Not Chlorr of the Mask

I made a small mask-face that started out inspired by Garth Nix’s character “Chlorr of the Mask” who features in his Old Kingdom series. Although it started out as Chlorr, it ended up not looking like her at all, so for the moment, it’s nameless ūüôā


I started with Super Sculpey firm polymer clay with some cowrie shells for eyes…


Worked a bit more…


And a bit more…


Painted with acrylic…


Added gold and aluminium foil…


…and quite a lot of hair.


The Babylon Eye Cover: discarded designs

I don’t think I’ve ever gone through so many different versions when designing a book cover!¬†The Babylon Eye went through quite a few look and title changes. ¬†Since I’ll soon be doing the cover reveal for this book, I thought I’d share some of the discarded designs.¬†Keep in mind that the look¬†of the design isn’t the only criterion,¬†it has to convey the genre, set up reader expectations for the tone of the book and also be adaptable enough so that it’s possible to make tie in the sequel’s cover.

First attempt: at¬†this stage the title was just¬†Babylon Eye¬†(no “The”) The dog is too flat and a bit clumsily drawn. Also not to sure of that title typeface!


In the next one the dog’s pose was inspired by the Persian¬†bull mosaics¬†from the Ishtar gate (there’s an Ishtar gate in the story). ¬†The main problem with this design is that it doesn’t really convey that the book is science fiction.



Something completely different for the next one. I’m not very fond of books that show the characters on the cover myself, but it’s a popular look. But my attempt doesn’t really work. It hovers uneasily between a sort of children’s book look, and something a bit more serious. I also really don’t like the fake plasticy gold of the title. ¬†And Meisje (the dog) looks a too goofy!


At this stage I was spinning my wheels and trying out different titles. The ghostly author name in the top left is not intentional!


My next idea was to focus on the main character. Yet again, a title change. ¬†This isn’t too bad but it doesn’t feel right for this particular book. I liked the typefaces though.


And after many more attempts, I ended up with my final design and title. Watch this space for my cover reveal ūüôā

If you’d like to be notified when¬†The Babylon Eye is published you can sign up for my mailing list. I only use it when I launch a book (about once a year) so you won’t be inundated with emails ūüôā

The Babylon Eye ready to launch…

My next book,¬†The Babylon Eye, is about to be published. It’s something a little different for me, science fiction set in alternate world South Africa. ¬†I had a lot of fun with it. The main character¬†is my age¬†for a change. ¬†It’s been interesting writing about a woman in her forties. Her age means that there’s space for her to have had a complicated and rich past life before the story even begins, something that’s not always possible with a teenage protagonist.

For the past few weeks I’ve been focusing on the print and ebook formatting. It’s a finicky process but I do enjoy it, although it does bring out my obsessive streak. Choosing the exact right symbol for the text separator took my much longer than I’d like to admit ūüôā


If you’d like to be notified when¬†The Babylon Eye is published, you can sign up for my mailing list. I only use it when I launch a book (about once a year) so you won’t be inundated with emails ūüôā

Writing Update

I’ve just completed another two book series which I hope to publish in the last half of 2016. This is something new for me: science fiction set in alternate world Southern Africa, and nothing to do with Crooks & Straights or any of my other books. The series title is “The Babylon Eye” but I have not finalized the titles for each of the books yet. Here is a description of the first book:

Meisje is no ordinary dog. She’s a gardag, a cybernetically enhanced, living weapon. She’s also lost, hungry, and lonely.

Elke Veraart is on Meisje’s trail. If she can find the dog she’ll win back her own freedom. If she fails she’ll be sent back to prison.

As she closes in on the gardag, Elke finds her admiration for Meisje growing. And Meisje, weak with hunger, begins to wonder if she could trust the woman who is hunting her. Then Elke discovers that there are other hunters searching for the gardag and that her orders have changed. She no longer has to find Meisje. She has to kill her.

I have just started the third book in the “Babylon Eye” series and don’t have any immediate plans to write more books in the “Special Branch” or “Sisters” series, but you never know! ūüôā

If you want to be notified when I launch these books, you can sign up for my New Release Email List 

If you are curious about these new books, here is a link to the visual inspiration for book one and book two.

Writing companions

Who says writing is a solitary occupation? Although the birds are much less distracting than Pippin, who keeps lying on my feet, groaning, and accidentally switching the power off at the wall.




The Green Man doll

In between everything else, I’ve been making a new doll. At the moment he is called “The Green Man.” ¬†Using marbles for eyes is a new thing I’m trying out. ¬†He looks quite different with his skin on ūüôā

wip_doll1 wip_doll2 wip_doll3 wip_doll4


I added ears. Then reshaped them. To my horror he looked just like Dobby from Harry Potter, which is not the look I was going for.



So I moved the ears and added more bits.



Then I made him a hand, holding the shell of my deceased apple snail.  His other hand is a hoof.


Hand and hoof, freshly baked.



The Penguin Gang

They are cute, but their beaks are sharp, and they have plenty of attitude.

I had to reach in behind the tree — one of those rocks is actually a¬†lid on a¬†pipe, which I had to fill with water for the tree. ¬†I felt a little…uncertain about putting my ungloved hand in among these guys. ¬†I hung out with them for a bit, and showed them the hosepipe (Peck! Nip! Not Edible!) and the lid of the pipe (Nip! Peck! Might Be Edible! Nip!) and after a lot of “Hey, nice day, isn’t it? Don’t mind me, I’m just standing here with my hosepipe” they eventually allowed me to get near enough to fill the pipe.


What’s in the Bowl

Once a week, I volunteer at the Two Oceans Aquarium, at the microscope display.¬†It’s always a bit of a surprise what you’ll find in the bowls. ¬†This one contains, among other creatures¬†

  • Anemone (not sure what kind, ¬†the thing like a golden chrysanthemum in the middle there)
  • A Pycnogonida, or scarlet sea spider with egg pouches (see him just above the anemone)
  • A Red chested sea cucumber (little dude on the left that looks like a chilli with a moustache)
  • Golden sea cucumber, (peachy thingimajig bottom left)
  • Feather star (bristly person upper right)
  • Several barnacles
  • Nudibranch (not really visible against the left edge)
  • Billions of brine shrimp all over the place


Interlude with skink


Found this tiny fellow on my writing desk just now.  He was quite unafraid of me.


He was also not at all keen to go outside.  Snapped at me, even!  Brave little chap.


Caught my Catfish!

I have a new obsession — I’ve upgraded to a larger aquarium. ¬†Today was the day I had to move my three cory catfish from the quarantine tank to the larger tank, to join the two corys I’ve already got in there. ¬†Apparently corys like being in a group, and the two I had were not too happy all by themselves.

Corys are difficult to net without hurting their spiny little fins so I made a fish-trap.  A water-bottle cut in half with one side jammed in wrong way round, and a pellet of food for bait:


For a while it looked as though I was going to get lucky and trap a snail…


I thought it would take time, and was preparing myself to be patient but once I buried the open side a bit in the gravel, it was a matter of seconds before – one! Two! Three! In they went.


Couldn’t really get a good picture because these little things wriggle and swim around so fast!


Once they were in the big tank, the two resident corys who are usually so shy I might not see them for days, came out immediately to inspect the newcomers.  At the moment, all of them are rooting around the bottom of the tank in a happy little group.  So far, so good!

Next time, I’ll use a bottle that’s not pinched in the middle (less chance of escape once they are in) and use less bait, too. ¬†A whole pellet was far too much.

It’s a bird, it’s a hyperbolic plane…

Okay, so the answer to my previous post, what is that dubious object: ¬†It’s a hyperbolic plane croch√© done for the Woodstock Art Reef Project.

It’s quite a cool idea, actually. ¬†Hyperbolic Plane Croch√©¬†¬†means you increase the stitches in a particular way which makes the surface of the object buckle. ¬†Which also, by chance, creates shapes very similar to that of coral reefs. ¬†Seems corals increase in quite similar ways. ¬†You can see more coral reef croch√© here at the Worldwide Hyperbolic Croch√© Coral Reef Project.



Know what this is?

So – who can guess what this is?

Maybe you need to see the other side?

Mermaid’s Tail

Slowly but surely, the mermaid’s tail is gaining scales.

Unsubtle patterns

Today, I kept noticing patterns. ¬†Unsubtle patterns, like the floor at Gordon’s hardware, and Schwe-schwe cloth:


Mermaid hands

Further work on the mermaid doll.  Hands.  Hands are quite difficult, as they tend to get flatter and flatter the more you work on them. And the left and right hands have to be more or less the same size.

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