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Friday, September 19, 2014

Comic Cuts - 19 September 2014

Anyone following the progress of the latest book from Bear Alley will be pleased to hear that the release date should only be a matter of weeks. I finished the layouts on Tuesday and I'm now waiting on a proof copy. There's an approval process that I need to go through with the copyright holders but they've been very receptive so far and I'm not expecting any problems.

The final book is 140 pages, with a couple of introductions, one relating to the creators of the strip and a second about gladiatorial combat past, present and future. The latter is a little self-indulgent, and at over 4,400 words a lot longer than I'd planned, but as I'd already had to set the price when we were negotiating the license, it hasn't made any difference to the cover price and the book won't cost you a penny more just because I've added half a dozen more pages.

Within the next couple of weeks I should be able to confirm the release date and will have everything set up to take payments over on the Bear Alley Books site.

I have a couple of ideas for what to do next; hopefully another strip collection. But as I haven't even started the negotiations yet, I'd better not jinx the notion by talking about it too early.

I'm in a weird state of post-book euphoria. While I'm waiting on the proof, and before I get cracking on the next book, I want to nudge a couple of other projects along. One is to rewrite the Harry Bensley/Man in the Iron Mask material that I published on Bear Alley a few weeks ago and put out an e-book. I have a little additional information on his travels, more on his marriages and have discovered a previously unmentioned child.

I also want to revisit another old rogue that I've written about in the past. I spent Wednesday ferreting around the pages of newspapers from between the wars and turned up a lot of new and interesting information. I've also nailed down details of his birth and discovered the curious story of his father.

And I'm now going to be a rotten sod and not say his name. I don't want to give away all the surprises.

Let's talk about something else. Weight watchers will be pleased to hear that I haven't put on any weight or pissed off (on my behalf) to hear that I haven't lost any weight. I'm stuck on 101 kilos and have been for two months. I don't think it's a coincidence that I've been working on the new book for precisely that period. Although I haven't missed any of my walks and only missed a handful of rides on the exercise bike, I haven't really done much else. So while I've found the level of exercise that will keep my weight steady, I need to push it that extra mile, or an extra ten minutes, if I'm to burn off a few calories.

Tomato season is almost  over. For a pair of non-gardeners with the black, twisted fingers of death rather than green fingers, Mel and I have done pretty well with our pair of tomato plants. We've had over 200 tomatoes – had some with out macaroni cheese last night! – but we're thinking that next weekend we'll pluck off any remaining fruits and just leave them on the window sill. If they ripen, great. If not, we can fry them, right?

Our random scans this week are a couple of SF Masterworks titles that I've picked up recently. I can't believe I sold off a load of these many years ago. It really is an astonishing series containing an amazing line-up of novels. If you ever needed to recommend any science fiction titles to anyone, you could do a lot worse than saying "Just pick up any title with the SF Masterworks brand and you'll be holding a classic."

Perhaps Ursula Le Guin's The Dispossessed wouldn't be the best place to start for anyone coming to SF new. Politics and sociology aren't what people expect of science fiction and a novel like The Dispossessed can be a bit of a struggle for the novice. I like the fact that the SF Masterworks series began with The Forever War by Joe Haldeman, I Am Legend by Richard Matheson and Cities in Flight by James Blish, which are all good starter novels if you want to get into SF.

Samuel R. Delany's books had some of the best covers around when I was buying paperbacks in the 1970s. Some fabulous work by Chris Foss, Peter Elson, Angus McKie and Tony Roberts – I'm going by memory, so forgive me if I'm wrong. My original copy of Nova has a couple of spaceships in an asteroid field with a distant sun and a lot lens flare. The book has been gone for twenty years but I can still see it. [In fact, I found a scan online – very poor but I've included it above so you can see what I'm talking about.]]

The last of our quartet is a bit of an oddity. I have recently picked up a couple of novels by Neal Asher, but have yet to actually read one. The Engineer is an early collection published by a little Leicester outfit, Tanjen Ltd. I'd never heard of them until I picked up this book. They seem to have been a publisher of horror novels, collections and anthologies, active around the late 1990s/early 2000s. They published Asher's first novel, The Parasite in 1996.

Coming shortly: I have another excellent historical piece by Robert Kirkpatrick about penny dreadful publisher Henry Lea, which I will be running soon. I might – might – take a few days off to catch up with various tasks that need doing (back-ups, e-mail, etc.) and to get my Iron Mask e-book written. These things don't write themselves, you know!

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