Lulu. I have to admit to being quite nervous as I prised open the cardboard packaging. Would the black-and-white cover image look too drab? Would the orange title seem washed-out or garish? I fretted over the inside most of all - the choice and size of fonts, the layout, and the running order of the stories.
But, happily, the end product exceeded all my expectations. The cover image is crisp and clear, and the overall effect is just what I was aiming for. Inside, the text looks great and, in my opinion at least, presents the stories in a very professional-looking way.
It's been great revisiting these stories, and an interesting insight into how my writing has changed over the last couple of years. But, more than that, it's rewarding to see my work in a fresh light, particularly those stories that were published online a while ago and had faded a little from my memory. Here, assembled and lined up together, it's almost as though my stories have gone on parade in full dress uniform, primped and polished and keen to impress new readers (hopefully!).
There is something undeniably special about paper. Although I was excited to find a half-dozen or so e-books pre-installed on my new mobile phone, I'm yet to fully embrace the concept of electronic fiction. I do read short stories online, and appreciate the accessibility and variety the internet provides both readers and writers. But I'm not going to be giving up my coveted bookshelves just yet. The sensory, tactile elements of printed matter are something that I associate so strongly with reading it's hard not to miss them when they're not there.
Perhaps the printed book form is even better suited to short story collections than novels? It's so much easier to pick up a book, flick through it until a title or first line catches your eye, and then settle back with your mug of tea and a biscuit or two for a well-deserved bit of escapism.
I hope people will be inclined to pick up "Somewhere to Start from" when it makes its début appearance on the booksellers' stall at the Guernsey Literary Festival. I'll also have a few copies with me at the Flash Fiction Workshop, just in case anybody fancies a signed copy. I'm looking forward to seeing how new readers respond to these works and I hope people will get in touch to let me know what they think.