, 9 March, at some point between 7pm – 8pm.

Wed, 25 February 2015 Signing in London for Witchfinder

I’m delighted to say that I’ll be signing copies of the trade paperback edition of Witchfinder: The Mysteries of Unland with Kim Newman at the Forbidden Planet in London on 15 April.

This is the collection of the five-issue Sir Edward Grey: Witchfinder story, which I co-wrote with Kim, with art by Tyler Crook, coloured by Dave Stewart, with a cover by Mike Mignola, lettered by Clem Robins, and edited by Scott Allie, published by Dark Horse Comics. All set in the Hellboy universe created by Mike Mignola.

There will be some extras in the trade paperback, including early concept sketches by Tyler, and replicas of all the original covers by Julian Totino Tedesco.

I’m already looking forward to seeing some of my friends and colleagues in London again!

Thu, 05 February 2015 a new road to an old house

New road to an old house

The modern curve of asphalt brings new traffic to the castle – but will it be thankful for the company, or ponder methods to return to its solitary ways?

Wed, 04 February 2015 keep flying

Bird silhouette

I took this picture in Galway city, down by the Spanish Arch and looking across the River Corrib, at the weekend.

We’d been experiencing bouts of sleety downpours, but in between there were blasts of sunshine.

I lucked out with this shot of a seagull frozen as it passes across my view of the sun.

A moment of freedom, in between wintry squalls.

Tue, 03 February 2015 the moon is not full tonight

Actually, the Moon is full tonight, but this was the title of a small cartoon I drew on Sunday as part of #HourlyComicDay.

When I drew the not-full-moon it inspired me to write a bit of nonsense verse.

Here’s the nonsense poem in full:

A Warning to the Hungry Moon

Poor hungry moon
How do you yearn,
For babies’ milk teeth,
Or the bones under wreaths.

Soon you’ll be starving,
Your girth needing widening,
While below you we ramble,
Our bones all a-jangling.

Abide in the heavens,
And refrain from a-ravening,
But, should you fall upon these shores,
You’ll shudder at the welcome at my door.

And, here’s a photo I took last month of the full moon, a bit filtered. Like my cartoon, it’s become a Paper Moon

Paper Moon

Mon, 02 February 2015 The Moon Will Look Strange – review

Since February is Women in Horror month, I’ve decided to post the full review I wrote of Lynda E. Rucker’s collection The Moon Will Look Strange (Karōshi Books, 2013). My piece was published in the Green Book journal last year.

I will note that Lynda is a friend of mine, but since my general policy is to avoid reviewing the work of those dear to me, this review should stand as an indication of how much I enjoyed her writing.

The Moon Will Look Strange

It is easy upon reading an author’s impressive debut collection to ponder ‘why on earth is she not better known?’, and search for conspiracy. The reality is that it is difficult to assess the ability of a writer when her work is published in disparate venues over an extended period of time. This can result in a lengthy stretch before a writer’s reputation is established simply because of the variety of markets, and the inability of most readers to keep up with all of them.

Despite these factors Lynda E. Rucker’s star has been on the ascent among those who enjoy a well-wrought supernatural tale for a number of years, thanks in part to a few savvy editors who spotted her talent and have been encouraging her work.

Thus we can now enjoy The Moon Will Look Strange, Rucker’s first collection, which features twelve of her short stories across a span of fifteen years.  With these pieces assembled in one volume the reader can appreciate and admire the richness, depth, and interlocking themes of her early body of work.

Rucker writes the kind of effortless prose that reads easily, but is only created from careful, determined craft. Her stories describe conflicted, lost people, and dreadful situations you could never imagine, yet believe must have happened.

This is the mark of a superior storyteller, and points to Rucker as one of the most promising purveyors of the supernatural weird tale writing at the moment.

In her author’s note at the beginning of the volume Rucker mentions how the past persists with her, so she can summon memories at will. This is a trademark of her prose: past events are seamlessly interwoven with the forefronted narrative in a way that informs the actions of the characters without interrupting the story’s pacing. This is a difficult trick to pull off in an unaffected and natural fashion. If she depended upon first-person perspectives that might seem understandable, but those stories are the exceptions – three out of the twelve – and generally she favours a tight third-person point of view, where the reader is kindly, but firmly, forced to watch the terrible ruin that befalls her characters.

As an American living in Dublin, who has travelled extensively, some of Rucker’s preoccupations with identity, rootedness, and disconnection are evident in her fiction. Many of the people in her stories are adrift, or stuck, due to grief, loss, or defeated expectations. They slowly become cut off from the support of community or friends, and into these voids things creep in.

So, the broken-hearted Paul, a travelling backpacker in the West of Ireland, is ensnared in a honey-trap hostel of lost souls in ‘No More A-Roving’, or Kathleen, an English teacher in Czechoslovakia becomes prey to the ghosts of a past era in ‘The Chance Walker’, and Colin is made pay for his past mistakes as he runs away in grief to Spain in the titular ‘The Moon Will Look Strange’.

Evan, in ‘Beneath the Drops’, is unable to stop the dissolution of his relationship in the perpetual damp in Oregon, so it rises to consume what’s left in a palpable fashion. In ‘Different Angels’ Jolie returns to small town Georgia in defeat, only to be overcome by the very memories she tried to elude. There is a conundrum of identity at the heart of ‘In Death’s Other Kingdom’, where Grace is both the phantom of lost hopes and desires trapped in limbo, and the ‘real’ character she fights to overcome. At a tiresome party in ‘These Foolish Things’ Leon tries to find ‘his’ Carla in other women in an endless loop of thwarted love.

And there are monsters.

Such as the unique demon ‘Ash-Mouth’, folklore created by Ivy’s grandmother to excuse the disappearance of her grandfather, but which lurks in the family as a very real possibility in dark vents and passageways. The decrepit house and its child ghosts in ‘The Burned House’ are both manifestations of the imprint of past events and failed family bonds.

The two extraordinary stories in The Moon Will Look Strange are ‘These Things We Have Always Known’ and ‘The Last Reel’. Placed at the end of the book, sandwiched between the highly effective ‘Different Angels’ with its avatars of suppressed fears, it means the collection gradually builds to a crescendo of sinister dread.

‘These Things We Have Always Known’ is set in in the insular mining town of Cold Rest, high in the mountains of Georgia, on the borders of North Carolina – what is being mined, and why is everyone capable of conjuring strange creations? The married couple Sarah and Neil are mired in this town through family history and tradition, but there’s hope for their teenaged daughter Emma, and Neil’s returning brother Gary, to escape the chthonic forces that are finally returning to the surface of Cold Rest thanks to the invocations of the inhabitants.

This is a perfect example of one of Rucker’s strengths: her ability to depict believable, ordinary people assailed by dark forces, and for it to seem perfectly acceptable thanks to an escalation of small events executed with impeccable timing. In this way she draws clearly upon the legacy of 19th century horror fiction in which inexplicable forces gather momentum against unsuspecting protagonists to end in catastrophe.

‘The Last Reel’ sees Sophie visit the rural home of her newly-deceased Aunt Rose, which has been bequeathed to her. She’s accompanied by her boyfriend Kevin. The light, bantering tone between the couple as they drive up to the remote location transforms into menace as they enter the house and investigate its rooms, and dark, hidden chamber. Tantalising details about the odd connection between the niece and the witchy aunt are unearthed, and cemented for a horrible denouement.

The final noteworthy element of Rucker’s stories are her endings: they are terrible, and fragile, and often timed at unexpected moments. They open the reader to invasion by not throttling the mystery or offering easy solutions.

She releases her stories to continue to haunt you at uneasy moments, as all good horror does.

Maura McHugh

Sun, 01 February 2015 keeping your ink bottle stable

Today is #Hourlycomicday, and I decided to join in (not hourly) to oil my rather rusty art skills. It’s good to shake things up, and as a writer of comics it also forces me to consider different ways to construct stories, and how to write scripts for an artist’s viewpoint.

Mostly, I used the experience to play around and try various approaches without over-thinking. The point is to push through and the keep doing something new.

While doing so I tweeted this picture.

The idea of using a sponge to anchor an ink bottle and prevent spills was popular on Twitter. I can’t claim ownership of the idea. I saw it mentioned during a YouTube video by a dip pen illustrator. She praised its efficacy, especially as she had cats, and they tend to knock things over…

Since I had bought a large car sponge to create a well for one bottle of ink, I decided to repeat the process and offer a step-by-step account of this rather simple idea:

I love this as it’s a cost effective solution using simple materials to solve a common problem. You can also use the sponge to wipe excess ink off your nib after you’ve dipped it, if you wish.

Thus ends the craft segment of the blog!

Thu, 01 January 2015 Award, award!

I don’t know how many of you get the Father Ted reference in the headline, but considering my audience I suspect many of you will know to which scene I’m referring.

It’s always encouraging to be shortlisted for an award, but it’s rather nice to win one.

I was recently nominated for Best Irish Writer (comics) in the Arcade Awards, and today they announced that I won.

Thanks to everyone who voted for me, and to the wonderful teams I’m a part of when creating comics.

It’s a fun start to 2015. Happy New Year to you all!

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