Book Out, Book In and Goodbye to a Special Friend

Well. It's been a week or so of ups and downs. So let's get the downs out of the way. If you have been following my ramblings here you'll know I've lost a couple of furry friends this last several months. First Oreo, our old collie last November at 18, Dessie our beagle in March at 21 and then yesterday we said goodbye to our adorable Sprout who was 14 or more, (we can't be certain just how old).

Here she is in the snow ...

We named her Sprout because she suddenly appeared one day sitting at hubby's feet while he was sawing wood in the driveway. She demanded to be picked up and huggled, which became her choice du jour very quickly. Almost blind, with claws like a mandarin and matted fur hiding age-old sores we nursed her back to something like health. No one claimed her, so she became a fixture in my studio and in our hearts for the last three years..

We have always rescued dogs, but Sprout was very special, so it was extemely hard to say goodbye to her. Her health deteriorated last Fall and she had mammary tumours removed in November. She recovered, but when our old beagle died in March she really took it hard as they were the best of friends. Her blindness got worse, complicated by an enlarged eye, and this weekend, after multiple fits, her candle burned down. So rather than let her suffer and stuff her full of meds, we made that hard decision and the vet visit.

It never gets any easier, even after so many decisions over the year. I still have two other 'pups' to love, plus the snooty cat and our two horses, so don't feel too bad for me :-)

So this morning it is an empty studio. No morning cuddle in bed with her little puppy yawn, or the knowledge that she is curled up on the futon behind me, waiting for breakfast, or an out, or the little paw that would pester my leg for an afternoon huggle at about 3pm.. Lately I had been thinking I would take some photos of her for character studies for a future book. Never put it off eh? But maybe there is still a story here about Sprout, the little blind dog with a big heart who never gave up hope on being loved.

Now I will brush away the plopping tears and tell you my other news.

'Hidden New Jersey' is finito! I don't know the exact pub date yet, but will be sure to post it when I do. Here is the final spread:

Last time I blogged I was able to reveal that 'All Star Cheerleaders - Tick Tock, Taylor!' is almost at the bookstores. Two more pieces of good news - I got the m/s for the second book in the series yesterday, so can't wait to read it and decide how to illustrate it. And at next year's ALA conference (in Anaheim) I will be signing/drawing in Kane and Miller's booth. with Anastasia Suen. Now THAT'S exciting. My first ALA, and I get to sign!  Can't wait.

In between all this I got to go sailing on the Isaac H Evans ... which was a nice break from all the turmoil, a rest from computers and phones and fresh air. Here's a few photos ....

That's about it from The Wacky Brit this week. I am hoping for a peaceful few days in which to get on with projects in hand and find some time to work on my SCBWI summer conference portfolio ... groan ...



On the bedside table:
Ladybug Girl and the Bug Squag - David Soman and Jacky Davis
Me ... Jane - Patrick McDonnell
Press Here - Herve Tullet (LOVE IT)
Charlie the Ranch Dog - Ree Drummond and Dian deGroat

PS - have you joined my FB page yet?

Old Friends, New Friends PART 1

It's been a while. A lot has happened. And I felt that the blog needed a Spring clean, so I created a new header. What do you think?

So, first, goodbye to an old friend ...

Dessie passed away a couple of weeks ago after many months of suffering with congestive heart failure. She beat us to the final vet visit by passing peacefully the night before, and for this we were happy. No one likes to have to do the deed. Oddly enough it was the same night Liz Taylor trundled off this earthly plane, with the same condition. Who knows? Perhaps they're out there somewhere snuggled up on pillows.

We called Dessie the 'Pillow Princess', because she'd roll all the pillows on the sofa together and crawl into them ... or get up on the bed, as you see here, nesting contentedly. Although it is nice to have all our pillows where I put them, I can't help seeing a tidy sofa and filling up with tears. She had a good, long life - 20 years old. She was rescued from a trip to the pound by hubby, long before I arrived from England. Her favorite trick (apart from the pillow antics) was to dig out of the garden (typical beagle) and trot down to the store in the village and beg at the deli. The phone would ring eventually and I'd go and collect her.  For the last year or so she was my constant shadow, curled up on the futon behind me with her pillows. I still expect to see her when I turn around.

The other dogs (3) are grieving still. Takes them a while to adjust. Sleep the cat however is disturbed, because Dessie was his favorite dog to ambush. He's started accosting Sprout, but as she's blind and doesn't see him until he is upon her the thrill is not the same and the attacks are half-hearted.


NEW friends! Pretty much a couple of days after Dessie passed I left on a trip to attend the final weekend washup of the mentor programme I've been part of for the last six months. (My mentor was Priscilla Burris.) It was good to get away. The last three weeks nursing Dessie had really drained me, with the constant worry of whether it was 'time'. The warm days in Virginia City, NV, with a whole bunch of writers and illustrators were just what I needed. Here's the view from my window ...

I will be sharing 'Doing's in Virgina City' in another post (sounds a bit Alan Bennett-ish). So you have that to look forward to ... with more photographs.

Meanwhile, back at the artist's desk. The layouts are all finished for the 'Hidden New Jersey' book for Charlesbridge (wipes sweat from brow) - 'How to Talk to an Autistic Kid' is on sale - and I have begun the project with the very enthusiatic 4th grade at the local Corinna Elementary School - 5 weeks till we have to have a BOOK produced ... yikes!!

On the horizon - New England SCBWI conference in May, Fitchburg, MA. For this conference I will be entering the Poster Showcase - recreate a loved cover from a picture book or novel ... hmmm.

I also submitting for the Boston Library Association's Artist-in-Residence for 2011-2012 - my fingers are crossed, but I know the competition will be stiff.

Right now I am working on a TOP SECRET and EXCITING project - just something else I can't reveal yet. But if you love horses, you WILL love this. Tease tease tease.

Right. I need to go to the post office and send out some publicity for the Autistism Book. OH. If you would like a signed copy, let me know and I will let you know the cost (less than Amazon :-) )

Wait! I nearly forgot! PIXELSHAVINGS sent out their first postcard mailing as a group:

If you would like a postcard please send me a message also. My email is 

Toodles! - let me know what you think of the makeover :-).

The Wacky Brit

On the Bedside Table:
The Phantom Stallion - The Wild One - Terri Farley
The Phantom Stallion - Mustang Moon - Terri Farley
The Wierdstone of Brisingamen - Alan Garner
The Moon of Gomrath - Alan Garner
The Stone Book Quarter - Alan Garner
Eat My Dust, Henry Ford's First Race - Monica Kulling
All Aboard, Elijah McCoy's Steam Engine - Monica Kulling and Bill Slavin
1001 Children's Books you must read before you grow up - Quentin Blake and Julia Eccleshare
Mudkin - Stephen Gammell
Beautiful My Mane in the Wind - Catherine Petroski and Robert Andrew Parker
The Tales of Beedle the Bard - JK Rowling
You're Mean, Lily Jean - Frieda Wishinsky and Kady MacDonald Denton
Owl Moon - Jane Yolen and John Schoenherr