I love Hong Kong. I think its one of the greatest cities on earth and my home for seven years. And this weekend, peaceful protests turned ugly as police attacked crowds with tear gas and batons. Over 50,000 people took to the streets protesting against the Chinese Government in Beijing's attempts to pervert democracy in the region. They had decreed that yes, there would still be elections but only government approved candidates may stand. The people of Hong Kong said no, this isn't how it works and made their opinions known with the Occupy Central movement.
Now not one window was broken, nor store looted. No police were attacked nor were there any other disturbances apart from people filling the streets. Yet the response was aggressive to say the least.
Seeing such a great city, such proud people attacked like this breaks my heart. This was always the fear in a post-97 world, and the distrust in the one country, two systems pledge when the Chinese took over and here we are, not even twenty years later, and its happening. I can't believe the government will back down - it's not in their nature - but nor will the people who still honour Tainanmen Square every year.
In my book SWITCH/BLADE, I wrote about riots tearing Central apart but seeing the real images are far worse than anything I imagined. Never did I think my make believe would come true. My heart breaks wondering what will happen next.
As the people stand strong with upturned umbrellas as their only weapons, wearing home made gas masks and cling film wrapped around them to protect their skin from gas burns, I pray that this madness stops.
Today I hit 38,000 words. By the weekend's end it will be 40,000 plus and that means I'm within ten days of hitting the half way point. I know this figures only excite me but they really do make me feel good.
In many ways writing a book is like running a marathon. I speak from some experience in this as I'm presently training to run a half-marathon at the end of October.
I find the first 5k when you're starting out running is bloody hard but once you get past it, its easy to start clocking in longer distances. But every time I start, the first 5k is hard - hard enough to make me think I can't do this, I can't run, what was I thinking even attempting this...
Writing is the same. If you try writing without preparing, it's impossible. If you think about how far you've got to go, you'll never start. The first few thousand words is all excitement, then its bloody hard and you think I can't do this, I can't write, what was I thinking even attempting this... But then you get in the groove and you're just running and writing, clock in the words, making progress.
I also know in about the 3/4 mark, I'll hit the wall and think "WTF?" and hate what I've done, and think I can't do this, I can't write, what was I thinking even attempting this... but for now I'm just going to enjoy progress and clocking off another milestone.
I heard this week that an old boss of mine, Daniel, died of cancer. He was only in his early fifties and left behind a wife and three young daughters. Hearing the news really upset me for days, way more than just thinking "That's a shame/Cancer's cruel/Poor family/etc" that one normally thinks on such occasions. And I wasn't upset because I was close to Daniel. I hadn't spoken to him since '97 - hell, I hadn't thought of him for a long time. I was upset because Daniel was one of those people who made an impact on everyone he met, good and bad, and for however long you were in in his world, it became everything. So I mourned the too-soon death of a husband and father, a former boss, a creative talent but I also mourned a time long gone, when I was young and care-free, when everything seemed possible, and when every day was an adventure.
I first met him back in 1996, when I worked for a toy company called Planet Time in Hong Kong that made black light reactive gizmos for American ravers. Daniel was the boss, who's previous claim to fame was inventing the pink neon telephone in the 80's.
At my interview, in this dark room in the bowls of a factory in Quarry Bay, I had the first indications that he wasn't your normal employer when he asked me if I knew anyone he could buy drugs from. Maybe it was my long hair that made him think I'd know the answer to that one! But the work they were doing was cool and I hated the job I was at and Daniel's gig paid well so I took it. He couldn't wait for me to work notice so for one month I did two jobs - my 9-5 day job, then headed over to his work shop and worked there until 2 or 3 in the morning. It was a killer schedule but I got paid double for one month and the gig was fun. He also had a weird assortment of creative types working with him from product designers, artists, set builders - hell, he even had his own DJ.
When I went full-time officially, I discovered the hours didn't change much. Daniel wouldn't turn up until 2 or 3 in the afternoon and liked working the night shift, often sitting alone in the dark, dreaming up new crazy stuff. What I also discovered was my day depended on what drugs he'd taken earlier. I started coming in earlier to get what needed doing done as the rest of the day after Daniel appeared was a write-off.
But despite the madness, or maybe because of it, the fun never stopped. The gang he gathered around him was exactly that - a gang and we bonded in the ways all gangs do. Life long friendships were built in those days. And we made stuff. Lots of stuff. Crazy stuff. Rewriting the rules as we went along, nicking what we needed from where ever we found it. It was a remix culture at full pelt. Everything was done at 100 miles an hour if not faster, mistakes quickly discarded, wins celebrated in epic style. Make, create, move on.
We once went to Reno to do a trade show for his biggest distributor. Daniel treated it like a rock n roll concert. He took us to a Hong Kong sex shop and kitted us out in leather and rubber and declared we were his slaves of trend. We had a photographer and a film crew follow us around from the moment we got off the plane and everywhere we went. Posters were put up of us posing like a band (and in true Planet Time style no one spotted the massive typo in the headline). Other companies had displays - we had show times.
I did more in my six months in Planet Time than I'd done in years at previous jobs and that's the way Daniel lived life. So while he may have died young, he didn't waste a single second he was on this earth. And while he may have appeared mad to most, perhaps it was because he had so many ideas in his head that he didn't have time for ordinary things. Maybe he needed the drugs to quieten the voices in his head. We'll never know but he was certainly one of a kind.
Daniel on the left, Marnie, Ted The Space Cowboy, me and Nick - The Planet Time gang.
I love this shot of me - not because I'm skinny and wearing rubber - but it sums up how I remember all those days - a little bit off-the-wall but fun. Great days that still make me smile. Planet Time was the perfect name for his company because that's what you did - you got to spend planet time with Daniel, a world of his own making.
Thanks for that Daniel. Hope you are showing God what he should make next.
“The only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars.”
― Jack Kerouac, On the Road
After my week's break, I'm at 35,000 words and counting. That's a third of the way in and, coincidentally, the end of part 1 of the story. Characters are in play and on the move and events are heading from bad to horrible. I'm really enjoying it and feel like I'm in the groove. Of course its only the first draft and much texture and colour must be added as well as perhaps giving my hero a bit more of a personality but all things will come.
So 35,000 words and just over a month in. I've averaged out at approximately a 1,000 words a days despite the surge over the holiday which really only compensated for the days I'd missed the target by a long way.
Still on target though for the 1st December finish. I only need to write approximately 900 a day to finish on that date so any more words above that are a serious win.
I was 17 when DC Comics released Ronin by Frank Miller and it blew my mind.
I was a huge Frank Miller fan from his work on Daredevil for Marvel, where he'd turned a second-rate Spider-Man into a cool, ninja-fighting, underworld-crushing, must-read superhero. He was writing and drawing, something that seemed almost impossible to me as well. He was one of the emerging comicbook superstars along with John Byrne, Walt Simonson and Howard Chaykin.
Naturally DC wanted him. Offered him an unheard of deal where he could actually own what he created. So given a free-hnad, he didn't recreate an alternative version of Daredevil. He created Ronin, a time-travelling sci-fi samurai epic, riffing of the Lone Wolf and Cub books he loved from Japan.
He took everything he loved and put a Western twist on it, making it likeable for American tastes, remixing what was done before into something fresh and amazing. I remember drawing for hours my own version of Ronin, eagerly awaiting each new issue (released every six weeks) and lusting over each panel, beautifully painted by Lynn Varley.
And the art style would change each issue as Frank grew in confidence as his influences pushed him into exciting new directions. This is the work of a master coming into his own, imagination unleashed.
Even the design was different. There was blood splattered across the logo. Panel borders were roughly drawn as were the speech bubbles. It was printed on beautiful paper. I remember though the covers (which had quotes from other creators like real books had) picked up your thumb prints on the black. At first I hated it but in the end I knew this was a book to be read, treasured and the thumb prints were proof of that.
I had this poster on my bedroom wall opposite my drawing table. All my characters had sharp cheekbones and carried samurai swords. I was doing my own comic strip about a sci-fi soldier with big shoulder pads and body armour and a sword on his hip. I think I managed six pages but they are long gone, thrown out when my family moved home and I was abroad. I wish I had them still to see at what my younger self dreamed of.
I still love Ronin today and I often pick up my beautiful oversized Absolute edition and read it. There's rumours that they are releasing an Artist's Edition shot from the original artwork. I'll buy that too when they do and salivate over every page once more.
As I sit here and write tales of cursed swords and demons, I can not help but wonder how much of an influence Frank Miller's Ronin has had on my life. If you haven't read it, do so. You'll not regret it.
People complain about not having time to do things: read, exercise, work out and so on. What they really mean is that the thing they have no time for just isn't important to them. Want to find time to read a book? Turn off American Idol and read. Want to get fit? Well stop hitting the snooze button and go run.
Once I was a complainer. I wanted to write a book but who has time right? Then I realised that if i went to bed at 10pm instead of 12, I could get up at 5 or 6, write , and then go to work. All I'd miss out on was watching crap TV and maybe drinking a beer or two that I didn't need. That moment changed my life. It suddenly brought me time to write and exercise and do all the things I love to do.
Now I write when I can. When I can steal the time. Early in the morning while everyone is asleep, during lunch hours at work and very occasionally in the evenings. I do it because I want to do it. Writing brings me more happiness than an extra hour in bed or talk crap over a pub lunch with colleagues. It makes me excited for the future and gives me the opportunity to dream.
This week however, things are a bit different. I have a huge amount of holiday to use up so I've taken the week off to spend every day writing. It's a wonderful luxury and a taste of what life could be like if I did do this full time. I've managed two days of 2,500 words and really enjoyed every minute I've spent up in my little attic.
The only danger has been the urge to procrastinate and do other things because suddenly I'm not racing against the clock. I have time so why not waste it? Of course, I could call writing this blog post 'work' but I know it's not. So that's all for now. I have lives to destroy and hopes to crush in my little book.
Today was the start of my week off work. I'm using the holiday to get a good chunk of writing done, and as such, it was a great success. I managed 1.25k this morning and the same again this afternoon. The book now stands at 26,000.
On top of that I snuck in an early morning run, plus looked after my son as my wife was working. To finish off, I'm watching the Edge oF Tomorrow or as its now called Live, Die, Repeat.
It's a great film that suffered at the box office because of its crap title and probably because everyone is a bit sick of Tom Cruise. I particualarly love Emily Blunt's character, Rita Vrataski, the Angel Of Verdun. Rare to see such a strong female character.
Sworn In Steel in the sequel to Among Thieves and again tells the tale of Drothe, now a crime lord known as the grey prince. And, as with the first one, I struggled to get into it, almost to the point where I nearly gave up on it. I'm glad I didn't though as, in the end, it was a fun romp. I don't think a new Hulick will ever jump straight to no 1 on my To Be Read pile like a Brett or Abercrombie, but I'll keep buying them.
I've also just reread David Gemmell's White Wolf. Rereading a book is a real indulgence when you have as many new books as I have waiting to be read for the first time but you can never go wrong with a Gemmell. White Wolf isn't one of the classics but it's always good fun and, in a world of GrimDark smothering everything with its shades of grey, its straightforward portrayal of good vs evil is very refreshing.
Darwyn Cooke is one of my favourite comic book artists. He draws with a throwback elegance that conveys everything that is magical to behold. Its cartoonish without being childish. It feels very retro and yet very modern. And I love everything he does.
In contrast to a lot of today's hyper-real artists, he can bring so much story into each perfectly composed frame. His new DC Comic covers are a perfect example of this. In the image above you know Superman has diverted from whatever he was doing to save the little boy from an nasty end. There's no aggression, no need for speed lines. We see Superman at his best in an image full of hope. If only the Superman movies could channel this look and feel.
I love how in this Catwoman image, you just know she's having the time of her life, robbing stuff.
But he never forgets that, with these covers, he's here to sell you a comic book. I mean I wanna read that Bat Girl comic and find out if she's helping the cops chase a bad guy or if they are chasing her.
In these days of grim and gritty, it's just so nice to see heroes looking like heroes and being happy about it. I just wonder if the insides will reflect the cover or if they will just be migraine stories as my old flatmate used to call them.
For most people the weekend is a time of rest, of taking it easy. Not so much for me, not this past weekend in any case.
I got up early on Saturday and did a 10k run around Wimbledon Common. As ever the first 5k was horrible but the second was really enjoyable. I actually intended to keep going but took a wrong turn and ended up at the car park.
We then met up with my sister and her husband later in the day and took my three year old son to his first fun fair. One of the many things I love about having a young child is their sense of wonder at everything. They don't see the grime that lurks around the edges, they just see colour and excitement and fun.
The one thing I didn't do though was write so Sunday was catch up day on that. I clocked in 2500 words - the most I've ever written in one go. The book is just nudging 20,000 words, a total I'm very happy with.
I have one more week of work and then I have 7 days off when I intend to write that total every day.
I love these moments when I'm climbing the word mountain and I can just stop and say "wow". I'm on my way.