Saturday, 24 January 2015

Diamond Sky Trilogy Covers Reveal

When I started writing, I never intended to write a series. I had half a dozen or so novel ideas and each one represented an individual, standalone story. It was only after completing my third published novel, DIAMOND SKY, that I realised there was a great deal more story waiting to be explored with this particular set of characters. Diamond Sky is now a trilogy and though each novel is very distinctive and unique in its plot/themes, there is a wider reaching story arc running through all three books that I am really pleased with.

Of course, having a consistent arc is not the only essential ingredient of producing a successful series. The trilogy also needs to be easily recognisable as a brand, and this is where the cover art is so important. The original artwork for Diamond Sky was as follows:


Like with all of my published books, I designed the artwork using a photograph taken by me as opposed to purchasing a stock picture. At the time I was not thinking about any future consistency regarding the trilogy, and when it came to designing the covers for the sequels, this did pose problems and amendments were needed. Next is the updated 'Trilogy' cover for the novel:


As you can see, it is the same basic design but with two distinct changes. Both of which are necessary in order to create a brand or theme for the trilogy. Firstly, I added the subtitle "Book I of the DIAMOND SKY trilogy". The next, more subtle change, is in the background to the title. I removed the clouds and added a dense cluster of stars, which can also be seen reflected in the title. This fits better with the tone of the book, but also creates a common theme for the covers that follow.


Again, the covers reflect the individual themes. Emerald Sky is largely set among the Himalayas* and the "green mist" first referenced in the first novel plays a major part. Likewise, Sapphire Sky deals strongly with the issue of using the astral technology for space exploration** and a blue coloured Neutron star plays a significant role. Most important, however, is that the three covers are clearly related in everything from title to image and colour.



DIAMOND SKY is currently available for Kindle at Amazon or in paperback at most major online book retailers. EMERALD SKY and SAPPHIRE SKY are scheduled for release in Spring/Autumn of 2015.

*I stated earlier that I use my own photographs in the cover artwork. Having never been to the Himalayas, the image is actually a distorted image of Mt Cook in New Zealand's Southern Alps.

**Nor have I ever been to outer space. Sapphire Sky's cover does not use a base image. The star cluster and astral trails are purely overlay effects that are available for free with any good online photo editor.

Sunday, 11 January 2015

Finding Lost Dreams Hidden in a Box

Shortly after leaving university I took my first full time job. It was in a bank. On the first day at work we had an ice breaker session where we got to know the other new starters. There were about a dozen of us. Almost all graduates. One, with a law degree from Oxford. All for a minimum wage admin job (prospects for graduates were actually better in those days too). The task was to say a bit about yourself and where you ultimately saw your career heading. Like everybody else, I did not intend to stay at the bank and confidently declared that one day I would become a writer.

I worked at the bank for over four years before eventually having a mini breakdown and running away to the other side of the world! At some point during those wasted years I forgot all about wanting to write. In fact, even ten years later when I had rekindled my passion and begun working on my first novel, I was still unable to recall that early dream, and more importantly, what I had been doing at the time to make it a reality.

Then last Christmas when I was home for the holidays, I was searching through some old boxes looking for my uni coursework to give to my sister in law (she is now studying the same course) when I came across a file full of unexpected papers. There were plot outlines for numerous short stories and two novels, a comprehensive list of character bios for the sitcom I planned to write (yes, really) and a few sheets filled with a pretty cool stream of consciousness exercise I was doing to expand my imagination. All of it I had completely forgotten about. In fact, it took several readings of everything before I was even convinced that it was my work.

For the most part, much of the material is completely unusable. My passions and interests are very different now to what they were at twenty two. Finding this stash did, however, make it clear that in some way, I am destined to write. Even during my “lost” years, I was a constant day dreamer. Always letting my mind drift away to a different place. Never focussed on what I was doing at the time. I may be completely different to the young man I once was, but the need to create stories remains unchanged.

Below is the beginning to what would have been the first chapter to one of the novels. I think it was originally intended to be a vampire story (long before vampire stories were briefly cool, and then completely overdone, and then uncool again). It is rough and parts now make me cringe, but it was also my very first (albeit short lived attempt at writing a novel)

*** 

Untitled

Connor looked up at the world. He had no other choice. When you are flat on the ground, up is the only place you can look. As you do, perspective begins to distort and mocks the laws of physics. The whole world extends away from you, only to merge at a single point a million miles distant, yet right beneath your fingertips. The sky becomes a vast ocean, and the buildings its islands. Connor’s assailant is fifty feet tall. A monolith whose leg is bearing swiftly toward him like an archaic battering ram of old.

If he is to make it through this encounter, Connor must regain his bearings fast. His reactions must be perfect. There is no time to second guess. As the blow strikes, he thrusts his arms out toward it. Feeling the momentum, he quickly takes control of it. Redirecting the danger away, he springs effortlessly to his feet, displaying the kind of medal-winning agility that only the boldest of athletes can command.

For the first time, Connor has a clear view of his attacker. It is no more than a kid. A faded brown leather jacket that looks as though it has been backed over by a double decker bus, accommodates a broad yet emaciated frame. Gradual deterioration from months of drug abuse, Connor wonders. A freshly carved scar, not more than a couple of days old, adorns the youth’s face. Now on an equal footing, the youth slowly begins to back down the alleyway, toward the open street, goading his victim at each step. Connor sees his chance. He launches himself toward his foe, frenzied and uncontrolled. This is a mistake.

Just feet away from administering that vital blow, a blinding light stops him dead in his tracks. Stunned and disorientated, he identifies the source of the illumination too late. The car clips him side on, knocking him hard against the graffiti emblazoned walls of the alleyway. As his sense return, he can just make out the vehicle reversing to line up a second run.

‘What kept you? He almost got away,’ barks the youth as he clambers into the passenger seat, his fingers taking a firm grip on the dashboard.

‘You were supposed to draw him out of the alley. We go in too far after him and I’m in serious danger of fucking a fender.’ The driver is now beginning to wish she had opted for the idea of using a stolen car, but this being their first attempted murder they had been left wanting in foresight.

‘Fuck it! Just go in after him. We’ve gotta do this now or else I’m fucking dead, d’ya hear?’ He grabs the wheel from her, steering the vehicle back towards the alleyway.

‘Jesus, Rick! Do you want to kill the two of us too?’ She wrestles control back of the car as they speed towards their stricken target.

Clinging to the side of the alley walls to support his near useless legs, Connor sees no other alternative. As the car hits him a second time, he is prepared. His leap is timed to perfection. Rolling onto the bonnet as the car screeches to a halt just inches from the concrete wall at the end of the alleyway, he clambers onto the car’s roof. It is a sea green Ford. The roof is not sturdy under his feet, but with the extra height of the car he can make it over the wall no problem. Landing on the other side, the pain in his leg becomes more apparent. He manages four, no five steps before falling helplessly to the ground. The scene takes on that now familiar foreboding as to one who looks up at the world.

This second alley is larger than the last. A rusted fire escape extends down on to a green trash skip. Overflowing with garbage, it appears some time since it was last emptied. A black Tom in the corner acknowledges Connor’s entrance with a shrill cry before dashing away to go about its nightly scavenge elsewhere.

Connor quickly surveys his surroundings for any form of salvation. In the movies the fire escape would make for the perfect means of release. This is not the movies. Considering the ladder is folded up a good fifteen feet in the air, it does not appear to be an option. A superhuman could not make that jump, let alone a cripple with one good leg.

Connor looks down at his battered leg.

‘Fuck!’ The torn shreds of his jeans peel away, agonisingly revealing a putrid cocktail of mangled flesh and muscle.

He knows it is only a matter of time before they find him again. The skip holds the only possibility of salvation. If he can remain hidden until nightfall, that is. Using what little strength he has left in his arms, he pulls himself towards it. The damp on the ground enables his limp legs to slide more easily through the dirt. There is maybe three quarter of a foot’s clearance underneath. It will have to do. As he takes refuge under the bin, Connor, like any man facing certain death, begins to dwell upon what events had conspired to hand him such a cruel fate. His mind casts back to a girl, the most beautiful he had ever seen. It seemed an age now, he thought. A different time. A different place. A different world...

*** 


And that was as far as I got before life (more specifically, a soul crushing day job) got in the way. In the intervening years I not only forgot what I had written, but I even forgot that I had wanted to be a writer in the first place. Going forward, that is something that I must never allow to happen again.



Sunday, 4 January 2015

Flying and Failing Exams - 2 Things That Led Me To Becoming a Writer

When I was younger I used to dream that I was flying. Every night would be the same. Well, not exactly the same. The scenario was always different, but at some point in each dream I would become aware of this innate ability, and then up I would go. Into the clouds.

I remember reading somewhere that flying in a dream represents the search for an impossible goal. Maybe I had lofty ambitions that were unattainable. This makes sense because in all of the dreams I remember taking off, but never landing. Whatever my subconscious mind was searching for, I did not find it.

Then one day the dreams stopped. It was as if my dream self had forgotten that I could fly. Or maybe I had simply stopped chasing the impossible and woken up to reality. This coincided with the time I left England to travel the world so it could also indicate that I had finally found my destination. I was content. Living the dream. But like any dream – one day you wake up.

When I returned to England the flying dreams did not come back. They were replaced with an altogether different dream. Again, the scenarios would differ, but the overall theme was always the same. I was late. More specifically, I was late for an exam. Sometimes it was English and sometimes it was maths (my 2 A level subjects. I actually did 2 maths A levels so the full course was English, maths and maths!) Sometimes, it was art too. In fact, it was probably art more than anything else. It would be the final day of term and I would be a dozen artworks short of completing the course.

Like the flying dreams before it, I knew there had to be a reason that my thoughts kept returning to the same thing. In the original dreams I had been searching for something. It was a longing, a yearning – for something external. These new dreams were different. This time the longing was not external, it was internal. Something inside of me was missing. From these dreams I deduced that I needed to achieve something before time had run out. Actually, achieve is not the right word. I needed to create something before time had run out.

At the time I was working within the Civil Service. In no other job would you find creativity more stifled. These are the rules, they are stupid, they do not work, and they will change for nobody. Dissenters will not be tolerated. You get the gist.

So with no outlet for my imagination at work, it was at home that I began to get creative. Since returning from abroad I had been typing up my travel journals, but this was not enough to sate my inner need. The worse the job got, the more I turned to fantasy, to fiction. I started writing a novel and the dreams changed once more. They became simply dreams. Random and incomprehensible as they should be.

Occasionally the dreams of being back at college return. There is a pattern to it too. I have these dreams when I have gone a prolonged period without writing. This brings me back to my earlier analysis. Creativity is an essential part of my psyche and when I am not fulfilling this need my subconscious mind punishes me. I am a writer and I must write.