Just released- Journey!

My new children's book, JOURNEY, is now available to buy across all Amazon websites and is available to order from all bookstores. You can read the Kirkus Review here.

JOURNEY BY CLAUDINE CARMEL


This is first book I have illustrated myself. I love collaborating with an illustrator and seeing what someone else dreams up with my words as well as having someone to share the creative process with. Doing both the story and illustrations put a lot of pressure on me to get everything right, but it's also been rewarding to push myself into new territory and see if I could create a whole book alone. I'm a very visual person and always have a clear vision in my head of how each book I write should look, down to the color palette and the picture placement on each page, and I see the illustrations in my mind as I write the text. I think this comes partially from studying screenwriting, as it is a very visual form of writing. When I wrote Journey I could see the text swirling around and mimicking the weather on each page.

I have painted my whole life as well as studied traditional photography. When I go on vacation I'll sit for hours on a cold rock with my camera waiting for the sun to set or for the perfect crashing wave and when I paint from that photo I try to capture it as realistically as I can. Illustrating has been an interesting new challenge and I've enjoyed it much more than I thought I would. It's been very freeing to let my imagination run wild with paint and play with things a bit more, adding swirly skies, splatters and curly wave horizons. I'm a perfectionist when it comes to my writing and painting, and I've redone a few pictures several times despite friends and family telling me they were fine. Some pictures that I really love did not make it into this book because the color palette wasn't the same as the rest of the illustrations or the landscape was just too different from the rest. I think as I do more detailed illustrations with multiple characters I will definitely need to do more rough sketching, but this book worked with allowing myself the freedom to just play and see where each image took me, in the same way the hot air balloon carries these two friends away on their journey.

Here are some photos of all the artwork laid out in my living room and a couple of my favorite illustrations from the book:

blog2


More soon,

C.C.

New book coming soon!

I'm getting ready to release a new picture book for September 1st, 2017. The fully illustrated book is called JOURNEY and is for 3-6 year olds. It's the first book I've illustrated myself, and its taken about a year to complete. The illustrations were created with acrylic on canvas, and when I lay them out on the floor they take up the majority of my living room.

I've just ordered the fourth proof - I'm a perfectionist when it comes to my work, and I'm hoping this will be the final proof and that the editing and tweaking of tiny details is finally over. Fingers crossed!

Here is a sneak peak of the front cover with the original artwork:

journey cover


Synopsis:

Two friends set off for an adventure in the sky. They travel through all kinds of weather before making it home again, but will they want to stay there after having had such a big adventure?

More soon,

C.C.

The first snow

It started to snow late last night. The fact that it was pitch black out (there are no street lights in our neighborhood, so from about 4:30 PM onward you need a flashlight to walk anywhere) and freezing didn't deter my husband and I from a quick snowball fight as well as me staying out too long filming snowflakes falling in our laser light projector beams (which look like multicolored sparkles whooshing around). We didn't expect the snow to last until this morning, but it did! Hurrah! I ventured out early wearing many layers to take some photos of it before it melts. The fir trees that surround us looked perfect, as though they had been waiting all year for the snow to transform their standard, dark, triangular shape into ruffled layers of snow dipped branches. It was wonderful to be lost in a quiet world of clean, crisp snow. The only sounds were my neighbors children talking excitedly about where to build a snowman, and my footsteps as they crunched and creaked through the thick white layer on the grass. Not that I need an excuse, but seeing the winter world outside prompted me to put Raymond Briggs' The Snowman DVD on and let myself be transported back to my childhood while I warmed up with a hot coffee.

You cannot deny the magic of snow. It wakes up the inner child within us all, and I'm very drawn to snowy children's books, which is probably why Lucy Lick-Me-Not and the Greedy Gubbins is my favorite of the Lucy series. If you're looking for festive gifts for children who to love to read this holiday season, it is available on all Amazon websites and can be ordered from all bookstores. It earned a Kirkus Star and was named to Kirkus Reviews best books of 2015.

snow1


My other favorite Christmas children's books are of course The Snowman by Raymond Briggs, Father Christmas, also by Raymond Briggs , and Stickman by Julia Donaldson. Coincidentally they have all been made into beautiful animated short films, which I throroughly recommend.

More soon,

C.C.


Trying something new - Illustrating

I have toyed with the idea of illustrating for some time, and up until a couple of weeks ago I felt daunted by this because although I paint as a hobby and I love it, I don’t tend to paint from my imagination. I work with acrylic on on canvas and I paint from photos I take on my travels, the ocean and sky are my favorite subjects.

paintings cc

But as I have learned during the past decade of relocating, traveling and trying many new things, it’s always good to leave your comfort zone. So the other day I let my imagination run free and by the end of the day I had an illustration and a story for 4-8 year olds. I also discovered my illustrating process is very similar to my writing process. When I start a new story, more often than not I get a simple sentence in my head of the premise, then from there I create the ending and then the rest of the story comes to me. This happened with my illustrations. I had an idea of what I wanted to paint (a sky scene), and what developed that day is the final image in a new story - two friends in a hot air balloon. I wanted to know their story, and I had very clear images in my mind of their travels, and from there the rest of the story came. I’m halfway through the illustrations now, and following is a preview of the image that started ‘The Journey’.

journeyccblog

More soon,

C.C.

My writing journey

My journey into writing has not been a very straight one. If I look back I can see it always appealed to me. I remember writing ghost stories when I was a child at home. They were usually inspired by the Stephen King films I had snuck in and watched while my dad was asleep. But when I started secondary school I was put in the lower set for English and I came to the conclusion I wasn't smart enough to be a writer. I remember struggling to write the a lower case "d" when I was very little. My hand kept wanting to do a lower case "b", and I got it eventually, but it took me longer than most other people in my class. I used to read The Beano and I thought that one of the characters was called 'Berly the Perly', not 'Beryl the Peryl', and I felt embarrassed for getting it wrong as I had transposed the "l" and the "y". These things were few and far between, but looking back at them, I can see my dyslexia and it wasn't picked up on in school, possibly because I could always read very well and I loved reading. I wonder if I had been taught in a different way if I would have had more confidence to write sooner? Being in a low set meant I wouldn't be able to do A-Level English and since I didn’t know what I wanted to do for my career I left school at sixteen and got a job. I was fortunate to get a job in an art gallery and learned to be a picture framer. It was good to make something with my hands, but after a while framing wasn't enough creativity for me, and at twenty years old I decided to go back to school.

I painted as a hobby, but mainly spent my free time devouring stories whether they were in books or movies and thought I would like to tell stories through film. So I worked out what college course I needed to do in order to get onto a film degree, and chose a two year National Diploma in Multimedia. I made short films for as many of our assignments as I could, and got distinctions for my projects and was even student of the year - never before had I done so well in education. I was being taught by fantastic tutors in the right way for me to learn and I was being given the confidence that I could do these things. I have since read a great book on dyslexia called The Dyslexic Advantage, and I saw many similarities to how my own brain works. This book focused on the many positives of being dyslexic, and I think that part of my brain is what makes me good at telling stories and finding connections. It was also refreshing to read there are so many famous dyslexic writers, Agatha Christie, Anne Rice, Stephen King and Fannie Flag, just to name a few.

Making one of my college films:

college film stills


I completed my ND and fortunately I happened to already live in the town which had one of the best film degrees in the UK. I think it was my sheer enthusiasm that won me a place on this competitive course. When I started I felt like everyone else on the course was much more experienced than me, but I kept up and the best piece of work I did in that first year was a written piece I chose to do on Nietzsche and Fight Club. I was told if I handed that in as my dissertation in my final year I would have got top marks. Towards the end of my first year at university, my now husband came back into my life and proposed. Soon after he was offered a job in San Francisco that he couldn’t turn down, after much deliberating I decided to make the move to California.

During my first ten months in San Francisco I was unable to work so I spent that time teaching myself to cook and writing. I was working on an idea I had before I left England, and it became my first screenplay. As soon as I got my green card I found a job at a video game company working in the HR department, but again, not doing something creative was killing me inside. So I revisited the characters I had created in those first ten months and enrolled on the first of two 10-week screenwriting workshops. By the end of the second workshop, (our starting out number of thirteen people had gone down to just three) I had a fairly good first draft of a 95 page screenplay, which got into the quarterfinals in the Blue Cat screenwriting competition and felt like I was on the right track.

When my husband got laid off from his job in 2008 we looked at it as an opportunity to move somewhere new and less expensive so we could live on one salary and I could focus solely on writing, and that is what I have done ever since. I wrote three more screenplays, attended many writing seminars, my favorite being Story by Robert McKee. It was in L.A. that I had the first ideas for the Lucy Lick-Me-Not series and that is when I started to write children's stories and discovered I loved it.

In 2015 I could feel my fifth screenplay needed more than my favored 90 pages and halfway through I attempted to write it as a novel and the story flowed much better. It was a little intimidating to leave behind the format of screenplays which I felt I had mastered and venture into new territory, but it was freeing as well. As I work on this novel I’m also preparing my first a young adult novel and I have many other children's stories, several of which are ready to be illustrated. Sometimes it feels like there is not enough time to do all these things, and I'd like to have them all out and published in the world now, but I don't want to rush my writing, I want it to be perfect. Every single word is chosen specifically, whether it's a children's rhyming story or a novel for adults. I'll rush the washing up. To be honest, I rush most of the things I don't enjoy - if you open some of my kitchen cupboards you may end up under a pile of precariously strewn Tupperware, if my hair looks crazy, so what? I do not consider myself a perfectionist, but when it comes to my writing, that's another story.

More soon,

C.C.

A new home, a new season, a new project

For me the Gaelic calendar feels more natural for the seasons, especially when you see crocuses and snow drops sprouting in February. If you were following the Gaelic calendar, the spring months would be February, March and April, summer would be May, June, and July, autumn would be August, September and October, and winter would be November, December and January.

As I mentioned in previous posts I recently moved to the Pacific Northwest. It's the first relocation (out of many) that we have done with the seasons. It felt right to relocate and start fresh in the spring, planting real roots for the first time in a decade. I love that people used to plan their lives by the seasons - they had to. And having that natural rhythm to follow during this move has made it feel so much easier than all our previous relocations, which tended to happen in the autumn and made our lives hectic and busy at the time of year when things should be slowing down, and we would all like to be getting into a different rhythm for coming the winter months.

Springtime brings about images of renewal and new beginnings, and that is when we found our new home and began getting all the interior work done. We moved into our house in summer, and have been settling in to a more relaxed pace of life and enjoying the many flowers in our garden and ripe plums from our tree:

summer CC


I'm very excited for the autumn and for being able to enjoy it properly now that we are settled into our new life. It will be our first real one in about eight years, and I can't wait to see the fall colors here and wear scarves and sweaters again. I'm looking forward to working in the garden and pruning it back for the winter and smelling that crispness in the air that is prevalent on most September mornings.

My back is still slowly getting more comfortable, physical therapy is helping and so I am back to writing a bit more and it feels good. I'm reworking a one-off children's story that is set around Halloween and features some new characters and a couple of seasonal monsters - more to come on that soon. For now Lucy Lick-Me-Not is taking a little break, but we'll update the FB page and website when there is more news on her return. Hopefully it won't be too long.

(Artwork by Bret Burkmar)

lucy in bed

More soon,

C.C.

A room with a view (at last!)

It's been just over two years since I started this blog and wrote about my little writing cupboard in my first post. After relocating up north I now have a writing room with an actual window (well two actual windows!) I can see many types of trees from both, and I love hearing and seeing all the different kinds of birds outside in our rural setting. I especially love to hear the roosters from the many friendly neighbors around me who raise chickens and have kindly welcomed us to the neighborhood by bringing over fresh eggs with yolks the color of sunshine. It is a stark difference to the sounds of busy city life I could hear from the dark cupboard I used to write in. The walk I take my girl, Murphy, on leads to the Puget Sound and on the way we even get to see a llama who is becoming less shy each time we pass him.

Some pics of the new writing room and our walk:

room


walk


I will keep the blog name, Notes from a cozy cupboard, because that is where my blog started and the new writing room has a cozy feel to it as well.

More soon,

C.C.

From palm trees to pine trees

2016 didn’t start out as I had hoped. I had a bad fall down the stairs just before New Years Eve and spent the first 5 months of the year recovering from a back injury. It has been very slow to heal, not to mention extremely painful, so sitting at my computer has been difficult. I filled this time reading (my favorite book so far this year is The Soul of an Octopus by Sy Montgomery,) and binge watching Outlander and Downtown Abbey. Which sounds relaxing, but in reality it's pretty frustrating not being able to do much due to pain and discomfort. But at last I can sit for short periods again, and I thought that writing blog posts would be a good way to get back into the habit of writing every day.

Although it sounds like I've not done much in the past six months, I did relocate from southern California to the Pacific Northwest, and am still in the process of transitioning to my next home. Every relocation has a period of adjustment, but life feels particularly surreal when you're in temporary housing without any of your belongings around you. I've always felt that the things we own begin to own us, and to have fewer belongings would be the ideal state to be in. However, having a taste of that by living out of a suitcase in unfamiliar surroundings, I find that I'm craving the comfort of domestic knick knacks that say to you 'this is your home', and I'm grateful that at least I brought my favorite mug with me for my coffee every day.

So far I like it up north more than I was expecting to, as I was not sure how I would handle all the rain after living in sunny California for almost ten years. We've been here five weeks, and I've yet to see all this terrible rainy weather I've heard so much about. We've had about four to five days of rain total in all that time, and its been as hot as Los Angeles on some days too - I even had to go buy some flip flops to stay comfortable! I'm sure once the autumn comes around I'll get my share of rain and will look back and laugh at what I have just written. The people up here are very friendly, chatting to my dog and I at crosswalks and on the street. It is of course very green, and there are no more palm trees. I'm also looking forward to planning some whale watching trips. I love whales and actually most of the knick knacks I'm missing are whale-themed. During my "back recovery period" I watched 'A Life Among Whales' which is an amazing documentary, and I recommend it to anyone who loves the ocean and these beautiful creatures. 

palm trees to pine trees


More soon,

C.C.

Happy World Poetry Day!

As World Poetry Day is in the same month as Lucy’s birthday I thought I would share the birthday song from Lucy Lick-Me-Not and the Day Eaters:

(Artwork by Bret Burkmar)

More soon, 

C.C.


What to keep and what to change

A subject that came up one evening while I was talking to a friend was about feedback. Feedback is essential, it strengthens story lines and shows where changes need to be made to make things clearer for your audience. But knowing what to change and what to keep can be challenging.

Knowing your audience and having a group of people - other writers, friends, family - but mainly people who's opinions you trust and understand the way you think is the most important part of this.

I found Stephen's Kings 'On Writing' incredibly helpful as his method is to ask a group of people, 5 or 6, for feedback. If more than half say the same thing needs to change THEN you make changes, but if it's less than that you should leave it as it is - at that point it's most probably their personal preference, and you can't please everyone.

As soon as you accept that it is impossible to please everyone you give yourself permission to follow what makes your art yours. Staying true to your story and your characters and listening to your gut is vital. With each round of feedback I give it time, really think about it, see if it could be changed, and if it would strengthen or take away from the story. A lot of the time I instantly think 'ah yes, I see that', and often it just needed another line of explanation to be clearer for the audience (especially when it's a high concept like day eating monsters in a story for a younger audience). But there are also occasions where I feel that it's too important to the world I'm creating for me to make that change. Later I've been pleased I kept those pieces as they are what made it unique or relatable in some way. With Lucy's first story, Lucy Lick-Me-Not and the Day Eaters, I had a few comments from people, but none of them doubled up - it was a different personal preference for each person. For example, someone felt strongly that Lucy's birthday shouldn't fall on March 32nd, because it's a fictitious day and thus confusing. However I chose to keep it, as it made sense since Lucy is the only person born on that day, and that's why the Day Eaters ate it. If I had said that about March 31st, I'm sure someone reading the book would have said "Hey, that's my birthday!" Another person thought the whole idea of there having been more days in the past (that come back at the end) wasn't right either, but again these were logical to me for the world and story I was creating. 

Day Eaters

But all that said, when more than one person says something (even if it's not half) I think you definitely shouldn't ignore it. I have made many changes when this happens, and the stories are always stronger for it. 

As hard as it can be to trust your gut sometimes, it also helps to seriously consider every comment offered by the kind people willing to give you their time and opinions. If you feel strongly that it is something you can't change and only one person is mentioning it, you will usually be glad you kept it.

More soon,

C.C.

Named to Kirkus Reviews' Best Books of 2015!

I love this time of year not just for the holidays, but for slowing down a little and taking the opportunity to ponder the year that has passed, and to make hopeful plans for the coming year.

This year we released Lucy Lick-Me-Not and the Greedy Gubbins: A Christmas Story, and like Lucy's first adventure, Lucy Lick-Me-Not and the Day Eaters: A Birthday Story, it has been well received, earning a Kirkus Star.  It was also selected for their Indie Books of the Month list and it has just been named to Kirkus Review's Best Books of 2015, which is a huge honor!

To celebrate we’re sharing Bret Burkmar's stunning and magical double page picture from Lucy Lick-Me-Not and the Greedy Gubbins:

Lucy's Christmas Eve

I hope you all have a wonderful holiday season and a safe, healthy new year!

Happy Holidays!

C.C.

Feeling Christmassy

I LOVE December and am happy to start some Christmas baking, reread my favorite wintry books, and enjoy the sparkle of Christmas lights in almost every room, including my little writing cupboard:

writing cuboard lights

Last year we ended up having a very quiet Christmas as our plans to fly back to England were derailed at the last minute when our dog was attacked in a dog park. As well as being very distressed that our dog was in pain and shock from the attack, it was incredibly disappointing to cancel seeing family and friends we had looked forward to seeing all year long. We thought getting away would be a good distraction for all three of us so we rented a little house near the beach. With it being so last minute, we had no wrapped gifts or festive decorations, just me, my husband and our dog (who I'm pleased to say made a full recovery!) 

It was the first Christmas I have spent like that, and I initially thought it would feel all wrong not having our traditional celebration or having it look the way Christmas usually does. On Christmas eve we watched one of our favorite animations, The Grinch Who Stole Christmas, and it resonated with us more than ever. On the 25th our gifts were speaking to our families with a calling card, fresh walks on the beach and healthy, nourishing food. It was refreshing to strip the holidays back to what they are really about, connection and nourishment on all levels.

This winter feels extra special as Lucy's Christmas story, Lucy Lick-Me-Not and the Greedy Gubbins, is out in the world. If you have any fun-loving small humans (or fun-loving full grown humans for that matter) who might enjoy a cozy wintertime tale to curl up by the fire with this year, it would make a lovely Christmas gift. Lucy Lick-Me-Not and the Greedy Gubbins is available to order through libraries, bookstores and all online retailers. Here is a link to buy Lucy Lick-Me-Not and the Greedy Gubbins from Amazon.com.

And we have a new Christmassy coloring page from Lucy Lick-Me-Not and the Greedy Gubbins that you can print for your little ones here.

xmas coloring page  Lucy and Jack

More soon,

C.C.

Goodreads givaway for Lucy’s Christmas adventure!

*A Kirkus Prize Nominee* and featured as one of Kirkus' Indie Books of the Month for November, 2015! A perfect Christmas gift for children.

The giveaway begins Nov 17th and ends Dec 6th, enter here.

GG


Good luck!

C.C.

How authors touch our lives

On Saturday night my husband and I went to see Neil Gaiman talk at The Carpenter Performing Arts center in Long Beach. It was our fourth time seeing Neil speak and, as has been the case every time, it was a hugely inspiring night.

It was his penultimate public appearance before he disappears for a year so to write a new novel. He told hilarious anecdotes about Terry Pratchett and Harlan Ellison, which were a joy to hear. He read a story he wrote for Ray Bradbury, The Man Who Forgot Ray Bradbury, which is in his new book of short stories, Trigger Warning. He told a poignant story about December which brought tears to my eyes, about a young girl, homeless on the streets in the coldest month of the year. He read a poem about the night before his wedding, The Rhyme Maidens. He answered many audience questions, and he spoke about the awful terror attacks in Paris which had happened the night before with wisdom - that eye for an eye leaves everyone blind, that finding a way to help the people involved can help us cope with these atrocities, and that those responsible are in the minority and the majority of people just want to live their lives and take care of their families. The two hours he spent on stage sped by with rounds and rounds of applause and much laughter amidst moments so silent you could have heard a pin drop.

I was grateful that one of the questions asked by the audience covered writer's block, and Neil's response was hilarious, saying writers got there first and claimed "block". No other professions have "block", and it just means we're stuck - but to admit that means we can fix it. He said something that helped me with my own story at the moment when he mentioned it sometimes happens when your story is changing from it's original thread, and I think that is what's happening with my novel. I have stalled at 37,000 words because something new is coming into the story. I already knew this, I just haven’t admitted it until now, and someone who I thought was a minor character is going to have a bigger part. He also said if you're blocked, make sure to have other things to work on, other stories, or emails, or Twitter, and to write on the good days and on the bad days.

So today I am writing this blog. It is something I have wanted to do since Terry Pratchett's death earlier this year. His Discworld series were the first adult books I read in my early teens. I had long been intrigued by their colorful covers with caricatured characters, and it was my dad who loaned them to me and suggested I try them. He had been a Pratchett fan for years, and at night I would hear him laugh through our shared bedroom wall and wonder what he was reading that was so funny. So when he suggested I try one, I wanted to like it so much because he did. I adored my father and his wicked sense of humor, and as much as Monty Python will always remind me of him, so will Terry Pratchett. When I started my first Pratchett book, Witches Abroad, I was thrilled that I truly enjoyed it and could connect with my dad even more and share the jokes with him. I still have that very well-worn copy, and reread it often. It is fantastical, hilarious and human and I LOVE the characters of the three witches. It felt good to understand the humor in books which were for intended for adults, but I think for the most part it is universal. And something that has always stayed with me that was written in the very beginning of each Terry Pratchett book was his claim that "writing is the most fun anyone can have by themselves." And I thought, "That does sound like fun, I wish I was smart enough to spend my life writing." It wasn't until my mid-twenties that I had the courage to just get on with it and start writing.

After reading many of the Discworld books I then read Good Omens, which had also been on my dad's nightstand, and was introduced to Neil Gaiman and the wonderful dark humor that he and Terry shared and, together, magnified. Unfortunately my dad passed away when I was twenty. We loved many of the same things - movies, TV shows and books - and when I watch those films and reread those books I feel connected to him again. For as much as these creations can make us feel a connection to the minds of the artists and the authors who created them, when we share them with the people we care about and then re-experience them they can be as evocative a jolt as certain scents can be in bringing back memories and moments. And when those cherished authors pass, even though we didn’t know them personally, we feel an extra sadness that we are unprepared for, because of the connections they created for us with our loved ones. But all the stories they wrote still sit on shelves, are still filled with humor and emotion that we can continue to share with the people we care about, and can create new connections and memories for new generations in our families and with friends. 

TP

More soon,

C.C.

My favorite childhood Christmas book

As we near the holidays and begin to promote Lucy's Christmas story, Lucy Lick-Me-Not and the Greedy Gubbins, I start to reminisce about the books I loved when I was little.

I think children can handle more than most people give them credit for. Some like scary stories, some like to feel excited and challenged, but above all I think children like honesty. Two of my favorite authors growing up were Roald Dahl and Raymond Briggs, and I think the reason they stand out for me is because they were honest. I remember being horrified, yet so enthralled, with Roald Dahl's The BFG - giants that came and took you out of your bed at night and ate you - that's extremely scary, but I couldn't get enough of it! The dark side and honesty of Roald Dahl's stories never belittled the reader, but instead respected that they could handle it, and as children we appreciated it and were drawn to it.

For me, the book (and animated short film) that will always mean Christmas to me is The Snowman by Raymond Briggs. It was one of the first films I was exposed to that made me feel sad and had poignancy, and that was new and exciting to me. Although they weren't happy feelings, they made me want to keep watching it again and again. I think it was also the first story that I had read as a child that ended on a sad note. It was honest - everything has a beginning and everything has an end, and snow (unfortunately) melts. You can even look at it as a metaphor for Christmas day, the day many children look forward to all year as having so much magic and possibility, but like everything it ends and you feel sad that the excitement has passed. But this sadness never took away from the magic of the story - a boy's magical night with his snowman who comes alive.

And some of that magic inspired Lucy's Christmas story. I wanted to write a cozy, exciting and magical Christmas adventure. Although the stories are quite different, this beautiful illustration from Lucy Lick-Me-Not and the Greedy Gubbins: A Christmas Story is an homage to The Snowman.

Original Artwork by Bret Burkmar

Lucy & Jack Frost

More soon,

C.C.

Happy first day of autumn!

I've been looking forward to this season. I love the leaves falling from trees, the darker evenings, an extra hour in bed, flannel sheets, Halloween, carving pumpkins and the sunsets from October to December are possibly the most beautiful of the year.

I'm not sure how much of an autumn feel we'll get in Southern California, but there will be a mild seasonal change, and maybe a few Japanese maple trees on 11th street will turn red and brown (I guess the Greedy Gubbins live on that street!).

Autumn is the time when we get to see the results for the years' hard work, and this post brings with it exactly that. If you have any fall birthdays or if you're beginning to think of winter holiday gifts, why not check out Lucy's second adventure, Lucy Lick-Me-Not and the Greedy Gubbins: A Christmas Story.

Here is what Kirkus Reviews said about it:

"The second installment of the series is just as wildly imaginative and fun as the first. Carmel has her formula—a frothy fantasy with a touch of smarts—down pat. Educational lessons dot the lyrical prose, as in the beginning of the book, when Carmel explains why there are seasons to begin with: i.e., the Earth’s rotation bringing different parts of the Earth closer to the sun and all that. Elsewhere, Carmel explains that spring is for planting, fall is for harvesting, etc. Burkmar’s vivid, colorful illustrations are the cherry on top of a lovely sundae that children and adults alike will reach for time and again."

GubbinsFrontCoverWeb

More soon,

C.C.

A second Kirkus Star for Lucy Lick-Me-Not!

When you make something that will be in the public domain a certain level of anxiety goes with it, and this anxiety can come out in funny ways. For both myself and Bret we had stress dreams about the finished book. This happened last year when we released Lucy Lick-me-Not and the Day Eaters, and again for me this year when we released Lucy Lick-Me-Not and the Greedy Gubbins. I had dreams that I look at the completed print of the book and see that I have misspelled the simplest words or used a homophone, and I panic that someone has seen it before we can make changes and that people will think I'm stupid or that I can't spell. Last year Bret had a dream that he was looking through the finished book and noticed a whole section that was just done in pencil that he'd forgotten to ink and color in.

When we received our first review last year, I opened the email that contained it and for a moment I didn't want to read it. I wanted to stay in the realm of possibility where I had no definite answer that they liked or disliked it, but I prepared myself for the worst. As I read through the description of the story the bad comments I had been dreading never came - it turned out they liked it! I had to read it again to be sure I hadn’t missed anything. Despite feeling so happy and relieved, I could not let go of the fear that Kirkus might say they had made a mistake and actually they didn't like the book and that I'd received the review in error. It's funny that even when you get a good review it's hard to allow yourself believe it. It was Bret who told me that we had a starred review - I hadn't noticed in my state of disbelief. Then we started researching what it means to get a Kirkus Star. Kirkus Reviews are known for being very honest and a book has to be of exceptional merit to receive a star from them. A Kirkus star is awarded to 2% of the 3,000 independent books it reviews.

Last year Lucy Lick-Me-Not and the Day Eaters was one of the lucky 2%, and I'm delighted to say that this year Lucy Lick-Me-Not and the Greedy Gubbins is another, which means it is also automatically nominated for the Kirkus Prize.

You can read the Kirkus starred review for Lucy Lick-Me-Not and the Greedy Gubbins here.

Bret and I are very grateful to everyone in our lives who has helped us with constructive feedback and constant encouragement. I doubt we would have made the leap to self-publish if we hadn't been given such support and belief from our family and friends.

Here is one of the beautiful illustrations from Lucy Lick-Me-Not and the Greedy Gubbins. 

Artwork by Bret Burkmar:


More soon,

C.C.

A little monster poem for August

I'm-No-One

When you can't find the word that was just on your tongue,

there's a little beast who steals it - his name is I'm-No-One.

I'm-No-One eats up words and thoughts, to him they taste like gum,

popping up at awkward times - his name is I'm-No-One.

Munching on the simple words, he laughs when you look dumb,

he's a conversation-stopper - his name is I'm-No-One.

You cannot see or hear him, so he's very hard to shun,

hiding far behind your teeth - his name is I'm-No-One.

If you were to meet him, he'd deny his thieving fun,

and with a guiltless smile say, “What me? I'm-No-One.”

But I think that I am safe as this poem's nearly done,

my mouth is surely free from the beast called I'm-No--

Oh.


More soon,

C.C

Working with Createspace & Ingram Spark

This is a long post, but it's filled with information I was searching for prior to using Ingram Spark. So as someone who has just finished the process, I wanted to share my findings.

As we've traveled along this sometimes foggy road called self-publishing, Bret and I have had to make many decisions together - book length, book size, book price, which companies should review the finished product and who should print our books for us. 

As we self-published our books and had done all the work ourselves, it was important to us that we own our ISBN numbers and not have a printing company own a part of our book. This caused a problem with Createspace if we wanted libraries to be able to order our books because they couldn’t list our books with Baker and Taylor if they didn’t own the ISBN number. There is an option to apply to become a vendor with Baker and Taylor, this costs $350 and you have to send them 5 copies of each book and give them your marketing plan. But if you print with Ingram Spark your book can be available to libraries through their distribution even if you own your ISBN number.

We worked with Createspace (CS), who are owned by Amazon, first. They made the self-publishing process very simple, with user-friendly interfaces and customer service reps just an email or a quick phone call away. Then we worked with Ingram Spark (IS). Both Ingram Spark and Lightning Source are owned by Ingram, the largest physical and digital content distributer in the world. We found IS to be a little less "user friendly" and a little more expensive to use and print with (if you're printing in high quality color, which we found necessary for our children's picture books).

With IS you have a set up fee of $49 per title, which we weren't too bothered by as it is a one-off fee per book, and it looked as though the actual printing of each book would be cheaper in the long run (even in color). But ontop of the printing and shipping costs, you also have an extra fee that you don't have with CS: the "How quickly would you like your book printed?" fee. For a premium color, 40 page, paperback book, it's about $1.50 per book if you want your book to be shipped in one day business day, but if you’re prepared to wait five days for it to ship then there is no extra fee.

An important issue for illustrated children's books is color. IS's standard color option is $2.20 for a paperback book, which is less expensive than CS's standard color option at $3.65. I had heard that Ingram Sparks printing quality surpassed CS's and was excited to see our proofs from Ingram because I found CS's color quality to be bright and vibrant. This was not true for Ingram's "standard color" option. The colors looked washed out and dusty in comparison. In order to have those vibrant colors we had with CS, we had to opt for the much more expensive "premium color" with IS which costs $5.50 per book (two and a half times more than standard color) to print. So it works out more expensive to print a quality color picture book with IS than it does with CS.

Regarding book pricing, from what I had researched you should offer a 55% discount off your retail price to booksellers. That really doesn’t leave you an option to compete with traditionally published books already on the market, which are sold for lower retail prices, some as low as $7.99 for a paperback book. We can't charge that for our books because then we would actually owe IS money every time our book was printed. Also IS's interface lets you change your color option from standard to premium yourself, so, like me, you might order another copy thinking it's will now be in "premium color" only to have it arrive in "standard color" again. When I called up to ask about this I was told that only IS can make those changes in your account and they don't stick if you do them yourself, but it's a little misleading because their system allows you to think you made the change successfully.

CS and IS have different guidelines for how your PDF should be formatted. The same PDF that was printed perfectly with Createspace was printed out of alignment with IS, even though the digital proof looked perfect.  On one proof the pages were too far to the right and too high up, throwing off our margins and picture alignment. Then on another proof both the left and right side were off. So we had to redo the PDF for Ingram to make it larger, and then have them convert it to PDF-X and convert the RBG images to CMYK color for us - not too much of a problem, but that didn’t necessarily fix the possibility that the pages could still be printed too far to one side on one printing and differently on the next. I was told by a customer service rep at IS that every time the book is printed it could very well have variance in the margins in each printing.

One thing I wish had been clearer with IS is that you only get a digital proof  every time from them. They do not offer physical proofs of your book prior to approving your book (unlike CS). Only after you officially approve the digital proof can you order a physical copy of the book to see what it looks like. If you receive your physical copy, and the margins are off and you want to upload a new file to fix any errors, you will then be charged $25 every time you upload a new file after approving the digital proof. I assumed it was only after you had approved the physical proof, because once you view the digital proof they give you three options to select from: "1. ___ approves this title and authorizes its inclusion into the distribution channels. 2. ___ approves this title, but prefers to keep it from the distribution channels until a physical proof has been ordered (you will need to place a separate order for this title). 3. ___ does not approve this title and requests alterations." This is confusing again, because there are no physical proofs with IS. That one book I ordered was considered a short run, not a proof order, even though it is worded as "physical proof" in option no. 2. If you were only using IS as your printer, I think these charges could rack up quite quickly until you got your book perfect, especially if you have double-page pictures as we do. CS have a file reviewing tool on their website, and you can make changes any time you like for free even after the book has gone live. However, when I explained the confusion about being able to select the "premium color" as well as the confusion about the proof order and file revision fee, the IS rep I spoke to did say that I could phone again to get those fees refunded as a one time courtesy, and I really appreciated that.

If you use CS you can be on their expanded distribution (ED) even if you own your own ISBN's, but if you use IS too, you will automatically be taken of ED with CS. I called CS and found out they use Ingram for ED, which of course is the same wholesaler that IS uses, so that didn't really matter, but it says in the tiny print on CS that they use other printers for their ED. I asked which color option CS chooses and the rep I spoke to said they don't get to choose that, it will be the nearest one to what you selected with CS. As we have seen first hand that the CS PDF did not print the same with IS, I think we're better off placing our books through IS ourselves because we can check the quality of the books going out in expanded distribution. If you're only printing black and white books this may not matter, and thus you can probably print less expensively with IS.

Working with two printing companies and learning about different practices in the printing industry has been a vital educational experience that has enabled us to make informed decisions, and were happy to be with both CS and IS.

Color variations between IS standard color and IS premium color:

standard vs premium


Color variations between Createspace and Ingram Spark.                                                          Left to right: CS color, IS standard color, IS premium color:

More soon,

C.C.

A monster poem for July

If you've read Lucy Lick-Me-Not and the Greedy Gubbins you might remember a bright green monster on page 13. Well, when Bret came up with that amazing illustration, I thought that big green guy deserved a poem of his own, which will be added to the growing collection for our monster book.

Here is the poem, and as the title suggests it's a little dark:


Harvey Papier-Mâché (the child-eating monster)

Harvey


There's a big green guy with horns on his head,

he has huge fanged teeth and his tail glows red.


His tail glows red when children are near

and just after that they soon disappear.


He looks quite harmless in a goofy kind of way,

his name is Harvey, Harvey Papier-Mâché.


It's not a pleasant story, it's not a pleasant fact

that Harvey eats children who act like brats.


You know the kid I mean-- the one who thinks they're cute

and then throws a tantrum and acts like a brute.


Or kids who tease short kids or ones with ginger hair,

the ones who think they're special - who think they walk on air.


The ones who can't play nicely and never share their toys,

it doesn't matter if they're girls or if they are boys.


There's no sugar, no spice and no puppy dog tails,

just scrumptiously juicy and tender entrails.


His only requirement is that they must be brats -

'cause self involved children are the easiest to catch.


They're so self-obsessed they don't see him coming,

by the time that they do, it's too late for running.


But it's all over quickly as he eats them head first,

and really he's only eating the worst of the worst.


I said it wasn't pleasant, but you shouldn't worry

unless you're a brat, then you'd better scurry!


More soon,

C.C.

My writing buddy

I admit it, I'm one of those dog owners who is besotted with her dog. I do try to limit the amount of dog related posts I put on Facebook to save my friends from an endless barrage of what I think is cuteness embodied in a fur coat. I grew up in a house filled with animals - my dad was like the Pied Piper for stray pets. He often came home with new additions to the family, mainly cats and dogs that had followed him, puppies who needed homes from colleague's dog's litters, and once he even brought a parrot home.  Of course all of these animals loved him the most out of anyone in the family. When you grow up surrounded by animals it's hard to suddenly not have any around you. When I left England in 2006, I left the home I shared with my mum and the last of our family pets, a bearded collie named Bruni.  Although I was over five thousand miles away, I still found myself saving the crusts from my toast for him every morning, only to remember he was not here with me in America. I missed him and longed for the positive energy that pets bring into our lives every day. But our apartment wasn't dog friendly and my husband and I both worked full time, so we couldn't get a dog of our own. In those first two years abroad I was writing in my spare time while working a full time job. But then came the day when my husband and I decided I would quit my job and focus solely on writing, which also happily meant being able to get a furry friend to keep me company while I was at home.

Murphy was the first dog that was fully my responsibility. The first few months were a little harder than I was expecting. But then something magic clicked and we were inseparable, as we still are today. When Murphy was between three and eight months old she used to sleep around my neck while I wrote - I would call her my "puppy scarf". At that time we lived in Montreal and it was bitterly cold, so we were both grateful for each others' warmth on those snowy mornings. Until, that is, she got so big that it was too much strain on my neck and then she would curl up in my lap - a little grudgingly - as she is right now.

I call Murphy my writing buddy because she is always with me while I write, and because she keeps me grounded in the real world. She forces me to get out of the house a few times a day for fresh ocean-scented walks, which always seem to spawn more writing ideas. She encourages me to take regular breaks to play with her, also very helpful. Otherwise, I fear I would become too reclusive, and stay in the worlds I create in my head for far longer than is healthy.

As well as inspiring a few fun poems of her own, Murphy has always been an inspiration for my paintings. When I'm not painting seascapes or trying to capture interesting light falling on streets or through tree branches, I paint portraits of her.

Here are a few pictures of my girl, Murphy:

m2

More soon,

C.C.

***Free ebook for 3 days only!***

To celebrate the release of Lucy Lick-Me-Not and the Greedy Gubbins we’re giving away a free ebook copy of Lucy's first adventure, Lucy Lick-Me-Not and the Day Eaters, which was awarded a Kirkus Star and named to Kirkus Reviews' Best Books of 2014! 

 If you’re in the USA get your free copy here, if you’re in the UK get your free copy here.


DayEatersFrontCover


Happy reading!

C.C.

Just released! Lucy Lick-Me-Not and the Greedy Gubbins

The second fantastic tale in our Lucy Lick-Me-Not series, Lucy Lick-Me-Not and the Greedy Gubbins, is finally here! It's a cozy, wintertime tale with our brave girl, Lucy, a flurry of festive characters and a creature crisis for Lucy to solve in her usual good-spirited way. A fun read for any time of year, but it will be even more fun to read as we near the winter holidays.

We have also released a second edition of Lucy Lick-Me-Not and the Day Eaters in our new larger series size, 8 x 10.  Both books are available to order through libraries, bookstores and online retailersHere is a link to buy Lucy Lick-Me-Not and the Greedy Gubbins from Amazon.com.

There are also a couple of new coloring pages on the Lucy Lick-Me-Not 'fun stuff page, including the beautiful picture below.

Happy reading!

Lucy and Gubbins

Artwork by Bret Burkmar.

More soon,

C.C.

Goodreads Giveaway!

We’re holding a book giveaway on goodreads, the lucky winner will receive a shiny paperback copy of Lucy’s second adventure, Lucy Lick-Me-Not and the Greedy Gubbins!

Ends sunday, July 5th.

Greedy Gubbins giveaway

Good luck!

C.C.

Lucy Lick-Me-Not and the Greedy Gubbins- Cover sneak peek!

I’m delighted to be able to share the gorgeous front cover for Lucy Lick-Me-Not and the Greedy Gubbins, which will be available to buy very soon!

GubbinsFrontsmall

Artwork by Bret Burkmar.

Lucy is disappointed that winter is late this year. While searching in the woods for any sign of snow, she stumbles upon Jack Frost’s tree home and discovers that he’s been locked inside by autumn’s mischief-makers, the Greedy Gubbins! These stubborn creatures gobble up the color green, and this year they are determined to stay until spring has sprung. Lucy agrees to help Jack Frost, but once inside the Gubbins’ lair, they think her green eyes might be even tastier than the leaves of spring. Lucy must outwit the Gubbins to save Jack Frost, and herself! 

More soon,

C.C.

How do you visualize the seasons?

Something I find interesting to think about is how each of us see the year in our heads. My husband sees the year as a u-shaped line starting with January, summer is in the round U-bit and December ends the other side of the line. But ever since I was a small child I have visualized the year as a big round clock surrounded by blackness. The months go clockwise, starting with January and continuing all the way around to December 31st at the very top. Some months and seasons are much bigger than others in my head. Spring is the smallest section; it’s probably my least favorite season because I’m waiting for summer to arrive. And of course summer is a far larger section at the bottom of the clock. Autumn and winter blend into one, probably because I enjoy them equally. I wonder how many other people see the year and seasons in this way, and how many other unique ways people visualize the year in their heads?

I think I see it as a clock because the seasons are markers to help us feel time passing throughout the year. Here in southern California we don’t have pronounced seasons, and the years can quickly blend into one another. It’s too easy to feel like it’s always summer, and so I make an effort to notice the smaller and less obvious changes: the purple Jacaranda trees blooming in April, the sound of singing insects on hot summer nights, the few scattered maple trees turning red in late September, and the fiery sunsets over the Pacific in November and December.

Lucy Lick-Me-Not and the Greedy Gubbins is a story about the seasons. In Lucy’s world there are mischief makers who control spring, summer, autumn and winter, and this story is about what happens when one set of these creatures decide they don’t want to leave at the end of their season.

An excerpt from Lucy Lick-Me-Not and the Greedy Gubbins, (picture by Bret Burkmar):

“She explained, “Spring is for planting seeds of all types. Summer is the time when they grow fat and ripe. Autumn is for storing up, harvesting, and reaping. And wintertime is needed for resting and sleeping. Each season has a place to keep our world on track. Autumn belongs to you, but winter belongs to Jack.””

As with any artistic project, there are seasons within the creation of it, too. For our children’s book the seeds of the story are sown, the ‘what if’ question is asked, and springing forth from those seeds is a rich, fat, colorful story with text and sketches that morph into sharp, bold pictures together they mature into a complete book, with glossy bright covers bursting with life, laughs and likable characters. Then comes the harvest time, when the book is ripe to be plucked from shelves, both real and online. Then the book is enjoyed or saved for reading in bed on a cold winter’s night. Then we rest before the cycle begins again for the next installment.

Although we’re just about to start summer in the northern hemisphere, the metaphorical harvest time is almost here for Lucy Lick-Me-Not and the Greedy Gubbins, so stay tuned for more updates.

More Soon,

C.C.

“Night, when words fade and things come alive.”

The above quotation is by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, it seemed like a good fit for a blog pondering the nighttime.

As I polish the last draft of Lucys third adventure, Lucy Lick-Me-Not and the Slumber Beasts, Ive noticed a common thread that runs through quite a few of my stories - the best bits tend to happen during the night. This made me think about what the nighttime means to me and to answer that I need to look back at my childhood.

Children are supposed to be in bed and asleep at night while parents and older siblings are allowed to stay up. Its also when all kinds of monsters and creatures come to life. I remember many childhood nights being afraid in the darkness and sleeping with the covers pulled up over my head. It was far too hot under the covers to breathe so Id have to make a little gap at the top of my blankets, an air hole, to breathe through. I mainly worried about weird shadows on the wall, ghosts, werewolves, vampires and creepy dolls coming to life (I was never a doll person). At night it seemed like those creatures could exist and that magic things could happen just because it was dark, but in the light of day all of those things seemed 100% ludicrous. Maybe it has to do with the disappearing light - perhaps the inability to see clearly means you can't think clearly either and what is real and what is not becomes blurred. Also, things that are invisible in the daytime are visible at night, like the stars and our sense of belief in odd things. Its strange to think that the sunlight which helps us to see so much clearer can also hide things from us that are always in the sky to the point where we wait for the stars to come out again.

The world growing darker and quieter changes our brains. At night a lot of stimulation is removed, including light and sound, and this prepares our brains for sleep. With the extreme removal of mental stimulation we can even have hallucinations. These changes in our bodies must affect our thoughts and reasoning, possibly making us two different people - the daytime version and the nighttime version” of ourselves. My thoughts seem different if I wake up in the middle of the night versus how they are when I awake in the morning. Nighttime thoughts can be filled with anxiety and sometimes complete certainty about something, but in the daytime those same thoughts just arent as clear and that certainty has been replaced with maybes and maybe nots.

So I think the nighttime features so often in my stories because it symbolizes a place filled with strange possibilities - the only time of day where things that are invisible in the daylight could become solid and real. Where perhaps people become different versions of themselves or entirely different people altogether. I think it's a magical time filled with sparkling stars, and stars absolutely symbolize magic to me. And as its a place where children dont traditionally belong I think its appealing to children to be allowed to escape vicariously with Lucy on a nighttime adventure before slipping into their own vivid dreams.

Lucy creeping down the stairs

Picture by Bret Burkmar.

More soon,

C.C.


Where did Lucy come from?

As we get near to releasing Lucy's second story, Lucy Lick-Me-Not and the Greedy Gubbins, I began to think about how Lucy came to be.

Up until 2011 I had only been writing stories for adults. I had just finished my third screenplay and decided to take a week off from writing to reward myself for finishing the latest rewrite. This 'week off' was to start on the following Monday. That Monday morning I lay in bed thinking, as I tend to do my best 'story thinking' first thing in the morning, or on long walks with my Boston Terrier, Murphy. I lay there and thought about my friend's birthday; she was born on a leap year, February 29th, and only has a true birthday every four years (I think this is how she stays so youthful). The other years she chooses either February 28th or March 1st. And as with the beginning of all stories it started with a question: "Where does her birthday go those other three years?" And an answer sprung to mind - there are monsters eating it!

I got up right away, made my coffee, sat down to write and the whole story came out in one go, along with ghost kittens and birthday songs. But unusually for me it came out in rhyme. It wasn't very rhythmically correct in that first draft (nor in the next few to be honest), but it had that feel and it was the only way this story was going to come out of my head, so I went with it. I found that I loved writing in rhyme, it was just plain fun. Of course things changed as I rewrote each draft. Things were cut out, new things were added and the rhythm came together nicely with each rewrite.

Then I spoke to my artist friend, Bret, about illustrating it. I sent him the story and he came up with several wonderful concept pictures, all of which ended up in the finished book. I think this one is my favorite, as it perfectly captures that whole scene of Lucy retreating to her bedroom and feeling afraid of the monsters outside in her garden: 

As soon as I had finished the first story, three others promptly appeared in my head, each with a fun and unique monster problem for Lucy to overcome. And again, each came out in lyrical prose. So these are the other three stories for Lucy that Bret and I are working on now, and there will be more on the creation of the third and fourth tales in later blog posts. You can read a past blog post here on the inspiration for Lucy’s second story, Lucy Lick-Me-Not and the Greedy Gubbins.

So far there are four stories, but I have a feeling there could be a few more fantastic tales in store for Lucy...

More soon,

C.C.

Introducing the Greedy Gubbins

We've just created a Greedy Gubbin Gallery on the Lucy Lick-Me-Not website, you can view it here along with a short except from the book, Lucy Lick-Me-Not and the Greedy Gubbins.

I think my favorite Gubbin is Bay Bubbin Gubbin- she’s so cute!

bay1

More soon,

C.C.

HappyHolidays!

As 2014 comes to an end Bret and I wanted to say a big "thank you" to everyone who bought a copy of Lucy Lick-Me-Not and the Day Eaters and offered encouragement and support.

We are very grateful to Kirkus Reviews for our starred review and putting our book on their best of the year lists, it was more than we had dared hope for.

We are looking forward to publishing Lucy's next adventure in 2015, and here is a suitably wintry picture from our second book, Lucy Lick-Me-Not and the Greedy Gubbins.


More soon,

C.C.

Kirkus Reviews- Best Books of the year 2014!

I’m so excited to say Lucy Lick-Me-Not and the Day Eaters has been named to Kirkus Reviews Best Indie Kids’ Books of 2014 AND Best Off-the-Beaten-Path Indie Books of 2014!


More soon,

C.C.

A monstrous sneak peek for Halloween week!

It seems like an appropriate week to share a monster-filled, double-page picture from Lucy Lick-Me-Not and the Day Eaters.

“All around Lucy, more monsters now appeared. They howled and danced madly, they whooped, they screamed, they cheered!”

HappyHalloween!

C.C.

Kirkus Indie books of the month-October 2014


Bret and I are very excited for Lucy Lick-Me-Not and the Day Eaters to be one of the four books chosen for the Kirkus Indie books of the month list for October 2014!

More soon,

C.C.

Poetry is magic

We all know that rhymes and poetry can improve childrens vocabulary as well as their reading skills in general. Theyre an important part of the way our brains work, especially when we are young.

Lucy Lick-Me-Not is the first of my stories that was for children and the first that came out in rhyme, and it did so without my permission.

I sat down to write one day and each line naturally rhymed with the last. Once this happened, it was very important to me that it stayed that way. Friends and family would tell me I didnt have to make it rhyme and that they thought the story was good enough without it. But to me it definitely wasn’t. The books I remembered most from my childhood were the ones that rhymed - they were the most fun to read and I wanted Lucy Lick-Me-Not to be as much fun as possible.

What I think is so appealing and amazing about poetry is that music can come from static black text on a white page, that when you read out loud the rhythm becomes more perceptible, and that forcing your brain to collaborate with your vocal chords unlocks a primal rhythm that is deep inside all of us just waiting to be unleashed. Poems are the visceral key that can turn your voice into a musical instrument.

A poem that I read again and again for this purpose is Edgar Allen Poe’s  ‘Annabel Lee’.         You can read it here.

                                 

More soon,

C.C.

A poem for September

Coffee

My one and only vice, it tastes like black spice

a steaming cup of darkness

it wakes up my brain, tastes better than champagne

it's energy and zest harnessed.


Dark roasted beans, filled with lively caffeine

I swear it helps my profession

to share with good friends, my sanity depends

on one little cup of obsession.


It's the first thing I taste, I drink it with haste

it quickly ceases my yawning

sometimes with whipped cream, and swirls of hot steam

all night I wait for the morning.

More soon, 

C.C.

A poem for August

One of the projects I'm working on at the moment is a book of short poems about all the different kinds of monsters that could exist in my world.

This poem is inspired by having lived in many apartments with little or no sound insulation. I think most people try to be considerate to their neighbors when it comes to noise, but occasionally there are those who play their music so loud your walls vibrate and even ear plugs can't fully block the noise. That's when you could call the Noise Monster and he would come and restore peaceful silence to your home.


The Noise Monster

There’s a certain type of monster you wouldn’t want to meet,

he has ears as large as lampshades, and twelve restless feet.


With feet so quick and ears so big he hears every sound,

and zooms to the offending noise from way below the ground.


He can hear the smallest whisper from a baby in a womb,

but the sounds that call him out are ones that go BOOM BOOM!


Sounds that come from woofers or big surround sound systems,

the ones that send out big vibrating thumping beating rhythms


And the people who make these sounds without care for their neighbors

are the ones he takes back to his lair to chomp through with his sabers!


The worst of these noise bandits with their bass thumping desires,

he likes to roast slowly over red hot charcoal fires.


After gnawing on their bones, he goes back to his slumber,

until the next annoying beat — I just gave him your number.

More soon, 

C.C.

Goodreads book giveaway!

We’re holding a book giveaway on goodreads, the winner will receive a copy of the paperback book signed by both Bret and me. 

Ends sunday July 27th!

Good Luck!

C.C.

A Christmas story for Lucy Lick-Me-Not

Being 'allowed' to watch Christmas films in July feels very indulgent to me. Of course I am only doing this to get into the feel of the winter holidays as I polish the last draft of Lucy Lick-Me-Not and the Greedy Gubbins. Honestly!                                                                                                

The first draft of Lucys Christmas story began in spring 2011, and it was born out of a craving I was having for a cold winter day. I had been in the Los Angeles area for a year and a half and was feeling bored with the seemingly eternal summer I was trapped in, which is a little how Lucy is feeling in the beginning of this wintertime tale. Having grown up with real seasonal changes in England and trying to adjust to minimal temperature changes in Southern California was, and still is hard to get used to.

So instead of grumbling about the lovely sunny weather, I decided to create a cold winter world in my imagination. A seasonal story promptly appeared, and who better to star in it than Lucy Lick-Me-Not?

As I polish this last draft I am happy because it will be a real book soon, but there is a bittersweet feeling too because I think it is my favorite of all the Lucy stories. However, all endings bring new beginnings…

And now I get to do a few more rewrites on Lucys next story and I also get to wait with anticipation for the beautiful wintry pictures Bret is creating right now.

Hes kindly allowed me to share some character concepts as a sneak peek at whats to come in Lucy Lick-Me-Not and the Greedy Gubbins!


Arent they cute?!

For a synopsis of Lucy Lick-Me-Not and the Greedy Gubbins, visit our News page over at  www.lucylickmenot.com

More soon,

C.C.

Dr. Frankenstein and self publishing Lucy Lick-Me-Not

Many years ago in Geneva - I mean Bournemouth - Bret and I worked together in a beautiful old art gallery. That's where we met and he taught me to be a picture framer.

Banished to the cold, gloomy basement, our days were spent cutting and constructing frames and slicing menacing sheets of glass, all to encapsulate various artists' creations.

Some days were bloodier than others... one afternoon remains particularly vivid in my memory when I sliced through to the bone of my thumb with a box cutter. Needless to say there was a lot of blood which almost led to a triple fainting of Bret, myself, and our friend and gallery co-worker Ursula.

There were also many jokes, fun conversations and always lots of music. Not much has changed as we work on Lucys adventures.  The camaraderie from the basement is still present in our work emails, and I'm pleased to report typing is much less catastrophic for my fingers and thumbs.

Creating and self-publishing our first book has felt a little like pretending to be Dr. Frankenstein, but much less monstrous and with a happier ending.

As in picture framing (and monster experimentation) we gather the parts for our creature from separate sources, and then carefully fit and sew them together until we form one unique and more robust creation.

My side of this union is creating the story, collecting feedback, and polishing the rhythm. Then working out which stanzas should stay together on which pages, to see how much room there is for pictures.

Next we collaborate on the picture list with a goal to show more than is being said in the text. We are very much on the same wavelength which makes it feel easy and fun, and not like work at all.

After that, Bret works his magic and creates the beautiful, expressive and humorous pictures you see in the finished book. And finally he expertly interlaces images and text into one large PDF file.

But we can't do every step ourselves, we must wait for our lightning storm - the printing process - the step that injects life into our collaboration of carefully constructed parts, generating a seemingly living, breathing world for our readers to escape into for however long is desired or needed.

Well, that is our goal anyway.

The finished book:

A picture from the old gallery days of Bret and our friend Jo:

More soon,

C.C.

My writing cupboard

As I write my first blog post I am sitting in my writing cupboard. It's not really a cupboard, but it is very small and cozy. In the 1920's when our apartment was built it would have been a little dressing room connecting the bedroom to the bathroom; basically a little walkway with two modest built-in closets, and a built-in vanity with drawers and a mirror. 

When we first saw the apartment I knew that was where I would write. It's worked out quite nicely, a little creative space I can close off from the rest of the world. I've filled it with paintings of the ocean, masks, lists of goals to keep me on track, and favorite photos. 

I seem to be unable to have just one project on the go and it's rare that I do. At the moment I am polishing the last draft of the second Lucy Lick-Me-Not story - Lucy Lick-Me-Not and the Greedy Gubbins - which Bret Burkmar is beginning to illustrate. 

I’m also fleshing out a poem about my dog, Murphy, jotting down notes for two other children's stories (more to come on those soon), and attempting to find time in between to finish a feature-length screenplay I started last year (it’s over half way there).

One day it would be lovely have a larger room to write in, perhaps with an armchair and a window to look out of. But in the meantime my writing cupboard seems to be performing more than adequately with almost Tardis-like proportions, as multiple worlds filled with assorted characters, each with their own stories, seem to fit quite nicely within these four small walls.


More soon,

C.C.

© 2014- 2017 Claudine Carmel All Rights Reserved