Time, in days and weeks and months

Working away so hard on The Lost Words and hope that soon I will be able to show something of the books. In the meantime there are 38 calendars at Help Musicians, needing homes. So, I thought I would help them sell them, as many people were asking me where they could get them before christmas and shops had all sold out.

So, here is the complete calendar. 12 big images, all framable, and if you want to use as a calendar, loads of space for this.  If you would share the post, on facebook, twitter, whatever, then we can help Help Musicians sell the last of their stock and raise money for them. And if you do then leave a comment on this blog post. Tell me who you love listening to, add links if you wish, would love to hear who makes your soul sing. And now and again I will pick people to send a card to, and when all 38 are sold I will send a random handful of cards and things, from the last picture here to someone who has left a comment. Not the calendar though. I only have one. Just some cards and things….

Here’s a link to buy the calendar: Help Musicians.

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Souls

Terry Pratchett built a world where lives had ‘lifetimes’. These were like hour glasses, but bigger. When the sand ran through, death came to collect you.

My aunt lost her voice in old age. It made me think that perhaps we were gifted with a finite number of words we could say before our allotted words ran out, so maybe speak less, and more kindly?

Reading again The Paper Menagerie by Ken Liu. The second story is called State Change. In the world in which the story is set people are born with a soul that is an object, or thing that they have to keep close, care for. The central character’s soul is an ice cube.

No one expects that she will live long.

The story is beautiful, thought provoking and I love the way there are some writers, who, with so few words, can build a many layered world, and stories that live outside the edges of the pages.

The stories in this book almost seem to be like keys, the words unlocking memories. They flow like clear cool water from the page.

But this one made me think. What would my soul object be? Perhaps a paint box? Or maybe a brush? And still I think……

And so I ask, if you were born in this world where your soul was born beside you, an object, something you had to keep close, keep safe, what might that be? Not an animal, for this is not a totem creature, and animals have souls of their own. Something….

If you would think, and tell me, in the comments to this blog I will pick a person now and again and send a card, or badge or something. And if you would share that would be kind, as I would love to hear what people think….

And if you need a good book then The Paper Menagerie is one such. The title story might break your heart a little. But that can never be such a bad thing. It’s beautiful.

( The Paper Menagerie by Ken Liu is published by Head of Zeus)

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The in-between time

Two days, beside each other, and yet they could not be more different, though both began with waking, reading, walking.

But first I was tucked in bed, wrapped in cashmere and a warm, dreaming pup.

Soft light met us at the top of the hill when we walked. Pi ran circles, nose down, tail up, scouting for snipe or pheasant or woodcock, excited by every scent.

The bones of heather flowers rattled in the wind. Ivy is the colour of the wind stripped bones of heather.

We found the a songbird’s anvil.

Pi is coloured like the bracken she hunts through. At the bottom of the lane The White Cat walked with Ivy. And this morning the same tree was lit bright against blue sky, sharp in sunshine, woven by wind. How different things look seeing them in a different light.

Today we could hear the wind in the bracken at the top of the hill. Our small part of the world looked utterly beautiful.

Half way down the field I stopped to think, to look at the view and The White Cat jumped on my head. It’s what he does.

Then home to work on The Lost Words. Magpie…..wild magic robber baron, hedge chatterer, killer, pied beauty. And all the while I was musing on the shape of the soul.

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A Silence Like Intimacy

I painted her in 2002, at least I think it was then. I was emerging from a dark place, the break up of my marriage. I was seeing the world again as the beautiful place that it is, and I had met, or was just about to meet Robin.
She was bought from a gallery in St Davids, for a while lived near Aber Mawr, and then moved to Cornwall. Now, years later, she has come home and for a while hangs like a huge Christmas decoration on the wall by the fire, lit by globe lights.
She is called A Silence Like Intimacy. She was a spell, a wish, a desire, for peace, for calm, for love.

Threaded through her undergrowth songbirds keep guard as the two sleep and dream.

Hares also watch, guardians of the dreamers.

And because Michael had read my blog before he came with the picture he brought me a jar of preserved lemons, grown from his own lemon tree, in Cornwall. Wonderful.

She is welcome back. I will take her from the frame and get her scanned, make cards and prints, and she will be in the next calendar I make, and also in a large format book of stories woven around my bear paintings.

For now, it’s lovely to see her again. Like meeting an old friend after a long absence.

These are her sisters.

 

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A small Christmas Present from Graffeg.

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Wish List. From 25th Nov 2010

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Going to clear a space and get the type writer out again.

I write differently with a type writer.

 

 

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The Winter Queen and Her Fox Lover.

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On closer inspection it became obvious.

The fox had not been dancing alone. The Queen of Winter, who loved him so, had frozen the pond especially to dance with her russet darling. In a moment of careless abandon she discarded her crown in the garden. It has begun to melt.

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They danced again on the pond the next night, beneath a sky clear of all but stars, and then she gave her rust red lover the gift of a lapwing.

He left the wrapping in the lane, still soft, beaded with frozen tears.

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Again she gave him the feast of a warm bird to slake his appetite grown fierce by dancing.

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And he gave her a crown of tangled feather and winter’s thorns to replace her lost crown of ice. For now the love they both carried for each other had begun to thaw their dancing place. So they curled, tired to dreaming from three nights of passionate revelry, around each other, wrapped in love and russet fur.

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(From 2009. A version of this story can be found in the Barefoot Diaries no: 3)

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Being an author/illustrator

Don’t get me wrong. I feel lucky to be able to paint and write for a living. It is only possible because people buy my books, paintings and prints.

When I was a child I was told that I couldn’t be an artist. It was what I wanted to be, when people asked me the ‘when you grow up’ question ( only after I had worked out that I couldn’t be a bear).

Until I was 27 years of age I did a part time job to fund my passion, until I could make enough of an income to quit washing up 4 nights a week in a restaurant and just paint.

For the most part I work seven days a week, partly because I do love to paint and write. I learned, eventually that I would have to travel to bookshops in order to promote my books, make them more visible, at my own expense as there was never any ‘budget’ for this from the publishers. As my children were older this became possible. As a single parent it was difficult. No childcare, parents far away, so no family support, I worked around my children. Even so, I can’t remember a family holiday we took together. There wasn’t the money, there wasn’t the time.

I have been lucky and thanks to people like you, who bought my books I was able to buy a house, and pay the mortgage. But, as a self employed person when my marriage broke down and I with it and I couldn’t work for a year there was no sick pay, etc. I managed. I can’t remember how, but I do remember very good friends buying paintings from me. They were hard times, but my children don’t remember us being poor. When I won the Tir Na Nog it paid my mortgage, phone bill, bought shoes for my children.

Recent times have been better. I have had the odd royalty cheque. PLR payments are always so welcome, coming as they do just after Christmas and more than once they have paid off my overdraft.

So, now I need to get back to work as I have a contract to fulfil and a book to finish. I am still working 7 days a week in order to do this.

And this is why I find this article offensive. Because it bolsters the myth that only those with a ‘certain background’ can be authors/illustrators. Not people like me. And to be honest, it makes me really rather cross. So, well done them for giving money to charity in such a public fashion. All the words I want to write now are rather offensive to some, so I will go, and paint, and continue to earn my living.

And if it is your dream to write and paint, don’t let anyone tell you that it’s not your place to do so and know that we are trying to make the industry a fairer place for those who come after us.

Thank you for listening.

 

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A week of leopards and windows.

Home in my studio again. This week has been one of sending off artwork, walking with dogs, raising money for charity, stirring a big pot of trouble, reading, reviews, thinking, and signing books in Llandeilo.

In Eve’s Toyshop the window was bedecked in animals from the pages of my books, including a beautiful snow leopard.

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Inside the shop there were so many books to sign, and between talking to people and signing stock for Jayne four hours passed fast and swift. She sold the huge leopard within two days of her being in the window, but can get more. But it takes time, so if you are thinking of Christmas, you would need to move swift.

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So, the big pot of trouble comes in the shape of a blog post from friend, author and illustrator James Mayhew. We often talk on the phone, and both had bemoaned the discounting of books. Independent bookshops work hard to help build the profiles of authors they love. Publishers then undermine this relationship by selling our books to high discount sellers. Although publishers can strike deals where hundreds of thousands of copies of books are sold, bringing down the unit cost of books being printed, the value of this to the author is questionable at best as the royalties received run into pennies per book, and very damaging to indie bookshops. For example, the stock in the photo above was bought and paid for by Jayne at Eve’s Toyshop. She knows that I give up my time to her freely, to support her business, and in return she buys a serious quantity of my books from my various publishers, not at a high discount, but at a fair price. My books bring people in to her shop, and with a window dressed like that we make a wonderful partnership as her shop draws a new audience to my books.

However, the high discount sellers wait for a book to be successful and then buy up and sell huge stock. People then go into bookshops asking for discounts, or using bookshops as a window to browse and then purchase online. This is not sustainable and only happens because publishers can sometimes choose to sell our work off cheap. However, these days most of us have clauses in our contract that require us to be consulted when deals like this are proposed. New authors need to be made aware of this. Because publishers sure as hell won’t play fair.

Anyway, James wrote a brilliant blog post for the Society of Authors, and there is now an on going conversation about this subject. If you are a bookseller, or an author, please go and take a look and add your thoughts. I have been told that publishing has changed a great deal in the 20 years that I have been working in it. Well, yes, it has, and not always for the better. And we, together, can bring about new changes, champion the high street bookshops by demanding an end to having our work sold off cheap. The ONLY company I will sell to is Bookstart. I consider it a badge of honour to have a book chosen for inclusion in the Bookstart scheme. They really do get books into the hands of people who might not be able to afford the luxury of owning books.

As for The Society of Authors, they helped me out when I was in dispute with my publisher over merchandising rights and this has made a significant difference to my yearly income and allowed me to produce jigsaws with Wentworths and cards and other things with Graffeg.

We need to support each other. I’m lucky enough to have built some good relationships with some wonderful indies, and on 30th Nov will be signing books in The Yellow Lighted Bookshop in Tetbury, 1st Dec in Kenilworth Books and then 2nd in Rossiters in Monmouth and Book-ish in Crichowell.

Enough ranting. Todays walk was all gold light, water and birds.flocks robinbright

They say kisses are only in season when the gorse is in flower. Pembrokeshire is obviously a passionate place.gorseflwrs

Ivy was cross hatched with gold grass.crosshatched flocks2

The crows flew up to the moon, then later landed on each of the fence posts, all in a line.posts

Pi found a ripple dog, and her mirror friend.rippled refl

And under the water the leaves were beautiful.pond

Willow and Pi chased up a storm of raindrops.wildnwet levitating

There was a carpet of green moss across slabs of old concrete. Beautiful.moss

Home. This week, Celestine and the Hare, with the help of many people, raised over £1000for The Flying Seagull project. Amazing. Because we both hit a busy weekend we are waiting until tomorrow to draw the winner for the artwork that goes along with this fund raising. And by coincidence we were both reviewed in the same article in The Observer, which is wonderful too.

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And finally, in the spaces in between the doing and the walking and the selling and the painting, and the posting, I have been reading The Chimes. If you love books, music, ravens, writing, get this book. I picked it up through a tweet that said it had won the world fantasy Award. It’s glorious different, beautiful, dark.

Now, I’m going to go and paint.

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List

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I have done some of the things on my list today.

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The walk on the beach was filled with light and water and cold and the wind.

At home I made a gold soul of a skylark.

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And I heard that the artwork had arrived at Hamish Hamilton, and is ok. And I am half way through all the art for The Lost Words.

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