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Friday, 27 February 2015

Birth of the Cover Art for my soon to be published book, Chicken Soup for Satan

Well, this has been a bit of a production!  I've drawn an awful lot of German Shepherds getting ready for the final piece.  Not that that was a hardship, as I think they have beautiful heads, and every subject you draw and paint teaches you new things, especially if you tackle it more than once.

It began with pages like this of thumbnails.  I've posted this one before but, eh, it is the beginning of the journey, so it needs to go here too.
Next I drew bigger images, sorting out how to fit the dog and bowl on the page, keeping in mind that the book format is skinnier than my paper.  I needed room for the title and author text, and I also practiced drawing the doggy character from the book, Ghost, in more detail. Once I settled on a composition, I did my final drawing.

 That image had to be darkened a lot in iphoto.  I drew very lightly.

After that I put in my first washes on the background.  The paper I was using didn't hold up very well to washing.  It's only a pad of water colour paper.  Not the best quality.  Still, it was a start I could work with.

More washes followed.
I kind of like this stage.  Spooky! Fits the theme of the book, but Ghost is not one of the spooky things in it, so on I went.

At this stage I began to work in more detail.
Aww, the character of of Ghost was coming out very nicely by now!  Pupils and some other little detailed touches still needed to be done, and I was worried about the paper being over-worked, so I got out the Aquarelles for the last few bits.

After that Andyroo kindly helped me photograph the image, and then I resized it to fit the book cover ready to add text in Gimp.

What do you think?

I got a splash of hot magenta on his forehead right back at the start and it didn't quite wash out properly, but luckily I can fix that in Gimp.  Bless you Gimp!

For the back cover, I just couldn't think of any image to use that wouldn't give too much away, or give the wrong impression about the book, so I have just washed a full page to match the texture of the background in the front cover.  I'm trying to do a different spine colour for each book, just for fun, and this one is obviously going to be purple!  :) 

There are many, many artists in the world who would do a much better job of this sort of art than me.  I would consider myself a novelist first and foremost, but I do enjoy the challenge of doing my own cover art, and I hope you enjoy seeing them in progress!

Final editing is part way done, and soon the book will be available.  Exciting! This is the first book I have finished in many years, since before I got sick with Lyme disease more than a decade ago. To be returning to my creative life means more than this bard can express in words.



Monday, 23 February 2015

Dogs of my High Pack: Buffy, Part One

Buffy left us in 2012 due to her heart.  She was 12 and a half, not old enough for me to be ready to say goodbye and certainly not as old as we thought she'd go. She was a superb physical athlete and up to her last days still looked amazing.

Buff came to us as a nine week old pup, flying from the Eastern State s of Australia  all on her little lonesome.  We already owned Tam, who was also a GWP, and we wanted another and no-one here was breeding them.

It was Easter, and I remember standing by the big windows in the airport totally frazzled up inside with waiting for this precious parcel, and hearing a grumpy old British couple behind us.  They were waiting for plane after a holiday here in WA. "What's with this Easter Saturday, Easter Sunday, Easter Monday thing they have here?" one of them was saying. "Can't they come up with more interesting names for holidays than that?"

I still smile to think of them, because they were so jaded, and I was so very excited. That's airports for you, I guess.

Anyway, finally there was her crate, and as I bobbed down to ground level and tremulously opened the door, I called, "Buffy?" and out shot this little spotted bundle into my arms.  She was my darling from that moment forth.

 Hmm,  I note here that my dress sense hasn't improved in a decade.  :)

From her first day, Buffy was a snuggler. She slept against my chest under the blankets, and as she grew she slowly moved down the bed until she slept at my feet, still under the blankets.  She slept there her whole life, summer and winter. 

She didn't have a lot of furnishings for a GWP pup, in fact for a long time we joked that they'd sent us a German Shorthair instead of a Wirehair.  Her blaze was crooked and she had the world's longest nose, and only a mother could have loved her when she was growing up.  That mother was me.  :)

As she got older, her beautiful liver ticking came into its own, and those long ears were the softest, silkiest things you ever felt.
The teen months were no less awkward. 
Like all Pointer pups, she was a handful, but not a big chewer or digger, just full of life and mischief. At about four months she began to show signs of being a bit guardy, so we took advice from experienced positive dog trainers and worked hard to socialise her well.  This worked mostly, though we always had to watch her carefully when new people visited, and at vets it was Andyroo and I who always had to manage her while the vet worked.  With us and anyone in her extended family, she never even growled once in her life, but she saw herself as the protector of the household, no doubt about it.  I love this pic of her keeping an eye on the world while I draw down at the beach.  Don't ask me what was going on with my hair at this point in my life! 

Joie de vivre was what she was all about.  She loved to run.  Loved, loved to run, and she was so fast and graceful.
Toys were her other delight. 
And she did eventually grow a respectable Wirehair beard!
This got long, as I should have known it would, so I'll make it Part One and continue Buffy's story on another post another day. Part Two is here. 

If you read this far, thanks!  I love to read about other people's dogs in detail, so I hope you enjoyed this post as much as I would have!


Friday, 20 February 2015

Bones, tomatoes and spiders.

Writing is going well this week.  I'm really enjoying the freedom of once more writing for that free spirit, Freya Fjordrider.  She is so rude and funny.  The Freya books are definitely not quite like the other stuff I write!

Not much other authorly news.  I've got my Chicken Soup cover decided after much scribbling, it's just to start the final drawing (the hardest bit!) and get it painted now.  Dog Slobber! is almost ready to go, so if you have kids aged 8 to 13, access to a kindle or ipad, and would like to be a test reader for me, let me know via email.  I'll send a digital version for free so long as it's before it goes up to Amazon, because after that I can't distribute Digitally except via them, due to the deal I chose with them.
Got a pic of my girls enjoying what's left of their bonies together last night.  Tandem bone chewing!  I love how they can do this without being snarky with each other, in fact they choose to be so close together.  The bones only get to come inside after two sessions outside, by which time they are nothing but the last bit of clean bone, and in between sessions they get wrapped up and go back in the fridge, so it's not too gross!

Bucket O' Tomatoes, all ready to be cooked down for sauce.  This is the third batch I will be cooking up.  We've had a good year for tomatoes.  Yum!

We have big spiders here in Oz.  To be honest, I don't think we deserve the reputation we have for deadly animals, but we do have some big spiders.  I don't love them, but I live with them and try not to harm them.   

The other day I got a bit of a surprise to find one of our huntsmans had managed to put herself into our outside temperature gauge through a small hole in the top.  I guess in the dark it felt like the perfect place to crawl into and sleep the day away, but come the daylight she realised it was not exactly the private shelter she'd thought it was.  By day they get very slow and sleepy, so it was too late for her to find a new hidey spot and and she was stuck for the day.  We made sure to help her out that night.  By 'we,' I of course mean my husband.  :)   I can catch them in a glass and bit of card and take them out of the house, but this particular operation was too much for me!  

I had to take a photo for proof!  Sorry, is a bit crappy but you can see her in the glass and my hand for scale.  Do not scroll down if you are spider phobic! The photo is the last thing in this post so you won't miss anything else.  :)


Monday, 16 February 2015

My real Rainbow Kitty and Tabletop Day is coming!

What a sweet soul he is.  My twitchy, crooked-tailed, funny boy. 

Yes that's another rainbow minicorn back there.  I made another one.  Couldn't resist it.  I love laying out the rainbow of yarns ready to do the mane and tail. It's such a delight to the eye! Apparently Mr Cyrano de Purrgerac thinks they are nice to be around too.  Yes he does have a bed on our table.  He has to have a bed anywhere where we spend any time.  It makes it hard to play board games, but we work around it.

Speaking of Boardgames, it's Tabletop Day on April the 11th.  Many thanks to Wil Wheaton for getting board games back into our lives and the lives of squadrillions of other people around the world through his blog and the Youtube series Tabletop.  Since we live a pretty quiet home life due to our health, Andyroo and I play a lot of two player games, which not all games are good for.  Our current longer-play faves that work well for two people are Ankh Morpork, Star Trek Catan, Forbidden Island, Mister Jack and even good old Scrabble.  For shorter games we enjoy card games like Spit, Go fish and Rummy, plus Tsuro which is peaceful and beautiful, and Zombie Dice which is silly and fun.  My sister's family loves Castle Panic for a full family experience. I'm not well enough to go out and play games somewhere organised on the day, but we'll be playing board games that day, I assure you!

Whoops Edited to add one of our fave two player games, Love Letters.  It's not sooky like it sounds, and we've ha a lot of laughs with this game.                

Friday, 13 February 2015

New chickens and new writing

This was a pretty nice sunset the other night.  Nearly every evening we try to get out in the paddock to watch the sun set.  We don't get to see the best of the sunsets here as there are a lot of trees to our west, but at times they are still pretty nice.

It is Tuppy's fave time of day (apart from meals) because as long as it isn't too hot she gets to chase her ball or kong.  She's a ball fiend! 

Rosie gets to do her little bit of an agility course at a slower pace, and she will flollop out for a ball or two if we make Tuppence wait so she knows it is all hers.

This week I've added two new chookies to the chook pen since a couple of the old girls 'fell off the perch' this year.  Apart from our one gorgeous Australorp, Nanny Ogg, we only have the orange hyline laying hybrids.  I like them for their bright cheerful personalities and of course for their egg laying ability.

The two new girls have been dubbed Mrs Guppy and Madame Blavatsky after two 19th century psychics that are sometimes mentioned on one of my fave podcasts, Mysterious Universe.  We like to have a theme for each generation.  The last three we got are named after Star Trek characters, so we don't mind mixing it up.  Whatever takes our fancy at the time!

Madame Blavatsky lives up to her famous namesake. She is quite tame, and very adventurous.  She got herself up on the their usual night perch the very first night.  She is a pretty orange with a brighter ruff round her neck and the typical dinosaur expression of a young hen.

Mrs Guppy is a bit more of a quandary.  For some reason she decided the first night that sleeping on TOP of the chook dome, instead of inside it, was the way to go.  Each night we had to go out after dark, gently slide her sideways with a broom, and catch her, then carefully put her up on a perch inside.  Funny girl!  Here she is on her dome, wondering what all the fuss is about and where all her friends went!

She has a pretty lighter lacework around her neck.  You can see it better here.  I like to pick slightly different colours if I can so I can tell them apart. 

The four old girls still have their beaks out of joint, but there is plenty of room for the youngsters to keep out of their way unless they get into a corner.  I try to just wince and tell them that next time I get new chooks it will be them being the mean ones!

The first week of writing on my new Freya novel has gone well.  I do enjoy her enthusiasm and lack of restrictions! My word count is 8726 and she's already had two fights.  :)

I've finally finished the illustrations for my tween book, Dog Slobber! Seventeen drawings is a lot of art!  This is a fun one!  You'll have to read the book to find out what it's about!:

Now I've started working on ideas for Chicken Soup for Satan.  The little thumbnails  in my sketchbook gave Andrew a chuckle so I thought you'd like to see them too.
The idea is the have the white GSD from the book, Ghost, in the shot, and also a bowl of chicken noodle soup on the table. 

After fiddling with angles, I got out the camera to see how it might look in real life and got Tuppy in to be my model.  She's kind of the opposite of a white GSD but she's what I have!

Then Rosie thought, "Hang on, Tuppy is earning treats over there!" so she had to come and join in even though I didn't want two dogs in the photo. Oh well, it's cute anyway.  :)



Sunday, 8 February 2015

Music to write to: The Stray Birds.

Today I began writing a new novel, provisionally called Freya and the Hairy Goddess.  I want to have a lot of fun with this one, so I've decided that if I come to a point where I need to choose between a more outrageous idea and a  less so one, I'm going to go for the outrageous one every time. Freya would ask no less of me!  Yahooooooo!  Fingers fly!

So, to music.  As an Aussie, I sometimes find very American singing voices a bit distracting, but somehow these three very talented, hard-working young people have transcended that difficulty for me.

They make amazing music that has beautiful voice harmonies and delightful instrumental harmonies.  Their songs run from funny and uplifting to melancholy and beautiful.

Just listen to this.  "Dream in Blue."  Live too!

One of my faves of their gentle ones, "Harlem":

Here's one of their upbeat ones, "No Part of Nothing". I love how they switch main singers, which makes their albums avoid any sameness from song to song:

This is my absolute favorite song to sing along to, "Blue Yodel Number 7":

And last of all, though it's hard to stop because I love so many of their songs, this is, "Best Medicine," from their new album.

What I've learned from writing to The Stray Birds is that it's possible to be singing along to a song at the top of your lungs at the same time as writing a novel!

I love their stuff for driving with too.  And yes I sing in the correct accent.  It's part of the fun!  

Oh, and I wish I had as much musical talent in my whole body as these guys have in their little fingers.  :)


Friday, 6 February 2015

A walk in Black Cockatoo reserve.

I've been enjoying Bunny Mummy's posts of her walks in the English countryside, as it is so different to my own walking country, and I wondered if anyone would like to see one of my usual walks.  This is the reserve that is catty corner from our place so we walk there often, about twice a week. The other days we go elsewhere to keep it interesting for the dogs,  and Friday we have a lazy morning.  :) 

Here are the girls, Rosie and Tuppy, waiting at the gate for me to hurry up and come put their leads on. 

Our of the gate we go and down the side of the road just a little way past the big Jarrah trees who stand outside our gate. 

Then we cross the road and go down the side of the reserve to the first trail.  Those are two big old Marri trees that stand sentinel. 

Here are the two Marri trees again. They have different bark to Jarrah, less stripey, and their nuts are much bigger.  We call them honky nuts.  I have no idea why! Because they are honking big?  :)  Jarrah and Marri are the two apex trees of the Jarrah-Marri Dryland forest. 

Here are a Marri nut and a Jarrah nut for comparison. Honky nuts are buggers to tread on, especially when the Black Cockies have been dropping a carpet of them on the ground all at once.  Between the nutritious seeds that lie inside these big nuts, and their mass of flowers, Marri are one of the major food trees for many types of birds and insects.     

Now we turn down the trail into the bush proper.  That is limestone on the path.  They are trying it out to see if it helps stop the spread of Dieback through the Jarrah.  We have a very lovely group of ladies who are the friends of this reserve.  My mum is one, and I try to help out a little if I have the energy to spare.   

 There is a big bushfire a long way down south of WA, but it is very large indeed and smoke has blown hundreds of kilometres.  You can see it here misting up the distance.  It is sadly too common an occurrence these days.  

Tuppy has to wear a lead on this walk.  There are quite a few other dog walkers who use this reserve, and if she gets wind of one she takes off down the track and disappears looking for them. Not safe for her and not peaceful for me!  She really is a very excitable child.  :) 

Down the track we go, Rosie leading the way. 

Stop taking photos mum, we want to keep walking!

Looking east to the edge of the reserve and the closest house. 

Where we've been.
 Grasstrees and a baby Persoonia.  Also most unflatteringly known as a Snottygobble for their slimy light-green edible fruit! They never seem to get as big out here as the ones we have at home.   

This big old tree is dead, but only just.  For many years it still had a side trunk that was alive.  You can see the twist in the timber that allowed it to survive the original loggers that came through here.  No clear felling in those days.  They only took the straight Jarrah and left the rest of the Jarrah, the understorey trees and undergrowth, and all the Marri, since it is not a much-prized timber like Jarrah.  Dowsers say that a twisted tree like this is a sign of crossing underground streams.

 Turning for home. 
 And here we are back at the trail we started on, looking at the lovely rubbish bins of the school that is across the road from us.  For many reasons, we do not love that school! 

Back past the Marri sentinels
 Back down the side of the road.
 Back to the gate!
They do say a walk in the forest is very good for your health.  I'm lucky enough to get to walk there any time I like.  Maybe it is one of the things that has kept me going despite the Lyme Disease.

I know it's not as variable as a walk in the English countryside, but I hope you enjoyed it.  :) 

Sunday, 1 February 2015

Land of Fire paperback version is go!

Here it is, the proof for Land of Fire!  It's come up so beautifully, can't get over the way the cover has come up.  Better than the original art, I reckon.  It's such a buzz being able to do my own cover art.

The interior looks good too, so I've gone ahead and approved it and the paperback can now be bought from Amazon. It's 19.99 US, which is a bit steep I know, but it's 450 pages long, 100 pages longer than Webriders, so there's plenty of reading in it.  The kindle version can still be bought for 99 cents, though I don't know how much longer it will be that price.

The story of how I wrote Land of Fire isn't really a straightforward one.  The character Perry began, believe it or not, with a University creative writing class where we had to pick an object out of a bag and then make up a character based on what it felt and looked like.  I seem to remember my object was one of those eye mask things you use to sleep better on planes. It was soft and felty. I have no idea how I got Perry out of that, but I wrote a little bit of a description about this guy, and then tucked it away in my class file, and didn't think about it for years.  Then I went to a wild party (I did that in those days) and Lillith and her amazing house were born out of that night. Somehow the two came together and a book was begun.

I was heavily into the SCA (Society for Creative Anachronism) at that time, so adding that into the story was easy.  How I also came to add in another dimension, with Norse descendents of the Vikings settled in Australia and the Australian Megafauna still surviving, well I couldn't tell you now.  I'm interested in both.  I have researched both, and did a lot more research while writing this book.  What can I tell you?  When you write a book by asking, "What if?" as Stephen King suggests, then anything can happen!

I love the relationship that grows between Perry and Lily.  I adore Brodie Mac Brodie the mad Scottish medievalist.  Bu is like another heart dog for me. Australian Megafauna are awesome.  What can I tell you?  It's a romance and an adventure, and a fantasy.  It's funny and exciting and sweet.  Read it!