The Freaks are unleashed

I have been looking forward to the release of Freaks for some time, and now the day is finally here.

A collection of short fiction by the lovely Nik Perring and Caroline Smailes with illustrations by Darren Craske it looks to be a treat to my story and comic loving self.

So I’m super happy to have this little sneak peak of some of the wonders inside…….


[Super Power: The ability to make oneself unseen to the naked eye]


If I stay totally still,

if I stand right tall,

with me back against the school wall,

close to the science room’s window,

with me feet together,

pointing straight,

aiming forward,

if I make me hands into tight fists,

make me arms dead straight,

 if I push me arms into me sides,

if I squeeze me thighs,

stop me wee,

if me belly doesn’t shake,

if me boobs don’t wobble,

if I close me eyes tight,

so tight that it makes me whole face scrunch,

if I push me lips into me mouth,

if I make me teeth bite me lips together,

if I hardly breathe,

if I don’t say a word.


I’ll magic meself invisible,

and them lasses will leave me alone.

Sketching a smile

sketch of Lynsey May by Fin CrambIt was hard to dredge up a smile by Friday night this week, but Ink sending me this picture he’d drawn for me managed to spark a few. I also got to finally give him his birthday presents – the impatience always kills me!

The last few weeks have passed in a haze of stress, and I’ve just realised how much it’s been clouding what’s really been a pretty amazing year. It’s not been without its lows that’s for sure, but back in January I definitely wouldn’t have predicted we’d end up in NYC at Cynthia’s Von Buhler’s birthday party (and meeting Neil Gaiman) after Ink interned on a graphic novel. Then there’s the whole flat thing, which will end up a dream come true if it comes off.

Ink and I have also had some luck with our various pursuits, although they’ve been pretty hard won. Tough moments included being told my writing wasn’t ‘strong enough for today’s market’; better ones included hearing

things like ‘I am more than happy to publish more of your work’.

Despite the occasional setback we’re slowly getting there, so we’ll have plenty more hard work to be busying ourselves with in 2011.

I’m looking forward to getting my teeth into it, hope you all are too.

A madcap recap and online vs. offline literary reviews

Life has felt rather un-linear in the last few weeks as I’ve been bouncing from one unusual event to another. The craziness is mainly rooted in my attempt to buy a flat with the help of the government’s shared equity scheme (so many crossed fingers) but it’s not been the only thing gobbling up my time.

Last weekend Ink, his writing partner, his writing partner’s actual partner, and myself took a trip down to Leeds for the Thought Bubble festival. It was fun seeing what everyone was up to and we got talking to some really interesting people. As always, I left feeling quite inspired, but the inspiration all went to waste as the next day I was on the plane to Bahrain to deliver a couple of days of training.

Travelling for work is never as fun or as glamorous as you’d like it to be, but I got to fly business class for the first (and probably last) time and on the last night we were given a short guided tour of some of the highlights – including a wander round the centre and its souks and some really amazing bars.

Bahrain, suk at centre of Bahrain

The trip took up pretty much the whole week and there was some frantic email checking during it, but I made it back safe and sound and in time to pop along to an event discussing literary reviews on- and offline at the MacDonald Road Library in Leith.

The discussion was quite lively – with writer and reviewer Stuart Kelly for print reviews, Rosy Barnes advocating blogs and Eve Harvey of Litopia mediating, and I could see valid points in both sides. I’m impressed by book reviewers as a general rule anyway, as I know I’d never be able to give a negative review to anyone for fear of hurting their feelings.

In a way, I think the argument is one that won’t last long as it looks like the majority of print reviews will be online one day in the near future anyway – the real questions in my opinion will be what quality signals people are looking for when reading book reviews and how the reviewers will monetize the process, if they decide to monetize at all.

I’ll always love paper, but all the new different ways of sharing stories online makes me hopeful about the future of literature in general – at least difficulties tend to inspire people to invent responses, I suppose.

So now I’m home and rather than thinking about books and their reviews I’m going to avoid the snow by getting back to reading some, David Mitchell’s Ghostwritten in next on my list, as soon as I finish the last few pages of Cormac McCarthy’s Cities of the Plain. Note, don’t read this on a plane when you’re getting close to landing if you want to avoid snuffling and red eyes in public.

Manhattan mermaids rock penthouse parties and other stories

About 11 days ago Ink and I went on a NYC adventure that has totally rocked my socks and left me feeling as though my brain has been replaced with a pretzel.

We’d been planning to visit the city for ages and hadn’t expected to go for quite a while yet – mainly because we were thinking of doing a three month thing and that place ain’t cheap – but when we were invited to Cynthia Von Buhler’s birthday bash the weekend before comic con, we realised fate was telling us to pack our bags and practise softening our Scottish accents a little. (This was only medium successful, I think we almost brought someone to tears trying to tell him the time was half past eight – he eventually gave up and walked away, mournfully clutching his bag of takeaway goodies and muttering).

Getting there was a bit stressful, especially because I originally gave the airline the shortened version of Ink’s name and that didn’t go down well but we spent our first night in CvB’s Staten Island castle and that was pretty freaking sweet. And then, just as we were emerging from the dreamlike state of jetlag, we hotfooted it down to her penthouse party where the lovely lady herself was resplendent in a gorgeous mermaid outfit and holding court from a full bath with oil-slicked mermaid minions spread around the floor around her.

Cynthia Von Buhler's partys

From candyfloss to a roof top carousel, some excellent instillations by Cynthia and her friends – such as Stephen – and performances from Walter Sickert and the Army of Broken Toys (totally fallen for these guys), Jason Webley and Amanda Palmer, it was a crazy night I won’t be forgetting anytime soon. The Toys crew came back to the castle that night, and as I was the only person with the key I got to play hostess in Cynthia’s castle for a few hours which felt awesome, although Ink later told me I was the drunkest person in the house…

After our Staten Island adventure, we made our way to our budget hotel to explore Manhattan in true tourist style then mingled with graphic geeks at comic con – but I think that’s for another post. The strangest thing about it all for me is that, aside from a few notes in the last few days, this is the first thing I’ve really written since before the holiday. No copy, no editing, no stories; I feel like someone else, and while it’s been fun, it’s time for that to stop.

I’m going on a mini road trip with my good pal Martha on Thursday and will read as part of the Bugged Project at the Manchester Literature Festival during our mini break. But once I’m home in the ‘burgh again, it’s back to the grindstone – I promise!

It may be a comic, but that doesn’t mean it has to be funny

When I was a teenager, I thought reading comics the epitome of cool. This was largely influenced by the fact there were plenty of really interesting titles around at the time, and the term ‘graphic novel’ was starting to be bandied about and really kind of mean something.

I remember reading James O’Barr’s The Crow – which was my first comic of that ilk, although I’d seen plenty of The Broons, Beano and Dandy type things by then – and being totally blown away. And where did I end up next? Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns. And what next? Neil Gaiman’s back catalogue. No wonder I assumed comics were where it was all going on.

Neil Gaiman, Death, Chris But I never turned into a die-hard fan. I had plenty of other books to be reading, and as much as I love gorgeous art work and innovative experiments with visual narratives, I really am a straight prose kind of girl. So for me, comics were always that cool cousin from out of town that had that little something different that you could only experiment in. So it came as a bit of a shock to me when, years later, I realised that getting people to, you know, respect as well as read comics was still an uphill struggle.

Dark Knight Returns comic coverOf course, I’d know a lot less about comics than I do if I didn’t know Ink, but I’d definitely still have a healthy regard for those who are able to tell a story and tell it well – whatever the medium. For me, I think the biggest problem with comics is that people tend to lump them all in together – which makes no sense at all.

James O'Barr Crow comic coverWhen I think of novels, there are only certain categories or sections I’d bother to consider: I’m not a huge fan of pink covered books for girls, detective fiction doesn’t do much for me and some fantasy stuff makes my eyes hurt, but obviously I don’t think that all books are the same as the ones I don’t like. Nope, I just bypass the commercial or niche books I’m not into and move onto the ones I am.

I doubt there are many people out there who think Jodi Picoult, Terry Pratchett, Audrey Niffenegger and Muriel Spark write the same stuff, so why do people write off comics so quickly?

It’s not something I really thought about much until I started going along to comic conventions. If I mentioned them in passing, I’d tend to see a strange reaction – a kind of stifled surprise from the more polite people – but if I say I’m going to see someone at the Edinburgh Book Festival (comic writers included) no one blinks an eye.

It’s really weird, and kind of sad. In all mediums, the most powerful pieces of work are the ones that defy their boundaries and it’d be a shame to think that the majority of people write comics off as fluffy entertainment and blockbuster fodder without giving some of the greats a try.

Where does all the talent go?

I’m not trying to sound wanky here or anything, but I know some massively talented people. And that’s amazing, I love knowing that the majority of my friends are passionate and dedicated and spend a lot of time honing their various talents. What I really hate though, is that fact that so many of these people’s efforts are not out there for the world to see and enjoy.

There’s so much noise online, so many rules for competitions, so few chances to get published or signed, that lots of them are just toiling away on their own, unrecognised and depressed at spending so much time perfecting something that may never get out there.

I feel bad about it, I want to do something about it, but I don’t really know what. The only solution I can think of is trying to set up a platform for them to publish, distribute, display their various works – but I can’t help feeling like there are a few too many of such platforms anyway.

Also, it would take a serious amount of time to make any impact on an already quite saturated market, and I want to be writing in my spare time – not project managing. Then again, if I’ve learned anything in the day job – maybe it’s time to apply it to something I care about because I hate the thought of all that talent going to waste.

If I were Lynsey Noir

If I were a noir version of myself, I:

wouldn’t have given up smoking
would own more pairs of high heels
would be gritty and would have a sonorous seductive voice
I’d be haunted by my past
I’d be in muted tones – apart from my lipstick, which would be stark red
I’d definitely be embroiled in some kind of tangled plot of intrigue.
I’d also possibly look something like this picture Ink did of me.

I probably wouldn’t have much time for writing though, so I guess it’s fine that I’m not so Noir.

Prose girl enjoys comic convention

At the end of last week I was wondering whether Ink and I would make it to the Thought Bubble convention in Leeds and today the droop of my eyes and the fuzzy nature of my thoughts are reminding me that we totally did.

I’ve never been to a comic convention before but (despite that fact there were loads of people there and I’m awfully antisocial sometimes) I really enjoyed it. In many ways it reminded me massively of the book and film festivals in Edinburgh, both of which I’ve worked for a few times over the years, mainly due to the general buzz of anticipation and the strange (and often small) divides between the creators, the staff and the public.

One thing I really enjoyed about the whole experience was the way I was honestly left with the impression that the comic world is an inclusive one. Every talk I heard had encouragements and well as warnings and every person Ink spoke to about arty stuff was happy to give a little of their time, all of which was greatly appreciated.

Not being very knowledgeable about comics didn’t stop me from finding the talks generally interesting, there are many crossovers with prose fiction after all, and it’s inspiring to listen to people who are inspired no matter what medium they are working in.

People I most enjoyed talking or listening to included Keiron Gillen, Andy Diggle and Frank Quitley (who I enjoyed talking to for quite a while with no idea who he was!), all of whom are awesome and talented as well as friendly. I kinda want to go to another one now…

First draft sticky fingers

I feel quite lost now that I’ve finished editing the first draft. It’s not like I don’t have plenty of work to do (oh man, so much work to do) but I promised myself that once I’d typed up the first major round of changes I wouldn’t touch it until after Christmas. It’s proving hard.

I keep trying to stop myself by imagining the book in a variety of stupid guises. For example, the book is a delicious cake that I am desperate to ice, but if I take it out of the oven too quickly it will sink in the middle. Or, the book is a room I want to decorate but if i do it before the paint is dry… yadda yadda. I’m starting to worry for my sanity.

On the plus side, I have three short stories on the go at the moment and am planning an off the cuff visit to a comic expo in Leeds at the weekend. See? I’m in a good mood really.