Watch This Space.


I’ve been on vacation this past week. But I’ve not really been on vacation. I’ve been busy working on something. (And driving myself crazy.)

My moods swing from hopeful, to discouraged, to downright depressed. I’m finally attempting a finished illustration for Sly, rather than my usual screw-around preliminaries. What I have so far may do double duty as cover art and as a future paper doll. My big problem: I’d always envisioned something cleaner, more designed for the cover. My illustration is the visual equivalent of my writing – elaborate, packed with detail. No matter how I try to push/drag my style in another direction, it always weasels its way back to . . . well, you’ll see.

In my to-come image Sly, having finally been baptized, thus eligible, has been awarded Haute-Navarre’s highest honor. He has been admitted to an exclusive society, the Order of the Golden Ram, and he wears the order’s avatar on a chain around his neck. He holds one glove in his left hand, a convention of portraiture, a symbol of authority. It’s is not actually a glove, it is a fingerless gauntlet. In Italy (so I read) fingerless gloves were the hot new accessory. (Sly was always in the forefront of fashion.)

Sly determined to head north, King Jakome has had this formal portrait painted as a consolation. He’s lived with the animal for ten years and will miss him sorely. And I get to reinsert some of the nonsense I removed years ago depicting the cat’s interactions with a self-important portraitist and his (the cat’s) musings on his philosophy of art. This entire novella, without the baptism debacle, without the staged Virgin Mary visitation, with the Minister of the Treasury playing only a cameo role, once occupied three or four chapters, then we plunged immediately into the pirate episode. It’s all Book Country’s fault, scolding me for too much world-building, not enough action.

I am much taken with the cover of The Natural Philosophy of Margaret Cavendish: Reason and Fancy During the Scientific Revolution. It features a detailed period engraving. I am halfway inclined to mimic that serious-stuff-here look – an extenuation of my faux-historic slant – and to sub-title my story: Half-Baked Reason And Full-Tilt Fancy At The Dawn Of The Scientific Revolution.

I am going to take the drawing into work Monday night and scan it on our 11×17 bed scanner, darker and lighter grey-scale, at various sizes, to see how it reduces/reads. At present I view it as no more than a foundational drawing, to be digitally enhanced. Tuesday morning I will replace the current graphic with the scanned (but not yet doctored) image. I plan to experiment with digital color washes, etc.

This stage has always been my stumbling block, and the reason I quit an illustration major in art school. I have never felt that my natural drawing style was a viable illustration style. I felt it was too tentative. I’m working on that. I’m trying to punch it up. The pain I’ve suffered this week, the insecurity, the self-doubt, harken back to my anxiety-ridden schooldays. But I’ve got to develop a methodology that works for me. It’s now or never.

I’m still not happy with a cascade of sash slung across Sly’s trunk, copied from a seventeenth-century bronze bust of a bug-eyed, big-mustachioed Swedish nobleman. I don’t make stuff up if I can help it. But my cats are not going to pose for me draped in an appropriately-sized shawl. When you transfer an article of clothing from a human to a cat, the anatomy very different, the arms, for instance, erupting from a different area of the body altogether, you have to invent a bit.

Keep calm, girl. You’ll get it eventually.


22 thoughts on “Watch This Space.

  1. GD Deckard says:

    “… sub-title my story: Half baked Reason And Full-Tilt Fancy At The Dawn Of The Scientific Revolution.”
    Now, there’s a subtitle that would make me grin and look closer at a book!

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Mimi, I enjoy reading about the passion and intensity with which you pursue this project. Can anyone really be said to fail if they throw themselves into a decade-long literary project the way you have with Sly? Of course I wish you every commercial success: six-figure sales, an interview with Charlie Rose (where he remains pants’d, of course!) and the cover of the Rolling Stone.

    But it seems to me that any and all of these rewards would pale at this point in comparison to the many pleasures this project has brought you. All of which is to say: come what may, you could never “fail” with this book (or series of books). Consider: You have already made Sly a memorable character in the minds of your Co-op colleagues.

    Liked by 2 people

    • mimispeike says:

      You are exactly right, Carl. I enjoy figuring out who Sly is so much that financial rewards hardly count for me.

      I had my thing evaluated a long time back, ten years back at least, by a professor of English at our local state university. I went in to get his review, started reading a passage aloud, and started giggling.

      He said, My God. You know what you wrote, you know what’s coming, and you’re still laughing over it. Well, some of that nonsense, I just can’t help myself. A large portion of it is (for me) thrillingly absurd.

      He gave me an A on it, and that was before I broke up the acres of backstory. (He did say that he’d wondered, in the first few chapters, when some dialogue was going to come in.) He also described it as Tristram Shandy meets John Barth meets Kurt Vonnegut. That made my day, I can tell you.

      Luckily, Book Country set me straight. And set me on an even better path, leading to way more lunacy that the original.

      I do think I will be notorious one day, long after I’m dead, celebrated as a sister screwball to Amanda McKittrick-Ros. That doesn’t bother me one bit. I’ll have had my fun and that was all I’ve ever (in my more rational moments) looked for.

      As long as there were profit-minded gatekeepers, I never expected this to be published. That barrier has fallen. The new challenge is: how to get noticed, sampled, and (dare I hope? I do indeed) read.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Thanks for sharing some of the back story behind Sly!, Mimi.

        PS. Re: “. . . dare I hope? I do indeed . . . read.” Please note: I never doubted that you read.

        :::runs out of the room cackling like a Warner Brother’s loony tune before Mimi can connect his head to a hard-swung iron skillet:::

        Liked by 2 people

  3. GD Deckard says:

    Well, Mimi, Carl, you two just fulfilled much of Curtis’ prophecy. In the very first Co-op post, he promised:
    “There’ll be anecdotes and analysis, thoughtfulness and humour, awards and recommendations, opinions, rants and wackiness.”
    🙂 🙂 🙂
    Thank you both for that exchange.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. mimispeike says:

    OK, I have an image that will go up here tomorrow morning. I’m not truly happy with it, but I’m not unhappy either. I have to work on finding the scan settings that will preserve the greyscale tones but heighten the darks. (That is what I meant by punch it up.) It’s a start. I’m not depressed by it. That’s a victory right there.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. mimispeike says:

    OK, the pdf would not display for some reason so I had to take a screen shot that may have lightened it even more. The cat’s fur shows pretty well. The clothing needs a lot more work. I have to deepen the tone overall. I made straight-to-pdfs and also tiffs last night. The tifffs were even lighter, but our crude copiers didn’t have an adjustment for darkening past a certain point. I can do a lot of tweaking in Photoshop.

    I say this is a cat who’s very impressed with himself. I would like the embroidery on the collar and glove to be mice, but I took a shortcut, flowers. I think in the final it will be mice.

    I’m not pleased, but I’m encouraged. If I work out my reproduction problems, I think I can move forward at a better clip.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. mimispeike says:

    Well, I’ve darkened this image downstairs on Photoshop, and it looks a hundred percent better. But it won’t load into the post! (???)

    Anyway, I have hope that I can continue with my mid-tone range style and then get it to where it needs to be in Photoshop.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. mimispeike says:

    OK, I got the old image back on. This may be a clue: in the picture gallery my new images do not display a preview. (They do display in icon form on my screen.) I maybe should turn them into jpgs downstairs. For now, take my word for it, the image is one hundred percent better. Maybe two hundred percent better.

    And, you see clearly the spontaneous quality of my line work, which is a hallmark of my style. (What is more suited to spontaneous line work than the fur of a cat?) Also, in P-Shop you can isolate areas and darken/lighten selectively. I did an all-over darken just to see the result. I am definitely headed in the right direction.


    I am going to attach the new pdf to one of our communal emails. The name is DARKER.pdf. Now, this one is too dark – I overdid it. And I have a lot of rework here, and a lot of erasing, and you see it all. But this is a hint of what I’m shooting for.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. mimispeike says:

    I am beginning to be pleased with it. Now I have to figure out what’s going on with the paws. The right paw, he might be sticking the pinkie out, very la-dee-da. The sash needs a rethink also. There’s a reason why the portraitists of old did intricate studies of difficult areas, as you see in your history of art books.

    Liked by 1 person

      • mimispeike says:

        Well, one of the reasons Sly loves his fingerless gauntlets is, it has a jewel at the tip, it makes him look like he has a ring on his finger. He’s always wanted to be able to wear rings, everyone at court wears rings, it’s part of the costume. The bow on his right arm, it makes him look like he has shoulders. He wishes he had shoulders, epaulets look so smart on a uniform with shoulders.

        There was a style at that time, a padded roll of fabric at the top of a sleeve. We’ll be seeing him wear a lot of that sort of thing. (In the paper doll.)

        Liked by 2 people

  9. The facial expression perfectly captures how I’d imagined him. There’s a lot of depth in that look! This is a cat who has lived, thought, succeeded, failed, survived. Do I want to know him better? Yes. Would I trust him? Hmm…

    Liked by 2 people

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