One. #curseofkerevesdere

I often say that my iPod is where music goes to die. The 70s and 80s strut and shimmy up against sparse electronica and grungy self-indulgence from the 90s onwards. The Doobie Brothers, Bob Dylan, Miles Davis and Stockhausen segue to Nouvelle Vague, Nine Inch Nails, Bananarama, Hot Chip, Spiro and Bryan Adams.

I’m listening to Bryan Adams’ “Straight From the Heart” as I write this. Because, by happy coincidence, that’s what this whole project is about.

I’ve read history. I know what happens when people go to war. To the countries. To the people. I know that it’s not over soon nor does it end cleanly. To draw from the Princess Bride: “Anyone who says differently is selling something.”

The Romans sacked Jerusalem several times, causing the Jewish population to flee over nearly a century of war and revolt, then merged what was left of Judea with Syria in around 135CE to form Syria Palaestina. We are still dealing with the repercussions of these actions, nearly 2,000 years later. Modern politicians are being forced to recognise that a wound which has endured for two millennia cannot be healed with an election cycle’s application of salve.

But, despite everything, despite the moments of horror, despite the terrible realities that many people endure, there is still enough to lead me to believe that we can have a better world. A beautiful world. A wonderful world for everyone. The fact that we haven’t managed this yet is not proof that we can’t, although it’s often an excuse.

I wanted to write something that shared my belief that humanity is a wonderful thing, with the occasional terrible person. I wanted to write something that said that we needed to think about who or what our real enemies are, before we sail back into war over issues that are dark reflections of negotiations between the powerful. I wanted something where the issues of warring humans are placed against a background of true threat.

When I read the writing of the 1930s, I noticed that many writers were coming to the conclusion that, despite the War of 1914-1918 being The Great War and The War to End All Wars, Europe was about to plunge back into war. And you could read the fear and despair as people desperately tried to stop the slide.

I wanted to write an enjoyable yarn with humour and adventure that carried a more serious message.

Together, we can defeat anything.

Launch is tomorrow. Enjoy the yarn.

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Oh, dear. Two. #curseofkerevesdere

I think it’s fair to say that I’m not ready for the launch. The prints are done but there’s still work to do. The long weekend, and associated shop closure, has set me back a few days and it’s a busy work week leading up to the day.

Claudia dropped by today and asked me if I was excited, then paused when she realised that I had totally put it out of my mind because the looming work calendar.

But she’s right. I should be excited. I’m about to launch my first book! Despite conflicting events that will take some people away who I’d like to have there, despite having friends all over the world who can’t be there, despite the fear that no-one will show up and I’ll be standing in an empty room. despite the gnawing feeling in my stomach that I’m indulging in hubris… I should be excited. Because this is an amazing thing and it should be exciting.

Wednesday’s resolution: Be excited by Thursday night.

 

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Three! AAAAAAH! Three!

Three days to go. The trinity is a powerful concept in religion, narrative, and speech. All of these revel in three-fold resonance.

Churchill’s “Blood, Sweat, Toil and Tears” is more often remembered as “Blood, Sweat and Tears”. Why? People are just more likely to remember slogans if there are three components.

The old Australian “Slip, slop, slap” campaign for increasing sun awareness and reducing burn damage and skin cancer was incredibly effective. If you find a random Australian and say (or sing) “Slip, slop,…” then there is an almost irresistible urge to close the trinity with “Slap”. Now they’ve added other words: seek something, slip a wallaby a fiver or something like that and… I’ve forgotten.

They made the message less memorable, which makes it less effective. “Slip, slop, slap” was not, quelle surprise, the complete summary of the actions required to reduce skin cancer but it was better than confusing people. Threes are effective.

Three days left; time is short. Three simple messages:

  1. Self-publishing gets you read sooner.
  2. Good works exist outside of traditional publishing.
  3. You can do it.

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Four days to go! #curseofkereves

In honour of the day, here are four things that are good about self-publishing and four things that aren’t so good about it.

Good

  1. I’m about to publish a full-length novel, roughly a year after first having the idea. That’s a really short time from idea to production.
  2. My book didn’t sit on someone’s desk until another someone told them it wasn’t worth publishing, when it then got sent back after a few months or so. I was able to get feedback from many people and use my own editor, without someone else having to give it the green-light.
  3. I didn’t have to get an agent.
  4. I control distribution and know exactly where all of the money has gone or is going.

Not-so-good

  1. I keep wondering if I should have spent longer on it!
  2. I haven’t made it through the process that is often used to confer authorial legitimacy. (Well, actually, I have on the non-fiction and technical side with a PhD, multiple papers and a text book… but not on the challenging fiction side.)
  3. I have to look after all of my own business and it’s surprisingly time-consuming.
  4. I have little marketing and nothing large-scale, which means that I may have total control of a distribution mechanism that will sell very few books.

It’s a net positive but I’d be lying if I said that I wasn’t a little nervous.

Ok, a lot nervous.

Four days!

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Six days to go? Let’s talk about soap! #curseofkerevesdere

Today is a printing day. I’m working with a material called Ezy Carve, rather than my usual Silk Cut Lino, because I’m constrained in both the size and nature of what I can print. Having spent the better part of seven hours working on the matrix, let’s hope that it works!

I’ll post more about today’s printing for the book launch later but I wanted to talk about some printing I did in a hotel room in Singapore. A wonderful friend, Simone, had mentioned a “50 prints in 50 hours” printing marathon and asked me if I was interested in joining in. I take an unconventional approach to printing, experimenting with a range of techniques and effectively refusing to do things in a straight-forward manner, and I saw it as a challenge to try and print in a standard hotel room, with none of my usual gear. I agreed to set up Studio Nick over in Singapore, to take part.

I’ll tell you what happened but all of the images are contained in an animated GIF below. Read what happened first, then check out the images.

On the flight over, I sketched out a quick logo for the studio: a stylised MONO for fun. (Studio Nick is fine as a name but the logo would have been a little egotistical, even for me.) This was a working trip for me, which meant that I had to fit all of my supply runs and printing into a very short period. Once I got to the hotel, I ducked out to a local book and stationery store (Kinokuniya) and picked up some brushes, crayons, a little poster colour and ink, some 220gsm paper and some plastic sleeves.

My original plan was to paint some colour onto the plastic sleeves and then print this straight onto paper. This is monotyping, because there’s no actual print matrix. I snapped some pictures from the movie “Alien” that I watched on the way over and that seemed like a plan.

But the I saw the small hotel soap and realised it was about the right size to print my MONO logo, if I could carve it with something. And that’s when it got creative. How much could I get done with those things you find in a hotel room? The soap etching was carried out with a coffee spoon and a brush end. Most of the ink I used I made myself by extracting used coffee grounds and mixing that up with water to make a passable sepia. (I later strengthened it with silver poster colour, as you’ll see later.)

As you’ll see, I managed to get a semi-decent print out of soap and coffee, and then started experimenting with other materials to see what happened. (The less said about faux-intaglio work, the better. Must try again sometime soon.)

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I had so much fun doing this. I put a list of lessons learned from hotel room printing on my own FB but realised many people couldn’t see it and put it up on the Marathon feed. Here it is verbatim, for your enjoyment.

The next time you’ve got a trip, it’s actually a real blast to run off some quick prints from soap and coffee grounds. Then, during clean up, you can use what’s left of your printing block in the shower. Total recycling!

Tips for hotel room printers.

  1. Almost every hotel room has teeny tiny soaps that are almost useless. It turns out that this is because they are designed for print making and make excellent blocks.
  2. Tea spoons make quite acceptable carving styluses and barens.(If you have a small brush, use the hard end as that’s great.)
  3. Hotel windows make great light boxes (during the day).
  4. Soap is absorbent (duh) so watch your liquid levels as you have a limited time to print and, the more you print, the softer the block gets unless you let it dry out. When in doubt, just print.
  5. Coffee grounds make a tolerable sepia, with 3D effect.
  6. Poster colours and coffee don’t mix well but they do mix. Use that opacity in your favour!
  7. Coffee cups and saucers can be used as mixing stations.
  8. Hotel rooms are full of textures for rubbing, to add background.
  9. The space above the bar fridge is toasty and makes a great drying rack.
  10. Work in the bathroom, if you can. Everything in there is designed to be cleaned easily and you won’t make any mess for the cleaning staff.

It’s awesome fun. I’m going to do this again!

Only a week away! #curseofkerevesdere

I can’t quite believe that there’s only one week left to go until the book officially launches. I’ve loaded up the Twitter feed with messages that link extracts from the book to the number of days left until the launch. (It surprised me that this was relatively easy to do. I use numbers a lot, it appears.) Just in case any of you are sitting on the edge of your seat waiting for the delivery, the @velourfuture account will tweet as midnight passes in various places as this is when distribution should immediately and seamlessly unlock.

I’m starting to get excited and nervous, in a roughly equal balance. Fortunately, researching my Hugo nominations is taking up what little spare time I have in between a very busy working week, taking my mind off things.

The first three months of this year have probably been the busiest of my life but also some of the most interesting. I suspect that this is the usual trade-off.

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