Author: daveycobb

time well spent

It’s crazy to think that I spent almost all of 2020 editing my novel, The Black Rook. Besides the regular drawings that I did exclusively for my Instagram account, all of my creative energy was poured into that novel. And once the editing was finalised, my time was occupied with university work and trying (and failing) to find an agent, then a publisher, for The Black Rook.

There were times when the dozens and dozens and dozens of rejection emails almost caused me to pack the writing in entirely. Fortunately, I never caved to that insidious voice instructing me to give up, and instead listened to the even stronger voice that was commanding me to never give up, no matter what.

Of course, it hasn’t only been sheer determination that has kept me going. My girlfriend has been a constant cheerleader for my work, encouraging me to keep going, there for me every step of the way. Without her, I doubt I would have got as far as to self-publish my first novelette, Putridity. (For the link to buy, head to my home page). For that, and for a thousand other reasons, I decided to dedicate Putridity to her.

Okay, I’ll stop being sappy now. The point of this blog post is to say that although I didn’t really get much done, besides a LOT of editing, over the course of 2020, I learnt a lot. I became sturdier, able to take a lot more criticism and bask in rejection. (I still see them as a victory, as they infer somebody actually read some of my work).

Since the beginning of 2021, I’ve written a few short stories and polished The Black Rook to perfection (at least I hope I have). I also have many, many, many ideas for novels/novellas/ short stories going forward. And self-publishing something for the first time has given me so much confidence for the future already – and it’s only been on sale for 24 hours!

Honestly, even if only a handful of people read my books, and even if all of those despise my writing, I will still be happy that I gave the author game a go.

This post ended up so much more sentimental than I’d intended. Hope everyone had a lovely Easter break.

putridity is live

That’s right. I’ve finally published my first novelette, Putridity, which is now available on Amazon. (Just search “Davey Cobb”).

Crafting it certainly wasn’t easy. I wrote most of it whilst having to endure the constant drilling and hammering of the builders working on the unit next door to our flat. There was a time when I considered that what I’d created might be nonsensical and surreal, due to my lack of concentration. But after spending one long day performing a post-mortem on the story I’d spawned, I managed to edit it into something resembling a polished novelette. At least, I hope I did.

Putridity follows First Mate of the HMS Temper, Ludlow Grante, a rather luckless young man who, like the rest of the crew, fears his captain more than death. Death, as it happens, would be a welcome alternative to the life he’s enduring… that’s to say, death would be quite nice if he wasn’t certain he would end up in Oblivion – the great vacuum of nothingness where spirits go to die.

I’ve also included at the back of the book a one-page preview of my first novel The Black Rook, which is still coming soon.

I aim for Putridity to be the catalyst for many more cool things to come, so watch this space.

putridity

I’m currently in the process of editing my first novelette, Putridity, which I’m hoping to self-publish in the coming weeks. Process has been slow with it, as I’ve got so much going on at the moment, but as soon as it’s completed and ready to purchase, I’m sure you won’t hear the end of the fact I’ve finally published something.

I’m really excited about getting it done and dusted, as I’m also going to design the cover art myself. That’s certainly going to be a challenge, but one I’m more than happy to tackle.

I’ll reveal more details about Putridity at some point, so watch this space. All I’ll say at this point is that the novelette will serve as an introduction to the world of Entros (that most of my fiction is set in). I wish I could say more, but for now I’ll keep it a mystery.

bleeding eyes

2021 had a bit of a slow start for me, in terms of my art. I’d reinvigorated my passion for drawing during the first lockdown last year (the less said about that time the better), but more than anything, the reason I did so was simply to pass the time. After all, I was furloughed from my job and I didn’t have much else to do.

2021 was a very different story. By the time the new year rolled in I had started to take my work very seriously. But even so, I’d burned myself out due to there being so much going on in my life at once.

To get back into the routine of drawing, I began with some quick doodles, and before long I was finding (or rather making) time for larger pieces.

The first of these larger works was Bleeding Eyes, which describes a lot that was going on in my mind at the time. The humanoid subject is a Bloodkin – one of the races found within the world of Entros – and as you can tell, the Bloodkin isn’t very happy. To add an additional dimension, though, blood is a sacred component in Bloodkin belief. It contains the Bloodkin’s soul, and so, many devout followers of the Faith of the Twins practice bloodletting of the self as an offering to their gods. Followers of the Faith believe that by bequeathing a portion of their blood – and therefore a portion of their soul – to the Twins, they are ensuring their connection to the gods remains intact, so that upon death they may co-exist with the deities.

Creating this piece has inspired me to blend my creative writing and illustration worlds again in the future. I might create a series of drawings that explores the Bloodkin and their faith.

I currently have for sale the original drawing of Bleeding Eyes on my Etsy account, as well as a limited run of prints. For information regarding how to purchase either, please visit my Instagram account: @daveycobbart

I hope everyone’s well. I know that this is a strange time of year where you find yourself waiting for the summer to arrive, and that feeling is amplified by the covid lockdowns and restrictions. If you require a friendly chat, no questions asked, you can either contact me via my website or by direct messaging my Instagram account.

Stay safe, Davey

inspiration

I’ve felt really inspired lately, for a number of reasons. Firstly, my Instagram account has started to grow in the last couple of weeks. I only have around 600 followers as I write this, but compare that to two weeks ago when I had around 400, I’d say that’s pretty good progress!

Not only that, I’ve had a few things going on in my life that have inspired me creatively. I have returned to work (I work in a beautiful neo-gothic library), which is a constant source of inspiration for me. Simply being surrounded by so many published works, not to mention how incredible the building is, I find to be so inspiring.

I have also come to the decision that I will self-publish my first novelette in the coming months. My first full-length novel, The Black Rook, has been ready for publication for some time now, but I will only self-publish it once I’ve exhausted all other potential avenues. It’s frustrating to have it take so long to find a publisher, especially when all I really want to do is to get started on its sequel, but these things happen I guess!

Ultimately, I do believe I will make it as a successful author one day, it’s simply a question of when. I just hope that that when isn’t 50 years from now!

visceral imagery

This is my latest drawing, Distress, which I’d describe as fine art rather than an illustration. And like many of my more emotive, swiftly-drawn pieces, the themes and subject of the portrait are undefined.

Indeed, I find that drawing without a particular subject or theme in mind is often the best way to describe a fleeting thought or feeling. I rarely know what the result is going to be, going in to one of these drawings, and so I often learn something about myself by the end of the experience.

This form of drawing is vital when more defined modes of communication – such as writing and illustrating – are too explicit, and I want to explore a sensation more subtly. I suppose, in a way, I approach these drawings like an abstract painting, allowing my subconscious to guide me.

I am eventually going to set up a visual gallery of my artwork here on the website, but until then I hope you enjoy my latest drawing Distress here on my blog.

creative writing saved me

As you can probably tell by the title, this blog deals with sensitive topics. Consider this a warning: what you’re about to read may be upsetting to some. Having said that, I’m won’t go into any real detail in regards to individuals or events, as I don’t believe it’s appropriate here.

So, where do I begin? My upbringing was rather unconventional, to say the least. I was home-schooled throughout primary and secondary (meaning that prior to starting college at 16, all of my education had been delivered at home). This had some incredible benefits, as it forced me to explore and develop my own ideas about the world around me from a very young age, which moulded me into a self-led, self-motivating individual. This of course had its pitfalls also, as I often found it difficult to relate to others, and to understand differing views and opinions. Rather paradoxically, it taught me to think and problem solve outside the box, but it also stifled my ability to approach issues head-on. Often, the answer to a question would be staring me in the face, but I was unable to see it.

As you can imagine, this meant that the year I was thrown into the world of formal education was… challenging, to say the least. Approaching his first day of college, 16 year old me was crippled by social anxiety, to the point where he could barely open his mouth to speak. Having never been socialised with other children to any meaningful degree, I had no idea how to communicate with my peers – and even if I had known, I doubt my anxiety would have let me. It wasn’t that there was no support available to me at the time, but I had never been conditioned to ask for help, nor to express my thoughts or feelings, so the only way I knew was to suffer in silence.

The other students viewed me as shy, quiet and a little strange. And I suppose I was all three, but not for the reasons anyone – and I’m including myself in this – comprehended. A few months into the course, I was bullied incessantly by two boys I had previously thought my friends, and mentally I reached a new low. I no longer saw a future for myself.

Now, the reason I’m telling this story relates directly to my writing. I had always been interested in creative writing from an early age – I penned my first short story around 11, and some time later I wrote a series of novels that were essentially Harry Potter rip-offs. The home-schooled me loved creative writing, but I think his main motivation was simply to pass the time. I don’t recall holding any genuine notion of becoming an author at the time, as I was always told it could never be anything more than a hobby.

It was only at 16, as the emotional black cloud was threatening to consume me, that I again picked up a pen and notebook and poured my angst and depression into creative work. I had always harboured a love for works of high fantasy – the Lord of the Rings movies were a big part of my teenage years, and I used to play the Warhammer Fantasy tabletop game, World of Warcraft MMO, and read any high fantasy novels I could get my hands on. And so I started to create a fantasy world of my own, wherein I could write my own stories. It became something of a spiritual journey for me, as I explored my thoughts and emotions within the context of this fictional world.

That fantasy world is the same that I set most of my stories in to this day. The Bloodkin race that feature in many of my works are an invention of that time, and I think a lot of their feature characteristics – zealous self-harm, hedonistic approach to life, emphasis on the temporary nature of existence – mirrors the mentality of my teenage years.

I will always be thankful to 16 year old me for deciding – rather than to harm himself or others – to pick up a ballpoint pen and a cheap and cheerful notebook and write, write, write. To pour his anger and sadness onto the page. 16 year old me was never writing with the aim of being published; he was doing it for himself, as a means to survive. I don’t believe I’m exaggerating when I say I owe my decision to start writing fiction for being here today.

juggling work, work and work. oh, and work

My greatest struggle, when it comes to writing, has to be multi-tasking. No matter how many (or how few) writing projects I have on the go at any one time, one piece will always be prioritised over the rest. Often, this has few negative consequences, as I do like to have one large, overarching project going on in my life; I like to have smaller projects running simultaneously, that I can dip into when I become tired or unproductive with the main one. This usually works really well, but where it can get sticky is when I’m juggling my university work and my personal projects at the same time, such as editing my first novel and plotting its sequel.

It’s easy to say: “Well, prioritise the uni work, duh.” But I find that, unlike before my course started and all of my projects were personal ones, the fact that some of my work is for university, and some of it’s personal, is where it becomes difficult to manage. I don’t know why, but managing my time between the two similar but obviously different worlds can be a challenge. For example, I’ll spend days in a row exclusively working on university coursework, then turn around and think “Wow, why have I neglected my novel for five days?” And the opposite happens also (though this is rarely the case at the moment).

I suppose that the obvious answer is to plan my time more carefully, and to do so in advance. I find such an approach brilliant in theory, but it rarely works for me. For example, if I say “Tomorrow I will work on uni stuff in the morning and my novel in the afternoon,” I find I don’t sleep well that night, and subsequently the morning work gets pushed back to the afternoon. I’m sure you catch my drift.

I’m sure few writers on Earth, when pressed, would say they sit down and write as often as they’d like. Life, I guess, just gets in the way. And in a way it’s good that it does, else I’d be stuck to a chair staring at my laptop for ten hours straight every single day.

a new beginning

I can finally say I’ve started writing my second novel, which, coincidentally, is the sequel to the first. I’ve yet to find a publisher for The Black Rook, and at the rate I’m going by the time it’s published I’ll have completed the sequel.

The Black Rook deals with themes and issues very personal to me. The majority of it was penned during a period of my life when I was really struggling with mental health, and as such, a lot of my sadness and anger and faithlessness seeped into The Black Rook’s pages. When I returned to edit it for the final time in 2020 (at the peak of the UK’s first lockdown), I was struck by how much of my real life had infused the prose. It was a dark journey, reliving the depression and angst that had haunted my early to mid-20’s, but I felt I owed it to the past-me to polish up The Black Rook to a publishable standard – at least, I like to think it’s now a publishable standard – and to get it out there. I’m still on the lookout for a publisher, and the long wait to find one has meant that my motivation for writing the sequel has taken a nose-dive as of late.

But I can thankfully now report that I’ve started writing the sequel. And I’m sure many of my fellow writers will agree when I say that starting to write can be the biggest challenge of them all. Often, I find that my own personal version of writer’s block is simply an aversion to facing an empty Word document. Once I commence typing, the bubble bursts and the “writer’s block” disappears.

The challenge now is to keep at it. Hopefully, I’ll have the first draft completed some time this year. I’m not giving myself a specific deadline, although I know I could probably churn it out in a few months. I don’t want to put myself under that much pressure, especially with all of these lockdowns that have become a part of daily life. I’ve let writing a novel mentally and emotionally consume me before, and I won’t let that happen again!

the lockdown blues continue

It’s been 5 days since my last blog, where I spoke about finding inspiration for creative work. In a tragically ironic twist, since I made that post I have found inspiration to be in short supply. The fabled muse has sewn her lips shut, or she’s given up on me and gone to whisper in someone else’s ear.

This third lockdown has hit me really hard. I’ve found it difficult to focus on any one thing, be it reading, writing for university, writing my next novel, writing for leisure, etc. I’ve been very much in my own head, but unlike the moments I usually enter this state of being, I’ve been unable to harness that to generate creative work.

I’ve always been the kind of person that needs little distractions in life, in order to function. I think that’s why I’ve always been a big fan of fantasy, science fiction, and historical fiction, movies, etc. They’re an escape from the ordinary humdrum, the chance to place yourself in a different time and space. I realise that might sound unhealthy to some – diverting ones attention rather than facing up to one’s issues – but if facing them head-on was even a remote possibility, then I’d be at the very frontline of the battlefield. Indeed, I find it difficult to pinpoint exactly what I need distracting from – I guess the news about the pandemic would be one thing, but that’s almost impossible to do as it’s an intrinsic part of our lives now. And that also doesn’t explain why, on and off, I’ve always felt like I need distracting from something.

It’s probably got something to do with self-control. For whatever reason – call it upbringing, personality, whatever – I’ve always felt the urgent need to be in control of myself in every way, and that includes my emotions. Whenever I’ve been in a situation where I’m nearing the point of losing that control, I escape, quite literally, by walking away from arguments, stepping out of the room if I don’t like the way a conversation is going. And if I’m losing control of my emotions when I’m on my own – such as if I feel the grey cloud hovering over my head when I’m home alone – I stick on a movie or a TV show and forget about it.

So I guess my current predicament is that I’m in a place mentally where I can’t ignore or reject or forget. And little by little, piece by piece, the mask of composure is crumbling away.

It’s not all doom and gloom though, and I don’t want readers to think that this post is some kind of resignation to my fate. On the contrary, this is something more of a reflection – of past state(s) of mind and the one currently afflicting me.

I managed to get some creative work done this morning – it’s a short story that I’m working on, that I may either approach magazines with, or publish myself on this website. That distracted me somewhat. And yesterday I had two small victories: I did a decent home workout and baked some of the nicest seitan burgers I’ve ever made. I also submitted the second assignment of the second year of my MA (although I’m not entirely confident that it will score well, but it’s still a small victory). And I guess therein lies the answer to my current state of mind: rather than focusing on ways of distracting myself, I should search for ways to achieve small victories. Perhaps an accumulation of small victories will one day lead to a big one.

I hope this post isn’t too disheartening for my readers. I would categorise my feelings at the moment not as sadness, but a lack of happiness.

Having said all of this, I hope that everyone reading this is doing well. I know these are very tough times, but the best way to get through any sort of hardship you’re going through, be it mental or physical, is to communicate it in some way. I don’t play into the belief that everything has to be shared in order to feel a release; sure that works for a lot of people, but not everyone. But I would assert that your thoughts and feelings have to be communicated in some way, and what works is different for everyone. My best method, personally, is in writing, usually in journals that will hopefully one day be burned before anyone can read them. Find out what works best for you, in order to allow you that release from rumination, and roll with it!

For those who do find it helps to speak with someone (and I’m not suggesting in any way that this is a valid substitute for seeking professional aid) my inbox is always open and I’ll always reply (unless you’re a troll). You can contact me privately by accessing my “contact me” page via my website’s menu.

I hope that we soon reach the end of the dark tunnel that has been the reality of this pandemic!