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For Cats’ Eyes Only Author Visit Read and Craft session

The launch of “For Cats’ Eyes Only draws ever nearer and for any libraries in Devon, or beyond for that matter, who would like an author visit, here’s what to expect.

  • Ideal for kids aged 6 – 10 years but with a bit of leeway either side.
  • Suggested max 30 children per session.
  • Olli will talk briefly about how the book came about and answer any questions.
  • Reading passages from the story which is packed with terrible puns, with a fair bit of silliness, and a smattering of fart humour.
  • Everyone (who wants to) gets to make their own personalised secret agent I.D. card which can be disguised as a credit card.
The craft activity
Step 1 : Take pre-printed template.
Step 2 : Fold along the vertical divide
Step 3 : Glue the inside and stick firmly down
Step 4 : You now have the credit card on one side and ID card on the other
Step 5 : Fold in half again, with the credit card facing outside
Do not glue this time. Write your name on the front of the card, and sign the back.
Step 6 : Add your thumb or fingerprint to the ID card. You can stick a passport photograph of yourself, or a picture of an animal in the photo space
Step 7 : For the finishing touch, stick the special holographic sticker on the card, to give it an authentic look.

For a poster to promote this activity right click and “save as”

PDF file (716kb not easily edited) 

Word 2016 DOCX (960kb editable file)

JPG file (5mb editable image)

 

Olli Tooley Author visits

Just a quick blog post to list the dates booked so far for my author visits this summer.

Wed 19th July is the launch of the Big Summer Reading Challenge at Ilfracombe Library. I will be there with copies of “For Cats’ Eyes Only” to give to all children who sign up for the challenge. After that, there will be opportunities to hear me read from the book and do a related craft session. You can also buy signed copies of the book.

For Cats’ Eyes Only reading and craft session
  • Mon, 24 July 10:30–12:00 Tavistock Library, The Quay, Plymouth Rd, Tavistock PL19 8AB
  • Tue, 25 July 10:30 – 12:00 Ilfracombe Library, The Candar, Ilfracombe EX34 9DS
  • Fri, 28 July 10:30 – 12:00 Dawlish Library, 1 Lawn Hill, Dawlish EX7 9PY
  • Fri, 28 July 14:30 – 16:00 Newton Abbot library, Passmore Edwards centre, Market St, Newton Abbot TQ12 2RJ
  • Tue, 1 August 10:30-12:00 Crediton Library, Belle Parade, Crediton
  • Tue, 1 August 14:30-16:00 Lynton Library, 17 Queen St. Lynton EX35 6AA
  • Mon, 14 August 10:30 – 12:00 Barnstaple library, Castle Walk, Barnstaple
  • Wed, 16 August 10:30 – 12:00 Combe Martin library
  • Wed, 16 August 14:00 – 15:00 Okehampton Library, 4 North St, Okehampton EX20 1AR
  • Sat 16 September 10:30-12:00 Ilfracombe Library finishers event
  • Sat 16 September 14:00-15:30 Braunton Library finishers event

 

For Cats’ Eyes Only – Preview

Launching soon

For Cats’ Eyes Only was commissioned to coincide with this year’s Big Summer Reading Challenge 2017 (n.b. it is NOT an official BSRC book)

If you are aged 4 – 11 yrs and live in Ilfracombe, you can get a FREE copy just by coming along to Ilfracombe library and signing up for the challenge on Wednesday 19th July

Otherwise, you can still get a copy shortly after that date from all good bookshops, as well as online here or on Amazon.

Young readers in Devon can also come along to their local library and meet the author, as well as do a fun craft session related to the book. See here for confirmed dates. If your local library isn’t on the list, then be sure to ask them why not.

Here’s a sneak preview of the prologue of the book.

Prologue

The End … Or is it?

“Not one more step, Swifty!”

Special Agent Felix Whiter sighted down the barrel of his Buckthorn and Beech .22 pistol at the tortoise, who had thought he was getting away. Swifty knew he could hide in his shell but, either way, there was no escape this time.

“Felix! I wish I could say I’ve been expecting you but, alas, it seems you have the upper hand.”

“Did you really think you could get away with it, Swifty?”

“Well, I guess I didn’t expect that you would be assigned to the investigation. You’re a cool cat, I’ll give you that.”

“My team are already rounding up your minions, and the lettuces are safely back in our warehouse. Now I just have to bring you in to make this a purrfect day.”

As the secret agent spoke, Swifty looked past him with a worried expression.

“I’m not falling for that old trick, Swifty. There’s nothing behind me.”

“Wanna bet?”

Felix swung round and sure enough, a little girl was coming towards them across the grass. She must have seen everything. Desperately he tried to hide the gun behind his back and dropped down onto all fours, purring and flicking his tail, but it was no use. He’d been caught.

The little girl looked at the cat, and then at the tortoise which was trying to look innocent and slowly sidling away towards a large oak stump.

“Did I just see you talking to that tortoise, puss-cat?” the little girl asked.

“Meow?”

“It’s no use pretending, I know I saw you standing up and pointing a stick at the tortoise, and you’re wearing clothes, and you were definitely talking, although I didn’t hear what you were saying.”

“Purr?”

Felix stalked over to the little girl and rubbed hard against her legs with his sides, purring and meowing for all he was worth.

‘Just a few minutes of this and she’s going to forget all about it,’ thought Felix.

Sure enough, the girl began to doubt herself. “I must have imagined it,” she said to herself as she scratched behind the cat’s ears. “I suppose some people do like to dress their cats in clothes as well,” she added.

At that moment, the cat turned its head to look at the point where the tortoise had been, only moments before. It was nowhere to be seen.

‘Drat!’ Felix thought.

Women of the Wise Oak artwork progress update

First pencil sketch

I posted about it earlier, but I’ll just add the first sketch here as well to complete the story.

Preliminary Sketch for “Women of the Wise Oak” cover design.

I’ve just had the latest progress update from Iver Klingenberg who is painting the cover art for Women of the Wise Oak and I have to say, it is going to be absolutely breathtaking.

It features a golden eagle flying over an alpine lake, and Iver is particularly adept at painting water. I don’t know whether to share the half finished painting with you or not. Will it spoil the surprise of seeing the fully finished artwork? Would anyone like to see it? Does anyone even care?

Leave a comment, and if we get enough (let’s say five) then I will post it here. If not then I will send an image to the few who want to see it via email.

Update 27/5/17

O.K. so, we only managed three comments. I guess, that is actually pretty good going for a small and not yet widely followed blog.

Here’s the work in progress. FANFARE!

Isn’t that lush? Can’t wait to see the finished thing.

Finished painting reveal.

Well, I have got a photograph of the finished painting now from Iver Klingenberg and, yes, it is every bit as amazing as I expected it to be.

So, d’ya wanna see it? Do ya? Do ya?

I know you do.

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Scroll down …

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Cover artwork for “Women of the Wise Oak” by Iver Klingenberg.

Sneak peek at a snippet of For Cats Eyes Only

Felix Whiter is a suave, sophisticated, cat detective who works for the Animal Intelligence Service (A.I.S.) and every top detective needs a crack team of dedicated professional experts around him. IT, forensics, gadgets, disguises, and … receptionists.

Olli the Owl’s heart may well be in the right place, but his mind is … well, seemingly elsewhere.

Artwork by Amii James. Olli Tooley would like to make it clear that Olli the Owl is NOT based on him.

Little Bird Publishing friends on the same business journey

Friends in the same business

If you are in business and you see your business competitors as a threat, then I feel sorry for you. There is hardly a business model anywhere in the multiverse where direct competition is not positively beneficial. Indeed, in many businesses it is essential.

I would say that publishing is a good example. It is the almost infinite variety of books that makes them so interesting. If there were not so many books in so many genres, from so many authors, the market would actually stagnate and move backwards.

We, at Blue Poppy publishing have authors at varying stages of interest and development, and too many more would simply swamp us anyway. So it is always nice to find like minded publishers on a similar journey to ourselves, and that is where Little Bird Publishing comes in.

Established by Katie John in 2010 in very similar circumstances to Oliver Tooley founding BPP in 2016 they now have eight or more authors on the books, and everyone involved helps each other with mutual cross-promotion and collaboration. Like us they publish a wide range of genres, but steer clear of erotica and horror and so it is quite probable that our readers will enjoy their books and vice-versa.

I particularly agree with the philosophy of Little Bird, which is fairly well encapsulated in their own words

[Katie] also quickly became aware of the sharks out there, exploiting the new indie author market; expensive vanity publishing schemes, unqualified editors, and people offering to turn authors into millionaires, and USA Today bestsellers overnight. She established Little Bird Publishing as an antidote to this kind of author exploitation and dream peddling.

It’s the same here. We won’t take money up front from authors for anything they wouldn’t spend money on anyway. We’re happy for authors to hire their own editor, cover designer or whatever; or to introduce authors to those people. All we insist on, is that the end product is professional quality such as you would expect from Random House or Bloomsbury.

A few formatting golden rules for self publishing a novel in the UK

This is a quite specific list for UK novels

This is only about formatting a fiction novel for the UK market.

Some different rules apply for the USA, and for non-fiction, but this is what I have learned so far and I am going to break it down into a simple checklist.

Obviously others will have their opinions, which may be just as valid, but I reckon this list is a good starting point, and I have made enough mistakes, by now, to be a bit of an expert.

  • Book size 7.8″ x 5″* which is 198mm x 129mm – Portrait (obviously)
  • Paperback cover weight – 250gsm-300gsm is normal
  • Interior paper (typically) 80gsm-90 gsm cream, or other off white colour (not white)
  • Font – Garamond 10pt or 11pt (11 is just a little easier on tired eyes like mine)
    Font for younger readers – Century Schoolbook 12 or 14 point
  • Single line spacing. 6pt space between paragraphs
  • Justified both sides. Nice neat straight lines down left and right
  • Mirror margins and a gutter to stop the text disappearing down the spine
  • Start each chapter partway down the first page. (maybe add an image above)
  • Get the header and footer formatting right. (e.g. page 1 is the first page of the story, not the book.)

I think that’s all, but I will add others as and when I think of them or people point them out.

  • On Createspace it is 5.06″ x 7.81″ but to be honest, six hundredths of an inch really don’t make that much difference to a book on a bookshelf.

Learning from mistakes in self-publishing.

Worst self-published print book ever?

The first book I began to write was “Children of the Wise Oak” but that stalled because I decided the original idea was terrible and I didn’t know how to proceed with it. The very first book I finished was a short story called “Time Tunnel to Londinium.”

I had no intention of trying to find a traditional publisher. Not because I didn’t want one, but because I felt that the entire industry is geared up to a “rejection” process rather than a “selection” process. I knew my shallow ego could not face rejection. I also felt that publishers were only interested in books by celebrities. While this may not be strictly true, it was enough to put me off.

But at that time, I came across a company called “Blurb” who are still going. They offer a self-publishing service for any number of books from a single copy to hundreds. They have a variety of options including their own software for creating the book interiors and covers, and a huge range of book sizes and formats. They even offer hardcover options.

What they don’t do, at least not for free, is tell you how to make sure your books looks professional. Nobody does, and boy is it easy to make mistakes. See here for help to avoid some of those mistakes.

  • Book size
  • Paper choice
  • Font
  • Font size
  • Gutters
  • Justifying
  • Line spacing
  • Cover design
  • Blurb
  • Editing
  • ?????

There are so many little things to consider, and if you get any one of them wrong it sends a signal to prospective readers “this is an amateur book”. They might not even know why!

So how bad was my first effort? – Pretty terrible, but don’t take my word for it; I still have plenty of copies left.

Let’s start with the front cover. Well ok, it could have been worse, but I mocked it up using images from the internet without bothering to check if they were available for reuse. (This is a serious mistake and nobody should ever do this, although I fear huge numbers of people do) If you cannot find an image you like which is officially available for commercial reuse and modification then you should not touch it with a barge pole. Take a photograph yourself, get a photographer, or artist, or a professional cover designer to help you. Rather use a WYSIWYG cover designer like on Amazon Kindle than leave yourself open to a copyright suit in the future.

Then there is the size issue. These books were a standard size offered by Blurb, but paperbacks in the USA are a different set of sizes from those in the UK. Almost all my market is the UK so I should have used a standard UK paperback size. That size is 198mm x 129mm (I just typed that from memory and then double checked) (It is actually 7.8 inches by 5 inches but who uses inches these days?)

Let’s just reiterate that
UK standard paperback size for a novel is 198mm x 129mm
If that is the only size you know you will be fine for some time to come.

So what about the interior? How badly did I mess up that can of worms? Well…

Have you spotted it yet?

Comic Sans!

That’s not all, but it is enough. I wanted to make it easy to read for young readers. I personally dislike double story “a” even now. Nobody writes an “a” like it is printed. But that is no excuse for using Comic Sans in any book aimed at children over the age of about five.

Now it turns out I was worrying over nothing much. Most junior school children can comprehend the difference between a double-decker serif “a” and the letter “a” they write with their pen or pencil. It might be an issue for Aspies like me who spent ages fretting about this little detail but not for “normal” children. (there’s a whole world of things you can do to help those with dyslexia, but that’s an article in itself)

I now tend to use Century Schoolbook 12 or 14 point (the larger for younger readers 6-18 smaller for 8-10) and Garamond 11 point for YA.

I also got it printed on white paper because I naively thought that looked more expensive. Alas it also makes it less readable, especially to dyslexics apparently.

Blurb saved me from making some of the other classic mistakes, for example page numbering and titles in headers being incorrectly formatted, not having gutters (the words disappear into the book spine without them) and mirrored margins; but it did allow me to use “left justified” instead of “both justified”. In books you do not want a ragged margin on either side of the page.

So I had one hundred copies of this book printed (the more you print the cheaper it is per book) I sent out copies to people who bought them, but now I refuse to sell any more because I know how awful they are. I keep them as a warning to myself and others of the perils of not doing proper research.

 

Artist Selected to Illustrate New Children’s Book For Cats’ Eyes Only

The story so far

  • I got a call from Cathy Newton of Ilfracombe Library asking me to attend a meeting at the home of local philanthropist and benefactor David Tubby. (see his excellent blog on our small but beautiful town).
  • Cathy asked me if I would be willing to write a book especially for the Big Summer Reading Challenge using this year’s theme “Animal Agents”
  • I said yes and we bandied about a number of ideas for the book within minutes. David was persuaded to assist the library with financing the launch of the event and I went off to get writing.
  • Before I got very far, I decided to do some market research among the target audience. My daughter’s form teacher at Ilfracombe Junior School was happy to oblige and I got back nearly thirty filled out questionnaires which helped me to write a well targeted book. (It’s mostly terrible puns, fart jokes, and silliness). The title is “For Cats’ Eyes Only”
  • It took less than a week to write the first draft. A little longer to get beta readers to feed-back and make a few adjustments, and another week for editing. But without illustrations it would miss the needs of the target audience. 6-8 year olds.
  • So the search for an artist began, with many expressing an interest but none fulfilling all the requirements. The money available for this is not huge, because it is an unknown author (me) and a very small publisher (Blue Poppy) and we just can’t pay, up front, the sort of money professional artists demand and deserve.
  • Then a friend suggested I should try the art department of Ilfracombe Academy. I smacked my hand against my head and dashed off an email a.s.a.p. The reply from Mr Lawton was positive and we arranged an opportunity to visit the school and present the brief to a group of young art students.
  • Then last Thursday I saw the submissions. It goes without saying that all of them were excellent, but (much to my relief) one was outstanding and the decision was relatively easy to make.

Watch this space, or keep an eye on the North Devon Gazette for the announcement of the successful artist who is a young student who dared to dream of illustrating children’s books once she had finished her studies. 

Cover art for Women of the Wise Oak – Preliminary Sketch

For me, one of the most exciting things about preparing a new book for publication is the cover art.

With the “Wise Oak” series, that process is deliciously drawn out as Iver Klingenberg sends me the preliminary sketch first, and then usually a work-in-progress close to completion, before I see the final finished painting. Then there is the next step which involves taking the painting to Andy Jones who turns it into a finished cover.

Well, we have reached that very first step and I absolutely LOVE it.

Preliminary Sketch for “Women of the Wise Oak” cover design.