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Getting the professionals – my first cover with a hired cover artist!

Getting a book out to the general public these days is exciting, fun but also hard and plentiful work. Having self-published a short poetry book and a book of short stories, I am engaged in putting out the first of a series of novels based on my paranormal investigators, Austerley and Kirkgordon.

My first two books were completed by myself on a shoestring budget and were self-edited and the cover produced using my own and friend’s photographs.

I used Createspace’s excellent tools to produce these and you can see the results on my website, amazon, createspace or at a number of other outlets. But for my novels I wanted to produce something more.
The idea for driving the quality of the books came when I attended a one day workshop with Ben Galley, self-published author and entrepreneur. Ben showed the ways and the means to achieving a book or e-book which looked and read like a novel you would expect from a top 5 publisher. I’ll not steal his thunder check out his website for more!

From various options I choose to hire a cover artist from Reedsy, a website where you can pitch your cover idea and receive quotes and ideas for the work in consideration. That’s when it hits you, we’re now talking real money and investment in your dream. But then this is a business I’m engaging in, isn’t it? From the returned offers I choose Jake Clarke, an american artist. Jake’s can-do, proactive attitude complimented his reasonable pricing. There were other artists whose art work was also of a high standard but Jake engaged into my vision of a cover and I believe this is key to achieving what you want from your cover. To give the artist the flexibility to use their talent but also to steer their creative juices towards your dream cover.

Jake put forward a few cover ideas and then drew some for me when I gave feed-back on these ideas. As someone whose drawing ability is less than adequate, having the images realized helped me steer Jake. Jake also read significant parts of my novel and a prelude I have written. He even gave me this cover for my prelude!

The first return on a book cover was excellent, showing his design talent, but also produced an exchange which took the cover from an good first stab to what I wanted. Characters were honed and logos adapted. Graphics from other designs were incorporated.

With Jake in America and myself in the UK, he would work while I slept so that on waking I desperately checked my email for the next update. Covers are such a thrill in development but to see your book realized as it will be on a shelf or reading device is amazing. You can talk about your novel, maybe even read a bit but everyone wants to see your cover work! You can see the result. Jake did me proud!


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The Shock of Finding Something Wholesome

It blindsided me totally. Came at me in a subtle request of male bonding. Not wholly the domain of islanders but certainly a constant past-time and previously for some, a way of life acquiring the sea’s harvest became something to treasure. In the hurly-burly, a few hours on the edge of a cliff launching small hooks into the rippling water has provided some, not all, of my peaceful moments this last year.

So what is the joy found in this most pedestrian of hunts? The sounds are the first calm to rub your shoulders. There’s the lap of the sea against the exposed rocks, rhythmic, constant ebbing reminding me of the continuance of this life. The hopeful cry of the gulls as they eye up your successes, robbers on the wing. Snorts of indignation from that seal who always make an appearance when the fish are about. Closing my eyes, I drift off into a challenging composition of harmonies, matched and co-ordinated by that greatest creator.

In a deep draught, I breathe that crisp salt air, in winter a reviving shock to my lungs, in summer a more moist, more potent soak of happiness. The smell of captured mackerel lying freshly “priested” with my inadequate mallet. Even that oil scent of the ferries fumes when it passes by.

Then there’s the challenge standing into the wind, working the reel and presenting a chiseled chin to the wide beyond as the rain lambasts your face. Spray soaking your boots and waterproofs and that sea salt taste that makes the table variety pale to insignificance. Days when the buffet dries your cheeks out but refreshes your mind. And those few but most glorious of days, standing sheltered with the warmth of sun on your face, stripped to t-shirt and feeling the sweat under my cap as I work the line.

Those days bring the glint of sun onto the water and also the perk. Enticing the fish towards their doom and my stomach, hopefully a pollack (never a coley for the wife) but more than usual that dumbest of fish, the mackerel. The sea’s easily led populace casing whatever is shiny, whatever new; feathers, fishes, squids, maybe even just a bare hook such is their nonsense. The good days when the bag is heavy as you trek back to the car, happily complaining about the weight behind you, proudly telling others that there’s plenty about. Reeling the stories of seeing that silvery blur tugging and pulling away from you, three, four or maybe that magic five at a time.

But best of all to sit on the beach with impromptu fire under a grill and the fish turning into that parlor white, flesh becoming succulent, or dry if left too long. The warmth of the blaze, the smell of the smoke, the nostril’s equivalent of a husky voice and the sharing of a catch amongst friends.

They always say start with a positive and so the island showed me the beauty and joy of fishing. Like life, with its disappointments and successes and constant girding to rejoin the fight, fishing lifted me back to life when I was floundering beneath the waves. Maybe it was the unseen creator who stood with me and showed me again the wonders of this world. So before I tell of anything bleak I say thank you for the island and its partnership with my fishing.

Originally posted 24 April 2015 on Blogspot

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What do you Burn?

This week, our environmental (certainly by comparison with the devices that formerly heated our house) wood pellet boiler stopped. In classic comic timing, it also stopped just as we started to get frost on the ground. Through insight, or possibly sheer luck, we have a back-up stove which is capable of heating our whole house but with coal. Quickly it was brought into action while we waited until Monday to call the fitters to remedy our problem.
Whilst the whole episode was a pain in the behind, it got my old ticker thinking: How do you keep the writing fire burning? I’m not talking about writer’s block but rather making sure the fuel is there in the back boiler of the mind so that the creative burning processes up front are not starved! How does one ensure an ever ready supply of ideas and situations to colour our minds?
Writing, by its nature, can be such a solitary pursuit. Ideas are often rampaging around our heads while the outside world is blissfully unaware of the turmoil inside. So I tried to distil what it is that supplies the fuel to myself. I have come up with three items, which are by no means the only sources available. They just happen to be the uptakes that I require the most.

1. Observation – Just sitting and watching people. A dangerous pursuit to be sure and one best achieved at a distance. The stories of lives generated in my head by looking at people’s actions without knowing their purpose is like my own personal mine. And its being attacked with charges, not pick-axes! Sometimes I can sit for an hour or two happily telling the story of the blank canvas in front of me. It’s similar to when they made the old cartoons. There were different layers in each frame, one of which was just the character on its own. This is what I see and my mind fills in the background. No doubt it would be a disturbing reveal to the poor subject of my thoughts! Little did they realise they were hiding from the spawn of an ancient demon, summoned by a cult of long and twisted history!

2. Read Real Life – There is nothing weirder than real life. If I think of all the bizzare fictional stories I have read, none compare to the weird happenings we get in real life. So sometimes it is justified to read those trashy tales in either glitzy magazines or the obscure “enquirers”. Often when I come up with an idea that I think is either unique, or just !way out there”, a review of things I have read within the last six months shows where that idea came from. There is nothing new under the sun it seems!

3. New Places – For atmosphere and ambience creativity, you cannot beat a trip to somewhere you have never been. It doesn’t need to be exotic, nor popular. This is because it’s the little details that you pick up and use in another vista that matters. Like cartoonists we build layer upon layer with our locations, each frame drawn from something we have seen, smelt, touched, tasted or heard. Like how even the sea air varies depending on which beach you are on. A little change does you good!
These are my three bags of coal, lumps of wood or pellets to burn. What are yours?

Originally posted 29 November 2014 on Blogspot

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Where They Lead We will Follow!

Do your characters behave? Do they follow their profiles and those wonderful storyboards that you have placed in your rough notes? Mine don’t. They are getting out there with a mind of their own! I start to write and then for some reason the words just take off in a totally unexpected direction. It’s good that I write fiction lest I change the history of the world.
The difficulty is not in the initial write, which is more often than not great fun. The problems arise when I start rereading chapters and realise that my continuity has been somewhat shot to pieces. Vital pieces of pre-information have to be inserted into previous chapters and often certain lines or actions obliterated. Scars are formed and wounds miraculously healed. Hidden objects become not so hidden and crucial devices are now laid out to the scrapyard, possibly hoping for a part in a further adventure.
I guess what I am trying to say in all this (and as a writer hopefully with some alacrity Рbut maybe not) is that these masterpieces we write are not just dead words of a pointless tale. To us writers, they are our children, our window boxes Рcultivated  and replanted until they bear true fruit. Even when published we want to rein them back in. Taking our favourites through difficult times become emotional milestones and yet we have never even left the room, or coffee shop in my case.
One must contend though that this is a good thing. It is actually the means by which most of our feelings and passions become real on the page. To live these moments with our impetuous, scallywag characters makes them true and not a two dimensional fraud. So although I laugh at writers who cry and shout at their characters (and also at myself) for getting too personal about these children of ours, I say this: Let them run wild and free, to take me to the places I could never get to on my own!

Originally posted 21 November 2014 on Blogspot

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The Dangers of Character Formation from Friends!

So you are writing this new novel and thinking about characters. You get the feel of a person in your head, sketch out their looks to your mind’s eye and then pick up on their moods and tastes. Then you think of a name. Oops. You just described someone you know.
One of the hardest things is when you take bits and pieces of people and blend them together to create a character. At times I find myself switching into the moods and modes of my friend or colleague rather than the character in the book. Disassociating real life from the book can be fretful, especially when you have been engrossed in the book for hours at a time. Worse yet, you start calling your friends by the name of their characters. And then they answer back! This way madness lies.
So in order to prevent friend-character intertwining observe these simple rules.
1. Never take characteristics of people you have strong feelings for! You may talk to them like they can reciprocate these feelings! Bad if they are not your partner! Especially if your partner is there!
2. Never tell someone you have based a character on them, especially if the description is somewhat derogatory!
3. Always change their hair colour! No one will ever suspect it’s them with a different colour of hair, unless they are bald!
4. Never write in their accent! You will get it wrong and get punched!
5. Do these rules apply if your subject is deceased? Well that depends on how superstitious you are!
Let’s keep it sane people! Well saner! (if that’s a word)

Originally posted 29 October 2014 on Blogspot

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The 4×4 Slicing Machine

It’s summer time on the island which leads on to that epic battle between the grass and my weapon of choice. Being June one would expect that the sun would shine and I could stroll along with my little electric mower, producing those smart, neat, thick lines that speak of a well tended cricket pitch-like lawn. Welcome to the Isle of Lewis. It’s been raining on and off so an electric mower is out of the question. No worries I have a petrol beast. It’s actually been quite warm. Well warm for Lewis. Certainly no ice. And so the grass is sprouting and I reach for the green blade eating machine.

Hold it. Not tonight! They are out! The midges. Tiny, little and very evil flies (or possibly hell-hounds) that get into every orifice and munch your delicious skin until you scratch that very human covering off yourself. No amount of nets protect and clothing cannot truly ever cover all of one’s self. Leave it a night.

Okay. five nautical miles per hour wind so the hell hounds have retreated to their bushes. Take out the mower, fuel her up, yank the rip cord. Calmly wait while last year’s oil is taken through the system and emerges in a choking grey plume to blow across your face! Cough bravely. Cut the grass.

It’s then you notice. Dry on the top, wetter than the ocean beneath. This causes the machine to grind to a halt every five yards as it cannot generate enough suction to remove the wet grass to the collector. Feel your arm muscles improve with each pull of the rip cord. Then swear loudly as the rip cord brakes. Then as the mower does go forward ever so briefly watch the back wheels spin on the wet grass so that it is only your physical effort that keeps the heavy beast going forward.

But the worst is the uneven surface causing the blade to occasionally catch the surface and cut deep into it. The motor invariably fails to protect itself and we have to pull the ever diminishing rip cord again. Why did we think we could make a lawn out of a moor!? Maybe a roller would do it. The size of the unevenness makes me suggest the roller would need to be the sort used on motorway construction!

Still nights are drawing in. Soon be snowing and I’ll have my perfectly flat, even and very white lawn. Greens overrated, I love winter!

Check out other views of mine about everyday things at the following:
Facebook Page
Author Profile

My poetry book: “Four Life Emotions”

Originally posted 25 June 2014 on Blogspot

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Hey Mr Postman! Making an eBook a Paperback!

poetry and short stories

This image has had me on tender hooks for the last week. Everyday, several times a day, this image pops into my mind and in the most strangest of places. Feeding chickens and my mind says “Is it here?” Fending off aircraft from each other in the air traffic control tower and the weather is poor. There’s a doubt whether the aircraft will arrive. All that goes through my mind is “If the aircraft with mail doesn’t land then my book won’t land either!” Even changing the little one’s nappy and all I can think is “where’s the book?” when normally all I think is let’s get this done quick!

This was definitely a new phenomenon to me. For those who don’t know I have published an eBook of poetry and am now in the process of self-publishing it as a paperback. Trust me the eBook was easy by comparison. I went with Indie publisher Smashwords and they laid out a whole scheme of how to format the book. I followed that and once it was prepared it was a matter of a day to then actually publish it. Then it jumped onto their site and soon after onto various eBook sellers. No long wait, no grinding nerves. Downloaded it and checked the copy almost instantly.

However the printed word is not so easy. To be fair I went with Createspace and their software and instructions were good and I had the book draft ready fairly quickly. But now they are sending out the proof and it is taking a while. Again to be fair they are in the USA, I am in the UK. They took probably less than 24 hours to get the book printed and underway. But I didn’t pay for the fastest delivery as it was extremely more expensive though I did go for the intermediate postal service. If I had any hair left to tear out it would be gone, so praise Him as I am a baldie! The song is right, the waiting is the hardest part.

So now I having waited the great dread is coming upon me! What if there’s a mistake? Did I miss a comma, an apostrophe, a full stop!? How come the smallest things cause the greatest anguish? So please any would be writer’s out there who long to see their precious manuscript make that leap from computer type to embalmed delight take it from me – while that wonderful cargo is in the post plan a holiday, somewhere far, far away! Possibly Mars would do. Failing that take the second star to the right and straight on til morning. And Mr Postman, if you return to sender……………….

Four Life Emotions, the eBook is available here. Look out in the coming months for “I am Thunderstorm” my first kid’s book and also “A Lighter Shade of Dark” a collection of short allegorical stories, both appearing in eBook and paperback format, details when available at my Smashwords homepage.

Originally Published 16 June 2014 on blogspot

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Looking for Myself I found a Zombie!

It was an exciting time to say the least. I had just sent my first e-Book to the publisher and it was then winging its way through the ether to various platforms, to be uploaded for purchase. Eagerly I got onto my favourite search engine and typed in the various sites using my name as a search. Well what a palava! One site has me lobbed in with Laurel and Hardy and other comedy classics. Another has me in with a baseball prospectus. But the absolute best was one that did indeed have my book and another of an apparently “similar” read beside it. The similar read was the sixth in a series all about zombies! My book: a book of poetry taking you through four of life’s emotions.

So I thought, can I get a proper cross over out of this. Do I publish the long awaited poetry book – Zombie life: The Four Primary Emotions? And what would they be? Well hunger for one! Could I manage such delicate material as the insatiable desire for the human brain? “Hair in my Pudding” comes to mind as a good title. Actually taking that through to its logical conclusion that puts us bald people more at risk. Disturbing! Other titles: “Why do I feel like I’m always in second gear?”, or, “My Sprinting Days Behind Me”. “Arm Ache Blues” also leaps out as a promising title. But I settled with this, see what you think?

I’m Stuck with this Moaning Crowd
I’ve got in with a really bad crowd,
Indeed sometimes they can be just so damn loud,
But it’s not like they party til dawn,
Instead they just drone on and on.
We all dance in the same stupid fashion,
Arms outstretched is our popular passion.
We all seek to be first at the head
But that’s where it’s at when you’re dead.
If you’re new and wonder how to begin,
We’ll all surround you and help you fit in.
If you keep pace with us through the night,
It’s farewell at the first sign of light!
Think I’ll stick with the living, it’s got fresher subjects!
Four Life Emotions is my book of non-horror poetry.
Posted originally on blogspot: 5th June 2014