Plan and Toil

December 2020

My health has been precarious for the past couple years, longer if going beyond diagnosis. Though lockdowns have been difficult, testing, they have offered time and space to attune to inner and outer self, each day a stroke of blade against leather strop, sharpening and restoring creativity, artistry, focus…

To come: Hollow Shotguns in hardback, featuring cover art hand-produced on a raw slab of slate, evoking the story. The text is a lightly edited version of a 2012 draft, subsequent revisions harming the original intention. Foolish, but I needed to go through that process to reach that realization. To cure that pick-at-it syndrome. Independent publishing generously permits risk and experimentation, but the guerrilla approach can be messy, complex, unpredictable, sometimes demanding trial and error to get right, so the best way to describe previous versions is as uncorrected proofs. To be burned or buried, or to at least have PROOF written in large black marker on the title page. This final version is for the bookshelves, not least as I’m working to craft something of aesthetic beauty too. There will also be a less attractive paperback with different artwork but the same text as the main hardback, akin to a mass-market edition.

Handmade cover art for Dr Craine’s Body and “Red”. No more digital art. Then a physical release through Sev Inks of final versions of the two. And yes, Severest Inks will be rebranded as Sev Inks. Sharper, unobtrusive, encouraging exploration of the lifeblood of the publishing house, the stories, art, authors. Too many have launched into debates with me over pronunciation (like Everest not-), over whether it’s a good name, over… while ignoring the works and writers. Sev Inks. Snags attention without hangups on the name. Sev Inks. Sharp. Subversive. Different. Buy one of our titles…

Speaking of writers, I’m planning a digital standalone of “Georgia Rouge” by Tammy Bartlett, a great story which I intended to release long ago before retreating to the shadows to sort myself out. If anything, after Trumpism and the deeper realization of an America, largely away from urban spaces, which culture has failed to fully explore, depict, this story has only grown in relevance. It’ll receive the individual treatment it deserves.

Possible hardback of The Sev Inks Shorts, stories from the aforementioned author and more by Eryk Pruitt, Charmaine Pauls and Hunter Heath. The Hollow Shotguns hardcover I’m working on will determine if hardbacks are feasible for a tiny publisher like Sev Inks. These things are expensive, both to produce and purchase, and while the printer I’m working with is great, also printing for more eminent publishers like Random House and Oxford University Press, its process demands time and money. Hopefully, the final product will be satisfying and affordable enough that the process can be replicated.

A second novel, The Fires of Red, the start of a crime epic.

The second book in this crime trilogy, The Cinders of Red.

The third in this generational crime saga, The Ashes of Red. In a recent blaze of creativity I mapped out most of the story, ten days of sweet artistic inner inferno, so I know how it unfurls. After feeling creatively depleted it just happened. I’m not sure how that happens. I suspect most writers and creatives don’t.

A fourth novel directly knitted to the Red trilogy, without “Red” in the title.

A graphic novel, possibly an adaptation of Hollow Shotguns, long mulled with the best excuse for it being that some may struggle with the language of Hollow Shotguns, this lets them more accessibly experience the journey of those five boys. Not the best reason. But I’ve gradually formed ideas that could only be executed through this form. To tell the story of Hollow Shotguns anew, or even an original story, in ways only this particular medium allows convinced me to commit. I’ll script and illustrate the book myself.

Anything in between?: Unlikely. Sev Inks is closed for submissions, when or if it reopens uncertain. A cause of my malaise was pushing myself creatively while pushing other people’s works, some not even reaching publication for one reason or another, while toiling at the ever-draining day jobs, ignoring warnings such as a chest of lead, fleeing of sleep, waning focus, swelling aches, an exhaustion felt under the bone. It makes little sense to accept submissions while my own creative ideas simmer away. I can’t fully commit to one or the other. If Sev Inks does reopen it’ll seek projects that preserve my creative energy, comics, graphic novels, forms of storytelling not strictly prose, easier to work on, guide. I stick by everything, everyone, already under Sev Inks, but don’t expect more while I focus on playing the long game with my own works.

Can we help, support?: When these projects drop buy them, but right now mere verbal and moral support goes far. In a world that feels increasingly hostile towards the arts, simple shows of support and encouragement can immensely enrich, and apathy and dismissiveness profoundly damage. Support artists, writers, creatives, however possible. It’s especially valuable during head-down quiet toil when the creative endeavour is yours alone, the kick of publication yet to come. Those who show generosity, support, even in these hushed moments, when less expected, are the most remembered.

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