Archive for the General Category

Turning the Wheels (February 2019 Blog)

 

Ooh my poor neglected blog.

I’ve done so little recently (work-wise), having just returned from a ten-day trip to Tasmania (which was incredible!) and today I found myself staring at the laptop screen, trying to remember how to do the things I’ve been doing so intensely for the past three years. Brainstorming, writing, planning, mapping, marketing, design stuff and so on…It feels like I have nothing to write – my current WIP is with the editor and I won’t get it back until Friday. By now I should have a decent map of the next and final book in that particular series.

I have nothing.

So I tried looking at some Amazon ads that I left running during my trip. A bit of low-demand marketing might make me feel like I’m doing something. Meh! My brain doesn’t want to know. This is life after a holiday. This is me after a holiday. I don’t want to work. I’ve been working like a madman over the past three years and today I’m desperate to be as lazy as I can possibly be. Really lazy – it sounds so tempting. The work, rest and play balance – that can get stuffed. I just wanna rest and hide and go back to Tasmania.

It’ll pass. I did manage to write this pathetic excuse of a blog, which I can’t be bothered to edit. And I wrote a pretty decent review of the pet-sitter, even if I do say so myself.

But I have to get the wheels turning again.

Maybe tomorrow…

November News!

 

Hi everyone,

Hope you’re all well. It’s been a busy couple of weeks here at Gillespie Castle.

At the end of last month I released the second story in the GrimLog (Tales of Terror) series – Air Nosferatu. And just recently in November, I put out The Exterminators Trilogy Box Set (featuring Black Storm, Black Fever, Black Earth).

If you’re on the Reader List you would have received info about the 0.99 offer for the box set that ran over the first thirty-six hours of its release. I hope some of you managed to take advantage of that. It’s up to 7.99 now and it’s also available for KU subscribers to read for free.

As of this moment, WaxWorld is also on deal at 0.99!

Now there’s not much time left in 2018 but (drumroll)…there’s still time for one more release – I hope! I’m working on The Curse, the first book in a brand new post-apocalyptic trilogy. The manuscript is with the editor right now and it’s in a scruffy second draft mode. I’ll get the book back later this month and go all in on the later edits, hopefully it’ll be out mid-to late December at best.

Need to get the skates on though.

Okay, that’s all for this quick update. It’s a sunny Sunday here in Melbourne and I want to get away from the screen for a while! I’m sure you understand 🙂

All the best,

Mark

GrimLog 2 – Air Nosferatu (October 31st)

 

The next story in the GrimLog (Tales of Terror) series of short horror fiction will be released on 31st October. You don’t want to miss out on Air Nosferatu – think vampires on a plane and a whole lot more.

Mark the date…

Book Cover Advice for Indie Authors (By an Artist!)

 

Don’t judge a book by its cover.

Sorry, I couldn’t even type that with a straight face.

Everybody judges a book by its cover and even more so in the realm of indie authors. Why? Because we’re shallow? No, it’s because a professional cover hints at professional quality content underneath. And that’s what we’re looking for right? I’m speaking as a reader here. A poor book cover is a warning sign and I heed those warnings well. You might have the greatest book in the world but if the cover sucks I’ll never get to find out.

A lot of stuff changes in the indie landscape – marketing trends come and go but a good cover will always matter. It’s arguably the most important tool in your marketing toolbox. With that in mind, this post is designed to give authors a little food for thought when it comes to working with your cover designer. You might find something new or you might get a much needed refresher on the fundamentals. The wisdom below does not come from me – it comes from Vincent Sammy, a most talented illustrator and cover designer that I started working with last year.

The questions, they come from me.

 

Who is Vincent Sammy?

Vincent Sammy is a South African freelance illustrator working in the fields of Horror, Sci-fi, Fantasy and the Macabre.

His work has been featured in publications such as Interzone, Black Static, Beware the Dark, Something Wicked, and Pandemonium Books.

In 2016 he was the cover artist for Interzone.

He was the runner-up in the 2012 This is Horror – Artist of  the year awards  and was nominated again in 2013. He has also been nominated for a BSFA award in 2016.

 

Q&A

MARK: What should an indie author consider when approaching a designer?

VINCENT: Unlike mainstream authors who have publishers who usually deal with this sort of thing, indie authors need to source their own artwork. Publishers who have years of experience with books tend to know what the current trends are, what works and what doesn’t. Indie authors dedicate a huge amount of time to their written manuscripts, so to have to deal with cover art can be quite daunting in a sphere that they are not used to.

To make matters worse, they usually don’t have the finances to pay for a qualified book-cover illustrator and designer, both who are usually two separate entities. This is where the problem arises in that the indie author tries to find the least expensive quote to get their cover done, or do it themselves. Here’s where it gets tricky. Authors (indie and traditionally published) tend to think in terms of their whole story and would like the cover to have as much of everything on it. From the main protagonist and antagonist, to certain scenes, to the geographical setting. This makes for a rather cluttered cover.

My advice would be to leave it to the artist to decide what the most striking and evocative visual reference would be to convey the feel of the book. The best way to do this is to let the artist read the book. A synopsis is helpful if no completed manuscript is available, but it doesn’t convey the feel of the characters, so first prize is still a completed manuscript to read. The author is more than welcome to give input and ideas, but try not to force too many visual ideas onto a front cover. Leave that to bad movie posters. Have a look at the artist’s portfolio and be sure that their style is suitable for your work so that you don’t try and force them into trying to recreate the style of the artist that you couldn’t afford. Also remember that this is a collaboration and that both parties need to be happy with the end product. And please, do not grab some bad low-res stock images and get your niece to put it together in Photoshop just because they know how to work it. The results will be a poor visual representation of your written words.

 

Artwork by Vincent Sammy

MARK: The money thing, it can be a problem. But good designers/covers don’t have to cost the earth, right?

VINCENT: They don’t have to cost the earth but professional designers should also be respected as qualified practitioners of their craft. They’ve either studied art and design or put years of learning into mastering this discipline. At the end of the day, you get what you pay for. There are plenty of artists out there who promote pre-designed covers to sell cheaply to indie authors, but this just leads to your book blending in with the rest of the crowd and not standing out as a unique product. Wouldn’t you rather pay a decent, agreed upon price for your cover than risk having all your hard work disappear amongst so many others?

 

MARK: Should indies strive for originality or should they be looking to stick within the boundaries of genre? Can the two be intertwined?

VINCENT: It depends on what the book is trying to convey and who wrote it. Originality is always something that I look for as it makes a book stand out. You don’t need that much originality if you’re a big name best selling author – your name on the cover will do the trick. But if you’re a new author and you’d like to be noticed, then the cover is your first port of call. So I would suggest a blend of originality within the framework of well received visual genre touchstones. Your audience should get a feel for what kind of book they are picking up by the look of the cover. Put a spin on what has gone before and let the illustrator’s style shine through.

 

Artwork by Vincent Sammy

MARK: What are the three most important elements of any book cover?

VINCENT:

1 – The emotional impact. It needs to resonate with potential readers within the first two seconds of seeing it. So it needs to have a simplicity that easily reaches out to the potential reader

2 – The title and author typeface. It’s as much a visual reference for what lies inside. It should either be plain and stand out against the visuals, or striking in its appearance against a plain background. The visuals and the text should never compete for attention.

3 – Consistency across a series of books. The visual style needs to remain the same for a book series so that a reader  can easily identify it as belonging to a specific set or series

 

Artwork by Vincent Sammy

MARK: I read somewhere that thumbnail sized book covers are the size most commonly viewed by online book shoppers. How important is the thumbnail in your opinion?

VINCENT: This is where simplicity plays a big part. At a small scale the artwork, title and author name needs to be as discernible as possible. The reality of the indie market is that it’s mostly an online market, so in a sea of thousands of tiny covers, your work needs to stand out. You’ll see this trend translate to other media as well such as music. In the past you had a whole record cover to play with at a large scale. That got shrunk to CD size and then to a visual representation for online purchases of music. The visual world is getting smaller with tired, strained eyes trying to pick something out from a forest of other tiny works. Make yours stand out.

—————————————————————————————————

Keep up with Vincent and his work at the links down below:

karbonkay.wordpress.com

facebook.com/Karb0n.K

twitter.com/karbonK

instagram.com/karbon.k

karbonk.deviantart.com

Black Storm (Blurb World Premiere!)

 

To protect his child, he’s going to have to outrun the apocalypse.

These are the last days. The Black Storm – a permanent state of darkness has engulfed the Earth, plunging the world into eternal night and robbing humanity of both sunlight and hope.

Out of the Black Storm comes the Black Widow. A ghostly figure, she walks the Earth triggering an epidemic of despair – suicides, mass murders and arson attacks. Nobody knows why it’s happening. But it is happening.

Ex Hollywood actor, Cody MacLeod, is a burned out recluse living in Texas. He’s got one chance to protect his young daughter Rachel from the Black Storm.

A plane is taking off at San Antonio International Airport, piloted by Cody’s friend. To get there in time, they must drive through the darkness together. But the road is a dangerous place where desperate people are lurking in wait.

And so is the Black Widow.

Black Storm is a post-apocalyptic survival thriller about a father trying to save his child from the end of the world. If you enjoy apocalyptic, dystopian, horror and supernatural thrillers, don’t you dare miss out.

 

Black Storm: A Post-Apocalyptic Survival Thriller is out March 13th

Black Storm – Coming in 2018

 

About three and a half weeks ago I had a writing plan for 2018. It was almost set in stone. I knew exactly what I was going to write and when I was going to write it. Now, after a visit home to Scotland over the Christmas and New Year period that sure thing plan of mine has disintegrated into a thousand tiny pieces.

I changed my mind.

Here’s what I’ve decided – The Future of London, my dystopian series and something that I worked a lot on in 2017, is being put aside for a while. There are five books in that series and while I have an ugly rough draft of the sixth book in place, I’m holding off on that for now. I’m letting it breathe. I want to get more readers and more reviews for the books that are already out there. Having worked so intensely on FOL throughout 2016 and 2017, I’m taking a break from the adventures of Walker, Sumo Dave, Barboza, Kojiro etc…but it WILL be back.

What I’m going to be working on this year instead is a post-apocalyptic series called Black Storm. This has been brewing in my head for a while now. Perhaps post-apocalyptic horror would be a better description. That’s all I’ll say for now but I’m excited to work on these ideas.

I feel like the long break over the holidays has done me good. I leapt back into writing and I’ve also upped my work rate to see if I can be more productive in 2018. My word count goals have doubled. I’m trying to plot a little more and write cleaner first drafts in order to make the writing process more efficient. I know more than anyone how much I faff about during the editing process. It gets petty to say the least. In the later stages in particular, I’m just shifting words around and often it’s to little effect. I liken it to moving the furniture around but not changing the vibe of the room.

Distractions will be minimised. I plan to be a lot stricter about wasting time on social media and emails when I’m supposed to be writing. I’ve been pretty bad with this. With any luck, this’ll become a habit that sticks and it’ll show in the work.

I’m sure you writers out there are way ahead of me on these things 🙂

So that’s where I’m heading. With this in mind, I’m not entirely sure when the first Black Storm book will be available. I’m kind of winging it now. The plan is to work flat out and at the moment, I’d predict early March. But as with all things, that’s liable to change.

Hope 2018 is treating you all well so far.

All the best,

Mark

Sleeping Giants – The New Future of London Novel

 

Sleeping Giants – the new Future of London novel is coming!

The fourth instalment of this dark dystopian series will be released on Wednesday October 4th. Now it’s time for the blurb ‘World Premiere’ (yes I really just wrote that) and I’m happy to share it here with you.

Run blurb:

 

“Life being what it is, one dreams of revenge.” – Paul Gauguin

Mack Walker is wandering across the London wastelands, looking for Hatchet – the man who destroyed his life. The man who destroyed everything.

It’s a search that leads Walker to ‘The Sleeping Giants’, a low-ranking street gang based in the Hole, formerly South London. The Sleeping Giants know where Hatchet is, but they’re only willing to tell Walker on one condition – he must prove his worth to them and join their ranks.

It all starts with a shocking ‘initiation task’.

But how far is Walker willing to go in his quest for revenge? And can the lone wolf, cast adrift for so long, ever rejoin the pack?

Sleeping Giants is the fourth book in The Future of London series – the perfect binge-reading experience for fans of dystopian and post-apocalyptic fiction.

Sleeping Giants (The Future of London #4) – October 4th

Previous books in The Future of London Series:

L-2011 (#1)

Mr Apocalypse (#2)

Ghosts of London (#3)

The Coolest Gangs on the Big Screen

 

Street gangs.

They’re colourful and funky. Who here remembers Swan and Ajax strutting their stuff on the dark streets of 1970s New York in The Warriors? And the other gangs, remember them? The Baseball Furies? The Electric Eliminators? Of course you know what I’m talking about.

Well what about dystopian street gangs? Remember the Duke of New York (aka Issac ‘Chef’ Hayes) lording it up over a twisted, futuristic version of the Big Apple in Escape From New York?

Then there’s the apocalyptic gangs. You must recall the wild antics of the Toecutter and his merciless motorcycle gang, the Acolytes, as they caused havoc on the streets of pre-apocalyptic Australia in Mad Max. And remember how after that, the series went full batshit post-apocalyptic, serving up the likes of Lord Humungus and then Tina Turner in a platinum blonde wig?

Yes indeed. It’s time to give props to a few of the films that have inspired The Future of London books that I’ve been writing lately. I’ve wanted to do this post for ages and before anyone gets antsy,  I’m not saying these are the best ‘gang’ movies out there (or maybe I am!) The above three films are dear to my heart that’s all. So take a few moments to appreciate these classics.

By the way, if you’re hoping to see Marlon Brando and The Black Rebels Motorcycle Club here, you’re out of luck.

 

The Warriors (1979)

“I’ll shove that bat up your ass and turn you into a popsicle.”

So many one-liners worthy of repeating.

Remember Cyrus and that speech? ‘Can you dig it?’ Or how about the  ‘Warriors, come out to play’ scene? Now if you’ve got a few empty beer bottles lying around the house, I do suggest you put on the long-haired wig and partake and clink along with the scene at home. You know, it doesn’t matter how many times I see David Patrick Kelly acting like a spaced out, born-again hippy in the Twin Peaks reboot. He’ll always be Luther to me.

There’s a clear difference between Sol Yurick’s 1965 novel and Walter Hill’s 1979 movie. The novel is grittier and darker. It’s angrier too and it feels a lot more real, more like a piece of social commentary than the fantastical, theatrical movie that followed fourteen years after the book. The characters are different too. Both are brilliant but this is one of those rare instances where I prefer the movie over the book. (Jaws is another)

The film is cool and super-dated but in a good way that reeks of the 1970s. It’s creative too with a wide variety of uniquely dressed and titled gangs who take over the city streets at night. If that isn’t enough, the soundtrack kicks bottom. In fact, while you’re reading the rest of this section, you should check out the excellent theme song. Caution – it’ll make you want to strut.

The Warriors – just in case you don’t know what I’m talking about here – follows the adventures of a New York street gang who get wrongly accused of murdering a major gang leader (Cyrus) at a mass meeting designed to unite all the city’s gangs. For the rest of the movie, The Warriors are chased across the New York, battling through hostile, gang-infested territory as they try to to make it back to their own turf in Coney Island.

The film has gathered a well-deserved cult status over the years and here’s an extra bonus fact you may or may not know: the original novel was based on an Ancient Greek text, Anabasis, by the philosopher and historian Xenophon. In Anabasis, a band of Greek mercenaries are fighting their way back home through hostile Persian territory after their leader (Cyrus) is killed.

Now I’m sure Xenophon’s text is well worth a look but if you’re in the mood for something a bit lighter, why not check out The Warriors?

 

Escape from New York (1981)

“It’s the survival of the human race, Plissken. Something you don’t give a shit about.”

This movie is a dystopian classic.

Some observers have commented that the walled city prison in Escape from New York is an allegorical endorsement of how to treat poor communities that are riddled with crime and deemed beyond hope. Others shoo away such lofty, English-lit heavy interpretations like an annoying fly that lands on your dinner plate. After all, if Isaac Hayes is playing a character called The Duke of New York, shouldn’t you just sit back, smile and enjoy?

Yes.

Escape From New York is set in an alternate 1997, one in which the Big Apple has been transformed into a maximum security prison that holds over three million convicted criminals. When Air Force One goes down over the city and the President (played by a distinctly non-American Donald Pleasance) is taken hostage, it’s up to Snake Plissken (Kurt Russell) to get the POTUS back out in one piece.

The Duke’s gang are known as the Gypsies. There are other gangs in the city too including the Turks, Skulls, and Crazies. But it’s the Duke and his followers who rule the roost in this fictional 1997. These are the guys after all, who drive around the city in limousines with matching chandeliers attached to the hood.

The Duke doesn’t give a shit about anything. He wears a Naval Officer’s tunic and shades. He uses the President for target practice – “You’re the Duke of New York. You are A-Number One!” There’s Romero, the Duke’s hissing sidekick and the man with the electric shock hair and gaunt features. Romero is post-apocalyptic New York personified, a man so futuristically punk that if he wandered onto a Mad Max set by mistake he wouldn’t look out of place, not for a a second.

The supporting cast is top drawer too, including the legendary Lee Van Cleef, Harry Dean Stanton, Ernest Borgnine, and Adrienne Barbeau. The soundtrack is another of Carpenter’s own efforts, a tense and futuristic synth score that captures the mood perfectly.

Here’s an interesting, in-depth fan breakdown on Escape From New York if you want to read more about the movie. Well worth a look.

 

Mad Max (1979)

“The chain in those handcuffs is high-tensile steel. It’d take you ten minutes to hack through it with this. Now, if you’re lucky, you could hack through your ankle in five minutes. Go.”

Who remembers the opening of the original Mad Max? The Nightrider is tearing along the Aussie highway in a stolen MFP (Main Force Patrol) vehicle. He’s easily getting the better of the numerous cops chasing after him. Looks like he’s going to win the day. He eludes all pursuers and then…

…and then Max Rockatansky gets in on the chase.

Cue a fantastic, low budget Australian movie and the start of a long-running franchise that will go on to introduce some of the punkiest post-apocalyptic gangs onto the big screen.

In the original Mad Max, the antagonists are a vicious motorcycle gang led by Toecutter. This gang, also known as the Acolytes, are a psychotic mob (possibly of Italian heritage – look at their names!) who engage in frequent road wars with the cops and bring terror to the local communities. Toecutter (portrayed by Hugh Keays-Byrne, who also played Immortan Joe in the fourth Mad Max movie) takes a terrible revenge on Max for the death of his friend, The Nightrider. It’s Toecutter’s revenge that leads to the moment where family man Max Rockatansky finally becomes the Road Warrior.

Other memorable gangs come along in the later films. Who can possibly forget The Humungus (or Lord Humungus if you prefer) and his punk rock biker followers in The Road Warrior? And although the third film is arguably the weakest of the four, I do still like Aunty Entity (Tina Turner) and her Bartertown cronies. And there’s also the aforementioned Immortan Joe and his War Boys in the excellent Fury Road.

The entire Mad Max universe is the perfect scenario for inventing imaginative gangs, many of them lingering on the border between the post apocalyptic and horror genres. You have to love it.

 

The Future of London Series

As I mentioned in the intro at the top of the page, The Future of London books draw heavily on the above movies for inspiration, especially as I go forward with the series and things get a little wilder. Gangs such as The Bedlamites, The Obituaries, The Sleeping Giants, Ferals, and Ghosts of London – all of these are inspired by the likes of the above movies. And for that, I salute them.

The Future of London Box Set (Books 1-3) is out now.

‘This is the best thing I’ve read in months. The best this year.’ – Amazon Review

Amazon Link

Non-Amazon Links

 

Deadlines, Deadlines, Deadlines (And Ghosts of London)

 

Here we go again. There’s a new Gillespie title on the way and I’m going mental. The build-up to a book release is insane. Just insane. There are so many things to do it’s surprising that more authors’ heads don’t spontaneously combust all over their laptops.

So what am I thinking about at the minute? Right now? Stuff, lots of stuff.

Is the cover finished? Uhh, nearly but I should have had that done yonks ago.

Blurb…yep, see below. Took me long enough though – couldn’t even finish this blog post in time ‘cos the blurb was late.

Any ad campaigns scheduled? AMS, Facebook? Soon my friend, soon…

Keywords sorted for distribution sites? Umm…no.

Newsletter ready to go after release? No, not started that yet.

Updated the backmatter in the previous books? I need the book link to go live for that one smart-arse.

Made smartlinks? Universal book links? Again, need the book links – but thanks for the reminder.

Have you even finished editing the book yet?

Shit.

And that’s the thing. I’m still editing the book with a June 30th release date hanging over my head. It’s been edited professionally but it’s still got to go to a Beta Reader and then come back for the final touches. I won’t finish it until a few days before publication and by then I’ll be crazy.

All the things listed above are just the tip of the iceberg too. There are so many more things to be done.

So yeah I must admit, I struggle to meet my deadlines. But I do get there – I haven’t missed one yet. The problem is I go a little insane in those last few days before letting go of the book and as a result I never want to write another book again. It doesn’t help that I’m on a pretty aggressive release schedule (by my standards anyway) this year, which consists of four original releases, along with two box sets. Because of this, I don’t leave myself enough room for things like sending out ARC copies because there’s not enough bloody time.

For sure, there are flaws I have to fix in my self-pub game. But until then, soft launches – marshmallow launches. That’s pretty much my thing. Marshmallows….mmmmmmmmm.

Told you I was going mad.

But here I am anyway. We’re on the brink of the second original release of the year. This is Ghosts of London – the third book in the Future of London series.

And just for you, here’s the (World Premiere!!) of the blurb.

The Big Chase is back.

 The Ghosts of London – the most dangerous gang in the city – are going hunting for human flesh across the lawless, urban wasteland that has arisen from the ashes of the old metropolis.

If you’re out there – hide, hope and wait for the sun to rise. Pray that the Ghosts don’t find you.

Because there are worse things than being dead.

Ghosts of London is a dystopian and apocalyptic nightmare set in an isolated, alternate London where the rest of the world is watching on pay-per-view. It is the third book in the Future of London series.

 

Whatever Happened to Ivan Drago?

 

The ‘what if?’ question. It lies at the heart of all the best speculative fiction. It’s a simple little two-word question that can lead to so many great premises that span multiple genres – alternate history, science fiction, horror, dystopian, apocalyptic – to name but a few.

A few examples (that aren’t ‘what if the Nazis won the Second World War?’):

What if vampires existed and relocated to a small American town? (Salem’s Lot)

What if extraterrestrial parasites (Pod People) colonised our planet by creating replicas of ourselves? (The Body Snatchers)

What if Napoleon had escaped from St Helena and reached America?  (Napoleon in America)

And of course, my own meagre contributions in the pop culture/dystopian fields:

What if John Lennon had lived?

What if the 2011 London riots had never ended? 

It’s all about imagination – that great and glorious distraction. According to Einstein, imagination is better than knowledge. So remember that teachers – don’t ever chastise the kid sitting in class who’s playing with someone else’s glasses case because he’s pretending it’s the Batwing and that Batman is sitting inside and he’s about to save the world from the Joker or the Penguin or The Riddler or some other evil, costumed psychopath.

Yes this kid was me.

Imagination is more important than knowledge. That means it’s better than algebra.

It’s also great fun too, which is pretty much what this post is all about. You can apply the ‘what if?’ thing to anything and run with it. So with that in mind, I’m going to do a little ‘what if?’ exercise in relation to one of my favourite fictional film characters of the past thirty-five years.

Hope you enjoy.

***

What we talk about when we talk about Ivan Drago.

Usually it goes like this: Hey, what the hell happened to that guy?

He’s one of cinema’s most iconic Soviet characters – the pugilist Goliath with the chilling pre-fight one liners. But what happened to Ivan Drago after the fight with Rocky Balboa on Christmas Day in 1985? This question has become the greatest mystery in the history of the Rocky franchise, even more so now that we know who won that unofficial third fight between Rocky Balboa and Apollo Creed (go watch Creed if you don’t know the answer).

Ivan Drago – a towering symbol of Soviet superiority. We met him in Rocky IV, just in case you don’t know what I’m talking about but I assume if you got this far then you probably do. He was a powerhouse, an anabolic steroid-popping 6’5, blond, spiky haired super soldier. He was also a heavyweight boxer who brutally killed Apollo Creed in what was supposed to be a harmless exhibition bout. It was as a direct result of this tragedy that Drago got a chance to prove himself against heavyweight champion (and Apollo’s pal) Rocky Balboa in a non-title fight, scheduled for Christmas Day in the Soviet Union.

If you’ve seen the film, you’ll know what happens next. After beating Rocky senseless for most of the fight (if that was a real fight it would’ve been stopped in the first twenty seconds), Drago got knocked out in the last round. And if I remember correctly, the last we saw of this fallen Soviet Demigod was him sitting on his stool, battered and broken, while Rocky was giving his post-fight speech which as you may remember single handedly ended the Cold War.

So there you go. Ivan Drago – just another vanquished foe in the Rocky canon.

But although he was the villain of Rocky IV, I always felt a little bit sorry for Drago. The Soviet government and the fans treated him like he was a piece of meat after all. To them, he was nothing more than a symbol of supposed Soviet superiority over the Americans. And when he lost that fight with Rocky – well, they bailed on him pretty damn quick. In fact, as soon as the crowd suspected that Rocky might actually win the bout, they started cheering his name like a bunch of over-excited fan girls in drab clothing.

That’s loyalty for you right there ladies and gentlemen.

So what of Drago? Where did the character go after such a crushing and humbling experience? Back to the military? Did he quit boxing altogether? Did he disappear to the Far East to make whisky commercials for the rest of his life? Or did he end up appearing on the Russian version of Celebrity Big Brother?

I believe this kind of mental rambling makes for good writing practice. At best it’s a light workout for the imagination and just in case you didn’t know, the imagination is a muscle that needs regular exercise. Neglect it and it will neglect you back when you need it most.

So then  – what if old man Drago was a recluse living in the backwoods of Russia? How would this story play out? Well, let’s assume that Drago was born in 1956 or 1957 (Dolph Lundgren was born in 1957 so we’ll go with the idea that he’s around sixty years of age in 2017.) There are many speculative possibilities when it comes to the fate of Drago, but I’m going to go with the idea that he’s become something a recluse and a minor legend.

The idea below is incomplete but if I was going to sketch something, it’d probably begin like this.

***

DRAGO

The old man lives in a tiny village in a remote part of Russia. It’s a hamlet really, no place that anybody’s ever heard of because nobody in their right mind would go there. Not unless they were looking for something or someone in particular.

It’s a cruel and yet majestic environment, surrounded by snow, mountains and wild animals. The only people who live there are hard men and women who’ve lived hard lives all their lives. They’re the kind of rugged, hard-to-kill people that should no longer exist in the twenty first century what with all its comfort, convenience and technological innovation. They’re throwbacks to another era; their dark, leathery skin, the giant hands shaped like shovels, and the narrow deep-set eyes that speak of appalling hardship.

These are his people now.

He sits in the bar every night. It’s the only bar in town, a dingy little shack with no more than a handful of people inside at any one time. But that’s where you’ll find him, a solitary, towering figure sitting up at the counter with a shot glass of vodka always in front of him. 

His blond hair has long since lost its youthful shine. Now it falls down to his shoulders, a dirty and neglected mane that looks like it might be a flea’s paradise. Most of his face is submerged underneath a chaotic beard that would give any pair of scissors a run for its money. His massive bulk, still muscular thanks to thirty years of manual labour, is buried under a thick, padded red and black checked shirt. Nobody can recall seeing him dressed in anything different – not since he first came to this place from the city, and that was a long time ago.

Drago.

He always drinks alone. The locals ignore him for the most part and he ignores them back. But sometimes visitors do pass through the area, drawn to this little nowhere settlement by the enduring legend of Drago. They want so much to see the man who even after all these years, is still a symbol – a symbol of something that hasn’t been forgotten in these wild parts. They come in and they gawp silently at the man, even if it’s just from the other side of the room.

Nobody in their right mind would dare to approach him.

But the odd crazy person has been known to pass through these parts. 

One guy in particular was still bitter about what happened. It had been over thirty years since that day in Moscow but there were some people who hadn’t forgiven Drago for letting them down – for letting the country that was no more and its ideology down.

This guy wanted nothing more than to fight Drago, one on one. He wanted to show the old man up in front of all the people who were there in the bar that winter’s night. Show him up for the quitter that he undoubtedly still was in that loser’s yellow heart of his. This guy, it turns out, had been looking for Drago for a long time. Long before anyone figured out where Drago was, this guy had been trawling the unimaginably vast former Soviet Union for more years than he could remember. By the time he found Drago, the man was in his fifties and certainly, he was no slouch himself in the physical department. He was well over six feet tall, with thick powerful arms and broad shoulders that like Drago, also suggested a life of hard labour.

The man just stood there, staring across the room at Drago. His eyes were bright and alert, which suggested that he wasn’t crazy and that he was in his right mind while doing this thing he was doing.

It escalated quickly from staring to insults.

For several minutes, he just stood there, hurling abuse at the old man, who like always, was sitting at the other end of the bar.

All the while, this guy who didn’t look crazy, he crept closer to the statue-like figure. 

And then…

Drago put down his glass of vodka on the counter. With a mournful sigh that seemed to reverberate against the wooden walls of the shack, he slowly turned his tortured, weather-beaten face towards the man that was insulting him.

The old man slipped off the barstool in the blink of an eye. Just for a second, he was an athlete again – the celebrated fighter who had an amateur record of one hundred wins and no defeats. He was the man who had killed the great Apollo Creed with his hands in a boxing ring in Las Vegas. And now there he was, standing tall like a grizzly bear on two feet – the great boxer once again, standing in the middle of the ring, listening to the national anthem – Gimn Sovetskogo Soyuza – playing in his head as he prepared for battle…

***

Well, that’s how I’d start it off anyway. Something like that. It needs work of course, but it’s kind of fun to speculate where the story might go from there. How about you? Got any ideas where I could go with this one? Should a dragon come crashing through the window at the last minute? No? Okay. Well feel free to jump in or suggest your own alternatives for the fate of Drago, or any other characters in the Rocky series.

Putting Rocky aside – maybe you have another fictional character with a fate you’d like to speculate on? If so, let me know. I’d love to hear some ideas.

Coming back to Drago for the finish – there is just a wee smidgen of a chance that we might find out what happened to the character on the big screen. We just need this movie to get made.

Until next time.

Over and out.

 

 

 

 

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