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 cafĂ© 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.

Sunday, 28 July 2013

Strange coincidence or happy accident?

I’m nervously awaiting the arrival of the first proof copy of Treespeaker at the moment. CreateSpace has told me it should arrive within a couple of weeks. It has been a long, frustrating road to this point, but thanks to a lovely friend who took pity on me and offered to do the formatting (which may as well have been brain surgery for me), my first e-book is now on its way to being a real, three-dimensional, smelling-of-ink book.
In the process of trying to format it myself, I made an interesting discovery. At one point in the story, when there has been a death in the forest, Jakan the Treespeaker intones words over the body as they farewell it into the care of Arrakesh, the spirit of the forest. In the ebook, I had the words on the left hand side of the page, unsure if trying to justify it would muck up the formatting. This time, I thought it would look neater if I centred this song on the page so that it stood out. This is how it came out –

You are wind,
You are bird’s song,
Dew on morning grass,
Velvet on deer’s horn,
Shelter from rain,
Warmth of fire,
In us,
Around us,
Beginning to end.

Does it remind you of something? If I’d tried to write a song that formed a stout-trunked tree shape, I couldn’t have done it better, but this was purely coincidental. I have to admit to finding it a little creepy the way it worked out. A prayer from the Treespeaker forms itself into the shape of a tree?

The friend who did the formatting probably wished this coincidence had been in the shape of a frog or an elephant – anything but a tree – because getting this tree to stay together all on one page was a nightmare. Hopefully it has now come out that way on the printed page and not morphed into something else.

I’ll let you know when the book is available from CreateSpace/Amazon. In the meantime, I’ll worry about whether the cover is too dark, if the chapter breaks look right, etc etc. I do wish mail from the US was quicker!

Sunday, 30 June 2013

Guest Post: Tahlia Newland

Today's guest post comes from Tahlia Newland, founder of "Awesome Indies". Tahlia works hard to find well-written, quality Indie books to make it easy for readers to find books to read. (I'm glad to say a couple of my books are included on the site!) Thanks for guest posting on my blog, Tahlia!

Can authors review their own work? This one does.

When I put a new release onto Goodreads, I always write a review of it. I can do this because they let me, but also because I do so much reviewing that I can actually remove my author self from the equation and write what my reader self thinks (do I have a split personality?) I think it’s a really good exercise for authors to do this. Sometimes, I like to imagine the worst things someone might say about a book, then no matter how horrible a review is I’m not too shocked because I’ve probably thought of something worse. I haven’t had a really terrible review yet, but maybe I just haven’t found the right reader!

This is the review I just put up on Goodreads for my new release Demon’s Grip, Book three of the Diamond Peak Series.

“My reviews of my own work are always totally honest, written from the perspective of me as a reader, not as the author, & this one, I have to say is a highly unusual book. Although it’s a great ride like the rest of the series, it’s also a little gruelling in the last third where Ariel struggles with addiction and Nick's patience is sorely tested. But then, addiction is like that, you can't treat it lightly.

It's very much the third book in a series, the last struggles before something shifts and the characters can move on for their last push to the top of the mountain (book 4 is very inspiring). As with the previous books in the series, there's lots of action, humour and romance, though Ariel finds that being Nick's boyfriend when a demon that feeds on craving is around is a bit trickier than she imagined.

You'll meet Yule, (a bright-eyed, shaven-headed scholoar) the Haba (an awesome race of mountain Warriors) Kestril's sister, Kelee, and Ariel's 'Auntie and Uncle'. We hear the prophecy, find out the reason for Kestril's apparent dislike of Ariel and dip into some of the intriguing areas of study she undertakes at the University of Sheldra ie Demonology, Response Ability, The Nature of Reality and Advanced Demon Slaying. There's also Gimp wrestling and a guest appearance by Spud, the wombat.

Ariel's mother, Nadima does something so surprising that even I didn't see it coming, and at first I thought it was a pretty stupid move. She had to reassure me that she knew what she was doing before I agreed write it the way she wanted. In the end, the whole section starring Nadima is some of the best writing in the book.

I think you need to read the earlier books in the series before this one, so pick up Lethal Inheritance and Stalking Shadows.

Enjoy it, it's quite a ride.”

Its always best to start at the beginning of a series though, so to inspire you to do just that, book one in the series is only 99c until the 6th July on Kindle and Kobo, so pick it up and read your way to the top of Diamond Peak.

You can also pick up a FREE short story prequel to the Series here.

If you’re following the series already you can get  Demon's Grip at
What readers are saying about the Diamond Peak Series
“I can't even begin to describe all of the action you'll find in this highly imaginative journey. This is a fantastic depiction of a fight between good and evil.” Crazy Four Books.
“A magical world with an exceptionally well-written ribbon of “real world” weaved throughout.” Twisted Sense Book Blog.
“This world is the context for Ariel, a young woman in the grip of a prophecy, desperately trying to rescue her mother before her mother is killed... or worse.” Ruthanne Reid, author of The Sundered.

A beautifully written, exciting fantasy-adventure with vibrant description.” Krisi Keley, author of

Post by Tahlia Newland, the award-winning fantasy and magical realism author with a metaphysical twist. If you enjoyed this blog post, you can join her on Facebook , Twitter or Google+ You can even fan her on Goodreads. When not reading, writing, reviewing or mentoring authors you may find her being an extremely casual high school teacher or making decorative masks. Tahlia began writing full time in 2008 after twenty years in the performing arts and a five-year stint as a creative and performing arts teacher in a High School. In 2012, she set up the Awesome Indies List to showcase quality independent fiction. She has had extensive training in meditation and Buddhist philosophy and lives in an Australian rainforest south of Sydney. Creativity is her middle name!

Thursday, 27 June 2013

When work is not work.

Have you ever read a book and thought, I’d love to design the cover for this (or write the screenplay, or whatever your creative bent might be)? I have. It was when I read “Tollesbury Time Forever” by British author, Stuart Ayris. It’s an unusual book. I don’t normally go for ‘literary’ books, but it caught my interest, so I downloaded it and read it while waiting for my husband to have tests in hospital last year. It says a lot for the book that I didn’t mind the six-hour wait at all and even felt a little miffed that P came out before I’d finished. My review of the book is here (and it took me a long time to find because it has a lot of reviews).

A couple of weeks ago, Stuart asked on a forum we both belong to, if anyone knew of a book cover designer who could re-do his book covers. He asked it during the day in England which, of course, meant that I was fast asleep. He’d been given suggestions by the time I saw it, so I watched a dream sail out of the window. Then I grabbed it by the tail and hauled it back in. Cheekily, I sent him an email. I’d no chance if I didn’t try. Wonderfully, he replied with a ‘yes please’. So I have spent the last ten days designing three covers for Tollesbury and the sequels (The FRUGALITY Trilogy).

Here’s the results –

Purchased at Depositphotos_23308274_1

Someone said how clever I was to use vectors. Truth is, I didn’t. I used this stock photo as a basis, resized it to fit the book and went from there, laying layers over the top. I don’t know if I’ve ever enjoyed doing anything quite so much (and those who know me know how much I enjoy doing my art work). The hours I worked on them just melted away. I only hope the covers help Stuart to sell lots of books, because believe me, they’re good!

Soon (hopefully) I’ll be launching a new website solely devoted to book cover design. My big dream at the moment (apart from a trip to Scotland/Ireland) is to be able to earn enough to stay home and work here – with writing, illustrating and book design. So I’m working on some pre-made covers to get people in and hoping that those who have used my services already will like them enough to spread the word. I’ll let you know when it’s launched! 

Thursday, 13 June 2013

Planning for the future.

This morning, I spent a frustrating half an hour on the telephone, trying to find out how a young man is supposed to go about getting an apprenticeship in this lovely little country town. Dynamo is in Year 9 at school and has an idea of what he wants to do after Year 10, but he’s worried that he might need better marks. So, sensibly, he’s trying to find out now what extra effort he may need to put in.

First I phoned the local TAFE College. They’re the ones that run the apprenticeship training courses. No, they said, we don’t do career advice. You need to phone this other place. So I phoned this other place. No, they said, we don’t give career advice to school kids. We give it to those who have left school and the unemployed.

‘Wouldn’t it be more effective to advise kids while they’re still at school,’ I asked, ‘so that they can work towards the subjects they need?’

There was a moment’s silence at the other end before, ‘Well, yes, I suppose so. I hadn’t thought of that. But if you want advice, you should phone TAFE.’

So this afternoon, I asked a teacher at school. He’s not a trained careers guidance officer; he's just a man who knows a lot more than these people who are supposed to know. It’s annoying that something as simple as getting career advice from the people who should know is so difficult.  In a ‘Reader’s Digest’ (ie short and fast) explanation, the teacher was able to tell me what course Dynamo would need to do in Years 11 and 12 and what level he would best need to achieve. He now has the framework for a plan.

The moral of the story? The obvious person to ask is not necessarily the right person to ask!