Claire Baldry

When Claire Met Amber

This is me, Claire Baldry, as drawn by twenty-four year old Amber Gee. Amber has created all the illustrations for my latest poetry book ‘Simply Modern Life’.

Claire meets Amber Pic1


This is Amber, at the age of three. Amber is a very private person, and this was the only photo she was prepared to give me.


So what can I tell you about Amber?

Diagnosed with Specific Learning Difficulties, Amber describes herself as ‘easily distracted with poor organisational skills’. I would only partially agree with that description. It is very much to Amber’s credit that two years ago she achieved an upper second degree in English literature. I admire her passionate belief in world justice, and her mature, wry sense of humour. Amber is also an extremely talented artist. Below is one of the many brilliant drawings which she created especially for my book.


Mob for Misha

And this is how we met……

I had already four published booklets of poetry. They were accompanied by beautiful photographs taken by a friend of mine. However, when I looked at the selection of poems I wanted to include in my latest booklet, I decided that photographs wouldn’t really fit. The poems were about the quirkiness of life today, and they needed something with a bit more humour. I went onto facebook, and asked for recommendations or offers from anyone who could create some cartoon style line drawings for me. The response was overwhelming. I had no idea who I would choose. Then the phone rang. It was an unexpected call from Will who works at a great family run bistro just up the road from us. It’s called Wickham Bistro, and well worth a visit if you happen to be in the Bexhill area.

Will said “I hear you are looking for an illustrator. You might want to talk to my girlfriend. Her name is Amber.”

I asked Will if Amber could email me a couple of samples of her work. When the pictures arrived, they were part of an exhibition about Dispraxia to which Amber had contributed. She had created a series of little gremlins which kept getting in the way. I loved the pictures and felt very optimistic. I was also pre-disposed towards working with someone younger and hopefully not too set in her ways. I sent Amber my poem ‘Beware of the Trolls’ and within days the drawing below arrived in my inbox.

Trolls for Misha (1)



I was totally captivated.


There followed a series of meetings, usually at Wickham Bistro. I gave Amber my poems and she slowly delivered her incredible drawings. I had no idea what she would produce, but each one seemed to lift my poems off the page and give them extra layers of meaning. She paid attention to detail, even asking for photos of my grandchildren so she could put their faces in a frame on the wall. I took her to one of my poetry performances, and she sketched some of the audience. People who know me well will spot other personal touches within the illustrations. We never fell out, though the journey was occasionally bumpy. By this time Amber was working full-time, and I had deadlines to meet.

When the booklet finally arrived, everyone admired the illustrations. They are an integral part of the publication.

For now, I am the writer, and Amber is the illustrator, but I think one day the emphasis might change. People might see one of Amber’s drawings and recognise her style. I imagine them saying “That must be by Amber Gee. Didn’t she start her career as an artist illustrating a work by an unknown poet?”


Dragons in my Life

Four small dragons4

My life with Dragons

Ever since I can remember there have been dragons in my life. I don’t know how, I was introduced to these creatures, but there was a time when I was pretty sure that there was a dragon living under my bed. Roostance was the hero of the stories I used to tell my sister, Anuk, at night. He was a small, but not fierce, fiery dragon who belonged to a princess and together they had all sorts of adventures. After a while Anuk was allowed to have her own dragon too, a minor character and much more docile creature called Silverbell.

Other dragons came into other stories and when I was a student there was a brief moment when I contemplated doing an MA on dragons in literature, but life took a different turn and it wasn’t until I wrote the “Dragonfire” books that I returned to the subject.

In the meantime there are dragons in my house and in my garden.Dragons in back bedroom 1

They congregate on the shelves in the back bedroom, sit on my desk, on the shelves in the dining room and one sleeps, nose tucked into tail beside the pond. In my office there is a picture of a red dragon, coloured in and cut out by my granddaughter. There’s one drawn by my son when he was little on the wall. I have a collection of dragon jewellery and friends share posts with me on Facebook and Twitter.

When I was teaching, one of my most successful lessons was when the class wrote their own Dragonology− a description and history of their own beast, a piece of factual writing which covered one of the criteria of the National Curriculum.

There is also a dragon who dances to the Maple Leaf Rag in my play “The Ice Queen.”

All in all it is not surprising that although they don’t play a main part, there are dragons lurking on the roofs of the “City of Secrets”.Dragons and COS2


‘Gabriel stroked the little dragon’s metal scales. “Gargoyles are lazy. It’s well known.”

“Not like dragons.” The creature sat up and looked at Gabriel with its lizard eyes.

“Dragons are different,” he agreed.

“Yesss,” the dragon almost purred with satisfaction. “We’re fierce and we’re brave and we like fire and blood.”’

Which kind of says it all.

On the other hand, there are different sorts of dragons….


Finding the Right Cover

Finding the right cover for your book, is one of the hardest things to do as an Indie author.   There is so much to bear in mind. The cover must convey genre, it must stand out and yet fit in so that anyone picking it up will know that it is a book for children, or women’s fiction, or a thriller. And, of course, you want it to be unique and special just as your book is unique and special.

For “City of Secrets” this was particularly hard as right from the start I had a vivid picture of Letty Parker, a twelve year old pie seller, sitting on the wharf side as the sun set into the river. Great image, but it didn’t say enough, Letty might be the main character, but her friends Jeb, Mango and Gabriel play crucial roles and I wanted something that would suggest the sinister, dark magic that runs through the book.

The next step was a quick trawl through the internet, where I found this picture by Arthur Rackham


The atmosphere was right, but there were no gargoyles or dragons.

Luckily, my sister, Anuk Naumann, is an artist, so I rang her and asked if she could do me a gargoyle. Living near Oxford, the breed of stone creatures was a familiar one, and she responded almost immediately with the picture that became the cover for “City of Secrets”.


To her many thanks. And also to Peter Coleborn who made the painting into a cover. As for the original – it will be framed and have a place of honour in my office, where the gargoyle on the bridge will supervise the writing of the next book in “The Adventures of Letty Parker.”

If you would like to read the first in the series, “City of Secrets” is now out on — eBook – book





Courtyard Garden : Autumn Figs #gardening #courtyardgarden #figs #fruittrees

Jan Edwards

20181015_135702Today, once the rain had stopped, I decided that now autumn is truly here, and most of the leaves have dropped from my fig tree,  it was time to remove the unripened figs.

Despite common myth figs are surprisingly easy to grow in this country. All they need is a sheltered spot, preferably against a south facing wall of fence, and they can produce a surprisingly large crop.

This year we had something like 40 ripe figs from this one small tree. I have grown mine in a  pot as figs tend to fruit more when their roots are restricted. Feed it well come the spring and with luck we shall get another good crop next season. Books will tell you to wrap fleece around them during hard winters, but I have had this tree for 12 years, through 2 house moves in the North Midlands, and never had to do…

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