In the Studio: Another (almost) wordless book

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My very first book, a project for me while The Caretaker of Imagination was with Jane, was a wordless book called What Stars Are Made OfIt told the story of a star-maker, who would take the fear, sorrow and anger from children and build them into a star.

The story was told through paintings, originally acrylic on paper. It met with an encouraging reception from my friends and family, as well as schools and libraries. As a side note, I’m not 100% happy with the production, so I will be doing a redesign and reprint, hopefully within the next year.

The series I’m working on now is connected to the Caretaker Series, and it’s called the New World Series because – surprise, surprise – it’s set the the ‘new world’ that Lucy, Jess and Simon explore in Beyond the End of the World.  I have book one’s cover sorted, and book two just has a mock up. It might change a little, it might change a lot.

Book one is very similar to the Caretaker Series: it’s about the same length, a similar style of writing (though I’ve noticed my style changes depending on the protagonist), and about the same readership.

Book two is different. The protagonist, Sophie, is dealing with some really big problems – including a council of near-immortals who think it’s time for the Universe to die. Fortunately, the Universe isn’t ready to die, and it ‘speaks’ with Sophie to try and deal with this council. I had been trying to figure out a way for the Universe, essentially a collective voice, to speak to Sophie and I realised the most fitting method would be through song.

Once I’d decided that, I thought that having verse and illustrations would be a wonderful way to tell a story. After all, I visualise the story in my head before I write it. Words don’t come easy to me – pictures do.

So, in the vein of Brian Selznick’s work, I’m going to have a mix of pencil drawings and verse to tell the second story of the New World Series. I’m excited and a little bit nervous – but I think those are a pretty good combination of emotions to deal with!

In the Studio: Operation see-the-floor-again and improving my writing craft

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So this week my studio time has mostly been cleaning (totally my fault, of course) but I’m looking forward to having space to work in again.

I’m working 6-7 days throughout February, but have been blessed with two public holidays, so I spent public holiday #1 catching up on admin. Fun times, I know, but it’s an important part of running a creative business and something I am oh-so-slowly getting better at.

The next series, set in The Caretaker Series’ far future, is going to be illustrated by… me! So I’ve started a few sketches for that. I’m not sure where I’m going yet with the illustrations so at the moment it’s exploration stage. 

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As I wrote the draft for book one of the new series, I could tell how much I’ve improved as a writer. Things that took effort have become easier, and my primary weaknesses (telling not showing, character development, and lack of description) are cropping up less. I’ve started to get some feedback from beta readers (like test or critique readers) and so far it’s been really positive. It’s been fantastic to feel the change in myself and my writing, and to have that affirmed by honest, encouraging readers.

Being further along the writing path has obviously contributed to this, as has my ability to read fiction with an eye to application. When I like (or dislike!) something in a story, I try to tuck it away to sneak into my own writing.

Steal like an artist, right?

But also, writer friend Mark Vrankovich lent me a book that helped him in his own work. The book is Stein on Writing. Stein (Sol Stein, that is) is a ‘master editor’ and gives immediately usable advice and suggestions to improve writing of any genre. Highly recommended!51OWokYxo1L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_

Any progress I’ve made has been in snatched moments (I don’t know how people do this writing thing with full time jobs and families!) but I have had a little time to daydream about my work in progress – a very important part of the writing process!

Jess the Pirate

A to Z Challenge, Illustration, The Caretaker of Imagination

Jess is one character who is actually based on someone I know. The real Jess is a friend of mine who is in the Royal New Zealand Navy, so a pirate character for her is perfect! She’s intellligent, pretty (like Jess the pirate) and has just the right amount of attitude… I’m not sure if she has obsession with cupcakes, though.

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Jess the pirate definitely has an obsession with cupcakes. So much so, that in the third book (which I’m drafting now) she and Simon travel the world to find exotic new recipes so they can open their very own bakery!