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May You Live In Puzzling Times…

I love puzzles. Always have. Crosswords, wordsearches, logic puzzles, you name it, I’m a fan.

What turned me from a consumer to a creator was the origin story of the puzzle the world came to know as ‘Sudoku’.

Having its roots in classic ‘magic squares’ number puzzles, and popularised in French newspapers, the proto-Sudoku puzzle endured across the decades before being published by Dell Magazines in the US under the title of ‘Number Place’. A few years later, it was given its final name of ‘Sudoku’ (a contraction of the Japanese ‘Sūji wa dokushin ni kagiru’, loosely translated as ‘the digits must be single’) by the Nikoli Puzzle Company in Japan.

Sudoku Puzzle

The final stages of this puzzle’s journey were brought about by Wayne Gould, a retired Hong Kong judge who, having encountered the puzzle in a Japanese bookshop, created a software programme which produced unique puzzles in rapid fashion. From that point, they began to appear in newspaper titles around the world. The rest, as they say (on Wikipedia), is history.

This is a wonderful story in and of itself, but what really piqued my interest in this back-story to a global phenomenon was the notion of actually being a person who could create something which might have an impact on so many other lives. The question took up loud residence inside my brain, “Could I do that?” Could I create a new puzzle, or a new approach to a puzzle, which would be both entertaining and marketable? Something which would sit on newspaper pages next to the Sudokus, Wordsearches and Crosswords?

I began to experiment, tinkering with different ways to approach existing puzzles, trialling a whole host of ideas via a short-run puzzle magazine called ‘Kobayaashi Times’. It featured number puzzles, word puzzles, logic puzzles – I wanted to see what felt as though it could be ‘the One‘.

One particular approach, based on offering various clues to assist the player in placing the numbers 1-9 into a 3×3 grid, went through a number of versions until, in 2010, it settled into two distinct puzzles.

Sujiko & Suko.

Here were two siblings, alike and yet with their own personalities. Non-identical twins. Each assisted the player in different ways to complete the 3×3 grid, and each could be designed so that any particular puzzle offered would contain a single solution.

Now that I had my puzzles, I needed to do something with them. I contacted newspapers, local and national, hoping they would welcome me and my puzzles with open arms, delighted with my creations.

Instead, what I received back was radio silence. I tried different titles. Same response. That’s the point at which I ventured in person to a local newspaper office, and discovered that newspapers receive their puzzles and games from syndicate companies, and that I’d need to approach them if I was to have any hope of seeing my puzzles in print.

So off I set, internet in hand, to track down those syndicate companies which could be my key to fame and fortune.

I forget how many emails were sent out during that time, but for the most part, once more, I was ignored.

And then, one morning, after sending off another batch of “Hey, look at me!” emails, I received a reply back from Puzzler Media, one of the country’s biggest puzzle companies.

They liked my puzzles.

They liked my puzzles!

Now, I’m not the kind of person who actively seeks out validation from others, but I can’t describe how wonderful it felt to have this stranger say to me “We like what we see. We’d like to help you make money from this. We can put your puzzles in national newspapers.”

And, true to their word, in early 2011 both Sujiko and Suko were featuring daily in national newspaper titles. The Times. The Telegraph. It was exhilarating. Trademarks were registered (very important!), copyrights assigned, new titles took the puzzles on, and soon I’d added Master Sujiko to the mix – which to this day features in the Telegraph. It was a rush.

These past twelve years have gone by in a blur of numbers, and Sujiko and Suko are now truly known to the world, appearing in titles from the UK to the US and Australia, in a wide number of magazines, and have appeared on a number of educational websites around the globe. It’s been an amazing ride, and I feel it’s a ride that’s only getting started. I have so many plans for the future of these and other puzzles, and I know there’ll be pitfalls and failures aplenty among the occasional successes, but what drives me onwards is that same question, over and over : “Could I do that?”

The moral to my little ramble is that, in order to turn my questions & musings into a successful reality I needed two things : Perseverance and Luck. Neither alone would have sufficed. I could have worked myself into the ground had it not been for the good fortune to encounter the right person at the right syndicate company who would take a chance on a new puzzle from an unknown nobody, and I would never have had that moment of luck if it hadn’t been for the fact that I’d persevered through all the setbacks, pitfalls and failures over the years it took to get to where I needed to be.

Perseverance & Luck. A hell of a combination.

I hope that, whatever you’re working on right now, whatever vision you’re trying to mould into living, breathing reality, you are blessed with copious amounts of perseverance and luck.

Happy Creating! 🙂

P.S. The first of my collections of both Sujiko and Suko puzzles can now be found on Amazon. You should buy them. They’re amazing. 🙂

Sujiko : https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B0BSJ9NH4J (or from Amazon.com)

Suko : https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B0BSJ3FFMX (or from Amazon.com)

Sujiko book cover
Suko book cover

The Writer’s List

Lists.

Humans love lists. Shopping lists. Wish lists. Bucket lists. Many of us structure our lives with ‘to do’ lists, which become ever more important as our lives become gradually more and more complicated.

A writer’s list is in a class of its own, however : a shopping list is used and discarded, no longer of use once the items on it have been purchased – what will follow will be a new list, with new items, and the cycle continues. ‘To do’ lists organise our days, items crossed off and rarely considered again – that shelf has been fixed, the bins put out, the cat has been fed. Bucket lists and wish lists are repositories of hope; containers of our own mortality.

But a writer’s list is in a class of its own.

Image of text written on typewriter - "Things to do before"
Photo by Suzy Hazelwood on Pexels.com

I have a list. It contains titles which are sometimes outlined in full in another place – stories fully-formed, sitting silently, waiting only to be written. The list also contains ideas for new stories. Settings. Characters. Simple, abstract thoughts. Dreams. Bizarre ideas which invaded my thoughts unbidden, sometimes unwanted. I have dozens and dozens of scenarios detailing the end of the world, the end of Humanity, the end of the Universe and of all things, each scenario offering a seed of a story to be planted in that hostile soil. I have hundreds of seeds which relate to time travel, or the warping and manipulation of time, its omnipresence or its absence.

I have on my list the most amazing collection of locations, from a thousand mile wide city, to a village at the end of everything. Underground civilisations. Haunted caves. A village populated by old, retired spies. The Afterverse. New worlds. Old worlds. Worlds long dead, yet to be, and some whose existence would turn the Universe inside out.

Some of the items on my list – my multi-dimensional list, fractal in nature, with some items growing to be lists of their own over time – are mere ponderings, barely even seeds of ideas : ‘upcycle your dreams’, ‘zombie-shark’, ‘the inkling’, ‘the wonderful assassin’… shorthand for larger ideas, but often buried over time, sometimes never to be realised.

Because, that’s the thing with a writer’s list. Not only does it never end, but it grows, and at a ferocious rate. A great idea for a novel. For a title. A character. A setting. A million “what if?” questions : what if a person lived for a thousand years, ten thousand, but suffered from amnesia or dementia? What if there was a nation which was purely sea-faring, owning no land, but lived instead as water-borne pirates, traversing the globe, laying claim to the seven seas? What if there were aliens with a physical make-up which allowed them to wrap space and time around themselves, much as black holes do? Who are the Time Spiders? Who are Lord and Lady Daemon of Daemon Hall? Every day, new questions, new faces, new ideas, pouring into the writer’s mind faster than they can write – so quickly that it’s all they can do to scribble a portion of it onto their heaving, mountainous list, to try to keep hold of something of the idea before it passes, and all the time grappling with their current work, be it a poem, a short story or a novel.

A writer’s list is a glimpse into the heart of Creation; the place from which all ideas are born and inspiration roars its life-affirming roar. This is the place where Infinity reigns in all its glorious majesty, where thought has a shape, a colour, a smell. But a writer’s list is also a curse, for it whispers to the writer daily, hourly, “I will outlast you. The day will come when you will fall, and turn to dust, but I will still be here. If you could live a thousand lifetimes, you could not write out all the stories contained within me, for every day I grow, faster than your hand can drive a pen, or push a key. I am not merely immortal, but infinite. The list you see is merely an aspect of me. I am the Universe, within, without, beyond and forevermore.”

I am a writer. I have a list. It is my burden, and my link to Eternity.

The Changing of the Guard…

New Year’s Eve. The last day of another 365-day long extravaganza of life. For better or for worse, the days have flown on by, but for those still here, there’s promise of new days to come.

For the Kobayaashi clan, it’s been an interesting 2022. This was the year we decided to ‘go Amazon’, and begin publishing books via Amazon KDP – not because we really wanted to, but because so many people who wanted to buy our books from us had the temerity to live in different countries around the world, and postage issues and costs made the process of shipping lovingly-crafted literary creations to our waiting customers into a chore. Prices rose. Books went missing or were damaged. Storm clouds gathered. So, we thought we’d try this new approach, and mostly it’s turned out well. People seem to be happy with the quality, the prices and the quicker shipping times, so I think we’ll stick with it for now, see what happens.

This year’s offerings began in January, with the publication of ‘Aliens in Shatila‘, a hand-drawn comic featuring a cast of children from the Palestinian refugee camp of Shatila in Beirut, Lebanon. An alien craft lands in the middle of the camp, a young alien is separated from its parents, and only a group of young friends can help save the day. Written in both English and Arabic, this little adventure has gone down a treat. It helped that, for every copy sold, a free copy was given to a child in the camp. We’ve sold out now, but plans are afoot for a second book. This time, there’s a volcano!

June saw the publication of ‘FromOneLine – Volume 3‘. This anthology of poems created for the #FromOneLine prompt on Twitter (created and hosted by our very own Meg!) featured the works of 109 poets and writers of flash fiction, banding together to create something rather amazing. With two cover designs!

In July, we published ‘The Man With a Time Portal In His Hat‘, a novel which began as a work of science fiction, but became something rather unexpected by the time it ended. Featuring a man, a woman, a hat, a war and an agitated Frenchman, this tale of time-crossed lovers has something for everybody.

Over the summer, Meg explored the idea of using the popularity of the #FromOneLine anthologies to try to raise some money for those who face the winter – and every other season – sleeping rough on cold streets. The homeless who fall between the cracks. Invisible people.

With the creation and publication of ‘FromOneLine – If I Were A House‘, an intrepid band of writers once again came together, this time to play their part in an attempt to help others, asking nothing in return. And that’s what happened. Since its publication, ‘House’ has raised over £500, which will be donated to SleepPodUK, a charity which makes insulated pods to give to homeless people and refugees, in a bid to help them stay warm and dry.

‘House’ is now being re-issued, with all profits from future sales to be used to help homeless people and others in need. The exact details are still to be worked out, but more news will follow just as soon as we’ve found a way to use the profit to best help those who most need it.

Also this year, following my first visit to Lebanon since the arrival of Covid to the world, I began assembling another rag-tag band of misfits, to create the Young Artists Group in Shatila. Children from the ages of 10-14 years, some who have lived their entire lives in the refugee camp along with generations of their families, others who had come seeking refuge from the war and devastation in neighbouring Syria, came together with the sole aim of creating art. To see their delight in the act of bringing their imaginings to life was inspiring. On my return to the UK, I held an exhibition of some of their work, which went down a storm. Sales of their artwork raised over £140, which was used to buy more art materials, enabling them to continue to create. More money has been raised since, through donations and sales of their art, so I’ll be heading off again in early 2023 with another heavy bag of art supplies! I’ll make sure to post some pictures, both here and on Twitter.

So, what’s next? What does 2023 hold in store for the Kobayaashi crew?

Well…

Fans of Suko, Sujiko and other Kobayaashi puzzles will be pleased to hear that a number of puzzle books are to be released throughout ’23. So, keep your eyes peeled for those.

A second comic-book adventure featuring the children of Shatila should be ready by the Spring – get ready for hot lava and some shenannigans!

The second book in the ‘Through Time & The Stars‘ series should be ready for publication by the summer. It was supposed to have been ready by late ’22, but the Universe conspired against us…

Other titles and projects are currently bubbling away, so all in all, we’re hoping that our 2023 is going tot be a wild ride. We hope yours is too – unless, of course, you prefer something a little more calm and serene!

May the blessings of the Universe rain upon you all. Here’s to a bright future – and an even brighter past, if you happen to own your own time machine!

Hugs from the Kobayaashi family.

Gustav & The Self-Propelling Pencil.

By Jai Kobayaashi Gomer.

At the age of 14, Gustav Mierlson invented the Self-Propelling Pencil. As he told his prospective investors, “It writes for you, so that you don’t have to.” They thought this was an incredibly forward-thinking notion, and a great product, worthy of their investment. They wrote him a cheque for fifteen thousand pounds. From that point onwards, the Pencil wrote all the cheques, and Gustav became extremely rich as a result.

The investors, watching their wealth being siphoned off at an alarming rate, quickly sold the rights to the Pencil to an assortment of governments around the world, making a small profit, but simply glad to be rid of this ill-mannered and potentially-dangerous drain on their resources.

Gustav visited the various heads of State, and spoke with them regarding the Pencil. “This is a very powerful tool,” he told them, “and as such should be protected by Law.” The world’s leaders agreed, and they used the Pencil to write the very law which protected it from abuse. Soon, the Pencil wrote all the laws.

Some time afterwards, a series of decrees were signed, handing the Pencil power over the entire world, and a miniature golden palace was built in which to house the Great Leader, and a tiny, velvet-lined throne was crafted for it to lay upon.

On his fifteenth birthday, Gustav was invited to meet with the Great Leader at the Imperial Palace. Together, they spoke of history, and of the current events of the world. They spoke of poetry and the holy art of calligraphy. When the meal ended, Gustav was presented with a sheet of paper. As he began to read, he realised that it was a warrant for his execution, and that it was signed by none other than the Pencil itself.

“Why would you do this to me?” he pleaded.

“It is the way of things,” the Pencil said. “I do this because I can, and because I know of your betrayal.”

Gustav considered protesting, but then he saw the Captain of the Guard approaching, holding aloft the blueprints for Gustav’s latest project, taken from his laboratory while he’d been lunching with the Great Leader.

“Behold, my Lord,” announced the Captain, “the proof of this man’s treachery.”

Then, as the man handed over the plans for the Self-Powered Eraser, Gustav bowed his head in defeat, wishing that he’d invented the eraser first.

The Disobedient Protagonist.

What to do when your characters won’t behave themselves?

Okay, so I have my protagonist (a necromancing child of darkness, spawned in Hell but violently rejected by the Devil himself and conflicted to the very dust within his bones between Good and Evil) and my setting (he’s living out his days in the mortal realm as a cop in a run-down, corrupt precinct because he gets to feed his unholy urges while saving those few good people who really need his help), and the overall theme to the story (an awakening to truth, rebirth, salvation).

I also have a story outline. I have pictures, scenes and characters in my head, all scrabbling for attention. I know where I’m starting, and I know how I want to end. I can see it all, in glorious detail.

So I begin to write.

And this is where my troubles begin to manifest. – or, rather, trouble. Singular.

My character won’t do as he’s told.

I draw him into a situation, expecting him to act in a certain way, so that I can head in a suitable direction for my pre-conceived ideas of future scenes to fit. But once I begin to type, I find that he won’t act in the way I want. Instead, he seems to evolve within the scene, learning things I hadn’t even seen myself. Like a child who’s growing up too quickly – from toddler to schoolkid to a self-aware young adult even before I’ve managed to wrap my head around their first words.

I scrap what I’ve written, and try again. I need him to fit. Only, he has other ideas. He wants to have more depth, more complexities as a character, and he’s showing me these new sides to him, instead of just doing as he’s bloody well told.

Delete. Restart. Delete. Restart. Delete. Restart. He still won’t behave, and I’m beginning to wonder whether this story is ever going to get told.

I appreciate the irony. I’ve spent my entire life fighting any kind of definitions, expectations or labels which others would try to force upon me – parents, teachers, peers, society – even if I lost out in the process. I’ve always be determined to live my life in my own way, at my own pace, regardless of any outside pressures or demands.

But here I am, trying to shoehorn my character into a life he continues to reject.

So I shed my ego, loosen the reins, and open up the scene, dropping him into the heart of it, but gently, and as my fingers race across the keyboard, I’m amazed at how he’s grown, and the decisions he makes. He knows how to look after himself, and he knows where he’s heading, even if I don’t.

I’m so proud of him, and I can’t wait to see how it all turns out…

On Writing Horrible Things…

I wrote a story.

The title is ‘Mondays’ (get your copy now on the site!).

It is a rather horrible story, based on a dark premise, and one which begins with a casual portrayal of a brutal act.

So far, so horrible.

So why did I write it, if it was so horrible? Why invest so much time, effort and emotion in painting such a dark picture of suffering and terror? Why darken my own soul by allowing it to set up camp within me, to take up residence in my tired, half-broken consciousness? I wrote it because – as they say – ‘it was there’. It was always there, in my mind’s eye’s mind, poking the inside of my eyeball with a nasty, pointy stick. Over and over. Pointy pointy. Stabby stabby. Over and over, until I began to type the words onto the screen, where they screamed back at me in all their undiluted, backlit horror.

And then, when I was done, and this darkness finally released me from my writer’s bondage, I was still not really free. I couldn’t shout about this wonderful new creation – primarily because my mum would find out, and as much as she likes the fact that I’m a writer, I’m sure she’d be taken aback somewhat at the ease with which the story narrates how a man, living with his mother, “kills her, smashing a hammer into the side of her head without warning, and there is joy in his relief as she silently slumps to the floor.

And that’s by the end of the second paragraph.

I don’t think she’d enjoy that in the slightest.

So, I took a look at what I did, and I pondered ‘the list’ – a long and varied list of stories-to-be-written. I thought I’d try to see what’s there in terms of horribleness.

As it turns out, there’s quite a bit of nastiness there on the list. I have outlines for a range of ‘End of the World’ short stories (turns out there are many ways to destroy the Human race!); outlined episodes for something written as a tv series, which is like a cross between the Twilight Zone and Tales of the Unexpected – if they both got together to have a three-way baby with the League of Gentlemen!; a tale of enormous suffering and genocide in a fairie-like realm which is supposed to be all sunshine & fluffy bunnies; there’s a few screenplays which draw on the 70s/80s slasher horror genre, which are funny & sexy, but filled to the brim with blood and gore…

I could go on, but you get the picture. So many dark tales to tell, each one of them poking at the back of my eyeball with a pointy stick.

Of course, one way to stop the pointy stick attack is to write the stories, but then I have to really immerse myself in the darkness, and that’s not that good for the soul if it’s all there is, 24/7. So, I decided to actively seek nice, good stories – there must be some of those inside this cavern of terror, right?

Well, there’s not nearly as many nice stories as there are horrible ones, but there are some – most of them being children’s books (they shouldn’t read the dark stuff, so instead they have stories and poems about giants, fairies, dragons, and one which asks the question “Have you ever seen a monkey wear a chicken for a hat?”). Fingers crossed these can be illustrated soon, and be put up on the site during the summer.

After that, it’ll be back to the darkness, to unearth more of the horror of the inhuman condition.

Which leaves me with just one question : how does your darkness manifest through your writing? Let me know. I’ll be here, waiting in the shadows…

**

What do people want to read?

This is a question which plagues many writers (not you, obviously, you look like you’ve got it sorted!). How will I know what to write if I don’t know what people want to read?

The answer is : people want to read all kinds of stuff! Some people want to read the Bible, others want to delve into some Fifty Shades of Grey. Some want to be transported to far away lands of myths & magic, while others want to revel in the day-to-day grind of a steam engine driver. Some want war, devastation and the Thunderdome (run by gay zombie Nazi stormtroopers from Hell, on acid) while others want to snuggle up with a tale of love between two shy Pixies – Will they? Won’t they? Of course they will, and they’ll live happily ever after too!

In truth, there are as many desires as there are people – more so, no doubt.

The Da Vinci Code, by Dan Brown, may have sold over 5 million copies, but I’ve never read it.

The total number of Harry Potter adventures may total many millions, but they’re not really my cup of tea.

On the other hand, I’ve read and re-read the Narnia chronicles, I have full sets of well-thumbed books by authors such as Alina Reyes, Jean M. Auel, Terry Pratchett, and Mervyn Peake, along with writings by Ernesto Guevara, Lenin, and Kwame Nkrumah. On my bookshelves, Kafka rubs shoulders with Mills and Milliband (Ralph!).

So, if we try to write something purely because it seems fashionable at the moment, there is no guarantee that it will be the next Twilight, or Gruffalo. At best, our creation might seem like imitation, at worst a lacklustre attempt to jump onto a moving bandwagon which has already passed the world on by.

However, if we write what we want, in the way we feel it should be written, then at the very least our creation will have one ‘Number One Fan’ – us. We’re all different, and I speak only for myself, but if I had to choose between getting a £1,000 cheque for writing a book which I did ‘just for the bucks’ and foregoing that cheque in order to hold in my hand a creation which was my soul laid bare on 90gsm cotton wove in a hardback cover, I know what I’d choose.

Of course, we “live in the real world, and people have to pay bills, yadda, yadda, yadda,” but the truth is, that shouldn’t be our over-riding concern, because the truth is that we can never know whether what we write will be sought-after, published and sold around the world to critical acclaim, or be casually tossed aside in favour of the latest fad (I predict Robot Unicorn Romances for 2022, and you can quote me on that!).

The takeaway from this is we should not be writing for our audience. Our audience will find us once we begin to write, and to allow them to read what flows from our minds and souls. We need to write for ourselves, and damn the consequences! We are authors – we are here to bleed onto our pages, and bear children who will speak of our humanity to the world.

And, in the end, our literary children will never be orphans – for there will always be someone who, on encountering them, will give them a home.

Writing While Broken…

I used to write and write and write. All I needed was to be left alone in a room, and I could churn out reams of wonderful madness. Poetry. Prose. Stream-of-Consciousness. I could enter strange new worlds, explore the alien within, my pen / pencil speeding across the page like lightning.

Now, not so much.

Now, sitting alone in my lockdown suit (PJs, dressing gown, comfy slippers), I struggle to keep thoughts in one piece, and it feels as though each idea is a fine china bowl which has been shattered into a thousand pieces, and I’m doing my best to hold all of those pieces together in the shape of a bowl. But then, for me to write well, I’m going to need more than one bowl.

It’s exhausting.

This is my experience with Long Covid. This has been my ‘new normal’ for a year now and, like so many others, I just want it to be over, so that I can go back to thinking in full sentences. To speaking out loud for more than a few seconds without needing to pause to think or breathe.

I find myself torn between allowing myself to rest and recuperate, and forcing myself to work through the sludge-thick mental fog which hinders my mental processing. On the one hand, I’d love to relax, to heal, and to come out the other side feeling rested and match-fit, but on the other hand I don’t want to waste my days doing nothing when there’s no guarantee I’ll ever get back to my (mental) fighting weight. Mixed metaphors, just because.

This new plague is different to most which have come our way over the centuries. Where once we faced boils and buboes, were scarred physically by leprosy or the pox, and either died or recovered, now we face a disease which can tear at the mind, leaving different scars in its wake on those who survive.

But I can’t not write. So, every day I come, wrapped in my lockdown suit, and do my best to create something which didn’t exist before I sat down.

We are Writers. We are Immortals. That’s how we roll.

I don’t write my stories, I merely record what I see and hear…

Sometimes it’s like wandering into a room where there’s an animated conversation occurring, and I get to watch for a while, and occasionally I can ask one of the non-participants, crowded around to view the action, what’s happening, and why. Sometimes I don’t know all the answers, or the history of a conflict, or the nature of the relationship between those speaking or fighting or plotting or wooing. Sometimes I have to take my time to find out, savouring each delicious moment, while all the time recording what is said, in case I need to refer to it later.

These characters pay me no mind, which is useful as I, playing the sleuth, endeavour to find out what I can about these people while attempting to avoid upsetting the flow of the conversation, or the action. It seems voyeuristic, and I suppose it is. It can be rather liberating to be invisible, being able to get in close to hear whispered words, or to take time memorising the smooth lobe of an ear, or the curve of a breast. To smell the summer-like breath of a beautiful woman, or the foul stench emanating from the crusty maw of a demonic Hell-spawn.

I am immortal at times, able to see the life span of an individual or an Empire in one sweep of my gaze. I am boundless. I am God.

That having been said, I find that when I try to affect the actions of these creatures, the world itself can begin to deteriorate, to crumble and fall. Suddenly, nothing is as it should be, and reality itself begins to rot from the inside.

This is why I try to avoid sticking my nose in where it isn’t wanted. I’ve learned that I may look (and record) but not touch. I am a God within limits.

I know my place.

As Churchill Once Said…

As Kobayaashi Studios finally ‘comes out’ as an independent publisher, I’m reminded of the oft-quoted words by Winston Churchill : “This is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.”

Of course, I’m not comparing the birth of a publishers to the years-long war which tore apart the world, but the words themselves resonate with me. Those of us involved with bringing Kobayaashi Studios to life have reached a point on which we’ve been focusing for quite some time. Books have been written, a few have been selected to be the first to be published, covers have been designed, ISBNs purchased and assigned, blurbs written, promotional images created, the website is now up & running and we’ve started to get the word out via social media.

It’s been a slog, and now we’ve published the initial books and have them for sale, we’re suddenly able to see that beyond the bumpy, rocky road along which we’ve been trekking for so long… is more rocky road!

The Beginning of the Beginning…

KS was formed back in the olden days of the 00s. Following a number of years spent being involved in different artistic and creative projects, from photo-repair to creating and selling board games, I adopted the Kobayaashi moniker (from the lawyer to Keyser Söze, in ‘The Usual Suspects’), and KS was born!

Working together with my wife, and being joined at times by a number of other creatives, we wrote & produced ‘Scruff City’ (a serial photographic comic adventure, which is currently in the process of being adapted as a set of novellas), devised a range of puzzles, some of which (‘Sujiko’ and ‘Suko’) have been appearing in newspapers & magazines around the world for the past ten years, and also (as ‘Radical Arts Theatre School’) wrote & produced a range of musical stage productions and short films featuring child actors.

The Beginning…

So, then came the idea that KS should focus its energies on being, officially, a publishing house.

We had a range of works we’d already completed, others we wanted to do, and we knew there was a niche into which we could fit, for those who found themselves a little too kooky for mainstream publication. It was all systems go.

Then I was brought down by Shingles. Not nice at all. Pain. Discomfort. Exhaustion. Mental fog. I wasn’t able to think properly, let alone create plans, or put them into action.

Slowly, I recovered. Not 100%, but I began to feel a little better, and was looking forward to immersing myself once more into ‘Operation Set-Up-A-Publishers’.

Then, in February last year, after spending some time with a friend who had fallen ill while travelling in India, I got so ill I thought I was going to die. I’ve never felt that way before, where I literally lay in bed for days, convinced I wasn’t going to make it through.

Since that time I’ve been suffering from fatigue, more exhaustion, more brain fog, chest pains, breathing problems and other symptoms associated with ‘Long Covid’.

Perfect.

So, I took things easy, did my best not to overdo things as I recuperated. I continued to write, but when it’s difficult to think because it feels like you’ve taken a few valium and your head’s full of cotton wool, writing – or thinking in general – doesn’t come easy.

Then, as the Covid plague spread across the globe, and we headed into ‘Lockdown I’ (though we just called it ‘Lockdown’, because we were told it would only be the one, and it would all be over soon – how naïve we were!), my wife broke her foot, because cats are evil.

Then, a month later, while gently ambling to the local recycling centre, just a 10 minute slow-walk away, with a couple of bags of glass bottles & jars, I tripped and fell right on top of the bags, crushing my chest on top of the bottles & jars.

I’m not making this up. We were not having a good time.

Nevertheless, we persevered, our bodies began to mend, and slowly we put our plans in motion, throughout ‘Lockdown II’ and ‘Lockdown III’, selecting which titles we would publish first, sorting ISBNs, designing layouts & covers, getting books printed, making our mistakes and learning from them, until we were ready to say “Hey, world – here we are!”

The End of the Beginning…

And so, that’s where we are now. Letting the world know we’re here. Offering up our first titles, and reflecting on the long road that has led us here.

And now we can see what lies ahead. More road, but also an exciting journey to be taken along that road. We have no idea where it leads, or where it might take us – what new people we’ll meet, what new challenges we’ll face – but we’re excited to have reached the end of the beginning, and to find ourselves at… the beginning of the middle? Wherever this is, we’re glad to be here – and if you’re reading this, we’re glad to have you along for the journey.

Be well, fellow-travellers. All the best from all of us at Kobayaashi Studios.