Friday, 31 July 2015

The Book that came via Meditation

I'm pleased to announce the ebook release of my children's picture book, My Grandad's Hiding Place.

It's a short story to help parents explain to their child what has happened to a loved who has passed away.

I wrote it in 2012, when I was living in a Buddhist Centre (Vajrapani Buddhist Centre in Huddersfield). It was an old derelict church before they completely transformed it and helped it "reincarnate" into its current state.

Being a tenant there, I had access to the World Peace Café and the main gompa (meditation room). I would often sit there on a night, reading, writing or meditating; it was a very peaceful place to be.

One day, whilst meditating in the gompa, an idea for a book flashed into my mind. My eyes shot open and I for about ten seconds, I sat there reflecting on the idea.

I ran to my room, turned on my laptop and started writing My Grandad's Hiding Place. In less than half an hour, I sat back and looked at it. There it was, my first children's picture book - but without the pictures.

Not long after that, an old friend asked me how my writing was going. I told her about My Gandad's Hiding Place and that I was currently looking for an illustrator for it.

'What about Laura Skilbeck?' she said.

Laura was an old friend from school. When I say 'friend', I mean we hardly spoke two words to each other in nine years of being in the same year at school.

'Didn't you know she's an illustrator?' said my friend, in response to my frown.

I did not know Laura was an illustrator.

Later that day, I contacted her through FB and, after a brief introduction (where I reminded her who I was), I told her about my children's book that was currently crying out to be illustrated.

Thankfully, she was keen from the offset, and when I sent her the book she absolutely loved it and wanted nothing more than to illustrate it.

When she showed me her ideas I couldn't believe how well they complimented the writing. Her style is so childish - it's perfect! She really managed to capture the emotion in the words through her drawings. It's like she can easily tap into her inner-child and express it - a unique ability.

Once the illustrations had been completed, we tried getting it published the traditional way but to no avail. "We like it, but it's just not what we're looking for right now", was the typical reply we received.

So we tried literary agents - but the same thing happened.

I had already published three of my own books on Amazon, so I thought why not try the self-publishing route for My Grandad's Hiding Place?

That's when I discovered Amazon's Kindle Kid's Book Creator, which made the process super easy.

At the moment it's only being released as an ebook - but in time I will release it as a paperback.

I hope you manage to read it and are moved by its message.


Friday, 17 July 2015

The Upsides and Downsides of Being a Self-Published Author

Being a self-published author has its upsides and its downsides.

A major upside is that it gives you a hell of a lot of control.

A major downside is that it gives you a hell of a lot of control.

Having a quick glance of the proof copies of my paperbacks, it was evident that the print was way too small - again.

I thought I had dealt with this issue last time. It's a complete nuisance because I then have to figure out why this is happening, then I have to spend time rectifying it; then I have to wait for more proofs to come through to see if the issue has been dealt with.

Hopefully now - fingers crossed, I've sorted it out once and for all. When the proofs come through the post, we will see.

(It had something to the do with the margins in Word being too big for the size of the book I had selected in Createspace. Because of this, when it went to print, they shrunk the print to fit the size I had selected. Oh, and by the way, Createspace have been super supportive with all the issues I've had whilst trying to get my books to print.)

Whilst sorting that out I noticed a few alterations I wanted to make - and this is one of the upsides to self-publishing: the ability to make changes whenever you want, without getting into trouble with the publisher.

Of course, these changes would've probably been dealt with if I paid for an editor in the first place, but like everybody else I've been cutting costs where I can. I've sent my books to various people (members of my "dream-team") whom I trust, but even they don't see where changes need to occur when it comes to individual style; choice of word; preferred grammatical changes etc. I'm so damn keen to get my work out there that a lot of changes don't come about until months after I've pressed the 'publish' button.

And when I make changes it means that for hours at a time my books go offline.

So apologies if you've not being able to purchase them.

It's my fault...

If you're a self-published author or would like to know a bit more about the pros and cons before you take the leap into the world of self-publishing, check out this video I found the other day:

Tuesday, 7 July 2015

Full-time Artist

Having just got back after a month long trip around Europe, I find myself feeling like another chapter in my life is starting.

Like all change, it's daunting, but I have nothing else to do apart from embrace the fear that arises and use it to motivate me.

I think a major reason for feeling the way I do is because I no longer have a stable job. My safety net has been pulled from under my feet. The last time that happened was when I finished college in 2001, but even then I had a part-time job, so I wasn't entirely "netless".

When I think about what I've given up it's not a great deal, to be honest. It was a job I had been wanting to replace for a long time. I had been in it for a decade when I finally left, so change was afoot.

So now I've left the job, what has it been replaced with?

That which I was doing all along: writing.

All I have to do is acquire a new perception of myself as a full-time writer. But that's harder to do than it sounds. It involves rewiring the brain to think and perceive differently.

In the space of five years I've written five books, published three of them, and had several articles printed in magazines. I say this, not to brag, but to highlight the fact that throughout all of this I still didn't see myself as a writer.

My good friend Peter O'Toole quit his job several years ago to become a full-time illustrator. Since then he has worked with The Telegraph, Clarks and Adidas, to name but a few.

On our trip to Europe we stopped by the UK for ten days to see family and friends. Pete was one of those friends, as our six week breakfast meeting was some nine months overdue.

As always we got talking about being artists and he said something that really hit my dilemma on the head, "Once you make a commitment to yourself to become a full-time artist, writer, or whatever, doors start to open up for you. I don't know why, they just do. When I quit my job to become an illustrator I didn't have any work lined up. I had no money coming in at all, but I made up my mind there and then that enough was enough; it was time to dedicate myself to doing what I was passionate about. Do you know what happened? I got two jobs that were way out of my league. I really shouldn't have been offered them, but I took them and reaped the financial rewards on completion. It wasn't just getting the money that felt great, it was the fact that my confidence had been given a boost and I knew that there was a real chance of making it work."

So now it's time.

Enough is enough.

How many more books do I have to write in order to see myself as a writer!?

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My mate, Pete