Thursday, 29 December 2011

Today three heads ...

... were even better than two! 

I met Connie’s daughter and the rest of the family when I went over for a working lunch. It stretched into the dark of evening as I watched the cover materialise on the screen, based on the thoughts we had two weeks ago. Photoshop is magic in the right hands! But getting it right is slow and involves lots of minute detail. And there's a back cover and a front cover and a spine to be carefully built up from various components. It will be a long job.

We non-designer people ate mince pies and cakes and kept the two puppies busy, while planning various publicity projects from the beginning of February. We discussed how library and school visits by authors can be arranged and what happens. The Boy with Two Heads involves ancient history, sculpture, sport, fitting in (or not) with the rest of society, and some modern medicine, so we’ll probably need to direct our efforts to more than one department in each school. 

Talking of schools, everyone was amused by this painting of an Ancient Greek school boy (from a vase now in the J Paul Getty Museum in Malibu, California). I found it in the book called ‘Panorama of the Classical World’. 
As the boys said ‘They even had laptops!’

The choir concert was fun to be in and the party afterwards was memorable. As the adrenalin of performing worked on us we all managed to come in correctly, but somehow we’re not quite in the Military Wives’ league.

Meanwhile, all those programmes on TV that remind us what happened in 2011 are on. They cover things like the revolutions in Muslim countries, the disastrous earthquakes in New Zealand and Japan, economic crises in Europe (especially Greece where my grown up children live), the riots in UK cities and the phone hacking scandal. Except for the wedding of Wills and Kate, it’s all very gloomy, so it has been nice to see programmes previewing the Olympics in 2012. 

Thursday, 15 December 2011

Two heads are better than one.

We had our last full rehearsal a few days ago for our choir concert next week. It went quite well, but getting 80 people to come in on exactly the right note seems almost impossible. (Why is that?) When we get it right, though, each song brings back its own memories and changes the mood. Music can wash your mind clean of the present and fill it full of another place and time. 

I've been going through the text of The Boy with Two Heads yet again and that same thought colours what happens to one of the protagonists, Suzanne. It's funny how so much in real life cross-references with the project I'm working on at the time. I was talking to someone about making bread the other day and he was telling me about using rye and barley. Both of these were used to make bread in Ancient Greece and are mentioned in the story. 

I was preparing for meeting up with Connie again to decide on the layout and styles of the text. That meeting was today and we had another couple of ideas for the cover, which her daughter/designer will work on over the New Year. As she said, “Two heads are definitely better than one” when brainstorming! 

And this was our last meeting before Christmas. 

Carlisle centre Christmas lights
So Happy Christmas, everyone!

Thursday, 8 December 2011

I never can tell ...

What they said was very reassuring. So now on the back cover we can put A wonderful story which brings the ancient Olympics to vibrant life. You can almost smell Greece from its pages…” and “It seems that young people's issues have hardly changed in 2,400 years!” The complete quotes will go inside the book.

I’ve written quite a lot of stories and even some that have won awards, but I never can tell whether they are going to be of interest to anyone else. It’s good to know that at least three people like this one – my publisher and the two reviewers.

Cover notes

Today we worked on what the back cover will look like. We went through lots of my photos. This was one of them, but probably we won't use it. There's a copyright issue nowadays with the Olympic rings. And they were taken down from the Panathenaic Stadium soon after the time when my story begins there. 

Perhaps we’ll have one of those ‘Accident Here. Please telephone such and such if you have any information’ notices, with a photo of the pedestrian crossing where the accident happens in the story. Connie has some great ideas.

I handed over the maps I’ve drawn to go at the end. We had decided there should be a map of the journey from Athens to Olympia, as well as of each of the cities. It does make the stages of the journey clearer.

And I’m working on the list of characters and the other bits and pieces they call end-matter and pre-lims. That list, and checking some final facts, will be my ‘homework’ before our next meeting. 

I’m sitting working on it now, and the wind is howling round the house. The slates on the roof shift on their nails every now and again with a great rattle, like the scales on a fish lifting. What must it be like out there for the birds in our garden? It reminds me that life is so safe now, compared to what it must have been like for most people in most of the past. My Themistokles lived at a dangerous time... 

I snuggle down into my slanket and thank my lucky stars.

Thursday, 1 December 2011

Two Heads ... Why?

Welcome to my blog!

It’s mainly about being a writer, but I’m sure I’ll have other things to say sometimes.

I’ve called my blog Two Heads because today is a special day for me. My novel set in modern Cumbria and Ancient Greece has finally got a title! After weeks of thought and about a hundred possibilities, we have decided on The Boy with Two Heads.

Some people find that alarming, so just to show that such things were not unthinkable in those days, here is a photo of a sculpture in the restored ancient stadium in Athens. Other people want to know why the story is called that. I hope they’ll read it and see!

But, however others react, for me it’s a great relief. This story has been without a title for the whole of the two years it has taken to research and write. There is a lot going on in it and I found it impossible to pick out something that can represent the whole in just a few words.  So it’s wonderful that my publisher, Connie, of Trifolium Books UK, has been able to.

Starting this blog is partly to celebrate that, and partly to trace the progression of this new way of publishing. 

Trifolium are going to publish in January, Print On Demand (POD) ordered via the internet or through bookshops. Connie tells me that later it will be available also as an ebook. I worked for years for traditional publishers of textbooks for English as a Foreign Language, so I know how huge companies work when they print tens of thousands of paper copies at a time. But I don’t know anything about this new way of only printing the copies that people actually order. It is going to mean learning lots of new procedures.

And the first one is to get the text into a state that the software programs can accept. So I have to make sure the font(s) I use are compatible, and that my chapters and other breaks are consistent throughout.

The second procedure is to experiment on screen with what the cover will look like. I must say, it’s much more fun working on that than on the text, which I know only too well by now. Still that has to be done, too. I must have rewritten it twice and gone through with corrections another four or five times.

We’re also waiting for our reviewers to get back to us so that we can quote them on the cover. I’m quite nervous about what they are going to say...