Creating Pim in my makeshift Creature Shop

Someone asked me what I was going to do with the art dolls of my goblin characters, and the question caught me off guard. They couldn’t figure out what purpose they would serve for my books. Was I doing a marionette puppet show? Was I creating models for a movie? I didn’t want to tell them the truth: “I’m creating the characters from my book because that world is very important to me, and I want to see it visualized… And, because, for 25 years I’ve wanted to work in Jim Henson’s Creature Shop, so I’m pretending I am.”


I hadn’t sculpted for four years, so I think there were multiple years of pent-up creativity and at least two years of planning and mental creation going on. I was secretly terrified that I wouldn’t be able to sculpt Pim the way I saw him in my head. But as his face began taking shape, his personality came through in the clay. I tried to give him a more relaxed expression; his mouth just opened as if he were about to speak. His big, square teeth and broad, wet nose give him a comical and friendly look.

Pim was sculpted in Fimo Soft clay (Oh, the irony — that clay is anything but soft! Still great stuff, though) on top of a wire, foil, and masking tape armature. After his sculpt was finished, he was cured in the oven and I painted him with layers of acrylic paint. His big, amber eyes were highlighted with copper and gold metallic paint to give them that magical glint.

While working on this piece, I keep admiring the INCREDIBLE illustration work of Bailey Quillin Cooper. I hope the future holds many more collaborations with her.


This is after 3.5 hours of carefully gluing on alpaca, wool roving, and American bison hair (the whiskers). I was smart enough to think ahead and create holes to plug the whiskers in. But forcing wiry strands of glue-covered buffalo hair into the clay head was a task! I also glued a lot of alpaca hair to my fingertips in the process of furring his over-sized, tasseled ears.


The marble resting in his paw appears in the beginning of the book and plays a part in the story’s resolution. This is the actual, antique ruby marble that inspired the book, a treasure I found it my grandparents’ basement when I was 9.


Now that his head is finished, I’m working on sculpting his hands. One hand is posed to hold the marble, and the other is shaped so that he can “hold” your hand. He will have sewn clothing and a soft body. His arms and legs have armatures inside them that will give some pose-ability. I’ve already begun sculpting Wilden, who I’ll show you in my next post later this week.


Goblin toes! A little monkey-ish with their long digits and prominent big toes.

Submission season


The work around here never ends for Mr. Bacavis, Annette, and myself. There are queries left to write and edit, and plenty of squeak toys to disembowel! (Don’t belittle Nettie’s job; she does good work!).

With the manuscript polished and ready to go, I’ve begun the most terrifying part of the process! I pushed myself through the writing blocks and bumps, learned to take criticism from beta-readers, handed over my story to brutally honest kid and adult readers, embraced the endless hours (days, weeks, and months) of revision, and now, at long last, I have submitted my work to be considered by several different literary agencies. And the work doesn’t end there, or even when I do, at long last, find the right agent. But I don’t want the work to end; I want it to last as long as the words keep coming and the ideas keep plaguing my imagination.

To keep my focus on writing and away from the discouraging things (rejection, impatience, and self-doubt) I have begun scribbling down the ideas for a sequel to Beyond the Bramble. Another adventure for Lila and her goblin friends, one that introduces new characters and more unexpected obstacles for her to overcome. Another adventure worth going on…

The Responses Begin to Pour in!


The editing never ends! But the book really gets sharper and better with every re-write. Thanks to all of the readers who have already given such great feedback. So far, it feels like everyone who has read the book has given me different sorts of feedback. Some have focused more on characters, while others have focused on grammar, story flow, and the meaning beneath the surface of the story. I feel like I need to add a chapter just to thank everyone for being a part of the process. Annette would like me to mention that she is very much a part of the process too. She nips my toes when I’ve been writing for too long, and she does her best to provide me with plenty of mischievousness to write about.

The feedback I have been getting has been positive and extremely constructive. As people sent me their comments on the book, I bounced them off of my dashing editor (Mr. Bacavis) and we kept revising and improving the book. The result of all this feedback is that my book’s plot is getting stronger and its language more vivid.

What did readers want to see more of? Readers wanted to know more about how the characters looked and what their deeper motivations were. Best of all, the readers wanted to know what would happen next to their newly discovered friends: Lila, Annette, Wilden, and Pim. Having kid readers come back to me with eager questions and genuine concern for the characters let me know that something within the book was working.

Best compliment of all? A girl who isn’t a strong reader and shies away from books thought it was fun to read part of my book aloud with her mom. I could quit here and I’d be happy with that measure of success.

The Goblins of the Bramble


“Pim” illustrated by Bailey Quillin Cooper

Something about seeing three of my story’s main characters fully illustrated made everything about this book seem legit and authentic. I feel like now that they exist on paper no one can stop them from invading the minds of future readers.

Bailey Quillin Cooper, illustrator extraordinaire, was and is the only other person I trust to truly understand the goblins of the bramble (She is no novice to goblins and other fantasy beings).  I wanted Bailey, to take the characters in her own direction and to bring them “to life” (however cliché that may sound). She did that and so much more! I’m amazed how she took my basic sketches and scribbled notes and fused her vibrant imagination with mine. I’ve really never been more pleased and excited by a collaboration!

I think her blog post introduces the characters perfectly, so I’m sending you directly there! While you are on her blog, be sure to take the time and check out her other incredible projects! There is an entirely magical world living in Kringle Forest.

Bailey Quillin Cooper’s Illustrations for Beyond the Bramble




Some time after draft three…

I’ve revised my draft over the course of several months (three drafts so far), with the help of some awesome test readers and my ever-willing editor husband (well, willing to an extent. I think I did detect a slight groan the last time I mentioned we should do another edit, just in case we missed anything).

My book is almost formatted for printing, and we are just planning to do one more read-through before we get 8 test-reader paperback copies. It will be exciting to hold a physical copy of my book, but I’m not stopping there—I plan to see it traditionally published! These copies are intended for getting more valuable feedback, especially from kid readers.

Between revising dialogue and adding in some more character descriptions, I’ve also been sketching out ideas for the goblin characters in Beyond the Bramble: 


Early on, I had contemplated doing my own illustrations but had changed my mind after reading an article about the creation of Yoda (see An interview on the topic of Yoda). There were so many different visionaries, artists, fabricators, and puppeteers that were involved in creating Yoda. This is why he was so dimensional and lifelike—he wasn’t just the figment of one artist’s mind. For my characters, I have already given each of them a voice, a name, and a general description. I wanted a brilliant illustrator to take it from there. Fortunately, I know an incredible illustrator who also appreciates the world of goblins and all things magical. But more on that later!