All posts by Nimue Brown

Druid, author, dreamer, folk enthusiast, parent, wife to the most amazing artist -Tom Brown. Drinker of coffee, maker of puddings. Exploring life as a Pagan, seeking good and meaningful ways to be, struggling with mental health issues and worried about many things.

Hopeless Optimists – an update

Hopeless Maine volume 4; Optimists, has been delayed. We’ve been affected by the virus and the book will be out later than intended. Sorry about this!

Part of the issue is that Sloth is not a big publishing house, and like much of the independent comics market, depends on events to sell books. With all events cancelled, things have been hard for Sloth. It’s not been a good time to invest money in printing a new book.

As creators we’ve also been hit. We lost work – although thankfully not all of it, but enough that it has impacted on us. Unhelpfully for Hopeless, Tom is the one who has had more paying gigs come in, and it’s made more sense to take those and let Hopeless wait a bit.

We are a fair way into Hopeless Maine Optimists. It should be out early next year when we hope there will be more scope for taking it to events. After that we have one more book to go to complete this narrative arc, and hopefully that will be a bit less affected by the state of the world!

What happens after Hopeless Survivors, is an interesting question. We don’t quite know at this point, but pondering is under way. We had thought Survivors would be the last Hopeless graphic novel – they take Tom about 6 months and they don’t pay for six months of full time work, which is challenging for us as a household. However, there may be entertaining and time efficient ways of keeping on making comics, and we are exploring that at the moment and seeing where it takes us.

Millicent Crabbe lifestyle vampire

I have a project on at the moment to produce a volume of Hopeless Maine poetry.  I’m going to feature a lot of background characters as I think that would be interesting – people who aren’t named in the comics. Over to Millicent…

I wanted the glamour

To be pale, seductive, beautiful,

To exert irresistible attraction

Upon my almost willing victims.

I wanted better clothes

A place to belong, mystique

To be noticed, for a change.

To be noteworthy, exciting

Give me the velvet dresses

Narrow waist, heaving bosom,

Give mt the dainty feet

In truly unreasonable shoes

Free me from the mundane squalor

Of my life, liberate me

From my boredom with myself.

It all seemed so easy.

The mud under my cracked nails

My sunken cheeks, lank hair

And dirt ruined clothes are not

What I sought. I did everything.

Where is the dark magic now?

Why does the blood not satisfy?

Hungry all the time, and still

The same wretched, unalluring self

No sensuous transformations here

A child of the night, perhaps

But still, frustratingly

Not invited to any decent parties.

The uncanny death of Annamarie Nightshade

Hopeless Maine gets inside people’s heads. This is a story about a story…

Merry Debonnaire was one of the many people who was not best pleased about what happened to Annamarie Nightshade. She dealt with this by writing into the original story and adding a second layer that changes everything. If you’ve not read that story, you can find it here – https://hopelessvendetta.wordpress.com/2020/02/04/annamarie-nightshade-is-going-to-die/

Last week I sat down to look at this story, because we are intending to do something very exciting with it (more on that soon, all being well). I thought I’d just have a look at the original pages and lift some of Reverend Davies’ dialogue because I needed more dialogue than Merry had included.

It was then that I discovered that a scene I was sure we’d put in Sinners, was not in the graphic novel. Cue massive household panic and flailing. We had those pages, they were in the webcomic and they definitely exist and somehow we hadn’t got them into the graphic novel. Sorry about that! Thankfully the story still makes sense without them, but they were important.

When I saw Merry, I asked her if she’d read that story when it was in the webcomic. She hadn’t. She’d written her story, neatly weaving it into a scene that SHE HADN’T ACTUALLY READ!!!

This happens around Hopeless Maine projects far more than is reasonable.

Hopeless Maine – it will posses you.

The immodest afterlife of Miss Calder

Clothes are much more reliable than the idea of clothes.

What is presence? Memory and the idea of self. Who we think we are, or were, or should be.

When a person is calm, it is easy to remember what was considered proper. The correct fall of drapery. What to hide, and what to cover and what to walk through this world pretending does not exist.

When you do not have a body it is oddly difficult to remember what of a body you were supposed to have, and what of a body is not meant to be seen.

Having feelings makes it all so much harder. Feelings without a body make so much less sense, because feelings belong to the body that no longer exists. With feelings, it is harder to concentrate and so I do not always remember what of my body should make itself known. More often bone than breast, but it is all equally indecent in its own way. It is easy to reveal too much and the afterlife lacks for privacy.

Feelings and thoughts – these are the most real things. I clothe them accidentally with memory, with my resting bones and half recalled face, with the idea of clothes and a lingering desire to uphold the kinds of standards the living would appreciate.

Does my skull trouble you more or less than my nipple? I cannot ask, it would be one immodesty too far. One indecency too many. I know this. I just cannot, for the life of me remember why it was so important. Why one shred of memory is more indecent than another.

These are just ideas about who I used to be, but the living are fragile and a human body is such an ephemeral thing.

 

Art by Dr Abbey.

To ride a surf horse

It is a horse day. Usually tumultuous, the sea is a grey sheen of deathly pallor, and so still. Glass still. Unnaturally so – assuming anything in this place could properly be called natural.

The sky is also grey. This is perfectly normal. The sky is a cold, untarnished steel grey polished smooth and hanging over the sea, each a mirror of the other, passing grey smoothness back and forth into infinity.

In other times and places it is the lively rush of sea foam that gives birth to surf horses. Here, where the usual rules are seldom honoured, horses are most often born in stillness and in silence. They come from the waves that never were. The sea undulates softly with them. Grey explodes into vivid green and vibrant blue. Where colour infects the placid sheet of the poised and waiting sea, the horses come. Proud and wild, ferocious and terrifying. They are like no horse you have ever seen, and yet still they are pure horse; nostrils flaring, flanks powerful, tails flicking water to make brief, unlikely rainbows in the air.

If they come to you at dawn or sunset, catching shards of light from a distant horizon, they may seem more real than anything else. On this island of misty greys and insubstantial, haunting things, the horses in the water may look more substantial and more trustworthy than the uneven sand beneath your feet.

They speak of other ways of being, these horses. They say, in whispers you can almost hear, that if there can be horror, why can there not also be delight? Look into their deep, soulful eyes for the delight they promise. Look into their tooth sharp not so equine mouths for the horror they are capable of. They are beautiful and they are grotesque, between the sea and the sky in this dire and perfect moment.

Catch one if you dare. Rise it in search of dreams. You can never return. Whether you have left the island with them is another question entirely. The sea is vast, and deep, and very cold.

 

Art by Dr Abbey.

Thanks to Potia for the inspiration for this blog post.

What shall we become?

Where are we going?

What shall we become?

While Tom and I are working on the next volume – Optimists, Dr Abbey is revisiting the first books, and there is much plotting.

Hopeless was always manga influenced. If you’ve ever wondered what it might look like as manga, the poster above will give you a small flavour.

We’re on an adventure, and no one knows what might happen next. Especially not us.

Hopeless Food

What do people eat on the island? It’s not a great place for growing crops. The cows are small. The chickens are psychopaths and may well turn out to be demons. You can eat the sea life but only if it doesn’t eat you first. There are potatoes, but their eyes glow and they will try and run away. The fungi…. just no…

who knows how your meese will grow?

Sometimes things wash ashore from wrecked ships. You might want to eat those. And weevils are high in protein.

The preferred cooking technique is to cut things up very small, and hope for the best. What the eye doesn’t see, the stomach might or might not grieve over.

One of the key features of Hopeless Maine cookery, is the agent of change. But don’t eat them, the consequences are unpredictable. The wise cook adds agents of change to pretty much anything, and waits around in the hopes of getting something a bit more edible.

Hopeless Plotting

We are indeed, plotting, and at the moment, the plotting looks a bit like this –

At the moment, Tom and I are working on Optimists – the penultimate book in the Hopeless Maine graphic novel series.  Next year we will be making the final book in the series – Survivors. Our plan from this point had been to stop doing graphic novels – Tom has just had his sixtieth birthday, and comics are labour intensive the way he draws them, and the decision was to move into smaller pieces and more illustration.

Note the use of the past tense.

Right now we’re not sure what the plan is, but experiments are under way and I’ll post updates as we have them. Which is likely to be soon, because one of the implications here is that we might be able to work a lot more quickly on some things, while giving Tom time to really dig in with the more elaborate illustrations as we go.

We might be able to have the best of many worlds, with time for the kind of art Tom does, and more of a manga style for Hopeless some of the time, and enough time to tell more stories.

We’ve known for some time now that Doctor Abbey would be more involved with Hopeless Maine as we move forward. We’re still figuring out how that works, and we’re collectively excited about the possibilities.

 

Hopeless Seasons

This blog post has been written in response to a reader question about island life. I have a list of questions to work through, but it isn’t that long, so if you’d like to ask something, please do! Hopeless is and always has been a community project, and  we’ll gladly explore whatever anyone is interested in.

Geographically, the island of Hopeless is somewhere off the coast of Maine, and gets something akin to Maine seasons, only it doesn’t really do summer. Summers in Maine can involve blue skies and warmth, but the island is always on the chilly side.  Sometimes, if you look carefully, you can see a distant line of blue on the horizon, out beyond the island’s inherent malevolence. That’s about as good as it gets for islanders.

The best way to tell where we are seasonally is to look at the trees. Not the dead ones. Don’t look at the dead trees. Especially don’t look at the eyes on the dead trees…

We digress.

Hopeless Victims (volume 3) is set in the autumn, and we do have some leaf colour – far more muted than the rest of Maine tends to go in for, but it is there.

The next book – Hopeless Optimists is set in the winter and there is snow on the ground, and Salamandra still isn’t wearing a coat.

Which means that the final book in the series, Hopeless Survivors, will be set in the spring. Because there’s nothing like juxtaposing  extreme peril against signs of new life and hope.

I grew up in a small town on the edge of the Cotswolds. It is the place the rainclouds often first stop when they’re wandering up the Severn River. It is a place that is more often than not under a dark cloud.  On foggy days – and there were plenty of those when I was growing up there – the landscape would fill with mist, turning the hills into small islands. Whether Dursley is quite as cursed as Hopeless I can’t tell you, but the climate is certainly plausible – regardless of whether you ascribe it to demons or not.

Mrs Beaten on the perils of frivolity

There is something offensive about the way they gather on the beach when the weather is in the slightest way tolerable. They go there as if it is a place for fun and frolicking, and as though they feel some personal entitlement to frolic where others can see them.

It is so undignified, so unseemly. Some of the women lift the hems of their skirts to navigate the wet sand. A few of them even go down there in trousers. What is the world coming to? What an appalling sight for young children to behold! The human body improperly hidden is a terrible thing.

The beach is not a place for merrymaking. It is a place to scavenge, when one must. It is a place to die, for all that washes in there. It should be mournful. Why do they insist on filing it with laughter? What can they possibly find to laugh about? It is such a disturbing sound – giggling especially. It sounds like loss of control, like unreason made manifest. If we do not control ourselves carefully at all times, there is no knowing what may happen. I speak from unhappy experience.

One moment you might be going through your normal morning routine, and the next, you might entirely lose control and try to kill someone using only the fork that is in your hand. It is never safe to drop guard. Never safe to be incautious.

I cannot bear to be near the beach when other people are so dangerously out of control. I must go at twilight, when it is quieter. The risks of what else will be there seem less troubling to me than the company of people losing their minds. I will go only for the most essential and practical of reasons – to see what the tide has bought in and whether any of it is useful. Frivolity is fatal sometimes, and far too few people understand this.