Tuesday, 28 February 2012

How my cover was created - step by step guide.

I decided to write a post about how my book cover came to life. As you can imagine, I'm very proud of the cover and love it to bits. It was hand-drawn by a very talented artist called Olga. She thought of the whole concept on her own but kept me in the loop with regular updates.
So this is the first picture she sent me for approval:

I didn't like the fact that the guy was sitting at the next table reading a newspaper - I don't know exactly why. Maybe because I had a similar scene in the book and the man reading the newspaper was not the main male character and I thought this may cause confusion. So she changed it:
That was more like it. This time I didn't like the huge letters on the window and she had misspelled Cafe (she's German so she was forgiven). In a few weeks, long Christmas break, illness and a broken computer later, she sent me another picture to look at and she had added colours:
That was the point when I could really imagine the finished product. I loved it.
Next, she sent me another picture, almost fully finished:

Olga had added all those details and I couldn't believe how talented she was. All that was left to add were the eyes at the top and the title:
I didn't feel the blue was right for the cover, I definitely preferred green, so that it corresponded with the eye colour. (Fun fact - the eyes are really Olga's - she cut them out of a photo of herself and made them green)
So, in the end, she made all letters green and I fell in love with the finished product - it was exactly what I wanted!

The cover creation may seem like an easy, straightforward process but it wasn't. It was stretched along 3 months, with many ups and downs. But at the end of the day, what matters is that it turned out amazingly well. And it feels very personal to me because it is my very first cover for my very first published novel, I was involved in it every step of the way and, let's face it, my cover artist has her eyes integrated as an irreplaceable part of my book. I wouldn't change a thing.

Thursday, 23 February 2012

A big blue flu blur

I was ill for the best part of last week. It was so bad that I can’t remember most of it. I can’t even remember when was the last time I was so ill. I spent my days lying in bed, trying in vain to open my eyes or move or focus for a minute. It’s all a big blur. And for some reason it’s blue. The blur I mean. When I look back now that I’m feeling better, I see the blur as being blue in colour. I always associate things with colours – places I’ve been, people I’ve met, books I’ve read, films I’ve seen. I forget very easily; most of the time I don’t remember film or book endings or directions or people’s names. But I remember colours and I remember how they made me feel.
I guess it’s true then, that you may forget what somebody said or did but you’ll never forget how they made you feel. For me, it’s the greatest truth in the world. It defines my life.
Anyway, getting a bit off topic. My point is that I felt so ill, so weak and helpless for so long, that I forgot what the world outside my house looked like. Or what it felt like to drive a car – when I drove for the first time after the illness, it felt somehow surreal and unnatural, like I was gliding instead of driving. I also forgot what time and day it was, and even worse – what time and day Glee was on. But what’s most shocking is that I forgot how to write.
 I sat in front of the empty Word document, stared at it for half an hour, then turned off the laptop. What was wrong with me? Sick for a week and I forgot how to write a single sentence. Not good.
I read a lot though. And the more I read, the more convinced I became that everything else written by somebody else was much better that anything I have ever written. And it’s not like I have just now started reading and realized it. I have always been a big reader, and although those thoughts were creeping up in my head from time to time, I always managed to get rid of them. Now, however, they seemed like they were here to stay.
I got really depressed for a few days. I didn’t know if it was because of my illness, or because I hadn’t fully recovered yet and needed to give myself a break and relax a little until I felt fully myself again.
I’m pretty much back to normal now. I can’t believe how tough a simple flu was to get over – mentally, physically and emotionally. So, take a piece of advice from somebody who’s been there already – if you see someone sneeze, cough or blow their nose in any close proximity – run! As fast as you can. And after you’ve put a considerable amount of distance between you and them, disinfect your whole body, drink all the vitamins you can find and pray for the best. And arm yourself with Dettol spray for the next sneezing flu trap you encounter.

Monday, 13 February 2012

The break in

Last time I posted an attempt at screenplay writing for a short film. Today, I present to you, my dip in the deep waters of theater plays. "The Break In" is a ten-minute play I wrote last year, on a pure whim.

The Break In

THOMASINA is in her apartment, sitting at the kitchen table, reading a magazine and drinking coffee. It is very peaceful and quiet, just the occasional turning of pages can be heard.
There is some strange noise coming from the front door and seconds later it opens. Somebody comes in. THOMASINA is startled –she sits at the table not able to move wondering what to do.
Whoever came in went straight for the living room which is the first door on the left hand side. THOMASINA is still in the kitchen which is the second door on the right. She peeks through the kitchen door and seeing nobody, runs quietly towards the front door, goes out of the apartment and locks the door behind her. She then dials 999 on her mobile phone.


THOMASINA: Hello, I need the police. I have an intruder in my apartment. The address is 73 Wards wharf approach, E15 2EX. (listens) No, I got out and locked them inside. I’m just outside the front door. (listens) Thank you.

Hangs up the phone. Sits down by her front door waiting.
Soon she hears a noise coming from the inside of the flat. She sees the handle of the front door being presses lightly down. Nothing happens. The handle is pressed firmer a second time but nothing happens again.
THOMASINA: You can’t come out. It’s locked. I locked you in.
THOMASINA: The police are on their way.

Silence. She hears movement as if somebody in sitting down next to the door. It’s so quiet that she actually hears them breathing.

THOMASINA: Aren’t you going to say anything?
JAMES: What’s your name?
THOMASINA: (startled) What’s my name?? You tried to rob me and who knows what else and you are asking about my name??
JAMES: (calmly) Yes.
THOMASINA: Thomasina.
JAMES: What kind of a name is that? (laughs)
THOMASINA: It’s actually a very pretty, unusual and charismatic name!
JAMES: Is that what your Mom used to tell you when you were teased in school?
THOMASINA: What are you now – a burglar or a psychotherapist? Pick one – you can’t be both.
JAMES: Why not? It’s not true that men are not good multitaskers, you know.
THOMASINA: (quietly) I can’t believe this is happening…
JAMES: My name is James, by the way. Thanks for asking.
THOMASINA: I’d say “nice to meet you” but it’s really not.
JAMES: You seem awfully uptight. Do you have a boyfriend?
THOMASINA: Excuse me??
JAMES: Thought so. (smiles)
THOMASINA: (angrily) How dare you make fun of me? You broke into my home, tried to rob me… How many other people have you robbed, hurt or killed??
JAMES: Enough with the drama. I haven’t robbed, hurt or killed anybody. Including you.
THOMASINA: Yeah, because I locked you in and called the police. Who knows what would’ve happened if I was sleeping…
JAMES: Nothing would’ve happened. I’m not here to hurt you in any way or take anything from you.
THOMASINA: Oh, yeah? Why did you brake in my apartment then? To enjoy the view from my living room balcony?
JAMES: (smiling) You are quite funny. In a sarcastic, mind-your-own-business kind of way but still…
THOMASINA: Oh, I’m so flattered getting compliments from a burglar!
JAMES: Stop calling me that! I’m not a burglar, a rapist or a killer!
THOMASINA: Excuse me for making that assumption based on, you know, you braking into my home!


THOMASINA: (sighs and shakes her head in a “I can’t believe I’m doing this” kind of way) What are you then?
JAMES: You are not going to believe anything I say so why bother?
THOMASINA: That’s true. But can you blame me? You broke into my house…
JAMES: Yeah, yeah, enough of  that.

Pause. They both fall silent for a while

JAMES: So, what do you do for a living? I’ve seen you going out dragging suitcases often enough. And you are always tanned..
THOMASINA: So, you are a stalker in your spare time?
JAMES: No. (signs) My studio is just opposite your building entrance. I like looking through the window and watch people. It inspires me and gives me ideas…
THOMASINA: What ideas? Who’s going to be your next victim?
JAMES: Something like that….
THOMASINA: You are tired of denying it anymore then?
JAMES: Look, just tell me what you do for a living and I’ll tell you why I was in your apartment and what my job is. You can believe me or not, I don’t really care. But I’m absolutely sure that you are very curious to find out (smiles)
THOMASINA: I’m not dying to find out anything about you. You are very mistaken…
JAMES: I’m not. Now – spill.
THOMASINA: (rolls her eyes) OK. I’m doing research for holiday companies.
JAMES: What exactly does that mean?? What research?
THOMASINA: Well, I visit hotels, villas, spa retreats etc. which are not part of any big travel company and give a report back to the company - if I think it would be a good idea to sign that hotel or whatever exclusively with the holiday company.
JAMES: So, let me get this straight – you go on holidays for a living?
THOMASINA: It’s not just that, I have a lot of work to do there…
JAMES: Yeah, like try all the spa treatments? Or swim in every single one of the 12 pools?
THOMASINA: Think whatever you like. I do a very good job and it’s a win-win situation – the small hotel gets more visitors, the travel company get exclusive deals on more secluded holidays and the customers get a bigger choice.
JAMES: But still… You are going on holidays for a living!
JAMES: How did you manage to get that job??
THOMASINA: My dad used to be a big shareholder in one of the most popular travel companies. He suggested they try that kind of research. And they did and it proved to be very beneficial for all sides and now most companies work with researchers like me.
JAMES: I’ll be damned! I had so many theories about you but this just blew my mind!
THOMASINA: Yeah, I know, I’m very lucky. (waves dismissively with her hand) Your turn. Why are you in my apartment?
JAMES: OK. I’m a writer.
THOMASINA: Oh, come on! You think I’m going to believe this lame excuse??
JAMES: Just let me finish, OK? I used to be a stunt man – one of those doubles they use in action movies. I love adrenalin and danger and all that stuff and being young and hot headed that was the perfect job for me. I did it for 5 years and loved every second. But then I had an accident which left me with a serious knee injury and I couldn’t do my job anymore. So, I started writing – my other passion. My first book was about being a stunt man. – it wasn’t a novel, it was an honest account of the job. I just shared my experience, my stories. And it became a hit.
THOMASINA: I’ve never heard of it…
JAMES: You must be interested in non fiction to hear of it.
THOMASINA: I guess… But wait, that still doesn’t explain anything about you breaking in my flat.
JAMES: Well, after my book became a success my publisher suggested I write another one. But I didn’t have experience in anything else. However, I had a great enthusiasm to learn and discover new things so they suggested I try other professions and later write about them. And I did – I trained as a chef and worked in a well known restaurant for a year and then wrote about it. Later, I trained as a fireman and a pilot and wrote about those jobs as well.
THOMASINA: And now you are tired of conventional jobs and want to write about being a thief?
JAMES: You can put it that way, yes. I need an adrenalin rush again. I’m not doing it for money anymore but for the joy of experiencing something new, unusual and it that case, a bit dangerous and unpredictable.
JAMES: I told you – I’ve been watching you from my studio window and I decided I could kill 2 birds with 1 stone – see what it’s like to be a thief and find out more about you. My curiosity was killing me. (laughs) And rightly so. I knew you’d be unusual.
THOMASINA: Unusual? What’s unusual about me??
JAMES: First – your name. Then – your job. And who would lock a thief inside their flat? And then spend the time to talk to them while waiting for the police? That’s not a normal reaction.

At that moment two policemen arrive. THOMASINA stands up and unlocks the door. JAMES is sitting next to it. He stands up and without saying a word turns around with his arms behind his back. One of the policemen puts handcuffs on him and turns him around. THOMASINA and JAMES make eye contact for the first time. He smiles. She returns the smile. He’s taken away by the policemen. THOMASINA watches them leave, walks in her home and closes the door behind her.


Thursday, 9 February 2012

Witch one?

Not long ago I wrote a screenplay for a short film competition. It was the hardest thing I have ever done. It's very difficult for me to write short stories, short screenplays, short anything. I love developing characters, scenes and the whole story over a course of a novel or a full length film. But grabbing people's attention and creating beginning, conflict, resolution and end in a five-minute screenplay is not easy.
I definitely won't be doing that for a living, but I believe you should try anything, otherwise how do you know it's not for you or the vise versa? So, here it is. Hope you enjoy it.

Witch One?


CHRISTOPHER HILDERBRAD (35) drives a brand new black BMW on an empty straight country road. He turns his head towards LARISSA BAILEY (27) who’s sitting on the passenger seat next to him and puts his hand on her bare knee. Both smile. None of them says anything. CHRISTOPHER turns his attention back to the road. It’s a warm summer day and both are wearing casual clothes – he is wearing khaki shorts and a white linen short-sleeved shirt, she is wearing a green dress.  They are listening to the radio but the reception gets bad and CHRISTOPHER changes the station.


When the reception gets bad it’s a true sign we are in the middle of nowhere. But that’s what you wanted, wasn’t it? To get away from all the craziness for a while…

He looks at LARISSA and smiles. She smiles back and nods.


          I thought we needed that, didn’t you?


I’m used to it by now. But I guess you are right. Goodbye luxury hotel in the Caribbean, hello secluded cabin in the middle of nowhere.

They both smile.

CHRISTOPHER continues to fiddle with the radio and finally finds a station with clear reception and the presenters’ voices (male and female) fill the car. They jokingly discuss an article in a magazine that is about how to recognize a modern day witch. LARISSA shifts uncomfortably in her seat.


So listen to this, the first sign of how to recognize a modern day witch is if animals, especially dogs, love them. Even more, if a dog is really dangerous it will certainly calm down in the presence of a witch and wouldn’t leave their side.


CHRISTOPHER remembers how his vicious dog started barking at LARISSA the first time he brought her back in his house but all it took for her to calm him down was look at him and pat him behind the ears. The dog lay beside her and never left her side.


CHRISTOPHER snaps out of his memory, turns towards LARISSA and gives her a smile. LARISSA returns the smile but turns her head away quickly.

              FEMALE PRESENTER

So, to continue this foolish list, the second sign of a modern day witch is if they make ordinary people feel unwell – like give them headaches and weariness. And if a witch is very powerful she can make you feel unwell even from afar.
Radio presenters’ voices are left in the background. CHRSTOPHER glances at a bottle of headache pills. He looks towards LARISSA but this time doesn’t smile. LARISSA doesn’t return his stare and continues to look out the side window.
The third sign, and Becks I’ll need you to take of your shirt for that one…
              FEMALE PRESENTER
          No way in hell.
              MALE PRESENTER
Do you want to prove you are not a witch or not? Anyway, the third sign is if they have a diabolical mark somewhere on their body, usually the chest area. It can be something like a dark spot or a mole of something like that and is often mistaken for a birthmark.
CHRISTOPHER remembers how once he and LARISSA were lying in bed, naked, covered with a white sheet. LARISSA’S chest is exposed and CHRISTOPHER is playfully circling a big but faint scar just under her left breast.
          How did you get that, babe?
          Oh, it’s just a birthmark.
LARISSA starts kissing him and the subject is forgotten.
Can we change the station, babe? This witchcraft stuff is really annoying.
Is it? I enjoy it. And anyway, we can’t get a clear reception on any other station here.
Let’s play a CD then.
I forgot to take any.
The next sign is if they float in water.
CHRISTOPHER and LARISSA are swimming in the sea but she gets tired.
You go on, babe, I’ll just catch my breath for a second.
CHRISTOPHER continue swimming for a while but when he turns around to go back he sees LARISSA lying on her back and simply floating without making any movement with her legs or arms.
CHRISTOPHER is visibly tense, LARISSA frantically rummaging through her handbag looking for something.

              FEMALE PRESENTER

And the last sign of a modern day witch is if they can’t say a prayer without stumbling through the words. The more powerful ones can’t even pronounce the words. And that’s the end of it, at last…

Presenters’ voices are left in the background.


CHRISTOPHER, LARISSA and ten other people are sitting around a huge dining table covered with food and drinks. Everybody is holding hands and an older man at the top of the table is saying a prayer. LARISSA starts coughing, excuses herself from the table and goes to the bathroom shutting the door firmly behind her.


CHRISTOPHER’s forehead is covered in sweat drops despite the temperature in the car being maintained at 18 degrees by the climate control. LARISSA has found a lipstick in her handbag and is putting it on using the shade’s mirror.

              MALE PRESENTER

With this next song we’d like to congratulate one of the wealthiest bachelors in the country on his recent marriage to a stunning woman who must be something much more than just beautiful to make him settle down at last and in just two months after they met! Not that I like gossip but I heard he didn’t even make her sign a prenup… Anyway, this song is for CHRISTOPHER HILDERBRAND and LARISSA BAILEY wishing them a long and happy life together. 

CHRISTOPHER looks at LARISSA horrified. LARISSA has just finished putting her lipstick on and smiles without looking at CHRISTOPHER. He suddenly screams and grabs his head in his hands in pain. The car drives off the road and straight into a tree.

The passenger door opens. LARISSA gets out without a scratch on her, looks at CHRISTOPHER who is dead behind the wheel, covered in blood. She slams the door closed and starts walking away from the car, smiling. On the car bonnet there is a “Just Married” sign.