Sunday, June 26, 2016

The Great Moonwater Brussels Revolt, an Ollie Bug Story


On this day in Moonwater Meadow History we commemorate the Great Moonwater Brussels Sprout revolt. 

No one was sure how it began or why the Brussels Sprouts wanted to revolt.  Some said it was because broccoli was getting preferential treatment.  Others said it was because the smell of boiled sprouts was revolting.  In any case, June 26th commemorates the Great Moonwater Brussels Sprout Revolt.  
 
Out in the barn which was out in the field, a harvested crop of sprouts plotted and planned their takeover from their hopper.  Under the light of the moon they jumped out of the wooden box and headed for the barn door.  No one was tall enough to reach the handle so they stood on each other and reached for it.  One good tug was all it took to send the sprouts rolling all over the dirt and hay of the barn floor.  

Brussels Sprouts aren't strong enough to open a barn door.  



Back to the hopper they went for more plotting and planning.  They thought of going to the loft and jumping out the window.  Up the ladder they climbed, pulling each other up by their little arms and legs.  At the top of the loft, they found the hatch, unlatched the lever and slid it open.  There they stood in a line waiting for someone to go first and jump to the hay bale below.  






Alas,  it was discovered Brussels Sprouts don't like heights.  

They climbed back down the ladder and stomped back to the wooden hopper in search of a new plan for Meadow take over.  

In the morning, after a night of failed schemes, one of which involved an attempt to hot wire a tractor, the old farmer came into the barn to start the chores and that's when the sprouts hatched a new plan. They jumped from the bin and tied the farmer to a support beam.  Being confused by a bunch of angry motivated Brussels Sprouts, the farmer didn't put up much resistance.  He did ask if the carrots knew about this.  

They decided to hold the farmer hostage until their demands were met.  The trouble was they had no demands and they didn't what to do with the farmer if said demands were not met.  So they played cards with the farmer who suggested that maybe they should demand  little hats so the sun wouldn't fry their little brains.  



And so it went, what started as a revolt for unknown reasons ended up as a score for the local hat maker who had to fashion dozens of little hats for a band of angry Moonwater Brussels Sprouts. 

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Why my sidekick is a little crazy spider...

 For most of my life I've wanted to tell stories.  Well, I've wanted to do lots of things like naked  skydiving into an open top dragster tooling through the Amazon but I never got those six pack abs. It's always come back to writing. 

I also wanted to get a degree in fine arts.  Always doodling with dreams of becoming a master painter.  I took up painting on my own later in life.  Now I can say my paintings are either hanging all over the country or have been thrown out by someone somewhere. 

The two worlds came together in the form of a character I created, Ollie Bug and his world.  Picture books were the natural result.  But why this?  I want to write deep complex novels. I never pictured myself as a children's picture book author.

However...

Ollie and his world aren't solely for children. In fact, most of his fans are adults who have told me he appeals to their inner kid.  Even adults without kids love what he gets up to.  Maybe because he represents the childhood they miss or never had.  They say he's equal parts Winnie the Pooh, Bloom County, Calvin and Hobbs and Wile E. Coyote. Boom.  Exactly what I was going for. 

But...

Adults don't read children's picture books and he's not exclusively for children so there's no real marketable category for Ollie.  When you create things for a living the questions comes up; who is your audience or target market?  Um, everyone?  That doesn't seem to be the right answer but it's the only one I've got. 

I don't have a real answer yet so I do what I do.  I write stories about the adventures of a child spider.  It's where my head and heart are.  His stories have themes of loneliness and friendship because when I was his age, I was lonely and wanted friends.  My early life was the chaos of divorced parents, moving around, instability and financial hardship.  Kids shouldn't have to feel that but they do.  I'm not unique or entitled.  I write about the life I wish I had and Ollie is the inner heart that beats within. 

I post his stuff on his site at Ollie-bug.com and I'll post progress here as well.  If you're a Creative like me you may find the journey familiar.  If those themes resonate within you then Ollie may be your pal, too and you didn't even know it. 

And maybe we'll be successful and Ollie and I will finally get that Corvette he's been promising me....

Stick around, I made coffee.  And cake.     

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

When Writing Stumbles Lead Easily To Tequila



Raw inked illustration of Ollie

 I imagined my career as a prolific novelist spinning engaging tales of mystery and suspense.  Maybe with a little humor thrown in.  Even as a child when other boys were dreaming about being sports stars I was dreaming of the writer's life, whatever that was.  I think it had something to do with being your own boss, driving a Corvette and carrying a snifter of brandy with you wherever you went.  And wearing a cravat.  

Well,  instead of becoming the novelist in the vein of Kerouac meets Hemingway meets oh, all the great detective writers, I floated into short pieces and picture books about a five legged spider of mischief and mayhem.  Eh, beats a lot of other things I could do.  

I'm neck deep in words and images for Ollie's new adventure and I've hit one of those walls.  You see, with picture books you need a tight word count of something under 1000 words and 28 images for a standard 32 page picture book.  The reason has to do with how the physical book is constructed and the fact I'm not a bored celebrity who decided to try their hand at writing a picture book.  Those in that group get special attention and can write whatever word length they want with no restriction on images.  Because celebrity sells despite content.    

In the draft stages I often have somewhere around 3000 scene ideas I have to pare down to 30 and edit down to 28.  It takes lots of time, patience, coffee, effort and on Fridays, tequila.  The text is done and clocks in at around 900 words.  When I say "done"  I mean I made a decision to stop editing.  In the creative world, a job is never done.  You just put the pen down and walk away.  For now, I'm (mostly) happy with the story.  

On to the illustrations.  Armed with coffee and enough mac n cheese to kill an elephant,  I did all the drawings and they numbered in the low 30s.  I had some cutting  to do.  I deleted a few weak scenes and combined a few others and went about inking.  I put them in my little portfolio and set them aside.  

NOTE: When an author, artist, musician, etc finishes a work they  put it aside to marinate (or ferment) while they clear their head of it.  Sometimes it's a week, sometimes months.  When they return to complete the work they have a fresh perspective.  When I returned to my drawings a short time later, I discovered, like a farsighted barber I did a little too much cutting.  I was two illustrations short.  

More coffee.  

The problem with making two random illustrations is the pace and flow will be thrown off.  The images are structured to draw the eye left to right and onto the next page.  Adding a page will ruin the flow.  I either have to add two to the end, the very beginning or two in the middle somewhere.  Now that may throw off the story and rewrites will follow.  A puzzle within a mystery wrapped in a headache.  


I have some thinking to do.  If anyone needs me, I'll be at the beach. 

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Hello, I'ts Me Again...


This is Ollie.  He likes balloons. And stuff... 

When a blogger returns to the blog after an extended absence they often start with illuminating the obvious, "I've been away from writing for a long time and now I'm back".  That's always bothered me.  You've been away because you have a life.  It's okay, we'll be here when you get back provided it's not so long as to have raised kids to college age.  

But...

I've been away from the blog and now I'm back. 

Because...

I began my career as a championship race car driver, scaled the Andes,  cured hangnails, toured the world with my band, combed the beaches of Fiji and Bali, had a major art opening in Los Angeles and got a haircut.  

Or not.  

In truth, I have been writing.  I just finished the text and inked illustrations for my third picture book, Ollie Bug and the Night of the Marshmallow Pirates.  Now I'm onto the painting stage.  Ollie is a five-legged spider of action and adventure.  He a little boy who loves to play.  He's also my alter ego since he has the life I've always wanted.  I'm also told he looks a bit like me.  That part was unintentional.  

The process is a long one though probably not as long as crafting a full length novel (ONE DAY!!).   I do all the writing, drawing, inking and painting myself at the same desk I do all my blog posts, eBay browsing and impulse Amazon buying.  Vegetable spiralizer, anyone?  The desk is cluttered with coffee cups, paint brushes, scraps with sketches and paint water (which is often mistaken for coffee), various stuffed animals and action figures.  It's my Sanctum Imaginarium.   
  
Usually, I lay out the story boards, suck back a cup, draw studies of perspective and angles like a film director sets up  shots and do various color swatches to determine mood and whatnot.  It's a very long and tedious process which I love almost too much.  

The first two books, Ollie Bug and the Rainy Daydreamy Day and Ollie Bug and the Icky Sticky Thing From Space are finished and in art portfolios.  Sometimes I think of pursuing an agent and the traditional publishing route and other times I think of publishing electronically through Kindle.  Either way, I've learned from asking the right questions that it's better if you author a series vs. a one-shot.  There's more market potential, people like series books and it gives the author more content.  Call it another unintentional benefit.  Ollie has almost seventeen titles in the early development stages.  Now all I have to do is, ohhhh, everything.

Well, here I am again.  Along with the usual chaos I post like stories of driving cars that are actually on fire and getting chased by rolling barbecues, I'll also post about the writing process, in-progress work, useful links for pensmiths (since I know a lot of us) and other stuff.   

So what have you been up to?