Thursday, June 24, 2010

Wizards Keep Limited - Celebrations...

5 Years Old Today...

Hi Guys,

Well it hardly seems two minutes ago that I was saying to Margaret that I was thinking of starting a new company earlier than I had first planned, when one bright and sunny morning back in March of 2005 I awoke with the idea to launch Wizards Keep and went downstairs to tell my wife and ask what she thought.

That said it seems almost as though this is all I have ever done, as the past five years have seen me produce a massive amount of work during an insane amount of hours at the drawing board, computers and in meetings with people. Wizards Keep, it is safe to say, has taken over my life completely during this time.

It was initially my idea to create a new springboard for my sequential stories without editorial interference at the creative level and Worlds End would be the catalyst for the first graphic novel published by my new imprint.

Since then we have seen lots of different new products launched and many clients worked for and with. It seems apt I suppose then that in this fifth year of existence, since our inception back on June 24th 2005, that I am looking to try and launch the book as soon as possible this side of Christmas.

James is still to give me the finished draft of the subbed version of my Worlds End script and as soon as this is done then it’s off to the good old US of A and my mate from the Marvel UK days, and lettering Guru, Richard Starkings.

I am presently working on the digital painting of a children’s book, but I am looking forward to getting back to Worlds End in a couple of weeks time, when I will continue to work feverishly on the digitally painted pages, for which I have received very positive comments from a select few people saying what fellow professionals think of my new work.

Back in the days of pre-launching Wizards Keep this was all but a dream and a special time for me, as I spent months planning, referencing, organising and preparing the way to set up the new company based around a new website and graphic novel series.

I remember having Green Day’s, "American Idiot" album playing as I spent an inordinate amount of time sifting through old papers, original art, drawing equipment and measuring for all the new kit, which was soon to arrive and strangely enough all throughout this period it seemed to always be sunny.

It was carefully planned, down to the last details, even to buying the corporate mugs, for fellow artists and clients to use and yet seemed to be a mad rush to complete all the preparations in time for the planned launch date.

The website was to follow the actual first Wizards Keep productions, but this was fine, as we needed products for its launch. At the time of the pre and post incorporation periods it was manic to say the least and was to pave the general way of things here at the studio/publishing house, soon to become known as The Keep.

During this five year period I have managed to catch up with a great many old friends and colleagues from both the world of comicbooks and the “real” world and meet a great many more new ones, especially through all the networking that is done here.

My wife, Margaret’s support all throughout, alongside that of my daughter, Joanne, my son, Simon, my Mum and Dad, my best mate Paul and my accountant and good friend, John Mc, as well as my other immediate close family and friends has been much needed and has often kept me going when things have taken a turn for the worse, as is the way of business, but if they could stick with it, then it was a done deal that I had to, or else all the many sacrifices made by all the above to help me achieve my dream would have been for nothing. For that I will be eternally grateful.
Then there are the other creative folks I have had the pleasure of hiring and working with along the way up to press, Joe Rubinstein, John Ridgway, Yelena Zamor, Frank Zigarelli, Sean Green, Jeff Meckley, Choi Chow, and Paul Finch.

Then there are all the countless competition entries and the winners along the way, Thomas Warne, Ellie Ainsworth, Dave Windett, Paul Eldridge, Lauren Hanratty, and Inez Kristina Baldachinno.

I would like to say a great big thank you to each and every one of you and to all the customers and fans that have joined the roller coaster that is Wizards Keep along the way, this past five years.

I couldn’t have done it without you guys!!!

The book is still on track at the moment and with recent events, which tried to serve to undermine the timely completion of it, I have decided to put all of my efforts into getting it finally finished, so the design of the book can be also finalised.

Once again thanks everyone and I hope you have enjoyed the ride up until now.

Stick with us, the best is yet to come and remember the louder you scream...

Until next time, have fun!

Tim Perkins…
June 24th 2010

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Happy Birthday...

To my daughter, Joanne’s Fiancé, Toby...

Hi Guys,

Another indulgence today, to wish my Daughter, Joanne’s Fiancé, Toby a Very Happy Birthday.

Toby is celebrating his 30th Birthday.

Have a Great Time at your Party this evening!

See you there...Karaoke...YES!!!

Until next time, have fun!

Tim Perkins…
June 19th 2010

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Al Williamson - 1931 - 2010...

A Classic Comic Illustrator...

Hi Guys,

I learnt on Monday afternoon that the world of American Comic Books lost another great artisan yesterday, with the passing of the legendary EC artist, Al Williamson.

I was never lucky enough to meet the man, himself, but know that my great friend and fellow comic writer and artist, John Ridgway had and spoke very highly of the man.

He leaves behind a wealth of great artwork and I can only hope that someone publishes all of his work as a series of books showcasing this incredibly delineated artwork. For me he was the ultimate in black and white draughtsmanship. His lush backgrounds have been an enormous influence on my own work, when producing jungle scenes, alien landscapes and incredible lost cities and for that I will be ever grateful for the opportunity to see his artwork in print over many years.

Like I said only a few weeks back, when discussing the sad passing of Frank Frazetta, his work makes him immortal and Al’s work is up there with Frank’s and Roy Krenkel’s. It was their drawing from the school of thought of the great illustrators of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century that inspired their own work.

The page of artwork I have chosen to show is typical of the work he produced throughout his career, although in later life he is known for his inking of other people’s artwork. The page is taken from a story written by Archie Goodwin, entitled Relic and appeared in Marvel’s full colour, Epic Illustrated Magazine, cover dated, December 1984.

I have to admit I have always loved seeing his work in black and white, as I felt he was the consummate black and white comic artist of the illustrative kind, and a master craftsman. It was what first drew me to the work of John Ridgway back in the early eighties, when I first saw John's work and from then on placed his work in the same category.

God Speed, Mr Williamson, I wonder if Heaven is as neat a place as the world’s you imagined for us all here on Earth?

Until next time, have fun!

Tim Perkins…
June 15th 2010

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Happy Birthday...

To my daughter, Joanne...

Hi Guys,

Another indulgence today, to make up for a lack of Blogs and wish my Daughter, Joanne a Very Happy Birthday.

Have a Great Day!

Until next time, have fun!

Tim Perkins…
June 12th 2010

Saturday, June 05, 2010

Technology and Art...

...or it’s great when it works...

Hi Guys,

Well it’s been a while since my last Blog, and it seems incredible that recent events, with all the computer related issues over the past three weeks, or so, here at the Keep, have seen any productive work done at all.

What started as a month seeing me put a hold on Worlds End for about six to eight weeks, as the main project for me, enabling me to start and complete work on a new “Spooky” children’s book, digitally painting over an illustrator friend of mine’s pencil artwork, saw the rest of the month shot to pieces as all the hard drives on one of the main computers, holding massive amounts of text-based material, go down in one fell swoop, with a total loss of work on it.

This in itself was a blow below the belt, so to speak, but no sooner had we got ourselves rebuilt, bigger and faster than before, just like Lee Majors when he played the Six-Million Dollar Man on TV back in the seventies, than we saw that what had appeared first as a minor glitch with our business broadband line, prior to the systems crash, was in fact a major issue with the newly upgraded BT systems down at the exchange, something BT had neglected to tell us as business customers and had also neglected to ensure was uncapped after the upgrade had been made .

Now anyone that has been with this Blog for more than two years will perhaps be right in thinking, Déjà Vu, because if you can remember back to January – February 2008, when we saw the same drop in connectivity and speed with our broadband line, which almost cost Wizards Keep to go under totally, you will see the exact same scenario here too.

As an e-commerce and high-end digital art publisher, the Internet is our lifeline to the real world and this last month showed us just how fickle and unstable a relationship there is between digital technology, which is great when it is working correctly and the real, tangible world in which it exists.

The loss of data, despite the set up of high-end computers and fail safes within their constructs is a massive one and if not for some of it being readily available to copy and recreate from hard copy paper files, alongside some digital backups could well have been catastrophic for the company.

There are now more external backup drives and on-line backups here at the Keep, than you can see stars in the evening skies, but lessons have been learnt the hard way that technology, no matter how much money is spent on it, is after all not infallible and when it fails, it does so in a big way.

The recent Business Broadband issues with our service provider beggar belief that no lessons were learned by BT from 2008, when the communications company forced us to be with hardly any Internet connection at all for a grand total of 35 days, which as I have said almost cost me the business and caused me no end of stress, worry and years of playing catch-up in real terms. At its worse this period saw us unable to even accept, or send rich text emails. The lesson here for BT should have been do not install new software and hardware kit without telling the customers involved that this is the case and ensuring that those customers have both any upgrades of kit within their premises, that they have the correct set up with the line(s) so that there is no drop in service, connectivity and speed...obviously some folks do not learn.

The end result of the BT issues are that exactly the same issue of BT upgrading the line and capping the actual lines into customers and then simply not uncapping the service caused us to experience the exact same symptoms. Imagine a 20,000 gallon/litre pipe being forced into a pipe with a capability of accepting 1,000 gallons/litres and then having it capped as far away from the source of the water to ensure there is no flood and you get the picture presenting itself to us here at the Keep for the second time in just over two years.

The mistake of just not uncapping the service is one which again has been costly to Wizards Keep and we are not alone, as there are other companies using the same exchange and cards at the local exchange that have had the same problems this past three weeks, or so, since the upgrade. I am personally now in the position of producing the children’s book paints in far less time than was on the cards when I accepted the commission.

I understand that in the “real” world folks make mistakes and things happen, but for this to happen again is inexcusable, especially in light of the fact the issues, which took thirty-five days to sort out last time around, still took four days to resolve. Okay this is faster than we saw in 2008, but far exceeds the 24 hour service recovery they proudly proclaim all over their website and advertising materials.

There is a massive trail of problems with our service from BT since the UK government made it the rule that BT had to treat its own customers, exactly like those of other companies that are acting as service providers for their customers, but using the same lines and BT engineers. We pay more money for a business level of service and stay with BT for a priority level of service, something we no longer get.

A lot of the problems though are purely down to either a lack of correct training for staff, incompetence, or down to the bureaucracy brought about by the government’s insistence on creating companies within BT to break it up from the inside to stop what they saw as a monopoly.

As a business customer, paying a huge sum of money per month for the privilege of being with THE UK telecommunications company we are now looking at how we could get this same level of service from a number of other business service providers, if it is so hard to actually talk to the people and get issues like this resolved in a much quicker fashion.

Even the router, which was sent out after innumerable tests both here and by BT, was first generation and the fact I was told we would get the latest generation of router if we signed up for another eighteen month period, to me, smacks of blackmail and is certainly not conducive to me staying with the telecommunications giant, in light of all the many problems including incorrect billing, reconciliation bill charges for inept set ups by BT staff, which for two years running had to see me spend several hours batting between departments with countless phone calls as I was sent from pillar to post until I spoke to someone that actually understood and rectified the mistakes of their staff and a whole list of other failings from them.

Only this week, as I was battling to make BT understand it was the same problem from 2008, which indeed it was in the end, I also had to sort out this very same billing issue, as I had received an email to the effect our yearly spend would be down and cause a reconciliation bill to be sent out to us. Luckily in the second year in which I had to sort this out I asked for an email to sent to us here at the Keep explaining all about what had happened and how BT had sorted the issue, which was their fault, out. It was fortunate that I did as it was used to explain to BT that for a third year on the trot we were looking at me having to try to resolve this matter again too.

I can only hope that when time permits after the mad rush to meet the deadline with the children’s book, which is looking lovely with my friend’s pencils that BT will answer the report I will supply them with this time around, unlike back in 2008 when as business customers we found ourselves completely ignored.

BT have a lot of work to do between now and October this year to try and ensure our continued use of their services, because unless we see an immediate change of both policy and attitude I will be using another business service provider as of later this year.

One last comment on this whole affair from me is quite simply the long winded testing and retesting with numerous people, despite having a fault reference number to quote, having to continually explain the situation despite notes being taken by the faults team, and having to wait such a long time, certainly outside of the 24 hours that BT state, when the records quite clearly show the same issues two years earlier and an understanding on the part of the customer with all the necessary tests being done and printed results to hand alongside an explanation that the same cycle of events have taken place and are continuing to do so alongside BT’s own knowledge that upgrades have taken place and that there are caps on the line, should make it immediately obvious what the root cause is and how to rectify it immediately.

The question for me is that should we expect this to happen for a third time the next time there is a major upgrade of this kind?

My thanks go out to the folks that got the situation fast tracked in the Scottish fault departments (thank goodness that the service is 24 hour) and also to the engineer who insisted that an immediate remedy was put in place by sorting out the capped line to us, because with the beauty of hindsight gained in 2008 I was able to both ascertain the potential problem and knew what to do to ensure we were sorted quicker than we were two years ago. For all the many other customers I can only hope that BT learn from this and resolve the problems quicker by listening to the customer and not just reading from a series of questions and answers read from off a protocol card set up by the bureaucracy of the company.

Hopefully all that is now behind us and we can forge forward anew. There is a massive amount of work on the children’s book still to do before the end of June and so there will be scant time left to write any new Blogs until such time as the deadlines are met, but by the time you hear from me again here I will be discussing the progress of Worlds End with you all again, as I return to the graphic novel after a two month hiatus to push on once more to complete the first volume ASAP.

Thanks to all our customers for their patience during this time and also to everyone else involved with the children’s book and most of all to my family and friends who have seen so little of me recently whilst all this was going on.

If you sent an email over the past month, or so and have not received a reply, the odds are they were lost in the aether, along with the other data loss, so please feel free to send off another and I, or one of the team, will endeavour to reply ASAP.

On another completely different and much more pleasant subject, there are major events in one’s life, such as one’s wedding and the births of one’s children and for me the next truly big one will be the wedding of my daughter, Joanne in July, which we are all looking forward to immensely...and yes of course there will be a countdown of Blogs as we get nearer to the date.

The film, The Father of the Bride is so apt and so true to how things have been here since Joanne and Toby first announced their engagement, as to make me feel a real kinship with Steve Martin’s character in it...why are there swans in the pond outside?...Now then if only I can avoid Frahnk!!!

Until next time, have fun!

Tim Perkins…
June 5th 2010