Time is running out!

Work, work, work. I haven’t been doing much of it lately, mostly because I’ve been tied up in an (unsuccessful) stint at Paris Fashion Week. Those of you who know the industry will be aware of just how fickle it is, how options and confirmed jobs can evaporate at the final hour, leaving you with nothing but a hole in your pocket and a sense that perhaps you shouldn’t have bothered at all. Though of course, it is human nature to always be happier with the fact that you tried – that way at least opportunity is something that isn’t left unexplored.

With my time in Paris came the inability to do much else but castings and go-sees each day, which inevitably impacted on the progress of self-publishing. Now I am fairly certain that my release date of The Future King is premature, and am having to readjust my expectations to early November instead. This is no disaster given that I have no contract binding me to a completion date, and the few who are waiting with baited breath for the book release can be easily updated via Facebook. After all, I never released an official release date, so I have some time to consider when exactly it should be made available. A lot is influencing this date – awaiting news from my proof-readers (and re-reading it myself) is one, making any changes is another, and then adding hyphens into the whole document is an unexpected third. In a way it is good it has taken me so long to get myself organised, otherwise I would have made the mistake of releasing a formatted novel that has only been justified, and not amended to look pretty with the odd sentence strategically hyphenated here and there. Apart from that there is the “tax interview” to sort out through Amazon, the amending of my spine width to match the new page count, the finalisation of the book cover, and then the ordering of the first printed copy to check that all is as it should be. This is all pressured by an immediate move, scheduled for the end of this month.

The text for my children’s book is finalised however, and I am halfway through drafting the illustrations. In the meantime I have started writing the text for another children’s book (I’m excited about this one), and have identified yet another written project which is pressing prominence in my head as probably the most important and most lucrative idea to run with next  – and I was considering writing something unrelated to TFK over the Christmas holidays before I start on book two, anyway (sorry, fans).

Here in Belgium the leaves are turning despite the glorious sunshine and hot weather we’ve been enjoying. The park is filled with the usual reds and golds, splattered amongst the still-deep greens, but also with bright fuchsia – a colour I had previously not expected to be possible in a leaf at this time of year. My to-do list has peaked at the annoying number of  14, and though I have stormed through some of it already it is one of those lists with points that take months to strike off. My priority for today however is to get through another hundred pages of TFK (still noticing missing speech marks and a few comma/full stop swaps), and to hopefully organise a few more illustrations for my picture book. Oh, and I need to milk the plants. The apple trees have powdery mildew, and an effective treatment is to spray them with part-milk part-water. So far it seems to be working, and for the first time in weeks there is new, undamaged growth. They’re still a long way away from being proper apple trees yet, but as I have no garden currently in which to plant them, I won’t be hurrying them along too much.

Dragons, unicorns and ravens

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Finished! I have finished. Finally, my embroideries can sit side-by-side, ready for framing or for other kinds of presentation, looking smart and quite grand. Left, we have the Praed crest, a unicorn with crown; and right, we have the Mackworth crest, the raven’s wing and ermine. Traditionally, heraldry is interpreted right to left. Despite the stark colour difference between the two, I feel they go well together. This makes sense (as they are a considered pair), but I ensured that I used the same colours in my stitched interpretation wherever possible, whilst remaining true to the colour of the crests.

Usually it is the unicorn which is presented as the Mackworth-Praed sigil, as understandably, it is seen as the more prestigious of the two, but I am quite fond of the lesser-used raven’s wing, which seems to vary more due to liberal artistic interpretations. My interpretation is the more traditional presentation however, incorporating the pattern and colours also seen on the family’s coat of arms (which, by the way, will probably be my next craft related project).

As well as embroidering, this week I have been scanning slides taken in 1964 in Abisko, Sweden, by my grandfather. He was a keen conservationist and a great collector, collecting the moths and butterflies that he sought to conserve, and throughout his life he took many slides – around 22,000 of them. Some have come to me to digitalise, in the hopes that the National Trust may be interested in making use of them. It’s taken me four days to digitalise 200 slides – slides which (in these two boxes) consist of common to rare plants, reindeer hair, train stations and a dead lemming. These slides are all being stored on an external hard-drive, which I hope doesn’t crap out at one point or another because as of yet, I have no back up. Perhaps the thing to do would be to post up a few of the more interesting finds as I stumble across them – there are some lovely photos. The ones that interest me most, of course, are the photos of my family, particularly because the house that my father, aunts and uncles grew up in is also the home that I grew up in, too.

Before I scan 50 slides a day, I have been working on the illustrations for my children’s picture book. I thought I would share some sketches below (also viewable on my Instagram account):

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They are, as you can hopefully see, dragons! There are ten of them, and they are all doing the sorts of things that dragons would do in a children’s book. The plan is to sketch them all in their various positions and then compile them for the final drawings – this is my first attempt at a picture book, after all, so I’m still finding my feet. I usually only do separate studies of one or two subjects at a time, but I have, at least, got a strong sense of the style in mind.

Other than that I’m still waiting for news from my proof readers, and resigning myself to the fact that I will probably have to read my book (again) on paper to check (again) for mistakes. If I find any, you’ll probably hear about it here. Until then, or until the next part-time post!

The Future King: Logres – book cover release!

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The Future King: Logres is due to be released in October of this year. Keep checking back for teasers and confirmation of a release date.

So today I am finally ready to post up the above design. This is my novel, this is my my book cover: this is what it looks like. It’s simple, it’s clean, and it’s a great start to the look and feel of the rest of the series.

The name of the series, The Future King, is born from the promise of King Arthur’s messianic return to save the country despite his downfall at the end of the original legends. Logres is the scene in which this second coming is set: the secondary school at which fifteen-year-old Gwenhwyfar Taliesin starts after moving from Swansea with her affluent parents. It is 2052, and the gap between rich and poor has never been wider. Immigrants are persecuted and dubbed ‘illegals’ while day-to-day life is becoming increasingly monitored: just another year under George Milton and his ruling party, New National.

Things are going well for the release of The Future King: Logres – the book has been fully formatted and I am just perfecting my final draft. It will then be sent off to my proof-readers (very kind friends and family who don’t mind checking for errors). I’m greatly looking forward to seeing Logres printed and in final book format – my full book design is waiting patiently in photoshop as a psd file for my confirmed spine width. Then I just need to write a blurb.

Feel free to let me know what you think of the chosen design if you’d like to leave a comment. It’s back to editing, here, but keep checking back for more news, updates and teasers in the weeks to come!

10 things I have learned whilst making a book cover

  1. Pre-existing book covers are your friend. Look at them, examine them and focus on studying books in your genre, but don’t be too disappointed if your self-publishing platform doesn’t support the trim size you inevitably fall in love with as a result (five by seven, five by seven!).
  2. Make sure the cover correlates with the interior feel of the actual novel (and then dance about celebrating your own brilliance when you think of something that looks really cool).
  3. Having twenty layers live at once in Photoshop will destroy your computer. No, really. The fan on mine has just… died, or something.
  4. After spending four hours trying to align font at the bottom of your page to font at the top of your page, your eyes will go funny and everything will look wonky anyway.
  5. The longer you stare at the block colour red, the more it begins to look like some whacky gradient.
  6. Apparently due to variations in book binding the artwork for the cover will sometimes end up on the spine, and spine on the cover. You will be advised to avoid sharp lines and complex patterns, so naturally use them anyway.
  7. You should (and probably will) print out your book cover and wrap it around some other less important novel just to see what it looks like on a bookshelf (mighty good, I tell you).
  8. An actual, real life plastic ruler can be very helpful when determining layout spacing on your screen for the less technically gifted of us.
  9. Asking (non-graphic designery) people their opinion on your artwork can be confusing. Just focus on the things they agree on, and ignore anything they don’t.
  10. Making a book on a template before you have your final page count is just asking for trouble. You think you’re finished, then a last-minute cut adds or subtracts a page or two. New spine thickness, new document! Yeah!

Part-time post

By now you’ve probably sussed the title of this blog in that I’ve been absent for a couple of days. I’m not yet sure at which frequency I will ultimately end up posting at, but as long as it’s higher than zero I feel I will be doing well. I’ve been up to a lot in the past few days, though mostly it’s been the same thing, cutting my novel on paper.

As of yet I’ve no idea how many words I’ve lost, but the experience in itself has been surprising. How, after roughly five re-writes and several more proof-reads are there still errors? Not many, granted, but one missed missing word can be catastrophic enough if not caught – as can typos, punctuation errors – and even worse: whole scenes that just don’t fit with the rest of the narrative.

It’s easy to end up with a scene that doesn’t work, particularly when said scene was written afterwards and inserted in the hopes it would further develop a character. The scene in question continues something that has already been resolved, yet expands the issues raised and gives a good relationship boost to the two main protagonists. As a result it must either be cut or re-written (we’ll see how the word count goes). Three people missed it when reading through it, though one reader said they were just too caught up in the storyline to even notice the discrepancy. I suppose that’s why people hire editors.

And so begins the three-day process (hopefully!) of trawling through my corrections in Word. Each revision always risks new mistakes, much like some sort of wordy vicious cycle, but then I suppose that’s why people hire proof-readers, too. Not something that’s doable without a substantial budget, so I’ll have to make do.

In other news I have been embroidering a bit this week, my family crest for the name Mackworth (a raven’s wing with ermine, see below). This goes with the unicorn head for Praed, though often it’s only the unicorn head which is depicted for both. Heraldry is another one of my interests, and I look forward to seeing these two finished and framed next to one another.

Crests for Mackworth-Praed, embroidered by M. L. Mackworth-Praed, 2015.
Crests for Mackworth-Praed, embroidered by M. L. Mackworth-Praed, 2015. Embroidered with two stitch types: stem stitch and couching, the stitch types used for the Bayeux Tapestry.

That’s all for now, it’s time to steam through this edit. Hopefully afterwards I’ll have a more realistic page count and can finish formatting and start uploading to Amazon. I will keep you updated on any progress. Until the next part-time post!