Rough drawings for my new book

I’ve been drawing again (yay!) and struggling a bit to get going.  Yesterday I did some very rough drawings  for my new book.  Here is Miss Mouse:

…and Helen, a witch:

The book itself is very nearly finished.  Need to work through it one more time to smooth out the rough bits.  The working title is “Dark Sister” but I’m going to have to find something else.  Too many other books with that title already!

The witch of witches: Baba Yaga

Another area I’ve been researching for my book: Baba Yaga.  She’s fascinating.  In some stories she is the child-eating ogress, in some she is in charge of the world of the dead, or will show you the way to the world of the spirits, as long as you can prove that you are not intimidated by her.

There are many amazing images of her online.  These first two are on many websites, but so far I have not been able to find out where they are originally from.  Baba Yaga riding her pestle and mortar, sweeping up her tracks with a broom.


This one is by Rima Staines – see more of her wonderful images here.

Baa Yaga’s hut on chicken legs. According to some, it has no windows or doors, very like a coffin, and it has a palisade of human bones.  And you can also see her iron teeth:

And another Baba Yaga image, this one by Isabellart

A whole new way to procrastinate

I’ve found a whole new way to procrastinate – I spend my time looking for images for writing inspiration. These two fit with the scenes I’ve just been writing:


Image from Marty FM

…and Mistress Mouse gasped “Oh!”

Writing my first full length book is an experience full of surprises.  I planned about two thirds of it quite meticulously but started writing when I realised that I had to leave some things open to allow for unexpected developments.

Now that I’m past the point I’ve planned for, I don’t know what is going to happen next.  I know pretty much how the whole thing will end, but the landscape between the point I am at now and the end is uncharted territory.

Here follows the last paragraph I wrote today.  Thing is, I have no idea what happens next.

 “I don’t know,” said Rebekka. “I don’t think I have anything in my pocket.” But as she spoke she patted her pockets and discovered that there was, in fact, something there. The key to her flat in her left pocket and in her right pocket, the one Hare had been trying to get a finger into, was a flat hard disk. She drew it out and Mistress Mouse looked on with interest.

 “A mirror” said the mouse and then “Oh!”. Rebekka had turned it over and they both saw that the mirror showed, not a reflection of what was around them, but 


How to baffle a ghost

I’m reading a lot of South African folk tales as part of the research I’m doing for my new book.  Today I found a book called “Boere Wysheid” which translates roughly to “Farmer’s Wisdom”.  This is a great resource for Afrikaans superstitions and folklore.

For example, I now know just what to do if I’m ever chased by a ghost.  You  pull a small shrub out of the ground and upend it so its roots point upwards.  Apparently the ghost will be so fascinated by this oddity that it will forget all about chasing you.  Not sure what to do about indoor ghosts, but maybe upside-down furniture will be equally effective.

Reminds me of advice I’ve heard about how to deal with a poltergeist.  Mix lentils and peas together and spread them over the doorstep.  The creature cannot resist them compulsion to separate and count them, and hopefully in the process forgets whatever mischief it meant to do.

Meet my Strange Neighbours

At last! My stories are available as an e-book from both Amazon and Smashwords.  Here is the cover (I still get such a thrill seeing it on the Amazon web site!):

And here is the book description:

Strange Neighbours is a collection of ten illustrated fantasy short stories set in Cape Town, South Africa.

Meet a hitch hiking troll with a taste for pepper-spray and a homeless witch with a trolley full of secrets.  Discover a book hoarding mermaid and a fridge full of frogs. And learn how to greet a witch – politely, of course. These stories describe encounters with every-day magic, where strange neighbours live in the flat next door or under the manhole cover you step on every day.


You can buy the Strange Neighbours Full Illustrated Collection featuring all ten stories and many drawings, or you can try out  the smaller bundles:

Each of which includes 3 or 4 of the stories from the Strange Neighbours collection.

These links are all to the Amazon Kindle version of the stories. If you prefer a different format, such as .pdf or epub, have a look at my Smashwords page.

But what if you dont have an e-reader?  There are a number of options.

  1. Download the .pdf version of my book from Smashwords.
  2. Download this version of my book from Amazon, and download the Kindle for PC software so you can read it on your computer.

And now I can start writing the next book.  I already have several ideas.

Publishing E-books from South Africa

Updated to add: A lot has changed since I wrote this blog post.  Instead of writing a new one, I’ve updated this one.  Note the link to resources right at the end :).
10 December 2012

I’ve just published my short story collection as an e-book.  Here is a summary of what I’ve learnt about self-publishing e-books and a collection of links to helpful online resources.  Things are a little more complicated if you are not a resident of the USA, UK or Germany, as you will see below in the section on Tax.  It’s a long post but  I hope it’s helpful! 🙂


The haunted phone and other drawings

I’m another step closer to publishing my short stories as an e-book.  Today I finished the last of the illustrations.  These are mostly small, incidental drawings that get dropped here and there between scene breaks or at the end of the stories.  To my surprise, not all the stories were easy to illustrate.  Not all of them had objects in them suited to this type of drawing.  One of the most difficult stories finally yielded this, a haunted office phone:


Then there is this mysterious bottle that a character finds in his garden shed:

Another story features a cat hopefully peering under a fridge:


And here is a flyer for a micro-lending firm that comes to a bad end in yet another story:

I’m tempted to post them all here, but that would make a very long blog post 🙂

My stories have been proof-read and formatted, and when I’ve placed these drawings in the text, I should be ready to publish.  Sort of a scary thought!

Thanks to those of you who added your names to my e-mail list to be notified when this book will be available.  If anyone else wants to add their names, please use the form below.


The dolls are packed up and ready to go

This Sunday we leave for Grahamstown to take my work to the Com/Mix exhibition.  I spent yesterday packing my dolls and their glass bottles into heavily padded boxes. For some reason this makes me feel ridiculously pleased with myself 🙂

I still have to pack the framed pictures and oh! Did I mention that the coloured versions of my Antjie Donder and Mevrou Karwatz drawings came out looking fanTAStic?  So good that I wish I had them framed.  Cant wait to get there to see everyone else’s work .

Surviving the longest night of the year

Last night was the  longest night, deep in the heart of winter.  It was a bad one for me.  I found myself lying awake and slipping down the worry slope.  What was I thinking, giving up my full time job and salary?   What am I doing, going off to Grahamstown on an expensive trip?   The more I tried to sleep, the more that voice in my head went on and on.

Eventually I got up, and lit a fire in our new fireplace.  At midnight. In the middle of winter.  The worry voice just faded away.

A Civilized Witch

There are worse things than spending a rainy winters morning drawing while listening to an audiobook.  I had fun with this drawing too, although it was more difficult choosing the colours for this witch. She is more civilized than Antjie Donder, and needed colder colours.


I cant wait to see these drawings printed.  I’m planning to sell digital prints of both the black and white and colour versions at the Grahamstown exhibition.  One more week before we leave so I’ll have to get moving if I want to get these printed in time!

Here are some details.  The crows were supposed to be the indigenous “Wit Bors Kraai”  we get here in South Africa. But apart from not having white breasts, these birds are not nearly bulky enough to be the indigenous kind.   I think these crows come from Europe, like their mistress.

I did manage to work in some roses into the drawing.  The drawing is based on a story called “Thorn Rose”, so the roses are quite important.  Roses and thorns are important, I should say!



The witch in full colour

I finally got round to adding colour to my Antjie Donder drawing.  I wanted to use a method similar to a colour lino-cut print; layers of colour overlapping, with the gaps in one colour revealing the colour beneath.

I put a “multiply” blending mode on the linework layer to knock out the white areas but keep the black line.  Then  I created 10 solid colour layers under it, and used layer masks to hide each layer.  Then, I painted with white and black on the layer masks until the whole image was filled with colour.  Some of the top layers are partly translucent.  I discovered a useful keyboard short-cut: “X” while using the brush swops foreground and background colours.  This is great when working on the layer masks because it means you can switch between black and white while you paint.

Here is the (possibly) final coloured version:

Some details:


One step closer to publishing – the cover design:

I’m about to publish my collection of short stories as an ebook. It’s been a very interesting process so far, lots to learn. I’ve just completed the cover designs. The stories will be available as bundles of three or four stories each, or you can buy the full collection that  includes illustrations.

Designing ebook covers has some specific challenges as they need to read clearly at thumbnail size and also in grayscale , to look good to potential buyers browsing for books on their Kindles.

Here is the cover for the first bundle:

I like the way they look as a set.  Here are the rest:


Nameless Girl gets coloured

I’ve managed to add colour to the Nameless Girl’s story that I’m working on for the Co/Mix show.  They came out rather different from one another, but still intriguing.  Here is the first one:

And the second one:

How to greet a witch (politely)

Another drawing for COMIX.  This one is based on the doll called Mevrou Karwats.  In the story I wrote to go with the doll, she has a different name: Mrs Muller.  I wonder which one suits her best.  Here is the first draft of the drawing in pencil:

Here are the first few paragraphs of her story, which is called “Thorn Rose”:

“It had taken her long enough  to ring the doorbell.  Now Tanya stood hesitating, half hoping that no one was at home. Just as she was about to run back down the hallway to where the lift still stood open, the doorknob turned and the door opened a hand’s breadth. Then it closed, a chain rattled, and the door opened.

Tanya stared. This was the closest she had ever been to Mrs Muller. She could only just make out the old woman’s face in the shadowed doorway. Light from the hallway glinted in her large, heavily lidded eyes. Her dark eyebrows were drawn down in a frown. Tanya could feel the carefully rehearsed words begin to drain away. She took a deep breath:

“Greetings, wise woman. I come to consult you in your wisdom on a matter of great importance”.

She was sure those were the right words. It was important to be polite when speaking to a witch. And Mrs Muller was a witch, no matter what everyone else said.

Mrs. Muller’s eyebrows lifted in surprise.

“A child.” Her voice was harsh with a flat, foreign accent. “A child who wishes to consult.”

“Yes, please” said Tanya.

She was relieved. Mrs. Muller must be a witch after all, if she understood the ritual greeting. It wasn’t just her imagination. You could see she was a witch. Those long, grey dresses with the high collars that buttoned up right under her chin and the way she wore her hair, scraped back from her face and coiled up in a hairnet. And then there were the black birds that flew in and out of her windows of he flat.”

And here is Mrs Muller / Karwats as a doll:

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