Thursday, 30 April 2015

Do It on a Layer!

Have made three possible covers for Daisy. The first one is rubbish, the second is better balanced and the third is better still. I'm on a roll now! The thing to remember - which I keep forgetting - is to do each step on a layer. That way I can rectify mistakes and make improvements. I  should enrol on a course and become more proficient at using Photoshop, but probably won't because I only think about covers once or maybe twice a year.

For my third cover I think I had about eight layers, all containing a tiny fragment of the cover. One for the background, one for the foreground figure, one for the banner, one for the title ... initially I tried to do everything on one layer and soon tied myself in knots. I am constantly in awe of the software which is brilliant. I just need a couple of uninterrupted years to learn how to use everything!

I know professionals in the publishing world sneer at amateurs who do book covers, but I don't mind. They have to protect their professional expertise, after all, and I used to feel the same way about library assistants being called librarians. If and if ever I have a book traditionally published, I'll be happy to have a professional cover. Until then, I'll go on trying and do the best I can in my own bumbling way, mostly because I enjoy it. That's why I write stories, too.

Our good weather has vanished, and we're back to wind and rain though not quite so violent or so cold as last month. I have a date with the dentist for a small filling this afternoon, so may not get a lot of work done today.

Tuesday, 28 April 2015

Fire lunatics

Going cross-eyed at the moment using Adobe Photoshop to work on a cover for Daisy. Not Adobe's fault, I hasten to add. The things the software will do are  amazing, but my knowledge of it is tentative to say the least. I use it so infrequently that all I learn in a few sessions is lost when I complete the task in hand and forget about Adobe for several months on end. I think if I was leaving school now I'd like to move into graphic art but it was just another unavailable option when I was at that stage. Unavailable? It was almost unheard of except for people who went to work for Walt Disney and that was all about working in cinema rather than computers.

We have some undesirables in the woods where I walk my dog. They think it amusing to set fire to to the resin that leaks from pine trees, and this is the result. They are pyromaniacs in the making, if not already there, for I see the remains of camp fires all over the countryside. One was still burning when I found it but the lads had long gone. These, I suppose, are the idiots who start forest fires.

It is horrid to see the trees like this or literally hacked to bits to provide fuel for a fire. There's plenty of dead wood in the woods without hacking at living trees.

The primroses hang on in damp shady spots, wood anemones are in full bloom and the bluebells are unfurling. Soon the woods will be a sea of hazy blue. The endless mud has dried and gone now, thank the lord. I was lucky I didn't slip on my backside sometimes, and both Tim and I got tired of coming home and having to wash him down. Heaven help the poor folk who own long-haired dogs.

The lambs are out in the fields, tiny and sprightly and I saw a fox, running across a field, in full daylight the other day. Tim watched and then gave chase, but he was nearly half a mile away so I wasn't worried he would catch Monsieur Reynard!

Wednesday, 22 April 2015

A day at the seaside

Yesterday was beautifully warm, even hot, and when today turned out to be the same - you can never be sure in England - we headed out to the beach with a sandwich and a bottle of water.

The weather has been amazingly good so far this year. There wasn't really much of a winter. It was wet and rainy, with mud everywhere, but never really cold. We've had several really lovely days so far and it is only April.

Apart from the fact that we had to almost strangle Tim to stop him dragging us out of the car and onto the beach, it was wonderful. Sunshine, not enough wind to even call it a breeze, but not the stupifying hot days we sometimes get in July and August. Not too many people on the beach, but enough to make it interesting. Most had a dog - if they didn't they had a metal detector. There seems to be a sudden enthusiasm for detectors. We saw four this morning, all on the beach. They may turn up modern coins, but I can't imagine them finding much in the way of ancient artefacts. There has been a series on "detectorists" on tv recently, and it seems to have inspired men to try it. I passed a man with one beeping away in the woods near the castle not so long ago, and asked him if he'd found anything. A few modern coins, he said with a grin. "And some tin cans."

I love taking wellies to the beach as that means I can splodge in the shallows without my feet turning blue or getting wet. It also keeps the sand out of shoes. One thing I remember well from childhood is Clarke's sandals, so hopeless on beaches. Two paces, and the sand seeped in and made lumps and bumps beneath your feet.So uncomfortable you had to stop and empty the sand out, and then start again. The only answer was to take the wretched things off, and then - you've guessed it  - your feet slowly turned blue with cold.
  Tim ran in and out trying to eat the waves but disliking the taste and soon got wet. Didn't deter him though. We walked for a good two hours with a short pause to eat the sandwich I'd made and then turned for home. Now I'm happy to sit at my computer and so dome work, and Tim is asleep behind me. Peace!

Sunday, 19 April 2015

The Craigsmuir Affair

A busy week over - appointments made and kept with Dentist, Optician, Medical practice and we've had the kitchen re-vinyled, and the living room and stair-plus-landing re-carpeted. We're looking spick and span, smell of new carpets and we're good for another twenty years now.

With the help of my friends in the critique group I've finally hit on a title for my story about Daisy - wait for it - THE CRAIGSMUIR AFFAIR.
Here's the first page to hopefully whet your appetite:

Setting and period: Clennell Castle, Northumberland, 1893

Daisy Charlton swept the sheaf of papers into her arms, cast a final glance around the small room that had been her work place for the last week and then closed the door behind her. She hurried along the gallery toward the stairs, swung one-handed around the newel post and scampered down the first steps to the main body of the library.

Someone below snapped a newspaper straight.

Diverted, she looked down. Sun-browned hands held the newspaper open in such a way that she could see nothing of him but legs clad in riding breeches and knee-high brown leather boots. Her feet tangled in the folds of her long skirt. Her stomach lurched, she stumbled, missed the shallow tread of the stair and turned her ankle on the edge of the next.


She grabbed for the banister, missed and pitched forward. Her precious papers sprang into the air and fluttered around her like a cloud of newly released doves. As her hip and shoulder collided with the shallow tread of the stairs, Daisy yelped, bounced and rolled down the stairs.
‘Good God!’ The sound of crushed newspaper followed the exclamation.

Daisy struck hard, was caught and held. Dazed, she inhaled the mixed scents of smoky sandalwood, starched linen and something spicy like black pepper. A steady, rhythmic thud sounded in her ear. When she opened her eyes, the pin tucks of her white blouse pressed against the fawn moleskin of a gentleman’s waistcoat. Her right hand clutched the rough tweed of his sleeve. Her left, trapped behind her, trailed on the parquet floor.

She drew a deep, shivery breath. The pressure of his hand on her ribcage increased and his upraised knee held her spine at an awkward angle. Uncomfortable and embarrassed, Daisy nudged the pale silk of his cravat with her head. ‘I cannot move.’

‘I beg your pardon.’ His voice was deep and warm. ‘But if I let go, you will fall to the floor.’
She tilted her head and frowned at the lean, handsome face above her. To struggle free would be undignified. ‘I do not know you, sir. What if someone were to come into the library and find us like this?’

‘I suppose I should have to marry you.’ His smile held mischief. ‘Are you sure you have no injuries?’

‘Until you release me I cannot tell.’ The words came out more snappishly than she intended. Heat rose in her cheeks; she bit her lip. For Heaven’s sake! He would think her an idiot, probably laughed at her, but was too kind to show it.

He raised both hands in the air.

As he had predicted, Daisy slid from his upraised knee to the floor. She landed with an undignified grunt. 

Wednesday, 15 April 2015

Writing Style

69 Pages of edit done. Don't know how many more to do, but I'm less than half way through. Interesting to see how many small duplications there are, usually between the end of a chapter  the beginning of the next. Writing the story I tend to write in chapters, and so I have a sort of mental break between ending one and starting the next. That's where the duplication creeps in as I don't recall precisely how I ended the chapter and begin the new without checking. There's a lesson there somewhere!

I'm reading Extraordinary People by Peter May at the moment. It's an Enzo MacLeod story set in France and the story visits Paris, Cahors, and the Correze - all places I've visited, which always adds an extra frisson to a read. But I am astonished at the amount of location description I'm reading. My critique partners would be telling me to cut some of it. They often highlight my use of -ing endings, too, and yet Mr May uses them such a lot. One sentence stopped me dead because he had used two, one following the other. I am enjoying the story and don't mind his writing style. It is just interesting how often a successful writer's style contravenes what the writing gurus on the internet say we should do to achieve success. I think it is a little like a healthy diet - in spite of all the experts telling us to eat this and avoid that, eating everything in moderation is probably the best route. Likewise with gerunds and adjectives.

Spring is beautiful this year. We still have primroses in shady places among the trees, daffodils are dancing in the wind, and the cherry blossom is coming into bloom. Gorse is vibrant with yellow flowers and the leaves are bursting open on the trees and presenting a soft bloom of various shades of green. Garlic is rampant and green among the bluebells, neither of which have produced flowers yet, but it won't be long now.

Friday, 10 April 2015

Take a Break

We've had a week of splendid weather and I've spent a lot of it outdoors, so writing has taken a back seat. Considering it's only April, the weather has been amazing, reaching temperatures of 20 and 21 degrees. I'm so not used to such heat that working at anything was a trial! The forecasters claim the weekend is going to be cold, so I tell myself I'll catch up then.

Sometimes I need a break from working at the computer day after day. I get some relief every day now I have my dog, because he's a high energy type who needs a lot of exercise. He gets three walks every day and he's just impossible if he doesn't get those walks. While I'm out with him I see how much new growth there is on trees and shrubs, even on the meadows as the grass begins to grow again. The range of colours in tree foliage is beautiful and changes day by day. Watching him bound across streams, leap fallen logs and bouncing through mud patches is such a joy.

But sometimes the three walks a day are not enough and the temptation to abandon the computer becomes too much. So I give in to it, because I know that I won't produce anything worth while until I've refreshed my mind by pulling lots of fresh oxygen into my lungs. There's nowhere better for that than walking in forests.

Tuesday, 7 April 2015

Do surveys help book sales?

Everyone said it, but I didn't really believe it. Now I think it may be true. The book world is changing. What brought me to this momentous conclusion? I've been looking at Alison Morton's  survey :

and I did not see library or bookshop mentioned anywhere. I shall go back and read again just to be sure I didn't skim over the words. Skim reading is a diabolical habit of mine - so often I miss the important bit and have to go back and find it!

I think I knew the worst about video trailers. Hardly anyone watches them and that is a pity because, like Alison, I enjoy making them. I did the first one six or seven years ago when I knew very little about the process, and didn't own Photoshop software. Off and on over these last few weeks I've been editing photographs in order to make a trailer for Abduction of the Scots Queen - but now I think Why Bother? Then my other side kicks in and argues Why Not? I've done a fair bit of work on the pics so far, and I may as well garner  what I can from what now seems to have been a time-wasting project.

I must take down few video trailers  I have up on You tube. They look so amateurish I cringed when I checked them today! Or maybe I can re-vamp them somehow. Strangely enough the worst one has the largest view count - perhaps people recommended it as what not to do!

Thursday, 2 April 2015

Titles are the Worst

Corbridge from the river bank
DH is safely returned from his trip to Oz and has dutifully gone off to restock our fridge and freezer. He has lots of scope as the household was down to bare shelves and empty cupboards. While he was away I imagined I would get lots of writing done, but that was not the case. I had so much more to do! Grocery shopping, empty the dishwasher, fill the dishwasher, cook every night, put the waste bins out, hoover and mop the kitchen floor now and then to keep the dog hair down, gardening - all things dh does. So now he's back, I may have more time for writing!

I have reached the end of Daisy's story - still without a title. There's polishing and editing to do, but essentially, it is finished. In 1893 Daisy dreams of a career as an artist but runs up against the rock that is Adam Grey, who distrusts women and thinks wives should not work outside the home. This immediately means Daisy must decide if she want s love and marriage or to fulfil her dreams. When a valuable painting goes missing in the country house where they are both guests, Adam turns detective and Daisy decides to help him if only to prove that she is not the thief as Adam initially believes.
Corbridge from the bridge

After several misleads and red herrings, they discover the culprit. They may have fallen in love but barriers remain between them. Daisy fights for her right to have a career, and Adam still cannot get over his distrust of women.

Now comes the tricky thing of deciding to publish it myself, or try for a publishing house.
I also need a title, always a problem.
Barriers to Love is a possibility.
Or, The Art of Love. Artistic Circles? Blinded by Love?
 Suggestions on a post card please!

Lost dog!

Sunday 8 th May Slow start to a sunny day with a promise of high temperatures. Bill took Perla out at 7.30 as he has done all this month ...