Message from an absent Friend

book92 with quill and inkI really must apologise for not having posted for such a long time – work commitments and moving out of my home office and into a proper office/artists’ studio have all taken their toll. I’m generally getting up at 4am and start work soon after…YAWN.

Normal blogging services will resume next month, when I’ve had a chance to write up new themes I want to tackle for this blog.

To the person”O” who left a message, wondering how to set up his/her own children’s book of 28 pages: I’ve used to publish my first Willow novel as one can choose lots of different templates depending on what size one wants for a book. They also have templates for covers that allow you to upload your own photographs or artwork. The print quality is very good.

Before deciding on a suitable size for your children’s book, go to your library or book store and see what established writers have used for a book aimed at the same age range. Take a ruler or tape measure with you and write down the size of the books you liked best; don’t forget to count the words on each page, if you’re planning to publish a picture book for the same age range. This will make sure you won’t end up with more than 2 empty pages, which is all Createspace allows you to have.

If any of you writers out there have used or other such self-publishing services you were very happy with, perhaps you can let us know and give us tips. Createspace have their own community of writers giving handy tips and I used that extensively, while setting up my own book.

until the next time…

Ghost_househugs from an absent friend and fellow creature of the night

(and NO, what you see to your right is NOT my new office address!)


The Benefits of being an Omnivore

While our friend Ratty is an omnivore with places to go and habitats to conquer, the scaly pangolin is far more specialised in its culinary preferences. Similar to the other little oddball nature’s created, the aardvark, pangolins live almost exclusively on termites and ants.

Pangolins are nocturnal, armour plated mammals that live in Africa and Asia. They protect their cuddly bodies with overlapping scales that have sharp edges and form a type of armour an ancient Roman centurion would have loved to possess.

Like our friend the hedgehog, pangolins roll up into a ball when threatened by an inquisitive predator’s paw. They hunt for termites and ants at night, which they lap up with a long tongue that’s covered in sticky saliva (just like the aardvark). Pangolins have sharp claws which allow them to dig their underground burrows, where they spend the hot, humid days and hide from predators. There are long-tailed, earth-dwelling and short-tailed, tree-dwelling pangolins living in both continents.

The Asian variety has external ears and fluffy hair at the base of their scales, but the African variety has internal ears and lack scaly covering on the underside of their tails. Pangolins haven’t got teeth, but grind up their food thanks to swallowing small pebbles. Their powerful stomach muscles do the rest to assist digestion.

Zeldzaam exemplaar Pangolin (schubdier) in Artis

Zeldzaam exemplaar Pangolin (schubdier) in Artis (Photo credit: Nationaal Archief)

The poor pangolins have, of course, one predator, who has hunted them relentlessly for their scales and tasty flesh: yep, our favourite villain, the human omnivore. While in Africa the pangolin is regarded as a yummy addition to a feast, in Asia the pangolin’s scales are used in “medicine”, following along the same rot as they come up with when grinding up elephant tusks or rhino horns to make an “aphrodisiac” elixir. It’s just a way of making lots of money out of idiots (mainly male), but sadly it hasn’t stopped “medicine men and women” from spreading this superstitious nonsense for centuries.

Just like omnivores in nature can survive and conquer new habitats without any trouble, while a highly specialised creature loses out every time, the writer who closes his or her mind to other genres and other writer’s output will neither learn nor is likely to succeed in their own writer’s habitat.

One thing all successful writers have in common is that they are ferocious omnivores when it comes to reading. They don’t disregard the humblest of genres, but cherry-pick the best ideas, writing styles and “voices” for their own work – that’s not stealing other people’s work, you understand, it’s being influenced by other writers’ good practice and learning from both their good and bad writing.

We dismiss and disregard genres that don’t correspond to our own at our peril. I cannot even begin to describe how much goodness I have soaked up over the last 46 years of reading. I’ve seen how dialogue can be used to give character to my protagonists and antagonists; I’ve discovered that too much descriptive prose makes readers want to skip the page; I’ve learned how NOT to do things and how to critically assess other writers’ work in a constructive way that hopefully benefits both them and me.

A coat of armor made of pangolin scales, an un...

A coat of armor made of pangolin scales, an unusual object presented to George III in 1820. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Being a reading omnivore as a writer keeps us on our toes, inspires us to look at our own writing with fresh eyes. The highly specialised writer, who never ventures out of their own comfortable underground burrow, will soon become stale, jaded and fade away from their readers’ minds, stifling any buying impulse in their book reading public.

In that light my next post – prompted by an enquiry from a regular reader – will have at least one recipe from Mrs. Vampire’s Cook Book for the toothy Housewife (Fang press, published in 1586).

Willow take note, you’ll be tested on it later!