Usefulness of Google

While trawling for a cover picture of my back-catalogue kids’ book, Alfi Beasti Don’t Eat That! I found this delightful photo of someone reading to their appreciative offspring. An image like this makes all the process of writing, illustrating, editing, endless meetings, and waiting totally worthwhile.

Thank you, ‘Red Rose Mummy’, for posting that image.

 

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Three months on . . .

 

Following last post. I haven’t done much other than write, eat, sleep, be slightly sociable and deal with all the usual life-stuff that we all deal with. Half way through this re-write, I’d emailed the (potential) agent to say: ‘I’ll be sending the new draft through, end of April,’ and I will. A deadline, even if self-imposed is a good way to stop, reflect, and hope what you’ve been hunched over for many weeks is at least better than the last draft.

I’ve read through five times and three folks are reading at the moment; and I’m about to scoot through it again. There are still mistakes and my made-up language to improve on but . . . time to stop – for the moment – work on some of the illustrations whether they’d be ever used by a publisher or not. I feel the book needs a few of the visual elements camped out in my head, so, I’ll put the laptop away for a few days and concentrate on ink and paper.

 

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Overlooked stuff uncovered . . .

by my wonderful and dynamic brother.

A few months back I started wondering about whether I should get a website done – to consolidate all the wandering threads of writing: published stuff, work in progress and first jottings. I asked a few folk, reeled away slightly at the cost and decided to wait until I had a really good reason for doing such a thing – like landing an agent . . . I’d also mentioned it to my brother but knowing how incredibly busy he is, I’d put the idea firmly to one side and got on with everything else.

An email appeared one morning: ‘Hi, did you get the mockup?’ No I hadn’t; he sent it again and the result was the start of the website he is building now and of which I will be linking to this blog as soon as I’ve done all my allowed homework for the site – files of it. I don’t know how anyone goes about doing anything as seemingly complex as this. He’s showed me all the various stages from a neurone cluster-like diagram to the beautiful pallet of colour and script he has devised. I shut down mentally after about three minutes of how-it-all-works explanation, and I wish I didn’t. Could be the Luddite in me, or maybe I just don’t have that sort of a brain. Anyway, I can certainly appreciate the result, and his generosity!

I mentioned overlooked stuff in the blog-post title. It refers to the other art things that I do – photography and painting/illustration. I haven’t made any paintings for a while as the writing has taken over; the illustration continues in my books in the form of line drawing and inky experiments but the photography is a continual process – I just never considered it to be an art form, just something I do all the time, like a diary. My brother has decided otherwise and has, under his marketing hat, put it all on the site. It’s a revelation to me, and something I wouldn’t have considered but he’s so right. It’s all part of my writing progress: visiting places, observing, recording and storing away visual images to use at a later date.

Thanks Adrian. You are the most marvellous being!

Site is live at kateahardy.com if you want to have a peep but lots still to do so excuse the (creative) disorder.

 

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One of many, many visual recordings . . .

Website

I think I do need one – mainly to grab together all the loose bits of ‘me’ information out there. My brother has promised to help ‘build me’ one but in the meantime here’s a mock up of the opening page I would imagine to exist out there in web-land – sort of.

If he’s really clever, and I think he is, You, the public, will be able to click on a photo of me and find a short biography; click on various books – Hoxton, Dog, and other tales, Going out in the midday sun, The hundred and fifty-eighth book . . . and a notebook perhaps which will then reveal a page of my sketches and musings over characters/places/overheard conversations, etc. Oh, and a few links to this blog and the another one, Goodreads reviews, and so on. Simple.

He said it’s a bit like writing a book only easier . . . for someone who has just about mastered turning the computer on and off, the idea of ‘building’ something like his own wonderful website is utterly beyond me. Watch this space, as they say . . .

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signpost

Yep . . . that point again. What to do next – which way to follow – which project to start/re-start.

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But it feels all right this limbo stage; I’m not suffering from the blank page thing, more a need to concentrate on one idea at a time. Hoxton, the novel I’ve been working on for a couple of years, is now being looked at with a regard to some possible action happening, agent -wise, and the follow-on book, Smithi, is finished up to serious editing point.

So where to go while I’m sort of . . .  waiting for the possible action. I’d quite like to spend some time putting my various blogs into book form – being someone who imagines the Net could just evaporate at any point; then there’s several follow-up book ideas beyond Smithi; a story about souls; a story about cryogenics, and my latest idea – to develop one of my short stories into a novel. So far this one is winning and I’ve started on a few chapters – an interesting exercise and perhaps good to get away from London 2070 – the place and time my mind has largely inhabited for the last few years.

 

 

 

And finally . . .

I have my style sorted for ‘Smithi’s drawings. – Following on from previous posts. I have finished (until an editor peruses it in detail) the second in my series of novels set in 2070 (amended from 2090). Each chapter will have a heading either in the form of a letter written on the main character’s travels, or a sketch depicting his surroundings or thoughts.

Below, a sketch of the ‘horse-letter-man’ who visits the pub where ‘Smithi’ temporarily resides  – the Cat and Fiddle in the Peak district – (second highest pub in the UK; the highest being in Swaledale, Yorkshire).

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And Smithi’s inky-splashed sketch of the soaked Peaks during an unproductive mushroom-gathering forage; after which he returns to the pub to encounter the sinister Reverend Christie.

 

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Visual information through other eyes

In my book Hoxton the sketches are ‘made’ by one of the characters, Jarvis. In the follow on book, Smithi, I am again using sketches, this time in the form of the main character’s diary /notebook as he travels from the Peak district to Londonia, after escaping from the Domes of Manchestershire (both stories are set in 2070).

The tricky part is making the handwriting and drawing sufficiently different from that of Jarvis. Of course I could ask someone else to do it, but in order to keep costs down and enjoy a further challenge, well . . . I’ll see how it goes.

Some try-outs of style, pen, pencil etc.

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An extract from the book when the main character, Smithi (a teacher of botany) escapes from the Domes into Out-side and encounters real and non-genetically-aided plants for the first time.

 

My shoulders tense, brain scrambling for rational thoughts: there are none. I have no idea what will happen. No idea . . . Crunch. The truck hits the photoscene material, pushing it aside. The speed has slowed with the impact. Careless now, I swipe a finger over the screen – reverse. Finger pushing up – maximum speed.

    The sudden sound of footsteps makes my stomach flip.

    “Hey. You in the C25. Stop!”

     I squint back to see one of the guys from the glass room. He’s gaining. The Camionette is perhaps a yard from the wall.

    I yell: “Go back — the gas will get you!”

    The footsteps stop. He’s shouting for security. Too late. The C25 hits the wall and the existing small crack zig-zags into a jagged gap. The motor cuts with a final-sounding grunt. God’s own shit. I look around wildly.  People are approaching, dark blue uniforms, guns out of holders. I have seconds. Leaping out from the cab, I drag the bag and stumble towards the gap. A bullet zings past my head and lodges into a loudspeaker; another rasps the white cloth of my disguise. Grabbing a metal tube, I smash at the wall. Pieces fall, the gap just big enough. I pull myself and the bag through, cloth ripping, skin burning. Bullets rebound, shouts fill my ears.

    “Get him.”

    “No crapping way – the gas!”

    “Do it!”

    “Call the engineers – get this covered – leave him – he’s a dead man. Crazy bleeder.”

    The voices diminish to a drone as I run and run, eyes to the ground, not thinking, just fearful of a bullet streaking into my flesh. Then I trip, something catching my foot. I collapse into soft greenery and lie for a long time, face down, breathing in raw plant smells, unable to turn and look at what I have escaped to.

    My lungs calm; the racing pulse slows. I am alive. I laugh crazily at my improvised words – ‘The Gas will get you.’  A sound nearby stops silences me. No gas . . . but what other dangers. Raising myself slightly I turn my head to see an ambling spiky creature; its small black eyes regard me for a moment then it carries on snuffling amongst the leaves.

    I twist round and sit still staring at the animal. The word ‘hedgehog’ appears in my mind: Grandada describing them: ‘Good f’garden they were, Smithi – ate slugs un’t like.’

    My gaze wanders from the animal. I sit in a street, or what was a street; the road surface just visible between bushes, grass and brambles. A tree grows in a wrecked house opposite, its branches sprouting absurdly from the roof. The building next door had been a shop, the glass frontage smashed, bare bones of empty shelves pale lines in the dark interior.

    Looking up above the rows of buildings, my mind anticipates opaque curves but my eyes tell of something else: the sky. In the domes it had been the month of Seventem; just a word that meant a division of time. Out here it is colour, smells, sounds and temperature. How incredibly strange to feel a breeze on my face. The air is warm but with a tinge of freshness that hints of cold when the sun leaves the sky. I think of the bag: jumpers, scarves and the matches that the girl gave me. Why had I not asked her how she had known of my thoughts? An odd child, always apart from the others.

    I lie back into the grass and let my mind wander away from the classroom, from crowds, from the domes. Clouds are extraordinary; they grow and shrink, the edges boiling and swirling. Directly above two dragons approach each other mutating slowly, one to a dog shape the other a long-billed bird. The sky is an intense blue at the top, gradually fading to opal above the lower rooftops and golden-leaved trees.

    I feel so overwhelmingly happy. I want to shout manically but fearing what might hear me, I content myself with digging out a notebook and pen from my bag. I will write down every emotion, record everything.

    A shaky sketch of the street completed I add a note of the flora surrounding me:

    Silver Birch, Plane – vast, English Oak and Deciduous Oak; lauristinous in profusion, ivy, welsh poppy, honesty, about twenty different grasses . . . the list is endless. Stashing the book, I stand up and look around, elation ebbing a little as I consider practical issues – food. My small supply won’t last more than a couple of meals and little, or actually, no thought was given to after that.

    As I search for an apple in the bag my hand clasps around a small metal disc – my grandfather’s compass. So, amongst all the madness I had remembered something ultra-practical . . . I decide on southwards thinking of approaching winter; heave the bag onto my shoulder and set off down a once noble street.

 

Tangents

I’m very good at these – going off, wandering about, throwing in new ideas, which can be exciting or frustrating depending what I’m trying to achieve, writing wise.

 

I once saw a film of a writer (can’t remember who) as they were planning a book. The walls of the studio were plastered with a sort of time scale plan – each chapter planned out: what was going to happen to who, where and when.

I don’t seem to be able to do this, and I have tried. I start with characters and a vague idea of what might happen, but then the plot invariably changes and veers off in some other direction, characters leading the way and me stumbling along: “Er, hello . . . wait.”

A review of one of my most tangenty stories, where the reader (luckily) enjoyed following my unknown path.

I really enjoyed this and it was hugely compelling, I had absolutely no problem zipping through to the end. The concept is really original, and in the best sense – intriguing! The writing is jaunty, the story feels like it has direction. And this isn’t even hugely important, as you have the rare gift of being able to grab a reader and string them along, you could digress and go on weird tangents and I’d follow you as you clearly know what you’re doing.

Major tangent-wise, I’ve just started another short story inspired by a flight into Stanstead recently. Supposed to be 6,000 words, it’s already out of control and heading into book shape, now taking over the novel I was already writing – the second instalment of Londonia: Smithi.

It’s all good practice . . .

 

My stuff at the moment:

Three stories with ‘Cracked Eye’ online magazine – 158th book out, The couch and Rose, to appear at some point.

Trilogy: ‘Going Out in the Midday Sun’, on Amazon as paperback and ebooks.

Londonia: work in progress

Smith: Follow-up to Londonia: work in progress

Dog: A short/long story/novel, in progress, and length to be decided.

Some illustrations from Londonia:

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