Ta da! There has been a lot of blood, sweat and tears shed on this cover. It has been redrawn several times, but the design concept has stayed the same.
In this exciting instalment, Delilah Dusticle and the Dustbusters travel to the vibrant and mystical land of India. On arrival, they are tasked with a quest to overcome a powerful curse and save a life. It soon becomes clear that it is Delilah, who must find the strength and the power to defeat the curse. This is the third in a series of stories following Delilah and the Dustbusters on adventures around the world. Get ready to join the fun and experience the magic!
There are sixteen chapters in this book and so far, fourteen of the sixteen illustrations have been completed. I am aiming for an end of May 2016 release for the eBook and the paperback will follow shortly after. Fingers crossed!
I met a friend from work the other day to talk about blogs, careers and inspiration. She mentioned that she had tried an adult colouring book and was hooked. I like the idea of art books for adults. Just because we are no longer at school doesn't mean we can't enjoy a crafty session now and then.
I can really see why an adult art book would be popular. The outline for the design it already there and you just have to make it stunning. For me though, I think I would like to be the one to create the design as well as be the one who colours it in. The adult colouring books I have looked at are also really expensive. So I was really pleased when I covered an art class at school where I had to introduce Zentangles.
It is a technique where you are doodling, but with structure. It doesn’t matter whether you think you are artistic or not. I think anyone could create a striking Zentangle. All you need is a fine black marker pen and paper.
Here is the video clip of how to create them.
The students and I had a great morning creating these doodles and I felt zen for the rest of the day. I have even starting writing a short story, which is great. I definitely recommend doodling for inspiration.
Here are my Zentangles.
Last week, I set myself a challenge to write about two objects in my home. This has come from me thinking about inspiration and ideas. I am interested in how an object can tell a story and how it can convey emotion.
I have chosen this picture. How I got it is not that interesting. I was in Ikea and as always was drawn to the sale signs. Poking out of a box was this picture. I am not a fan of mass produced decoration, but I instantly liked it. It is by Nadia Taylor and called, Lido.
It hangs right in front of my bed. It is the first and last thing I see each day. Each time I look at it, I think or feel something different. The image of the girl under water takes me right back to being a child and gliding under water, feeling free. For a few moments I am in another world. The sounds of the world above are distorted and then I return to the surface, gasping for breath. The memory makes me feel happy.
Other times when I look at the picture it makes me think about how sometimes in life, I glide through my days, seamlessly. Luckily, there are many day like this. The repetition of the images is quite soothing, but there is also something a bit more sinister hiding between the lines. I also see a subtext and this is when she starts to come alive.
There are times when I look at this picture, I see her treading water, spluttering, trying to get back to normal and trying to get back to seamless. Perhaps from a disappointment or something that didn’t go well at work. Then, unfortunately, on black days I see her clinging to driftwood, exhausted, floating until she can swim again. For me, this is overcoming loss of loved ones.
Then the picture returns to what it once was. I see her again, swimming seamlessly. The picture reminds me to feel grateful for the times when I glide though my day. It reminds me to keep swimming and to be happy.
I wish you a seamless day!
Just in case you haven't met, I would like to introduce Grumpy Stone, my writing mascot. He was found on Frinton Beach in Essex, England, Grumpy Stone is the inspiration behind the character Grumpy Sponge, who appears in the Delilah Dusticle stories. He really enjoys living in Gothenburg and can be regularly found hanging out in cafes.
He also likes hanging out with his friends. Click the stop motion animation below to see them hanging out together.
I definitely recommend getting a writing mascot. Whenever I am looking for some fun inspiration, all I have to do is look at Grumpy Stone. Does anyone else have a writing mascot?
I am always thinking about ways to stimulate new ideas and stories. In the small town I grew up in, there is a main shopping street with a post office, supermarket and a few cafes. At least eight of the shops on that street are charity shops, selling second-hand goods like clothes, albums, books and bric-a-brac. There is an aging population in my old town, so most of these items would probably have come from a house clearance after someone has passed away. Or they would be things from the 70s/80s/90s, which were now being replaced with modern versions.
I used to go around these charity shops mesmerised by all the different objects on display, from paste necklaces to 80s food mixers and dainty tea sets. I would think about what the story was behind the object. Was the tea set a wedding present that was always saved for best, but the best never happened? How many cakes were made in the old mixer? Were there children who would lick the bowl clean? I have my theatre head on now, and this would make a great interactive play. The audience would pick an item from the charity shop and the actors would then perform a short sketch about its story. This would also work well in a museum, using relics to create a story about the time the relic is from.
I have now started to think about the objects around my home and what they mean. Is there a story and is it interesting enough to tell? Does it hold enough emotion to touch the reader? Is there something poignant that could be said? This has got my imagination whirring and I have set myself a challenge to write about two objects from my home.
This is my first object.
Looking at it, it is not very special. I could easily imagine this on a shelf at a charity shop, being sold for a £1. It would probably sit on the shelf for months, even a year, until someone comes along with the vision to changes the handle or perhaps paints it to suit their modern house.
This wooden bowl with lid belonged to my Swedish Great Grandmother, who I used to call Ninni. Her real name was Esther. She lived to nearly a hundred and I never really knew her that well. I only spoke English and she only spoke Swedish. I was also very young and more interested in dolls. Later on, I found out she had worked as a waitress and lived in a house my Great Grandfather built.
As a little girl, I would go to visit Ninni with my mother and grandmother. She had moved from her house to an apartment. There were no toys and they all spoke Swedish, so I would go off and explore. That is when I came across the wooden bowl and what was in inside. My Great Grandmother had once been fortunate enough to travel abroad by train to Austria. She bought back embroidered buttons and sugar lumps wrapped in paper from a café as souvenirs. Me, the naughtiest child on earth, removed the lid, unwrapped the sugar lumps and ate them.
I should really have been told off, but instead a tradition formed between me and my Great Grandmother. When I came to visit, I would go straight to her wooden bowl and remove the lid and inside would be a handful of sweets. When Ninni passed away I asked for that bowl. We were two relatives who could not speak to each other because of language, who were also separated by age, but found a way to connect through an object that today probably would just sit on a charity shop shelf collecting dust.
You might be wondering what I now keep inside the bowl. Well, I wanted to keep up the tradition of bringing back sugar from special trips abroad. There are some sugar sachets that I picked up in Rome and Barcelona. It is actually really hard finding sugar that has the cafes own branding on it.
I admit there are some other things hiding in there too. Things that I do not want to throw away, but do not know where to put them. Some items have mundane stories and some bring out mixed emotions. The plaque bearing my surname, ‘York’. This used to be displayed on the front door of my family home in Great Holland, England. A relic from before my parents' divorce. The white dial is from my bedroom radiator. Weirdly, the radiator only works without it. Two carved stone hearts from my Mum. An old lip balm. A necklace I no longer wear. I guess I should put some sweets in there too.
Someday, this bowl may end up in a jumble sale, a flea market, a car boot sale or just get thrown away. All the bowl's secrets will be forgotten. So, I am glad that I managed to tell its story today.
Three years ago, when I sat down to write Delilah Dusticle, I had no idea I would publish the story, let alone write sequels. I excitedly asked my friend, Anna, a journalist to cast her eye over the text. She proofread the story and gave me huge encouragement to publish. So I did, on Amazon. I then researched how to let people know that my little story was out there. I contacted book blogs asking them to read and review my story. To my surprise, they replied saying, “yes please”. They also encouraged me, by saying they hoped for a sequel. The main critique I got was that there were no illustrations and they wished it could have been longer.
That is when I roped in my partner in life, Gavin to create some illustrations. I was very lucky to be living with an artist and his style fits the middle grade genre so well. I then set about to write the sequel and that story ended up being over twice as long. I felt much more confident and the ideas for the story just came in waves. It bought me a huge amount of joy and I giggled throughout the writing stage.
Fortunately for me, Gavin enjoyed creating the illustrations just as much. With each book we collaborate on, the more detailed and exciting his illustrations become. The first story for us both was a learning curve, and I feel that all the books we have produced since show huge progression.
We both work on the books in our spare time. Gavin, works as a design teacher and in the past has worked as a set designer too. He has even designed for a BBC children’s programme called Playbus. Currently, he teaches label design, film making, animation, comic books design and so on. He is using the animated book trailers he has created as examples in his lessons. There is nothing like showing your students that you can actually do the things that you are teaching.
Right now, we are working on getting the illustrations finished for Delilah Dusticle and the Cursed Tempest. The book has now been proofread and I am formatting it for publishing. It is an exciting time! Here is a glimpse of what is come. I hope you like it.
You can see Gavin’s other illustrations, set designs, book trailers and photography on www.gavinchilds.com
A.J. York is a middle grade and children's writer. Author of Delilah Dusticle, Eliza Bluebell and A Fairy Extraordinary Christmas Story. A.J York has a Swedish and British background and currently lives in Gothenburg, Sweden.