Looking back on 2018

As Christmas and the New Year approaches, and most of us are trying to get by doing as little actual work at work as possible, it’s time to reflect on what has been done these last twelve months. For me personally, it’s been a mixed bag as regards work and some health issues, but overall not a bad one.

I haven’t mentioned it until now, but last November I suffered a prolapsed disc in my spine. I didn’t know it at the time (although I had my suspicions) and just thought I’d pulled a muscle. I wish I could say I did it doing something incredibly exciting, like trying to pull off a 1080 spin whilst snowboarding in the Alps, or it happened during qualification trials for the GB gymnastics team, but I didn’t.

I did it when I sneezed too hard.

Yep, that’s all it took. That and sneezing while halfway levering myself out of bed at an awkward angle. I got a sudden sharp pain in my back, which felt like a muscle going, then a few days later the shooting pains down my leg started – typical sciatica symptoms. I read up online to give yourself eight weeks to let it resolve normally. It didn’t…

My GP told me to go see the community physio, who only needed to examine me for a few minutes before he was certain I had a disc prolapse. Then during the middle of January things got much worse.

I remember waking up – as normal my back was fine after having some rest the night before – then getting up and feeling the usual morning pain start. I didn’t mind this, it was bearable and went after a few minutes. Except this morning it wasn’t bearable, in fact I can definitely say it was the worst pain I’d ever felt in my life.

Now I always thought it was a bit of a cliche to say that a pain feelt like being stabbed, but that was before I’d truly felt nerve pain. It genuinely felt like someone had rammed a sharp knife directly into my spine, and was then taking a second knife and dragging the pointy end up and down the back of my leg. I had to hang on to the dressing table in the bedroom to keep my balance and was stuck there for twenty minutes, wobbling in agony, gasping in air unable to even speak, before the pain subsided.

This went on for three weeks, to the point I dreaded getting up out of bed as I knew this pain was coming. Oh, and at the same time the lower half of my right leg started to go numb.

So yes, it was back to the GP and I got an urgent appointment for an MRI.

First convention of the year happened thanks to True Believers. Given my back problems the previous month I wasn’t even sure I’d make this, but I got up even earlier than usual, so I could let the morning knifing subside in time. The convention went pretty well actually – better than the previous year thanks to a nicer table location – although it was the only event this year where I didn’t break even.

Middle of the month I got my MRI! By this point, the morning agonies were thankfully abating. I still had pain, but not as severe as before, although I’d been left with numbness in my right leg. It took me a while to get laid down on the trolley (I had to move in very specific, robotic ways at this point to avoid pain) and spent the next fifteen minutes lying there listening to what sounded like minimalist German techno as the machine got to work.

It would be two months before I had an appointment to go and see the specialist again to get the results, but in the meantime I went to see the hospital physio.

I started physio this month. Even the most gentle exercises caused pain, so I had to take it very carefully to begin with. I also wasn’t able to sit for too long (or stand for that matter) as the pain would gradually increase the longer I remained stationary. The only relief I got was lying in bed on my left side, legs bent up in the foetal position, which I had to do several times a day to ease the pressure on the nerve.

And of course, all the time this was going on, I was trying to finish off the art on part 2 of The Murder Club as well as continuing with my level design work on the racing game GRIP.


Disc Prolapse

Not my actual MRI

I finally saw the MRI of my back. I saw my lovely intervertebral discs all the way down from my neck, looking like perfect little oval buns fresh from the oven, until you reached the one at the base of my spine, which looked like someone had angrily smashed their fist into a bacon roll. Well, that explained things.

So I was put on the list for a nerve root block procedure, which is an injection of an anti-inflammatory into the spine next to the nerve that’s being squeezed by the bulging disc – the hope being to reduce the irritation that’s causing the pain. However, this month I did get sensation back in my leg, so that was something positive!

This was also the month I started the Kickstarter for The Murder Club Part 2. I went for a smaller print run, which is always recommended for second issues, and therefore a smaller total amount. I also managed to fit in Leam Comic-Con and sold 7 copies of Part 1 in a freezing cold church.

So I got my nerve root block. Thankfully I’d been improving over the last few weeks, and had gone up a difficulty level on my physio exercises, so I hoped that this would be the procedure to set me off onto full recovery.

Omniscient narrator of my life: “It did absolutely nothing.”

What did work, however, was my Kickstarter, which ended successfully at the beginning of the month! I now had the cash to do a proper print run. All I had to do was finish the art 🙂

I had a back setback this month. I sneezed again.

I’d been terrified of sneezing since last year, always carrying tissues ready to blow my nose to stop an imminent nasal explosion. This one wasn’t even violent – I did three gentle sneezes in a row, and on number three I felt a ‘pop’, then pain. And this was in the morning before my next physio appointment. I carefully made my way there in agony, and she decided not to do a full exam as it was clearly buggered again.

I didn’t get the January morning pains after this incident, instead I got far worse nerve irritation to the point I could barely walk. I used to be able to briskly walk around the block in 15-20 minutes. Now it took me 10 minutes to limp 40 metres to the end of the road then back.

Despite this, and spending ever more time curled up in pain in bed, I managed to finish the art for The Murder Club. See, there’s always a win 😀


TMC Part 2 Cover

TMC Part 2 Cover

Finishing the art last month meant I could get together versions for proofs and prepare for the release of The Murder Club Part 2. It all went to plan and went live everywhere at the end of the month.

I just managed to get the print versions in time for Edge-Lit Derby too, which went well. This one is more of an SF/Fantasy convention than a comic-con, but there was still a lot of interest.

This month I had some time off after finishing 18 months of comic art. There’s always a weird feeling after completing a long project that you’re being suddenly lazy, when in fact you’re just adjusting to things being ‘normal’ again.

And I was put on the surgery list for a microdiscectomy. That’s when they open up your back and, using tiny instruments, cut away pieces of the bulging disc to relieve pressure on the nerve. It was only as a backup however, as I was still gradually improving with physio.


It was ICE Birmingham this month and yet another con that finished in the black! I don’t think it was quite as busy this year – last year was heaving thanks to Charlie Adlard (of The Walking Dead fame) being the featured artist – but I did better, I think thanks to having both parts of The Murder Club finished.

My theory is that people are less likely to take a chance if you only have the first issue or first volume of something finished. If there’s an issue two, or an entire volume complete, then potential buyers know you have the ability to finish a story and they won’t be left hanging.


New Street Stories cover

New Street Stories cover

This was by far the busiest month for cons, with three going on. The first was the launch event for New Street Stories – a collection of stories set on and around New Street in Birmingham, and all written by members of New Street Authors, a collective of self-published writers from the Midlands. My story was “Silver Star and Pumpkin Girl” – a short featuring Hayley from the Powerless Series of superhero novels who meets up with her childhood friend Alice in Birmingham, before getting mixed up with a dangerous escaped criminal on the streets.

The other two appearances were Nottingham Comic Con and BristolCon. At the former, there was no fire alarm evacuation incident this year, and at the latter I did a reading and was on a panel, both of which went well.



This month was mainly whingeing about yet again failing to get a Comic Village table at MCM ComicCon Birmingham. This is my local convention (literally just up the road) and I used to go every year until they decided to start curating the tables in the Comic Village. Even telling them I had a new release out and sending links to my work didn’t get me in! I’ll keep trying, but I haven’t much hope of ever appearing there now.

The other big event of this month was that GRIP was released! I’d been designing tracks for this combat racing game since the middle of last year, so it was good to see it finally come out. Being the first game I’d worked on since going freelance it was great to see this on the digital and physical shelves.


My back is now stronger than it was last year. I can’t quite bench press two nurses yet, but that’s my goal 😉 At least there’s barely any pain when I exercise now, so that’s a huge improvement.

As for what I’m working on next, you can see my previous posts for the full details, but I’m still writing Powerless book #3, working on a short narrative game and doing a couple of other freelance game projects – so I’m not bored 😀

Into 2019

All that remains to be said is “Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year” to anyone who reads this. I hope this year was good and that next year you’ll be able to work on all the projects that mean the most to you.

Take care,