🌟Free Download!🌟 Angel's Great Escape Make Your Own Decorations PDF

I have a little Christmas treat for you! While you’re enjoying reading Angel’s Great Escape in the lead up to Christmas, you can now enjoy making your own decorations too.

Simply click on the picture and download the PDF. Print the pages out and colour the decorations in with your favourite Christmassy colours. I like to add a bit of sparkle to mine by sprinkling some glitter around!

Thread each character on a pretty ribbon and pop them on your Christmas tree to enjoy throughout the festive season!

Illustrations by Kristyna Litten : )

Angel's Great Escape's 2nd Birthday!

Two years ago today I released my first picture book into the wild! Angel’s Great Escape: A Christmas Story was an absolute labour of love for me & I did everything I could to get it published. It was an animation script & an app before the story became a picture book. I taught myself how to independently publish, worked with fabulous illustrator Kristyna Litten, learned from my brilliant book designer Sarah & muddled my way through the processes of CreateSpace & now KDP. It’s been a brilliant journey & I love knowing that each Christmas children will pick up my book & it will make them feel cosy & Christmassy just as The Story of Father Christmas by Ann & Dennis Mallet made me feel when I was little. Thank you for buying, sharing & reviewing, it really means the world to me.

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Cover Reveal! How I Independently Publish Picture Books

While I put the finishing touches to the wording of my new ebook, I wanted to share a glimpse at the cover with you. I use a similar image to this for all of my social media for And So We Begin and it felt right to use it to illustrate an insight into my journey so far. I hope you like it! The book will initially be available as a downloadable PDF in my Etsy shop but I’m working towards popping it on Kindle too.

I have a couple of readers giving me feedback and I’m adding a little more text and some more images. I’m still planning to release the book later in October so if you’re intrigued and you’d like to be the first to hear updates, please sign up for my newsletter on the home page of my site. 

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Switching from Createspace to KDP

This week I've been moving on to the next stage on my journey of independently publishing picture books and have switched my printing process from Createspace to Kindle Direct Publishing or KDP. Joanna Penn has been talking on her podcast recently about how Createspace is due to close down and recommended moving over to KDP. As my ebooks are already published on Kindle this made sense to me and means that my books are in the same place (with the exception of iBooks).

I looked for advice online to show me how to complete the process and found this very helpful video which describes the steps clearly. It was super easy and took minutes.

Once I'd received the approvals from KDP, I ordered a copy of each book to have a look at the print quality. I chose the gloss cover and matte pages and I'm really pleased to find that the finish is exactly the same as Createspace. I also love the fact my books are still print on demand which ensures I am not being wasteful and saves me from having an apartment full of boxes!

Switching will also hopefully allow me to be seen more easily on Amazon by using their marketing services. I’m excited to see what effect this will have on my sales and will write more about this in a future post once I've experimented a bit!

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This Week’s Picture Book Progress

I had planned such a lot for this week but as I mentioned in my previous post I’ve been feeling lethargic after my latest day job. So I was pleased that I managed to drag myself to my laptop to make a good start on another page of picture book number three. As it’s Father’s Day this week, I felt inspired to draw this chair from my childhood. My Dad used to spin us around in it so fast that we felt like we were on a rollercoaster. I remember laughing so much as the chair span and insisting on him twirling us again and again. It’s lovely to think it’s found a home in my latest book : )

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An Amazing Alphabet of Cake Now Available From Waterstones

I'm really pleased and excited to announce that An Amazing Alphabet of Cake is now available to order from Waterstones. It's been such a learning curve working out how to get the book into shops so this feels like a real milestone. Only a few years ago, there wasn't really a route for independents like me to be seen. And now, thanks to Ingram Spark, I've been able to upload the book to their system and it's now started to become more visible across book stores online. My next step is to approach Waterstones with a copy to see if they will hold stock in their bricks and mortar shops. It's so lovely to see something that was once just a spark in my mind existing out in the wild!

This Week's Picture Book Progress

Progress for my third picture book is slow and steady as I juggle my day job. I find I like to work on it when I know I'll have an hour or two of uninterrupted time and when it's not too late in the day so my mind isn't too tired to concentrate on the screen. So there are often quite bit gaps between drawing sessions. I've learnt to embrace this rather than get frustrated by it as it gives me time to form my ideas. This weekend I found a perfect little window of time and settled down in front of Photoshop.

Firstly I revisited my last drawing, that I posted on here on a couple of weeks ago. I'd been thinking a lot that the character of the little boy didn't look young or cute enough. When I first drew him I knew something was wrong but couldn't quite see what it was. A couple of weeks away let me see the drawing with fresh eyes and I set about making amendments. You can see the two different versions below. On the left my first attempt, on the right my updated one. Giving him bigger eyes is more like my style from An Amazing Alphabet of Cake and is my comfort zone but I feel it works a lot better on him. I also made his hair a bit less styled and changed the shape of his body. I'll revisit him again in a couple of weeks to start drawing him in different poses.

I also drew another image of the little girl in the book, also ready for bed and holding her teddy bear. Her hair needs work as it once again feels a little too styled but I'm quite fond of the colours and her bunny slippers!

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Picture Book Progress

I finally found a little time to work on my picture book today. I've sketched all of the drawings out in pencil so I'm slowly transferring them into layered Photoshop illustrations. I'm also trying out smaller eyes and a little more definition to see what feels right for my characters. I know that the style isn't quite right yet but I enjoyed spending a couple of hours drawing this little poppet in pjs. 

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Picture Book Progress

This week I've been really enjoying making progress with picture book number three. My book An Amazing Alphabet of Cake was made up of 26 separate illustrations, one for each letter, with different characters on each page so I was able to approach each image as a new piece. I worked hard to keep my style consistent, making sure that small details like highlights in eyes were shown throughout. However, with this new book I have a family who feature throughout so I am facing the new challenge of ensuring not just my style but my every aspect of my characters are consistent. Their face shape and features need to stay the same, with different expressions and poses. I'm also experimenting with more shading by using darker lines of the same colour on different elements of the drawing. You can see this particularly on the clothing below. I like how this helps to make the characters feel more rounded.

One of my favourite things about any project is seeing it grow, step by step, piece by piece. From an idea to something real. I'm finding the need for consistency and a common thread through the drawings is adding to the joy of this particular challenge. And having been through the experience of creating a picture book before, achieving something small each day towards the project is making me excited to see it come together.

Sweet Treats for Easter

(Fondant) fancy a different kind of sweet treat this Easter? My book An Amazing Alphabet of Cake is available now on Amazon! Cute little cake stickers are available in my Etsy shop. And fondant fancies are available in all good supermarkets - obviously I had to buy a box for the photo and didn't* eat them all.
* did (sideways look to camera)

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Making A Start On Picture Book Number Three

This weekend marked the beginning of picture book number three. I'm not going to reveal the concept and title just yet as I'm still playing with it but I have started sketching. And it feels exciting!

The first thing I do with a book idea is think about how the words and illustrations will fill the book. Is the idea big enough? I use a fresh sketchbook for each idea and first write down the proposed wording and split it into 26 sections that feel right. Bearing in mind good moments for page turns and how illustrations may fill the page or whether they may be across a spread or just a spot picture in the middle. I then start sketching, very roughly, using one page of the sketchbook to represent each page of the book. This gets my creativity flowing, a bit like free writing. Nobody really sees these pages so they are messy and simply to get the idea for each picture started. I then switch to digital drawing in Photoshop when I feel ready.

While doing this I am bearing in mind that most picture books are 32 pages but this needs to include end papers and the title page. The advantage of independently publishing is that you can play with this convention a little bit but you do still need to stick to multiples of four because of the way printers work. I am working on a 'how to' guide which will include everything I have learnt on my journey so far but one of the important things is that print on demand via Createspace or Ingram Spark will always need to include a blank page at the back of your book where they put their barcode and reference code. I think this helps them to match the pages with the cover in their print factories. It isn't too noticeable in a novel but really stands out in a picture book and takes up valuable space. So don't be caught out by this requirement and make sure you include it in your maths!

Below is my first digital sketch for book number three. On the left is the sketch from my sketchbook - it's actually unusually tidy for my first attempt! These little cats will appear somewhere in the middle of the book but they captured my imagination so I started drawing them first. This is unlike me. With An Amazing Alphabet of Cake I worked religiously from A to Z but without the structure of the alphabet I feel I can be a bit more free. I was pleased with the expressions on the cats' faces in my initial sketch and was worried I might lose this in the digital version. It still needs work but is getting there. I really want the cat on the wall to be a tabby so my next challenge is to see if I can make some stripes work on him.

It feels fantastic to be drawing again. Almost like coming home. Having published two picture books already I feel the process is becoming more familiar. I know what I can achieve and it spurs me on to take little steps, even when it feels like a mountain ahead, knowing that one day I will be holding book number three in my hands and starting on book number four.

This Is Why I Create

One of the very best things to have come from publishing An Amazing Alphabet of Cake is the messages I've received telling me about little ones enjoying it. I was absolutely bowled over recently when a lovely friend of mine told me that her little girl had been coming home from school every day and drawing pictures from the book. She had been determined to draw every page and my friend presented me with a collection of pages, tied together with golden ribbon, that her daughter had asked her to show me. Well, what can I say? I was so touched that my drawings had inspired her to create something so wonderful. She had picked up on all the detail and even drawn herself into the pictures. Wow. What an amazing piece of work. THIS is why I create : )

Celebrating My Cake Book

This week I received my first confirmation of sales figures for An Amazing Alphabet of Cake from Amazon. The numbers may be modest but I'm so chuffed that people are buying and enjoying the book. Lots of friends have been sending me photos and videos of their little ones reading about cake. One of the little poppets is even trying to eat the cake from the page : ) Every review and note I receive makes me feel a little bit emotional and encourages me to create more. Thank YOU.

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Angel's Great Escape Reviewed By Read It Daddy & Being Mrs C

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Putting your work out into the wild and hearing what people think about it can be a nerve-wracking experience! And it can also be really wonderful. This week, we have received not one but two lovely reviews for Angel's Great Escape from book bloggers Read It Daddy and Being Mrs C. I always wanted to give children the same feeling I had when I read picture books and hearing how little ones are enjoying the story on the lead up to Christmas really does make it all worthwhile.

We snuggled down together for another enjoyable read through. The print version is sublime, and definitely belongs on our Advent Calendar this year.
Read the full Read It Daddy review here

Written in rhyming text it’s lovely to read out loud when all snuggled up together and the accompanying illustrations are gorgeous, really bringing the story to life. It’s a definite must read in our pile of Christmas books.
Read the full Being Mrs C review here.

From Sketchbook to Sales

So after a year of sketching, illustrating, proof-reading, designing, tweaking and tidying, it's finally here! An Amazing Alphabet of Cake was published on Thursday 30 November. A very special date for me as it would have been my Dad's birthday. The book is inspired by an A to Z game we used to play on car journeys. A game I still play often with the little ones in my life.

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This time last year, I sat down in a cafe with a sketchbook and set myself the challenge of coming up with 26 ideas for 26 pages of a book about an alphabet of cake. I loved the idea of my second picture book coming from something that was so close to my heart. I scribbled anything that came to mind, brainstorming words that might work, remembering cakes that the little ones had come up with when we had played the game. I slowly started translating my thoughts on to Photoshop, one letter at a time, sketching and layering, trying out different colours and building the illustrations slowly but surely.

As I've mentioned before, I only started drawing about three years ago. Creating this book has given me a project to really practise with. Working independently has meant I only have my own deadlines to work to so I fitted drawing around my day job. Slowly ticking all the letters off the list.

By June I had drafts of all 26 pages and was ready to start working with my book designer. I had worked with Sarah Goodwin on Angel's Great Escape so knew we worked well together. Although I had figured out the composition of most of the pages, Sarah helped so much by suggesting fonts, tweaking the palette to ensure consistency and creating the files in InDesign ready to publish. I also engaged a proofreader to check through the wording for me. She really helped by suggesting edits that would help the rhythm of the text.

I absolutely love working with my small team. I love the independence of being able to make our own decisions. I love how I can quickly tweak an image if I need to. Although this is the second picture book I've published, it's the first one I've illustrated and I'm very much feeling my way. Seeing the reviews start to come through on Amazon, seeing how the book is resonating with people, really makes me happy. I'm already starting to sketch book number three. Building my tiny empire one picture at a time.

"What a brilliant book. Beautiful illustrations, very quirky, and would keep a child entertained for ages, whilst learning their alphabet. A great stocking filler too. Highly recommended."

"This book is such a sweet treat (pun intended). The characters are full of life and mischief and you basically want to sit with them and join in the fun. Inventive, colourful and joyful. Each turn of the page brings a smile. Wonderful!"

"What's not to love? The joy of choosing your favourite cake without the guilt of the calories. Such a beautifully illustrated book and one that I'm really looking forward to sharing with my young nephew".

Angel's Great Escape Reviewed On Toddler Things

"This book is very sweet, with a lovely flowing rhyming story and beautiful illustrations that bring the story to life. Definitely one to add to your Christmas book collection!" It's SO lovely to see our first review for Angel's Great Escape: A Christmas Story on the Toddler Things website...

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Inspiration - Writing A Children's Book with Jen Campbell

I love hearing about other's experiences of publishing and seeing projects take shape. This video from writer, poet and vlogger Jen Campbell gives a lovely insight into her experience of working with illustrator Katie Harnett to create Franklin's Flying Bookshop.  Having worked with Kristyna Litten to create Angel's Great Escape and now putting together my own illustrated picture book, it's comforting to see that I'm approaching it in the same way. I'm intending to share a lot of detail about how I work soon but in the meantime I hope you enjoy this inspiring treat.