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  • Debra Palmen

Sink or Swim


“May you live in interesting times” is an old Chinese curse, did you know that?

It’s certainly interesting times for us all right now. But we’re all finding ways to make the new normal work as best we can. In our case, we closed the pop-up shop four days ahead of schedule. Sales dropped by 90% in that last week, so it was just as well we had planned to close anyway. Now we’re moving to solely online, and if you'd like to take a look you'll see I’ve started to put a few nice things into our website’s shop. I’m also popping a few pieces on our Facebook page, www.facebook.com/frenchandvintage/. I should have done this a long time ago, I know, but it’s happening now. Gradually.


I’ve also spent some time trying to reclaim the succulent garden I had so painstakingly started before we opened the pop-up shop. Clearing and then planting a 30m long embankment that’s 4m tall in places and at a 45 degree angle is not without its challenges. It’s back-breaking and exhausting. And trying to effectively weed while retaining the “good” plants is downright dangerous at times.


And that’s just the risk of slipping and falling. Add the occasional brown snake, angry, angry ant nests and infernal paper wasps, and it becomes a right adventure.


I’ve been bitten by a tiger. I’ve been bitten by a snake. I’ve even been bitten by a wretched little meerkat – seconds after being told they never bite. But let me tell you, paper wasps are the worst. Awful little devils, their stings are amazingly and sharply painful. Your only recourse is to shriek and run. But then stealthily return with the Mortein, leopard crawl up to the host bush, spray Mortein wildly and then repeat the shriek and run step.


It’s an interesting gardening kit that includes a shotgun for the snakes, Mortein for the bitey, bitey insects, climbing boots to help anchor you to precarious slopes, proper head covering and dark sunglasses to avoid sunstroke, and then the usual gardening tools. I look like part of a SWAT raid on the Chelsea Garden Show.


Doug is spending a fair bit of time on the tractor and with the whipper-snipper, and slowly, slowly we’re reclaiming the garden from the jungle. Then it will be on to working on the front garden and painting the rest of the house. Hopefully we won’t encounter too many critters objecting to our presence as we slap a few coats on the house.


Meanwhile, the big news for this Newsletter is that Book 1 of Calypso’s Art Deco picture book series, A Cat’s Tale, is now released. Sink or Swim is the name of Book 1 and I hope you agree that it’s beautiful!


I've included here a few images from the book. See the swimming instructor's abs? The visual reference I gave to the artist was Brad Pitt's abs from the movie Thelma & Louise. It's true - look it up! If I could have a swimming instructor look any way I jolly well wanted, then he was going to have Brad Pitt's abs.


Every single element of every single illustration required a specific instruction, visual reference and then approval from me, so it's been a slow process getting the book to look just how I wanted. But I’m really pleased with the result. I had never briefed a commercial artist before so that was a big learning curve. It was heaps of work, but also a lot of fun.


And along the way, we invented things like the floaties with dragon wings you can see here, pussy-cat swimming caps and some cool pool floats. We also designed some lovely swimsuits and swimming caps, so there's heaps of merchandising potential for when Calypso becomes a famous author.


Obviously I can’t have a proper book launch until we’re all allowed to social sit-together again. But I can release the book on social media, and that’s what I’m doing. Thank you to everyone who’s shown an interest and provided their support during the process. The book is for sale right now on the website. We’re posting it to everywhere. Just go to Shop and then Books on the website, and you’ll find my books as well as Calypso’s. More are on the way from both of us!


And as a thank you gift, everyone who buys Sink or Swim will also receive a free electronic copy of Calypso’s Colouring Book, an accompaniment to Sink or Swim. The plan is for all her books in the series to have accompanying colouring books, offered for sale separately in print and eVersions. But if you buy her book you become part of her Special Mailing List and therefore have special privileges and will receive the colouring books for free.


I’d never done any colouring before, but I’m finding playing with colours on the computer to be quite satisfying and a bit of fun. It’s said to be quite a stress-relieving activity, but whether you’re feeling stir-crazy right now or not, hopefully you’ll enjoy playing around with it.


More soon. I'm currently working on Book 2 of Fabulous Beasts, Book 1 of The Foodies Guide to Antiques & Collectables, and of course Calypso's Book 2, called Up, Up & Away. So hopefully there will be plenty more, soon.


Meanwhile, stay safe.


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