Moist von Lipwig OOAK doll and Lady Gaga repaint

Some of my other WIPs, not related to writing 😉 Never fear, Chapter Two of the Cosmic Carbon Cycle Cash Machine will be up soon 🙂 xx

Screen Kiss Dolls

Moist von Lipwig commissioned doll

Here’s Moist von Lipwig of the Discworld novels by Terry Pratchett – a request recently made to me by a family friend. He’s an acrylic repaint on a Jackson Jekkyl Monster high boy doll. As usual I managed to make his outfit reversible.

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As well as his face, I repainted his boots. His post-bags are knitted in basket-weave stitch and then the AM logo embroidered on. I also made him a black briefcase/satchel for his incarnation as Albert Spangler. He has grey knitted long-johns as well.

I’ve had a few requests to see more Discworld characters in my collection, but I’m also practising other styles for my repertoire. This is a second-hand superstar-era Barbie doll that I’m turning into Lady Gaga from her video for ‘Telephone’:

Lady Gaga repainted Barbie doll by Lisa Scullard

I highlighted her straight blonde hair with a yellow Sharpie before curling it using the boil perm method. then gave her an acrylic/pastel repaint…

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The two-week wobble

Yesterday, I got notification of my first royalty payment from Amazon Kindle! To celebrate, I made cookies. Which I’m only allowed to eat so long as I don’t eat anything else. They are chocolate-choc-chip-macadamia-cranberry made with 1/3 wholewheat flour, so technically quite balanced. I think four of those totals probably about 1000 calories (!).

I’m doing all right on the diet otherwise – managing to keep away from late-night mealtimes, and currently comfortably losing at the steady 1lb-per-week rate after dropping an initial few pounds immediately, as usually happens. A couple of weeks in is usually a weak point. I had my day off (a sensible Sunday lunch) and didn’t crack after that, and the reward of seeing the scales creeping backwards when I weigh myself every day is motivation enough – not to mention the clothes I’m looking forward to fitting back into. I have some really cool stuff collected when I was working and earning the occasional dress and shoe-shop…

Last week I was working for Sophie Neville again, finishing her book trailer for Funnily Enough. I’d followed a tutorial online by Declan Conner to format an illustrated version of Sophie’s eBook on Amazon Kindle, which has turned out really well – all the cartoons in it are her own, and I’m very inspired to do an illustrated eBook myself, having seen how great it looks in colour on the Android screen (Kindle app for Android available free from Amazon, or the Android app store).

This was done using Windows again, and the music is from an AVP copyright-free music library CD, that I already had knocking around. Sophie wanted a combination of cuts and transitions, which suits the quirky style.

I tried to do some watercolour painting last night, but it turned out more water than colour. That’s what you get for using children’s paints costing £1.99 – sigh. I was trying out an idea for a book cover on one of my other stories – but it turned out looking like a Comic Relief Red Nose instead of a menacing big red button. Karmically this is probably good news, in some alternate universe.

Today, I’m procrastinating about more everyday things, like the car needing maintenance. And avoiding editing one of my film scripts to mail out, as I’ve decided what my writing needs is an agent to do the selling for me. I’m not into selling. I’m into earning, but not ‘selling’. Selling implies that what you have to offer is not in fact necessary for survival, or is a gamble, like a luxury item or high-risk investment. Although what is high-risk about a two-quid electronic novel (or ten-quid paperback) could be a mystery, and as for necessary to survival – well, I’m not Ray Mears. But you might learn a lot about what it takes to get by in the nightclub scene.

😉

Hot on the Trail…

Living Hell trailer - final slide

Having spent a week chilling after my eye op, accumulating housework to do over the weekend, and working – yes, working – doing that thing that I left my last job to do! …I’ve introduced DS10 to Youtube as part of her birthday treats, and she’s torn into it like a bat out of Hell on a mission, churning out some jaw-droppingly awesome stuff in less than a week.

And I’ve realised, holy crap – that’s my audience, in some part at least. Anyone writing for young adult, teens, or even children’s fiction now has to realise that this market are using computers, creating their own content, deciding on their identity and choosing their entertainment, much faster than JK Rowling can say “Let’s have a meeting to discuss the strategy.”

Some friends on Goodreads invited me into their YA Lit group, and one of them has set up a (stunning) YA trailer website purely for the posting of trailers for teen fiction, and it is really inspiring. I’d done one trailer previously, a slideshow, for Living Hell, my current major YA work – an alternative-history stab in the dark at a fantasy dystopian contemporary society – written originally when I was 18 years old – which actually functions rather well, considering (it’s called social evolution, baby – no vampires or werewolves here, not that any are admitting to). But when I saw the work already on the site, and the material that DS10 is creating, I decided things needed cranking up a notch (or ten) and using a bit more imagination, even with only a scanner, WinXP and MS Paint at my disposal at home. I guess ‘disposal’ is a good choice of word – but it’s got me through publishing everything so far, and will darned well continue to earn its keep until I can afford myself one of those fancy offices and staff, with a water-cooler for equally cool people to brainstorm and flirt with each other around. 🙂

Okay, so I plug in the scanner and grab my notebook, and basically make this up as I go along. I had some idea of what I was doing, but not until I was actually holding a pen did I know what was going to come off the end of it:

Living Hell trailer - slideI remember writing lists, essays, and occasionally angry letters to imaginary Points of View presenters in my schoolbooks, and also doodling and drawing, which was where I wanted to head with this ‘animation’.

I decided to use a transition rather than painstakingly draw each letter (the ‘invisible hand’ writing across a screen style, which has been used to good Living Hell trailer - slideeffect many times).

What was fun was how organic this process was – I let my gut dictate each stage that I scanned, without really knowing what I was going to draw or write on the page next, just sticking to themes in the book and keeping the schoolbook graffiti style. Just like drawing at school, or in my room when I was a kid. Frequently I’d Living Hell trailer - slide 6start a picture or painting back then not knowing what it would end up becoming – those often turned out more pleasing than the ones I’d planned and could see clearly in my head.

I haven’t got to the stage of constructing a ‘formal’ book trailer, where titles take the place of Hollywood movie voice-over (“A man.  A woman. A ship. An iceberg. A date with destiny”). My style leans more towards the ‘teaser’ type of advert, at the minute. Maybe because those voice-over styles don’t work on me so well… I have seen some great ones on the trailer site, however, so I may give traditional trailer composition a shot at some point.

But for me, hearing a teenager say “Cool!” is as good as it gets, feedback-wise. 🙂

Here’s the finished trailer. Tell me it doesn’t make you glad you’re not still in school, LOL! 🙂

The Great Cover-Up.

Had a discussion about book covers yesterday after getting some constructive criticism on mine. As an indie author – covers were the last thing on my mind. Until seven or eight months ago, I seriously never intended to self-publish.

But as an artist, over the years I used to think a lot about covers. Covers on published books attracted me all the time, although it was blurbs and first paragraph reads which dictated whether or not I bought a book. I realised that as well as covers, I’d never really thought about blurbs either. For me, the important thing was getting my interiors up to scratch, spellchecked and edited. Rarely when I do a drawing or painting does it come up to my own expectations, and sometimes themes in the books require more than a flower, a puddle of blood, or a cleavage…

My favourite book covers of all time always contained real art, especially fantasy art – science fiction book covers in particular featuring spaceships, alien landscapes and adventurers. Some of the best artwork on covers appeared in the 1980’s, mostly on historical romance covers, oozing classical portrait talent and dripping with Fabio.

Fabio LanzoniI could look at just the covers for hours, purely for the artist’s skill – I would study Boris Vallejo and attempt to imitate every line in pencil form. Nowadays, sadly, those style of covers are considered ‘cheesy’ and it’s all about graphic design and branding, creating a cover more simplistic and iconic, like a Coca-Cola label. I can recognise many of those ‘designer’ covers, but could tell you nothing about the story between the covers, or the genre, or the author – but with realist fantasy art, it was easy to understand what the genre and story was – especially if it was science fiction, romance, a pulp detective novel, or an early Ian Fleming.

In a way, these ‘brand’ covers tap into a form of label marketing which goes along with clothing, soft drinks, and fragrances. You don’t have to know what it stands for, what the story is. It’s an accessory, a lifestyle choice. The reader who buys Alexander McCall Smith might also wear Alexander McQueen (ahem, if they’re lucky). The same goes for movie posters – but luckily, movie posters haven’t moved on as far as book covers. The most iconic artist posters include Star Wars and Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome, and the films represented didn’t disappoint. You saw the poster, and the film lived up to it.

In Death & The City, the protagonist Lara has issues with personality and the way people market themselves, and their motives, and likens it to book covers. You see a big title and it represents a catchy blockbuster title, or a big author name and it represents a celebrity author. Pathway at dusk equals mystery. Pastel colours equals chick lit. Fangs and cleavage equals vampire horror. She compares the way one of her subjects of investigation was drawn unawares into prostitution by saying: Like she’d unwittingly bought a book about the sex trade, based on a misleading cover claiming to be a supernatural spy detective novel.

So I was aware of this ability for covers to be ‘misleading’ when designing my own, and also didn’t want to misrepresent myself as a publishing-house-style author while I’m currently an indie – no quotes from reviews on the covers or in the introduction, although I’ve had hundreds of comments from friends and peers, none that would qualify with the job description ‘Guardian Books’ or ‘TV Book Club’ – so I left them out.

Although I only have MS Paint to cobble them together, luckily Lulu.com on the hardcovers had an online formatter in which you simply upload images of the right quality – had a fun time searching for some I could use – until I can get the right images and artwork out of my head and onto paper, I’m happy with what I’ve done and feel that although amateur, it’s not misrepresenting anything.

But going by my taste in art, I have a feeling my own ideas brought to life won’t have any place in the contemporary market. 🙂