Book launch!

MOFK COVER front finalI’m very excited to announce the launch of our new Anthology about honest motherhood – The Milk of Female Kindness!

It’s out now on Amazon and Createspace, with The Book Depository to follow.

Terrifically proud of the 28 women from all around the world who have shared their thoughts, creativity and time to make this book. It’s wonderfully diverse, with artwork, poetry, short fiction, essays and interviews, from women at all stages of motherhood. Many are established writers and artists: others are new to the world of publishing. Some of them have been featured in Writer’s Block already, and more are to come.

So – if you are a mother, know someone who is, or have a mother (and let’s face it, most of us have at some point ;)), then this book will touch you, challenge you, confront you, and best of all, make you rethink the role of motherhood.

If anyone is looking for a book for the holidays – this could be the one for you. 🙂

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Kay Nielsen’s Stunning 1914 Scandinavian Fairy Tale Illustrations

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These are too beautiful to miss, so I thought I would reblog them for you.

I particularly like the sense of line, and the carefully chosen colour palettes. If only I could get some illustrations as gorgeous as this for my novel and short story collection: I’ve been thinking for some time that it would be nice to release a version with illustrations. Somehow the lack of time gets in the way – not to mention that my own style of drawing tends rather to Dr. Suess than Errol LeCain. 🙂

You can see more of these lovely illustrations at:

Kay Nielsen’s Stunning 1914 Scandinavian Fairy Tale Illustrations | Brain Pickings.

Artist profile: Judith Logan Farias

Copyright Judith Logan-Farias

Copyright Judith Logan-Farias

If you’ve dipped into this blog before, you’ll know that one of my projects at the moment is an Anthology about Honest Motherhood. That is, the real thing as experienced by ‘ordinary’ women in all its diversity and complexity, rather than the bland, white bread, buy-this-and-it-will-make-you-happy version. I’ve been immensely lucky to have had contributions from a great collection of women from around the world, and I’d like to take the opportunity to introduce you to a few of them.

Judith Logan Farias is an artist based in Ballymena, Northern Ireland, although she spent nine years living in Chile. An artist and illustrator, she works in various media, in a style that has been described as a mix of naive, figurative and semi-abstract. She is inspired by Nature, pattern, colour and designs, and loves to sketch from life when her three young children will permit her to! She not only produces beautiful prints and artwork, but has also done book illustrations and even an album cover!

While the female figure and nature are typical themes in her art, the struggle between her love for two countries and a sense of belonging is also sometimes present.

Judith says, “If I can be surrounded by nature, walk for miles and still have a coffee with a sketchbook or a good read, then that`s all I need to be happy, although if there were more than 24 hours in a day, I`d be even happier….”

She is one of our contributing artists for the project, having done a fabulous pen and ink drawing. If you check out her blog or Facebook page, you will see the sort of work she does, and why I’m so honoured to have her art in our Anthology!

If you have a story to tell, or artwork which expresses your experience of motherhood, please feel free to get in touch with me. Love to hear from you!

Evolution of a Cover

As many of you are aware, I’m about to release my first novel, The Artemis Effect, on an unsuspecting world. One of the many benefits of being an Indie author is the chance to be involved with the development of your own cover art, and I thought you might like to see how we got to the final version of the art for this novel.

I worked with Richard Morden of Mordenart, who is an illustrator of many years experience. He is the author of several books himself, and also an avid science fiction fan, so he seemed a terrific person to go to. Richard is also very friendly, should anyone else like to discuss their project with him!

Richard read the novel (not in it’s most final form, but pretty close) before starting any artwork. We then had a long and for me, quite difficult discussion on who we thought would be the target audience. It is actually surprising hard to narrow down from: Anyone who likes a good story, to specific target gender, age, and interests. As it’s quite a people-based story, we didn’t want to alienate readers who are shy of the ‘robots and spaceships’ type of science fiction, but at the same time, we did want to embrace the great history of sci-fi cover art. Considering the size of a Kindle screen, we also needed typography which was clear and yet arresting.

These are the first three sketches: all quite different. The circular features in each sketch are the Moon, which is a central theme in the book.

As the story is curiously structured with three separate and yet interlinked threads, I was quite taken by the first of these, as we could then have one of the main characters from each thread represented. I also loved the idea of a tag-line along the bottom of the page, which I hadn’t previously thought of including.

Richard and I are both members of Colourlovers, which is a site for people who perhaps obviously enough, love colour, and combining colours in new and interesting ways. I sent though a grab bag of swatches which I thought would work well with the audience and themes we had discussed, and these were used to inform the new revision of the design. There were quite a few, but here is a selection:

From here, Richard was able to take away the design to his lair and play with it for a while. When the first draft came back, I was pretty happy with it! I particularly love the texture he added to make it look more like old pulp fiction, which is apparently an image from an old hoarding. The three characters represented are Scott, in the middle, from Australia; Megan on the left, from Wales; and Kimberley, from Cleveland, Ohio. Apparently Kimberley is modeled on Halle Berry! This is actually very much in keeping with her character as a strong independent woman.

There was a bit of a hiatus in the process while the rest of the team messed about with final edits and proofreading, but finally we came back to Richard with some feedback along the lines of increasing the size of the figures, and also tweaking the colours a little. This is the final version – I hope you like it as much as I do! It also reads well in black and white, as although it will display in colour in iPads, of course Kindle is monochrome.

I’ve found the process quite fascinating, and I’ve been very lucky to work with someone so talented. A much, much better result than if I had tried to design it on my own.

The Modernist Nerd: Vintage Science Ads from the 1950s and 1960s

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I blundered across this link to adverts for scientific equipment and technology which I though you might enjoy. I’m not completely sure what some of these advertisements are for, but they are really gorgeous pieces of graphic design, and strongly reminiscent of sci-fi paperback covers of the 50’s.

The Modernist Nerd: Vintage Science Ads from the 1950s and 1960s | Brain Pickings.

If you have time, also check out the link to the Nerd tattoos in this article – some are quite stunning!

Hyper Trophies

Graphics are getting pretty astonishing these days. I’d like to share with you this link to a collaboration between Berlin fashion label Franzius, and ProdCo Tink Berlin. They are moving still life sculptures – please following the link below, as I can only paste a still image here, which doesn’t give the movement of these images.

Hyper Trophies on the Behance Network.

What a fantastic stimulus for a sci-fi story! Bring on the day when we can illustrate e-books with images like this. 🙂

International Children’s Book Day

Well, I guess there is a day for everything now, but apparently today is International Children’s Book day. It’s a day to read to your children, and also to encourage a love of reading.

Rather surprisingly, given kids interest in robots and spaceships (not that I’m saying sci-fi is just that), there really seems to be quite a limited range of kids books in the science fiction genre. Most of those suggested seem to really border more on the Young Adult market. There is of course quite a lot in the fantasy genre, and dragons and unicorns also seem very good fodder for young imaginations.

Some of my personal science fiction favorites (some of which may not still be in print, unfortunately):

Dinosaurs and all that Rubbish

A fabulous picture book, ahead of its time in terms of a strong environmental message. A man sees a star, which he longs to visit. He orders his factories to build him a  spaceship to reach that star, in the process destroying the Earth, and covering it with pollution and rubbish.  The heat from all the rubbish wakes up the dinosaurs who have been sleeping under the earths surface, and they clean up the Earth, with dancing dinosaurs breaking up the roads, and others burning waste in volcanoes. The man, reaching his star, sees that it is very dull, and want to visit the beautiful world he sees in the distance, which is Earth. But will the dinosaurs share?

Olaf’s Incredible Machine

Beautifully illustrated book, about an inventor who creates a machine who’s only purpose is to grow. As it grows and is fed coal and paraffin, houses must be built for the workers, and so rather like the book above, the Earth is slowly covered by machinery. No-one will listen to Olaf when he says that they should stop feeding the machine, so he builds a new home on a platform with plants and animals, supported by a beautiful balloon. Eventually, the roots of the plants reach down to the workers, and they scramble up into the fresh air above, and no-one is left to feed the machine.

Peril Space Tours

This book  is full of complex puzzles, mazes, logic problems and spot-the-difference challenges, held together around the story of taking a tour through the galaxy on a rickety spacecraft. I love the humour in the illustrations, and some of the puzzles are genuinely quite hard! Thankfully solutions at the back.

The Captain Cal series

Captain Cal and her friends zoom off into the galaxy – a lovely work of imagination. In truth, the text is not all that exciting, but a lot of the story (and the imagination) is in the illustrations by Richard Morden.

I’d love to hear if anyone else has any suggestions!

You may also enjoy these bits and pieces:

Spoofs of kids books

Other suggestions

Dr Who monsters who missed the cut

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A disaster befell our household the other day. The video player (yes – you remember VHS,) finally broke down after 15 years of faithful service. So we’re making the slow and painful transition of recording all our irreplaceable videos to mp4.  I’ve heard that it’s the curse of Gen X to always be converting things between formats. It has had the up-side that we have been re-watching our old Dr Whos. These are the ones from the age of Tom Baker – the man who really lived the Dr Who role. They are slower than the modern ones, and in some ways more enjoyable. The stories take place over between four and six half hour episodes, and actually make sense, which is more than can be said of a few of the new ones. There is no CGI, and so the monsters are rather charmingly made of bubble wrap and egg boxes. I think these were the days when Dr. Who didn’t really take itself too seriously.

Anyway, I have been tempted to create a few Dr Who monsters of my own, just for fun. I have stuck to the rules that they need to have an actor inside them, as you will notice a strange propensity for the aliens Dr Who meets to have a basically humanoid form. Enjoy!

An alien crustacean