The Complete “Damania Doodle II” – All Four ‘Episodes’ Of The New Webcomic Mini Series by C. A. Brown

Well, in case you missed any of it, I thought that I’d collect all four “episodes” of my latest webcomic mini series together in one easy-to-read post. You can also find links to lots of other mini series on this page too 🙂

And, yes, this mini series is the eagerly-anticipated sequel to last year’s “Damania Doodle” mini series 🙂 And, yes, like back then, I was too busy to plan/make a proper mini series, so these comics are all single-panel monochrome comics.

As usual, all four comic updates are released under a Creative Commons BY-NC-ND licence.

You can also click on each comic update to see a larger version of it too. Enjoy 🙂

“Damania Doodle II – TL;DR” By C. A. Brown

“Damania Doodle II – Rules To Live By” By C. A. Brown

“Damania Doodle II – Thursday” By C. A. Brown

“Damania Doodle II – Books” By C. A. Brown

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Today’s Art (23rd August 2019)

Woo hoo! I am very proud to present the fourth (and final) comic in “Damania Doodle II”, the eagerly-anticipated sequel to last year’s “Damania Doodle” webcomic mini series. Don’t worry if you missed any of these comics, I’ll post a full retrospective of the mini series here later tonight. In the meantime, you can find links to lots of other comics featuring these characters here.

As usual, this comic update is released under a Creative Commons BY-NC-ND licence.

[CLICK FOR LARGER IMAGE] “Damania Doodle II – Books” By C. A. Brown

Review: “The Jonah” By James Herbert (Novel)

Well, out of the 116 books I’ve reviewed since I got back into reading regularly, I was shocked to realise that I hadn’t reviewed a single James Herbert novel. In fact, I didn’t even notice this shocking omission until, whilst searching one of my book piles for old horror novels, I stumbled across a copy of Herbert’s 1981 novel “The Jonah”.

Although I initially assumed that it was one of the second-hand horror novels that I had bought during the ’00s, but never got round to reading, I was surprised to find that I had read it before. Even though I had no memory of reading it, there was a pencil mark on one of the pages (I used to leave these, lest the bookmark fell out) which showed me I’d been there before. So, I was curious.

So, let’s take a look at “The Jonah”. Needless to say, this review may contain some SPOILERS.

This is the 1985 New English Library (UK) paperback edition of “The Jonah” that I read.

The novel begins in 1950s London, where a lavatory attendant called Vera discovers an abandoned baby with something lying beside it. Then, we flash forward to 1980s London. Undercover detective Jim Kelso is in a police car following another car belonging to a group of bank robbers.

According to his intelligence, they’re heading for the docks. However, whilst passing through a road tunnel, it turns out that the criminals were actually planning to rob a nearby armoured van.

In the gunfight that follows, one of Kelso’s colleagues is killed after Kelso’s gun jams at a crucial moment. Although his superiors check the gun and agree that it was an accident, they feel that – thanks to his accident-filled service record – he is a “Jonah”, a bad luck magnet.

But, since Kelso is too competent to be sacked, he ends up being reassigned to the drug squad and sent to a small coastal village in Suffolk called Adleton where a local family suffered a mysterious case of LSD poisoning. Yet, after spending several weeks there, he can see no signs of smuggling along the coast. Still, he’s sure that something is going on….

One of the first things that I will say about this novel is that reading it felt like returning home again 🙂 Seriously, I’d almot forgotten how awesome James Herbert novels are. This novel is a lot more fast-paced and readable than I’d expected, whilst still being just as atmospheric as you’d expect a 1980s horror novel to be 🙂 Not to mention that, like Shaun Hutson’s 2006 novel “Dying Words“, this novel is also an intriguing hybrid of a gritty crime thriller and a horror novel.

Interestingly, the novel almost tends to focus more on its crime thriller elements, with the horror elements sometimes being more of an ominous background detail.

Still, although this novel mostly lacks the gory splatterpunk horror that Herbert pioneered with his 1974 classic “The Rats” (which I really need to re-read sometime), this isn’t to say that the story is devoid of horror. In addition to a wonderfully grotesque conclusion (and a creepy, but subtle, twist in the final moments), this novel also contains quite a few moments of implied horror, atmospheric horror, tragic horror, menacing suspense, paranormal horror and psychological horror. Plus, there’s also a brief scene involving rats too 🙂

In short, the horror elements of this novel are probably slightly closer to a traditional ghost story and/or an ominous Lovecraftian horror story than a typical splatterpunk novel. Even so, the horror elements work well and help to add mystery and atmosphere to the story 🙂 But, if you’re expecting a grisly 1980s gore-fest, then you’re probably better off reading Shaun Hutson’s “Erebus” instead.

The novel’s crime thriller elements are quite compelling though. In addition to a dramatic and gritty car chase/gunfight at the beginning of the story, there’s a lot of gradually building suspense whilst Kelso and a customs agent called Ellie investigate the small village of Adleton, not to mention that there are a few dramatic fights and/or perilous predicaments too (which even include a segment that wouldn’t look out of place in a disaster movie). So, the thriller elements of this novel are certainly compelling enough 🙂

Even so, some details do feel a little bit under-researched. With, for example, some of the segments involving drugs containing what seem to be a few basic errors. Even so, other parts of the story contain all sorts of complex scientific jargon. Then again, given that this novel was written in the early 1980s, I guess that research materials about science were probably easier to find than reliable information about drugs was.

In terms of the characters, they’re surprisingly good. Although Kelso is a typical gruff and rugged 1980s horror novel protagonist, he gets a lot of backstory which really helps to add a lot of tragic depth to his character. Likewise, his colleague/love interest Ellie is also a reasonably well-developed and realistic character too. Plus, like in all good 1980s horror novels, there’s a large and quickly-sketched, but believable, cast of background characters who almost all die in various horrible ways.

In terms of the writing, it’s really good 🙂 This novel’s third-person narration is, in a word, readable. It is formal and descriptive enough to lend the story the kind of atmosphere you’d expect from a 1980s horror novel, but it is also “matter of fact”, informal and gritty enough to keep the story moving at a fairly decent pace. The writing in this novel really shines during the historical flashback scenes, which really capture the grim, understated and drab atmosphere of 1950s/60s Britain.

In terms of length and pacing, this novel is really good 🙂 At a gloriously efficient 253 pages in length, there’s no bloat or padding in this novel 🙂 This novel also contains a really good mixture of moderately-paced atmospheric scenes and faster-paced moments which really helps to keep the novel compelling.

As for how this thirty-eight year old novel has aged, it has aged surprisingly well. Yes, there are a few dated and mildly-moderately “politically incorrect” descriptions, but the story itself is still really compelling, the writing is still very readable today and the story also has a wonderfully retro, gloomy and rural 1980s atmosphere to it too 🙂

All in all, if you want a compelling vintage crime thriller and/or a relatively non-gory example of 1980s horror fiction, then this novel is worth reading 🙂 Seriously, I’d forgotten how much fun James Herbert novels are to read 🙂

If I had to give it a rating out of five, it would get four and a half.

Today’s Art (22nd August 2019)

Woo hoo! I am very proud to present the third comic in “Damania Doodle II”, the eagerly-anticipated sequel to last year’s “Damania Doodle” webcomic mini series. You can also find links to lots of other comics featuring these characters on this page too.

And, yes, this month’s mini series will be four single-panel monochrome comics since, due to being busy, this pretty much seemed to be the only way to actually plan/make some comics for this month.

And, yes, it has been a while since I last made a comic about Roz’s obsession with fireworks.

As usual, this comic update is released under a Creative Commons BY-NC-ND licence.

[CLICK FOR LARGER IMAGE] “Damania Doodle II – Thursday” By C. A. Brown

The One Time You Should Avoid Writing Advice – A Ramble

Well, I thought that I’d talk about writing advice today (shocking, I know!). In particular, the one time when you should avoid it like the plague. Yes, you heard me correctly.

A couple of days before I prepared this article, I’d just finished writing a chapter of the first draft of a longer writing project I’d been experimenting with. So, I relaxed by watching random Youtube videos. To my surprise, one of the videos that appeared on the front page of the site was an intriguingly-titled advice video about common writing mistakes. I clicked on it. Then I clicked on a few other writing advice videos. Big mistake.

After about four of these videos, I found myself so racked with worries about the quality of my unfinished first draft that I almost felt like abandoning it. My mind reeled with nightmarish visions of reams of rejections. Of unreachably high standards that only other people can even dream of achieving. To say that I felt dejected, dispirited and disillusioned would be an understatement.

Then, after several minutes of angst about the subject, I remembered that I was writing a first draft. First drafts are never perfect. If they were, then they wouldn’t be first drafts. And, luckily, my motivation to write returned once again 🙂

Of course, this made me think about writing advice. In particular, when to seek it out and/or listen to it.

The very best time to look for writing advice is before you start a writing project. If you go into your story knowing what mistakes to avoid and knowing the techniques for writing a good story, you’ll feel more confident and you’ll also end up with a better (but not perfect) first draft too.

The other good time to look for writing advice is after you’ve finished your first draft. This time round, the advice can help you to edit your draft by showing you the kinds of things that you need to change and improve in order to turn your draft into something better.

But, the one time you should never ever look at writing advice is when you are actually writing your first draft. When you are writing your first draft, the important thing is to keep writing and to finish it. It doesn’t matter too much whether literally every technical element of your first draft is perfect or not. The important thing is to get words onto the page and finish the story. Even if you’re just writing 500 words a day – then keep doing this.

Remember, it is a first draft. It doesn’t have to be perfect. It can be improved when it is finished.

Or, to put it another way, an imperfect, but finished, draft is a hundred times better than an absolutely perfect, but unfinished, one. Too much perfectionism during the actual writing phase can slow down your story, drain your motivation, give you writer’s block and/or shake your confidence.

So, avoid writing advice like the plague when you’re in the middle of writing a first draft. Your first draft will be a bit “badly-written” and this is all part of the process. But, the most important part of a first draft is actually finishing it. Remember, writing advice is useful before and after writing your first draft, but not during.

————

Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂

Today’s Art (21st August 2019)

Woo hoo! I am very proud to present the second comic in “Damania Doodle II”, the eagerly-anticipated sequel to last year’s “Damania Doodle” webcomic mini series. You can also find links to lots of other comics featuring these characters on this page too.

And, yes, this month’s mini series will be four single-panel monochrome comics since, due to being busy, this pretty much seemed to be the only way to actually plan/make some comics for this month.

Today’s comic update was a lot of fun to make 🙂 Not only did it give me a chance to make yet another comic about Rox’s old computer, but it is also a comic about how system requirements are more of a barrier than anything else (seriously, you don’t get this with any other artistic medium. There’s no difference between looking at old and modern paintings, reading old and modern books, watching old and modern films etc… but, if you want to play popular modern games, then you have to “upgrade” your computer…).

As usual, this comic update is released under a Creative Commons BY-NC-ND licence.

[CLICK FOR LARGER IMAGE] “Damania Doodle II – Rules To Live By” By C. A. Brown

Review: “Glory In Death” By J.D.Robb (Novel)

Well, for today, I thought that I’d take a look at a sci-fi detective novel from 1995 called “Glory In Death” by J.D.Robb. This was a book that I found by accident whilst searching one of my book piles for another book.

According to the receipt that was still in it, I found it in a charity shop in Rugeley a little over a decade ago – and, if I remember rightly, I bought it because of the cool “Blade Runner”/1990s computer game-style cyberpunk cover art.

So, let’s take a look at “Glory In Death”. Needless to say, this review may contain some mild-moderate SPOILERS.

This is the 1997 New English Library (UK) paperback edition of “Glory In Death” that I read.

The novel is set in New York in 2058. Tough-as-nail police lieutenant Eve Dallas has been called out to a crime scene in one of the rougher parts of town after a prominent prosecutor called Cicely Towers has been found murdered.

After it becomes obvious that the crime wasn’t a robbery, Eve finds herself investigating the opulent lives of many of Cicely’s rich friends and family in the hope of finding the killer. Not only that, because of the prominent nature of the case, the press are also hounding her too and the police chief (also a friend of Cicely’s) wants results.

One of the first things that I will say about this novel is that it was a bit different to what I’d expected. In short, if you’re expecting a neon-drenched cyberpunk thriller, you’re probably going to be a little disappointed. But, if you expect a slightly stylised police procedural thriller with some sci-fi/cyberpunk and romance elements, then you’ll probably enjoy this novel more. This is also one of those novels that only really gets ultra-compelling/ fast-paced during the later parts too.

In terms of the novel’s detective elements, they’re reasonably well-written. This novel is very much a police procedural novel and the story’s detective elements are handled fairly well.

There are several possible suspects and there’s a good mixture of interviews, forensics and other types of detection. Plus, of course, Eve also has to deal with the press/media too, which adds a bit of extra conflict and drama to the story (whilst also posing questions about journalistic ethics etc… too). And, like in many detective stories, this is one of those stories that becomes more and more compelling and suspenseful as it goes along.

Likewise, the case itself is fairly well-plotted, with enough subtle clues and red herrings to keep things unpredictable until the killer is finally revealed. Although avid readers of the detective genre may have better luck, I incorrectly guessed who the killer was at least once whilst reading the novel. Not to mention that Eve’s eventual confrontation with the killer is a fairly satisfying (if rather dark and gritty) conclusion to the story too.

The novel’s sci-fi elements are more understated than I expected. Whilst there are a few subtle “Blade Runner” references (eg: an advertising blimp, a photo-enhancement machine etc…), a couple of rain-soaked urban locations and a few scenes involving computers/VR, this isn’t really quite as much of a cyberpunk novel as I’d expected.

In short, the sci-fi elements are often more of a background detail that adds flavour to the story rather than an integral part of the story. With a few exceptions (eg: casinos in space etc..), this story could almost take place in the present day without too many changes.

For example, most of the novel’s futuristic forensic technology wouldn’t be too out of place in a stylised modern TV show like “NCIS” or “CSI”. So, given that this novel is from the mid-1990s, it is at least slightly ahead of it’s time.

The novel’s romance elements are interesting, if somewhat stylised. In short, the main love interest – Roarke – happens to be a multi-millionaire (with a lavish mansion, several holiday homes, a robot butler etc..) who has enough of a shady past to be intriguingly mysterious. He is passionate about Eve and cares deeply about her happiness, but is also arrogant enough for there to be several dramatic arguments between them. Whilst the romance elements work reasonably well, they can sometimes get in the way of the main story a bit (such as when Eve and Roarke randomly take a short holiday to Mexico during a dramatic part of the story).

In terms of the characters, the main characters are a bit stylised. Eve is a typical tough-as-nails detective with a dark past and a hunger for justice, Roarke is – as mentioned earlier – a slightly stylised love interest. But, the background characters are often a bit more nuanced and realistic which helps to add atmosphere to the story, not to mention that many of them are morally ambiguous enough that you’ll have a difficult job guessing which one is the killer.

In terms of the writing, the novel’s third-person narration is reasonably “matter of fact”, with some descriptive moments too. It’s hardboiled enough to fit in with the tone of the story, but descriptive enough to give everything a bit of vividness.

In terms of length and pacing, this novel is ok. At 296 pages in length, it doesn’t seem too long. Plus, although most of the novel is a fairly moderately paced story about methodical investigation and interviews, it becomes more compelling and fast-paced during the later parts of the story.

As for how this twenty-four year old novel has aged, it has aged surprising well. Whilst it contains a couple of dated descriptions, this is a novel that could have almost been written in the present day. Thanks to the slightly futuristic setting and the focus on rich people who live timelessly opulent lives, this novel seems surprisingly modern. Surprisingly, there are even smartphones (or portable video phones) in this novel too. But, thankfully, there isn’t any modern-style social media in this novel 🙂

All in all, this is a reasonably well-written, if stylised, police procedural novel with some romance and cyberpunk elements. Yes, it was a bit different to what I’d expected but, during the later parts of it, I found that I couldn’t really put the book down.

If I had to give it a rating out of five, it would possibly get a four.