A2Z 2021

Existence – memory and tribute A2ZChallenge 2021

Existence. Something we take for granted, maybe. Certainly when we are younger. I remember I used to run a personal skills course for a company I did interpersonal skills training for. It’s a laugh, really; I used to be really good at interpersonal skills. Now I can’t be bothered. That’s a function of age, as well as what we’ve been through in our lives, I think. (Is that the same thing?)

This course had an exercise where you drew a line of any length you chose. Then I told them it represented their whole life, and to mark on it where they were now. I was around forty then, but always put my mark around one-third of the way along. I was very sad to see one person, not much older than me, put it nearly at the far end. “It’s not long till I retire,” he said.

A friend used to be convinced he’d die at 50, because all his male relatives had. Those were the days of heavy smoking, polluted cities, bad workplaces… I’m pleased to say he was still here at sixty, when I lost touch with him, but he’d retired to a boat, and is likely to have avoided the stresses that laid his family low.

Mindful Bloggers

I’ve met several people online who have inspired me to think about my existence, some because they work hard to spread some joy and mindfulness–the right sort, not the ‘it’s your fault because you’re not mindful’ type. Others because they have had to come to terms with the end of their existence, on this earth, anyway.

I’m always grateful I met Vidya Sury through the #atozchallenge; we were fellow minions for Damyanti Biswas one year. Vidya’s blog is full of thoughts about kindness and spreading it through our world. She has a lovely positive approach to all she does – and with her cooking tips for diabetics, you can read between the lines to find her motivation. She inspires me. Damyanti has her own personal take on kindness and caring for others. All her work seems to support one or more causes, and her amazing first published novel highlights terrible practices that are common in India.

Sue Ann Bowling

Sue was in the opposite end of the globe – Alaska. I followed her writing and gardening – complete with weather forecasts and sunrise/sunset times, through my early years of blogging. Then Sue’s world changed, and she wrote through her illness and subsequent death (in late 2014), letting us know of her trials and tribulations, but maintaining her positivity and entertaining us even so.

Her main frustration was that the third in her amazing world of the R’Ilnians would never be published. I think Sue’s death gave a lot of us pause for thought. What happens to your blog if you suddenly can no longer support it? Her personal blog no longer exists, but her free WordPress book one does… and that’s where I finally got confirmation she’d died. .

Existence through your social media accounts, and books

It was about 2014 that Facebook started to realise it needed some sort of procedure for relatives to handle the pages of people who had died. You can nominate someone to look after your pages…I think it’s called ‘legacy system’. Check it out, although I think several bloggers have posted about it. I bet Derek Haines has a post on the subject!

But do let your nearest and dearest know what you want done about your blog and your ebooks. It’s important.

Sue Vincent

And now after six months of hell, we have lost Sue Vincent, who died a week ago, after a struggle with late-diagnosed cancer. How many other people did not go to their doctors early enough for their cancer to be caught when it was still treatable–because they didn’t want to bother their GP at the start of the Covid pandemic?

Sue’s handling of her situation is probably a lesson to us all. She had a head start, because she was immersed in very spiritual things through the Silent Eye. But among her blog posts of the recent months there are plenty that show her coming to terms with her situation, and finding good out of bad. She came to accept her diagnosis, and welcome any extra days past the expected ‘days or weeks’. She shared with us several long posts on the nature of her beliefs, and her view on the nature of existence.

Maybe that baring of her innermost thoughts is what makes it so hard to believe she’s gone.

Planning for my existence

And as usual, I have to write about the person who has passed in order to start to come to terms with it myself. I bought a couple of Sue Vincent’s books when she was still alive, and there to receive the royalties (!). I hope to share my thoughts on them later in the year, as I did with Sue Bowling’s. But I suspect what I really bought them for was to help me reflect when I start to face up to the end of my existence here on earth.

But first, I need to put those plans for my great-niece to manage my book affairs when I’m gone. Not that she knows that plan yet. She did most of the covers for me, so I think she should benefit from any royalties. It’s just another thing on my list. But I don’t expect to pop off just yet.

Just planning for the end of my existence.

First lines reimagined for social distancing

the most specific post I wrote during the Covid-19 pandemic

First lines rewritten according to the current guidelines for social contact. It’s a thing found on Lithub, well, I found the link someone else posted on Facebook, and who knows where that came from.

That’s how our modern world works, isn’t it? We may be isolated from our friends, neighbours and family, hoping to stem the tide and reduce our risk of Coronavirus, but our online social network is as supportive as ever.

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Illustrations for Chronicles – a job for #Inktober

Chapter illustrations became a feature of my Princelings series, and in theory I like doing them.  In practice, I get anxious about whether I can execute what I have in my head.  I thought you might like to know what the process is, and why I like committing to #Inktober on years I have a book to illustrate.

Choosing an illustration

Obviously, chapter illustrations should be relevant to the contents of the chapter.

I usually copy the chapter headings, and sometimes make notes of scenes in the chapter, and then start getting ideas.  I do simple line drawings, but I’ve extended these into landscapes on occasions.  Sometimes I just pick up some articles that I can draw, like glasses, or cans of Wozna cola – which then involved designing their logo!

Doing the castle for the setting of the chapter is something I think helps readers, especially as I’m not the best at describing the detail of places that are clear in my head.  Some of these are fun, as I’ve been making extensions to them over the years.  I have versions of Castle Marsh from the 2008 version, through the changes as first the flying boats required boatsheds, and then the housing developed around the outside.  I’m not sure how much more that needs to develop.

Some of them are easy, as the scene is clear in my head – some of my favourite ones turn up then, like the view from the road to Marsh from Castle Wash, which is on the edge of the dunes with the castle in the distance.  In Hugo’s book (Traveler, #4) there were several scenes like the road past the Prancing Pony, where the stages have a terminus, like they do at the Inn of the Seventh Happiness. There was also a favourite in the view of Sowerby Castle in the distance, from the pub, the King’s Head, at Sowerby Row.

Some are really hard, with nothing seeming to really happen in the chapter.  Then I need some sort of motif.  Talent Seekers (#5) had a lot of those. A tray of swords.  Doorways.  Views from windows are a good standby as well.

And yes, I do reuse illustrations across the books. It makes sense, really, for the main venues. Although I did several new interior scenes for Buckmore in the last few books.

Paper or iPad?

All the books to date have started with paper and pencil drawings, inked over and the pencil rubbed out (sometimes you can see ones where I haven’t been very diligent on the erasing).

For Dylan’s adventure with the Lights of Ulva, I experimented with doing them on iPad.  I’m not yet confident with my drawing skills on iPad, but I hope that practice will help. The iPen seems to behave differently than a real pen!  But I also did colour versions of the Ulva ones.  I found I could take an existing jpeg of a scene and colourise it in the iPad program.  I’ve already tried this with Castle Marsh and Laurel-Eye (from book 6) for Chronicles.

So I’m hoping to do all the illustrations on iPad.  If I get stuck, I’ll revert to pen and paper, then scan them in again.

Black & White or Colour illustrations?

Why choose colour?  None of the earlier books have colour illustrations, and they’ll be black and white in the paperback version. There’s a good point. Maybe I need both.  I tried this out with a view of Dylan, Dougall and Kevin on Rannoch Moor for Book 8.

The colour question was raised some time ago, when someone blogged about more books being read on hand-held devices rather than dedicated ereaders.  I don’t know whether it’s true or not. If I’m reading an ibook, it’ll be on my iPad in colour.  I should check whether the kindle app for iPad is in colour.  My Kindle Paperwhite is quite old now; I wonder if colour illustrations would look okay on it?  I’d better check.  After all, I do have the Lights of Ulva to test this out on.

Cheating or not?

Is re-using old illustrations across books cheating?  I’d like your thoughts on this.  It is obviously better for me to re-use an illustration if I want to get all the details of a place right, and consistent across the books.

Some places could do with a revised drawing, though – like the Inn of the Seventh Happiness.

Technical stuff for ebook illustrations

If you’re thinking about illustrating your ebook, remember that you have to put them in your Word file as inline illustrations. The new kindle app may let you put them in another method, but I’m sticking to what I know at this stage.  For epub files inline definitely works best.

I used to have huge problem with my kindle pics having extraneous lines surrounding one or more edges.  It turned out that KDP converted colour jpeg files fine, but black and white ones needed to be inserted as GIFs.  I think it’s to do with the way the computer system scans pixels. The solution was to do GIFs for my KDP files.  Smashwords converted the original jpegs just fine in any ereader format.


Inktober is the illustrators’ A to Z Challenge.  I love following it on Twitter, mainly. People post illustrations daily through October. There’s a prompt list on the inktober website, which you can use like A to Z gives you the daily focus. I think there’s a signup list, but just following it on social media is good enough for me.

I don’t do daily blog posts, but if you want to see them on Twitter, my handle is @jemima_pett.  If I remember to post them.

Mapping the Realms – a job for #Inktober

I’m mapping the Realms again.  I can understand if you don’t understand that, but it’s a little extra you can find on the Princelings website – a map of the Realms, the Princelings world, as relevant to books 1-5.

Why I’m mapping the Realms again

Once I got on to book 6, Bravo Victor, I knew the Realms were starting to develop, especially away from the tunnel network that linked the most important castles.  With the development of new forms of transport, the connections changed as people moved about more.  Also, there were places Fred missed off his first map.

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A Question of Writing Research

Writing research: this month the Insecure Writers Support Group suggested tackling the question:

  • What is the weirdest/coolest thing you ever had to research for your story?

… and for once, I thought I had an answer.  Before I do, here’s a shout-out to our wonderful co-hosts this month.  I don’t give our hosts enough kudos in these posts, but I do appreciate them.  Thank you!

Co-Hosts for May 2017:

Writing research for alien species

I am writing a science fiction series.  I’m convinced it’s a real series, although by now some of you may think it’s a figment of my imagination, it’s taking so long to come out.  During its development, I realised one very good reason people generally make their aliens humanoid. Apart from films, where it’s easier to put a human in a costume than build things more elaborate than Daleks, unless you go CGI.


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A-to-Z Reflection 2016

A2ZChallenge 2016 Round-Up post: World-building Wisdom

Wow!  It’s over for another year – but then again, it’s not really over, since there are all those new friends I made when visiting – and all those I missed out. Although I feel I did better than some years, I only got to the first 200 on the sign-up list, plus about four visits each to those I’d saved from the Theme Reveal. I wonder whether I was better organised this year, since I also had to fit in Camp NaNoWriMo (and finished the second book in my Viridian System series).

When I thought of doing a world-building theme, I really intended to help myself enrich my own world of the Viridian System series books (I’ve been writing book 2 at Camp Nano during the April mornings, and A to Zing the rest of the day!).  

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What am I writing next?

Ok, so I’ve left Camp NaNoWriMo for another year.  It’s a really good challenge to keep me focused on writing every day.  What it stops me doing, really, is reading long books (I can read something that takes me one or two days), and writing other stories (like flash fiction, or character interviews).  However I did have a long train journey at the start of the month, and that made me think, not only of how the story went, but other stories as well.

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Back from Camp NaNoWriMo

Yes, I finished writing my 50,000 novel in a month at Camp NaNoWriMo!  The Way West is still coming out here, chapter by chapter, and is due to finish around 17th September. I got a lovely merit badge for completing the challenge!

I did write a five sentence outline, which was a technique I learnt from someone else a few months ago.  I’m sure  it helped, but not sure how much as I seemed to go to the fourth sentence very quickly. Then the second and third crept back in and it went back and forth for a bit.  The outline was this:

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How stories start

Last night I was working on the ideas for my AtoZ Blog Challenge.  That’s not till April but because I’m doing A to Z on the background to the stories I thought I’d better work on the whole lot in case I found myself contradicting myself.  It also gives me a chance to sort out some of the background detail that is only sketched in at present.  Like books.  Continue reading

What is the reason for writing?

I’m half-way through my shortlist of agents to submit my books to. This means I’ve had a number of rejections and, as is likely to be the case, confidence is down and I’m wondering whether anyone will ever like my stories. Most have just said it’s not for them. The last one said it didn’t have that certain something for today’s competitive market. All the rejections have been perfectly nice.

I was reading one of the articles on Writers & Artists the other day, about ‘Who do you write for?’  This is a very good question.  It also links with the question ‘Do I want to get my books published?’  which itself is closely aligned to ‘Why do I want to get my books published?’  Continue reading

The beginning

The first post on the new blog site.

I’m currently editing the first of my stories, writing an outline and a synopsis, and generally getting ready to submit chapters to an agent or even a publisher.  I think an agent is probably best.