Tag Archives: books

Commissioned Art

When I am feeling up against it, there are a few things that I find consoling – my writing, my garden, my photography and my drawing.  This week  I have returned to my garden to pot some succulents, plant a lemon tree and to take photographs. Sunday was drawing day. Less exhausting and still very satisfying. By creating something, my heart feels lighter, there is the feeling of completeness and  my soul is satiated.

For regulars, you may remember a previous post Book Artwork COmmission , last month. Today was the perfect day to complete the work. It was a pleasant spring day but the occasional showers restricted any gardening hopes that I had. I had inked the last two images yesterday. They had dried for over 24 hours, so I cleaned them up with an eraser.  

The cover was to be coloured. I used pencils to give shading similar to that found in the medieval artwork of the manuscript. In all, there are four black and white nib-inked chapter drawings and a page of incidental artwork, plus the inked and hand-coloured cover.

all done

I am hoping these will be to the taste of the author. All going well, this will be available to buy

in the very near future – I33: Fencing in he Style of the Walpurgis Manuscript (a discussion and rapier exercises based on early period text)

Attention all Fencers – watch this space!


Recently I was asked what was my favourite book. Before I could reply, she named her favourite and then rattled off a list of many that she ‘hated’. A little way into the conversation I realised three things. I had not named my favourite book, that I was finding it hard to name a book that I really ‘hate’ and lastly that it appeared that she had not actually read many of the long list of her hated books. This I found even more perplexing. How could she know if she hated a book unless she had at least tried to have read it.

What books do I hate? I may not like the writer’s voice, or the genre but that does not guarantee that I won’t enjoy other books of the ilk. There is only one book (no two) that I have started and could not read beyond the first few pages. Both were a result of the way they were written (rather than subject matter which sounded quite interesting unfortunately. I really wanted to read them but it was so painful that I gave up.) It felt like it was a waste of my time to read something that I was not enjoying.

So what is my favourite book? Um… I am still thinking on that one. It is very difficult to choose just one. Over the years I have had many favourite books. Each depended on the mood I was in, and where I was ‘at’ in life (emotionally).

When I was in high school, I read Agatha Christie and Ngaio Marsh books avidly. They were my passion… until our school librian (whose self imposed quest was to widen her student’s reading vocabulary) introduced me to The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings. I have worn out several copies over the years.

Then came The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and the rest of the Narnia series, The Dark is Rising and other fantasy novels. This led into my science fiction phase which resulted in my first novel manuscript (about 200 pages – what is that in word count?) which is still somewhere in the shed. I hope I have not lost it. (I have been thinking of this a lot lately, now that I have returned to writing).

One book I do keep coming back to is Blue Moon Rising by Simon R  Green. I now have two copies as one is falling apart. It is fun, it is easy to read and I like the characters. There is an emotional soft spot in my heart for it. Isn’t that one thing that books are for – to transport us somewhere else and (hopefully) identify with the characters have an emotional stake in their fate?

Currently I am enjoying the supernatural steampunkish slant of Gail Carriger’s Soulless series. Again it is all about the characters. There is a wonderful array of characters both supernatural (werewolves, vampires), mortals and then there is Alexia Tarabotti, a unique woman who defies Victorian sensibilities while at the same time endevouring to uphold them. In it I found the balance of Victorian manners, the juxtaposition of the impropriety of plot situations and the resulting comedy of the characters reactions.

Why do I currently love these books? I have finally found an author whom I can identify with. Until now, I have been struggling to describe what I envisage as my ‘writer’s voice‘ and describe the genre I love to write. I get the strangest looks and have reverted back to using the description of ‘speculative fiction’ and have dreaded in trying to explain it further. Thanks to Ms Carriger, I am not alone in the world! I have found a way to describe what I love to write – alternative history in a steampunk/gaslight/gaslamp genre. I have been placed in my box and what a fun box it is to be in!

In Praise of the Printed Book

I like printed books and I cannot lie. I love the feel of the paper and the tactile gratification of turning the finished page. I enjoy the smooth, vanilla-like smell of old books. (Rivaled only by that of new leather, freshly cut grass and freshly-tilled earth after the rain.) I love the tumbling over piles of books we have strewn around the house when the overloaded bookshelves can’t hold any more. (I don’t like the collected dust though – allergies!)

The appearance of a printed book can convey so many emotions and expectations. New books look so pristine. A promise of the joys which are yet to come. Second hand books have a reassuring crumpledness of a story once-loved about to be enjoyed anew. Old spine-scarred books herald the return of favourite characters and stories to be relived. You can’t judge an e-book by its cover. The case is the same for each one.

A printed book does not rely on power for enjoyment. Just open the book and enjoy. While newer e-books have a longer battery life, if it does die then it must be recharged first. I don’t always have the patience to wait that long. Maybe I am a product of my generation but I am quite happy about that.

I relish the browsing of a bookshop to find the next story that is waiting to be read as opposed to trolling the internet for the electronic version. Though I usually loathe shopping centres, I find being in an actual shop filled with books to be exciting. So much to read and so little time! The other customers are there for the same reason – the love of reading.

There was a time when I wanted to own a little bookshop with floor to ceiling shelving, oversized old fashioned rugs and a massive comfy sofa in a corner for customers to read their new book and sip cups of tea. Though modern bookshops are not as cosy, all of the above is conjured up in my imagination EVERY time I set foot in one. (with no nosy computer programme pushing me to buy and force a book selelction on me.) Bliss.

 If I am reading while in the bath and I drop my printed book, I can dry it out eventually (and have done so previously). Drop an e-book in the bath… electronics and water do not mix well. One last thing. Print books will survive EMP and not set off security alarms searching for electronic devices.

I have tried e-books. I have a few, especially the free ones offered online, that I am not sure I will like but sound interesting and worth a read. I have even read some. But it is not the same. Though intellectually I acknowledge the fact that print book sales are declining (but then I also read they are bouncing back again) and e-books are taking over, I will always prefer print books and will continue to buy them until I have absolutely no option. Then I will mourn their loss.