New Book Cover Designs


As I edge ever closer to self publishing, I thought it was worth trying out some book covers using the picture I painted recently. I tried lots of different designs but in the end there were two that I liked the look of. The one above is the full page picture version,  and then there is this one:


I’m not really sure which I like the best. At the moment I’m twiddling my thumbs waiting for replies from my last lot of agents and couple of publishers who take direct submissions. It makes sense to wait it out, but I am starting to think about what direction to take next. The way I see it is I could go straight to self publish, I could try Kindle Scout where you put your book up for votes and then have a chance of a Kindle publishing deal, or I could try Wattpad to build a following and then self publish, hopefully with some positive reviews.

Meanwhile I am still writing my 100 words per day, currently on what I thought was going to be a short story but is now over 5000 words and keeping going. It’s a Sci Fi idea with aliens and spaceships, a gay hero and a bit of fishing. Here’s a little snippet:

I’ve seen nothing move” Rilk said “What’re we going to do?”
I glanced at Drd. He shrugged, but the growing blue tinge in his eyes told me he was worried.
“Keep going” I said.
“Shields?” Suggested Rilk.
I snorted in laughter. “You’re not on one of your gun ships now” I replied.
“No shields?”
“What about weaponry?”
I reached under the control panel.
“Just this” I said, pumping the shotgun for emphasis. Rilk stared for a moment and then laughed, a great guffawing sound that broke the tension.
“I knew there was a reason I liked you” he said.

No idea where this going to end up but I’m having great fun writing it.


New Painting

The Road to Cy Malg (Martin Snee 2016)

So today I finally did something I’ve been threatening  to do for a while and that is paint one of the settings from my book,  The Arena of Lost Souls. Cy Malg is the ancient ruined city that contains the Arena of the title and Luan, the protagonist (hell, let’s call him the hero!) sees it first in a dream. 

It was an interesting challenge. Usually my landscapes are painted from real life, whether that is on the spot or from photos and sketches. This time the image existed only in my mind. I first wrote a description of it about two years ago and with further writing and revising I’ve been back quite a few times. I didn’t draw or sketch it first, just went straight in with acrylic onto a blue canvas. There are only three colours (a blue, an orange and a red) plus white and I painted over the whole canvas and just let the image emerge.

I’m quite pleased with how it turned out. Think I’ll try it as a book cover.

Using Canva for Cover Design

If you’re not prepared to be wrong, you’ll never come up with anything original.” –Sir Ken Robinson

I’ve just started using Canva for designing book covers and Twitter posts and I think it is excellent!

I can’t remember how I found it. I think I either saw a tweet or they followed me or something. Anyway, I had cover design in the back of my mind which prompted me to have a look, and I’m really pleased that I did. It’s a free app that I’ve put on my iPad, it’s really intuitive to use and it’s got loads of different stuff you can do. The first thing I did was a Twitter post to advertise my short story published in an anthology:

And once I’d done one it was easy to adapt it to create new ones:

The next thing I tried out was book covers, some of which I have already posted. Here’s the latest one:

You can also use templates for blog posts, Facebook posts, Instagram etc. As well as your own custom design. For the book cover I was able to choose the size in pixels that is the exact size of a standard paperback.

Support is good too. There is a website, a blog and I get emails which actually contain useful info about design and how to use it grow blog traffic etc.

All in all it is well worth a go.

Designing book covers

“There are books of which the backs and covers are by far the best parts”    Charles Dickens

on one level it feels like starting to design the cover for my book is an admittance of defeat, on the basis that if I’d found an agent then probably someone else would be doing it for me. However a moment of reflection allows me to free myself from such thoughts. For a start I haven’t given up hope of finding an agent yet, and actually my original plan was to self publish anyway, it was only when I finally finished the book I thought I might as well send it off!

So here is my starting idea for a cover:


I just played around with a few images and ideas until I found something I liked. I did a small amount of research that consisted checking out the covers in the Kindle top 100 fantasy books and deciding I didn’t like any of them. It’s times like that when when I worry I am actually writing in the wrong genre!

ive also tried swapping the images around which ends up a bit like this:


I quite like both but I’m also seriously considering painting a cover myself then uploading it to the design program and adding the title etc.

all this is very nice but I suspect it’s partly a diversionary tactic to keep my mind from the fact that I’m not writing much at the moment. I have started the sequel to ‘The Arena of Lost Souls’ (working title – The Wasteland of Lost Ambition’ – only kidding!) but I’m a bit stuck in chapter 2. I’ve done a bit on a story that I started some time ago and I’ve had a couple of ideas that I’ve made notes on for future work. It’s a strange thing, I can have whole sections of a story in my head but when I come to write them down they float out of my grasp.

tough business this writing malarkey!

The Power of Three

via Three Trees — method two madness

I reblogged this from the site above because I liked the picture, but it made me think “Why is three so powerful?”

That picture wouldn’t work as well with two trees or with four. In fact it’s a good example of what artists call the rule of thirds, divide a picture up into threes lengthways and by height and place your objects of interest at the points of intersection and you tend to get a good picture. Not sure why but it just makes it more interesting, it’s not the only Method of composition but it’s easy and it works.

But it works in stories too: three wishes, three kings, three witches, three billy goats gruff, and even in Harry Potter you have Harry, Ron and Hermione. Again it’s not the only set up, detective stories in particular seem to work in twos possibly following the Holmes and Watson archetype,  but three seems to work well.

And if you go a step further and start thinking about structure, then you can see that many books are in three parts, and often chapters can be divided into three parts as well. Once you start looking for it you can see it everywhere.

I think I need to do some research and find out why. In the meantime, can you think of any more examples of the power of three?


I got an award for Norway.


SLARTIBARTFAST:Look at me, I design coastlines, I got an award for Norway. Where’s the sense in that? None that I’ve been able to make out. I’ve been doing fiords all my life, for a fleeting moment they become fashionable and I get a major award. In this replacement Earth we’re building they’ve given me Africa to do, and of course, I’m doing it with all fjords again, because I happen to like them. And I’m old fashioned enough to think that they give a lovely baroque feel to a continent. And they tell me it’s not equatorial enough… what does it matter? Science has achieved some wonderful things of course, but I’d far rather be happy than right any day!

And are you?

No. That’s where it all falls down of course

I was in my studio (well, shed to be honest) when this quote came to mind. I was preparing some boards for painting and considering what I might actually paint on them. That white canvas moment is always an issue and it’s worse when you are given the impetus to paint by some materials (in this case the offer of three nice frames on the cheap) rather than by an image that grabs you and you just think “I’ve got to paint that”.

I found myself thinking “well, that poppy field painting sold quickly, maybe I should do more of those” That’s when I thought of Slartibartfast.

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is without doubt one of my favourite books. It has many wonderful characters, but Slartibartfast is one of my favourites. Slartibartfast does fjords. That is his path, and he sticks to it regardless of what is actually asked of him.

This may seem a tenuous link, but it made me realise afresh what I actually knew all along. I should paint what I want to paint, and for that matter write what I want to write. To try to do anything else is a mistake, I won’t enjoy it and more importantly I won’t believe in it. In which case I’m unlikely to do it well.

This must be a dilemma that many artists and writers face. Look for commercial success and accept the constraints it brings, or retain your artistic freedom and risk never making a dime.

Money vs Freedom

Gives me an idea for story.


The best painting in the known world!


I was in an art gallery in a small provincial northern town when I saw the picture above. It made quite an impression on me, partly because it is absolutely vast, about 4m by 2m, and partly because the plate below the painting read as follows:


I thought this was fantastic. I mean, if you’re going to paint pictures of cows, you want to paint THE best picture of cows, don’t you? Otherwise what’s the point?

And then I wondered what H.W.B thought about it. Was this what he’d aimed for all his life? This was 1872, the year Monet painted “Impression, Sunrise”, perhaps H.W.B would rather have been on the banks of the Seine producing glittering compositions of light and colour?

I would like to think not. I imagine him walking round an impressionist exhibition and  saying “Well it’s all very pretty, but there’s not a decent picture of a cow in sight!”

I don’t know if this was H.W.B’s masterpiece or not but it was exhibited at the Royal Academy and it still hangs in an art gallery today which is a legacy most painters would happily accept.

And maybe, just maybe, somewhere there is a lone artist, shut away in his studio, obsessively painting massive pictures of cows. Maybe at this moment, as he touches up a horn or lightly shades a hoof, he’s saying to himself “This’ll be the one. This will be the painting that that knocks H.W.B. Davis off his throne! This will be the best picture of cattle in the known world!”