Sunday, 5 July 2015

Coming Soon - "Famous Animals"

For those of you who haven’t heard, I have a new book coming out the next month or so anyway. Sorry, it’s not the sequel to Treespeaker (that’s still all inside my head), or even Larkspell, which has been patiently waiting to be finished for so long. No, this is a children’s book. Well, no, it isn’t really. It’s a history book. Well, no. it’s not really that either. It’s a book about animals. Er, well…it has pictures of animals. Sort of.

The above indecision about what the book actually is explains why I haven’t sent it to a ‘real’ publisher to try to get them to publish it. I just couldn’t think how to do it. How does one pitch a book that doesn’t fit anywhere? I couldn’t even tell you if it’s fiction or non-fiction. Librarians are just going to love it!

It all started with the 52-Week Illustration Challenge at the beginning of the year. The theme for the week was ‘Italy’. To me Italy screamed opera, so I decided to draw Pavarotti. However, I don’t really often manage to draw someone who actually looks like they’re supposed to. I prefer animals. Eventually, I hit on the idea of drawing a rat and calling him ‘Pavaratti’. When I’d finished, I realised that I could think of a whole lot of people whose names could be turned into animals. So I set to work and painted them. Soon I found I was thoroughly enjoying myself and making those I showed them to laugh. With the help of friends on the Kindle Users Forum, I made a long list of possible subjects. A book was born. “Famous Animals.” Not a very catchy title I suppose, but I wanted it to appear serious… but not.

In my dreams, the book would be a large coffee table book with just the high resolution pictures to keep adults and children alike amused. In reality, I can’t afford to print something like that without the cost to the customer being astronomical. Hence the confusion about what sort of book it is. Apart from each picture, there will be a short, hopefully witty comment about the animal persona, a short biography of the real person on whom they’re based and an interesting fact about the animal. So for Pavaratti, there will be something about Pavaratti, something about Pavarotti and something about rats.

Before I get it to the book launch which someone has kindly offered, there’ll be a series of adverts and hopefully a blog tour (thought that may come after). So expect to hear and see more of this in coming weeks. If I start to bore you, let me know?

By the way, I already have enough ideas for Famous Animals Volume 2 (Musicians), Volume 3 (Artists) and Volume 4 (Entertainers), so this could go on forever!

Tuesday, 10 March 2015

A tribute to a hard-working lady: Jackie Hosking

I don’t know how many people who read my blog are children’s writers/illustrators or Australian or both, but there’s a lady who has helped me a lot in the past and I’d like to pay tribute to her and her work today.

 I don’t remember when or how exactly I first came across Jackie Hosking, but I’m pretty sure it was when I’d just finished “The Dragon Box” and was looking around for some way to get it published. In my hunting, I came across a useful little online magazine called ‘Pass it On’. It contained all sorts of information about children’s publishers, competitions, writing opportunities and more. Even better, it came out every week, straight into your inbox and for a very low cost. I couldn’t believe how much work this lady must put into it every week.

Needless to say, I signed up and started to use the information I found – writing for and getting paid by places advertised in Pass It On. But the e-zine is not just about writing. Twice Jackie has featured me in interviews – once as an illustrator, once as a cover designer. It was the first interview that actually got me one of my first book cover jobs, the author having seen my work and liked it.

The most recent ‘big thing’ for me also came about through Jackie’s magazine. I’ve long known about the ASA’s ‘Style File’. It’s a showcase for Australian Illustrators, with portfolios easily accessible to publishers around the country. I’d looked at it and thought, ‘that’s for real illustrators, I’d never get accepted into that.’ At the end of last year, I saw an advert in PIO for The Style File, calling for submissions and with my new-found ‘I can do it’ attitude, I submitted 8 illustrations. As everyone on Facebook knows, I found out recently that I’d been accepted. If I hadn’t been a subscriber to Jackie’s magazine, and if Jackie hadn’t gathered that information, I wouldn’t have thought about submitting. As it is, the Style File site is being relaunched in a couple of weeks with promotions to publishers etc. There’s a lot of really brilliant work on there, so I may never be picked up by a publisher, but I have more chance than I ever had before.

Speaking of the great work on The Style File brings me to Jackie’s other talent. She’s a pretty great children’s poet herself and has a fantastic book out, “The Croc and the Platypus” (Walker Books). It’s beautifully illustrated by Marjorie Crosby-Fairall, who also has a portfolio on The Style File.

Jackie also helps out other would-be poets. It beats me how she finds the time to do all the stuff she does.

So if you’re an Australian children’s writer or illustrator and you want some way to keep your finger on the pulse (sorry, I’m tired, clichés happen when I’m tired), get over to Pass It On and check it out.
If you’d like to know a bit more about it from Jackie herself, there’s an interview here about the magazine and how she gets it together.

Thanks, Jackie!

(And in case you haven’t seen it, here’s my portfolio on The Style File. Have a look at the other work, too!) 

Friday, 9 January 2015

Fantasy Art - from the ground up.

Someone asked me the other day, if I use actual photos when I'm designing a fantasy landscape and I had to admit that, yes, I often do. In Photoshop, there's a wonderful tool called the 'mixer brush' which picks up pixels and mixes them up, just as if you had a wet paintbrush and stirred it in the paint. So I can get a photo and mix the colours so that it looks painted. What I have as a result is never anything like the original photo because I 'sculpt' features out of the landscape to make it fantastical. It's just a lot quicker than drawing a picture first and I like it better because the whole process is a voyage of discovery. I don't really know what I'm going to do, until I start, and I don't know what I'll get until I'm finished.

A while ago I read of someone who takes 'macro photos' - very close up photos - of things in nature, to use as part of her fantasy book cover designs. So rocks become mountains etc. I wish now that I'd kept the link so that I could let you see. That got me thinking and I took my daughter out for a walk armed with my camera. The reason I took my daughter was twofold - firstly, she has a far steadier hand than me and secondly, she doesn't mind getting down on the ground to take a photo. (I don't mind getting down either, I just have great difficulty getting back up.) We came back with a supply of good and not-so-good photos. I've let the 'simmer' on my computer for a while and a few have given me ideas for landscapes. Today, I'm going to show you how I work, from start to finish.

1.The orginal photo. Probably a mouse hole, or maybe the den of a bearded dragon. I lengthened the photo to give better perspective and cut out the 'sky'.

2. Initial smudging stage. Still very rough, but gives an idea of where I'm going.

3.That dip begged for a waterfall and if there's a waterfall, there has to be a river. I've no idea where the river goes after it heads under the hill, but this is fantasy! Maybe there's a huge, subterranean lake?

4. I began to sculpt the rocks. I did that by dragging the dark shade from the cave and by adding lighter colours and smudging them in.

 5. The squarish bump on the flat on the right suggested to me that there needed to be some sort of access from the middle ground to the hill in the background. So I added the road. I was toying with the idea of blending the layer onto a coloured background, hence the background colour change, but I thought better of it.

6. Added sky and did some more rock sculpting.

7. I liked the shape of the landscape, but not the colour. So I made a multicoloured filter layer and put it on as a soft light. Far more fantasy worldish. The new road was leading to nowhere in particular, so I drew a castle to sit on the hill.

8. The pale rocks on the left had no real purpose, so I decided to make them into a pathway.

9. If there's a pathway, someone has to be seen to use it. I drew the figure as a separate painting so that I could put in as much detail as I like and then resize it. (It also means I have a figure I can adapt for other pictures!) 

10. Final product. Well, until I decide to change it again. I can already see lots of possibilities. But I'll keep this one intact as it is. 

Please feel free to ask any questions you may have. It was all done on a Cintiq 13HD, by the way... a little something I bought a couple of months ago and which I don't know how I ever worked without. 

Tuesday, 6 January 2015

A New Year, a New Start

Before I begin, I'd like to wish you all a very Happy New Year. I hope it turns out to be all that you wish for.

Anyone who is friends with me on Facebook or other forums will already know that I handed in my resignation at work at the end of last year. I am no longer a library assistant. Instead I am a freelance writer and illustrator, with some relief teaching thrown in to help the coffers. The question remains, why?

The impetus came from two directions. Firstly there was what a friend euphemistically called ‘stuff’ at work. Because of the ‘stuff’ I found I no longer loved the job as much as I did a few years ago. Of course, every workplace has ‘stuff’, and on its own it probably wouldn’t have been enough to make me leave. I still loved the kids, and the teachers, and support staff were wonderful people to work with, but ‘stuff’ was the grain of sand that overbalanced the decision-making to the leaving side.

It really all started when I discovered the work of Sir Ken Robinson. If you haven’t heard of him, look him up (or, at the very least, watch the video below). He’s an education expert, gives inspiring talks, makes more sense than all of the other so-called experts I’ve met put together. He believes in creativity, he believes we all have it and he doesn’t think modern day education recognises that fact. As someone who at school, was told by the Principal that I was being lazy choosing Arts subjects for my final two years rather than the Sciences as my two older sisters had, and by a science teacher, that I would never amount to anything because I didn’t possess an ounce of logic (he was joking, but it stuck with me), the idea that creativity could actually be a good thing resonates with me. Creativity is not just the arts, though. That’s why I've always been a fan of Einstein. He recognised that creativity was important, whatever walk of life you were in.

Without creativity, nothing changes.

Back to Sir Ken. He wrote a book called ‘The Element’. I read it at the end of last year and loved it. It’s about people who struggled in life until they found (or someone showed them) the one thing that made them really come alive. They weren’t necessarily ‘arty’ types. They were from a whole range of professions, but their lives had changed with the decision to leave what they were doing and start being who they really wanted to be.

What Sir Ken wrote wasn’t really new to me. I’ve done courses: ‘discovering your true self’, ‘discovering your hidden talents’ sort of things, but with the ‘stuff’ at work, it really got me thinking. This wasn’t just about talent, it was about passion.  In the library, I’d be looking at my watch regularly, hanging out for the next bell, the next cup of coffee. At home, working on a book or on illustrations or book covers, I can sit down at 9am thinking ‘I’ll just do this for an hour’, and be surprised by my husband coming in wanting to know what he should have for lunch. When I’m writing or designing, I zone out and time vanishes. I’m in my element. Interruptions are often annoying. I’ve always known it. Until now though, I’ve pushed that fact aside and done what I ‘needed’ to do – originally whatever I thought my parents expected and later, whatever I needed to do to support my family.

My family still need supporting. Eldest is still at University, Sausage has just discovered violin and apparently has potential and Dynamo is being a teenager with all the attendant costs that involves. We need money. The fact is, though, that I was not enjoying life much. I’d come home grouchy from work, have three days of relative happiness and then feel grouchy all weekend, knowing that I had to go back on Monday. It wasn’t good for me or my family. Yes, it was a regular income, but at what cost? In the end, I decided that a happy mother with less money was really more beneficial than a stressed-out mother bringing in a small but regular pay-cheque. Magic Owl Design is bringing in income, albeit smaller than I earned in the library. I’m getting more work as an illustrator and my books are trickling out of Amazon slowly but surely. I really think that I can make a living and be happy. I’m going to give it a jolly good try anyway!

(Quite long, but well worth a listen.) 

Saturday, 1 November 2014

Oops, sorry...where did that time go?

So what’s happening? Nearly another year has passed and I’ve not written a single blog post. Does that mean I’ve been doing nothing? Well, no, just the opposite really. I’ve been very busy. Unfortunately that business hasn’t included much writing. Here’s a rundown of where I’m at…

Writing: I have done some writing. It’s not been neglected altogether. I even have a title for the book now – “Larkspell”. As of this weekend I’m up to Chapter 20 and I’m estimating there’ll be about 26 altogether, so the end is in sight. I think I might have missed writing a few chapters though, because the story swaps and changes between two threads and I got carried away with one thread and neglected the other. It will all start tying together soon, though, so I’ll have to get back to those chapters. Then there’s that lovely thing called editing to do. Groan.

Art: On this front it has been a very busy year. Magic Owl Design has built up and I’m now getting work on illustrations, maps and book covers very regularly. So regularly, in fact, that I got brave and handed in notice at school so that I can concentrate on that as my main income. It had got to the stage where going to work was interrupting what I was doing for clients and so making their wait longer. I’ll write more about my motives for quitting at another time, but that’s the big news for now. I’ve expanded into doing illustrated covers, too, which I love doing. I’ve even done a few original pre-made fantasy covers in the hope they’ll sell.

Apart from the art I’ve been doing for Magic Owl, I’ve also been taking part in the 52-Week Illustration Challenge 2014 run by Tania McCartney on Facebook. It started off as quite a small group, but it has grown and now there are lots of people involved. Each week we are given a word and have to do an illustration for that word. There is some huge talent amongst the participants and I’ve learned a lot from seeing what they do and just from having to do something every week. I’ll definitely be taking part again next year. 

My last piece of art news is that I did end up buying a Cintiq. Just a small one, but I've bought a large screen to attach to my laptop so the smallness of the Cintiq doesn't matter. It's wonderful, fantastic, magical! Being able to draw straight onto the screen is just unbelievable. It's like 'real' art without the mess or the smells. I'm loving it...that's another blog post.

I know I said this at the beginning of the year, but I will try to blog more regularly from now on…

Friday, 10 January 2014

Another Year...

Another year. They seem to be passing with speed that’s on a logarithmic scale. It feels like tomorrow I’ll be wishing everyone a happy 2015, but common sense tells me that time has not sped up, just my perception of it. It’s scary.

Sorry my blogging has been so erratic. My whole life has been erratic to tell the truth. I’d like to think that this year, things will settle down, but it’s not looking promising so far.

On the good side, I did get that one book published in 2014 and the website I started in the hope of selling book covers has grown and is getting a satisfying number of hits each day. I’ve been privileged to create covers for some really great books. I’ve also done some maps and of course more troll illustrations for the wonderful Smelly Troll books by Rosen Trevithick.

Photo manipulation
Those of you who are friends with me on Facebook will know that I spent some of the money I’ve earned through book covers to buy myself an Intuos Pro, a drawing tablet from Wacom. I already had a Bamboo tablet, but it was tiny and I found it very restrictive. This is huge and I absolutely love it. If I’d had lots of money, I would have bought a Cintiq which allows you to draw straight onto your picture on the screen. But I didn’t have lots of money, so the Intuos had to do – and it’s proving pretty good. I love being able to do the whole illustration from sketch to finished product straight onto the computer. No messing around with pencil and eraser, no trying to scan the drawing to a satisfactory quality. Just straight onto the screen, multiple layers and then all sorts of lovely effects you can get through Photoshop.
Original art plus photo

One thing that has become clear to me over the year and with using the tablet is that my penchant really is for children’s book covers and fantasy covers. Photo manipulation is fun, but I just love being able to create the whole cover out of my head or turning photos into my own artwork. I don’t suppose that surprises me. I’ve always loved creating fantasy/illustrations, but I wonder if there’s a market out there for original artwork covers? Something for me to find out this year: how many authors are actually willing to pay for full rights to an original cover?

On the writing side, I have a work in progress – a novel based on “Orlando’s Gift”, the short story I had out on Amazon for a while. It’s very different from the short story because I’ve devised a whole other tale to intertwine with it and that’s rather taken over, but from the reaction I’ve had on Critique Circle to the chapters I’ve written so far, it’s going down all right. I just need to knuckle down and keep writing. I already have the cover done, just to keep me motivated! I'd love to show it to you, but that would spoil the effect later, wouldn't it? I still don’t have a title. I’m waiting for it to hit me as I write.

Original art 
To all of you who read this blog, a very belated Happy New Year…unless you celebrate Chinese New Year, in which case, I’m a few weeks early! Here’s to a year of getting done what you want to do, surrounded by supportive friends and family. 

Saturday, 30 November 2013

An Interview with Rosen Trevithick

Until the beginning of this year, Rosen Trevithick was someone I chatted with sometimes on a couple of British forums. Then one day, she asked if anyone knew anyone who could illustrate her book. That was when I became the illustrator of the fun series, Smelly Trolls. Rosen is a great writer, a lovely person and an easy lady to work with and today she's doing something rather exciting - launching THREE books at once (see details below).

Hi Rosen and welcome to Trees Are Not Lollipops.

Let’s start with a common question for authors - who or what inspired you to be a writer?
I was certainly born with the desire to create stories, but I think you need the right influences to encourage you to develop your ideas and put them down on paper. I benefited from some very supportive teachers both at primary and secondary school. In fact, I’ve recently written letters of thanks to two former teachers. My mum gave up work to raise us and frequently encouraged creative activities at home. It also helped being exposed to some really strong children’s authors like Roald Dahl and Michael Morpurgo, whose books made regular appearances on my bedside table.

How long did you write before deciding to self-publish?
I’ve always written bits and pieces. For thirty years my cupboards and hard drives were cluttered with first chapters and odd scenes. Some even saw the light of day – I put on plays, blogged and wrote magazines for my friends. Then in 2010, I learnt that you could self-publish a Kindle book. That’s when I really went for it.

Do you have a favourite book that you’ve written? If so what is it and why?
I have several favourites for different reasons. I love The Troll Trap because it was the first time I met a smelly troll and I adore writing that series. I like Pompomberry House because it allowed me to take my sense of humour on a marathon. There’s a special place in my heart for my first Seesaw collection because it was the first one of my books to be in print and no author ever forgets opening their first proof. More recently, I’ve become fond of My Granny Writes Erotica, because it’s been getting great feedback and it’s hard not to like something when it’s the cause of people saying nice things about you.

You recently celebrated having sold or given away over 250 000 books. Something to be proud of! Apart from writing great books, what did you do to achieve that?
I announced approaching 250,000. There are still a couple thousand to go. I’m eagerly refreshing my sales reports! Hopefully today’s triple book launch will be what tips the balance.

A number of marketing techniques have proven effective, such as interacting with readers online and in person. However, the one thing that has stood out above all else is offering free short stories. I have seven full length titles – two novels, two short story collections and three children’s chapter books. I regularly offer free and cheap short stories that either belong to one of my anthologies or link to a novel. Readers download short stories when they’re on offer and many go on to buy my other titles.

You’ve publicly stated that you suffer from bipolar disorder. How much of a hindrance has that been, or do you think there might be a link between that and your creativity?
Having the rapid cycling type of bipolar disorder feels like having uninvited guests running riot in your head, flicking switches, bumping into things and ripping shreds from your brain tissue. Fortunately, with medication and lifestyle management, I can keep the majority of the mood swings and unwanted thoughts at bay. However, the slightest assault to my physical wellbeing such as a cold or sprained ankle, can send my whole system off kilter, causing the illness to flare up. When it does, it’s sheer hell.

In terms of writing, my condition is both a help and a hindrance. I certainly don’t welcome the mornings where I wake up and my head is too full of nonsense for me to achieve a thing. I get frustrated when I’m invited to events that either involve too much travelling or start too early in the morning for me to attend without disrupting my much needed routine. However, the nature of my condition means that the government has provided support for me to work from home, as and when I can. I wouldn’t have had this support if I was healthy.
Bipolar disorder is associated with heightened creativity, both in terms of historic anecdotes and empirical research. The manic spells are associated with over-productivity. This means that when experiencing elevated mood, I could sit down for six hours and bash out 6,000 words. However, doing so would be highly dangerous because if you encourage mania, you can suddenly crash and that’s when many suicides happen. I have to be disciplined and put what’s right for my health ahead of what’s right for my career. It’s hard sometimes because I’m very ambitious and would love to benefit from 6,000 words a day.

In short, life with bipolar disorder is, at best, a full time juggling act and, at worst, mental torture, but it probably does help me write.

What are you working on at the moment?
I’m writing a sequel to My Granny Writes Erotica. It was supposed to be a standalone story but reviewers asked for more. Author brain said, ‘But I’ve developed that idea and concluded it nicely.’ Business brain said ‘I haven’t spent hours of my time trying to create a demand for your books, so that you can throw this opportunity away.’ So I sat down and started working out how to continue a story that had already reached what I considered to be its natural climax. It’s been challenging but I think I’m getting there.

What made you decide to write about trolls and which is your favourite?
I wrote about trolls for my brother’s kids. They’re both boys and they find smelly things funny. Pointing at Roo’s feet and saying ‘pong’ gives him the giggles. The troll books are a little old for them at the moment. When I wrote The Troll Trap, I wanted something they’d grow into so that they wouldn’t grow out again too quickly. Now that I’ve decided to write a whole series, I’m glad I did pitch it a little high because it means I can keep writing with them in mind.

Brawnulator and Mama Bulbousbum
My favourite bad troll is Brawnulator Powerknees, because he was the most fun to write about. My favourite good troll is Bruno, because we’ve spent so much time together it would be impossible to choose anybody else. If we’re talking illustrations, I most like your depictions of Mama Bulbousbum Stenchmistress, Gunkfreak (in a tutu) and Marv the Magnificent.

Which do you enjoy more – writing for adults or writing for children? Why?
I adore writing for children. Comedy-writing is my favourite kind of writing and all my books for kids have been from the humour genre. I did enjoy briefly dipping back into writing for adults with My Granny Writes Erotica because that was equally silly. Sometimes you really need to get a joke out of your system. The new craze for monotonous erotica was ripe for mockery and there was simply no way to combine my desire to mock billionaire romps in a children’s troll book!

If you could change places with any other writer in the world (or history), who would it be and why?
It would have been rather fun to write Roald Dahl’s books, wouldn’t it? He led the way when it came to wacky children’s books and must have had a great deal of fun writing. Although I believe his life was not without tragedy or loss. On reflection, I am happy not to be Roald Dahl because it means I’ve been spared the agony of losing a child.   

You like to write while sitting in public – cafes and the like. What is it about writing in public that you enjoy?
Cake, meeting new people and getting away from the WiFi. When I’m at home I often find myself refreshing social networks and forums when I should be working. This means that even the interruptions in a busy café are fewer than the interruptions I put upon myself when at home. Also, I live alone and it gets lonely. When I work in cafes people come over and talk to me about my favourite subject – my books!

Today I’m launching three new books:

Seesaw – Volume II : A short story collection aimed at adults. Features stories from a variety of genres including crime thrillers and humorous fiction. Contains the popular novella, My Granny Writes Erotica.
Trolls on Ice : The third instalment in my Smelly Trolls series. Rufus and friends go on a skiing trip, unaware that the Winter Trollympics is taking place nearby.
The First Trollogy : The first three Smelly Troll books in one snotacular volume.

Win a Kindle

Upload a photo of you or a member of your family enjoying one of my books to win a Kindle Paperwhite. Terms and conditions apply.

Tuesday, 1 October 2013

Finally feeling Spring.

Spring is sprung (a month ago, in fact).

And yes, the grass is definitely riz. The sore eyes and sneezes can vouch for that. The little bird that comes every year to perch by the tractor mirror and sing its little heart out to itself is here again. There’s even a touch of warmth in the air when the persistent rain we’ve had this year (not complaining, just saying) eases off enough to let the sun peak through. It’s my favourite time of year.

Unfortunately, it’s also that time of the year when everything starts to rev up. Signs start coming out announcing the number of days to Christmas, shops stock up with tinsel and Christmas cards (they already have. It’s sad). At work, everything is geared towards the end-of-the-year Presentation Night, reporting and final assembly. Eldest will be into his University exams and then panicking about getting ready for his overseas trip just after Christmas. Sausage has her music exams (if her broken wrist doesn’t mean putting it off until next year). It’s all go.

It’s now when I need to reread my Eckardt Tolle books and learn to ‘make friends with this moment’, because this moment is actually pretty good. There are magpies singing over near the road, a dove cooing on the gutter above my window. Our new cat is lying in the sunshine near me, licking herself without a care in the world.  I have a lot of things to do, but I’ll get them done, one at a time. I’m on holiday from work. The sun’s shining. It’s spring. ‘Tis good.

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

A fairly unique experience.

I had an experience today that I don’t think too many authors would have had. At work, I catalogued a couple of books. Not unusual? No, of course not, except that when I went to put the spine labels on, they each had F STE on them. Yes, I catalogued and covered my own books for the school library! I’ve done it before for books that I’ve illustrated, but actually being able to put that spine label on was a wonderful feeling! Unfortunately, I haven’t had the joy of seeing them on the shelf (or even better, being taken off) because they went to the library on the Secondary campus and I work at Primary, but all the same, it was fun. I had secretly hoped that the school library barcode on one of them could be 24601 (anyone who knows my favourite book will know why) but unfortunately that was already taken and we’re up to numbers beginning with 26... Ah well, I can’t have everything!

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

News update.

Yet again, I haven’t been keeping this poor blog up very well. Though lots of things have been happening, I’ve simply not had time to write about it! So here’s an update.

News Item 1. Since June, I've completed the entire set of covers for The FRUGALITY Trilogy by Stuart Ayris (for ebooks and print – including an anthology of the three). As I said in an earlier post, I’ve been a fan of Stuart’s since I read his first book, Tollesbury Time Forever, so I was thrilled to bits to be able to do his covers. If you love something literary, but far more interesting than the usual plotless literary novels, have a read of Stuart’s books. Guaranteed to be something different!

News Item 2. I finally got my book cover site up and I’ve been busy (very happily busy I might add) filling it with pre-made covers. There was a slight hitch when I discovered that ‘KWSDesign’ which I’d planned to call it, was already a company in America (furniture designers, I think) so after much thought and difficulty finding anything that wasn’t already taken, I came up with the name of Magic Owl Design. After a month, I still haven’t sold any pre-made covers, but I have had lots of views and  got a customer for a custom cover, so it’s on its way. 

To add to the excitement, Rosen Trevithick, for whom I did the illustrations for ‘The Troll Trap’, has started a pre-made cover page on her ‘Indie Book Bargains’ site which she kindly let me join. By far the greatest percentage of traffic since she started it has come from her page. Thanks, Rosen!

News Item 3. As reported in my last blog post, I’ve been working to get my books into print. Last week, I finally experienced that precious moment when I held my first book in my hands. Treespeaker is a real book at last. 5x8 inches, cream paper and 320 pages. Beautiful. Sigh.
It’s now available from Createspace and Amazon. I set the price at $13.99, but Amazon immediately took 10% off. I don’t know how long that will last though.

I’ve ordered myself a box of them to try to sell at the local Writers Festival to be held in September. I felt very left out last year when all the other presenters had a table of books to sell and all I could do was hold up a picture on my iPad. This year, I’ll have the real deal.

A proof copy of Mark of the Dragon Queen should arrive in a couple of weeks. I doubt I’d be able to get any of them here by the day of the Writers Festival, but it will be nice to be able to say it’s available as well.