Addicted to Artwork: 2013 365 Challenge #60

I need to learn to finish a book before I design the cover! :)

I need to learn to finish a book before I design the cover! 🙂

Okay so I really need to either a) start a business designing cheap book covers for people or b) remove Adobe Photoshop from my PC.

I spent a precious hour today trying to find the right image for my next self-publishing adventure – even though I haven’t finished proof-reading/editing the final draft yet. It was originally called Pictures of Love (and I did a cover for it, with a picture of a camera). But I decided it didn’t sell itself or its genre properly in the tiny image you get on Kindle.

I decided to come up with a more genre-appropriate title and book cover. I settled on Baby Blues & Wedding Shoes although I’m not sure that’s brilliant either. My original concept for the cover was to have it as an illustration, with a picture of a teddy or rattle and some nice white shoes… Then I discovered illustrations are expensive to buy (and book covers designers are even more expensive when you’re starting out and have no budget.) I tried to create it myself but after spending an hour photographing my son’s teddy and trying to Photoshop it next to an image of wedding shoes I gave up. Maybe I’m not a book cover designer after all (unless you want a nice stock photo with some lettering on it – good at that!)

So anyway, this is my attempt. I like the image but I’m not entirely sure it goes with the title (the image seems quite serious, which fits the book to some extent, but the title sounds like Chick Lit). I need to tweak the lettering too, as it disappears into the shadows at the bottom.

The more I try and get my head around marketing the more impressed I am with people like Nicola May and Susan Buchanan. Their covers are eye-catching and they have a distinct brand. Incidentally three of Nicola’s books are free today (I discovered on Twitter – see, I’m learning how to use it at last!) so go and grab them for kindle if they sound like your cup of tea. I haven’t actually read any books by either author – I came across them on Twitter only this week – but they do look my kind of read.

Of course all this self-publishing stuff came today because I uploaded the second volume of Claire’s exploits onto Smashwords. I can’t believe I’m at 50,000 words including today’s post. I can see how addicted self-publishing can be and how tempting it is to put a book out before it’s ready. If I didn’t know that Pictures of Love/Baby Blues & Wedding Shoes needs a good polish I’d be formatting it for Kindle as we speak! And as for the three other manuscripts languishing on my laptop, when am I going to get back to those? The more I go down this writing path the more I have utter appreciation for the skills and talents of others! It’s not a journey for the faint-hearted.


Claire peered through the windscreen at the blue sign and swore. It was time to edge her way between the rows of traffic, to change lane and leave the motorway. Gritting her teeth Claire tried to see her mirrors through the lashing rain and cursed when she realised the wake of a passing lorry had pushed them out of position. She muttered a quick prayer and squeezed between two dirt-encrusted HGVs, wincing at the sound of horns as the rear one was forced to apply his brakes.

Her hands were shaking by the time she reached the exit and her temples ached. I’ve only been gone a couple of weeks. How can you forget how to drive like a normal human being in that time? Stupid car. I’d have been fine in my Audi.

She drove the familiar route into the city, relieved that the rain was beginning to stop. Even at midday the sky was dark, casting a gloomy light across the buildings and cars around her. Landmarks loaded with memories whisked past the window like luggage on a carousel. She exhaled. Not really the homecoming of the prodigal Marketing Director.

“Why the sigh?”

Claire looked at her passenger and gave a small shrug. “I didn’t think I’d be back so soon. Well, actually I did, but I thought it would be because Carl had changed his mind about trying to sack me or because I was booked on a flight to the Maldives, or…” She stopped.

Josh raised an eyebrow but she didn’t accept his invitation to elaborate. She wasn’t the one with explanations owing.

As the rain eased Claire was able to take some of her attention from staying on the road and apply it to the prickly problem sitting in her passenger seat.

“So, when are you going to tell me what this is really all about?”

Claire threw the words out there knowing they would fall on sterile soil. She’d tried to prise information out of Josh the night before, without success. Instead he’d introduced himself to Maggie and retreated back behind the backpacker persona. It had been the same at breakfast and during the two-hour rain-drenched journey to Manchester.

“Tell me why I am ferrying your arse to the airport to meet your wife when you won’t give me a damn thing.”

Josh hitched up his cheekiest smile and fluttered his eyelashes. “Because I’m a handsome Aussie bloke and you’re a swell Sheila who can’t resist me.”

Claire fought the grin but it crept across her face in betrayal.

“Ah ha see! No chick can withstand my charm.”

“And how are you going to explain that to Fiona?” Claire pictured their near kiss at the Observatory, thought about Beth and Chloe, and the anger returned.

“Your poor wife”, she bit out the words. “And children, I’m sure you mentioned children before you invoked your own Official Secrets Act.”

The smile dissolved from Josh’s face. Claire thought he was going to defend himself but he turned to look out the window. As she negotiated the busy streets into her home town she tried to ignore the growing tension. Do I push it or let him explain in his own time?

Angry words bubbled beneath the surface as she recalled the events of the previous evening. Josh’s highhanded summons, his shock revelation. Finding out he had kids after his avowed dislike of ankle-biters. Forgot to mention he had some of his own. Finding out he was married. What about all the women he’s come on to, for Christ’s sake, and done lord-knows-what with? What about me? How am I meant to face his wife at the airport? Just because nothing happened. It might have done. If he’d tried again. Which he hadn’t. Now she thought about it she had never actually seen Josh embracing anyone.

“You’ll have to talk to me eventually. You asked me to help you create a believable story for Fiona. I can’t do that if I don’t know the plot, or the key characters and their motivations.” She let her words hang in the air as she followed her Sat Nav to the hostel. She passed bars and shops that beamed like pictures in a family album.

I’m not here. No one can know I’m here.

Claire averted her eyes and gripped the wheel until her knuckles went white.  A stab of sunlight broke through the clouds as she turned the car into a wide street bordered by three-story Georgian houses. Something sparkled ahead and Claire looked up to see the looming monstrosity of the Hilton Tower dominating the skyline. She was glad when the Sat Nav sent her right, down a cobbled street, and she spied the green triangle of the YHA.

Pulling into a parking space she cut the engine and sat with her hands resting on the steering wheel, waiting to see if Josh would say anything before they left the private cocoon of the car to join the cacophony of a busy city hostel.

She was about to open her door and get out when she heard Josh inhale and sensed he was about to break the silence.

His words fell between them like rocks.

“I don’t want to tell you. How can I?” The sharp edges of his voice rent the air. “How will you ever remain friends with me when I tell you I killed someone? I killed a child.”


Kiddy Craft and Cheesy Poses: 2013 365 Challenge #49

Craft started with book making at 7,30am...

Craft started with book making at 7,30am…

It’s been a crafty sort of day. It started with sticking and glitter at 7,30am as the kids added photographs to their books. Then Daddy took them to Cambridge and on to Granddad’s for the afternoon so I was able to ‘glam up’ a bit and take some head-shot photographs to save me the cost of a photographer.

My remote switch and tripod are both broken so I had to make do with my mini tripod, a box and the ten-second timer. I’m rather red-cheeked in some of the pictures because it got a bit hot hopping down from a chair for each of the eighty or so shots I took.

It was fun doing photography again. I don’t get to use my big camera often as I’m either worried about it being broken again or it’s too bulky and obvious. The kids aren’t always happy to have their pictures taken and you can’t sneak up with a DSLR! I was rather chuffed with the results given the circumstances of my imprompt photoshoot. Well, until I shared the pictures with my friends…

Debate on Facebook has left me determined to leave photography to the professionals!

Debate on Facebook has left me determined to leave photography to the professionals!

I need a new head-shot for the page that shows on this blog, a new one for LinkedIn, and one to send to the Nene Valley Magazine to go with my article. I found it tough choosing because I am both model and photographer and I also prefer more formal pics of myself. So (foolishly it turns out) I decided to put what I thought were the best twelve on Facebook for my nearest and dearest to comment on.

Apparently in most of the shots I look either regal (!), superior (?) or just plain mean. In one or two I look like I’m shooting people with my laser eyes. Actually I can see that: I had to focus on where the lens was to make sure I was in shot and sometimes I focussed a bit hard. It does seem I might have to succumb and hire a professional portrait photographer as I clearly haven’t captured ‘me’ or taken a shot that is sufficiently warm and welcoming to help me build my social media platform.

Still, it was interesting to photograph something other than the children, even if it had to be me (I don’t like being in front of the camera much either. The ‘regal’ or ‘death stare’ looks are really discomfort.).

...and ended with craft at 5pm

…and ended with craft at 5pm

I’ve also had fun playing with the final images with our new copy of Adobe Photoshop, purchased for book cover design but useful for many things.

When I first left my job as a marketing manager to follow more creative pursuits I took a course in digital photography that concentrated on the amazing things that can be done with Adobe. It was the best career decision I ever made as it has come in useful for a multitude of things, from designing logos and book covers to winning photography competitions and making montages for friends. Unfortunately it can’t turn a meanie into a smiley person but you can’t have everything! 🙂

The day ended on a nice note with a lovely craft session with the kids, making sheep and lentil pictures and caterpillars followed by some colouring with Daddy at bedtime. If I’ve learned anything today it’s to never put something out in the world that I’m not ready to have criticised. I hope I get less upset by my first awful book review than I did by the comments from my friends on Facebook!


Clare woke to the sound of drums. The thudding noise filled every inch of space in the room around her. It was a few seconds before she associated the rapid rhythm with her own heartbeat. Slowly her senses fought the sound of the drumming. Her ears noted other noises: the rattle of water in old pipes, the swell of birdsong coming through the single-glass window. The pervasive odour of the room crept in her nostrils and reminded her of her location. Sticky eyes unglued and took in the dim glow of dawn seeping through the curtains. And still the drums pounded.

What the hell?

Claire tried to think what had forced her awake. The clatter of the pipes was loud but her earplugs were still half-in and she had become better at ignoring random noises in the night. The dawn light wasn’t bright enough to have dragged her out of sleep. Gradually the bass drum steadied into a regular beat and Claire was able to concentrate on her breathing.

She tried to recall her dreams, assuming they must have caused the thumping heartbeat and clammy sweat that she could feel freezing on her forehead in the chilly room. She grabbed at the images in her mind but they slipped away as if she had tried to catch a reflection and found only water. And still the sensations persisted. She wanted to crawl out of herself, to shed an itchy and hated skin.

The feeling of disquiet lingered like the bad smell still permeating the room. Claire plumped her pillow and fidgeted in the bed, trying to return to sleep. Every time she closed her eyes indefinable images swam in the dark and forced the lids open again.

What is going on? I didn’t have cheese for dinner. In fact I didn’t have dinner. No alcohol, no coffee. No reason for bad dreams.

Admitting defeat Claire rolled on her back and gazed at the underside of the top bunk, forcing herself to dredge the scattered emotions of her dream for meaning. She was conscious of fear and panic, as if she’d lost her phone or was late for a business meeting. No, worse than that. As if she’d lost her job.

Well, haven’t I?

Claire explored the thought to see if it was the cause of her unease. I haven’t lost my job, but maybe it is time to start looking for a new one, just in case. She rolled over onto her side, hoping the decision would calm her agitated brain and let her sleep. Still the jittering in her stomach continued. A bubbling sensation somewhere behind her belly button nagged at her. It felt like a scream building; a scream that would consume her if she let it free.

That’s enough now body. Get a grip. You are Claire Carleton, Melanie and Gerald’s daughter, Robert and Ruth’s sister. You don’t have nightmares or flights of fancy, they’re not allowed.

A word snagged at her mind as she gave herself a talking-to. Ruth. Suddenly a flood of images washed over her eyes. Ruth going to hospital, Ruth strapped to a white bed, Ruth watching terrified as a giant needle came towards her, her eyes wide and wild as she saw it approach.

Claire jerked upright, crashed her head against the top bunk and collapsed back to the mattress with a groan, tears stabbing her eyes.

My little sister. I’ve been such a cow. All I was concerned with was what she said about Michael, about how she envied me my perfect life. I should have been worried about her, facing this all alone, having to care for Sky and having no one care for her.

She rolled over and fumbled on the floor for her phone. 5.38am. It was too early to call. Claire tapped at the screen and wrote a text message, hoping it wouldn’t wake her sister but needing to connect.

 Hey sis. Hope everything goes okay today. Text or call to let me know you’re alright. Thinking of you.

Claire looked at the screen and felt the thudding resume in her chest. It wasn’t right. It wasn’t enough. She tapped at the screen again and typed out two more words before hitting send.

Love you.