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.

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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!