Creature drawings for my new book

I’m outlining my new book – something quite different this time, not part of The Sisters series (The Story Trap, The Broken Path).  I’m doing the world-building, figuring out how the story world works.  I find it helps a lot to draw potential characters or possible creatures.

This one is a kind of fairy that lives in a communal hive very much like wasps do:


This is a household creature,  the kind that will do little jobs for a saucer of milk, but will do mischief too, if you ignore or insult them. A sort of brownie or nisse:


This one is something like a garden hobgoblin.  She’s a lot more patient than the brownie:


And I’m not sure what this is.  A sort of scavenging feral creature?  A sort of ratling?


Story Drawings for The Broken Path

Yesterday I started (at last) the illustrations for my book The Broken Path.  Just rough pencil sketches so far. This is a scene where Rebecca tells a story to her sister Pippa:


And a whole lot of crabs:

crab_front crab_top_simple crab_top

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A strangely comforting trauma

I’ve been very sick (flu!) and very busy, but at last have time for a quick review of a remarkable book:

The Stress of Her Regard by Tim Powers.

You just know that things are going to go bad from the moment when a very drunk Michael Crawford, on the night before his wedding, puts his wedding ring on the finger of an ancient female statue. In the middle of a stormy night. For safekeeping. He has reason to regret that decision very soon.

This book is not for the faint hearted. These vampires may sparkle at times, but they bite hard too.  And yet they are not just evil monsters. They fit into our world with Tim Powers’s convincing mixture of science, magic and poetry.
It also features real historical characters such as Byron, Keats, Shelly and Mary Shelly. In Tim Powers’s reality there is a close link between vampires and the poetic muse, and some poets are willing to put up with quite a lot of danger if it keeps them writing.

This is a cruel book. Fingers are shot or bitten off, throats are cut, eyes are gouged and many of these wounds are self inflicted. As with the other Powers’s books, you are taught very early on that the characters are not safe and wont be rescued at the last moment. This makes things a lot more tense and exciting, and in the end, also very moving. The hero and heroine are mauled and savaged and yet they survive. Despite being traumatised and permanently scarred, they remain true to some deep part of themselves, and to one another. I found that strangely comforting.

The Little Country by Charles de Lint

Title: The Little Country
Author: Charles de Lint
Series : No, this is a stand alone book

In Short:
A fantasy rooted in folk and fairy tales.  Janey Little, a Cornish folk musician, finds an unknown manuscript by a famous fantasy author.  She starts reading it, and so doing sets in motion an uncanny chain of events that puts herself and everyone she loves in danger.


In Full: The Little Country is my third book by Charles de Lint.  Although its not my favourite (that still has to be Moonheart) I thoroughly enjoyed it.  I found themes of redemption and forgiveness,  about the core of innocent hurt in the heart of even the most evil person. More

Pictures with stories

A couple of posts ago, I shared a number of pictures that seem to tell stories. This time round, I’m sharing two drawings I did myself, which was inspired by a stories.  The first inspiration came from Cornelia Funke’s “Inkdeath”.


In that book, there is a giant who takes on the colours of his surroundings. I find now, when I go back to read that passage, that I got several things wrong.  The giant is supposed to have inhumanly round eyes, and he is also supposed to be naked.  Oh well. Here is the passage: More

Birdwing by Rafe Martin

Title: Birdwing
Author: Rafe Martin
Series : No, this is a stand alone book
Rating: stars_02

Do you know the Grimm Brother’s fairy tale  “The Six Swans”?  That’s the one about the  six brothers who were turned into swans, and how their sister undid the enchantment.  At least – she almost succeeded. At the end, the youngest brother’s left arm remained a swan wing.

Birdwing is the story of what happens next, as Ardwin grows up and tries to make sense of his divided loyalties – his memories of the wild life of a swan, and his need for acceptance in the world of humans.


detail from Eleanor Abbot’s illustration

Rafe Martin asks if it is possible to live “happily ever after” when your family has been so spectacularly torn apart. More

Moonheart – Charles de Lint

Title: Moonheart
Author : Charles de Lint
Series : Nope, this one is a stand-alone.

In Short: Sarah Kendell’s comfortable life is derailed when she discovers an ancient Native American medicine bag at the back of her uncle’s second-hand shop.  She and her friends become entangled in a centuries old conflict between a Welsh Bard, a Druid, and the old gods of pre-colonial America.


This was my first Charles de Lint book, and now I have a new author to look out for – I loved it.  Moonheart drew me firstly because of its evocative title and the cover: More

A Rivalry of Wizards

What is the collective noun for a group of wizards?  A “wrath” of wizards?  An “argument”?  I’ve been gathering together some of my favourite wizards.


First, of course will always be Gandalf.  I grew up on The Lord of The Rings and of all the characters, Gandalf is the most compelling.  He has become my benchmark of what a wizard should be.  Here is my favourite image of him, from that famous poster by Jimmy Cauty : More

The Magicians of Caprona

Title: The Magicians of Caprona
Author: Diana Wynne Jones
Series :Part of the “Chronicles of Chrestomanci”, but is really a stand alone book

In Short: A fantasy set in  Italy in an alternate universe.  Two family Spell Houses, the Montanas and the Petrocchis, have been bitter rivals for generations. Tonino and his brother Paolo get caught up in the conflict.

Other books by author: “Howl’s Moving Castle”, “Charmed Life”, “The Ogre Downstairs” among many others.


Diana Wynne Jones is one of those authors who I turn to when in need of some comfort reading.  Whether its a brand new read like “The House of Many Ways”, or re-reading an old favourite like “The Magicians of Caprona” – I’m never disappointed. More


Title: Inkdeath
Author: Cornelia Funke
Series : Third book in the “Inkheart” trilogy
In Short: A compelling story set in a glorious fantasy world.  This is a dark, grim book about difficult choices,  lit with moments of beauty.

Other books by author: “The Thief Lord”, “Dragon Rider”.



Background: Inkdeath is the final book in the trilogy which began with “Inkheart”.  It follows the story of the book restorer Mo and his young daughter Meggie.  Early in Inkheart we learn that  Mo has a very special talent: when he reads out loud, his voice beguiles the characters to step right out of the story into our world.  And sometimes,  people are swept from our world and  into the book… More

Richard’s Booklist

My colleague Richard is in the throes of finishing his masters.  Or rather – he should be.  I am not allowed to give him any distracting books to read.  In the mean time, I’m compiling a list for him to enjoy once that masters is submitted.

I’ve already got Richard to read Philip Pullman’s  “His Dark Materials” series.  These are easily the best books I’ve ever read.  You can read more about them here.

So, Richard, if you liked those ones, you will definitely  love Phillip Pullman’s “Sally Lockhart”  series.    Four books follow the life of a young orphaned girls in Dickensian London.  Sound a bit humdrum?  Just read the first paragraph: More

The Band-Aid of Fantasy

One of my students interviewed me as part of a research project on readers of fantasy books. It was an unsatisfactory experience as she had already made up her mind on the fundamental issue. Question: “What attracts readers to fantasy and science fiction? “ Answer: “A need to escape”.