Dec 12, 2016

Minion Mondays 010 Crusader

The world of Nevera is overrun with necromancers and undead, all other forms of magic have been lost to time and only small pockets of humanity remain. Each Monday we will be showcasing a new undead minion from the diverse fauna of Nevera, which you can battle and control to increase your own power as a necromancer. 

Name: Crusader

Type: Skeleton

Abilities: Cleave, Lance, Beam, Warcraft

Description: It was not enough for a Crusader to follow their oaths completely, it was necessary for them to distribute these oaths among others, most efficiently from the tip of a lance or edge of a sword. When combat mastery is combined with fanaticism, the resulting soul is almost uncontrollable, but if dominated, a Crusader can have the devastation of an entire battalion.

Art by Matheus Graef

Dec 5, 2016

Minion Mondays 009 Embalmed

The world of Nevera is overrun with necromancers and undead, all other forms of magic have been lost to time and only small pockets of humanity remain. Each Monday we will be showcasing a new undead minion from the diverse fauna of Nevera, which you can battle and control to increase your own power as a necromancer. 

Name: Embalmed

Type: Undead

Abilities: Spear, Explosion, Bravery, Siphon

Once an individual of consequence and status, the Embalmed have a lust for power that they carry from their cruel lives. Their merciless demeanor exasperated by death, they can be found in places of ancient significance. They are physically and magically exceptionally destructive and will resist domination fiercely, as well as possessing the ability to sap the essence of others.

Art by Matheus Graef

Nov 28, 2016

Minion Mondays 008 Squire

The world of Nevera is overrun with necromancers and undead, all other forms of magic have been lost to time and only small pockets of humanity remain. Each Monday we will be showcasing a new undead minion from the diverse fauna of Nevera, which you can battle and control to increase your own power as a necromancer. 

Name: Squire

Type: Skeleton

Abilities: Slice, Stab, Aura, Fortitude

Description: One of the ways it appears a soul can gain integrity is by swearing fealty to another. The more loyalty a squire might possess for his lord the easier it is to summon them, as it appears being subservient nature in life makes a soul more ready to be dominated by a necromancer. Subservience does not however imply weakness, as Squires are well trained in combat and warfare.

Art by Matheus Graef

Nov 21, 2016

Minion Mondays 007 Dark

The world of Nevera is overrun with necromancers and undead, all other forms of magic have been lost to time and only small pockets of humanity remain. Each Monday we will be showcasing a new undead minion from the diverse fauna of Nevera, which you can battle and control to increase your own power as a necromancer. 

Name: Dark

Type: Spirit

Abilities: Void, Plasma, Might, Choke

Description: Rare and destructive, the Dark is thought to be a combination of the remnants of multiple souls, but this has yet to be confirmed by any evidence. Regardless, such is the power of these entities that they have been reported to distort the world around them, smothering light and warping color. They are embodiments of dark energy, and overwhelmingly destructive. 

Art by Matheus Graef

Nov 16, 2016

Nevera Tales Comic Book Review by World Comic Book Review

The first review of Nevera Tales: Elisa & Aston is been posted by D. G. Stewart at World Comic Book Review. It is very complimentary and we are so happy for the attention and approval!

The review focuses on the literary elements of the comic book, and D. G. Stewart writes...

    "This story is deliberately and carefully smeared with foulness. We applaud Mr Bishop’s tradecraft."

And in regards to our successful Kickstarter campaign in July of 2016...

    "Given Mr Bishop’s manifest talent for horror we are surprised he raised so little."

We look forward to more words regarding Marek Jarocki's fantastic art. Get your copy of Nevera Tales here and come join in the conversation!

Nov 14, 2016

Minion Mondays 006 Rags

The world of Nevera is overrun with necromancers and undead, all other forms of magic have been lost to time and only small pockets of humanity remain. Each Monday we will be showcasing a new undead minion from the diverse fauna of Nevera, which you can battle and control to increase your own power as a necromancer. 

Name: Rags

Type: Undead

Abilities: Stab, Combust, Fortitude, Drain

Description: A freshly dead individual whose body has been preserved by various arts makes for a robust minion, and any  destructive magics they wielded in life are kept potent also. Normally only encountered in the depths of old ruins, they also have access to lost knowledge which a wise necromancer can make use of. To find them though, one must go to deep places of lost civilizations.  

Art by Matheus Graef

Nov 7, 2016

Minion Mondays 005 Treant

The world of Nevera is overrun with necromancers and undead, all other forms of magic have been lost to time and only small pockets of humanity remain. Each Monday we will be showcasing a new undead minion from the diverse fauna of Nevera, which you can battle and control to increase your own power as a necromancer. 

Name: Treant

Type: Spirit

Abilities: Hammer, Magma, Wall, Thorns

Description: Rare and near indomitable, the life and death of generations have passed through the body of a Treant, making it exceptionally powerful. Now the opposite of a great tower of life. Tree, earth and symbiotic organisms can be harnessed together by the bravest necromancers, making a Treant a true force of nature and emissary of destruction, capable of ruining whole castles.

Art by Matheus Graef

Oct 31, 2016

Minion Mondays 004 Bound

The world of Nevera is overrun with necromancers and undead, all other forms of magic have been lost to time and only small pockets of humanity remain. Each Monday we will be showcasing a new undead minion from the diverse fauna of Nevera, which you can battle and control to increase your own power as a necromancer. 

Name: Bound

Type: Ghost

Abilities: Flail, Shock, Pulse, Dirge

Description: Although tied to a certain place, body as well as soul, a talented necromancer may be able to may be able to summon this powerful ghost outside of its immortal prison. Known for using their restraints as whips, coils and conductors, these ghosts are weak, but their danger increases if an encounter is prolonged as weak hearts may lose the will to fight.

Art by Matheus Graef

Oct 24, 2016

Minion Mondays 003 Mummy

The world of Nevera is overrun with necromancers and undead, all other forms of magic have been lost to time and only small pockets of humanity remain. Each Monday we will be showcasing a new undead minion from the diverse fauna of Nevera, which you can battle and control to increase your own power as a necromancer. 

Name: Mummy

Type: Undead

Abilities: Lance, Meteor, Warcraft, Absorb

Description: The elite of a once grand civilization, Mummies command enormous destructive magics and are capable of razing whole fortifications. As well as draining essence from their targets, they also hold lost secrets of warfare from ancient times. Profound leaders in their past life, they are extraordinarily hard to dominate by necromancers, the relationship might better be classified as an alliance. 

Art by Matheus Graef

Oct 17, 2016

Minion Mondays 002 Shadow

The world of Nevera is overrun with necromancers and undead, all other forms of magic have been lost to time and only small pockets of humanity remain. Each Monday we will be showcasing a new undead minion from the diverse fauna of Nevera, which you can battle and control to increase your own power as a necromancer. 

Name: Shadow

Type: Spirit

Abilities: Null, Blast, Build, Stifle

Description: One of the most common spirits, Shadows are thought to encapsulate much of what people in life denied about themselves. The result is a poorly formed, but erratic and dangerous entity which is difficult to trace back to humanity. Being of weaker composition, Shadows prefer to hide and stalk prey, but they should not be mistaken for mere pests. 

Art by Matheus Graef

Oct 10, 2016

Minion Mondays 001 Fungus

The world of Nevera is overrun with necromancers and undead, all other forms of magic have been lost to time and only small pockets of humanity remain. Each Monday we will be showcasing a new undead minion from the diverse fauna of Nevera, which you can battle and control to increase your own power as a necromancer. 

Name: Fungus

Type: Spirit

Abilities: Bludgeon, Rock, Guard, Vines

Description: Those who succumb to the forest are likely to return as a Fungus. Almost entirely spore and mold with trace vestiges of humanity, these minion may appear slow, but exhibit dangerous elemental abilities. Although it may appear to be one of the more piteous minions, it would be unwise to underestimate a Fungus, as the forest has granted them significant might.

Art by Matheus Graef

Oct 7, 2016

Kickstarter Reflection Part Two: Surprises

Last week I wrote about what I felt were the four biggest strategies that led to our Kickstarter success. In this post I will write about the biggest surprises of the campaign.

No Comment
Our Kickstarter page had zero comments for the entire life of the campaign and even until now. This was very surprising because almost every other successful comic book campaign appears to have at least a handful of comments. Did we do such a good job explaining our project there were no queries? Were we uncontroversial enough to be totally unengaging? Did people really see nothing about our project they wanted tweaked or changed? The reasons behind our inability to move people to comment still remain a mystery to me.

Tier Popularity
I expected the vast majority of our backers for our campaign to pledge around the $8 tier or lower, taking a chance on us as an unknown creator and picking up the cheap digital rewards. However in reality the most popular tier proved to be $20 tier. The pull of an original unique piece of art was greater than I expected and speaks to the appeal of our artist Marek Jarocki. However this did mean that when a backer cancelled their pledge for whatever reason it was always a big hit (fortunately this was a rare occurrence).

The Benefits of One Cook
I love working with artists and creative people, but running this campaign really made me appreciate the privileges of having one decision-maker for a project. I expected the campaign to feel lonely, intimidating and insecure. But in the end it was fundamentally empowering to be the sole person responsible for each final decision. And whether a decision was right or wrong, it was most important that a decision was made and made quickly, which is usually only possible with one person at the steering wheel.

I should take this opportunity to praise and show appreciation for Corbin Sipos, a hardworking and talented concept artist (check out his Art Station here) whose advice and input has been invaluable over the years of formulating the world of Nevera. Thank you Corbin.

Oct 3, 2016

New Minion Mondays: Introducing New Artist Matheus Graef

Our projects at Tiger Crab Studios all take place in the world of Nevera, an original fantasy world overrun with necromancers and undead. Beginning next Monday, we will be revealing a new undead minion illustration each Monday for the next six months along with a short description.

To that end, we are excited and proud to announce that we are working with a new artist. Matheus Graef. Most work goes up on Tumblr, he also has an Art Station, a Red Bubble, and his own Website.

Allow us to share some of Matheus' Dungeons & Dragons illustrations which helped inspire us to work with him.

Sep 19, 2016

Kickstarter Reflection Part One: Strategies

The Kickstarter for our comic book Never Tales ended successfully on July 2016 raising $2,846 to complete the panel art, cover art and find physical publication. In this post I will talk about some of the strategies I thought worked well and contributed to our success.

Art Fan Base 
First, and I believe by far the biggest contribution came from our artist Marek Jarocki having worked for years to accumulate a following for his art and style. Marek posts art almost daily to Twitter, Tumblr and Instagram. Many of the posts are quick sketches that have a lot of personality and are very engaging, but Marek also posts time-lapse videos of his art, live streams and makes tutorials regularly, which has earned him a community who really appreciate his content.

Community Build Up
Secondly, months before the Kickstarter I attempted to build my own community with whatever I had to offer. I committed to writing a blog post every Monday and Friday regarding some aspect of creativity, writing, or project management and shared them around the internet. My post on Writing Relatable Characters still gets some positive attention and I am particularly proud of it. I believe this effort contributed to our success because in a small way it built a little trust in me as an unknown creator that I was disciplined and could follow through with a project, even if it was simply committing to writing twice a week.

Save Up Content
Thirdly, I saved up a backlog of content that I could release during the run time of the Kickstarter campaign. I had many concept sketches, time-lapse sketch videos, promotional art, panel art and other goodies that I successfully trickled out over the life of campaign, so that it appeared alive, engaging and hopefully interesting throughout. I definitely showed our best content at launch on the main campaign page, but showed something new at least 3 times a week to keep things fresh and to make sure I wasn't promoting using the same continent again and again.

Project Ingredient
Finally, based on this excellent article by Jeremy Melloul regarding building an audience, I split my project into its ingredients and targeted promotion of those ingredients at communities who would be most interested them. By splitting my project into theme, genre, topic, and other component parts I had the best chance of engaging different groups on the internet based on their point of interest.

I engaged vampire fans with the vampire ingredient.
I engaged horror fans with the horror ingredient.
I engaged fantasy fans with the fantasy ingredient.
I engaged writing fans with the script.
I engaged art fans with the time-lapse drawing videos.
I engaged story fans by relating my story to existing stories (“The Shawshank Redemption meets Interview with a Vampire”).
And so on.

I am not claiming I was great at this community engagement, but by splitting my content in this way I am certain I enjoyed much more success than if I simply blanketed the internet with one general post about my entire project.

I hope this was helpful, next week I will write about the surprises I experienced over the course of the Kickstarter campaign.

Sep 8, 2016

Post Kickstarter Update for Nevera Tales #2

Allow me again to thank you for your support and generosity in choosing to fund Nevera Tales. You have chosen to support several hard working artists and diversify the comic book landscape, which is not a small act.

I am very proud to share with you that progress is continuing well and there are no foreseeable obstacles. Below you can see more progress on the panels and I look forward to being able to show more (without spoiling too much!).

I can also announce that thanks to the talents and generosity of a friend who is a writer and native German speaker, we will be releasing a German translation of the comic book (digital only, until there is enough demonstrated interest for a physical printing). So please share our comic book with any German speakers you know who would enjoy our story and art.

Ich spare euch gerne die Eizelheiten die zu meiner gefangenschaft führten, denn ich weiss das ihr Sterblichen nicht unbegrentzte Zeit habt mir zuzuhöhren. Ich fürchte das ihr Sterben würdet ehe ich meine Geschichte zu Ende gebracht hätte. Die entprechenden Tatsachen das ich mich gefesselt und geknebelt in einer riesigen Mine oder in einem Kerker befand, genügen um euch um meinen Zustand zu informieren. Ich hatte eine eiserne Maske um den Kopf und konnte nur durch eine kleine öffnung vor einem Auge meine Umbegung wahrnehmen. Meine Geiselnehmer hatten offentsichtlig einige Erfahrung mit der Natur von Vampiren, z.B. das ich mich ohne Luft und Ernährung am Leben halten konnte. Ich muss tatsächlich zugeben, dass die entscheidung meinen ganzen Kopf mit der Maske zu umgeben die klügste Entscheidung meiner Geiselnehmer war, denn wenn auch nur einen Tropfen frishes Blut an meine Lippen gelangt wäre, würde es fast unmöglich gewesen sein mich zu zügeln.

We appreciate your patience and cannot wait to deliver your well deserved rewards.

Aug 8, 2016

Post Kickstarter Update for Nevera Tales #1

First of all thank you again for your support and patience while production continues with Nevera Tales. It takes over two weeks for the funds to transfer from Kickstarter to the creator, so there has not much to report until now.

Secondly I can reassure everyone that progress with the panel art is continuing on schedule and we are as excited as you are to see the story unfold through pictures and the world of Nevera becomes more real due to the skill and time of Marek Jarocki.

Thirdly we can also proudly show progress on the cover art. I chose to commission an oil painting by Doug Hoppes showing a bird and a bat in conflict, representing Aston below the castle in conflict with the ruling family above. Something a little different for a comic book that I am confident will fit the horror/macabre tone. You can check out the progress here.

Jul 8, 2016

Nevera Tales Kickstarter Has Been Funded!

Today I am proud and grateful to announce that our Kickstarter campaign to fund the publishing of our comic book Nevera Tales has been successful with four days remaining.

Any extra funds from this point will go a huge way to making our reward fulfillment simpler, so please take a little time to share us with anyone who might enjoy our comic book or our rewards.

Thank you to our friends and family who made this possible with their support and understanding, and thank you to anyone who backed us, shared us or liked us. This is a huge moment for us not only as an accomplishment but also as a signal that there is an audience out there for our work and our art. We are excited to begin really turning the wheels to begin producing the comic book and the rewards an honor everyone's contribution.

Much love.

Daniel Bishop

Jul 4, 2016

Nevera Tales Comic Book Cover

I am excited to show the first glimpses of our cover for Nevera Tales, this is a thumbnail sketch provided by Doug Hoppes which he will be turning into an oil painting.

Being a horror comic book, I definitely wanted something that felt heavy, surreal and macabre for the cover image. Something that would stand out, have some depth and gravity, and be a little less conventional. I am confident we will achieve that goal with this direction.

If you haven't already please take a moment to check out our Kickstarter campaign for some great rewards, and if you have already please take a moment to share us with some friends so that we can smash our last 20% in this, our last week!

Jul 1, 2016

Advice for Working with Freelance Artists

Over the past four years as a writer I have worked with several concept artists to bring my ideas to life through illustration. In all honesty working with artists is probably my favorite part of my projects, I get to work with people who can produce amazing art and collaborate to make my ideas better than they ever could be with just me alone. A lot of this advice can apply to any freelance work, but I am framing it as working with concept artists as this is where most of my experience comes from. 

I will be using this time to offer some advice for working with concept artists to hopefully help you get the most out of working together. When working with anyone in any setting, respect is hugely important for the work to function properly, but the way people feel respected differs across environments, roles, cultures, and individuals. The best work you can do is taking the time to explore how people feel respected, because it may differ from how you feel respected or may differ from your expectations.

Classic I know, but the only way to make sure everyone's expectations are satisfied is if everyone involved makes it clear what their expectations are at the very beginning. Everyone has had different teachings and experiences, so do not take it for granted that the person you are working with are on the same page about everything without talking about it first. If you would like some guidance on what you should be nailing down, there are many freelance artist contract templates available online which cover the essential parts of everyone's obligations. Of course circumstances change and issues come up, but the only way to move past them is to keep talking and be open. Remember, if someone feels disrespected or mistreated, word can travel quickly and can hurt your future chances of finding people to work with.

Make sure you are being respectful of the artist's time. Remember they probably keep normal business hours and are not available to communicate 24/7 so patience is key even if it is difficult. If you have specific expectations around when and how your artist should be available for communication just make sure you outline what you need at the beginning of the relationship. When it comes to time issues, many of them can be addressed with compensation. If you need something rushed, need something revised, or need a long phone call, then it is fair and respectful to pay for that time you are asking for.

Grab plenty of reference from the internet and any sources you can. Deviant Art is a great starting point and you can easily build a picture collection on the website itself and share that collection. Be clear about which parts of which illustrations you are interested in, which illustrations are closer to what you want or further away from what you have in mind. Be clear about if you included an illustration because you liked the style, the colors, the mood, the composition, whatever made you grab it share that information. Also tell your artist about your inspirations and influences, and if it will help feel free to even do a quick rough sketch yourself. Don't be afraid to do whatever you think will help both of you see the same goal, while again being respectful of the artist's time.

The best artists I have worked with have always asked about the world the illustration takes place in, they will ask what materials are available (leather, metal, cloth) what technology is present (electricity, steam, clockwork) how magic works (fixed to objects, available to only few people, used as an energy source), because they know the answers to these questions will help them build the world the illustration takes place in to make it practical and therefore more immersive. This is even more important if your artist is doing multiple illustrations for you as there needs to be a consistent world built across the art. If your artist does not ask these kinds of questions feel free to initiate these discussions yourself, you may even discover something about your world you had not considered before!

In my experience, artists are generally okay with redoing art or changing art if it is not exactly what you had in mind or if alterations need to be made, but always lead the discussion with "how much would you charge to..." Maybe you will be very lucky and your artist will do the extra work for free, but do not presume they will as this is disrespectful of their time and energy. It is probably no one's fault that the art is not exactly what you wanted the first time around, so do not presume that the artist is the only party who needs to take on the responsibility of progressing it (your financial responsibility is part of it too).

Pay your artist. Move Heaven and Earth to pay your artist. As per communication earlier you must pin down before work begins how much is to be paid and when, and you must do everything you can to fulfill that obligation. Having a basic freelancer contract beforehand will help keep you accountable for your responsibilities, but even without one you must fulfill your end of the deal. In my personal opinion, if for some reason you are unable to pay your artist on time, I would recommend using a credit card or loan to do so, because ethically I believe it is better for you to be in debt than the artist who fulfilled their end of the deal.  


Gratitude is a huge element in working relationships, especially creative ones in which people put so much of themselves into the work. Payment is the absolute minimum one should consider a show of gratitude, but the great news is that there are many way in which you can do a little extra. For example, you can write short and sweet reference for the artist which will help them acquire future work. You can also make sure to praise them publicly on social media. You can even pay them a little bit extra than what you agreed, if you feel comfortable doing so.

Jun 27, 2016

Comic Books in Literacy Education

"and what is the use of a book," thought Alice, "without pictures or conversations?" - Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll

I am a teacher and I have taught reading and reading skills to all ages, from infants to adults. These days I mostly work with students who are moving from pictures books and short books into chapter books, which is a huge transition that requires a lot of confidence-building and support. This article is about how I believe comic books can support this transition and continue to support growing readers.

One of the biggest obstacles I see when readers transition from picture books to chapter books (that hardly anyone talks about) is the loss of context. All those pictures and illustrations were not just fun, amusing and artistic, they provided a wealth of clues about what was going on in the story on that page, which allows the student to use more of their brain power to read instead of guessing about the story.

If Piglet puts the kettle on to make tea, then a child might not know what a kettle is, or what piglet puts the kettle on, or what a kettle is for, or what it looks like, or might have seen a kettle but never knew its name before, or know what a kettle is in another language but not English, and any number of missing pieces of information that are solved instantly with a simple picture. This is not just a learning opportunity, it does all the heavy lifting of providing context for the child, so they can focus on the important issues of sounding out the words, noticing punctuation and gaining confidence. The child is not constantly having to wonder what is going on in the story at the same time as learning how to read.

In this dramatic fast paced moment, it is nice to not have to stop and explain what a balcony is.

As children are being encouraged younger and younger to read chapter books, this vital scaffold is lost and children are more often reading large books with no real understanding about what is happening. I remember being asked to tutor an eight year old boy who was considered behind in reading because he was not confident at reading chapter books yet (which in my opinion is totally fine for an eight year old, but I could talk about that all day). I let him pick a book to try and he wanted to read Percy Jackson & The Olympians together, a very well regarded book series by Rick Riordan about a boy's adventures among Geek gods in a modern setting.

We were reading the book together for several weeks, and he was reading well for his age. But at one point we encountered a page that referenced a lot of Greek mythology (more than one creature appeared at once, like a medusa, centaur, faun, I forget specifically) and I asked the boy if he knew what any of them looked like or what they were. He said no, and so I began to ask him about more simple every day things that appeared in the book, and again he said that he did not know what they were. I admit I was quite embarrassed that we had been reading for quite some time without him having much clue about what was happening at all in the story!

He did seem to still be interested in what was happening though, and so I recommended to his parents that they get hold of the comic book version of the story (adapted by Robert Veditti and art by Attila Futaki), so that he could accumulate some context and understanding about the story before attacking it as a chapter book, again so that he could focus on building his skills as a reader instead of using all his focus to unpick or guess at what was happening page to page.

Another issue is dialogue; I remember as child reading chapter books, and when there were characters having a discussion I would often have to read the page over several times to get a decent understanding of who was talking, who they were talking to, who exactly was in and not in the room. Very basic information that we take for granted (and is still sometimes difficult even now depending on how good the writing is...) Once again pictures take away this need to guess and give the reader assurances about the situation which allow them to continue reading confidently.

My point is, I believe we need to appreciate more of what is lost when children are encouraged to move from picture books to chapter books, that pictures are not just for children, they serve a purpose when reading to all ages about contextualizing new information, ideas and situations. What good is telling a child that Superman is from another planet if they have no concept of what a planet is? What good is telling a child that Batman hangs out in a cave if they have never seen a cave before? When the Avengers arrive to save New York how many of them exactly are there? Who is Captain America yelling at right now?

When reading for fun, gaps in understanding and new ideas can be great, but when learning how to read, pictures can do a lot of the mental heavy lifting that can make reading exhausting or no fun at all. With comic books, children can be introduced to all kinds of amazing ideas and situations like time travel, space travel, morality, love, hate, life and death, that can be made understandable because they introduced with words and pictures together. Armed with this understanding, children (or any age of reader) can walk into chapter books more confident in their understanding about the world and more able to bring context to literature themselves. 

Jun 24, 2016

Complete Prose: Elisa & Aston

This week I have been enjoying some family time away from home, so I will simply post the prose of Nevera Tales: Elisa & Aston in its entirety. If you enjoy it, please check out our Kickstarter to turn it into a comic book.


             I will spare you the details of how I was captured, for mortals have a limited time for tales, and I would not want you to expire before I am done recounting the pertinent elements of this particular episode. It is sufficient to say that I found myself bound and gagged in some vast underground mine, or dungeon, or both. My face completely enclosed in an iron mask save for one eye so I could navigate my new domain. My captors clearly had some understanding of the nature of vampires; that I would not need to eat or breathe in order to continue my existence. Indeed, completely encapsulating my face was the most intelligent decision they made, for if any blood were to find its way to my mouth it would be very difficult to keep me contained.
            I learned by overhearing the whispers of the guards that I was in a system of tunnels underneath the tower of Celephais, a rather impressive fortification and home to the Kuranes family, the head of which was one young Lord James Kuranes; my chief captor.
            As to my immediate situation, my hands had been bound in such a curious way that I could hold and swing a small tool, but nothing more complex. I explored the tunnels and found brethren of mine, other vampires, ghouls, zombies and such manifestations of death, all bound in similar ways. From their purposeful actions I determined that we were slaves meant to work the tunnels as mines, but searching for I what I cannot say.
            Predictably they were being directed by a necromancer, their wills bent towards this endless toiling, however I felt no such domination over myself. I can only guess that the necromancer did not have sufficient powers to control me, but kept this fact hidden from Lord Kuranes for fear of losing face. Proceeding with this as my best assumption I worked in the mines as the others, allowing the necromancer to continue his illusion and allowing myself to continue existing.

            Seasons passed far above me, I do not know how many. I do not require rest or sustenance and so the passage of time means vastly less to me than it does to you. I do however distinctly remember the smell of afterbirth, (my senses heightened from being deprived of blood so long). Lord Kuranes had sired a son.
            I determined that it was time to take more influence over my future. As progress in the mines slowed it became apparent that the necromancer's power was failing (or they may have even departed completely), and I was able to redirect some of the lesser undead sharing the tunnels with me to new projects.

            More time passed, again I do not know how long. Another generation was born into Celephais. I smelled her coming into this world. Her name was Elisa, although I forget how I came to learn this. I could hear her crying as an infant; she must have been housed much closer to my tunnels than the rest of the family.
            When she was a child she would come to the observation balconies to see us working in the tunnels. She did not seem afraid of us, of me. She did not waste kindness on us, she knew that was beyond us, but she spent a curious amount of time watching us in our realm below the ground.

            Elisa grew older, and I smelled when she became fertile herself. She would visit often, so much so that the guards began to stop noticing her. One day soon after this, without any apparent warning, she simply pushed one of the guards from the balcony. His screaming and thrashing as he tumbled was almost as delicious as his flesh would be.
            When he hit the ground he was still alive, his armor stopping him from becoming totally pulverized. However he was pulled apart in a matter of moments by the various horrors that shared the tunnel with me. I had to destroy some of my fellow undead in order to secure some of his body for myself as there was such a flurry. I smeared and smashed his flesh against my mask, hoping a drop of blood might make its way to my mouth through some tiny gap that had formed since my time in the mines.
            When it touched my lips and tongue, it caused such a spasm in me that my bounds were broken (although partially destroying my arms in the process). I quickly used the remains of my hands to tear off my mask, and began climbing the walls up to the balcony, followed closely by my fellow undead.
            The humans who attempted to bar our way were quickly dispatched. Such was our fury that hardly any of them were whole enough to be reanimated to join our ranks as we tore up and through the tower. That night screams shot through the tower as though it were a mighty trumpet, and blood poured down the steps like a waterfall. I distinctly remember James Kuranes, now old and decrepit, fling himself from one of the top windows to avoid being turned into an abomination.
            I found Elisa in the stables, she wasn't hiding. An impulse took hold of me, and I destroyed two ghouls that were almost upon her. I picked her up and took her away from Celephais.
            We were stood at the edge of the forest, she and I, with Celephais in sight across the clearing. It was the first time I had seen the great tower from the outside, and  I had the sense that it was the first time for Elisa also.
            You would expect me to tell you that I had gently, over the many seasons enslaved in that tower, bent her to my will and gave her the impulse to push that guard to his oblivion, facilitating my escape. The truth is I did not have that power, it had all been her doing.
            If you live long enough, you will learn that it is pointless to ask mortals what they want, the answer will always be shallow and inauthentic. Simply listen to the music in their voice, where their eyes wander, and where their eye keep theirs from wandering. I understood what Elisa wanted.
            I picked her up and placed her head on my shoulder. As I sank my teeth into her neck she gasped and watched the mighty tower crumble and fall, hitting the ground so hard that it caved in the tunnels below it. All those seasons I had spent digging under the foundations of Celephais finally catastrophically obliterated the tower and everything inside, entombing everything Elisa had known.

            I left Elisa there in the forest. We had exchanged our offerings; my freedom for hers. I have not seen her since that night, but if she still exists I expect the world is more interesting with her in it. 

Jun 20, 2016

Creating Nevera Tales

Creating Nevera Tales - A Fantasy Horror Comic Book

The World
Nevera Tales is a comic book concept set in a fictional world called Nevera, I came up with the name as a play on J. M Barrie's Never Never Land where Peter Pan lives, because in Never Never Land, nobody grows up. In Nevera, nobody stays dead. I crafted a fantasy horror world overrun with necromancers and undead, where necromancy is the dominant form of magic and magic users wage constant war using various undead minions such as skeletons, ghosts, spirits and other horrors. 

My intention was to create a world with rich enough storytelling potential but rigid enough rules to allow for different stories to take place within it, to provide enough of a structured sandbox for me to explore different characters and stories that could exist there. You can read my articles on general world building by clicking the links to the right. 

The Concept
While building the world of Nevera in writing, illustration and even video games, I had a dream where I was a captive in a medieval dungeon, and the dungeon was shaped like a ring. There were balconies around the inner edge  for guards to keep watch over me and the monsters that were in the dungeon with me. I do not remember if I was a monster, but I do remember being incredibly powerful and strong.

I had the sense that I was to break out of the dungeon, and so with a great leap and climb I scaled a wall up to a balcony and destroyed two of the guards that were posted there. I looked behind me and the monsters had followed me up the wall, as though they were inspired by me, and together we tore up and through the castle that sat above the dungeon.

I remember feeling exhilarated in the dream, and woke up with a rush of adrenaline and feeling of power, and immediately wrote down on a notepad by my bed everything I could remember about the dream. I knew what I dreamed could serve as a great crescendo to a larger story.

The Writing
Later, I set about molding my dream story to fit into the world of Nevera. I decided that the character I played in the dream would be a vampire, to fit the undead theme and explain his power and strength.  Then remembering the movie The Man in The Iron Mask, I was inspired to bind and mask the vampire character so restrict his movements and keep his power in check. I had a vivid image in my mind of the vampire's face fully enclosed in an iron mask, as being undead he would not need to eat or breath.

At that point I also fell in love with the idea of the vampire having to bide his time over generations, much like The Shawshank Redemption, but over a much longer period of time, with the vampire's unique perspective on time and limited senses giving the story a dreamlike feel. The young lord who captured that vampire and now resided in the castle above the dungeon would have a child, and then that child would grow old and have a child themselves. And that child would be the second central character of the story, and be the trigger for the crescendo.

The Concept Art
I still had the vivid image of the vampire, emaciated, bound and masked, and I desperately wanted to see him on paper. So I contacted Marek Jarocki, who had worked on some concept art for me in the past and who had taken an interest in the fictional world I was creating. I described the vampire as best as I could, and with some work-shopping Marek created a character as closer to my imagining than I ever hoped was possible. I knew Marek had experience creating comics for his own stories, and after seeing what he could do with my characters I was confident enough that my story could be told as a comic book, with Marek's skill and talent bringing it to life.

We quickly put together the concept of the child character, who I decided would have some clearly visible illness or malady, and also a motivation to sympathize with the creatures in the dungeon, and then moved forward with the illustration. As the story would be told from the perspective of the vampire, the writing would have limited detail about the child, so the visuals would be very important for conveying her character.


The Layout
Finally I decided that I was proud of the prose story enough that I wanted to keep it in place of actual dialogue, and that the vampire's narration was strong enough exist alongside the panels of the comic book. This opened up some interesting possibilities, for one it would mean that after reading the prose and following the panels a few times, a readers would be able to follow the panels on their own without the prose because they already would know the story. It also opened up the possibility to have the story easily translated into other languages if there appeared to be an audience for it, and it could save time and money on lettering as the prose could be added in digitally.

The Illustration
Finally I split the story across fourteen pages as evenly as I could manage. Marek and I were quick to realize that even with no lettering, the amount of illustration I was expecting for each page was far too much or the panels would have to be far too small, and so we reorganized the story to run across eighteen pages, giving it a much better flow. I described some of the important panels as I saw them in my mind and Marek did an amazing job of committing them to paper, and then together work-shopped the remaining panels in a rough sketch draft. Once I had slept on each page and looked at them again with fresh eyes (I always recommend sleeping on a draft before editing) we tweaked the details and then Marek illustrated the pages as you see them now.

Which is where we reach you, and your opportunity to contribute to this project and own the final product digitally or physically, along with some original art work depending on your choice of rewards, as well as immediate access to the full prose and an audio book told in character. If you like the project, or if any of my articles have helped you in some way, please consider backing or sharing our project. Next time I will write a breakdown of how I planned and executed our Kickstarter project. 

Jun 17, 2016

Finding Narrative Voice: Considerations and Advice

I love telling stories, I always have done. Ever since I began learning how to spell I started making up tales and adventures. I remember being very little and having a big book of dinosaurs open so I could spell their names correctly as I inserted them into my stories, I entering every poetry competition at school (and sometimes winning), and watching every movie I could get my hands on at the video rental store to digest more stories.

She probably has quite a unique voice

When I wrote I usually wrote with my own voice, and I often still do unless I determine that writing with someone else's voice would really alter the story in a significant beneficial way. But even when using my own voice it is important to keep in mind who I am talking to.

One small note, if my articles have been enjoyable or informative at all, please consider visiting and supporting my Kickstarter page for my comic book Nevera Tales. You can get an audio book for $2, a digital comic book for $4 and a physical comic book for $8, plus a lot of other cool rewards.

One Ear or Many
When you speak to one person, the language and expression you use is normally fuller and richer than if speaking to two people, three or a group. This is because with one person you build up a shared meaning of words and ideas that become in some ways its own private language that is evolving and growing. If you are speaking to many people at once, the words and phrases you use have to become broader, shallower and more general in order to make sure that everyone understands you well enough. This is why if you see stand up comedy in small basement room with twenty people, you can get a deep interesting shared experience that evolves with the group, as the comedian takes risks and builds a relationship with the audience. But when performing to a stadium sized audience the stand up comedian generally relies on jokes about airplane food and differences between men and women, because they are having to reach a broader audience and needs to tap into more general experiences that are more common.

When writing, you have to decide whether the voice you are using is communicating with one person, a few people, or many people. In reality (if writing for a book, poem or comic book) you will have a single reader at a time, but be conscious of the style of language and word choice as it will affect the style of your language. Will you choose a deep intimate and meaningful language as if talking to someone you know well, a casual language as if talking to someone you do not know well, or a general and shallower language as if talking to a group? All are natural and good choices, the important idea to remember is that you should be consistent in your voice from beginning to end.

Character as Narrator
If writing a story as a character, first you should decide if the character is actually inside of the story or not, by which I mean are they taking part in the story or do they only exist in the world of the story. Then you must decide if the character is omniscient (that they know everything, past present and future), and if they are not omniscient, what exactly do they know and not know. This sounds like a great deal of work at the beginning but it will save countless errors and backtracking in your writing further down the line.

After that you will need to consider all of the usual aspects of a character, such as their motivations, relationships, agendas and how what they are telling impacts them personally. To go even deeper, you must have some kind of reasoning why the character is telling the story at all, and in doing so justify that you are using that character's voice instead of another.

Start Small
If I am trying a new voice I have not attempted before, I find it great practice to write short pieces in that voice first. A poem, anecdote or short story is a great way to practice staying in that same voice from beginning to end with a piece of writing, and can make it easier when attempting a larger story.

By doing this you can get an idea of what words to watch out for, any unnatural turns the voice might take, and keeping a consistent mood or feeling to the voice. I also find it useful to read my writing aloud, as this can very quickly bring to light inconsistencies, pacing issues and give new ideas for language and phrasing choices.

The Unreliable Narrator
I myself have never committed any serious writing with an unreliable narrator. An unreliable narrator is one which obscures the truth, either because the voice is heavily biased, uninformed, silly, mad or just a plain liar. This can lead to interesting experiences in writing and reading, however I personally enjoy telling stories more as one would tell a story to a child, or a fable to an ancient, where the story can be full of lies, deceit and treachery, but the story teller themselves can be trusted. Like Virgil guiding Dante through the circles of Hell, as the one reliable figure through a world of shadows, disturbances and mixed agendas. (The narrator of the story is Dante, but I am comparing my duty as a storyteller to Virgil's, I apologize if that is confusing).

If you want to attempt to write as an unreliable narrator, ask first if there is some other way the desired experience you want the reader to have (anxiety, tension, curiosity and so on) can be achieved in another simpler way, with a plot twist, character reveal or some kind of betrayal within the story, as using an unreliable narrator can be rewarding, but does ask for a lot of energy and patience on the part of the reader. Also as advised earlier, practice by starting small.