I had an idea, but I’m unsure how to realise it

So, I had what I thought was a really great idea. I checked it with some trusted friends who would have pulled faces at me if it were utterly daft, and they agreed that it sounded like a pretty good idea, like an idea they could get behind. The idea was to illustrate one of my pieces of flash fiction, or, more ambitiously, a set of pieces of my flash fiction – most of which would be things I have already had published – and, in the less ambitious vein, to produce a PDF that could function as some sort of give-away when I reach 500 Twitter followers (or other suitable milestone, depending on how long this takes me). In the more ambitious vein (possibly if the giveaway goes well) I might launch a Kickstarter (or non-US equivalent) to produce a short run of quality illustrated books.

I haven’t done much art lately because I’ve been busy with my PhD. But I’ve done some good work in the past and it seemed like a reasonable and fun thing to do whilst I’m on a leave of absence from said PhD. One never gets paid very much for flash fiction anyway, and if one has already had one pay cheque from it there doesn’t seem to be that much wrong with turning the piece of flash fiction into artwork for kicks and giggles.

So. But. I’m impatient. I had the idea and I wanted to start as soon as I got home. As depression has been kicking my enthusiasm and motivation for pretty much everything, lately, it didn’t seem like such a bad idea to just go with the flow. Unfortunately, it turns out that a lot of my paper was damaged by the mould and damp in the various hell holes I lived in prior to Lovely Flat. Also, I didn’t have any good sketching pens, and I knew I didn’t want to work in pencil. What I did have was a silver pen and a small amount of black card. So, I sat down and did a number of sketches that surprised me by actually looking pretty good.

Problem 1: I really didn’t have a lot of the black card.

So, I sketched away and produced a lot of things I really liked but which would need scanning into the computer and separating out from each other in order for me to do anything with them. I went into town the next day and found some slightly less good quality, but much more plentiful, card, and a black pen, in case the whole black and silver combo turned out to be as bad an idea for scanning in as I feared it might be.

A scanned image of what would be my first illustration, depicting a stylised partridge in a pear tree.

My first scan.

Problem 2: The black and silver combo does not work well once you scan it in. At least, not on my old HP psc 1317 all-in-one printer and scanner.

I also tried photographing it, which in some ways was better, but is still not really like the quality I’d need for my project. My results turned out like this:

I then tried fiddling with the scan settings, but it didn’t really make a difference.

I also tried using PaintShop Pro to render it all into black and white, but I’m not sure the results look all that great, either.

A black and white conversion of the original image, along with the first few lines of the story.

My attempt at converting it to black and white, plus the first few lines of the text.

You can see, here, I also made my name smaller, as it had been throwing the composition off, and I tried it out with a few lines of text just to see how that would play.

(Note: this one looks OK small like this, but if you click through to see it full size you’ll see what I mean about the pixelation. It just looks amateur, and that’s not what I’m going for.)

Finally, I had a go with my camera. The silver looks OK, like this, but it’s hard to photograph at a high enough quality, properly focused, and with the paper not at the right angle.

A photo of the drawing.

The best of the photos I took.

Well, I like to do things for myself, but if you can’t get it right there comes a point where you need to ask if anyone with more experience can give you some guidance. None of the above make the picture look as good as it does in person. I have limited equipment and resources. Should I give up on the silver-on-black thing altogether? Is there a better way to work with the camera or the scanner? Are there cheap professional services that can do this for me? Should I just redraw it all in black on white, or is there a way to render the scanned image into black and white that doesn’t make everything look a bit pixelated?


The Twelfth Day – Christmas has risen from the grave…

I was just in the middle of composing a post about how we should all be giving a little love to our free genre podcasts and ezines, and on looking up the link for Hub, I saw that a new issue is out! With my little Christmas story right at the top! Wooyay!

For anyone wondering why Hub‘s Christmas issue has come out in February, allow me to explain: my story was accepted for the Christmas issue in December, and all was going well for publication, but then an evil flu of vast proportions struck down the beating heart of the Hub machine – the hub of Hub Alasdair Stuart. He’s been struggling with Ill since then, along with various other things, which has delayed the issue’s release. I’m still delighted to have my story come out in this awesome ezine. The way I view it, it’s like Christmas has died and come to life again: it’s Undead Christmas. Which works very well with my story’s themes.

The story, you may recall, was originally written for submission to Dark Fiction Magazine’s Twelve Days of Christmas Anthology. Hence the ghostly undead theme. It was not yet all that it could be, however. I received positive feedback, but could see why it wasn’t accepted. With fresh eyes I returned to the story, made it better, and sent it out again. Hub accepted – hussar!

And now, here it is, a ghostly story for an Undead Christmas. Go read it and give Hub your love!

Editing Achieved!

So, you may recall that a few weeks ago I submitted to Dark Fiction Magazine’s The Twelve Days of Christmas anthology, and if you’re following me on Twitter, you probably know that I didn’t make the cut. But they gave some positive feedback: they said the story was popular amongst the readers, but not quite ready for publication. I was really pleased to have had feedback at all, but a bit bummed because I wasn’t sure what I could do to make the story better – and I did want to make the story better, if it wasn’t quite up to par.

Of course, the answer is predictable: after taking a break from the story I sat down with it this morning and could see plenty that needed tweaking. Overall, the story was fine, but some of the phrases were clumsy, and it could use a little fleshing out in places – which was brilliant, as I no longer had a word limit any more. So, my story that started out at 1,098 words, and had gone down to 970 words has now gone back up to around 1,050 words – but the extra words are better words, and many of the others have been tightened besides. I’d given the story a couple of edits before, but you need a bit of distance if you’re going to edit properly, and I’d rushed the job to meet the deadline. Which is not an excuse – clearly other people did a better job in the same time frame – but it is an explanation, and I’m glad I had the feedback that made me take the space and go over it again.

So! ‘The Twelfth Day’ is now off to its new home, and will be coming out this Christmas after all – and to a paying market, no less 😀 So it’s not worked out too badly after all.

Details to follow, both here and on Twitter…