Avalon Graphics send Holiday Cheer

Wishing everyone at NWUK Bright Blessings in the New Year!

May you have the spirit of Christmas which is peace, the gladness of Christmas which is hope and the heart of Christmas which is love.

 In celebration of the holidays and in reflection back on a splendid 2011 - I've created this video presentation that I wish to share with all of you:

Thank you to all of you for making 2011 a banner year for me. And I look forward to our continued creative collaborations in the new year.
All the best!
Cathy Helms
Graphic Designer ~ Avalon Graphics

High Resolution video:
Low Resolution for slower connections:


Michael J Smedley reviews Narrow Marsh

by A.R. Dance

History is not my strongest subject.  Trying to remember all those dates never worked for me.  1066 and 1812 are the only memorable dates that stick in my mind: the latter one because of the music rather than for events that took place.  I am not the only one who struggles with history.  Didn’t Henry Ford remark, ‘History is bunk!’  It is probable that his words fell on more than a few sympathetic ears.  But historical novels are a totally different matter and it is fair to say I probably learnt more about past events from reading about them in a novel than I ever learnt in the history lessons I sat through at school.

Historical novels put flesh on the bones, bring the participants to life and explain the reasons why certain events took place.  And it is all down to the skilful research of the historical novelist.  I have learned about Boadicea, the warrior queen of the Iceni and her struggles against the Romans from the novels of Manda Scott.  Facts about the Peninsula War from Bernard Cornwell’s books and the power struggles in ancient Rome from the writings of Robert Harris.

Now ‘Narrow Marsh’ by A R Dance brings alive to me past events much nearer to home.  If you live in or around Nottingham then you will certainly have heard of Broad Marsh.  But how many people remember Narrow Marsh, or even know that such a place existed?  I didn’t until I read Mr Dance’s excellent book.  His narrative is fictitious but his settings of the early 19th century, his descriptions of the city as it then was and the dramatic events he brings vividly to life are true to type.  It is a fascinating book to read and carries the reader back to a time of fear, poverty and the unbelievable hardships suffered by working people.  There were times when I thought the author might have dramatised the action a little more, but then I thought, no, that wouldn’t work.  It is because he does not over-sensationalise events that they come across as genuine and believable.  That is not to say the story lacks excitement, it does and in its final chapters the author cleverly builds the tension to a climatic finish.  You must not miss it.  But wait!  There is also a sequel which promises to be every bit as exciting … and I for one can’t wait to get hold of a copy of ‘Leen Times’.
Michael J Smedley

Andrew Dobell's Extraordinary Art

NWUK member Andrew Dobell is able to do photography, Art, or Photo-Art commissions for book covers and he can accommodate most budgets.

Andrew says: "Any interested writers need only contact me through and we'll see what we can arrange. I love combining Photography with Art to create images that are a little different from the norm and are very usable on book covers."


Gang Loyalty - Free ebook

For the next five days (Dec 12th – 16th) "Gang Loyalty" by Peter St. John is free in digital format from Amazon Kindle.

There is consternation in Widdlington village when the girls, fed up with constantly playing second fiddle to the boys, decide to set up their own gang. The new gang is called the "Go-Getter Girls".
Its leader believes that anything boys can do, girls can do better.
The boys, alarmed at this threat to their formerly secure superiority, do not intend to stand idly by while the girls usurp their traditional supremacy.
Will the girls succeed in imposing a new-found authority, or can the boys overcome this impudent challenge to their masculinity?
The gauntlet is flung down by the girls in the wartime summer of 1941. Britain is facing an epic challenge launched by those who sought to impose a repressive regime aimed at world domination. The two challenges are not entirely unrelated.
We know now the outcome of the Second World War, but what was the result of the contemporaneous conflict of loyalties that went on in Widdlington?

(USA) Kindle USA 

(UK) Kindle UK 

Below is a sample from Chapter 16:

Just before the bridge was a cattle gate. It was closed. At the very last moment we both broadsided to a stop. But there wasn't enough room. The carts touched. Locked one to the other, they slid off the path and overturned. Thrown off, Jenno and I rolled together down the grassy slope to the edge of the river.

 ‘You all right?’ I asked breathlessly. I could feel Jenno laughing. ‘What're you laughing at?’

‘Oi won,’ panted Jenno.

‘You cheated. You didn't give me a fair start.’

Jenno rolled over and knelt astride my stomach. She grinned down into my face.

‘But Oi won. Oi told yew moi cart, Emmeline P, was good.’

I grinned back. ‘You cheated.’

‘Oi did wot?’

‘You cheated.’

Jenno pummelled my shoulders.

‘Emmeline P's good— an' so am Oi.’

‘You're a cheat.’

Jenno pummelled some more. I caught her by the wrists.

‘Wot is Emmeline P?’

‘Emmeline P is good.’

‘That's better. Wot am Oi?’

‘A cheat.’

Jenno twisted her wrists free and pummelled me some more.

‘Wot am Oi?’

‘You're pretty good too— but you're still a cheat.’

I caught her wrists again and we rolled over, wrestling in the grass.
Suddenly, as I tried to pin Jenno's shoulders down, I caught sight of somebody on the bridge. There were two people. They each had a cart. It was Winnifred and Molly!

Jenno must have sensed something was wrong. She stopped wrestling, and sat up. I sat up too.

‘Come on, Molly,’ said Winnifred. ‘There's too much of a rough crowd here.’

She and Molly turned and stalked off the bridge. They went back up in the direction of the Manor Lodge at the top end of The Street.

I thought of calling after them to explain, but I knew it wouldn't have been any use. I watched them go. My exhilaration slid out of my boots, slipped into the river, and sank like springtime out of sight. It was replaced by darkest gloom and doom.

‘Cripes,’ said Jenno.

‘Cripes is right,’ I said.


Baker gets the Hollywood treatment.

Sometimes an author wants to let off steam, to tell the world about an unsatisfactory experience.
Over to you, Philip Baker:

'Not Quite A Judas is a compelling, well-researched, and well-told story about two friends growing up on opposite sides in World War II. It begins with the two boys' childhood – one growing up in England, the other in Hitler's Germany, with frequent visits between them – then moves forward to detail their actions in the war, where they eventually come in direct conflict with each other.'
Quote from a 'Hollywood Treatment ' by Ryan Graff, Professional Film Script-writer, U.S.A.

'The book goes into great detail portraying their various activities as youths, and their various missions as adults.  In print, this works perfectly, as it adds an extra layer of depth and authenticity.  That said, film audiences have come to expect  etc: etc: '  

'In short, Not Quite A Judas is a powerful story about a friendship strong enough to survive the world's most terrible war ….  '

[It may appear – after that – that I'm about to bite the hand that fed me … but make up your own mind about that. ]

I read the following to my Writer's group:-
Authorhouse U.S.A.  published – at my expense – my first novel, NOT QUITE  A  JUDAS. They then suggested that their Professional Film Scriptwriter should prepare a 'Hollywood Treatment' from it.  This to be made available to the major Film Studios, who are always on the lookout for new storyline material.  Needless to say this 'Treatment' did not come cheap, and I now very much regret having agreed that it should be done. 

The result was 14 pages, starting with a nice – even complimentary – outline of my work.  [As above.] This was followed with many totally inappropriate additions, some of which I can only describe as Horror Comic material.  For example, my single German bomber is pursued by a single Spitfire, which fires a single burst with its machine guns, and both then disappear into the distance – having served their purpose in my story.  This is re-written as – and I quote … A nightmare of carnage roars above them. Propellers, engines, and wings – wings bearing the emblems of both their countries – comes (sic) screaming down in flames and twisted steel. (sic) 

Both my principal characters – protagonists if you will – are undergoing Officer Training.    However, in the 'Treatment', Erich, the German, is seen to be doing this, But – on the very same page – John  is now an 'Army recruit being instructed by an Officer'; a pointless change-for-the-sake-of-change?  Further, when I have Old John tell his Grandson all about a 'could-have-been-fatal' incident – when he was being instructed by an N.C.O.  – the boy now asks, 'Did that really happen?'  And Old John admits that it almost did.    Why does the old man have to lie to the boy?

And so it goes on.  So many improbabilities are introduced; including the sudden attendance of Hitler, at a routine weekly meeting of the local Hitler Youth, where boxing training is the main activity for that particular evening. This is now described, at length, with a succession of impossible or utterly ludicrous happenings.  John – matched against a larger Hitler Youth – is getting the upper hand.  Jochen, the Hitler Youth Leader, signals urgently for the bell, to end the bout.  Then John, is asked. '… how he learned to box so well?'   he – a 16 year old English Public Schoolboy – replies 'that he learned from Erich.'  This despite the fact that the original makes clear that they had only known each other for a matter of days, and that they had NEVER boxed each other!  

Later that same evening John and Erich were engaged in a bloody 'international' three round contest. Quote 'The two of them trade blow for blow, harder and more seriously than they ever have. Erich gets past John's defences and starts to pummel him. An OFFICIAL reaches for the bell, but Jochen stops him.  Finally John shoves Erich off and punches back again, gaining his second wind.  The two friends fly at each other, while Jochen stands torn about whether or not to signal for the bell.  Finally they both fall to the mat.  And the REFEREE  begins to count off in German.   …...
John starts to climb to his feet, a bit faster than Erich ….   Hitler stands up shouting and gesticulating ....  John looks over at Erich, still struggling desperately to climb back up, and willingly falls back to the mat.  Erich manages to pull himself upright, and the referee immediately proclaims him the winner.

 I find it nice to know, that at least one American recognises, that we English, always behave as
a thoroughly decent chap, ought to do!  

Contrast John's 'noble' behaviour, with this utterly unbelievable, gratuitous, Horror Comic addition.
       Later that night, John is woken up, by his first opponent and five others, who are threatening to burn his face, with a hot Swastika branding-iron! They are only dissuaded from doing this, by the intervention of Erich.     

I can imagine how my American friends would comment after reading my original, and then the 'Hollywood Treatment' produced by the Professional Film Scriptwriter.  It would be something along the lines of  'Cut out all that God'dam Crap!'

Having written to Authorhouse, pretty much as above, only rather more forcefully, I did receive a 'Final and Revised' Treatment, in which some of the wilder excesses were removed, though Hitler was still involved, to a totally improbable degree.

Philip Baker


New Short Story Competition

Writing East Midlands has teamed up with Lincolnshire Echo to offer you the chance to have your work published in the weekly paper.

Every fortnight the Lincolnshire Echo will publish a short story chosen by Writing East Midlands, and next year a cash prize of £300 will be awarded to the author of the best piece, to be presented at the East Midlands' Book Award in 2013.
With a readership of 60-100,000, this is a fantastic opportunity to promote your work to a wide audience.
  • Each month the Lincolnshire Echo will publish two new short stories (one every other week) by writers currently living in the East Midlands – Lincolnshire, Nottinghamshire, Derbyshire, Rutland, Leicestershire and Northamptonshire.

  • A qualifying address and postcode must be supplied with each submission.
  • Submissions for consideration each month should be received by the 25th of the preceding month.Thus, entries for publication in December 2011 must be received
    by November 25, 2011.
  • Submissions that are considered by WEM to be particularly strong may be ‘rolled over’ for future consideration, with the agreement of the author.
  • Submissions must be a maximum of 2,500 words. Submissions of greater length will be automatically discounted.
  • Submissions must not have been previously published in print.
  • The author will also consent to their stories being published on Writing East Midlands’ website at their discretion, and in any other Northcliffe Group Newspaper.
  • In November 2012 an overall best story will be chosen and awarded the 2012 Lincolnshire Echo Short Story prize at the East Midlands Book Awards in 2013.
  • A cash prize of £300 will be given to the winning author.

Why should you take part?

Have a go! They say that everyone has a story in them and having your story published is an incredibly empowering experience – and you might find a passion for something you never realised. Writing East Midlands is keen to make contact with writers so this will also be the perfect opportunity for us to spot new talent and it’s a chance for people to have a bit of fun with something that they might have been thinking of doing for years.
What makes a good short story?
  • Something that is entertaining and lingers after it has been read.
  • Something that takes us somewhere else for a while.
  • Something that says something interesting about a problem or situation.
  • Mostly, a good story contains characters that make us like, dislike or laugh at

What should you write about?

Write about anything you want. Stories can be set in any time, in any place and about anything. They can be about your family, your home, something that has
happened, or something that never will. A good tip is to write about something that you actually care about.

How should you write your piece?

The traditional short story format is:
  • Information and Context – Who is the story about and where are the events taking place?
  • Theme – What is the problem, tension or conflict affecting the characters and why is it important?
  • Action and resolution – What happens – there’s often a turning point or surprising event enabling the problem to be resolved and bringing the story to a close.
  • However,short stories are a great form to experiment with writing and the key thing is to engage and entertain or just make people think. Some great short stories
    seem to be no more than just an observation about life.
Good luck


A Nottingham Lad by Pete Davis

A Nottingham Lad is a new play from the writer and storyteller Pete Davis.

Pete Davis tells of his hilarious life and times growing up on the Bestwood estate in the 1950s. The show takes us from the Co-Op to the wonders of Rediffusion TV, and from Bestwood to Skeggy on a proper Steam train to enjoy a seaside holiday.

December the 3rd, at St Leonards Community Centre, Wollaton, NG8 2ND.

Tickets cost £6.00 on the door or call 0115 9558054.
Start time 7.30pm.

The founder of Storytellers of Nottingham, and regular guest speaker at NWUK events, Pete is one of Nottingham’s greatest storytellers.  


Publishing's shark infested waters

Authors need to find a dolphin in shark infested waters

By David Zelder

When I decided to retire early from the pressure-cooker world of senior management I decided to increase the effort of bringing my writing to a wider audience. Throughout my business career I had, of necessity, undertaken many writing tasks. This would range from board reports, magazine articles and internal newsletters to advertising blurb and other marketing material.

Fiction, however, is another thing, but at least I had the experience of taking a piece of white paper and expressing my thoughts in the characters that I began to write on there. However, whilst beavering away at my PC and often my laptop, a quotation kept clouding my thoughts. It went something like, “Any moderately intelligent person can write a book, but it takes a genius to sell one.”

So, as early as 2008, I started investigating the market, looking at agents, publishers and reading such publications as “Writing magazine”.  I started sending off for brochures, both hard copy and electronic to find the route I would need to pursue to get my work out into the public domain.

When I was in business, I would never countenance fiddling, dishonesty, lying or cheating.  My last fulltime role was CEO of a large plc and I had to move out a number of people who indulged in such practices, including filling their wives cars up on the company credit card or taking a bunch of mates to a Twickenham rugby international and sending the £1500 to the company.

Thus I soon began to view the information contained in the brochures with an enquiring mind, some might say suspicious mind (yes, I’ve got the song by Elvis, thank you). I bought a copy of The Writer’s Handbook and started writing to agents and publishers listed in there.

All this time the words in the novel were creeping up to my target level of around 90,000 and I was still fishing in the dark looking to get it published.  Then I read a copy of Writers and Artists Yearbook and my attitude changed, I became more focussed and realised that I needed to look for the dolphin swimming against the tide in a sea full of sharks.  I read the exposé on vanity publishing by journalist Johnathon Clifford, who won the Daily Mirror good service award for exposing the sharks in the industry.  Go to and have a look for your selves.

By the time I had got to this point I had already received several  4 page letters from the many sharks who pretended to help those authors who wished to self publish.  The letters were usually 3 pages of fulsome praise for my work, and then the 4th page requested a cheque for amounts ranging from £6,800 to £3,000.  Up front payments for work of unspecified quality and you end up with a truck load of books with no marketing support and no means of order fulfilment.

I had also attended a talk by the NWUK member David P Elliot which was an eye opener as he too had been swimming with sharks and had decided he needed to be in control of his own destiny.  That sounded like it was where I should focus my energies.

I met many authors and talked to them about their publishing experiences.  It was like reading a horror story by Edgar Allan Poe.  Some I spoke with were earning 20-30 pence for each book sold.  Others had books that were produced in a fashion that they looked home made, and yet had cost the author a fortune.  In most cases, the company who had printed the book kept most of the money from book sales, despite receiving £000’s from the writer up front.  Yet the naïve author believed they had self published.  How wrong they were.

So my mind was made up, as I did in my business career, so too as a writer I would have no truck with crooked publishing firms. I would be in total control and maximise the earning potential.  So here in summary is the route I took:-

·         I sought out a publishing services firm that did not ask for up front fees
·         I only signed an agreement on the basis that I was the publisher
·         I own every book that is printed and keep the £8.99 retail price
·         The only time I may give some of that away is to suppliers like Askews for library supplies, or a trade price for a retailer.  But for all direct sales I got 100% of the revenue
·         I insisted on visiting the premises and meeting all the key staff.  I looked at printing presses, guillotines, packing, and storage capability.  I did a search on the company at Companies House to see if they were clean. I refused to deal with American companies who, as soon as you made an enquiry, hassled you day and night, and would not take “no” for an answer
·         Many so called publishing companies are brass platers, so I dismissed those from my negotiations.  If they said they were a printer and publisher I went to see what they actually were.  If all they had was brass plate on the notice board outside a business centre (no lease, easy in easy out) then that meant they were sub-contracting the printing and everything else.  Which means you would be paying 2 margins.  No thank you.

So after a year searching I found what I was looking for :-

  • No up front fees.  I pay when the work is done
  • First class book design and formatting by the company’s own in house department
  • No pressure to order 10,000 books, or 1,000 or 500.  Honest discussion and advice on a reasonable quantity to order.
  • In house production with modern equipment, quality presses etc
  • Long established and well respected in the industry
  • Professional in house order fulfilment directly linked to the “bookshop” button on my website. The client clicks through, they pay the full retail and the P&P with a credit card and the book is despatched immediately.  Each month-end I receive payment at full retail for all books sold that month.  They, of course keep the P&P and I pay a small fee for 6 month’s storage and handling.
  • Whatever professional marketing support you need is provided on a menu basis.  You choose and pay for whatever elements you need.

My final subject to bring to the reader’s attention is the margin achieved. Many writers I have spoken with, including NWUK members believe that they only need to sell 166-200 books to break even.  They are basing this on having paid for, say, a POD company to print the books for £1500.  So, £1500 divided by £8.99 is 167 books to break even.


The cost of the books is but a small part of the outlay.  The writer needs to factor everything into the price tag for publishing, including:-

  • Expenditure on all your ink cartridges
  • Paper for your proofs and any other stationery
  • Cover design
  • Copy editing
  • Proof reading
  • All the travel costs associated with the book, including NWUK meetings etc using 40p per mile and any meal costs as well
  • Any promotional cost, roller banners, postcards, posters, bookmarks, printed pens etc
  • All the postage to send the MS to agents publishers etc
  • Investment in  your website, design and hosting; see mine at
  • Any subscription costs for memberships, e.g. NWUK
  • If you are  a real self publisher then you need to add in the cost of your block of ten ISBN numbers
  • Only when you have added all these costs together and then the production costs can you then divide that final total by £8.99 and even then that is assuming  that YOU are the publisher.  If you are not the publisher then the book will remain an expensive hobby and you will never recover your investment.

My book is now selling and each time it goes out I receive the full £8.99.  This is because my research over the last 3 years uncovered the following gems:-

It breaks my heart so many talented writers are still swimming with sharks.  You do not need to, just do your homework.  I did, and love seeing the cheques and cash amounts of  £8.99 coming in. That way I will recover my investment and can afford to pay part of my revenue to The Royal Marines Charitable Trust Fund.

Thank you for listening.  You can have a go at me if you want, just be aware I’m merely trying to help. 

Feedback welcome to

David Zelder


New Anthology by NWUK members

Just £5.99 Click here to purchase.
 OUT NOW. Twenty Short Stories from NWUK authors: Evangeline Egg, Roger Thompson, Peter St. John, John Barnes, Andrew Dobell, Daniel D Longdon, Barry Pullen, Morgan Maelor Jones, John Baird, Richard Denning, Steve Taylor, Rosemary Palmer, Nick Thom, Janet Kimmons, Philip Baker, D Michelle Gent, Michael J Smedley, Elizabeth Folgate, David Zelder, R H Stewart.

Word of Mouth: A Night of Horror

Word of Mouth: A Night of Horror
The Broadway Cinema bar, 14–18 Broad Street, Nottingham, NG1 3AL

7.30pm, 31 October 2011, entrance free

Word of Mouth, Nottingham Writers' Studio's live literature night, brings a night of horror to the Broadway Cinema bar in association with the Mayhem Festival.

A coven of writers stir up a stew of fiction, storytelling, drama, film, and history from the spooky side.
Nicola Valentine will be hosting the night and reading from her hew novel The Haunted. She'll be joined by writers Megan Taylor (The Dawning) and Charlotte Thompson, who'll be reading the grim and the gothic, and storyteller Pete Davis, who'll be sending shivers down our spines.

Rachael Pennell will be performing in Andy Cattanach's new SMS ghost script, in which text messaging turns out to be the only means of communicating between slipped time streams.
What have bicycles, Mary Shelley, and the 'year without a summer' got to do with one another? Graphic novelist Brick (Depresso) reveals all in his talk 'The Godforsaken Year', featuring frames from his forthcoming book Leonardo's Bicycle.

Plus three cult classics on screen, courtesy of Mayhem: Tom Baker reading 'The Emissary' by Ray Bradbury from Late Night Stories; 'The Mezzotint' read by Robert Powell from Classic Ghost Stories by M.R.James; and from Christopher Lee’s Ghost Stories for Christmas, 'The Ash Tree'.

Entrance is free, and it's al happening in the Broadway cafe/bar from 7.30pm on Monday 31 October.

Book Festival Images

County Hall, Nottingham
Council Chamber
Q&A Panel
Assembly Hall
Chairman of Notts County Council and his wife Inga
with a couple of hangers-on.

Awards Time
More images are available on the NWUK website.


The Great Fire of Mansfield Woodhouse, 1304

Mansfield Woodhouse in 1304 was a small village of 20 or 30 houses clustered around the Church. The houses were built of wood and straw mixed with mud and manure, thatched with straw, bracken and reed. Each house was home to a family of several generations, all living together in one or at most probably two rooms. In the middle of the main room was a fire, the smoke from which rose to the rafters. Not only were parents, children and grandparents living in these rooms, but the people will have shared their space with pigs, possibly a cow or two, ducks and hens, and any other animals the families kept.  One end of the cottage will have had a rough ladder leading to a space where the family will have slept. On winter nights, they will have been kept warm by the animals stalled beneath them.

In 1304, most of what a family needed came from its own resources, meat from its animals, wool for clothing from its sheep, the cottage’s garden produced vegetables, and grain for bread came from the family’s lands in the open fields. There is little to buy that does not come from within the village itself; the people are largely self sufficient and reliant on each other.  By the end of August, most of the garden produce has been eaten, or is being salted or dried for winter use. The autumn slaughter of all but a few animals is underway, and hams, sausages and black puddings are being smoked above the family fire. The wheat is bagged and stored, and everything that the family needs for the long cold winter is stored in and around the cottage.

In villages where the houses are made on materials that can easily catch fire, everyone looks out for his own family and his neighbours. A fire that starts in one house can quickly spread to another.  Caught quickly enough, people can work together to limit damage to just one or two cottages, passing bucketfuls of water from hand to hand. What happens one windy autumn day, vegetation dry after a long and droughty summer, when a few sparks are caught from a bonfire and land on the thatched roofs of not one but two or three cottages? That is exactly what happened around 13th September 1304 in Mansfield Woodhouse.  The people inside their cottages, working or playing and used to the smoke of their own hearth, do not notice what is happening until suddenly a neighbour’s voice is heard yelling “fire!” Several roofs are already well alight, the sky has blackened with smoke, and lumps of burning thatch are flying through the air, catching in people’s hair and clothing as they hurry to get children, animals, and aged relatives to shelter.

The village burnt down. Even the Church steeple, made of wood, was destroyed, and the church bells lost.  We have no idea how many people were killed. We can only guess at how the survivors managed.  Most of their food for the coming months will have been destroyed; there were no welfare services to provide food or shelter. One can only imagine how the survivors felt the morning of 14th September, with the village still smouldering, bodies to bury, and the ruins to sift to see what, if anything, of their belongings could be salvaged, and a long cold winter ahead.


Member pens musical

 'Gothic Warehouse', a musical by Suzie Litton-Wood.
Cromford Wharf, Mill Lane, Cromford, Derbyshire on Friday 28th of October 2011 at 7p.m.


Guest Post: Cathy Helms, Graphic Designer

Greetings readers! I am Cathy Helms of Avalon Graphics writing to you from rural North Carolina, USA. First of all I want to thank John Baird for inviting me write for the New Writers blog! It is great to be here and to be introduced to all of the readers. I am an Associate Member of the NWUK group and have had the pleasure to design for several of their talented writers.
The story of how I came to New Writers UK is actually quite unique. I primarily read historical fiction myself, always on the lookout for anything 'Arthurian', and while perusing the fiction section at my local bookstore I spotted 'The Kingmaking' by Helen Hollick. I wrote to her with a letter of praise for her Pendragon's Banner Trilogy (which is still one of my favorite Arthur-centric novels of all time),  and that initial contact led to her hiring me to re-design the cover for her pirate novel 'Sea Witch'....and I've been working with Helen ever since! She's introduced me to a whole bunch of great folks in the industry, so I owe a great deal of my recent successes to her! Fate surely smiled upon me the day that I wrote that initial email!
Sea Witch by Helen Hollick
My husband and I reside in Maiden, North Carolina after relocating over a decade ago from Florida (USA), where we both grew up. After years of working in billing and customer service, I finally had had enough of crunching numbers and creating invoices. So I applied and was accepted into my local community college where I earned a degree in Advertising and Graphic Design in 2008. I call the college experience my own version of a 'mid life crisis' since I waited until I turned forty to further my education. After graduating, I established Avalon Graphics and have been working out of our home growing my design business steadily since 2009.
I am also a passionate digital photographer and often use my own photography in my design creations. I grew up with dreams of becoming a filmmaker, or a singer, or an artist, and so I've always considered myself a creative soul. As a teenager, I sang in my school's choir, played the trumpet, and was student director of many school stage productions. I graduated with the distinction of being named Drama Student of the Year in 1985. But it wasn't until much later in my life that I returned to my creative roots. Fresh out of high school, I failed to follow those creative dreams. Instead, I followed the job market earning a steady income for the first twenty two years of my professional life working in dreary cubicles crunching numbers and answering phones.
Besides all things 'Arthurian', I also fell in love with Tolkien's Lord of the Rings novels while still working in the drab office environment. And when Peter Jackson produced the stunning films back in 2001, I found my muse again for imaginative pursuits. I began writing poetry and dabbling in fan fiction writing. And I wanted to create my own computer desktop wallpapers based on the Lord of the Rings and other fandoms.
After some research into how these digital desktop wallpapers were created I discovered a computer software program called Adobe Photoshop! Years before I went to college to gain a formal education in the medium I taught myself how to create graphics for the web and print media with Photoshop. What my formal education gave me was the technical skills that I would need in order to apply my creative skills in the field of Advertising and Graphic Design. Most importantly, I learned how to prepare digital designs for print and quickly discovered a particular love for book cover design.
I grew up with a healthy interest in anything related to the Arthurian legends - thus the inspiration for naming my design business Avalon Graphics. I have always been fascinated with British history; in particular the Dark Ages. One day I will walk along Hadrian's Wall! I regularly attend local Renaissance Festivals here in North Carolina, and plan to travel to the UK for the first time in 2012 to visit all of the historical places that I've always read about. I hope to attend the 2012 New Writers UK Book Festival in Nottingham as well.
Years before I attended college and gained a formal education in the medium, I taught myself how to create graphics for the web and print media with Photoshop. What my formal education gave me was the technical skills that I would need in order to apply my creative skills in the field of Advertising and Graphic Design. Most importantly, I learned how to prepare digital designs for print and quickly discovered a particular love for book cover design.
The Amber Treasure by Richard Denning
Yomping Outside by David Zelder
I am often asked about my process in designing book jackets and my initial response goes something like this: each project is unique and it 'depends....'  A vague answer, I'm afraid. *laughs* I first ask the client about their manuscript, then make inquiries about favorite colors, other book covers that they favor and if they have any specific elements they'd like to see on the cover. Then I begin my concepts (in Photoshop, not by hand which usually surprises folks) based on the client's input and largely on my own gut instinct after interacting with the client. I like to work directly with the client in developing a cover design that truly speaks to them and represents the story that they are telling within the pages of their book. While my education taught me the 'rules' of formal graphic design, I often step outside that box and go for something more unique. Not all publishing houses allow free styling in book cover design, but I certainly push that envelope!
The Bitti Chai by Jane Gray
Chasing Shadows by John Baird
I offer a wide array of design services and have geared Avalon Graphics to suit the self-published and small businesses in the market in need of quality design while on a tight budget. I provide full book jacket layouts, marketing materials such as flyers, post cards, bookmarks, web graphics, book trailers for YouTube and even portfolio websites for my clients. I also continue to work with many individual authors directly including members Richard Denning, John Baird, David Zelder, Jane Gray and Helen Hollick. Perhaps the most profound connection that I have made is with Helen Hollick. We struck up a quick and easy friendship which led to me re-designing nearly all of her book jackets to date along with many other promotional projects for all of her endeavors. And the rest simply fell into place from there on the strength of that bond as Helen introduced me to many of the New Writers UK members and associates.
It was a pleasure to drop in on the New Writers Blog! And I look forward to meeting all of you!
Cathy Helms
Avalon Graphics
1. What is your background? How did you choose to come into this field, and what has made you stay? Why this form of creative expression?
My background is actually in retail, billing and customer service. Yet I've always been drawn to creative things including photography, writing, film, music and gardening. It took me a couple of decades, but I have finally chosen Graphic Design as my profession because it has always called to me. I finally chose to listen! I was utterly bored and unchallenged working in customer service, so when I had an opportunity to 'start over' career wise, I took it. I stay because at its core, I love creating in this medium. I love bringing to life visually what an author creates with the written word. I am a visual person, so graphic design comes much more naturally to me than anything else. When I read a synopsis, I typically visualize immediately how I'd like to see the story promoted (book jacket, trailer, poster, etc.). So what better way to do it than design the book jackets myself!

2. What sort of ground rules do you expect from a client? How do you communicate? What kind of follow through do you like?
There always should be some framework or formal ground rules in any working relationship to protect both parties. So I do insist in signing written contracts with my clients before I begin any creative work. The contract ensures that I will deliver what I promise to do for the client and at the same time guarantees that I earn a living as well. I primarily communicate via emails since the majority of my clients reside overseas. I believe myself to possess strong communicative skills, thus emails have been effective in running a business in the design field. I consider constructive feedback the best follow through that any client can give me. That and good communication between myself and the client. And since word of mouth is the most valuable asset in any marketing campaign, referrals from clients are the best follow through that I could ask for.

3. What is your sign?
I was born under the sign of Libra. The scales. And I am true to the sign. I am constantly seeking balance. And perhaps that also lends itself well to a career in graphic design since visual balance is a huge part of any well designed product. A lot of creative types are born under the Libran sign as well. I also have a very analytical mind and things must 'make sense' for me to stand by them or believe in them.

4. How do you stay on track with such a hectic schedule, and what motivates you?
A hectic schedule is tough for me to maintain as it does tend to wreak havoc with my need for balance and calmness. However, long years in the fast paced world of retail and customer service allowed me to gain the skills, particularly patience with others, to successfully manage a busy work schedule. I keep a weekly schedule, day by day, of tasks to be completed. I also have a monthly production schedule so that I can properly schedule all ongoing projects and meet deadlines. I'm motivated to keep a solid production schedule to save my own sanity. *laughs* It helps me to have a solid schedule at all times and to feel as if I'm organized and on top of my workload. Emergencies will always arise, but I am better prepared for such situations due to my strong work ethics and organizational skills. I schedule blocks of time for each project and for the pursuit of self promotion. Toughest challenge is ignoring personal interests on social networks!

5. What is your ultimate goal, and how can you help me get the word out about my book?
My ultimate goal is to create something that pleases my client, accurately represents their book/product, is mechanically sound for press, and draws the attention of the potential buyer. Graphic design exists to promote a service or product - to make the consumer 'aware' of a particular product (or book). So it is always my goal to design an attractive cover jacket and related marketing materials to sell my client's novel. I always support my client's marketing efforts with postings and mentions on my social network accounts, and by including the work on my own website for further mutually beneficial exposure. I offer suggestions to targeted promotional outlets and recommend various ways to get the word out about a client's book. I believe strongly in networking with fellow designers, authors and groups, such as New Writers, in gaining awareness of new books in publication. Blog tours and guest write ups are another great way to gain exposure to new potential readers and fans.
Facebook: Avalon-Graphics
Twitter: Avalon_Graphics


Stafford Arts Festival - Sept 17th

music - art - dance - craft
County Buildings, Oak Room and Library
Talks will take place at 11am, 12 noon , 1pm, 2pm, 3pm

The following authors will be giving talks at:

11am – Elizabeth Leaper reading from her new book of poetry 'Collecting Cobwebs, Gathering Brambles'.

12 noon – Richard Denning – The Great Fire of London.

1pm – R.H. Stewart – Gothic Writing.

2pm – Les Lacey – Animals and Other Creatures

3pm – Lia Ginno will be working with 7/8 year olds in producing their own writing.

The following Authors will be in attendance:

Nick Thom
R.H. Stewart
Catherine Cooper
Elizabeth Leaper
Roger Thompson
Valerie Astill
Mollie Bolt
Christine Yates
Karen Lowe
Clemy Warner Thompson