A Wee Break from the Drawing Board


It’s never taken me so long to finish a simple picture book.   After having had the massive heart attack in Iceland last year I do find it more difficult at times to sit for endless hours drawing cute, quirky goslings.  I love Pearl but I will be so happy once she is off to Boston.

Meanwhile…I found a fantastic vampire figure on the internet and absolutely love him!  For the moment I call him Vampire Capolan for some odd reason.  I will give him a more suitable name once I have a chance to give it some real thought.  The details on the vampire and the coffin are fantastic!   And I spent a grand total of $28 for them.

I bought a thin silky piece of blood red velvet to line the coffin to make Vampire Capolan more comfortable.   But something was still missing.   He needed old maps, money, documents, castle plans, letters, envelopes, posters, etc.   It only took me a few hours to find the appropriate images on the internet, reduce them down, print them, cut them out (or tear the edges to give a deckle effect), and antique them.  I also found an artist on Etsy that makes miniature leather bound medieval books!

I also found the perfect miniature wooden trunk in the studio that holds all the papers.

Here are the photos.


Love this 19th century replica Travel Writing Box!


I get weak in the knees for any kind of wooden box.  Especially boxes with numerous compartments, secret drawers, locks, etc.   I found this replica 19th c. Travel Writing Box on eBay and bought it.   It is perfect for what I wanted it for—to hold all my pen holders, nibs, small bottles of inks, paper, sealing wax, sealing wax stamps, and more.

I absolutely love it!



NOTE: The board game Skerrobree is copyrighted and patented by ©2019 Olivier Dunrea.

In 1986 my book, Skara Brae: The Story of a Prehistoric Village, was published.   I did my field research in Northern Scotland, the Orkney and Shetland Islands, and the Outer Hebrides between 1978-98.   The archaeology, prehistory, and folklore of ancient Scotland fascinates me!

I love playing board games and have a large collection of them.  I also collect vintage Monopoly games from the 1930s, 40s, and 50s.

CLUE and RISK have always been two board game favorites.

As a researcher and illustrator I study and analyze a good number of plans for ancient sites and structures as well as maps.   The layout of Skara Brae has always fascinated me.

Last year I decided to see if I could design a board game using the Plan of Skara Brae for the game board.   In my research I had read that the archaic name for Skara Brae was Skerrobree by the local inhabitants.

The board game and how to play the game is a variation on CLUE—with a few more twists and turns.


The year is 1947.   The Second World War is over and a team of archaeologists and graduate students are sent to the far-flung remote archipelago of the Orkney Islands in the North Sea to examine the ancient archaeological site called Skerrabree to see if any damage was sustained during the war.  The director of the expedition is Sir Angus Ian McPherson from the University of Edinburgh.

One night, after a week at the site, a ferocious and violent storm hits the islands.   Thunder rumbles throughout the night and streaks of lightning keep everyone huddled in their tents.  The next morning the body of Dr. Angus Ian McPherson is discovered.  WHO committed the murder?  WHAT weapon was used to commit the murder?  WHERE did the murder take place?  These are the three questions that must be answered.  AND the reason WHY he was murdered is randomly chosen to be secretly included in the Confidential dossier.

Two archaeologists, Dr. Bertram Standish and Dr. Euphemia McCrimmon, lead the team’s examination of the ancient Neolithic site.  Each archaeologist has a graduate student working under them: Maddy and Gabe.  Miss Bridey Finn is the photographer for the team. Two local laborers do the heavy work of digging and carting away dirt and stones:  Haggis McBride and Seamus Sinclair.  The final member of the team is the wife of Haggis McBride that cooks and makes tea during the expedition, Molly McBride.

Any one of the following could have been used to commit the murder:

Archaeologist’s hammer

Digging spade

Prehistoric pot

Bronze dagger

Small knife

Knitting needles



Here are some photos of the board game in play:

I’m Back!


It’s been quite some time since I’ve posted anything on this blog.   A great deal has happened since my last post ages ago.  Most significantly…I had a massive heart attack in Iceland on our way to Scotland!

We were changing planes at the airport in Reykjavik when the massive heart attack happened.  We had only been on the ground for ten minutes changing planes on our way to Scotland.   The heart attack came out of the blue with no prior warning signs or indications that I might be at risk of having one.  Luckily, a pilot and flight crew from another Icelandair flight saw me collapse and immediately called their 911 before my head even hit the floor.

Two doctors happened to be passing by and immediately began performing CPR on me.  Most likely they saved my life.   I was brought back from the dead five times!   I was taken to the hospital in Reykjavik where I had a quadruple bypass.  I got THE BEST medical care you can imagine!   I was in ICU for one week; CCU for one week; and then spent the third week resting up in our AirBnB until my lungs were completely clear of any traces of pneumonia and we could fly back to the U.S.

I’m happy to report that six months later I’m doing just fine and am pretty much back to normal.  I am getting back into my work routine in the studio.  AND…John and I have started a new Etsy Shop where we’re selling my original artwork, sketches, drawings, colour studies, etc.  In time we will also be selling notecards of my artwork as well as John’s photographs.

Etsy Shop large

I’ll try my best to keep this blog more up-to-date.

I’m having to relearn all the ins and outs of the website, the blog, Instagram, FaceBook, and Twitter!

Slowly making progress in the studio


Ruby & Rufus is finished.  I’m very pleased with the illustrations.  My book designer did a fantastic job with the front cover.   She created the front cover from five (5) separate pieces of art and a layout that I had done.  She made some brilliant decisions—the biggest one was to reverse the layout I had submitted.  Perfect solution!

Front Cover

I am now halfway finished with the illustrations for Pearl!  My goal is to have Pearl wrapped up and delivered to Boston by the end of the month.   Then, while the momentum is still going, I’ll go right onto to finish Pearl’s Lost Pearls.  That leaves only Gus & The Hatchlings to finish and I will be caught up with outstanding book contracts!

My reward to myself after I finish these last three picture books in the Gossie & Friends series is to finish writing the first draft of THE DARK SECRET OF WYTHE’S END.  A novel that I’ve been working on for a couple  years now (but put on hold so that I could concentrate on the finishing the picture books that I owed).

I’ve written eighteen chapters so far and anticipate the book will have around 30-35 chapters.  I’m obsessed with the two families in the story.

Wythe's End Front 1

Wythe’s End (the rambling family estate) is a character in the story as much as the family members.

This will be a productive  year!