Archive for the ‘Younger fiction’ Category

Back in July 2016, I posted about a new version of Humpty Dumpty I had invented on a whim. You can find it here.

This morning I got up and found some new words to another nursery rhyme going round in my head. I jotted them down and then added some pretty primitive sketches.

Maybe I was inspired subconsciously by having seen one-day-old lambs yesterday (ours are late up here), but anyway, I thought I’d post it here tonight to amuse you.


Mary had a little lamb

Every now and then I remember to practise drawing the same character from different viewpoints doing different things. You may remember this attempt. I was at it again in the last couple of days, only this time I gave him (or is it a her with shortish hair?) some huge objects to manhandle. I was just being whimsical. But then some ideas came to mind.


He feels little in his family. Maybe he has a skill no one really notices. Maybe there is some incident when he knows he could help but no one even glances at him.

So what happens? *shrugs* Well, maybe he has to surreptitiously assemble the things he needs, in order to do whatever he needs to do to sort it out! So, stretching my brain a bit… he, um, steals the sharpener to sharpen the pencil, then draws the image and finally paints it.

That latter image was meant to be pastel sticks but looks more like watercolour paints – except for the lack of a mixing lid! He struggles to lug this one to his bedroom…

So yes, I don’t have time right now because a 400-page book has to be proofread this week for a publisher. But this is how a story could grow in my head, needing many revisions obviously, but perhaps it could be made to work if I really wanted to.

Nice to have conjured up a spark on a cold, icy day 🙂 Happy new year to you all.


Having spent some time reducing (diminishing?) my children’s story to under 1,000 words from its original 1,200, I wanted to run it past my granddaughter. I pulled up the newly shortened version and suddenly realised it would make little sense, so I obviously had to immediately pull up the original.

Why would this be? Well, it has no pictures yet. And the main way to cut length is to eliminate everything that could be shown in the illustrations. This meant, for instance, that if the spider is forging a new web, you can say One… two… three… four… And have spot illustrations to show where he fixed the four strands. Without the illustrations it is both nonsense and boring. There were so many instances where I left room for the illustrator to show the story so that I wouldn’t need to tell it that I had no choice but to ditch the new version and read the old one.

I think this one hit home with her. Perhaps its best use, therefore, is in a short story volume where only a few pictures are used and it can stay in its original form. Haha. How many unknown authors get to publish an anthology of great stories?? So I will push on with the new version and send it out.

This kind of ‘this or that?’ scenario does ring a bell with illustration too. How many times have I had a good version and a ‘ruined’ improved version. Gut feeling plays a large part in creation. Perhaps sometimes we really ought to stay with the original. Unless market forces combine to prevent that. In which case… Give in?

Example. I sketched this little dancer this week. She looked cute but I ploughed on to digitalise and paint her and I’m really not too sure if she couldn’t have inspired the imagination better in her original form! What do you think?

little dancer

little dancer revised

I was messing around with an idea about rewriting nursery rhymes (UK ones, if you’re one of my valued readers from the rest of the world – I don’t know any ‘foreign’ ones!).

The idea was that most of the original lines would be kept and others added randomly, still keeping to a rhyme scheme. Sort of filling them out a bit, if you like! Here I added a bit of background to who he was and why he was on the wall in the first place.

This is the original version:

Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall

Humpty Dumpty had a great fall

All the king’s horses and all the king’s men

They couldn’t put Humpty together again.

Of course, the real person referred to in this rhyme was, I think, a dumpy, clumsy person – who could have been put back together again – so he’s usually been drawn as an egg, which couldn’t. And that probably followed from Alice through the Looking Glass, where Lewis Carroll drew him as an egg. But don’t quote me on that. It might have been political for all I know!

Here’s my version – with a quickie sketch to go with it 🙂

Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall

without his friends, without the ball.

They said that Humpty was too small

to play with them – the wall was tall.

He fidgeted, afraid he’d fall,

and when he did, they heard him bawl.

All the king’s horses and all the king’s men

came rushing up in groups of ten.

They’d heard his cry and felt his pain

and thought they’d make him right as rain.

They wrote down how and what and when.

But after an hour and loads more pain, 

they couldn’t put Humpty together again.

Humpty Dumpty on wall

Humpty Dumpty alone on the very tall wall

Comments welcome!

I wrote a short chapter book which would divide into six chapters. It seemed reasonable for the target age group to have a six-year-old girl going to a new school, having just moved into a new home. It would need colour illustrations on every page, I think, to encourage the new reader to read, even if being read to. The (dreaded, compulsory!) synopsis starts like this:

Jess hates her new house because it is draughty, noisy and ghostly. She also hates her new school because she has, as yet, no friends. Grandad has stopped travelling and moved into the attic. He remarks that his beautiful stones are magical and not to be touched. Jess creeps up at night to borrow one to help her solve her problems at school. But his caged mouse challenges her and demands cheese for his silence, after which he lets her take it, with warnings about telling on her if she loses it.

Obviously, things must go wrong with the stone and at the end she must have won a friend – by normal means using her skills – and be reconciled to the new house. Otherwise, where is the story?

It starts likes this:

Jess hated her new house. The bedroom door moaned and groaned all night. She tried propping it open. She tried pressing it shut. She tried pushing her slippers against it.

But: Creak! Squeak! 

Moan… groan…  

Cold air brushed against her face. 

A scuffle on the floor: mouse or ghost?

Jess shivered and pulled the covers over her head.

It was nearly morning before she fell asleep. She dreamt that tree roots were curling round her feet. When she woke, the quilt was twisted round her legs and the wind was whistling round her toes. 

She pulled her uniform on and ran down to the kitchen, where Mum was frying bacon. 

“I hate this house,” she said. “And I hate my new school.”

Anyway, I decided to sketch the bit near the end before the final thing happens, where we read:

Later, Jess lay in the dark listening to the door creaking and groaning, despite the pile of books she’d dumped in front of it. The wind blew cold about her ears.

Then I painted it digitally.

jess and books

It’s not intended to be neat and tidy. And I want to add a scene in the same style with Grandad in his attic room showing the melée of things from his travels, including the cage and its mouse (that is, or perhaps is not, also magical). I can see it in my mind’s eye, preferably with the sun streaming in, not darkness like here! But it will be hard to do, whether neat and tidy or scribbly!

This is not a story I would want to illustrate myself, though. More of an accompaniment to submitting a manuscript. But it was fun to try.

There’s a mouse…

Posted: April 28, 2016 in Younger fiction
Tags: ,

I have been rummaging around in the fantasy areas of my head between learning Adobe Illustrator and doing my usual paid work. This is one idea I came up with for a picture book. I know every publisher in the land will think it’s rubbish, but I happen to like it, so I’m recording it here for your amusement. It would need lots of extra story happening on each spread that isn’t in the words – and that would tax my current illustration abilities, but I can dream! (By the way, I finished all the illustrations for my out-of-print children’s book that I want to republish.)

I’ve added one of my mouse pictures. He crops up quite often when I’m sketching. He feels like an old friend. Which might have some bearing on why he appeared in my head for a story 🙂 Comments welcome.

There’s a mouse in my house
He’s nimble and bold.
He thinks that my dad
Is getting too old…
To snatch him or catch him
Or even just bash him.
It’s magic to watch him
Just vanish – GONE!
Under – or over
Behind – or around.
But after his tricks
The chomp-chomping sound…
Can be heard from – well, somewhere.
It’s driving Dad mad.
The crumbs are the last straw,
My dad’s not bad, but…
He bounces with rage
And gives a huge roar
‘How can I dispatch him
When somebody leaves
The biscuit tin open?
I beg you – please!’
Of course, Mum’s not guilty.
It’s me who loves Fred –
The place he lives mostly is…
[under my head] (no words, child guesses bed or head, mouse in nice comfy little hideaway provided by child between their pillow and the bedhead. With some biscuits!)

sketch mouse 3

What is one to do?

Posted: February 13, 2016 in process, thoughts, Younger fiction
Tags: ,

I have 15 stories written and probably another 50 in draft or idea form. That’s little stories of up to 1,000 words, maybe a couple at 2,000. And therein lies the dilemma.

Publishers want a certain length, but if I cut them or adjust them in any way, they might lose their charm (okay, so I accept that maybe no one else will think they have some charm but anyway…) and then a refusal from a publisher would leave me with a bad taste because I knew it wasn’t actually what I wrote instinctively.

It’s not as though I waffle; I’m used to editing to length. Just that these need their length, as is. So, as they stand, they are neat and tidy and I accept a publisher’s editor would want to ask for some extra edits. Cutting is the problem. It’s just not knowing which version to send in case I send the wrong one and court failure.

And so nothing happens. Work gets in the way (and art) and these stories languish in my drawer (well, on my hard drive).

And now, with one or two that I do think (still) are good enough to be seen, there is the additional problem that one of them contains rhyme as an integral part of the story at each stepping stone of the plot. But they say it’s harder to sell foreign rights if there’s rhyme. Actually, as far as I can see from retailers shelves, loads of books are published in rhyme all the time. I just don’t get it. Children absolutely love being able to repeat with you an ongoing rhyme, because that way they are taking part in the story even when they can’t read. They pay attention so as not to miss it when it comes again. Surely that is all to the good?

Maybe I just love my stories too much! And with that thought, here is a valentine made from one of my own paintings, with an additional heart photoshopped over the flower she was originally offering. I tinted the card to be romantic too – how clichéd is that? Maybe a publisher will tell me my stories, too, are not original enough. Maybe that’s why my brain won’t send them out?


Real watercolour and Photoshop