In mid-October we spent nearly a week near Tofino, on the west coast of Vancouver Island. This visit was originally scheduled for March, but we postponed it when everything shut down.
The autumn weather was a delightful mix of mist, fog, a bit of drizzle, a little rain, and a couple of glorious sunny days. Perfect for walking on sandy beaches, exploring sea-worn rocks, and immersive forest bathing.
I’ve realized that trying to take pictures during a walk often spoils the walk. I’m too taken up finding good picture opportunities to appreciate the overall scene. So I took almost no photos until the last full day of our stay, when I raced around some photogenic rock formations near where we were staying. The combination of mussel- and barnacle-encrusted bedrock, rounded boulders, smooth sand, eroding mussel shells, and plants making their living on the edge was irresistible.
And here are three phone photos from a coastal rainforest boardwalk loop trail in Pacific Rim National Park. It’s one of my favourites (although Nelly the Newfoundland wasn’t too keen on all the stairs!)
Somewhere in the process of becoming an indie author, I discovered I enjoy messing around with images. I’m not talking about the photos of my garden I post on the blog. I hardly ever do any post-processing on those.
But ever since I found out about Canva, an easy-to-use graphic design tool, I’ve been creating images to represent my writings. Often, I complete one or more long before I finish writing the novel or story to which they belong. The image-designing process must use different parts of the brain than whatever it is that transforms ideas into words.
When I published four of the stories in Tales from the Annexe as separate ebooks in 2016, I made cover images for them, and I designed the cover image for the collection years before I needed it. More recently, while writing the the new stories that completed the set, I created an image for each of them as well. I didn’t need cover images for these stories, but I did need regular breaks from writing them.
My first idea was to include all these images in the book, but I didn’t want to swell the ebook’s file size to the point it incurred a hefty delivery fee. Moreover, not all e-readers display images in colour. I decided to feature them here on my blog instead.
Below are the images for the first seven stories, which are by-products, off-cuts, spinoffs, or supplements (I haven’t found a congenial word for this concept) to the four novels of my Herbert West Series.
They appear in “chronological” order, i.e., the first three happen during the time period covered by the first novel. The fourth, fifth, and sixth happen between Books 3 and 4 of the series. The last story of this group takes place decades later, following She Who Comes Forth, the novel that’s a kind of sequel to the series.
Available at a special pre-order price of $0.99 USD (or equivalent) from these Amazon outlets USUKCAAUDE
Not long ago, I wrote a post about whether or not to write a new and different version of my first novel, The Friendship of Mortals. I decided not to do that, but while writing the book’s tenth anniversary post, I had a look at the original cover image I created when I published the book in 2010.
That image was replaced with a professionally designed one in 2014, but I thought I would see what I could do with the original using Canva, which I discovered a few years ago. The free version offers way more capabilities than MS Paint, which is what I used for the 2010 cover image.
I started with a modified version of the original photograph. My idea (back in 2010) was to make it look like an old, damaged photo. With MS Paint, I gave it a sepia shade and added a rusty paperclip mark, a creased corner and a few suspicious stains. I also executed a handwritten annotation — not easy to do using a touchpad mouse!
In the end, I didn’t use the modified photo for the first cover image, but I thought it might be a starting point for a new one. With Canva, I added a texture background and the text for title, author and series, aiming for a style similar to what the professional designer achieved with superior tools and skills.
One thing I like about this image is that it includes the four colours of alchemy — black, white, yellow, and red. The story includes references to alchemy, where it also serves as a symbol.
I have no intention to replace the current glowing purple cover image for The Friendship of Mortals, but I am rather pleased with my revision of the original. And creating it was fun, which would not be the case with a rewrite of the novel itself.
The original photo and all three cover images are shown in the post header. If you have any thoughts about them, or cover image design in general, please add a comment!
The final week of November seemed like a good time for a quick visit to the west coast of Vancouver Island, a magical realm that includes the villages of Tofino and Ucluelet, and between them the Pacific National Park Reserve. I had hoped to go last July, but that didn’t work out.
Late November isn’t as warm as July, but it was just as bright and sunny, with nippy nights and daytime temperatures reaching 8 C (46 F). Amazingly, there wasn’t much wind, which meant no wind chill.
I’ve mentioned recently that we have been repainting our living room. For 27 years, walls, ceiling, and woodwork were a dingy, flat, chalky-looking white. There was no incentive to change this until the sagging plaster of the ceiling was repaired. This happened early in May, when we finally connected with an actual, real live plasterer.
Once the plastering was finished, we beavered away for weeks, stripping multiple layers of old paint from the window frames, door frames, and baseboards. Stripping (with heat guns) and sanding (a miserable business, in my opinion) was the hardest part of the project. Picking colours was the most fun.
The world of paint colours is fascinating. Each one has the retailer’s alphanumeric code, but they all have names — in both English and French here in Canada. There must be people whose job it is to think up names for the thousands of paint colours available. It may seem frivolous and silly to name colours, but it does have a certain appeal.
I now have a sizable collection of paint chips for various pale greys and off-whites. It’s interesting to compare names to colours. Examples: Starry Night and Daydream have hints of violet; Rhinestone, Sea Salt, Tinsmith, On the Rocks, Skater’s Pond, Waterscape, and Rainwashed are all greys with different degrees of blue or green. Passive, not surprisingly, is a kind of beige. Some actually have colours in their names: Silver Strand, Slow Green, Lazy Gray, Agreeable Gray, Accessible Beige. (So I’m wondering — is there a Speedy Green? Industrious Gray? Or Aggressive Gray? What about Remote Beige? I could have fun with this!)
For what it’s worth, our renewed living room ceiling is now Alabaster (Albâtre). That colour, a warm white, is called Fuzzy Mitten (Mitaine en peluche) in another company’s scheme. The walls are Window Pane (Carreau), which is a lot like a tint elsewhere called Bluegrass White (Blanc bluegrass). It’s a pale and subtle mixture of blue and green. Parts of the woodwork are Morning Fog (Brouillard du matin), one of a million shades of grey.
Having worked so hard to strip layers of paint from the wood of the window and door frames, and because it’s old growth fir of a quality no longer available, we couldn’t bear to cover it with paint, so varnished most of it instead. Traces of the former paint are still visible in spots, but they are part of the house’s history, like scars and wrinkles on a body.
On Saturday, November 24th, I spent a few hours surrounded by objects from ancient Egypt. After a couple of years immersed in researching and writing a novel featuring such items, I was delighted when the Royal BC Museum hosted a travelling exhibit called Egypt: The Time of Pharaohs. (It continues until December 31st, for anyone who might be in or near Victoria, B.C.)
And I was intrigued to hear that on this particular day, an anthropology class at a local college was to stage a mock ancient Egyptian funeral right in the exhibit space. The project was part of a course called Anthropology of Death. The students did a lot of work to create the atmosphere and physical objects. They had even mummified a chicken, which was on display just outside the exhibit space.
A human dummy mummy (not a real one!) was carried along the twisting path through the various dimly-lit rooms, into a life-size replica of the tomb of Sennedjem, an artisan of Thebes. It was placed into a coffin (a borrowed theatrical prop), and the correct ceremonies were performed, including the all-important “Opening of the Mouth.”
Photos taken with a phone in dim spaces with lots of reflecting glass (exhibit cases) and small spot lights, among crowds of people jostling around, aren’t the best. (That’s my excuse, anyway.) I focussed (yes, indeed!) on items of special interest to me, either because they appear in my recently published book, or, in the case of the cat statue and mummy, just because.
This photo of the Bennu Bird was one of the best, along with the one of the Osiris image at the top of the post.
This stone sculpture of the head of an unknown queen was in a dark corner, and my photo (somewhat enhanced) makes her look quite creepy.
False doors (or “spirit doors”) appear in my novel, so of course I took a photo of this one. It dates back to the Old Kingdom, which makes it about five thousand years old.
Shabtis (or ushabtis, or shawabtis) are small human figure sculptures that were placed in tombs so they could work for the deceased person in the afterlife. They were pretty much mass-produced, but sizes and materials varied somewhat. This one struck me as looking quite sinister, so I touched up the image to emphasize that.
Most people know the Egyptians had a reverence for cats. At least I think it was reverence, since there was a cat goddess, Bastet. Many cat mummies have been found, and this exhibit included one. My photo makes it even weirder than it looked in real life reality. The covering is quite intricately patterned, and the fake eyes and ears are touching.
As always, one exits through the gift shop. I couldn’t resist buying a pair of fake shabtis. (You have to read my book to find out why.)
I’ve always been a sucker for blue glass, so this little jug was an obvious choice. I like that it was made in Egypt (as were the shabtis) from recycled glass.
One of the final days of summer 2018 was perfect for a walk in Uplands Park with The Dog (otherwise known as Nelly the Newfoundland).
Nelly wondering why I’m falling behind
This park is surrounded by suburbia, but it’s big enough that you can imagine yourself miles from a house or paved street. Technically, it’s an example of southern Vancouver Island’s vanishing Garry Oak meadow ecosystem, but in reality it’s probably way different from 150 years or more ago. In past times, the native peoples of the area cleared out brush by doing regular burns. This preserved the open meadows where camas bulbs (an important food source) were harvested. Now, with zillion dollar homes close by, there is great resistance to any suggestion of burning, no matter how controlled.
Setting all that aside, here are a few close-ups of plants and rocks that caught my eye as we walked to the shore at nearby Cattle Point. Despite its overgrown state, this is a special place. In spring, a multitude of wildflowers blooms, but I appreciate the rich and muted shades of late summer.
Foliage of the native Nootka Rose (Rosa nutkana)
Eroded volcanic rock with yellow lichens at Cattle Point
Today — Thursday, January 25th, 2018 — I typed the final sentence of my work in progress, followed by finis. Why finis instead of THE END? No reason, except that’s how I’ve envisioned it for the last few months. (Besides, finis is cool).
Well, okay, it’s only the first draft. And it’s still steaming. I’ll leave it to cool and solidify, and then start poking around, cutting out bits from here, adding some stuff there, reworking and massaging — in other words, editing.
But right now, I’m relishing the state of completion. I started writing this novel a year ago, picking it up after a false start and a couple years of dormancy. Now it’s complete, even if rough. No more worrying about cranking out the next section, and the one after that. No more visualizing action scenes, contriving conversations, and wondering how long it would take to get from A to B. And no more fictitious meals to put together.
Facts and figures
Title (provisional): She Who Comes Forth.
Word count: 104,816, but that includes notes to self like [CHECK THIS!] and [LUMPY! REWORK!]. So this number is subject to change.
Genre: Uncertain. Maybe “Women’s adventure fiction.” Is that a genre? With a coming-of-age element, and the necessary injection of the supernatural. This is, after all, a spinoff from the Herbert West Series.
Setting: Luxor, Egypt and the Theban Necropolis on the west bank of the Nile.
Time period: Autumn, 1962.
Publication date: Uncertain. Late 2018 or early 2019, depending on how editing goes, and other factors.
Things to do immediately: save to flash drive, external hard drive, and the cloud. Email a copy to self. I don’t want to lose the document to some sort of computer ailment. I’d still have the handwritten manuscript (pictured above), but it’s only the proto-draft. The real first draft is a lot better quite different.