Wednesday, 14 October 2009

The Wormton Lamb abroad

Both The Horsepower Whisperer and The Wormton Lamb enjoyed a small burst of popularity over the summer and I recently received these photos from Mr Graham Poyntz who chose The Wormton Lamb as his holiday read. Here it is on a balcony overlooking the Amalfi coast. Having been to Amalfi myself, I know what competition there is for one's attention from the scenery so I'm very pleased that Graham managed to drag his eyes away from the view to look at what I've written.

Now that the evenings are drawing in, I feel more inclined to write again, although before I do that I have to do an awful lot of planning. And I know that I haven't publicised my existing books as much as I would like. Regular readers of the old Anarchadia blog will knmow what an uphill struggle this is, especially if you do the obvious things. It seems everyone is doing those and it's easy to get lost in the noise. So I'm thinking about the less obvious ways to do this, ones that I feel more comfortable about than cold calling uninterested editors of local papers. If I'm actively enjoying what I'm doing I can sweep people along. This hasn't really happened yet with my self-publicising efforts.

The way I see it, anything I do next should be fun. That's something I can share.

In the meantime here's another shot of the high life from the Amalfi coast.

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Wednesday, 25 February 2009

Appealing to grown ups and children

I really like this photo. It was sent in to me by Mr Charles Coad of Snozzle and shows him reading The Horsepower Whisperer with his daughter Katie, appearing courtesy of Mrs Sharon Coad who took the photo.

One point of interest is that although this book was ordered via Amazon only last week, the cover is the very first version, so Charlie and Katie have a collector's item in their hands. I can only assume that Amazon stockpiled some when my book first came out. Sometimes I don't think they "get" print-on-demand. Anyway, there can't be many of these left in the Amazon warehouse now so order your own one quick...

Personally I prefer the current cover. But I really like this image and thank Chas'n'Shaz for sending it in.

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Wednesday, 19 November 2008

Another go at submitting revised files

My earlier blog about submitting files to Lightning Source prompted a comment from none other than Aaron Shepard, doyen of self publishing authors and the man behind Aiming at Amazon. Aaron has tried just about every alternative when it comes to producing books over the Internet and is a regular contributor to the self-publishing and print on demand discussion groups on Yahoo. If it hadn't been for his book I would still be metaphorically banging the rocks together and going "Ook!" instead of already having the first part of the Soul Trader Trilogy available on Amazon. I was so impressed with Aiming at Amazon that I gave it 5 stars when I reviewed it on Amazon. You don't believe me, click on link.

Aaron must be cruising the Internet, righting wrongs and fighting corrupted files wherever he can find them for he found my blog entry soon after it was published and left a comment.

His advice was to stop messing about with Open Office Writer and to use Adobe Acrobat to generate a PDF for The Horsepower Whisperer.

I didn't do this earlier simply because I haven't loaded Adobe Acrobat on to my new PC. I had used Open Office Writer to successfully upload my textblock files before. On that occasion there had been no problem about the images of my maps, which seem to be causing the problem this time around. Anyway, having used Adobe Acrobat to make a new PDF, I noticed that the file size was much smaller than before. Using Adobe Acrobat has produced a PDF of 1.7 MB, whereas before it was 9.7 MB.

This made me wonder if the file size was too big to upload via the Lightning Source website. The last time I tried this I received an IO failure message and when I queried this with Lightning Source I was told that my files were too big and that I would have to re-submit them on a CD.

So tonight I tried uploading via the Lightning Source website again. Over several goes, the upload got as far as 62% on one attempt at 2% on another. I think there is more to it than just a question of file size. It looks as if I will have to resubmit by posting a CD once again.

On a brighter note, I have been able to order the proof for The Wormton Lamb via my customer area on the Lightning Source website so that's working alright.

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Tuesday, 18 November 2008

Corrupted file at Lightning Source

Last night, I checked into the customer area on the Lightning Source website to check the status of my uploaded files for The Horsepower Whisperer and The Wormton Lamb. The proof was ready for The Wormton Lamb but today I had a message from my customer rep to tell me that the text file for The Horsepower Whisperer was corrupted on pages 5 and 6. These pages are the ones that feature the maps at the beginning of my books. They consist of layered drawings and if any part of the pdf was likely to become corrupt this was it. However, all my files at home look okay so I can only assume that the CD that went to Lightning Source in the states was damaged in some way.

I would've uploaded a new file for The Horsepower Whisperer and ordered a proof for The Wormton Lamb tonight but the Lightning Source website is being maintained at the moment.

I regenerated a text file pdf for The Horsepower Whisperer just to make sure there were no problems but notice something odd in the process. Each text block must be divisible by four. It's something to do with Lightning Source's printing processes. Checking my new pdf for The Horsepower Whisperer in Adobe Reader for my text block file came to 423 pages whereas before it was 424

To cut a long story short, I noticed that the Open Office Writer file featured a jump in page numbers close to the end of the block. It seemed to be related to a changing header format. Deleting any page breaks removed the jump in page numbers but also caused the header format to flow from the text right to the end of the document where I really wanted completely blank pages without any header or footer.

In the end, I got around this problem by adding a new page to the Open Office Writer file. When I exported this, the resulting pdf had the correct page count.

I have an open mind about what causes this. The Open Office Writer software that I am now using is a later version than the ones I used to generate my original textblock files. I believe this is causing formatting changes and I'm optimistic that if I was generating a textblock from scratch again, then none of these problems would arise. It does show, though, that generating the pdf for uploading onto Lightning Source's system is the trickiest interface of all between what I'm doing and what the printer needs.

Tomorrow, when the Lightning Source site is available again after maintenance, I'll have another go at uploading my text block. This didn't work before because I was uploading a revised text block as well as the new cover file. With just the text block to upload, there shouldn't be any problems with file size.

Needless to say, both for cover files that Becky produced have been accepted without any problems.

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Saturday, 15 November 2008

Excitement mounts

As you can probably imagine, I am very excited by the prospect of seeing my new covers in real life.

Lightning Source got back to me today to confirm my instructions. They just wanted to check that I really wanted to revise the files for The Horsepower Whisperer. Those for The Wormton Lamb we obviously a resubmission but as The Horsepower Whisperer was already in production they wanted to make sure that I wanted to revise it before they leapt into action.

I'm glad they did this. I find there's never any harm in checking and I can only assume that they have found this out as well.

Now that they have my confirmation, I can already see from my customer account area on their website that The Wormton Lamb as its new cover and a proof copy is already available for ordering. The Horsepower Whisperer, which has new files that both the text block and the front cover, is still in pre-media.

The immediate timetable works out something like this. I should be able to order proofs of the revised books early next week so might have received them by next weekend. Assuming that they come up to standard -- and I'm really hope they do after all the hard work that is being put into them -- I will then approve the new proofs. New copies of The Horsepower Whisperer will then be available immediately. The Wormton Lamb is due for release at Easter but before then I need to order a batch of books for pre-release publicity purposes. I will also need to do a few fiddly things like upload new cover images on Amazon.

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Sunday, 9 November 2008

Titles in revision

Both The Horsepower Whisperer and The Wormton Lamb are now in revision at Lightning Source. I can enter my account area to monitor progress and once the revisions have been accepted I will order proofs. It's a case of checking every day now. Once that stage is complete, I should get proofs in a couple of working days.

In the meantime, I've been working on the next part of the Soul Trader trilogy. The title for this is The Grey Ones. This is also the title of a short story by J B Priestley, which I really enjoyed. The story is completely different but if anyone challenges me about it I'll say I'm paying "an homage" to it.

I probably mentioned this before, but I raved about this story on a car club forum a few years ago. Everyone was griping about the growing police state and the sense of big brother watching you and slowly grinding our spirits down. I recommended J B Priestley's story to those in need and many years later at a meeting in Edinburgh I met an Australian who was visiting this country. He had been one of those gripers. And he'd taken up my recommendation, bought the Fontana collection of ghost stories in which it had appeared (why ghosts? it was more horror) and hadn't enjoyed it.

The lesson for me wa sthat this story offered no hope. It was agreat idea but it didn't point the way forward. That's the target I've set myself - a positive resolution, or at least the promise of one with the concluding part of the trilogy.

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Tuesday, 28 October 2008

Uploading the new cover for The Wormton Lamb

I've had a few problems with uploading the new cover for The Wormton Lamb. First of all I couldn't log into the Lightning Source website. It seems MacAfee didn't recognise it as a secure site and I had to create an exception report to gain entry into the customer area with my log in name and password. As I'd used the Lightning Source site before when uploading files for both The Horsepower Whisperer and The Wormton Lamb so had no qualms about this.

When it came to uploading the pdf file for the new cover, the process was interrupted three times. Each repeat attempt completed less of the process, I started at 17% and ended up at 2%. A pop up box gave the following message.

"An error has occurred processing your upload: An IO error occurred. Please try again or contact technical support for assistance."

So, I'll have to do that tomorrow. This is the first time I've tried uploading a new file with my new computer.

The last time I uploaded a revision I got charged twice but my customer rep sorted that out. I hope I don't get charged twice again.

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Thursday, 23 October 2008

New book cover for The Horsepower Whisperer

Here is the new book cover for The Horsepower Whisperer. It's much more colourful and carries a bigger punch, helped in part by Hob's knuckles gripping the steering wheel as he punches M Cadvare's personal transportation module off the page. The gremlin can see trouble up ahead and is doing a hornpipe in his panic. We can see what's ahead, too. If you look really closely you can make out a roadblock and a helicopter in the reflection of Hob's visor. Hob is about to fost through the roadblock, effectively leak into another set of dimensions in a parallel universe, but just before he does the Conformorians will activate the airbag in the steering wheel. For what happens next you'll just have to read the book.

It's a big relief to have got to this stage. Time will tell whether this cover design has more shelf appeal than the old one. I still need to upload this image onto Amazon and it will take a few days for books looking like this to be available so if you're quick you might end up with the earlier design, which will shortly become a collector's item - as I keep saying.

But I feel I can now move on to the next stage in my publishing adventure. There's the small matter of publicity to tackle and a new video for Youtube. Then there are e-books and MP3s of me reading from The Horsepower Whisperer. I haven't updated my website with the long awaited Forthcoming Attractions yet, either. There'll be many changes in the next few months but now that I have a cover image that satisfies mt scrutiny I no longer feel distracted by a feeling that I could have done better.

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Sunday, 19 October 2008

Book covers

It's been a long journey bit the new designs for my book covers are nearly ready. I can't show them to you yet. This isn't any attempt at showmanship - it's just that I don't have them in format that Blogger will take as an upload.

The Horsepower Whisperer was pretty good out of the box. Beck and I were pretty happy with that one but Beck suggested breaking up the cloudless sky with some, well, clouds. She said she liked the original sky that I'd created because it was more graphic. So I had a go at some clouds and found that clouds are hard.

I can't remember drawing or painting clouds realistically before. I feel I've come on some way since the time when I drew the first illustration of The Wormton Lamb. To cut along story short i messed up the original painting with sub-standuard clouds. Fortunately, I subsequent attempt produced clouds that looked more cloudy and Beck, who has the technology, was able to splice my new clouds behind the dancing lamb. It's amazing what she can do with her IT.

So now the cover illustration for The Wormton Lamb exists only in cyber space.

Beck and I now have a few minor tweaks to make. It's something you can get dangerously anal about she said. I never considered the dangers of being anal before but have to concede that this could be a possibility. If I am to live with these cover designs then I have to be entirely happy with them and not see improvements every time I look at them. I know nobody else will look at them so critically and that most people thought the originals looked okay. But I want them to be as good a s I can possibly get them and not have these niggling little faults for a long time from now. I suppose i want future compliant covers, even though I can feel my standards are constantly on the rise.

Once the minor tweaks have been made, Beck'll produce some jpg files for uploading onto Amazon but I'll previe wthem here first. Watch this space.

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Thursday, 2 October 2008

Red Snapper - a professional makes a difference

I had a good graphic design session with Rebecca Morton at Red Snapper last night. You'll have heard of Beck before on this blog. Dammit - you'll have eaten yoghurt from the pots she designed for Rachel's Organic Yoghurt and seen her work on the Milk Marque lorries. Here she is in action, pointing out something important I hadn't spotted. Of course, as soon as she'd shown me what was wrong it was obvious. She also showed me the amazing things the full verison of Photoshop can do. Well, some of them anyway.

"Look how easily I can get rid of the blemishes," she said.

"What blemishes?" I replied. I'd been really careful not to get oily fingerprints on my work but there they were. And then there they were - gone. In the hands of an expert like Beck the results were frankly mind blowing - and so quick to make!

We've experimented with a couple of ideas but the favourite so far seems to be a refined version of that mugged together design that I cooked up. It's odd but anything with a larger picture seems to lose out in terms of impact. The white space around them seems to draw you into each illustration. That's how it works for me, anyway.

Beck said that we should be careful not to create any problems for the future. There needed to be sufficient space for longer titles and each cover illustration should follow the outline of a pyramid, which fortunately I seemed to be doing subconsciously. She really liked the new pictures - which pleased me no end since I really value her opinion - and said how much more coherent the pictures were. She neatly side-stepped my earlier problems with overlaying text on the illustration by simply separating them out.

We worked up cover versions(!) for both The Horsepower Whisperer and The Wormton Lamb and they looked really good. But Beck's only just getting started. She's going to work on them some more. I've asked to her to come up with some more suggestions. Go faster stripes are nice but not essential. It shouldn't take her long and I can't wait! All that patience I had when creating the illustrations has evaporated. entirely.

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Wednesday, 1 October 2008

New cover illustrations

Here's the new cover illustrations for The Horsepower Whisperer. As with any picture on this blog or the one known as Engine Punk if you click on the image you'll see a large image. I was happy enough with the earlier cover design for some time but as soon as I'd revamped my website it looked a little staid. I realized I could do better and ever since then my publishing adventure has been on hold while I embarked on a remembering-how-to-paint trip. I donned blinkers and stopped doing many of the other things I enjoy like writing and welding in my determination to add as much pizzazz as I could to my covers.

It became an obsession and I entered that dark tunnel where you strive for perfection knowing that it is really an impossible dream. I never really know what keeps me going during these times for there are no travelling companions but at last I have emerged, blinking in the sunlight, reconciled to the lack of perfection but reasonably happy with the result.

It’s been a trip down memory lane, too. The last time I’d used gouache or water colour was a t school. In fits and starts, I stumbled across the techniques I’d left behind nearly 30 years ago.

In the process of producing this picture for The Wormton Lamb, my whole house has become my studio. It looks a mess with materials, papers, PCs, scanners, printers, motorcycle exhaust awaiting fitment and piles of books everywhere. But really it’s a creative flux. All this jumbled up stuff has been doing my suede in for weeks but the juxtaposition of unrelated elements – like BMW zorsts and old ammunition boxes full of marker pens – sets my ideas off, like sprinting mad March hares. I have experienced a creativity explosion that is not over yet. I was determined not to stop until the illustrations for both books were finished.

I am now close to having a tidy up. The explosion has create a lot of fall out.

And fluff, too. Where does it all come from?

The next stage in this adventure will be to experiment with different layouts. Here's one I mugged up quickly using the old cover illustration for the The Horsepower Whisperer. I still have other ideas to try out but this one seems to work for me. One thing with which I've struggled is how the text and pictures fit together. The titles are different sizes and the visual focus or action is always in a different place. It's very easy to enter an endless loop of adjusting and re-adjusting elements. What colour should the stripes be? Should the text be black or a matching or complimentary colour?

But for now I've reached the "Sod it" stage. It's over the Beck at Red Snapper for her professional input.

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Sunday, 7 September 2008

Colour taste and cover versions

The new cover designs for The Horsepower Whisperer and The Wormton Lamb are coming on. Although I would have preferred to have finished them both by now, I'm enjoying myself. I haven't indulged in painting with oils or gouache since I was at Falmouth School of Art. I'd forgotten how much I like the smell of turpentine and the feeling of the paint on the brush.

I've forgotten a lot about technique but the most striking thing of all to come back to me is that profound sense of peace when I'm focussed on painting. It's taken a little while to return. I was hurrying too much to start with, treating the materials as if I was familiar with them and in control. I've been using sprit markers for year but they seem a bit unsubtle for illustrations, although fine for renderings of cars or motorbikes.

Another thing that's come back to me is how awful green tastes. If I'm doing a wash, inevitably I lick my paintbrush if it's too wet or carries too much colour. I now associate all colours with a bad taste in the mouth and green is my least favourite. The taste of green has changed. The watercolour taste of green used to be the taste that the smell of a chemical toilet suggested. Nowadays it's another nasty taste, no better or worse, just different. It's probably better for me. I've never heard of anyone dying from suspected green poisoning but having lasted this long I don't want to succumb from to it until my work is better known. Posthumous fame doesn't appeal.

Licking your paintbrush just isn't a problem with oils. I don't like the smell of turps that much.

As a child I used to wonder why they didn't make paints taste pleasant. I've concluded it's deliberate. At primary school there was a craze for raspberry or strawberry scented rubbers and they proved surprisingly appetising. Of course, somebody overindulged. There's always one. It wasn't me. Raspberry and strawberry flavoured rubbers were banned immediately but I can't rememeber if, at around the same time, paint boxes became unpalatte-able(!).

I've just re-read that last paragraph and realised that perhaps I should have used the term eraser instead of rubber but I'll leave it as it is.

Many years ago, in an episode of The Magic Roundabout, Brian the Snail found a paintbox and mistook them for sweets. He ate the lot and spent the whole episode feeling very ill. I still wonder what his snail trail must have looked like afterwards. A rainbow?

Whilst re-exploring the sensory associations of colour, I tried alternative layouts for my cover designs. I wanted my book cover template to match the look of my website. It was the re-vamped website that prompted this cove re-design in the first place. In the end I've gone for something similar to the originals.

I've made the go faster stripes smaller but kept the chequer strip. The drawings will now be portrait format because in landscape they create a lot of dead space. They will also be drawn out and painted on A3 sized paper and scanned in on my sparkly new A3 scanner. This should make them look far slicker. And my name will be at the top rather than the title because I am the brand instead of the book.

I've also given a lot more thought to how later titles will look. Actually, I hadn't considered this before. I hope to avoid any awkward formatting problems with a suitably flexible layout that anticipates their cover illustrations and the size of their titles.

I still haven't settle on the medium for the illustrations yet. So far I've dabbled in marker pens, pastels (or chalks to our American cousins), oils, water colour, gouache, colouring pencils and acrylic inks. These last weeks have been multi-media experiences but I wouldn't say that entirely comfortable with any of them. Marker pens are probably my favourite medium but the more illustrations that I do, as opposed to renerings, the more I feel drawn to gouache. With a bit of Acrylic ink squirted in for good measure.

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Monday, 1 September 2008

Another milestone - my first return

My local bookshop in Liskeard is the only one so far to take The Horsepower Whisperer on a "sale or return" basis. This week they rang me to say, to say, to say - well, they want to give me my book back. It hasn't sold and the owner is selling the bookshop.

I went in on Saturday and picked it up. The book shop in Liskeard is called The Book Shop so you can't really miss it and it does exactly what it says on the shop sign. Except that they hadn't any luck with The Horsepower Whisperer.

Funnily enough, people have told me that they'd seen my book on sale in The Book Shop but they obviously hadn't bought it.

The shopkeepers, though, had done a very good job of looking after it for it looked like new and wasn't at all shop soiled.

The Book Shop is changing hands since the lease is up and the current owner reckons she's too close to retiring age to renew it. So I'll introduce myself to the new owner when the time is right and show them The Wormton Lamb when that's ready. With their new covers both books should prove irresistible.

But for now I have a collector's item in the form of my first return. It's a very early version of The Horsepower Whisperer, without the red stripe down the spine and with the original cover illustration depicting Nick Hob with rather red raw hands. I realised that he looked like he had dermatitis and re-drew him with more flesh coloured hands.

So I'll sign this very early copy of The Horsepower Whisperer and pass it on to some deserving soul who will be able to sell it in 10 years and pay off their mortgage. All those people who looked but didn't buy have missed an investment opportunity.

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Sunday, 31 August 2008

Highest ranking yet on Amazon

Regular readers of this blog will know that I don't check ranking on Amazon. Not very much.

I had some visitors today and was just showing them my website when they asked me how did it look on Amazon and when we looked The Horsepower Whisperer was ranked 29,683 overall. I couldn't believe it.

It is also currently (as I write) No.32 in Contemporary Fantasy and No.97 in Sci Fi Adventure! That last statistic is a new one. I've never been in the Sci-Fi Top 100 before. And I'm just a gnat's whisker away from getting into the Fantasy Top 30!

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Thursday, 28 August 2008

Real life follows fiction - again!

It's happening again. First there was the giant lamb born to one of Caroline's ewe. In fact, they're Jacob's sheep but belong to Caroline. This means that as sheep they are usually quite modestly sized.

Then there's been all the soul-destroying influences we've been subjected to. We can't do anything fun because it damages the environment. We have to think about everything before we do it, audit our actions and ensure they stand up to scrutiny. Whose scrutiny? Why the Conformorians of course! Did you ever doubt they didn't really exist?

And now here's Monika-Sandra, a third instance of real life following my fiction (although I suspect the Conformorians have been around for years before I ever wrote about them). You know the character called Heidi in The Horsepower Whisperer had a pet bat? A friend of mine called Heidi has rescued this little person. Unfortunately Monika-Sandra the Pipestrelle bat had a broken wing and died a few days after these pictures were taken. Julian was found off the coast of Anarchadia waterlogged and close to drowning but is still with his fictional keeper.

I'm a bit spooked. What else will happen in real life that has
already happened in my books? I'm going to have to really careful what I write from now on.

From now on, the weather in my stories will be brilliantly good. All I have to do is get cracking with The Grey Ones - as soon as I've finished doing my book covers.

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Sunday, 24 August 2008

Under the weather

I've been a bit under the weather recently. I don't think it was the rain at the Calstock Bike Show because I was in the tents and enjoying the company and facilities. (See the Engine Punk blog for more on that if you're into pedestrians aquaplaning.) But it was there that I noticed that I hard a sore throat and here I am, a fortnight later, having had some days off work and with the tail end of a persistent cold to get rid of.

I have the feeling that I've made the most of the rotten weather. First there was the website re-vamp (indoors work) and more recently there's been the re-design of my book covers (more indoors work). Meanwhile, motorsport events and traction engine rallies have been cancelled and farming friends are going to have to pickle their corn crop with acid because it's so damp has little prospect of drying out.

But here's a re-vamp of the cover for The Horsepower Whisperer. The jury is still out on the white space around the illustration but for the moment I like it. The drawing will change but I feel good about the new layout. This has taken a great deal of thought. Maybe it was the drugs - the Tixylix and the Lemsip. Perhaps they altered my perceptions. Maybe it was sniffing my marker pens. Whatever - the go faster stripes are less dominant and better use is made of the available space to give an idea of what sort of story can be expected inside. It keeps the kind of corporate look that I want, too, with a couple of visual references to the website. The viewpoint in the drawing will come down a bit so that the gremlin is more in Hob's line of sight. Hob will also take up more room in the drawing. There's too much irrelevant stuff around him and getting rid of it should add to the impact of the book cover.

Having the snots delayed proceedings rather more than I would have liked. Although I was at home I slept a lot during the day. This was in addition to sleeping during the night, which was a bit more unusual because sometimes I have nocturnal habits. Anyway, sneezing and dripping all over artwork proved counter productive and now I'm back with all sorts of media - oils, water coolers, gouache, inks (I'd never tried inks before), pastels, biros, pencils and spirit markers.

As well as finding out some home truths about my pictorial orientation (I'm landscape and not portrait), I have also discovered that there are more differences between being an illustrator and being an industrial designer.

An illustrator illustrates and a designer designs. Nobody has seen what the designer has designed before. Only when he's drawn it is it revealed. Everybody's seen what an illustrator illustrates before he's even sharpened his pencil and have their own views on what a giant lamb should look like. With one you can bluff but with the other you can't. When an industrial designer (me frinstance) attempts to depict scenes of an agricultural revolutionary nature, you have to do a lot more preparatory work.

Not only that - an industrial designer only draw one thing at a time. An illustrator draws several together and they've all got to lie in the right plane and reflect a certain amount of light off each other. Some of the subjects might even be people.

At the moment it feels like individual elements work really well but don't work so well together. The sum of the parts doesn't quite add up.

That's what it's been quite handy having all this rotten weather. If it was sunny I'd be outside mending leaky roofs instead of wrestling with all this paper. My hands would be oily from the garage and various mechanical adventures an I'd get grubby paw prints on my hitherto pristine artwork. And, yes, I did consider oily finger marks as graphic devices for my new covers but, again, the results were not quite what I expected.

In a round about way, I suppose I'm trying to make an excuse for not finishing my new cover artwork for The Wormton Lamb but how good at you drawing anyway? When was the last time you tried to produce a book cover? Well, then. You can shut up.

The portrait/landscape thing is still difficult for me. I sit at a table, which is wider than it is deep. I feel that and easel might be better. It would allow me to see the whole picture and not something that tapers away from me.

I even considered making my book landscape in format but only fleetingly. I don't want to have to re-typeset it. Landscape format books don't sit comfortably in my hands. I have landscape format eyes but - like most people - have portrait format hands.

Or rather, they're portrait format hands when they pick up a book. Let them get hold of a pencil or a paint brush and they go all landscape on me again.

Here's how The Wormton Lamb looks so far. I remain content with the white space around it again. I've used earlier illustrations to rough it out but the lamb's not right. It doesn't dominate the scene enough and I reckon it's dislocated a shoulder as well. My latest drawing - it's still wet and too big for my old trusty A4 scanner - is better. The cars are proportionally smaller and the lamb much bigger. I'm still finalising some of the colours. I even went so far as to search for the right complementary colours on the internet and devised a palette of colours that were comfortable with each other. True to form, after all that colour preparation I've ignored it and done my own thing.

The size of my artwork has also grown. I am now steadily working my way through an A3 pad and have ordered an A3 scanner. The idea is that once my original picture is shrunk down to Royale size (156mm x 234mm) then any embarrassing smudges won't be noticeable.

Anyone who sees my book covers but hasn't read this blog will think I'm a creative genius and not someone who's been drawing at right angles to what he finds comfortable.

We'll see what Beck at RedSnapper reckons to these changes.

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Vintage Thing No.25 - Norton-JAP V-twin

Just look at this beauty! As a Vintage Thing it's practically over-qualified. This gorgeous 1000cc JAP v-twin powered, wideline Norton Featherbed won best competition bike at this year's Calstock Bike Show and when they fired it up in the tent there were huge grins all round. It sounded like a racing Morgan trike, which isn't surprising since they use the same engine - really crisp and nothing like the "potato, potato, potato" of a Harley V-twin.

These engines also went into Brough Superiors and many Shelsley specials. John Bolster used two of them chained together in Bloody Mary and went on to use no less than four of them in the ultimate Bolster hillclimber. However, the resulting 4-litre eight cylinder monster proved too difficult to start. Without electric starters, bumping it was the only way to do it and if one engine didn't catch it just right, the shocks to the chain transmission system would snap the links easily.

As for the frame, the Norton Featherbed frame is the most famous bracket for engine and two wheels of them all. It was never officially called that. The nickname came about because it was such a revelation to ride after the rigid tail post-war Nortons and it became the frame of choice for anyone who wanted to get the best performance out of their engine. Don't tune your Triumph - put the engine into a Norton frame. Since Manx Norton singles were the engine of choice in Formula 500cc car racing after the war and - for some never explained reason - Norton wouldn't let you have an engine unless you bought a complete bike, Norton rolling chassis were happily not difficult to come by.

The overall look of this bike is just right and I love the twin magnetos on the crankcase. These allow each cylinder to be individually timed. Why would you want to do that? Well, these engines are hand made Vintage Things and by individually timing each cylinder you can allow for any production tolerances. And you can retard or advance the ignition to allow for the front and rear cylinders running at different temperatures. It's not such an issue with more modern machinery. With this sort of engine, you are in much closer touch with the designers and builders.

Look at the way the front exhaust pipe goes through the engine plates. Conventional wisdom has it that the rear cylinder runs hotter than the front one due to its masking effect. But sometimes the front one runs hotter because it, too, can be masked by the front wheel. Funny old things, these Vintage Things.

Unfortunately, I didn't get to speak to the owner/constructor but Pete Low did. He said that the conrods were out of Noel Pope's record breaking machine and the gearbox had to be subtley angled to get the correct chain alignment. It's one of those machines where the more you look, the more you see.

Although I prefer disc brakes that big drum brake is entirely in keeping with the period look of the machine. This bike reminds me of a Triton on steroids. Tritons are among my favourite two wheeled specials. They just look so right to me and this bike also does it for me. It could have been ridden to the show by Ogri.

Starting it proved a little awkward but entirely worthwhile. Even if you have the weight, you need to apply it to the kickstart in exactly the right place. Pete said he'd've volunteered to have a go as the bike wore out various members of the public, "but I don't think my knees would stand it." Mindful of the stories of Bolster's JAP V-twins, we just hoped the ignition was timed correctly since a kick back from a machine this size would have put you through the roof of the tent and possibly on the other side of the River Tamar. Happily, all was well, and the bike eventually burst into joyous, riotous life.

As Pete said, "Wouldn't Hob be tempted off his Egli-Vincent by this machine?"

Of course, he would. In fact, I fear the owner may have already sold his soul to the Horsepower Whisperer to get this bike together.

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Monday, 18 August 2008

Wormton Lamb doings

The Wormton Lamb is even more nearly ready than when I last typed this. After some jiggery pokery when the revised textblock didn't upload onto Lightning Source's site, I now have a corrected proof with the right maps in it - just like the one here. But having sexed up my website I think I need to do the same to my book covers.

I like the colour co-ordinated go faster stripes (even if some people call them chav stripes) and they look okay on Amazon as thumbnails. But okay isn't good enough. I want them to leap off the page into the face of the beholder and off the shelf into their hands. They should be irresistible. It's a tall order but I reckon that if I'm happy about them then most other people will be, too.

Obviously I'm ignoring Cousin Lisa's advice below. However, our policy here at Anarchadia Publishing is on of continuous improvement so that's what I'm up to.

And once I've done the new cover for The Wormton Lamb then there'll be a new one for The Horsepower Whisperer.

Already I've learnt that there is a subtle difference between and industrial designer like me and an illustrator like what I'm trying to be. I've been drawing things I've made up for years. Illustrating something that already exists is surprisingly different. They say that if you can do a rendering of an automobile with all its different surfaces and textures then you can draw anything. I am endeavouring to prove this old saw right. In the meantime, here's the new map of Wormton.

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Tuesday, 12 August 2008

Calstock Bike Show 08

At the Calstock Bike Show it was so wet underfoot even the pedestrians were aqua-planing. Never mind the bikes doing it - if you proceeded at anything above walking pace and braked injudiciously then you lost all steering and down you went in a great plume of water. And it proved incredibly difficult for the girls and boys of Calstock to stop aqua-planing once they'd got a taste for it.

Was this show one of the summer's best kept secrets? Pete Low - he of Ginetta G21S and Armstrong MT500 fame already on this blog - told me about this show last year and now that he's moved up to Essex he was determined to come back for this year's event. Last year he got roped in to do the judging. He knew the organiser Malcolm Wright through the Armstrong Rider's forum and positively raved about what a good event this was. As I hadn't seen him since he'd moved up country and decided to go along and see for myself.

Calstock is on the River Tamar just below Gunnislake. It's an ancient port with the Cotehele estate to the west and Morwellham Quay just round the nest bend of the river. There's no road bridge but a spectacular railway viaduct over the Tamar, which comes in useful for projections of laser shows. The Bike Show is combined with Calstock Regatta and to be honest I was a bit dubious about that. I am not aquatic and thought maybe this event was not for me. In the end, I discovered I was wrong on both counts.

I would say that the weather was the worst we've had all summer. Staying dry was not an option and today I have a heavy head cold. I'm still really glad that I went, though.

The entertainment didn't stop at admiring the automotive art, either. A medieval battle re-enactment society put away its armour since it was staring to rust and gave us a demonstration of cannon and mortar fire power across the Tamar. This was upstream from the regatta, which, to be honest, I didn't really notice. Although, it wasn't a large show, there seemed to be so much to see and do. There were tented shops, bars and a band pavilion for the kind of rocky, punky music this kind of event requires.In the evening there were fireworks and a laser show that caught every drop of rain and mad it glitter. And more bands. And more rain.

Despite the atrocious weather, everyone seemed really cheerful. Or perhaps it was because of it. We were all there because we had common interests and were determined to make the most of it. We complained a little about the rain but later began to laugh in disbelief as it came down in silver-plated pushrods. And not pushrods lightened for competition purposes, either.

The ground was already waterlogged so some tents ended up in puddles but in a humanitarian gesture the people of Calstock threw open the doors to the Village Hall for those who'd been flooded.

Pete kept bumping into people he knew like Phil from the Plymouth section of the BSA Owner's Club. We spent a very pleasant afternoon staying as dry as we could and admiring the rolling sculpture that stretched out in every direction. Here's Phil in the evening about to set off home to Millbrook on his Super Rocket, making the most of a less-moist spell. Pete was judging again this year and had been on the campsite since Thursday night, wheighing up the entries and - it seems - telling anyone who would listen what a great read The Horsepower Whisperer is! Thanks mate.

Next year, I'll take my bike - weather permitting.

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Sunday, 6 July 2008

Playlist for The Horsepower Whisperer

I have created a playlist for The Horsepower Whisperer on imeem, the social networking site. These are the songs that have inspired me to write The Horsepower Whisperer. I hope you enjoy this list as much as I do.

See how it emerges from the blackness!

The Horsepower Whisperer

Who could resist a track entitled Explosion on Uranus? I couldn't. But it's such a great track I didn't try very hard.

Think of this playlist as a movie soundtrack. It's all part of the multi-media Soul Trader experience.

Most tracks play full length but some are only 30 second samples due to licensing restrictions. However, I can recommend that you get the full version from itunes or on CD even. Then you can have the full length version of The Horsepower Whisperer playlist.

You can always make your own. It's incredible but not everyone has the taste as me.

I like this stuff so much I want to share it with you. I envy those of you who are about to discover this music for the first time. What a treat you'll have! Some of this stuff may be a bit obscure. Okay most of it is very obscure but I can't understand why artists like The Prisoners, The Hellacopters or The Flaming Sideburns are not world famous.

In the parallel universe of Anarchadia, they are are hugely popular and very successful. We all new there was something wrong with this universe but we can put this aspect right. So seek out their other tracks, albums and back catalogues.

Labels: , , , , , , ,

Playlist for The Horsepower Whisperer

I have created a playlist for The Horsepower Whisperer on imeem, the social networking site. These are the songs that have inspired me to write The Horsepower Whisperer. I hope you enjoy this list as much as I do.

See how it emerges from the blackness!

The Horsepower Whisperer

Who could resist a track entitled Explosion on Uranus? I couldn't. But it's such a great track I didn't try very hard.

Think of this playlist as a movie soundtrack. It's all part of the multi-media Soul Trader experience.

Most tracks play full length but some are only 30 second samples due to licensing restrictions. However, I can recommend that you get the full version from itunes or on CD even. Then you can have the full length version of The Horsepower Whisperer playlist.

You can always make your own. It's incredible but not everyone has the taste as me.

I like this stuff so much I want to share it with you. I envy those of you who are about to discover this music for the first time. What a treat you'll have! Some of this stuff may be a bit obscure. Okay most of it is very obscure but I can't understand why artists like The Prisoners, The Hellacopters or The Flaming Sideburns are not world famous.

In the parallel universe of Anarchadia, they are are hugely popular and very successful. We all new there was something wrong with this universe but we can put this aspect right. So seek out their other tracks, albums and back catalogues.

Labels: , , , , , , ,