First Faltering Steps into #AI Art

In my last post I mentioned how I like to doodle cartoons of my characters to inspire my writing. Since then I’ve gone a step further and tried to create images with NightCafe, an AI art generator.

First I made images of the monstrous Vegetable People in Book Two of my Bad Boy Wizard series. This was pretty easy, and fun.

I was less successful with Charlie Busby, the Bad Boy Wizard of the title. The words ‘boy with cheeky face, tawny hair and hazel eyes’ generated an image of a Disney-style elf with pointy ears and old-fashioned clothes, which was not what I wanted at all; Charlie is a modern schoolboy and I’ve always pictured him as being quite stockily built. So I entered the words ‘plump schoolboy with cheeky face, tawny hair and hazel eyes’. This didn’t work at all, and a message came up saying I’d used ‘prohibited words’.

Alarm bells rang then, so I googled ‘prohibited words on NightCafe’ and looked at the list of possible triggers. Since I hadn’t sworn, referred to drugs or used racist language, I had to conclude that the issue was ‘sexualisation of children’. The alarm bells got louder. I thought maybe I shouldn’t have described Charlie as ‘plump’, so I tried the same sentence without that word. Again, I got the ‘prohibited words’ warning. Seriously rattled now, I tried once more, using ‘boy’ instead of ‘schoolboy’. This time it worked, so clearly ‘schoolboy’ was the problem.

This is the image I ended up with:

Charlie Busby (sort of)

It’s close-ish, but not quite how Charlie looks in my mind. However, I was afraid to refine it any more in case I used another prohibited word. As it was, I half expected a visit from the police.

Next I generated an image of Charlie’s mother, a tyrannical woman who makes his life hell. The words ‘modern woman with short shiny red hair who looks like Henry VIII’ produced this…

Mrs Busby, the mother from hell

…and this.

In both cases she doesn’t look nasty enough, and  I’m not sure why she doesn’t appear to be wearing clothes in the second one.

I got better results for Charlie’s dad, and his best friend.

Charlie’s downtrodden dad

Charlie’s friend Kyle

I haven’t made any further experiments, as it’s a lot of fiddling about and I’ve got enough on my hands with the stories themselves.

I’ve completed the final book in the series now, and I’m in the process of tweaking and polishing all seven of them. My WIP page only mentions four books, but I’ve been unable to update that page. I suspect I’ll have to switch to the block editor to do it.

That’s a headache for another day!


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Dark God of Chaos!

I’m no great artist, but I like to doodle cartoons of my characters to help me describe them. Here is a monster from my current WIP.

Personally, I think the most heinous thing about him is his underpants – but they play a crucial part in the story. You’ll have to wait awhile to find out what it is, though!


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Tribute to Frieda

Our friend Alain took this photo of his dogs Snip and Frieda (standing), the day before she crossed the rainbow bridge.

Frieda spent her early years locked in a shed, until a kind person ‘freed ‘er’ (hence the name). She was handed over to Greyhound Rescue Wales and came to live with Alain, his partner Jan and their lurcher Snip. It wasn’t long before she and Snip were inseparable.

Once it sunk in that she was safe and free, Frieda was the most joyful, playful dog you could hope to meet. She had a mischievous streak, and sometimes she could be naughty. Sweet-natured most of the time, if she met a dog she didn’t like, she had to go and tell them so. And her taste in snacks was worthy of a contestant in I’m A Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here. If she caught a whiff of dead and rotting wildlife, she would turn into ‘Frieda Torpeda’, zooming off at warp speed to find it – and once she’d found it, she wouldn’t let go until she’d eaten it all. I used to think she had cast-iron insides.

Sadly, this turned out not to be the case in the end. Last year Frieda had to have a mass removed from her intestine and was diagnosed with terminal lymphoma. Jan and Alain have been heroic in their efforts to keep her going with good quality of life, making the two-hour journey to a specialist animal hospital near Bristol every week so she could have chemo. Dogs don’t receive the kind of punishing doses given to humans. and Frieda did well on the treatment with minimal side-effects.

She had ten good months, continuing to enjoy her walks and displaying her usual mischievous nature. But earlier this month she became very ill, and the decision was taken to let her go. She is very much missed by her family, and especially by Snip.

Run free, Frieda Torpeda!


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Winter Outstays its Welcome

March is such a scam! It fools us it’s spring, with this…

…and then does this.

Not impressed.

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The Attention-Seeking Shapeshifter

It’s #TellAFairyTaleDay, so I thought I’d reblog this post about a lonely fairy who could do with a few friends!

The Literate Lurcher

Fairyland is full of shapeshifters; they’re part of the natural balance.  But occasionally you’ll come across a shapeshifter who has gone out of control.

smishifter Image found here

Such a one is Nigel the Nuisance, who uses his shapeshifting to show off.  He practises for hours every day, like a human who’s addicted to the gym.  His aim is twofold: to be more interesting than all the other shapeshifters, and to achieve more changes per minute. He gets a tremendous buzz from these workouts and can’t bring himself to give them up.

Nigel has been through so many changes he’s forgotten his original shape.  He sometimes finds himself changing shape when he doesn’t want to, or turning into things he doesn’t want to be.  This can cause a lot of trouble, for himself and for anyone who hangs out with him.

Shapeshifters generally change into plants or animals, to trick unsuspecting…

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The Dreaded Cone of Shame

Lyra was spayed last week, and I’ve had a hell of a job keeping her away from her stitches! She has a strong will, and it’s hard to make her do anything she doesn’t want to – like wearing the Elizabethan collar (or ‘Cone of Shame’) provided by the vet to prevent her getting at the wound. She went into a total frenzy in her attempts to remove it; she was thrashing about so much I was afraid she was going to burst her stitches. In which case the E-collar would have done its job, as there would have been no stitches left in for her to pull out.

This wasn’t just bratty behaviour; in my experience, sighthounds never cope well with the Cone of Shame. They need a large size because their long snouts and long tongues allow them to reach parts other dogs can’t. The trouble is, they have small heads on slender necks, and the sheer weight of a large E-collar drags their heads down and interferes with their balance.

Added to this is another problem that could easily be avoided if the manufacturers of these things gave it a little more thought. All the E-collars I’ve come across are either opaque or patterned, which must surely mess with a dog’s peripheral vision, confusing them even more – like they’re not confused enough after an anaesthetic! It would seem more sensible (and possibly cheaper) to make the collars with plain, clear plastic.

The E-collar provided for Lyra looks like this:

The pawprint pattern is clearly for the benefit of the dog’s owner; I don’t see how it can in any way comfort the dog. Lyra might know what a pawprint is by smell, but a visual pattern of pawprints would mean nothing to her, and on this device it would just appear as a busy pattern interfering with her vision. Add to that the weight of a cumbersome lampshade dragging on her neck and messing up her balance, and it’s understandable she panicked when I tried to make her wear it.

The whole process of spaying is brutal enough from a dog’s point of view: they’re taken into the vet feeling perfectly healthy, abandoned there without explanation and drugged insensible, to wake up later in considerable pain. To add the stress of an E-collar to this just feels wrong.

I gave up on Lyra’s Cone of Shame pretty quickly and tried an inflatable ‘doughnut’ collar, but her telescopic neck reached around it easily.

I ended up staying awake all night so I could prevent any attempt (and there were many!) to get at the stitches. The next day (thank God) I managed to borrow a post-surgical suit from a friend. Lyra doesn’t like wearing it (she’s not the sort of dog who likes wearing clothes, and I can’t say I blame her) but at least she tolerates it, and it seems a kinder way to protect her wound while it heals.

And it means we can both sleep at night.

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Lyra’s Christmas in the city

Hi, Lyra here! I’ve just come back from a holiday in the city. It was totally different from home – busy and noisy, and we stayed in rooms that were all upstairs. There were new toys, new stuff to chew and new furniture to play with. I had loads of energy after being cooped up in the car, and it was all so new and exciting I was bouncing off the walls!

We went to my human’s brother’s house for Christmas dinner. There was a Christmas tree with lots of interesting dangly stuff on it, and TURKEY! I met two other dogs, a big woolly one called Max…

….and a little woolly one called Benny.

Benny fell in love with me on sight (doesn’t everyone?). He was younger than me – still a puppy really – so at first I played hard to get, but in the end I let him be my boyfriend.

I tried to steal the turkey, but the humans stopped me. It was agony watching them stuff their faces, we were afraid it would all be gone before we could get a sniff of it, but luckily there was enough left over for us dogs to have our own turkey dinner afterwards.

There was so much good food around over the holidays, it was driving me mad! I couldn’t reach most of it, even with my telescopic neck, because the humans pushed me away whenever I got near it. I eventually managed to steal a cake, but my human got it out of my mouth before I could swallow it. She went crazy because there were raisins in it and she was afraid I might have swallowed one. Her phone had told her that a dog can die just from eating one raisin*. What a fuss about nothing. Anyone would have thought there were explosives in that cake the way she went on.

Apparently, most Christmas cakes and puddings have dried fruit in them. Why is there so much Christmas food that dogs can’t eat?

Walks in the city were a bit weird. I’m used to zooming around in wide open spaces, but I had to spend a lot of time on the lead, walking on pavements next to a road where big noisy cars whizzed by and splashed me (it rained a lot while we were away). Luckily, there was a field behind the big church where I could run about.

I met another whippet there, called Wilbur. He was well fit, with a cool brindle coat, and we had an awesome time chasing a ball.

I loved our holiday in the city, but I don’t think I’d like to live there all the time. It’s good to get back to the country and its wide open spaces.

Happy New Year, everyone!

*Note from Lyra’s human: It’s actually not advisable to let dogs eat raisins, currants or sultanas as they can cause kidney failure. Don’t listen to your dog if she tries to tell you they’re harmless.

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Smorgasbord Blog Magazine – Posts from Your Archives – 2022 – Christmas and New Year Special – #Music – How To Make Your Own Christmas Song by Annabelle Franklin

Head over to Sally Cronin’s blog to find out how to make your very own Christmas hit. Many thanks to Sally for re-posting!

Smorgasbord Blog Magazine

Since this series began in January 2018 there have been over 1200 Posts from Your Archiveswhere bloggers have taken the opportunity to share posts to a new audience…

The topics have ranged from travel, childhood, recipes, history, family and the most recent series was #PotLuck where I shared a random selection of different topics.

This series is along the same lines and is a celebration of Christmas and New Year.

I do appreciate that this is not a religious festival for everyone but it is a time of year when families and friends come together and our thoughts turn to our hopes and wishes for the coming year. At the end of the post you can find out how to participate in this festive series.

Today children’s author Annabelle Franklin shares a recipe for a festive musical money maker that will also delight all who hear it…

How To…

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The very next day, they gave it away…

It’s always sad to see the queues of people in the stores after Christmas, taking back unwanted gifts. The trouble with surprises is they don’t always turn out to be what people want.

So how’s this for a solution? Before Christmas, adult family members could simply give each other cash to buy gifts for themselves. They could wrap their own presents without telling anyone what they’ve bought, and put them under the tree ready for the big Day. There would still be the element of surprise as they out what they’ve bought each other, and everyone would get something they want. A win-win situation all round!

Christmas at Grandma’s

Of course, this wouldn’t work for children or dogs.

If you’re looking for a last-minute stocking filler for a young reader, my middle grade novels are available on Amazon. The Slapstyx are a tribe of grubby goblins who fill people’s homes with dust and grime, and Gateway to Magic features a gaming fanatic who is trapped in Fairyland where tech is banned by law.

Merry Christmas!

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Night in the Sock Garden #Halloween

Here’s a spooky little snippet from my kids’ novel Gateway to Magic, the story of a gaming fanatic trapped in Fairyland where all tech is banned by law. Steven has been made to live in a toadstool and work for the Fairy Queen, and he’s hating every minute…

Enrique Meseguer from Pixabay

Bedtime came at last, and Steven sank gratefully into his bunk; but just as he was dropping off, he heard a hideous snorting sound right under his window. ‘I’m not having another sleepless night,’ he decided. ‘The Queen said there were no sockworms, so it must be some ordinary animal making that racket. I’m going out to chase it away.’

It was the first time he’d been outside at night since he’d first come to the Sock Garden. Once again everything was shrouded in mist, so he couldn’t see much; but he could still hear the grunting and snorting of whatever-it-was under his window.

‘It sounds like a pig,’ he thought, as he crept round the outside of the Toadstool. ‘And it smells horrible…’

The smell reminded him of cheese – not yummy cheese-on-toast-type cheese, but ancient and deeply rotten cheese that someone forgot to throw away. He longed to bolt back indoors, but he knew this creature must be chased off if he was to get any sleep.

‘You can’t be scared of a smell,’ he told himself, creeping on until he could see the outside of his window. Below it, a blob of darkness quivered gently as it snuffled about in the flowerbed.

Steven took a deep breath and shouted ‘BOO!!’ at the top of his voice.

The Thing stopped quivering and snuffling, but it didn’t run away.

BOO!!’ he shouted again, flapping his hands.

The Thing turned to face him, snuffling with renewed vigour. Steven could now see two points of burning yellow light in the middle of the black shape. He tried to shout ‘Boo!’ again, but all that came out was a squeaky whisper.

The creature changed shape, elongating and rearing up, and hissed loudly. Steven hissed back – he was trying to say the word ‘snake’, but all that came out past his chattering teeth was the first letter. Somewhere in his head was the thought that he should run away, but he couldn’t move.

A sudden breeze stirred the fog, ripping it apart so the moon could pop through, providing just enough light for him to see the mysterious creature in detail.

It wasn’t a snake. It was something much worse.

It was certainly snake-shaped, but fatter and lumpier than any snake should be. Its skin was patterned with diamond shapes in shades of brown, but instead of being smooth and scaly, it looked sort of fuzzy. Half of it was coiled up in the flowerbed while the other half reared up, cobra-like, its head on a level with Steven’s.

The head was the worst, being mostly mouth, stretched in a snarl and crammed with scissor-like teeth. Its eyes seemed to be full of boiling, luminous, yellow oil, and above them a pair of antennae waved menacingly.

There was only one thing this horrid creature could be, and when Steven finally got a word out it wasn’t the word he’d started to say a moment ago:

‘S-S-S-S-SOCKWORM!!’ he shrieked, and bolted back to the front door…

…only to find a second sockworm hissing and grinning on the doorstep.

Pete Linforth from Pixabay

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