Rosanne Dingli

Rosanne Dingli

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The Most Beautiful Image in the World

The Studio by Marie Bashkirtseff (1881). Marie...                                Image via Wikipedia
Many writers find their own prose fascinating: they could read their own stories all day. Prolific authors have to - the process of rewriting, redrafting and editing is one where the writer is constantly rereading. I find redrafting and editing the most absorbing of all authorly tasks.

When it comes to pictures, authors might be flummoxed. Not me - oh, no. I went to art school and I also paint, so I thought images were my forte.  Not so: when asked to examine the way I think, and when tested by an expert, it turns out I am not a visual person at all. I think in words. What! Hmm - I do, which is not such a bad thing for a novelist. When I think of the beginning of a new book, or creating a new scene, I do not imagine it in my head like a part of a movie. Many authors will tell you they do that. I don't: I see the written page. I hear the words it's made of. I mumble great sentences, and think up fifteen different ways of saying pretty.

Images come to me when I read back what I have written. It's the only time I can see the scene. This means of course that I could not possibly design the cover of my own book. I cannot imagine it. I can only imagine covers of existing books. So my idea would necessarily be derivative. Luckily, I don't need to: the designer at BeWrite Books, my publishers, has that job. His name is Tony Szmuk, and he knows how to think. The cover of my new book has just come up on the BeWrite site, and this is what it looks like:

At the moment, this is the most beautiful image in all the world. Find me a writer who is not fascinated by the cover of their latest book. I am: and I can honestly say I would not have come up with this cover in a million years. It takes a designer who knows what a book cover needs to do: attract readers.

This cover expresses the nature of According to Luke: the puzzle aspect. The combination of elements that shift and change as the story progresses from order, to confusion, and then perhaps to some kind of order again. The closer you approach, the more you can decipher the elements: oh yes, a gun, and a beautiful woman. There's a picture of St Luke of course, and an ancient icon. And an artist's brush. But there is also a number... aha! It's the corner of a €500 note.

Money, guns, a beautiful woman: essential elements of a good thriller. But what has St Luke got to do with it all?

You know there's only one way to find out.

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Saturday, November 20, 2010

The Versatile Blogger Award

PERTH, AUSTRALIA - DECEMBER 02:  Musicians fro...Image by Getty Images via @daylife
Members of WASO
Winning anything is exciting - but getting a mention on the Versatile Blogger list is such an honour, and very flattering, because it acknowledges hours of writing.

I must heartily thank Norma at Beishir Books. I am so pleased she chose me and my website.

I must now release to the world seven things about myself.
1. I love yellow crockery.
2. My favourite colour is yellow (duh!).
3. I really really hate hot weather.
4. My shoe size is 7.
5. My new thriller is about to be released by BeWrite Books!
6. My favourite piece of music is Music for a Found Harmonium by Simon Jeffes 
I love the version by our very own West Australian Symphony Orchestra.
7.My office is a mess at the moment.

That was not hard at all. I could have gone to 14, even.

Now I must produce a great drumroll and announce my selection.
Congratulations go to the following 12 blogs: they are all fascinating, informative, funny, brilliant and very enjoyable. Visit them with my guarantee of satisfaction, safety, and success.

1.  Karla Telega's humorous blog
2.  Duncan Long's exquisite illustrations
3.  Matthew Buchman's excellent writerly advice
4.  Brooke Monfort's extremely useful writer's weblog
5.  John McDonnell's views on life and online
6.  Paul Novak's guide to freelancing
7.  BeWrite Books blog: my publishers! Read them. 
8.  Kat Jordan's blog - a witty writer
9.  Anecdotes from Malta: pictures galore
10. Susanne Dunlap's elegant and infinitely interesting letters
11.Charissa Weaks and her bright blog for writers. Great interviews!
12. The WM Freelance Writers' Connection. Chock full of info and advice

Making this list and showing it to you is probably more revealing than the seven points above it. You now know where I do my blog reading. And when you visit, you will know exactly why. The people on these blogs are generous with their knowledge, experience and expertise. They share with great wit and panache. What's more - they all do it very differently, so the variety is also entertaining.

If you are on this list, kindly let us know seven interesting things about yourself on your blog, and find another 12 blogs that you feel deserve the honour of being listed.


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Wednesday, November 17, 2010

A Book and Its Cover

Pic courtesy Morris Bookshop
One of the hardest thing for an author to do is think like a designer. In essence, creating verbally and visually are two very different tasks. They both require hard work, but it comes from different sides of the brain, perhaps... and certainly different parts of the soul. And different parts of a person's training and experience.

When an author writes a book, the mind's eye comes into the equation, and there are scenes and faces, artifacts and props that seem obvious. But will they be imagined in exactly the same way by a reader? Rarely. Ask six readers to describe a written scene, and you will have six different versions: "Oh - I saw the woman as slim and mean-looking!"
"Oh, no - she struck me as tall, over-powering, but essentially warm."

Even places and things can be 'felt' differently by readers: "The notebook was big, I think - one of those hard cover jobs in sleek black or blue."
"No - I kept imagining this dented, much-used spiral notebook!"
Or: "That place gave me the creeps: it echoed and smelled musty."
"Really? The inside of the church was the epitome of grandeur, and the smell of incence made me feel the gravity of the moment."

If readers of the same thing can feel so differently, the same can be said for the person who wrote the book, and the person assigned the task of designing the cover. Some startling surprises can happen. Seeing how a designer interprets a book, a blurb, or a description can be a lesson in visual significance. The writer wonders: is that how my book can be seen? Felt? Considered? Liked? ... Bought?

No matter how artistic the author, they are not an expert on what catches a book-buyer's eye. Designers know all about warmth, depth, sentiment, attraction... items that intrigue, and the ineffable qualities that make a person pick up one book rather than another, from the very same shelf.

A reader can only read the blurb and description, or critics' praise printed on the back... or the first few pages of the story, if they actually pick up the book or click on the cover. They absolutely need to be attracted by the cover first. Rather than a judgement (which it cannot be yet, at such an early stage) it is a choice. And it is an emotional choice, a visceral choice. No one knows more about visual art and emotion, choices and selections and how a picture can trigger an action, than book designers.

So authors put themselves in the hands of someone whose art comes from a totally different place, someone who might very well ensure their words are read. Someone who cleverly attracts a reader to an image that represents something undefinable in words. A few seconds that make a world of difference.
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Thursday, November 4, 2010

Why You need a Computer-Free Day

Mouse gtw                                   Image via Wikipedia
This might seem like a no-brainer to a lot of people. Still, it cannot be denied that a lot of our interaction has moved online, most of our business is done on a computer, and financial transactions... is there any other way but the internet?

It's all too easy. The whole world would rather do their banking in pyjamas, sitting in a comfortable chair at any time at all, including the wee small hours. Keeping in touch with global friends? Not a problem - it's live, it's casual and it's almost free. Stocking up with supplies, getting the latest appliances, and holiday gift-buying are also easiest done at home on the desktop or notebook.

All this comfort and convenience, however, means we are all getting rectangular eyes and mouse hands. Okay - hands up those who haven't had wrist or elbow problems recently! Back and bum a bit stiff or sore? Hmm ... perhaps we all need one day a week away from the mouse-and-monitor trap. It's not only necessary, but liberating and healthy.

You need a computer-free day because this thing is threatening to take over your life, and yes - you feel guilty sometimes that a few of the ordinary tasks are left undone, and some are not done justice. People are getting less of your time, and you also need some pampering and rest.

How can it be done? Easy: all you need is a desk diary, which I know many of you have already, and a coloured pencil in a shade of your choice. Mine is a kind of browny-maroon. You can have bright pink or even green. Live dangerously.

Now you start to make decisions: is your computer-free day going to be the same day each week, are you going to favour the weekend, or are you going to stagger this liberating day? Tuesday one week, Friday the next? It's important to decide ahead, because various things need scheduling: there's bill-paying, draft writing, eBook formatting, database classifying, spreadsheet spreading (well, what DO you do with spreadsheets?) and all the other tasks you simply cannot do without your computer. They are all tasks you are going to schedule around your FREE day. That day must be conspicuously marked in your diary: I use a diagonal line in my maroony colour right through the page.

You can choose your way: shade the entire page, mark vertical lines through it, or a series of wavy horizontal waves to signal the day. That means: do not schedule  any computer tasks there: other stuff is great: exercise, reading (from a real book), writing (with a pen), talking, catching up with friends, walking your pets, and aha! yes - some housework or gardening.

It's amazing how good  a day spent cleaning a bathroom, clearing out a pantry or weeding a garden bed can feel. Your brain only feels it after a few hours. It fires up, and fills your whole being with rest and zest.

At first you will dread the day: it approaches on your diary, and you wonder whether you will be able to resist taking a peek at your emails, or just visiting your social sites. Just a peek. Don't worry if you feel resistance is futile: you will eventually start to look forward to the day, simply because you get so much done!

Those wavy lines or shading in coloured pencil inside your desk diary will take on great significance. You will list in pen all the things you can do, and the scheduled computer tasks on the other pages will become more rational and organised as a result.

Wow - why didn't you think of this before?
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Tuesday, November 2, 2010

How to Announce a Winner

Trumpeters playing a fanfareImage via Wikipedia
Big announcement
It is very tempting to write a title that goes something along the lines of "And the winner is...!" or to attach a sound file with a big trumpet fanfare. But this, after all, was a small giveaway. All the participants want to know is whether they were the one whose name was drawn out of the hat.
It had to be a big hat! 
Up for grabs was a copy of Death in Malta in paperback, remember? The emails came thick and fast at first, and then dwindled to a stop, with one straggler coming in just before I closed the draw at midnight on October 31.

I have used a special raffle software called The Hat. It's a nifty little program that's great for teachers and large families! 
The prize
So let's cut to the chase and put the winner up in big letters.
Margaret Sutherland
         Congratulations, Margaret - the book is on its way to you by snail mail.
Those of you who have missed out will be glad to hear there will be another similar draw closer to Christmas.
See you all again then.
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