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April 2013 update

I can’t believe it’s only been a year since the release of The Lesser Evil (Book 3). Re-reading this old blog post was like a trip in a time machine to a past so distant that it might as well exist only in concept.

The last twelve months have been huge. Amazing, difficult, hectic. And productive. Extremely productive.

Here’s a rundown.

Family

My son Liam was born, much as planned. He’s a beautiful, happy, bouncing baby boy who has a deep love of life… and an even deeper love of mischief. The gorgeous and brilliant Annie is now past her third birthday, and has started preschool. She loves telling stories and asking questions (I hope she never loses either habit). Katie is busy at home with the two of them, and is about to start studying part-time next semester. I’m still working full-time.

We have big dreams, little money. We’ve toyed with moving to the country, renovating our current house, selling our current house and buying elsewhere in Canberra, many times in the last twelve months. At this stage, though, nothing has happened. And each time things calm down, we realise that we’re happy where we are.

Writing

Marketing

I hit up Oz Comic Con again this year. See here for my wall of text write-up. Marketing The Lesser Evil is a job that never ends, and one that I can never devote enough time to. Thankfully, in the last year, several people have been kind enough to take some of the burden upon themselves by writing reviews. This one is my favourite, and I approached the author of the review to proof my then-WIP Peaceful Tomorrows.

Peaceful Tomorrows

At this time last year, I’d completed about 300 pages of what was then known as Death’s Feast, the sequel to The Lesser Evil. That book – all 568 pages of it – is now called Peaceful Tomorrows, and is complete and awaiting publication. To have bowled over the remaining 270 pages in about 5 months is something I’ll always be quite proud of, especially given that those months included such all-consuming events as the birth of my son, and given that neither my work nor my family suffered without me for any of that time.

Triumviratus

I mentioned a year ago that I was planning a full-length follow-on from Parlour Tricks. The name changed (thankfully), and I wrote Triumviratus entirely longhand on the commute to and from work each day. I’ve never written a full novel longhand before – it was a profoundly exhiliarating experience, and I found it a very rewarding use of what is usually sort-of-dead-time. Whenever I read back over it, I am thrilled by it, and can’t wait to get to polishing. Even though it is a full-length novel (about 100,000 words at this stage, by my guess), I still can’t help but think it would make a really interesting comic series. Something to think about for sure.

I think if it happens, I’d really like to collaborate on it. Have someone else handle the artwork. I’ve really enjoyed previous collaborations (however brief) that I’ve been involved in, and would love to see someone else’s spin on my words. I am, at this stage, relucant to produce it in my preferred style; I’m not convinced that’s the best option.

James Flamestar

In the second half of 2012, I was approached by Tim Irving, whom I know socially. He had just successfully crowdfunded an album and was looking for a short comic to accompany the CD in the booklet. It took all of about ten minutes for that project to balloon out of control, and before I knew it, I’d spent three months producing a three-issue miniseries for him entitled James Flamestar and the Stargazers. Stay tuned for news of this miniseries – it is currently undergoing the approval process at Comixology, and will hopefully be available to purchase shortly!

Killeroo: Gangwar

I was commissioned to produce a short script for the opening story in Killeroo: Gangwar, the upcoming anthology edited by Darren Close. Can’t wait to see how this one turned out. It was a brief project, but a fun one to be involved with!

The Game

My current creative focus is an interquel (oh man, how I hate that word) that takes place between The Lesser Evil and Peaceful Tomorrows. The Game is a complete from-scratch redrafting of the first full-length graphic novel I ever put together, and I am very happy with how it is coming together this time around. I am producing a minimum of one page per day, and hope to have the project completed by year’s end.

The Tube

This one hurts. I abandoned this half-complete story more than a year ago. I’d love to get back to it, but there’s just no time at the moment. It’s always on my mind, though.

Conclusion

Whenever someone asks me how much writing I get done, my answer is an automatic, near-rote “Not enough.” But when I look back over the past year and realise that I’ve scripted and produced over 400 pages of comic art (in three separate universes), and drafted an entire novel, I realise I might need to rethink that answer. To have put together that much writing, all while working full-time and juggling the needs of a growing family… I think it might be enough. For now.

I don’t know what the coming year holds, but on my Twitter feed, I’ve dubbed 2013 the #YearOfWriting. Stay tuned to see how it turns out!

Why I Write #3 – The Great Hunt

Shortly after receiving my first royalties for The Lesser Evil, I took a few moments to calculate an hourly rate based on the estimated number of hours I’d put into the graphic novel, and the novel that it began its life as. It turned out that I’d earned between one and two cents per hour (before expenses). Minimum wage in Australia is currently fifteen hundred times higher. I think it’s pretty fair to say that, despite the fact that money is very nice in any amount, I’m not in this caper with a realistic hope of getting rich.

So why do I feel such a compulsion to keep writing, to keep getting published, to press forward? And why is that feeling so much stronger now than ever before, after I’ve been published?

I’ve attempted to collect my thoughts below, scattered and fragmented though they might be. The thoughts from which the following is derived felt true to me; the unreasonably flowery words that follow, not as much. It’s been almost four years since I last tried to piece together my reasons. (Check out earlier efforts here and here.)

Ask any writer why they write; very few will say they got into it for a quick buck. Without having asked them, I think it’s fair to say that Stephen King and JK Rowling, both still writing, have already made their fortunes, have been thoroughly validated as creative artists… and yet they continue to create.

I have a theory: that although writers accept the validation, the fame, the money, they are but consolation prizes. Sidequests, in a sense. That writers are reaching into a realm that defies understanding, and that their life’s work is to decode that realm, to bring some sort of order to it. To understand it.

I suspect in some ways that creativity itself is a parsing exercise, an understandable filter of symbols and conventions that allow a writer to channel this volatile, impossible, unknowable abyss.

If what I’ve read in the past is served correctly by memory, Freud held up writers and psychotherapists as two vocations with unparalleled insight into the human condition. Freudians tend to believe that writers and psychotherapists arrive at the same ends, despite taking very different routes to get there. That writers are able to naturally intuit what would normally take extensive medical study to understand. (Of course, the profundity of a writer’s work varies between works and might not, in fact, even in the best of cases, be entirely a deliberate construct. But that’s another story.)

There is some sort of Great Hunt going on. Crudely put, it’s a search for understanding, for meaning, but it is more than that. Infinitely more. In some ways it feels that the entirety of the human condition is but a miniscule facet of it, and yet lies at its very core and permeates everything. The search is entirely internal, and yet explores a universe of possibilities that could not possibly be contained within an individual soul. The concept itself is so impossible to grasp, so desperately intangible, that it cannot even be tied down by words; in fact, the effort alone could well shatter its fragile state. This nameless, formless, impossible goal is, I think, at the heart of any creative work that the artist claims is its own reward. The process, the chase, the Hunt…

There’s something bigger than us, and although it’s not the source of our inspiration, it is the cause of it.

I don’t know it, but I’m sure of it. I can feel it somehow. Inside me, or out there, I’m not sure. But it’s real.

I can’t explain in any rational terms why I should feel compelled to write more than ever. My life goals are starting to topple like skittles; I’m on the path. I could walk it leisurely, but each step impels me to run, to push that little bit harder. Maybe I’m closer to something; maybe I feel like I am. Maybe, as part of the collective of writers, continually putting words and pictures out into the public domain, we are getting closer.

I hope whatever answer we find isn’t lost in the chaff.