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Garen Ewing

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Welcome to The Rainbow Orchid on LiveJournal [Jan. 1st, 2016|12:00 am]

Welcome to The Rainbow Orchid on LiveJournal
an illustrated adventure story by Garen Ewing.


Buy The Rainbow Orchid at Amazon.co.uk
or at The Book Depository (free worldwide delivery)
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Julius Chancer at the London Film & Comic Con [Jul. 15th, 2014|12:03 pm]
On Sunday I drove up to London for my adventure comics workshop at the UK's first YA Lit Con, YALC, hosted by the London Film and Comic Con.

I tried a couple of new things out at the workshop - lucky-dip treasure items and communal map-making, which I will definitely keep for future workshops. I have to say I'd prepared the event for a slightly younger audience than I got, and the venue was incredibly noisy - but everyone still seemed to enjoy it, despite a bemused expression or two at my opening 'Adventurer's Oath' (soon turning to chuckles, though). Huge thanks to everyone who participated.

This isn't the sort of comic show I would normally attend, but it was fascinating to see. I didn't stay too long after my book signing, but - if for nothing else - the whole trip was worth it just to see RO reader Matthew Stubbs turn up in a fantastic Julius Chancer cosplay. Thank you, Matthew - that really made my day.


One other thing to tag onto this blog entry: a lovely review for The Complete Rainbow Orchid from the fabulous Read It Daddy ...

Charlotte's best bit: Fab and exciting, and plenty of awesome female characters for her to identify with as well as a no-nonsense hero that uses his brains rather than his fists.

Daddy's Favourite bit: A shining example of a brilliant story that you can comfortably recommend to parents looking to introduce their kids to comics. Cannot recommend this highly enough.


Read more here!
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YALC at LFCC [Jul. 11th, 2014|04:22 pm]
This weekend sees the annual London Film and Comic Con at Earls Court in London and, slotted into it, the first Young Adult Literature Convention, curated by Children's Laureate, Malorie Blackman.

I will be there on Sunday (13 July), giving a comics workshop at 11.30 ('Create your own amazing adventure comic'), with a book signing afterwards. I believe the workshop is free (once you've paid admission to the main convention), you just need to sign up at the YALC booth inside the Book Zone.

Hope to see you there!

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Googling me [Jul. 9th, 2014|01:16 pm]
I used to have a Google search set up so that I'd get an alert if The Rainbow Orchid was mentioned online. About two years ago I stopped it, and have mostly been living in blissful ignorance of whatever reviewers think of my book. True, I miss a number of very nice reviews (though links to these sometimes end up tweeted to me or sent to my email inbox anyway) but I also miss the more negative reviews (of which, thankfully, there are not so many), and even more importantly, highly polarised forum conversations where my book is discussed.

Is it because I'm an over-sensitive, thin-skinned artist? Well, yes, partly - I don't mind admitting that a bad review can make me feel a little down for a short while, but actually the past 3 or 4 years have thickened up my skin quite a lot, and a fair negative review has little effect on me now, especially as time and distance have made me more objective about RO myself.

But the main reason I don't particularly want to read negative reviews is because they usually serve no useful purpose for me as an author. I've said before that I'm very aware of my own book's shortcomings, and some of these have indeed been picked up in reviews as well. But quite often an author will look to readers' opinions to gage whether they are doing the right things, and if you do that, the message can get confusing ...

"... excellent, fast-paced, and very well-cast period adventure story ..."

"... a bit slower than you feel it could be ..."

"... the storytelling's so well paced it never feels like Garen's trying to squeeze too much in ..."

"... the narrative suffers from a horribly slow sense of pace ..."

"... the story is exciting and fast-paced ..."

"... the story took a long while to get going ..."

"... an interesting and fast paced storyline ..."

"... It's a slow burner ..."

"... a fast paced adventure quest, a real tale of derring-do ..."

"... It's fast paced and exciting ..."


There are other examples besides the pace of my story-telling, for instance the colouring - some people really love it ("beautiful colouring", "artful use of colour") and some think it's not so great ("dull, unexciting colours", "I found the colouring crude in places"), and so on - characters, drawing ability, plot, backgrounds, etc.

So what am I to make of all these contradictory views? Is my pacing just right or terribly wrong? Is my colouring lovely or terrible? The thing is, these are all aspects that, to a certain degree, are subjective. Yes, there's some bad colouring in my work, and yes, the pacing is not always as good as I would like it to be. But the fact is - I personally like a slow-burning plot with lots of intricacy, and I'm not a fan of bright colours or computery-gradients, I like muted colours, evocative for an historical adventure. And some readers will agree with me and some won't.

Even though I know these things can be down to personal preference and taste, I will still read a review that says someone doesn't like my colouring and I'll think, "people don't like my colouring", until, that is, I read another review that says the opposite, and then I'll think I'm doing okay. It's just the way our brains work.

Not Googling my book can have other consequences though. I recently did Google my book because the past week has seen a rather high number of Amazon sales (even selling out of stock two or three times), after a bit of a slump over the past few months, and I was curious to know the source - perhaps some widely-read nice review or something. I didn't get far into the search when I discovered, quite incidentally, a comics 'fan-site' publishing (terrible) scans of my entire book, for free, on its website. They were also providing several Cinebook titles (including Blake and Mortimer and Lucky Luke) and the full Asterix canon. I alerted Cinebook and we both sent messages to the site resulting in them taking our books down (and I never found the source of the recent sales, as the pirating task took up the next few hours of my day).

This time it was a fairly painless process - I've had to do this before, issuing DCMAs and taking full days out of my work to get a satisfactory result - not fun, and a bit like playing whack-a-mole, so not something I go looking for.

But let's end on a high note: I also came across these lovely tweets from BBC reporter Giles Dilnot:

"... Julius Chancer is pretty addictive ... enjoyed the Rainbow Orchid which I can now return ... felt v much like part one to wider adventures ..."

Thank you, Giles. And, with that, I'm now going back to my non-Googling lifestyle, and ignorant bliss.


Googling in the 1920s.
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Comic Salon - Erlangen, Germany [Jun. 25th, 2014|10:05 pm]
For the publication of the second volume of The Rainbow Orchid in German (Die Regenbogen Orchidee: Auf Gefährlichen Pfaden), my publisher, Salleck, invited me to attend Comic Salon in Erlangen, Germany's biggest comic show. The event kicked off on Thursday (19th June), but I got an early morning flight from Stansted to Nuremberg on Saturday (I was up at 3.45 am!), and was at the show just a few hours later, staying until proceedings closed at the end of Sunday and flying home Monday morning.

As with all my recent European excursions, I had a fantastic time. German comic fans easily rival the Dutch for openness, friendliness and generosity (not to mention excellent English language skills), and I should also add patience to their list of virtues as I had quite a few more detailed drawing requests ... so much so that on the Sunday I was under strict instructions to only provide head-shots of my characters! Snow leopard cubs were requested quite a bit, too. Anyway - I am (and have been for a while now) a lot more comfortable with public sketching, and even though I haven't really done a lot of drawing this year, I enjoyed sitting and doodling away in people's books.


Comic Salon was a terrific show, a nice atmosphere, buzzing with comics of all kinds, and with a wide variety of readers. My French publisher, BD Must, was there, so I was able to say hello again to Jean-Michel Boxus after our Angouléme meeting, and I also got to meet Frank Madsen and Sussi Bech, two Danish comic creators I have long admired, along with their studio partners Tatiana Goldberg and Ingo Milton (and we had a lovely dinner together, along with my publisher Eckart Schott and Belgian artist Eric Maltaite, on Sunday evening). I also had a few good chats with Mike Perkins, who introduced me as his 'first inker' - back in the early 1990s I'd inked his pencils on a comic called Snowstorm, written by Paul H. Birch. I was also surprised to see Lizz Lunney at the show, and was able to say a quick hello.


At Angouléme I'd been disappointed that I hadn't been able to get into the Tardi exhibition, but I was delighted to see that it had made its way to Erlangen and I managed to get round it a couple of times, lost in the beauty of Tardi's art and the horror of its subject matter (mostly pages and sketches from Goddamn This War! (Putain de Guerre!). Also on the theme of the First World War, Joe Sacco's fold-out pages from his book, The Great War, had been enlarged onto canvas and displayed in the Schlossplatz in front of Markgräfliches Castle. It's a stunning book, and even more stunning at this size.


One of the special items made available to attendees at Comic Salon was a sticker book published by Panini with stickers of the guesting comic artists available from the various publishers around the show. When I was a lad of 7 or 8 I used to collect Panini football stickers, so to become a Panini sticker myself was a little thrill.

Thank you to everyone who bought my books and said hello, and a very special thanks to the Salleck Publishing stand-crew who were so friendly and looked after me so well. A special thank you to Wolfgang for his excellent company and chaperoning while I signed pre-orders, and, of course, to Eckart for inviting me and making it such a nice experience. I feel really honoured to be even a small part of the wonderful European comics scene.

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Spanish Integral and German Sword [May. 13th, 2014|11:24 pm]
Today I received a couple of copies of the latest incarnation of The Rainbow Orchid - namely the complete story in one single hardback volume in Spanish - La Orquidea Arcoiris: Historia Completa. It's a big book, and a hefty one too, retailing at 29 Euros and available from NetCom2 Editorial.


And on Sat 21 - Sun 22 June I'll be in Erlangen for Comic Salon, Germany's most important comics festival (held once every two years). I'll be on the Salleck Publications table where I'll be signing and sketching in the German edition of volume 2 (Die Regenbogen Orchidee: Auf Gefährlichen Pfaden).

This edition has a little bonus in the form of the Lily Lawrence Story Sword of Truth that I originally wrote and drew for The Girly Comic back in 2004, only now it's in colour.

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Make It Then Tell Everybody [Mar. 28th, 2014|06:04 pm]
Yesterday (Thursday) I chatted to comic creator and teacher Dan Berry for his podcast, Make It Then Tell Everybody. We covered a number of subjects including getting started, the way you view your own work, research and my creative process.

Click here to have a listen, and thanks very much to Dan for having me on. Check out his amazing archive too!

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Three good comicky things [Mar. 25th, 2014|09:37 pm]
Here are three good comicky things that have come my way in the last week ...

One - MULP: Sceptre of the Sun. This is an adventure comic crossing the territory of Indiana Jones, The Mummy, Sherlock Holmes, Allan Quatermain ... all that lovely stuff, but with an extra unique feature - all the characters are mice! The story is intriguing and exciting, and the artwork is detailed and gorgeous. It's written by Matt Gibbs, with art by Sara Dunkerton and lettering by Jim Campbell. There's lots to love in it - 1920s cars and motorbikes, archaeological mysteries and clues from the ancient past, mice riding lizards, beetles as beasts of burden, wooden aeroplanes, a classy villainess, and lots more (including a background appearance by a certain Julius and Lily in mouse form). It's right up my street. The first issue (of five) will be released on 7th May 2014 and you can find out more at the Mulp website.


Two - Kurt Dunder. Perhaps you recall that I wrote a review of the only Kurt Dunder book to be published in English - Kurt Dunder in Tirol - back in 2009? Well, now Danish author Frank Madsen has made the very first volume available in English too, Kurt Dunder in Africa, in digital format from Comixology. This is terrific news, and as soon as I get my mitts on the family iPad I'm going to download it for myself!


Three - Unfinished City. This is a detective thriller set in the criminal underworld of Former Yugoslavia and it looks very nice. You can read the first 20 pages here. The art, by Robert Solanović, is wonderful and gave me a hint of Simon Gane, and a pinch of Paul Harrison-Davies - both favourites of mine, but it's all its own thing. And the story is enthralling and very readable, by a UK writer who I have long-admired as an excellent story maker, Ben Dickson, this time in collaboration with Sylvija Martinović. Please support the project's Kickstarter campaign - I want that book in my hands!

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Making a comics page [Mar. 17th, 2014|02:06 pm]
I have published a new audio slideshow with me rambling on about my process of making a page of comics. You can view it in the behind the scenes section of the website here. There's also a YouTube version, but it's not quite as good quality.

If you've read my 'director's commentary' that appeared at the Forbidden Planet International blog a little while back, or have seen me talk at the Edinburgh International Book Festival, or the Hay Book Festival, or at the British Comic Awards last year, then you'll already be familiar with this material.


As a footnote to this post, there's a rather grumpy review* of The Complete Rainbow Orchid up at Amazon.com (US) where the reviewer goes on at some length about the 'pathetic' 'self indulgence' of my making-of material at the back of the book. While I don't mind if someone doesn't like my book - that's fine (and I'm very aware of its imperfections myself) - I do feel that this criticism is a little unfair.

Perhaps things are different here in the UK where many comic creators are actively trying to revive the comics industry by getting young people engaged in the medium, especially at workshops where we help them to create their own comics. I get a lot of interest in how I work - from invitations to do workshops at schools and book festivals, to emails (often several a month) and queries at comic shows.

It's got nothing to do with thinking me or my creative process is particularly important. It's a different world now - most artists have blogs and show their working methods and many published comics have sketchbook and process sections at the back. Why? Because people are genuinely interested. I love seeing such things myself, from the smallest of small-pressers to the biggest names in the industry.

Now, that's enough self-indulgence!

(* If anyone would like to write their own review of The Complete Rainbow Orchid at Amazon.com, please do - it would be a great help - but only if you genuinely liked the book. And I'd like to discourage anyone from leaving a comment on the above-mentioned review - he is entitled to his opinion, after all!).
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The Astonishing Adventures of Julius Chancer [Mar. 3rd, 2014|10:04 pm]
Late last week I had two emails letting me know that there was one of my early self-published Rainbow Orchids for sale on eBay (it ends on March 9th; thanks Linda and Jo). Jo hadn't heard of it and wanted some more information, so I thought I'd turn my answer into a blog post.


I'd always wanted The Rainbow Orchid to be a single book, but in order to give myself some deadlines it was initially published in episodes in BAM! (Bulldog Adventure Magazine), from April 2002 to November 2003. In October 2003, upon the completion of the fifth episode, I decided to collect them all together and self-publish them as 'part one' - something that eventually set the template for Egmont's decision to publish it in three separate volumes a few years later.

I launched the book at the London 'Winterfest' on 1 Nov 2003, at the Holiday Inn, Bloomsbury, and sold almost 100 copies - it was really well received. The rest of the print run (250, I think) sold out fairly quickly afterwards, through the post and at the Bristol Comics Festival in May 2004. I sold the last copy on eBay, in December 2004, along with some sketches, where it eventually went for £79 (with 10 bids). I was amazed it went for so much, so threw in the original of the cover drawing as well. Someone else sold a copy on eBay, by itself, in June 2009 for £12, and I heard that another went on Amazon for nearly £100 (in the wake of an article on my work in Book Collector magazine).


The 2004 eBay lot.


Apart from the cover, the entire book is in black and white and the story is 34 pages long (two pages were added for Egmont's volume 1, as well as some individual panel changes). There are some 'extras' - a character page, not too dissimilar from the layout in the eventual Egmont edition, a single-page scrapbook (again, a precursor to the double-page spread at the end of the Egmont vol. 1), and a page of pencils and roughs - mainly character sketches. The back page featured a couple of early colour panel tests and some quotes from the BAM! letters pages. There are some minor printing errors on the inside-back and back pages due to the printer not flattening transparencies on the PDF.

That's about all there is to know about it, really. I was glad of the opportunity to draw a more dynamic version of the cover for Egmont, and also to lengthen a couple of scenes - especially the last scene with the aircraft taking off, which I finished rather hurriedly originally in order to get the book to the printer before I went off on holiday to Paris. A 'part two' was never published because I decided to serialise the continuing story on my website.

Since then the book has had its three complete volumes published in English, Dutch, Spanish, French and German, collected editions in English and Spanish, an iPad version, it's taken me to the Hay Festival, the Edinburgh Festival, the Cheltenham and Bath Festivals, as well as doing signings in Holland, Germany and, most recently, at Angoulême in France. Who'd have thought? (Not me!)

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