Category Archives: Observational

Book Covers – Really!

Book Covers – Really.

A great cover for a book is at the forefront of any publishers’ sales plan.  The professional design is produced with the aim to hit the market in the correct genre with author’s name, sometimes, highlighted more than the title.
Readers know what they want, and what authors they enjoy reading most, in which case it is the celebrity author’s name that is given prominence on the cover. Just a brief preamble leading to a question below.

Independent authors are advised to get professional work done in both editing and cover design that they can afford. Great advice – but stubborn old me just didn’t listen in this case.

I have had my short story collection, ‘The Listener” gone over by the edit process and ‘oh boy’, what a process. I am told it is very much better than the 2014 version.

I stuck with the cover with a small change – on the front cover font and back cover blurb.

I have done all this as an exercise in procrastination, if there was a medal or a university course for procrastination I would probably have gone for the PhD. I should be writing my novel instead, keep laughing.

The original camera shot.

Old Collection 113 (2)

Photo by James McEwan

I took the source photograph while on holiday in Dresden, Germany. I found it fascinating that someone or some people went to a lot of effort to paint the picture. I never found out who or why. I had not started to write back then and the idea of a book cover came to me many years later.

This is one part of the advice I did follow, make your cover unique. (I missed the effective part).
An advantage over using stock photographs is that I own the picture.

My first cover.

kindle-cover-new

The latest cover – matte -done in MS Word. 1.6Mb version – Printed copy is 11.5Mb

Microsoft Word - cover The Listener 2018

Here are my questions:
Is the MS word cover good enough?
I am considering using GIMP and or Adobe professional for future covers.
Of the two covers above, which is better; to give prominence to the title or author’s name?

Advertisements

Resilience

Three Line Tales, week 100.

tltweek100

Photo by Manu Sanchez

The evolutionary wheel of progress rules our lives
and we stroll hand in hand secure of our future.
And although putrid, weak, evil minds of anger stalk our world
We say to them – we will survive with dignity and human fortitude.

The Procrastinators

If and Only … Your friends in waiting.

IMG_1392

Glasgow Street Art

The Procrastinators

If and only are companions
They go hand in hand with fate
Like the dreams of millions
In retrospect, they arrive too late.

If and only trapped in meditation
Held back by dithering doubt
full of indecisive hesitation
In retrospect, just throw them out.

If and only may rule your life
with choices, hard to bare
what could have been was strife
In retrospect, do you really care?

Now if was your only thought
when you couldn’t make up your mind
of things not done or should or ought
In retrospect, if only you had more time.

Alice Wants Home

Alice Wants Home – Three Line Tales

tltweek57

photo by Fleur Treurniet via Unsplash

‘Only the Unicorn knows your way home,’ the owl screeched. ‘Which way, which way, which way.’ It glided into the dark.
‘Wait!’ shouted Alice. Alone she looked around. No entry, one way street going both ways. A window in the yard.
She stamped her foot and wept. Could she really climb the drain pipe? But she must to find the Unicorn.

Traditional Christmas Sentiment.

My piece below is a reflection on a well known Christmas Ghost Story.

Mr Scrouge.

I was never happy nor gave a festive care
When carol singers screeched outside my door.
They seemed so full of seasonal Christmas cheer
With good tidings and joy that I found such a bore.

My name is Mr Scrouge not Santa Claus.
I didn’t give presents and I didn’t send cards
Nor hung baubles or tinsel on a coniferous tree
Instead I’d count my gold and cackle aloud with glee.

Then I saw an apparition over St Nicholas’s church in town
A ghostly creature laughing, his finger pointing down
Mr Scrouge, he called, your time on Earth is running out
What use is your pointless life full of bitterness and doubt.

What do I care of others and your empty ghostly threats
I am off to the bookies now to collect my winning bets.
Then a tiny ragged boy appeared holding out an empty bowl
Sir, he said, my mother’s dying, please a penny for her soul.

And from the dirty rags in the doorway by the ironmonger Jacks
She rose up and I saw an evil face laughing on a boney rack
Her skeleton chattered, Mr Scrouge, it is clear for all to see
That death is knocking on your door, but you’ll never be free

My heart stopped beating, I shivered and felt a creeping cold
The ragged boy and mother laughed at my life becoming mould
I cried for an Angel to rescue me from this dark despotic death.
So I promised to spend my wealth to end all poverty on Earth.

The boy and mother warmed me from a pitiless lonely end
And we celebrated Christmas with all their wondrous friends
It cost me all my hard earned gold to bring them happiness and good cheer
And so the moral of my sad story to you must now be very clear.
That having lots of family and friends at Christmas is wonderfully dear.

The Peace of Nature

 

IMG_0273

One of my garden residents

 

A peaceful moment of relaxation, sitting in the garden on a warm summer day, listening to the sounds of the birds and the trees orchestrated by a gentle breeze.
I allow my imagination to tune in and compare the rustling of the leaves to the harmony of piano keys, and the sparrows tweeting sound like flutes racing through their notes. The blackbird begins calling as a lonely saxophone would.
High above me the seagulls shrill with a rough discordance that draws the agony out of a badly tuned cello, as they chase after crows cawing loud in a panicked percussion of rumbling kettle drums.
Then, when the quiet peace seems to return, there is a faint calling from an unseen flacon, I hear the interjections as if from a distant clarinet. A flurry of small branches on the hedge scratch along the wire fence lamenting as weeping violins and they are accompanied by a gentle chirping of a lonely wren. Two doves in the branches of a tree blow oboe notes to each other and the wasps around my imperial biscuits provide a background buzz like softly shaking maracas.
These sounds provide reassurance of a natural harmonious world – I dare not switch on the man made radio, not just yet!

The invisible writer.

Here are some notes from a writer’s class I attended. (Perhaps I need to trust my confidence in writing)

Author Intrusion.

The author intrusion, a favourite technique of the Victorian novelists as they address the ‘dear reader’, is considered, I am informed, as old fashioned in modern fiction. In the early twentieth century it tended to be a technique used to educate or persuade the reader of the author’s view either for political or religious purposes and masquerading as subtle propaganda. This would be deliberately invasive in the story through the various characters to influence the reader. At times a complete portion of exposition would detract from the main story to get the author’s didactic views exposed to the audience. These methods were deliberate and were an accepted format and mostly obvious to the readers.

However, in modern fiction there are tendencies of carelessness by authors, which are particularly intrusive and cause people to stumble as they read. This interferes with the literary trance readers may have, as they are completely engrossed with the character’s predicament. Then, an aside or overly explanatory sentence may suddenly seem out of place or else overstate the obvious, spoiling their enjoyment.

Some of the unintentional author intrusions arise from:

             Telling things the character could never possible know.

             All characters sound the same.

            Paying too much attention to the setting and forgetting the story.

            Lecturing.

            Putting the cart before the horse.

Or worse – repeating information laboriously in dialogue, for no other purpose than to be certain the reader understands.

I am advised to become an invisible author.

Invisble Writer 2

My Invisible Self

Sky as blue as a summer sea

And weather blowing oven heat

Turning leaves on autumn trees

To form inspirations and wind

Thoughts floating through the mind

Of the anonymous invisible writer.

 

Fire in Glasgow -West End.

The picture below reminded me of Daphne du Maurier’s novel “Rebecca” and its ending few words.

“… but the sky on the horizon was not black at all. It was shot with crimson, like a splash of blood. And the ashes blew towards us with the salt wind from the sea.’

The implication was that Mrs Danvers discovered the truth about her beloved Rebecca, and in revenge she torched the large country house, ‘Manderley’.

IMG_3893

Disused building West Glasgow opposite my daughter’s flat. (Live Friday 20 May 2016)

Fire is fascinating; it is like a cleansing of the past, as the flames leap and twitch. There is finality in the burning where all the elements disintegrate in smoke and leave behind a powdered residue, and is a very practical solution to get rid of the unwanted items in our lives. (I don’t mean people like witches and Guy Fawkes).

In my household it is impossible to be rid of such items, to me they are unnecessary clutter. The ‘others’ with their emotional claptrap always resist trying to make space and taking ‘their stuff’ to charity shops, and so the ‘big clear out’ becomes a day wasted by reminiscing about the good times and the sad times and those bloody times that drive me mad times. Everything is boxed up again and put back into the shed or else up into the attic to be forgotten. Perhaps it is the excitement of rediscovering items from your past, and the past of deceased relatives that sub-consciously makes us hold on to the most ridiculous of items.

Remember this scarf; Granny knitted it for my first day at school, shame about the mice gnawing the wool, and on it goes. Mementos slowly deteriorating and their only function are to reflect on our lives, perhaps we need to hold on to them. Since, once they are gone we’ll miss those ‘big clear out’ days.

No wonder fire is associated with insanity.

Indie Authors – Attracting Attention

Attracting Attention.

I attended an informal meeting of the Glasgow Indie Authors yesterday. A very interesting group of people, some established authors and others mere beginners – my category. (Lots of coffee/tea and biscuits)

We were encouraged to pitch our books in twenty seconds, (even those still at the embryo stage). Basically: title, genre and establish a hook into the story.

Most people found it difficult to find the best key words and not to become distracted by trying to tell the story or going off on a tangent about their characters. This is not the same as the blurb on the back of the book cover, instead it is a twenty second-attention grab, where we are advised the object is to leave the listener wanting more. Essentially it gets the pertinent information out in 124 characters, the length of a tweet. This exercise illustrates the importance of a book title, for instance one book pitched was titled; ‘The Secret Mums Club.’

You will never guess the genre, and may have you wanting to know more.

Another exercise I found interesting, being slightly introvert I found this difficult. Since, we all naturally put our protective shields up when we feel our private space is being exposed.

On Camera Nov 2014 288

We all hide behind our psychological shields.

The task was to list and then tell the group five important things about you that people would be surprised to learn.

Most people were rather defensive as it was almost like an intrusion into one’s private life.

One person told us he had once been arrested, full stop. Of course this raised a flurry of excited questions, when and why and what happened?

Yes, this was the main point of the exercise to find something interesting about you that people will be attracted to. Fulfilling that human curiosity and the nosey syndrome with the purpose of leading them to your book.

Again people found this awkward and listed some mundane things like where they once lived or went on holiday, all interesting stuff but not overly exciting.

I suspect many people had some deep secrets that would be interesting but may have found the situation embarrassing.

Author Bios were discussed as being fixated on their qualifications and a CV of their writing background rather than on some extraordinary exciting fact or issue in their life.

We were asked to consider what would attract us to that person?

(Off course a publisher would only be interested in the sale-ability of the work).

The summary of the afternoon was simply that as an Independent Author you need to understand the full gambit of marketing or else pay someone to do it for you.

We all know there is lots of advice out there, but for me it was a fun afternoon with real people.

The Will to Write

Keeping up the will to write.

Over the last few months I have been distracted by family dramas. In particular the unexpected illnesses of elderly parents, which attracted a sudden flurry of visitors from Australia and New Zealand. But all has been resolved and each and everyone are well, once more.

The result of this upheaval at home for me has been my utter neglect of writing. I released how much I need the space to concentrate even if this results in nothing more than a few ideas. As my household is back to normal I seem to have lost the will to write or at least the flow of words have slowed.

cropped-img_0006.jpg

On reflection I remember where I started and how I found encouragement from people like Adam, Nick, Hugh, Diane and Tobias who all were brave enough to comment and critique my attempts at literary notoriety. They have gone on to create their successful E-magazine ‘Literally Stories’. This contains a range of stories, which in my view are astounding and there are many I find truly captivating. Others are just damn weird and occasionally incomprehensible to me both in their subject matter, theme or even in the English language. Regardless, I have taken to reading every one in the hope of some inspiration.

I have started to read some Selected Stories by Katherine Mansfield. (Oxford World’s Classics, Ed – Angela Smith). From a writers point of view I have detected how much control Katherine Mansfield has with the narration and I just love how in such short pieces she can hold me in suspense that comes from within her characters.

‘The Woman at the Store’. We are not told what she has done with her lovers, but her son’s drawings contribute to the gut gripping suspense.

‘Bliss’. Why is it the woman is always last to accept the infidelity of her husband?

‘How Pearl Buttons was Kidnapped.’ This seems like such an innocent story where the child, Pearl Buttons, is having a wonderful time out at the seaside. It is not until at the end we learn of the culture clash between the indigenous people and the European settlers.

There is lots of advice from creative writing books and courses about how to sustain your writing. I now ignore it all, as for me I need to be in a secluded mood and totally absorbed in the idea without the intrusion of what you should do and how it must be done.

But for now it is a period of reading and reflecting on how I will do it my way.