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.)


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.


Where did nine go? 7 8 9? #curseofkerevesdere

Only eight days to go to the launch! Let’s talk about the prints I’ll have for sale on the day (since you can buy the eBook anytime you like as the stores roll through local midnight).

I have all of the equipment I need to cut the plates to make the limited edition prints that will be available for sale in lieu of an actual book at the launch. In my ongoing quest to make printing as difficult as possible, I will be cutting small plates in a hurry with fine detail and then trying to print them with a rolling pin on 220gsm card. Or I may build a small press and plate system that allows me to use body weight to print with any sense of registration.

You know I print with soap occasionally, right? I may be doing that, too. (I’ll put a post up on my soap printing shortly.)

At this stage, there will only be 20 of the prints available for sale and these will be A4 lino prints, with embellishments and hand stamps. Once I’ve finished the process, I’ll have a cost for you but it won’t be more than $20 a print. The print will show the QR code that takes you to my Kereves Dere information page but I’ll hand sign/dedicate it on the night. Technically, these will all be slightly different prints, due to the post-printing modification, but I’m calling them the same print sequence. RADICAL FREEDOM!

The prints will be on display from 6:30 and there will be a sign-up sheet if you’d like to buy one.

I hope to also have some give-away mementoes of the night but it really depends upon how well the printing goes this weekend!

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Can you help? You certainly can! #curseofkerevesdere

Some of my friends have started asking how they can help with the novel and its launch. As I’m self-publishing and lurking in the indie sector, some of these questions are directed at non-traditional publishing.

But my answers apply to how you can help any author, focused on those who have eBook publishing. (Other authors, I would love additional comments if you felt like it.) Ultimately, if you want the author to keep writing, she or he has to feel that it is worthwhile to keep writing, which may or may not include making enough money. How can we keep an author writing?

  1. Buy the author’s books. That’s a fairly obvious way to show support for an author. It’s not compulsory and we all know that money is tight these days but sales translate into direct feedback to the author that the work is appealing to people.
  2. Tell other people about the book, if you like it. Word of mouth is a very powerful tool. There are millions of books being published every year and finding the ones that you might want to read can be hard. Personal recommendations help a lot here.
  3. Write a review on the site you bought it from. Websites such as Amazon and iBooks have a required number of reviews before they’ll display meaningful data. Their display algorithms often favour books with higher ratings. If you think a book is good, take the time to rate it and write a short review. That will keep helping the author for some time to come.

    (As a note, please think carefully before leaving a negative review. If a work is unreadable because of editing mistakes, is blatant plagiarism, or is so bad that it gives you hives, then a negative review may be fair. If you just didn’t like it, maybe it’s just not to your taste. That may not be review-worthy. But, hey, it’s up to you.)

  4. Rate it and write a review on Goodreads (or similar). The review aggregators span all of the distributors and have a lot of influence. A good review and rating here will bring more people to the author. This transcends the more closed communities of distribution channels.
  5. Buy from the back catalogue. One of the advantages of eBooks is that back catalogue (older books) may still be available and, if you like something, you can fill up your bookshelf from work that the author previously released. Take advantage of the persistence of e-materials!
  6. Keep track of the author’s public presence. Many authors will do signings, speaking events, or have extensive on-line presences. Going to those events, participating in message boards, dropping a line that says “I liked this”: all of these are great ways to show support and to achieve your aim, which is to keep the author writing!

I’m very lucky to have had so many people show me support so far, in buying “Five Stories” and in the growing pre-orders for “Kereves Dere”. But there are many authors out there and they need to know that what they are writing is something that you want to read.

Let’s make it “Give an author some love” day!

Have fun! Launch in ten days! Woohoo-argh!



On the twelfth day of pre-launch, my true love gave to me… #curseofkerevesdere

Yesterday was a blur of production but the novel is slowly starting to appear in the various stores for pre-order. Apple’s distribution model is slightly unpredictable in terms of what is visible where during this phase. As a result, I’m not advertising the pre-order locations yet but there will be a “Kereves Dere” page for this blog that will show you where you can get it!

I’m delighted that the sample appears to finish on a cliff-hanger. Let’s hope that people can’t then resist buying the book.

I had some problems with the Sony LRF format on Smashwords but it’s a legacy format and I’ve decided to drop it, as I have no detailed debugging instructions beyond “it doesn’t convert to LRF”. Sorry, people with legacy Sony devices but it’s not too bad, you’ll still be able to get it as a PDF from Smashwords!


Oh, unlucky thirteen… #curseofkerevesdere

Somewhat despite myself, I have managed to push the book into both the iBooks and Kindle distribution channels, which should mean pre-orders available soon on both and sales, on time, for the 1st of April.

That’s all I’m saying. I don’t want to jinx it. Between having to relearn XPath commands to force the eBook to open in the right place and some ISBN shenanigans, I’m going to call today an acceptable state of affairs and quietly walk away.


Fourteen days! #curseofkerevesdere #boscoestmoncopilote

I’ve reached that tricky point where everything has to be submitted and…

I have to confess that I’m a little scared.

I’m about to say “Yes, this book is good enough to sell to people.” Now, I’m not asking for your life’s savings with a list price of USD 2.99 but that’s not the point. What I want is to produce something that surprises people with how good it is, that has interesting and enjoyable writing, and that has high production values for a self-published work.

It is intimidating. Yet it has to happen. Fortunately, I have help in quelling my fears.

One of the features of the book is a wonderful character named Bosco. He is, among many other things, a French survivor of exile and the decimation of the French Foreign Legion at Kereves Dere, on the Gallipoli peninsular during the First World War. The book links him with all of the events and people to ground the reader, to bring them into the emotional landscape, and to engage them with the narrative.

He is wonderfully loyal and brave. He is, very much, the voice in my head that tells me to dare and to be bold. Right now, I have him in my ear.

“This book, it is good, patron?”

“I like to think so, Bosco.”

“And what of other people? What do they think?”

“They think it’s pretty good, too. Even after re-readings.”

“Then it must go out. It is either ready now or it never will be. You will never let it be ready.”

“But, of course, Bosco. Out it must go. You are very wise.”

“Wisdom is the memory of all of the mistakes that did not kill us, Monsieur. This book will not kill you, I think. Release it!”

How can I argue with that? Onwards! To production!

Gorgeous free to use image from Eva the Weaver on Flickr.