Plan and Toil

“Life can only be understood backwards, but it must be lived forwards.” — Kierkegaard

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…

Early 2021: Hollow Shotguns in hardback, featuring new cover art hand-produced on a raw slab of slate, better evoking the story. The text is a lightly edited version of the 2012 original, all subsequent releases disowned, each revision harming the original intention. Foolish, but I needed to go through that process to reach that realization. To cure that George Lucas syndrome. Independent publishing can be messy, complex, unpredictable, so I think the easiest way to describe previous releases is as uncorrected Advance Reading Copies. Burn or bury any you own, or at least write ARC in large black marker on the title page, you’d do me a favour and may even lift its value. This final edition 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 new digital artwork but the same text as the main hardback, akin to a mass-market edition. Both feature book descriptions better conveying the story and language.

Mid 2021: Handmade cover art for Dr Craine’s Body and Red. No more Sev Inks digital art. 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 products…

Late 2021: Speaking of writers, I’m planning digital standalones of Georgia Rouge by Tammy Bartlett and Mesa Boys by Matt Phillips, great stories which I intended to release long ago before retreating to the shadows to sort myself out. If anything, after Trumpism, the deeper realization of an America, largely away from urban spaces, which culture has neglected to fully explore, depict, these stories have only grown in relevance. They’ll receive the individual treatments they deserve.

Early 2022: Possible hardback of The Severest Inks Shorts, stories from the aforementioned authors 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, money. Hopefully, the final product will be satisfying and affordable enough that the process can be replicated.

Summer 2022: My second novel, The Fires of Red, the start of a crime epic which, if I manage to pull it off, will be one like you’ve never experienced before.

2023-2024: The second book in this haunting crime trilogy, The Cinders of Red.

Winter 2026: The quietly hopeful conclusion of 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 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.

2027: A graphic novel adaptation of Hollow Shotguns, long mulled with the best excuse for it being that some struggled with the language of Hollow Shotguns, this lets them more accessibly experience the journey of those five boys. Not the greatest reason. But I’ve gradually formed ideas that could only be executed through this form. To tell the story of Hollow Shotguns anew in ways only this particular medium allows convinced me to commit. I’ll script and illustrate the book myself, likely with charcoal and pastel.

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, while toiling at the ever-draining day jobs, ignoring warnings like 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, Sev Inks has already published, 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, 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.

— Khalid

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