Thursday, December 31, 2009

It's Resolution Time!

This year I'll try and finally learn to play the double bass to some useful level of skill, plus some worthy stuff. (Worthy stuff always leads to trouble I find, but it's interesting.)

Last day of the year!

Oooh hooray, the gloom has lifted. Just in time for the New Year.
New Decade technically starts 2011, doesn't it? Yes. New Year is good enough, anyway.
Apologies to anyone I've insulted in the last few days and haven't apologised to yet.

I went to the Tate Modern yesterday just to get out of the house, and to get some writing done. There were children rolling about and a number of strangers sharing my table - it seemed like every time I looked up there was someone else sitting with me. Some of them were glowing with art experience and tea appreciation, some looked very annoyed about having to share a table. The presence of noisy children actually helped since I was writing the showdown of an adventurous children's book. I think I've pretty much written it now, I imagined the illustrations and it looks right in my head.
On my way back I had a strange argument at a checkout - I tried to refuse a plastic bag to carry a bag of crisps in. "I can carry it in my hand, that's what hands are for, that sort of thing anyway," I said. "But it's cold out there," said the checkout man cryptically, bagging up my bag of crisps. "Never mind, I'll take the train," I replied unbagging it and wondering what I meant by that. Anyway, success. No bag.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

More Hamsters

Am still fine-tuning and re-colouring hamsters.

This book should be finished soon.

Brrr, I am finding it really hard to wake up - it's been raining and raining and there's not enough sunlight to get me going. I refuse to buy a sunlight lamp, surely the rain will stop eventually...

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Glow in the dark coffee

Oof. Winter depression is getting me down. It's not constant and mostly just needs a cup of coffee to chase it away. Good thing I got this espresso cup for Christmas, with hand-painted cats on it that glow in the dark. With that, I can face any sort of gloom.

I do get depressed, you know. People sometimes send me lovely emails saying that I'm cheering them up, and that is what I am aiming to do (with my books, I mean). They often assume I'm a thoroughly happy person, which I am not. I'm not secretly sad, neither. I sometimes feel like an archaeologist looking for happy bits of life to put into books. In summer, it's more like harvesting them. In Winter, I need to de-frost my world with hot drinks first.

Right now it is thoroughly defrosted, and I am working on a picture book which is starting to look really nice - I coloured in some pink-and-orange pages, hmmm, I'm always pleased if I can find a reason to do that in a story.

(By the way, that lovely cat-box is what the cup and saucer came in, decorated by Matthew.)

Monday, December 28, 2009

Why, actually?

You know what has been puzzling me for ten years now?
Why does every single person I meet ask me what part of Germany I grew up in? It's definitely not just polite interest, because if I am at all vague about it they won't stop asking. They really must know, even if they are invariably disappointed because they never heard of the place. And that would still be not odd if it weren't every single person wanting to know it exactly. They must it know more than they must know my job, my interests, anything else at all about me. There is an air of great importance about it every time, and they look me straight in the eye and speak slowly and seriously. Where the heck am I from, exactly? - There must be something odd about me not feeling the need to know the same about anyone else (although I've started asking, just in case it's a secret password against the zombie invasion).
I don't mind at all, I just sometimes wonder what it's all about.

(Update: All right, so the name of the town I grew up in sounds vaguely rude in English, and after ten years of not living there I feel I should be excused of saying it out loud at social gatherings. And yes, that's really the reason I am fussing about it. I admit it. The "I don't mind at all" bit is a lie. I'm just inserting this here because I just noticed this post makes me seem completely neurotic.)

The thing I'd REALLY like to know is, why do we recycle glass jars instead of reusing them? How hard would it be to make them a standard size, then collect them after use, clean and re-fill them instead of smashing them and making new jars? We could have industry standard sizes, why not?

And, which I'm wondering about things- why are toilets such a bad design? Why do we wee into litres of drinking water several times a day and then throw it away?

Why is the world so very strange?

You can maybe tell that I'm spending this evening not being at a dinner party, and feeling kind of relieved about that.

But honestly... why?

(Update, after being told by a number of friends over email and phone and directly: people ask where people are from because they are interested in the country, not just in me. Um. Okay. Yes. Sorry. Thanks. True.)

Saturday, December 26, 2009


You probably don't know this, but kites are one of my actual interests (there are a few, but you might miss them because of all the other things I get temporarily excited about, like knitting or chutney-making or complaining about movies).
My parents (who do know this) gave me a wonderful book on kites for Christmas, and I spent most of the evening looking at pictures of a cicada kite - my favourite kind of kite. I wish I could spend some time sitting in the workshop of a kite building master watching these being made. - Here are some decorated by Friedensreich Hundertwasser, I saw one of them in an exhibition years ago. They are amazing objects, perfectly rigged like tiny ships and designed to sing in the wind.

Otherwise, Christmas in running out, and I am happy.

We stripped the goose and had leftovers, which as always were twice as tasty as the meal. The bones are bubbling in a casserole for goose soup, and in a while I'll decide what to do with my share of goose fat. This particular one yielded more than I've ever seen. At least three litres. We haven't even rendered half of it yet. I think I'll make some apricot and onion spread, and save a jar for cooking, and freeze the rest for next autumn. It's a serious animal to cook, a goose, definitely feeds a lot of people for a long time. I'm not expecting any appetite for meat for January.

I'm warm, because I'm completely covered in knitwear that nice people have made and given me for Christmas. Last year I got elegant little pretty things, this year slightly tribal warm things. I approve. Now I shall drink some wine and do some writing... I'm re-working parts of my graphic novel script, which is slightly unprofessional because I already handed in a second draft, but I am feeling inspired. I told Alexis what I'd written so far and he had some ideas for changes, several of them things I'd already considered myself, so I'm making them now because if we both thought of them they probably are for the better.

Presents... (and boring Star Trek)

I got BRILLIANT presents this year. A hand-knitted jumper and a skirt from my mother, a book on kites, a facsimile edition of Edward Lear's Parrots, a mask that Alexis brought back from his Galapagos trip, a strange and wonderful hat, a jar of artichokes, lovely crockery, money for treats and commemorative paper-cut out and dress-up dolls of the Obama family.

And more things.

I have no idea if I cooked the goose right because my sense of smell failed completely. But people said it was tasty.
Also I watched that Star Trek movie at last, with Christmas guests, and sorry guys but - no. What was the exact title again, "Star Trek - The Time Traveller's Captain"? If I see ONE MORE STORY where any character's motivation is someone coming back from the future telling them "you don't want to miss ONE MINUTE of what you will experience together, so get lovin' them NOW" I will, well, stop watching right there and then and do something more entertaining like, I don't know, dust the shelves.
We watched an original episode afterwards and everyone went "Aaaaah... oh yes, that was really GOOD, wasn't it". Yeah, you know, IT WAS. And because I'm not "The Time Traveller's Audience" it's not enough to tell me "these guys are going to turn into people you know and love" to make me want to watch them pointlessly faff about for a whole movie. Especially when it transpires halfway through that it's all set in an alternative reality. - I just hoped William Shatner would pop through from the future, too, take one look around, say "This must be one of these bad parallel universes where Spock has a beard" and collapsed the whole movie.

But otherwise, wheeee, brilliant Christams! Hope you all had a great time, too!

Thursday, December 24, 2009


I went to watch "Avatar" last night and since I expected the plot to be completely pointless, I was happy when it was actually reasonably fun. - We spent some time discussing it straight after, and I proposed a short story version which cuts the main character - if you think about it, Sigourney Weaver's scientist could have saved the day by herself doing pretty much just what she was doing anyway.
Otherwise, we agreed the creatures were fun but could have been much more exciting and thought-through, it was a little bit like taking an earth creature and running it through a process that added two legs, two eyes and a USB plug, and then asking yourself: could this be more bio-luminescent? Could this be more sub-aquatic? - instead of actually trying to evolve a credible eco-system from common ancestors built from scratch to suit the environment. - (Could have been worse, could have been Elephants on Wheels.)
And we also agreed that the leading lady was lovely, and that the top predator beastie was in no way as good as a Sandworm and should have been more awesome. Generally, more awesomeness to the hero of legend, or else hand it over to Sigourney, was my impression.
But fun, despite watching an evening of, well, um, kind of this. (Actually, that does look like a good day out...)

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The Deal

Here's a scratch performance of a song I wrote the words for at the Battersea Arts Center - Music and Pictures by Matthew Robins, puppeteered by Tim Spooner. I haven't got all the musicians' names right now... anyway, just listen to this!

Update: Here are the lyrics for you.

The devil came round to my fathers house
had a cup of tea and joked with my mum
had a look at the garden and played with the cat
then he asked - can I see the little one?
I heard she’s been crying and we can’t have that.

the devil gave me a chocolate rose
and said this one’s for free
and as I ate it he said young madam,
I have something to propose
would you do a deal with me?

sure I said
why not I said
I’m sure it will be fine
I once swapped a cake for a rabbit
and it wasn’t even mine
so go on, go on, go on, tell me more

the devil gave me a candy floss tree
and said have another one do
I’ve got a joke that’s only for you
It might go on for many years and more
and its never been told quite like this before
Its the best joke in the world, you see
but if you laugh you belong to me.

sure I said why not I said
I’m sure it will be fun.
I haven't laughed since I was born
and I’ve seen sausage dogs run
so go on go on go on tell me more.

the devil still comes to my house
but he never brings presents to me - no, no more
he drinks my tea and he smiles at me
asks me how have I been and what have I seen
and I say I can’t complain dear sir
got a house made of stone and a coat of fake far

I’m fine I say, I’m swell I say
there’s nothing more to tell I say

I might find me a husband or go to japan
but I’ll never go to hell, I say
so go on go on go on tell me more

the devil smiles, he smells of smoke
sometimes I wonder about that joke.

I Am So Proud!!!!!
There should be a whole show eventually. Oh yes.

The words to this song, by the way, I wrote years ago onto a wooden desk with a pencil because that was what I had to hand when I thought of them. Later I copied them out and put them in a letter to Matthew, and got back a tape in the post a while later with it set to music. That was one of the most amazing things I've ever got in the post.

(And Alexis arrived back from Galapagos at last, and showed us amaaaaaazing drawings of tortoises and blue-footed boobies and other beasts and actually I might fall asleep now.)

Monday, December 21, 2009


Mmm. Just roasted and ate a load of chestnuts.
Outside, big fat snowflakes have settled into a crunchy white reality blanket.
My friend Kris is still here - she was meant to travel home to Germany on the Eurostar this morning. First we were worried, now we are just going to bake things and wait for everyone else to return to the house.
My flatmate is stuck in Madrid. It seems flights stopped going out. Our Christmas visitor from Amsterdam is thankfully only stuck in Victoria Station. Trains cancelled, buses... who knows. I'm waiting by the phone.

Am imagining Daleks sliding past the window, rotating gently, with caps of snow and their eye-stalks iced over.

It's very quiet outside.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Christmas ongoing...

Hooray for pre-Christmas celebrations! I've been to some lovely ones already, and there are more ahead. I've been all over South London, holding new babies, playing with cats, admiring trees and studios and houses and projects, eating turkey and bread sauce and mince pies. I've been visited by Gus the Neighborhood Bookshop Dog in the pub, and he jumped on my lap to say hello. He's the only dog in the world who is allowed to do that, because he's polite and doesn't smell.
People are pairing up and settling down and reproducing all around me, and when I was younger I worried this would get me down eventually because older friends told me it would. But it doesn't. I like being single, it beats being with the wrong person, which especially around Christmas feels like having ones brains sucked out slowly into the void with a straw. If anything, every year I feel more grateful for the continued absence of that particular feeling. - It's wonderful, visiting all my friends and being visited, and everything gradually becoming more decked out with presents and ornaments as we sit and eat and chat and warm ourselves on fires real or electric. This is how I hope all my Christmases will be.

I am feeling rather sorry for anyone who is stuck due to the Eurostar not running, and very grateful that I don't have to travel myself. It's a bit inconvenient, isn't it, having the big family holiday at a time when travel is most difficult. That was probably rather sensible when families stayed living together in one place. I'd vote for concentrating on Easter, family-wise, and celebrating Christmas with whoever is around at the time, well, that's what I do... but then - see above, et cetera.

I was just unlocking the door to go out into the cold and buy some bread somewhere so I could have toast for lunch, which is all I could come up with presently, and I was looking at the sad note that's been sitting on our doormat for days: MISSING BLACK AND WHITE CAT, his name is Eric, PLEASE help... - brrr, I thought. What a time to go missing. Brr.
Then the door was open - and just outside someone had set up a stall selling artichoke pie.
A happy family carrying aloft a black and white cat passed before I could say "Oh wow".
"Meow," said the cat.
"We found him! He was gone for DAYS!" they called, and were gone again before I could say "Merry Christmas, Eric".
I bought a slice of artichoke pie, and went back into my warm home.
NOW it's Christmas.

Addendum II:
Now my best friend is stuck at my house due to Eurostar Rubbishness, and we shall bake carrot cake tomorrow.
Now it's Even More Christmas!

Saturday, December 19, 2009


...about my best friend having to travel on the Eurostar on Monday. She might get stranded instead, I think. I do hope she gets home for Christmas.


I had just finished hoovering the flat with the Henry Hoover and was still ranting in my head about this completely un-ergonomic object being considered a much loved design classic just because it's got a grinning face pasted to the front (yes I know it's quite powerful, but it rolls over more often than a three-legged puppy, and it's about as easy to store as a baby elephant with its schnozz stuck down a drainpipe) and thus wasn't paying attention while shredding a receipt with some Japanese shredding scissors which I'd consider a particulary good piece of design... now part of the skin of my thumb is sliced into really neat parallel flaps. OUCH!!!!
Man, I'm cross.

(addendum: And I have a painful spot on my nose. Exactly in the middle of the tip of my nose. Wah.)

Friday, December 18, 2009


I just got back from the Battersea Art Centre, and I am thoroughly happy. And proud.
I watched a small trial performance of a few songs by Matthew and his current set of musicians - and all the words had been written by me, over the last few years. Some of them I knew well and some I had forgotten completely.
And it was BRILLIANT!
We all sat in a little room with candles and a fireplace, there were shadow puppets and other projections manipulated by Tim, rabbits and cats and fish and monsters and even the devil himself, and I couldn't believe how wonderful the music was - there was a cello and a violin and a bass guitar and a pump organ, and all of them playing together beautifully. It was like a happy dream.
I'm so pleased with what Matthew did with the songs, he's starting to weave some stories that make the words I wrote from something idiosyncratic into something that I think will be meaningful to people who aren't, well, me. Which I think is the best thing that can happen with something one makes.
Oh hooray!!!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

New Flyboy Book!

Just saying:
Matthew is hand-making wonderful books again. And you can buy them here.
Flyboy, Mothboy, the Wicker Cat and the Robot have become like real people to me by now. I almost expected them at the table when I visited Matthew and Tim for that Christmas Dinner last night. (Mothboy was in the tree, actually, probably attracted by the flashing fairy lights.)


Huh. That was a nice evening.
The postman woke me up - he had a huge parcel from Germany, and he laughed and shouted WAKEY WAKEY when he saw me.

I wonder why.
Oh hooray, I didn't expect such a big wonderful parcel! I shall stick it under the tree right now.
This year I sent off a minimum of presents in time (but they are all nice) and I expect I shall stretch out Christmas and keep sending off and handing out more things in January. It's that kind of Winter this year - I just seem to have four times as many friends as I'm used to.

There aren't quite enough birds in our Christmas tree yet. Today I shall work out how to rectify that. And, yeah, make some more presents.

But first I want a cup of tea.

Christmas already!

I just got back from a brilliant Christmas Dinner - basically, whatever happens, Christmas is pegged down securely for me now. I've had my brilliant roast with all the trimmings and a lovely evening. I tried really hard not to rant about computers, science fiction and/or copyright regulations after two glasses of wine, and somehow had a rant about picture books instead. This is quite out of character and I can't remember what I said neither, except that it involved Julie Andrews and a fork lift truck.
I also found out that Very Excitingly Matthew is planning to perform several songs that I wrote the words to on Friday at the Battersea Arts Center (among other things). Three songs, I think. It might turn into a whole show. I already got to see some props and bits and bobs, and it all looks brilliant. Come and see it if you are around.

Then I got home to find more lovely Christmas post had arrived, especially John's new CD.

Yay! Merry!!!!!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Hamster Attack at Dawn

I shall leave the digital skies alone for now.

Time to go out into the first snow of the year to get some stamps, post off some cards a bit too late and then go to an early Christmas dinner.
Actually, scratch that. Time to huddle up to the radiator and do some writing and let the late Christmas cards be really late... it's Too Cold! But I'll still go to the dinner.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Skies, light, colours...

I'm adjusting the colours in the book I'm working on today, trying out dramatic and pretty-blue skies, different shades of night blue and sea green, and sea blue and night green, mid-morning yellow glow and different sorts of haziness and shadow. I've got the feeling I'll end up learning something very useful, but until then I try my best not to get cross with the slightly hideous and uncanny results.

Also the milk in this tea is ever so slightly off. Bleh.

Monday, December 14, 2009


Huh, it's cold.

I've spent my studio time today collaging a nest for some hamsters, tomorrow I shall post it off to be scanned.
Right now, I'm waiting for the next episode of Dr Who to come online so I can shout at it. (Shouting at TV series is my idea of relaxation. When I was tiny I used to shout at Sesame Street. Later I shouted at Star Trek. I wonder if other people watch their favourite programs when they are alone and shout at them. I don't shout very loudly, and hardly at all when other people are present. I shout at every bit of the script I disapprove of, which is why it has to be a favourite program, else I get totally worn out...)
Until that happens, I shall list all the human characters in the graphic novel I'm working on (all the main characters are animals and already worked out) and assign them genders, ethnicities, shapes and sizes and assorted varied characteristics to make sure I don't end up by accident with 80% short white skinny nerdy girls just because I wasn't paying attention.
I would do some digital colouring (more urgent) but I don't want to get out of bed. Because it's COLD.

Sunday, December 13, 2009


I am currently celebrating the news that someone somewhere has come to some sense - in fact, Ed Balls - and relaxed those new rules that demanded anyone in the UK working with children in any way to have to get themselves police-checked (and pay for it, too). I was going to stop doing school visits because it annoyed me so much. Okay, make sure people who are left alone with children are not dodgy. But be reasonable about it.
Well done again, children's authors' lobby.

Otherwise... I'm making Christmas presents. And then, possibly, a new skirt, following the pattern of a favourite one that has become grease-stained.

Saturday, December 12, 2009


I just re-worked my graphic novel script that had exactly the right number of pages but not enough of a dramatic ending. First I wrote the new ending which added a good number of panels, some of them rather big, then I went through the whole lot and upped the panel count per page a smidgen, from a basic six panel grid to a basic nine panel grid.
Now I am ten pages short.
I think that's good enough to start pencilling, I bet I'll find I want some extra pages SOMEWHERE.
Also I actually don't remember at all if I had the right number in the first place. My head is swimming from turning every scene into a dramatic set of rectangles in my mind.

HEYY I re-wrote my script though, and I think it has all the stuff in it was supposed to have!

Oof, again.

(Update, hours later: switched the laptop back on because I couldn't sleep, tinkering with dialogue now...)

Learning Electronics

I just saw my ideal present featured on BoingBoing - but it's the ideal present for my teenage self. Ah well.

So now I'm telling you, in case you know anyone who might also get obsessed with buying tiny pretty resistors from the electronics store and then soldering together lie detectors that fit into match boxes and making their own electronic musical instruments out of... anything to hand, really.
If I'd had this book and kit back then I'd probably have my own robot manservant today.

Instead I'm committed to making books now... which is also a good thing. If I should ever be rich enough to own a house I'll have a workroom for making things. Until then I'll just dream of electric sheep.

By the way, I'm still very grateful to my dad for going along with every crafty whim and helping me make hundreds of things, that's still one of my best memories, my dad saying "It's Saturday, what will me make today?" and sometimes it was a puppet theatre in the attic and sometimes it was a pendulum that drew patterns in fine sand. And my mum taught me sewing and pottery, and how to think instructions through and then maybe do it differently, and very importantly that women can put up their own shelves.
Also I'm glad that I was always allowed to turn my room (or the attic, and any other spare space) into maybe a spaceship complete with fairy light starfields and flashing control panels any time - or into a stop motion film studio with an old super-8 camera strapped to a step ladder and lamps filling the rest of the room. Or whatever else I got into my head.
I'm not sure who I'd be today if I'd grown up without making.
Thanks mum and dad!

Friday, December 11, 2009


a) hurt my back by sitting for too long.
b) noticed laptop works fine sideways on the floor.

(By the way if your laptop doesn't like to stand on end you can get this instead.)

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Second Christmas Card! Yay!

Yayyy it's the year of lovely hand-made Christmas Cards.
Today I got another one. Here is a photo.

Otherwise... I went to the Victoria and Albert Museum to visit some sculptures and buy some new birds for the christmas tree, and to Forbidden Planet, and now I shall put fairy lights up in my room, and then I'll draw a battle plan for the showdown of my graphic novel. Lots of arrows. Yes.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Fairy Dust

Today I saw a girl put on perfect eye makeup on the bus, that included some nimble eyelash curling action.
Then I had meetings about three books - one was all script editing, turns out my script can mostly stay as it is, except for one scene which needs to be much bigger, and now I think I know 90% of how to re-write it. Then we looked through the second book and I delivered some sheets of bits and bobs that will be scanned so I can scatter them around on the pages where they are still a bit empty-looking. Then I had to paint some pages of magic fairy dust, because we decided the third book could do with a dose of that. The fairy dust came out well, and I had time left to note down some scenes and the ending of my novel. Then I went back home to cover the birds, and got a front seat on the top of the bus which never happens normally (I always have to stand at the back wedged between six tired people, typically).
When I got home there was a tree in the corridor, still cold from the outside world. I shall help decorate it when I'm fully awake again. Right now I am sitting in bed eating crisps and drinking a very small glass of port, feeling mentally drained and liking my life. I guess this is the sort of day that people who think I have days like this every day think I daily have.
Not so. It's particularly good.

(Only boring bit: the rechargeable batteries I bought were all empty. Surely they should then call them "chargeable batteries"?)

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

First Christmas Card, yay

I got my very first Christmas card of the year!
It's beautiful, too... here's a photo:

And now I shall go to a nice pub and eat a vegetarian mushroom burger, one of those with one giant mushroom instead of a beef patty, oh yes, because it's been that sort of a day where everything goes very well but there's slightly too much of it and there's no way I'm going to cook and anyway I'm meeting a friend.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Whistling while you Work

I just stopped myself from work at the end of the podcast I was listening to (another one - I'm getting very used to them now) to go and muck out the garden. I can't think of any other word for it, it definitely didn't feel like gardening. Think potted balcony garden abandoned for several months due to lack of access in the rainiest part of the year. Pots of mushroomy rotten sludge held together by dead roots.
It's definitely a good idea to do some physical work between colouring sessions, I just wonder how other people seem to manage to do nice un-sludgy whistle while you work type domestic chores that probably smell good, too. It's probably because they don't let matters liquefy before they tend to them.

I'd like to do something pleasantly domestic tonight, but can't think of anything except making pickles - baking a cake would be the classic choice but I don't really like cake. And lately I can't be bothered to knit or crochet neither, because I need my hands to draw and write with - getting RSI from making a sock when I have a book deadline would be idiotic.
Pickles... say, why don't I just eat some pickles and then do some writing. They sell pickles in the shop. When did I turn into my own Stepford Wife anyway? I'll make pickles when I feel inspired to pickle. Enough domesticity already!

Phew. Freelance Sundays, eh?

Happy St Nicholas Day!

Consider getting tree alternatives this year... here's a magnetised screw with iron particles suspended in liquid.
(see more)

Saturday, December 5, 2009

I tidied my wall


While clearing out my wardrobe I found a framed original "Shark and Lobster" artwork, and after giving away a load of books I managed to clear a shelf, which I then used just to put favourite things on... so now I have a pleasant wall to look at when I wake up.

(Also just looked at this picture and realised the Bantha is saddled back to front. I am so rubbish at posing toys.)

"The True Deceiver", and something about endings

I just read "The True Deceiver" by Tove Jansson, which was recently re-published in the UK. I liked it a great deal, enough to read it all in one go after midnight. It made me feel grateful, because it dealt with things that bother me and that are hard to put in words - the way that people choose a way of making sense of the world, cutting off some things, pegging down others until they have something that works and seems completely true - and they may forget that there still is an outside place beyond that construct where they might hardly be able to function and survive.
It features two seemingly opposed characters, and I could easily identify with both of them. One of them is a bumbling picture book illustrator, the other a determined woman with a scary dog and a matching grin. I do recommend it, although don't complain if you find it sad. I found it very calming.

Work-wise, I'm presently having a shot at writing a big hollywood style ending. I think I might need to re-watch some movies for inspiration, because (as often) all I can think of is Ghostbusters. And, with some effort, Star Wars. A Big Intergalactic Celebration Covered In Marshmallow Fluff seems to be my ideal happy ending, can you blame me...

Actually, I've noticed before that endings are difficult. In most of the longer things I've written there's been a dramatic penultimate scene followed by general relief that mostly everyone is still alive, and a sense of exhaustion and maybe a nice cup of tea. With this one (the graphic novel script I'm working on) I already knew that I didn't quite have the energy to write a proper uplifting finale, and so I went to the cup of tea straight away, thinking: in a little while it'll all have settled in my mind and I'll be able to pick just the right bits of the story to tie up. Someone will realise they've overcome something and put it in just the right words, most likely.
So today I'm re-reading the script and taking notes of trouble... all the things that get sorted out in the end. I've already written the sorting-out part, all I need now is a scene that shows off the goodness.

I wish I could write in the pretty cafe, but it being Saturday there are no free tables. So I'm writing at home by the washing machine, because there's underfloor heating, I need to do the laundry anyway, and the washing machine sometimes walks off if unattended, so it's a quasi-symbiotic all-round acceptable situation.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Charity Vortex

I just ran away from some charity workers who asked me to sign up at the car park - I did not mean to. In fact I'd been meaning to stay at home, but then I decided to take a bag of books and a bag of clothes to the Charity shop. There I overheard a lady wondering how to get a desk she just bought to the car park, and offered to help carry it. And just before we got there, two friendly people took it off us, told us to take a break and then got out papers for a different Charity for us to sign. - I don't think running away spontaneously was the correct option. Just right that second I was convinced I'd been caught up in a strange Charity Vortex, and I feared for my kidneys, and I really did not want to explain myself.
I felt quite bad, running down the street, abandoning a stranger with a heavy desk like that. It completely negated the whole effort, somehow, even though she seemed quite happy signing and chatting, and she was pretty much where she'd been meaning to go, and I'm sure they'd carry it the last stretch for her. - I should at least have said goodbye.
Then it started raining a lot, and I got wet and felt like everything was back to normal, more or less.

Eric Orchard's Cloud Cartographers

Here's something brilliant I got in the post:

Eric Orchard's Cloud Comic

...two mini comics by Eric Orchard.
He is working out a wonderful universe of characters and stories - this is a spread from "The Cloud Cave" which features the most exciting looking clouds I've ever seen - exactly the sort you'd imagine if you drag your duvet over your head on a cold morning and dream for a bit longer.

Staying In

I refuse to be rained on today. Do you hear? I refuse!!! I refuse any hint of grey wet fresh air. I shall read a book for breakfast and eat tinned food for the rest of the day, and work from home.

There's digital colouring things to be done, which is just the right sort of thing for today. And I have two stories to dream about - one is already written, but the ending needs to be bigger, with meaningful things said and hugs and celebrations and maybe dragons flying overhead. The other is somewhere midway, and exciting things are going to happen next.
It's quite amazing, having all these adventure stories on my hands, not just in my head - I am thinking about them a lot, listening to them while I'm walking around and imagining the characters climbing all over the real world between scenes, and I'm making notes in my head (and sometimes my notebook) about their habits. Sometimes I get nervous, because there's so much left to write and draw, then I think about the gravitational field of Jupiter instead, which is a good thing to think about when anything seems overwhelming.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Traffic Lies

It's still raining. I got rained on again, this time in Hyde Park which felt kind of glamorous, also I now have waterproof Mascara.
The rain I don't mind, I'm used to it now. But somehow the damp weather seems to be messing with the transport announcement systems. After the bus that lied to me a few days ago, telling me I had arrived when I had NOT, today I sat on a train to Victoria that was convinced to be travelling in the opposite direction, leisurely and reassuringly ticking its way to Bexleyheath. - So that one did not fool me, but the bus back home did. It took me right past my door and didn't stop, because the BUS STOPPING sign was stuck, so I did not ring the bell. I had a brief argument with the driver and am now feeling that particular frustration experienced when not being able to explain what you are annoyed about because the other party is a bus driver, and they actually are almost always right, YES, EXCEPT FOR THIS ONE TIME AND I'M JUST SAYING YOUR SIGN IS BROKEN, JUST STICK SOME TAPE OVER IT OR SOMETHING, BECAUSE... yeah... whatever.

On the other hand, I do get to live in London.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Back to the studio!

I''m back in the studio, I've sorted my shelves and laid out my materials and now I shall draw the last few bits of artwork for the new book. After I've done some warmup doodles, my hands feel clumsy after months of writing.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Matthew's video for Steve Martin

Here's an evening treat to keep you all happy.

By the way: I wrote almost two thousand words of novel tonight without any dithering, and really enjoyed it. That's the same scene I was completely stuck on end of last month. - I might not have won NaNoWRiMo yet again, but goes to show how it helped to train myself up to write a chunk every day and worry about it later. Especially if I write another scene tomorrow!

What a lot of words I put there.

I've just started to work on my proper novel again, and at first I couldn't believe all those detailed notes waiting to be turned into chapters, things I'd made up months ago and forgotten since. I re-read the last few chapters I actually wrote, was completely baffled - not because I didn't understand them but because I didn't remember them - and started writing. Best not to wait until you feel ready, sometimes.
This is what I wrote:

Pebble listened, and she learned. Though it never felt like she was learning much, she was becoming familiar with the place in her head where new things went, and there was enough empty space left to echo when she dreamt.

It doesn't say much, but it seemed a good place to re-start.
And now I must go and buy some food, and think, and tomorrow I shall go to the studio and do some Serious Drawing that Needs Doing.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Top Tip

Unsurprisingly, I am tired.
I just thought I'd let you know that I've discovered a really nifty way of aging cheap leather: rubbing it with top quality Worcestershire sauce. My shoes look really kind of expensive now. I won't be held responsible for any damage caused by trying this though. Or smells.

Party report

Put hairs on rollers, glued on fake lashes, made myself look generally fabulous.
Went out of the house. It started raining. Waited for the bus for a long time. Hair went back to natural frizzy curls. Eyes started to feel a bit gluey. On the bus noticed a strong smell of worcestershire sauce. Also noticed brown puddle around my bag. Bloody Mary ingredients were leaking. Checked bag, found that my right party shoe was fine, but the left one marinated. Got distracted by this until my bus stop was announced suddenly. Jumped off bus, found it was a lie, I was nowhere near my destination. Got rained on some more. Consulted map. Map had run to blurriness in the rain. Considered going back home. Tried to work out where I was with runny map and no glasses. Phoned for help and was rescued. Arrived at party, checked eyelashes. Right one was fine, left one drooped off as I was watching in the mirror. Was left with runny make-up and frizzy hair, looking generally more deranged than glam.
Put shoes in the bath tub, mixed a Bloody Mary, sat around for a while wondering what went wrong where.

Then had a nice evening.

Tomorrow shall rub right party shoe with worcestershire sauce to make them match again.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Fake lashes

Today I'm trying to learn how to apply 60s make-up for a party in the evening. I've kind of managed to glue on fake eye lashes, took me half an hour. I know I'll dream of millipedes tonight.
Then I had to peel them back off because they don't fit behind my glasses, and I've still got some other plans for the day involving vision. Hopefully by tonight the new skill will have settled and I'll manage to glue them back on faster. Glad I didn't decide to back-comb my hair as well. Or curl it. Hm. I could, I guess. Hm. Should I go get some hair curlers? Hm. Hmmmm...

Uh, it's cold. I'll light some candles to feel warmer, and then do some digital colouring work. The new books is looking much nicer all of a sudden, more blue, less brown, mostly.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Various days behind and ahead

Today I am pondering dull things. Like: Why do they sell 8GB USB sticks that are actually only size 7 and a half? Why do I collapse the internet every time I try to set up a network printer anywhere? And why do I never write down when I move house, on one special sheet of paper to keep with my passport maybe, so that when official bodies ask about it I have a vague idea of where I've been all my life? All the while my new netbook is making scary bleeping noises while I'm setting it up. It's a day of dates and numbers.

Yesterday, in contrast, I was striding through the city buying fabulous clothes and animal-cruelty-free cosmetics and eating cake and pizza with my friend, and we talked about how everything seems strangely possible at the moment.

Tomorrow shall be a day of colours and measurements when I go to visit the publisher's so we can make all my hamster artworks the right format...

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Tweet Tuner

Here's a Twitter app someone should make.
One thing that I find difficult about Twitter is that it works on the principle that if getting tweets is good, getting more tweets is better. There are endless ways of following even more people - positive lists of people who are interesting to you for one reason or another. Public lists and private ones, but all positive.
Now be honest. Is that how you actually really live your social life? Maybe it is. Not if you are like me. I don't just want lists of "bestest friends" and "especially interesting people". I want negative lists - lists of people I want to sometimes not hear from. And that's not an evil nasty unsociable thing, it's just... normal.
Think about the guy who makes you laugh every day with his tweets except once a month at full moon when you want him to SHUT UP. Or the girl who really inspires you by tweeting about her interesting projects, but the day you feel really low and useless you just don't want to hear. Or that person who is really interesting - when they are not at a festival. Or your ex who is your best friend - most of the time. Or your best friend the rest of the time who Tweets About Everything She Eats while you are HUNGRY.
You can unfollow them and re-follow them - they'll wonder why. You can build elaborate lists with everyone BUT them on and call them things like "PMS list number three".

Why can't I have an application that allows me to privately secretly tag people in any way I like, they'll never know, and then just switch whole crowds of them off for the day, and then back on the next, no questions asked?

Here's a quick sketch. The switches can be customised with whatever tags you fancy. The big dial is a quick way of going through settings, so you can quickly crank it to whatever suits your mood - from full blast through a whole rainbow of moods - your moods that is.
Oh yeah, because I bet you want positive lists as well, friends and crafters and whatever rocks your boat, I slapped a dial on the right hand side for that. But the tuning-out switches still override whatever is on those lists.

Now go make that, that would really amuse me. - Hepp!


I'm throwing things out - bags of charity stuff, books I don't think I'll read again any time soon, cardboard boxes... I also finally deleted my twitter account, which I'd been meaning to do before - it's very friendly and useful but I decided I need to streamline my communication channels somewhat so I can actually get some novel-writing done.

My mum is going to knit me a dress or a jumper, which is wonderful... that'll mean I can throw out some of my more ragged and baggy old tops. - This winter is looking good!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Hamsters and Mirrors

It's a work-day, definitely, despite having started with reading half a science fiction novel in bed while waking myself up slowly with tea. - I shall be colouring in some Hamsters, and also I shall be attempting to create sky backdrops for a project - I have photographs of lovely cloud-formations over Peckham Rye to work with, and so far I've made some good night and daytime skies, but I've failed to make sunset and sunrise skies that don't look like Armageddon. - I kind of want a thrilling Hitchcock technicolor cyclorama feel while still keeping it as a duotone or tritone. Maybe that's asking a bit much, especially seeing that one of the things about dusk&dawn is that there are quite a LOT of colours in the sky instead of, say, three. But at the moment it's still a fun challenge.

The hamsters are looking good already, and I've coloured almost all of them in by now.

Otherwise... I own a mirror AT LAST, a proper one that's slightly taller than myself, which means that after years of checking what I look like by visiting a series of small mirrors situated in dark corners of the flat at different heights and compositing the reflections in my mind as best I could I can just stand there and see myself. The first thing I realised was that my legs aren't at all as stumpy as I thought. They always looked stumpy when I was looking down at them. My friend Kris said: Well of course they did. It's called foreshortening. - Then she said: That mirror is slimming.
So anyway, my everyday clothes are much nicer than I thought (hurrah!!) and now I can even coordinate them and make sure my hair doesn't stick up and my skirts aren't tucked into my pants before I go out, and that I didn't forget to put make-up on the left side of my face when the phone rang. I can decide what I want to look like and then make it happen. - It's so, so, so much more brilliant and life enhancing than you can probably imagine. YAY! I shall try on all my clothes and throw out all the ones that make me look like someone else, and then maybe make some new ones...

But first, I shall tint some skies.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Electric Visitors and a restful Wednesday

Aaah. Wednesday. Who would have thunk they could be so relaxing, Wednesdays.

I've decided to have a slow day today.
I switched my desktop background from swirling engraved lizards to a snowy photo I got in the mail from Oslo, which helps.
I wish I'd taken the Hatifatteners home that lovely Lauren seeded on my desk (next to my slightly scary sign of "Ordnung is das halbe Leben", which is very apt if you've read the Moomins). I famously deal swift justice to people who leave things on my desk but can't argue with Hatifatteners. They are electric.

Otherwise... like last year, I've given up on hitting the NaNoWriMo word count, my arms hurt and there's other books to make. I'll probably just add small bits for the rest of the month. I'm feeling really inspired to get working on my picture books again - I did need a break from them, but now I'm feeling really grateful to get back to work.

Good luck to everyone else who's still NaNoveling!

Sunday, November 15, 2009



Okay, I have a cold now. It's not too bad, I'm sneezing my way through rolls of paper and my voice sounds funny.
My flatmate is packing for his drawing trip to the Galapagos, he's been training for weeks now, working out his perfect utility belt and action-man drawing vest filled with materials, designing a drawing paper carrier bag stapling a ribbon to his hat so it won't blow into the sea. He's looking rather awe-inspiring by now. In five weeks' time he'll return with studies of giant tortoises and blue-footed boobies and I hope I won't have withered away with loneliness in the meantime. There's such an air of going-awayness in the house that I can't quite believe that I'm staying here...

So I'll be using the studio more again - I'm already making plans what to put on my shelves at last. So far I've been using the place for art material storage mostly which I've been busy writing at home. Now I need to get going on some comic characters, and maybe a new promo section for my website with papercraft cats...

Ah, and also: my new favourite marker pen. I just like the name.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Marvellous Dress Finished!

I finished the dress last night just before midnight while watching some classic Star Trek to keep me going. By the end I couldn't make sense of any of the dialogue any more... I felt a cold coming on and wanted to get it done before that arrived... and I managed! Ha haa!

marvellous dress

Here's the front - I decided on a different part of pattern because the guys lean towards the middle so nicely there...

marvellous dress

...and the Silver Surfer still gets pride of place. Also my friend suggested the Hulking Butt. And the Green Goblin just obliged all by himself there, with his evil eye exactly where the button will go (so far it's still a badge holding it up).
I still need to adjust one shoulder a tiny bit but otherwise... DONE!

Am very proud, that was my first venture using a bought pattern instead of copying another dress.

P.S. yes the pattern pretty much matches up at the seams, would you believe it.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Marvellous Dressmaking - planning stage

So today I'll finally make my New Marvellous Dress out of a comic-patterned duvet cover from Argos.
My flatmate's mum has a brilliant collection of vintage dress patterns, and I picked one that looks suitably respectable from the front (my Moomin dress is sometimes just a bit too girly) but interesting from the back... it's held up at the neck by one big button. I haven't worked out what sort of button to use, I'd like something that goes with the theme, maybe a badge...

pattern plans

Yesterday I made a very rough test dress from an old pink sheet. It's got most of the seams on the outside, and I scrawled notes on it, tore it up, stitched it back togetehr with extra bits... it looks almost conceptual by now.
Lacking a mirror I used my webcam to check the fit. I think it'll work (I have to place the darts more carefully when I do it for real).
test dress
Then I drew a panel grid over it with a fat crayon (I didn't bother to take the dress off, which was fun but I hope I didn't mis-measure that way). And here's the pattern overlayed, using the crayon lines as a guide.
testing the pattern
A bit more Green Goblin than I'd like (I know my mum would say: why did you put that horrible witch in the corner??) but I really want to have the Silver Surfer and the Thing in the middle. I guess I could re-arrange the panels but I don't want a seam right across my chest, really. - I'll make up for it by putting Captain America and Wolverine on the back. And I think I might not have the vertical darts and sacrifice some subtle shaping for not making the Silver Surfer frown even more.

Monday, November 9, 2009


Hello world!

I just went grocery shopping, meaning to get some emergency pasta mostly, but suddenly somewhere around the cheese aisle a brilliant bit of news a friend had told me earlier sank in and I bought artichokes, expensive juice, salad ingredients and two sorts of ice cream, and I started humming a song to myself. By the time I was halfway home I had the words to it, and now I am writing it down, it has to become part of the NaNovel to make up the word count, but it fits in nicely. - There's been such a lot of fuss in the last few months, and I'd been building up some sort of emotional carapace to let at least some of it bounce off, but now I feel like I can crack it open, put it in the corner like a Viv-shaped iron maiden and take a deep breath of November air. I think I shall buy pizza for the whole household tonight and celebrate.

And: when I opened the fridge to put away the groceries I could smell some butter. I've not smelled butter since May! I think my sense of smell really is coming back, by and by.

Anyway, I must write a whole lot of words, several thousands, I'm still behind on this project and I seriously have other work to do. There's a whole book to be coloured in, adn tomorrow I'll ink in the text changes in the "There are Cats in This Book" sequel.
But: it definitely is a very useful thing to do, and I'm noticing that making myself write thousands of words every day is doing something very useful to my brain, it's like I am learning to switch into "output" mode much more quickly, and stay there for longer. And I am enjoying some of what I'm writing, and also the memories it's bringing up...

And, before I forget, "There are Cats in this Book" has been nominated for the CILIP Kate Greenaway Medal. That's also very nice. Shortlist will be announced in January I believe, hepp - ho!

Sunday, November 8, 2009


I'm back from Cornwall. I'll show and tell you some pictures when I've got time.
Right now, I can tell you that I am several thousand words behind on my NaNovel and so I get to use the Emergency Coffee Mug.
Emergency Mug
I really have NO idea what I'm going to write today, only that it better be about 3500 words on the spot. Most of my NaNoWriMo writing sessions have been like this, and most of it was awful stuff but every so often there were things I know I'd never have thought of otherwise, so...

Monday, November 2, 2009


NaNovel is being written.
Lectures are set to go.
Workshop is planned.
Now I just need to clear out my room so new windows can be fixed while I'm out.
And all that without coffee. Actually I'm getting three times as much done without coffee, so far, but heck do I feel frazzled.

Off to grey windy Cornwall tomorrow... I'll send messages whenever I can get a signal.

In the meantime... here are a couple of lovely free/cheap games you can grab from the internet:

Machinarium, which is a point and click adventure featuring cute robots in a sprawling city. The art and animation is impressive and endearing, the puzzles are just on the right side of infuriating and the soundscape is funny and athmospheric.

Windosill, which is a beautiful surreal game. I still can't believe how well it is made, actually.

Neither of them requires you to be able to read English, so: nice treat for the kids. (I haven't played Machinarium all the way through yet so I can't promise it's completely child-safe, but something tells me it's very probably okay). You can try them out before you buy. Have a go! I hope there will be a lot more like this going on soon, I've missed these little adventures ever since Monkey Island 2...

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Travel preparations again

Ah. I am fully awake.
My morning coffee that is normally needed to kick-start my brain has recently been replaced by strong tea. My flatmate has added me to the pet-care routine, that is, in the morning he uncovers the birds and makes me some tea. I am very grateful and hope he keeps doing it, it's the best thing ever.

Today I shall be finishing the slides for my illustration/writing talks at the University of Cornwall next week. I must make sure I've washed enough clothes as well... I think i shall be taking my standard travelling uniform of nice t-shirts with long-sleeved jumpers to wear underneath, and a couple of 501 jeans. I worked out a couple of years ago that the shape fits, and now I can just buy ones on ebay instead of going to clothes shops which I loathe. - The shirt-over-jumper thing is a recent innovation which allows me to keep wearing my T-shirts for longer. Hooray. I definitely am going nerdier with age. Am expecting a ponytail to materialise soon.

Anyway, yawn, I better go and bounce on the trampoline a while seeing I'll be sitting at this desk most of the day...

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Just Some Tuesday

Today, I shall be colouring in many hamsters. I decided to try and check over all the characters in the whole hamster book, and make them hamster-yellow while I'm doing that.
Then it'll be easier to think about the background colouring.

Otherwise... I'm taking two big bags of clothes to the charity shop at last, I'm implementing a new Zero Tolerance policy for clothes I don't really like very much - I'll only have clothes I love, and none of that "This t-shirt is still good to sleep in" or "maybe I'll be wanting to go to a costume party in this" talk. My clothes cupboard already looks so much better... I might throw out a load of old books next. Yay.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Oil Tanks

I love my Tate membership. I love walking into exhibitions for free, not knowing what to expect and not feeling like I have to get value for my ticket (sometimes it's very nice to just walk straight back out of an exhibition). I love sitting in the members room and thinking and drinking rose bud tea. I go there by myself to feel completely happy and inspired... but I will upgrade my membership so next year I can take a friend, just in case something like the Oil Tanks Tour happens again.

I was allowed to explore that sprawling lovely dark industrial space with a group of other curious Tate members, and I can't wait to see it opened to the public for performances and exhibitions. It's brilliant. They are planning to keep the industrial feel of it, and I really hope that means they'll keep all the different levels - when I walked around there I kept suddenly noticing walkways and doors and stairs high above or beneath. It felt like it might stretch for miles even though we I strolled around for fifteen minutes or so.


Everyone took pictures with their mobiles, most of them probably look like this.

I enjoyed wearing a hard hat, and I enjoyed that they were projecting bits of "Rosemary's Baby" and "Planet of the Apes". I felt like saying "Thank you for having me, Tate, I had a Lovely Time," and like maybe I'd be given a cup cake on the way out. Instead I went to the cafe, which was good enough.
I'm happy now.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The Return of the Tea

mug of teeeeeea
That's the most important news. Cheers.

Otherwise... I had a lovely meeting yesterday looking through my various projects with my main publisher, and you know what, the projects are looking good. The sequel to "There are Cats in this Book" is colourful and pretty, I took home a printer's dummy to have a last think about all the words (there aren't very many words in there, so they better be all the right ones).
We looked through the book that Alexis wrote and I illustrated, and even after months the stupid cute little characters are so distracting to look at that they interrupt meetings because anyone may in the middle of a serious discussion of layouts suddenly realise how stupid they are and start laughing. That includes myself. I can't quite believe I drew them.
Then we had a think about other projects... it's all going rather well, I'd say. I'm glad. There's much for me to do, and all of it enjoyable.

Today, however, I am cleaning the flat. Scrubbing floors and everything. Except I just ran out of steam, and all I'm doing is drinking lovely cups of tea while watching Stephen Fry being amazed by animals on the BBC, and animals seemingly being amazed at Stephen Fry. It suddenly reminded me of this vivid dream I had years ago where somehow a small booth with Stephen Fry's head in it was installed on all street corners for the benefit of the public, and I wondered how they managed to get so many of his heads... anyway, I thought: hey wow, it's come true! Stephen Fry on demand!! Amazing. I feel I predicted Twitter.

No, I haven't filled in my tax returns form yet.

Yes, that's a photo mug. No, you probably can't make out what's on it: it's a pig head, a knitted bunny, a basket full of sock monkeys, three canary eggs, a melted gingerbread man and a chalk drawing of a cat.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

I'm thinking about talking animals

Flatmate gave me a toy sheep and a toy bear for my animal collection. I'm carrying them in my pocket and thinking about the comic I'll be drawing soon, featuring sheep and a bear...
Here's the sheep.

Got sheep on my mind

I spent half the night thinking about a workshop I'll be leading in Cornwall... I thought about things I have to teach, and remembered that one of the main things is something I've been neglecting myself in the past months. If you can't make something you want to write or draw exist in your head, make it exist some other way first... play with toys. Go for a walk and pretend something. Draw a map.
I got so excited about remembering this that I had to take a sleeping pill after midnight, otherwise I'd still be in bed making plans about what to build next.

So now I am drawing a map of the sewers that my characters need to go down in the chapter that I've been trying to write for days... it's a very scrawly map like a child would make, with a lot of arrows and scribbles that mean DARKNESS or WHAT IS THIS??? IT'S WET!!! and WEIRD NOISE.
I think it's working.

Monday, October 19, 2009

NaNoWriMo Approaching

It's almost November! Which means that soon my tax returns form has to be out of the house and on its way to Glasgow, but more importantly it means another month of frenzied typing trying to write a 50,000-word novel. Yayyy! It's almost NaNoWriMo already!
This time it'll be something experimental that I wouldn't write otherwise, to keep me from getting precious about it (which is what happened last year after two weeks or so). I won't be writing it in order, but in a jumble of scenes which I'll shuffle about in Scrivener to keep myself amused. It'll be autobiographical every time I can't think of anything better and wildly made up when I can.
Come on, join up, what else are you going to do while Winter creeps up on you... get yourself one of these blankets with sleeves on, think up a password and a title... add me as your writing buddy - and in two week's time, LET'S GO!

Oh and mentioning Scrivener (again, I'm still in love with it you see) - they are doing a rather brilliant deal for NaNoWriMo. You can try the program for free, and if you manage to hit the word count by end of November and want to buy it it's 50% cheaper. Here's the special trial version.

Sunday, October 18, 2009


Argh. It's tax return time, and my back hurts. Too many scraps of paper. I'm sorting the ones that can easily be sorted, and making a heap of ones that need dating or indeed pricing... then there will be a round of putting them in order, and then a round of checking through my emails to see if I forgot anything big, and then I need to sort through my bank statements to nail the few last bits. It'll be very neat when it's done. At the moment it's mostly three boxes full of paper scraps.

paperwork heroics

So I bought a superhero bedspread to cheer myself up, I'm sitting on it to do the paperwork, and when that's done I'll cut it up and make it into a dress.

Please send me entertaining things, I am bored stupid and this will take some more days.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Rodent linguistics, and very good cake

I got cross with the world (more particularly I got cross with dense people writing sickening homophobic articles in newspapers I don't read, and about the lack of jobs for friends of mine who need them, two unconnected cross-nesses creating a badly buzzing headache) and took myself out for a coffee and cake. look, I felt I had to show off this cake. It's Very Good Carrot Cake.
perfect carrot cake
As you can almost see, instead of writing the fairly straight-forward adventure scene I meant to be writing I was amusing myself with translating bits of dialogue into a rodent language I made up some years ago. Skitakatkabochskimeh = Don't worry about the stranger. Bele. Skoeetsateyteyla-ee. = Wait and see, what will happen will happen.
I admit I'm not completely sure I got it right, it's quite a difficult language to get your head around since it has no tenses, instead it expresses everything as existing in different versions of reality - "I want some cheese" is the same as "Cheese belongs to me in urgent dreams", and "Don't take my cheese" is the same as "You own my cheese in my nightmare". It seems that to a mouse everything that isn't now is some sort of a dream. They also have no words for good and bad, but an amazing array of subtle shades of like and dislike. So "I accept this out of decency, but I don't like it really" is easy to say: Chnii. But some other things are bloody hard to express, especially causality. In fact I have completely forgotten how to say "because" in mouse-ese. And out of sheer mouse-mindedness the whole sentence always runs object-to-subject. I really wish I had not made that rule up, I just thought it would suit the mind of a very small animal who worries more about what is done to it than what it is doing. - And their names are Really Long, so they tend to just call one another Szkoo. They have some nice poetry, but it really doesn't translate.


I don't think this chapter is happening today.

I took my dog to the beach.


The Darkness (at the Tate Modern)

I went to the Tate Modern to see the Darkness.
Inside, people crowded against the invisible back wall. A woman turned to me and asked: "Is this all there is to it?"
I said: "I think it's a bit more than there should be, actually."
She laughed and I felt rude, because I had been meaning the light, not the art, really.
"I thought we'd go up some stairs," she said. "Or something."
"Ah well", I said. "But hey! Look!"

Jedi Youngling in the Darkness 2

One of the silhouettes that walked in the entrance like alien visitors waved a stick of light. A Jedi youngling!
I watched as he ran around and around the Darkness.

Jedi Youngling in the Darkness 2

"I think this is really good!" I said, but she had disappeared.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Row row row

This is only partially coloured in because I have a cold but I felt like posting something before retiring to the sofa with "Macroscope", which is a SF novel I have to read for a reading group tonight... I hope I'll feel better by then, ugh.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Novel-writing again...

When I was traveling to and from Germany last month I corrected through the first chapters of a novel I started writing a year ago, and which I'm hoping to finish before the year is out (well, at least I want to get the first half done and dusted).
I just finished transferring the corrections to the actual draft.

I've thrown out a good bit, and then thrown out some more, and just then I threw out almost every instance of "she realised that" and replaced things like "she rose to her feet" with things like "she got up".
I'm very happy with it, and now I shall make my list of scenes that I've been scrawling into my little orange notebook in August (I think) into virtual note-cards in Scrivener, ready to be filled in with story. I'm glad it's all planned out, when I first started writing I was flying blind, and I did come up with a lot of good stuff that way, but at some point it was definitely time to stop improvising and lay down some structure.

Now I've lit some candles because it's autumn, and I shall spend the rest of the day writing while listening to Emiliana Torrini's "Me and Armini" which has become the soundtrack to this novel in my head since I bought it last November and played it on a loop while writing as much of the story down as possible...

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

New Book Coming Up...

Just one page to show for now:

It's almost finished now. Just needs colouring in, lettering and putting together in the right order.
If you've followed this blog you can spot some familiar parts...
It's written by Alexis Deacon, illustrated by me, we both laughed ourselves silly every time we worked on it, and it won't be out for another year, but... it's coming.
I've become very fond of these seven little hamsters, I hope they'll have a nice time at the Frankfurt Book Fair.
And yes, that's the artwork that required me to tear up a whole load of paper with my teeth. I'll actually re-do it a bit less digital-looking - but it's fine for now.


I think I drew this in the Dortmund airport departure lounge.

Otherwise... am staring into space, and contemplating making chutney labels. Bit dazed by thoughts of wrapping up the new picture book soon and starting the comic.

Friday, October 2, 2009

This Week's Discoveries

The last few days were exceptionally pretty here in South London.

By the supermarket, Starlings have claimed all the signs, you can walk in and out of their songs.

Planes are writing in the sky, which is pollution but good to read.

Plane Writing

I noticed a ship I'd not noticed before.

Deptford Ship

I even found some fossils.

Urban fossil

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Reading Books

I just got questionnaired via email again - here's what I wrote about the importance of sharing books with children.

Because being a child is being an explorer, and grown-ups have the duty to help them on their way.
Also: a book is a small world. If you share it with a child you will learn to know each other as equals, readers both, thrown out of the house and into an adventure together. It might make things much less surprising when they start telling you what they think of your own world.
It's also important for adults to know that children might not agree with your taste in books, and realise that that is a good thing, too. Children need things to disagree with. In fact, your child might have some books to share with you that'll make you think.

Myself, I'm reading a Haruki Murakami book at the moment ("Dance Dance Dance"). I went off his writing for years because the female characters annoyed me, but I'm very much back on track now, thinking about copying out some of my favourite sentences, like one about the protagonist's life being like a squirrel asleep with its head against a nut in winter.

You should be getting MORRIS, THE MANKIEST MONSTER, illustrated by my studio mate Sarah, because it's the most beautifully disgusting picture book ever, and it's just out!

Wednesday, September 30, 2009


I'm very much at work colouring a picture book that I'm really enjoying... it's very difficult, but despite the fact that I'm re-doing the same spread for the fourth time today and that the file sizes are getting mind-boggling (to me, and probably my mac mini, too) I am really, really pleased about how it's going.
Yesterday I spent some time just zooming around in the pictures looking at all the lovely line and texture... here's a detail close up. I've never done a book that's so nice to look at close up!

It is challenging... I'm trying to do some clever things involving limited palette and changing light conditions... Well, once I've got it worked out it should all be quite straight-forward.

And then I can get properly started on the graphic novel! Hurrah!!

Friday, September 25, 2009

Back home.

So, yeah. I'm back in London, only took me 12 hours, flight delayed and re-routed, then no trains, two coaches, a night bus, got back at four in the morning, yawn.
I enjoyed how the crew was as tired as everyone else, they kept muddling up the security messages, at some point one of them (I was hoping not the pilot) cut in and said "It's been a long day. You don't know where we've been." Then it was silent until we were in the air and they apologised that they didn't have enough food on the plane to redeem the vouchers we'd been given to make us feel better.
The nicest moment was when I asked a young couple (I thought) where they had to go once they got to London, because they seemed a bit worried about it. The guy replied: "Well we didn't actually know each other earlier today, but it's looking more and more like we're going to end up in the same place." - Bless, I hope they are having a nice time.
The worst moment was finally getting into Luton airport and the passport control queue being, well, very long. It filled every bit of the building it could go, in fact.

So anyway, I just tried out my new graphics tablet. It's absolutely awesome.
See doodle above. One doodle is enough for now.
That's my thought of the day. Possibly the week.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Plum Jam

My backpack is packed- there isn't an inch of space, it's all full of mum's old elegant clothes she's been fixing up for me all week. I shall look glamorous and German from now on.
All the computers appear to be fixed, including the PC From Hell which has all the latest technologies fighting one another.
And my mum and I are making plum jam.

See, I do other things too here, not just computer fixing. The plums are from my sister's plum tree, she gave us a whole bucket to use after feeding us some lovely plum cake. The neighbours visited and refused to eat any because they have a plum tree too. I think when they first moved in they met each other halfway between the houses both carrying a bucket of plums each as a welcome present... well, it's an unusual delicacy for me, so I figured taking a preserve would be rather brilliant and clever.

Tonight I'll fly back to London, I hope I can fit a small jar of jam into the luggage... I hope I won't see another windows pc for the rest of the year.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009


I just got a book of my favourite poetry, with lots of space to draw in the margins. The e-reader got me into the idea, it was such fun doodling all around texts that now every book that I open looks like a sketchbook to me.

I wish I could have the whole series, this is book 6 of a complete collection, all with lovely cloth covers like this.

I'll post some pages when I've drawn some things in it.

Am looking a bit bedraggled here because I spent all of yesterday, morning to midnight, setting up three family computers. I now have new and unexpected knowledge about kernel panics and setting up networks of diverse operating systems. The main thing I learned is that Windows can always get more confusing and irritating, no matter how much I've been swearing at its last incarnation already...
I'm most pleased with my mum's work Mac which was creeping along on Tiger with damaged drives and conflicting backup discs. It's now snow-leoparded and so nice that I want to take it home, hah.
The worst bit was accidentally messing up the PC just before midnight with some casual tired button-pressing. But all is well now. Phew.

I shall attempt to empty my mind from things computer related now...

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Ah. Germany.

What I'm eating:
german lunch
A mural my parents made:
A bit of their garden:
dad's garden
Sensible shirt I bought (ahemm):
new garment