Friday, September 13, 2013

MERGO

After wrapping up the edits on Frenzy, it was time to think about my next novel. I bounced some ideas around with my editor and we decided on a concept that falls into the same genre as Frenzy, a science-thiller with a good mix of horror. I'm excited to announce that the follow up to my debut is tentatively titled MERGO. The good people at Disney-Hyperion have graciously allowed me to say a little bit about the plot. 

When a family member falls deathly ill, 14-year-old Piper turns to her classmate Tad for comfort. Tad, an amateur botanist, tells her there's a Seminole legend of a cure-all flower found only in an unexplored section of Georgia’s Okefenokee Swamp. Desperate for any glimmer of hope, Piper convinces Tad to accompany her on a hunt for the flower.

What awaits them in the country’s largest black water swamp is an entity the Creek Indians, now long gone, spoke of in hushed, fearful tones. The Seminole believed that the swamp's first settlers, the mystical Tasketcha tribe, still existed as evil spirits, forever tethered to their burial mounds found in the dark heart of the waterlogged forest.

If Piper has any chance of saving her loved one, she’ll have to do the impossible—find the miracle flower, face her past, and overcome an ancient evil known only as Mergo

Not official book art

Mergo's publication date is a still a long way off, but it's nice to sink my teeth into a new story. I'll post updates on this project as it develops.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Cover Reveal!

Today is a day I've been looking forward to for over four years. In 2009 I left a great job in the construction industry to pursue my dream of writing children’s books, and I’m excited to reveal the result of that leap of faith. The advance reader copies of Frenzy have arrived and they’re amazing!
I’m so grateful to the many people who were involved in bringing Frenzy to this important stage: my agent Lauren MacLeod, my editor Ricardo Mejias, and the fine people at Disney-Hyperion, including the book jacket’s designer Joann Hill. And a special thanks to the artist who painted the awesome cover, Mark Fredrickson.
I want to talk about Mark for a moment. When I was told who would be painting the cover I was thrilled. I've been a fan of Mark’s work for a long time. Although you may not recognize his name, you've probably seen his art many times while scanning magazine racks at the grocery store, because Mark is one of the premiere cover artists for Mad Magazine. In fact, the day I learned that Mark was going to be doing the cover for Frenzy, I was standing in the check-out line at Publix and saw, tucked snug in a rack next to People Magazine, a special-edition of Mad sporting a Mark Fredrickson cover. Mark has also painted for Time Magazine and he's created book covers for some of my favorite writers including R.L. Stine.
You may have even seen his work on an episode of Jimmy Kimmel Live.
I think Mark did a fantastic job on my cover. The squirrel almost leaps off the page, and the raccoon is terrifying (I was once confronted by a rabid raccoon while walking a neighbor’s dog, and I can say from that experience that Mark nailed the look). But my favorite is the sickly porcupine peeking around the tree trunk in the upper left-hand corner.
Now that the advance reader copies are off to reviewers, I’ve moved on to the next book, which I hope to talk about soon. As a teaser I’ll just say that in a few weeks I’m heading to the Okefenokee Swamp in Georgia to do research for the story.
Frenzy is now available for pre-order at B&N and AMAZON.

B&N

AMAZON

And for those of you who prefer to support indie booksellers, you should be able to find it here soon.

The soft-cover advance reader copies aren’t available to the general public, but the hardcover version will be released on April 8th and you can pre-order them online or buy them in bookstores on that date. If a child you know (ages 10-15) is a fan of science-thrillers like Jurassic ParkCongo, or Micro, then Frenzy will be a perfect gift. The book is scary (in a good way), but it’s also loaded with fun, factual science. So, you know, they’ll actually learn something.
I’d like to thank all of you who have purchased or plan on purchasing Frenzy. I hope you like it! If you want to read more about Frenzy and my future books, please visit me at:

Thursday, May 23, 2013

First Contact


I won’t lie, there’s something exhilarating about meeting one's agent or editor for the first time. To a writer, the term “meet your maker” is fairly applicable. After all, the agent and editor are the professionals who make our dreams come true. 
Initially we get to know them on a genial level via phone and email before the face-to-face, so there’re no illusions of giant floating heads and fireballs a la The Wizard of Oz.

But it’s still an exciting prospect to shake hands with (or for the more honestly expressive, bear hug the crap out of) those who have signed on to become our business partners, creative muses, therapists, friends.

There are very few introductory meetings in a writer’s life that will hold this kind of weight: The doctor that spanks us like a ketchup bottle, dislodging that first breath free. The soul mate. The rug rats. The fan at the head of the line at our first book signing. The second soul mate. The mortician. Meeting our agent or editor can feel that important to the writer who’s struggled for years to arrive at this stage in the journey towards publication. Most writers go through a period of bobbing in the vast sea, treading water to the point of exhaustion, waiting to be tossed a lifeline. So when someone comes along who thinks were worthy of fishing from the drink, we love them for it.

In 2011 I flew from South Carolina to Boston (my old college stomping grounds) to meet my agent, the insert honorific adjective here Lauren MacLeod of the Strothman Agency. We had lunch at a semi-fancy eatery and I ordered one of those eat-with-a-fork burgers with a side of the kind of quality fries that potatoes aspire to be. Lauren was everything I surmised from our phone and email exchanges: bubbly, personable, savvy, informed…I had this vision of Lauren charming editor after editor and then, when she has them all entranced, WHAM! She drops the hammer--Auction, eight figure deal, we keep all rights (including English, why not?), million dollar signing bonus, all while I’m standing off to the side, tenting my fingers like Mr. Burns. “Excellent!”
I joke, but I left our luncheon with my confidence in Lauren as solid as ever.  In the winter of 2012 Lauren brokered a two-book deal with Disney-Hyperion on my behalf. Confidence rewarded.

A few weeks ago I flew to New York to meet my editor Ricardo Mejias for the first time. The plan was to go over final edit notes for my first book, Frenzy, and to discuss my next project. I forwarded four synopses in advance, anxious to find out which, if any, he envisioned as the second half of the contract.

It's story time.

We agreed to meet at the Disney-Hyperion offices at the end of the afternoon, and like the good Southern boy I am, I was a few minutes early. I entered the building and signed in at the front desk. Everything had that sleek, sterile look that says, “Welcome to the Umbrella Corp.” I received my visitor’s pass…
 

and headed through the turnstile to the bank of equally sterile elevators. I picked one. There were no UP and DOWN arrow buttons. Instead there was a numbered keypad. I reasoned that I needed to type in my floor number, but when I did, nothing happened. The screen remained blank.
This is the point where my country mouse started steering my body Ratatouille-style. An elevator to my left opened and a gentleman stepped in. I leapt in behind him. Inside the elevator there were no buttons at all. At all!

I had no choice but to ride up with the other passenger to his destination, step out, and try again. This time, when I pressed 33 into the keypad, the building decided to stop screwing with me and the elevator descended to Floor Thirty-Three. Now, I know my plight doesn't seem like a big deal (and Lauren made this very same journey just a few months earlier, and will probably wonder what’s wrong with me when she reads this), but I was understandably nervous and all of the little stresses were amplified a bit. In my mind’s eye, I conjured up a scenario where the Disney-Hyperion staff were watching me via hidden video cameras, monitoring my heart rate and possibly spraying invisible stress-inducing chemicals (wasp pheromones, maybe?) into The Box to unbalance me in advance of any remaining edit negotiations. Are there more stressful elevators out there? Sure, I suppose so.


When I escaped from the hellevator, I walked down the empty hallway and came to a glass wall with heavy, glass double-doors in the center. Locked. Another indecipherable keypad. Oh, Obi Wan. I feel your pain.

I started to wonder what exactly I was going to have to do to make my appointment on time.
Here’s a Robert factoid. When I was a kid, I had a mild case of entamaphobia, fear of doors. I wasn’t afraid of walking through them like others afflicted with this ridiculous condition (slightly less silly than ostiumtractophobia, fear of door knobs), but I had doubts about my ability to open them, especially in public places where people would see me fail at such a simple task. It’s rather embarrassing to push when you should have pulled, or worse yet, when you can’t get the door to open at all. This happened once at a crowded diner (I quickly returned to the table and informed my mother that they’d locked us inside, which wasn't the case, obviously).I thought about joining a support group, but I feared I wouldn't be able to open the door to the meeting room. 

Fortunately, I passed the phobia along to my nephew and have been opening doors with great confidence since 1989. It’s only in certain high-tech, modern buildings that The Fear creeps in again. It’s like they expect you to have an intuitive understanding of their one-of-a-kind, computerized entrance technology! I am not R2D2. I was not born with one of these.
It was nearing the end of the afternoon, and it appeared as though everyone had left for the day. Fortunately, someone eventually walked by and saw me fogging up the glass.

I was in.

Let me preface this part of the story by saying I had some inflated expectations as to what the Disney-Hyperion offices would look like. This stems from the fact that I once worked in the bullpen at Marvel Comics, and Marvel was everything you’d imagine: superhero art adorning the walls and columns, action figures lining editors’ shelves, famous artists stopping by to drop off freshly drawn pages, a pot-bellied guy in a Spider-Man costume leading visitor tours through the hallways… a fanboy’s dream (I’ll discuss my time at Marvel in another blog entry soon.)

I carried similar notions with me to the Disney-Hyperion offices, although I wasn’t exactly sure what I’d find. Jack Sparrow as the receptionist (his booted feet on the desk, a jug of rum resting on the fax machine.) Tigger bouncing around the hallways, tossing shredded manuscript pages around like confetti. Editors traveling through the halls via cars salvaged from the defunct Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride.
(Thanks for nothing, Google.)

Of course, this was just the imagination of a writer and die-hard Disney fan working overtime. My illusions of whimsical grandeur were quickly wiped away.

I was hoping for THIS:
 Would have settled for THIS:
 
But got THIS:
There were a few stacks of Disney books on shelves and tables, but otherwise there was nothing Be-Our-Guest-ish about the place. I was later informed that these were just temporary digs as the publisher’s staff waited for new offices which were still under construction in another part of town. Bummer.
I found Ricardo's office and introduced myself. Pleasant and soft-spoken, he immediately put me at ease after the Great Elevator Debacle of 2013. We sat down to talk.
So you know what’s infinitely better than meeting Mickey Mouse? Brainstorming with an editor who not only gets the way you think, but who also shows enthusiasm, gives spot-on feedback and has appreciation for the topics that interest you as a writer. I’ll be eternally grateful to Ricardo for seeing a deeper story inside of Frenzy and pointing it out to me. It’s an adventure story and a horror story and a survival story, but he found at the core of it a modern morality play. Ricardo asked the hard questions and with his guidance I was able to pass them along to my readers: What do we owe each other as human beings when the $#!+ hits the fan? Is it ever okay to give up?  Are there lines that must never be crossed, even when our lives are on the line?

This is the job of every editor. They see the buried story, hand the writer a shovel and they say, “Start digging.” And then when the writer has unearthed the bones and assembled the beast, the editor—the co-excavator—hands them a toothbrush and says, “Now get every last bit of crud off until it’s sparkly clean.” The best editors have ground-penetrating radar. They can see deeper, with more clarity. As writers, we’re lucky to have them.

So maybe the Disney-Hyperion offices weren't as awesome as I’d envisioned. That’s okay, because in the end I wasn't there to meet Mickey Mouse. I was there to meet my editor, and that meeting was worth the trip. 

My goal has always been to encourage people to keep following their dreams. If you’re an unagented or unpublished writer, just know that if you keep plugging away, treading the water, writing the words, all of the awesome emotions associated with meeting the professionals who will guide your career will be yours too someday. And, yes, those emotions are as cool as you’d imagine (except for entamaphobia. That one’s not cool at all).

There are a few interesting notes I can share from the meeting. 1). First, the release date for Frenzy will likely be bumped up from Summer 2014 to April 2014. So right now I’m planning for a spring launch. 2). Ricardo liked two ideas I presented for my second book, and we decided that I would develop them simultaneously. One is an intimate horror and the other is adventure/horror on an epic scale. I’ll release more details as I’m able.  

Some noteworthy news:
1). My agency sister Brian Quinlan has been working on something awesome, and even though she hasn’t told me how to find it online, it was released into the wild this week, and I know it will be worth the hunt. You can follow Bria for more cryptic info here: https://twitter.com/briaquinlan. If the secret project has even an ounce of Bria’s brand of humor, it'll be great.

2). Honorary agency sister Stacey Lee recently signed a deal with G.P. Putnam’s Sons for a winter 2015 release of her book Golden Boys. According to her website, http://staceyhlee.com/: When a 15-year-old Chinese girl kills a Missouri landowner in self-defense, she and a runaway slave disguise themselves as young men and seek their freedom in the frontier with a band of cowboys.
Sounds pretty cool. I’ll let you know when it’s available for pre-order.

3). Agency sister Lizzie Friend’s YA thriller book Poor Little dead Girls is available for pre-order at Amazon. http://www.amazon.com/Poor-Little-Girls-Lizzie-Friend/dp/1440563950

4). Two more of my fav agency sisters have books out on submission. Fly lttle books, fly!!!

5). Fellow Disney-Hyperion writer Polly Holyoke’s book The Neptune Project is out this week. It looks right up my alley. http://www.amazon.com/The-Neptune-Project-Polly-Holyoke/dp/1423157567/ You can learn more about Polly and her books by visiting her site. http://www.pollyholyoke.com/

6). Zoraida Cordova’s follow up to Vicious Deep hit stores earlier this month. I’m almost finished reading Vicious Deep and looking forward to the next. http://www.amazon.com/Savage-Blue-Vicious-Deep/dp/1402282060/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1369156832&sr=1-1&keywords=zoraida+cordova

And in news to make you jealous, I’m going to see Star Trek again tonight, this time at a private screening at the Skywalker Ranch where much of the Star Wars saga was put together. Very surreal. The new Trek is a blast. I liked it infinitely better than Iron Man 3 and highly recommend it, so go see it and support our Federation troops. 

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Thanksgiving Week Ending 3-9-2013

Not a bad week, all-in-all. Here are a few things I'm thankful for. 


A fantastic episode of the Walking Dead. 
Lunch with an old friend at PF Changs. I'm also thankful for the waitress who upgraded my orange beef to the dinner portion. Some things are worth the guilt.
Starting the planning phase of the research trip for my new book. Saving my receipts for the tax write-off.
Thankful that this was a good week for my sick buddy. He seemed to have a little more spring in his step. 
An idea for a new book. And even though my agent prefers some of my other ideas, it's not a bad thing when her reason for concern is this: “Actually, I wonder if [name of new book] is too scary? (It certainly reminds me of one of those Twilight Zone episodes you see too young and can just never ever get over.)” 
The guy who took us into two wars is now obsessively painting dogs (50 so far, according to his art teacher). Oh, and he's also painting self portraits of himself in the tub. Thankful for our current president.
Thankful for awesome bargain bin finds.

What are YOU thankful for?

Monday, December 3, 2012

BOOK DEAL!


It’s official! I signed a two-book deal with Disney-Hyperion! As a life-long Disney fanatic I’m not  sure which part of that statement I’m more excited about, the “I signed a book deal” part or the “Disney” part. To talk about what could be the most significant event of my professional life thus far I've decided to conduct a Q&A with myself. I'll also cover some basic info for those of you who are visiting my blog for the first time. If, after reading this, you have any questions you’d like to ask then please do. I'd love to hear from you.

Q: Seriously? Are you really going to be writing for Disney or are you just making up stories?
A: Yes and yes. publishersmarketplace.com announced today:


Q: How did this happen? Did you storm the gates of the Magic Kingdom and hold the park hostage with a BB gun, a la Clark Griswold, until Disney agreed to your demands?
A: Oooh, good idea, wish I’d thought of it sooner. I might have saved myself three years of Herculean effort. But no, it was a little more complicated than that. I’d always wanted to tell stories in some capacity, but like many people I found myself distracted by a job I didn’t particularly care for. I ran the service department for a commercial roofing company. Great company but it just wasn’t my cup of tea.

One day I had an epiphany and decided it was time to get serious about pursuing my preferred career of writing children’s books. I gave my two week’s notice and headed to the beach to live and write. I did odd jobs here and there (one example, designing and painting set pieces for local theatre productions), but I still managed to write nearly full time. It was a struggle, but I’d made the commitment and had no intention of giving up.

I wrote my first book, Lucy Clayfoot, in about fourteen months. It’s still the story closest to my heart, but I recognized that it wasn’t quite ready for publication. I set Lucy Clayfoot aside and worked on another book as a palate cleanser. I completed Journal of a Super Villain Sidekick in about a month. It just flowed. I submitted it to a handful of agents and after receiving multiple offers of representation, I chose Lauren MacLeod of the Strothman Agency. Her clients seemed very happy, she had a blueprint for my future, and I was impressed with her use of social media, especially Twitter, to promote her clients.

When Journal of a Super Villain Sidekick didn’t sell (due to a glut of super hero books flooding the market), I pressed on and wrote Frenzy. Frenzy took about six months between inspiration and completion of the second draft. Lauren shopped it around, Disney presented their offer a few months later, and here we are. I have a book deal three years after leaving my old job behind.

Q: Do you really love Disney or are you just being a major kiss @$$?
A: I honestly love almost everything about Disney (the price of food in the theme parks is the noted exception). I’ve considered moving to Florida just to live near Disney World and Epcot. I applied to CalArt’s animation program so I could become an animator for The Mouse (didn’t get in). Animators like Glen Keane and Andreas Deja had a profound influence on my art. I even painted a Disney mural on one of the walls of my old house.

So yes, I’ve been Team Disney for a long time.
And now that they’ve snapped up so many of the other companies I love—Marvel, Lucas, Pixar, Henson Studios—I feel unbelievably lucky that I get to play in the world’s most creative sandbox.

Q: Did you have any help along the way or do you claim to be an island?
A: I’m so grateful to my agent, Lauren MacLeod of the Strothman Agency.
She may look and sound sweet, and she is, but she’s also a powerhouse negotiator with impeccable business sense. Every day I come to appreciate her more and more, as do her other clients, all of whom are on the fast track thanks to Lauren (Well, Lauren plus their ridiculous talent). And it doesn’t hurt that she’s one of the most social media savvy agents ever.

I’m also grateful to my editor, Ricardo Mejias, and for senior editor, Christian Trimmer, the two gentlemen who championed Frenzy to their company. I’m excited to work with them on all of my upcoming books.

And then there’s my support system, my family and friends who encouraged me every step of the way. Especially Funmi Oke (My #1 reader), Chris Cannon (best boss ever), fellow Glitter City Writers Group member (and author of the Past Midnight series) Mara Purnhagen, my parents, my sister Suzanne and her husband Glen (for providing me with a peaceful environment while I wrote Frenzy), and my brother Ron. And I’m grateful for all of the many people who have been there for me in one way or another to keep me moving forward. Thanks everyone!

Q: What other books has Disney-Hyperion published?
A: I’m in excellent company. According to Wiki: Hyperion is the home of numerous bestselling novels, including Mitch Albom’s The Five People You Meet in Heaven and For One More Day; Eoin Colfer’s Artemis Fowl, Candace Bushnell’s Trading Up and Lipstick Jungle; Laura Moriarty’s The Rest of Her Life; Percy Jackson & The Olympians and Ridley Pearson's The Kingdom Keepers. The company's bestselling memoirs include J. R. Moehringer’s The Tender Bar; Duane “Dog” Chapman’s You Can Run But You Can't Hide, and Bob Newhart’s I Shouldn’t Even Be Doing This. They are also home to influential business books like Chris Anderson’s The Long Tail; self-help books like Dr. Phil McGraw’s Relationship Rescue and the Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff library; and celebrity chefs like Jamie Oliver, Nigella Lawson and Dave Lieberman.
Visit their website for more examples.

Q: What does this mean for other books you've written, specifically Lucy Clayfoot?
A: I love Lucy. She’ll get her time in the spotlight someday. Just not sure when. I know I want to do an extensive rewrite. She’s like my daughter, so I want to make sure that her book is perfect before I turn it over to the powers that be. Hopefully, when the time comes, they’ll love her as much as I do. Personally, I think Lucy and Disney would be a match made in heaven.

Q: Didn’t you go to school to be an artist? Does that mean you’ll be illustrating your own books?
A: Yes, I earned my BA in Fine Art at Atlantic Union College, but I probably won’t be illustrating my books for awhile. At this point I’m not even sure my editor knows I can draw. We haven’t discussed it. My first two books will be illustration-free, with the possible exception of a wildlife chart in Frenzy. Someday I’d love to do a project that would benefit from visuals. Possibly Lucy Clayfoot?

Q: What age group are you writing for?
A: My first two books are for middle grade readers. That puts my readership in the 8-14 range. However, a well written book can appeal to all ages. I aspire to write for that coveted 8 to 80 crowd.

Q: When does your first book come out?
A: My first book, Frenzy, is tentatively scheduled for hardcover release in the summer of 2014. The publishing business is a bit like the DMV trapped in amber. But things move slowly for an important reason—quality control. The next step for Frenzy is a round or three of editing based on notes I’ll get from my editor. These notes may involve changes to characters, plot, pacing, etc. Sometimes these edits can take months.

After Frenzy is polished, Disney will need to do some advance promotion and booksellers will need to be made aware of its existence so they can put their orders in. All of this takes time. And often, just like with movies, the content of a book can be a factor when determining its release date. Publishers look to the summer to put out books that will appeal to the out-of-school and vacation crowds. In today’s market, a novel like Peter Benchley’s Jaws would most likely come out during beach season. Frenzy is set at a summer camp, which may have been a factor when Disney determined its release date, don't know for certain. 

Q: And your second book?
A: Once the ball is rolling, assuming I don’t drop it, you can (fingers crossed) expect a new book every year. My second book is scheduled for a 2015 release.

Q: After reading the Publishers Marketplace announcement I have an idea of what your first book is about. What about your second book? Will it be a sequel to Frenzy or something else?
A: It probably won't be a sequel to Frenzy, although I was given that option. This is a situation where my editors have put their trust in me to write whatever my heart desires, as long as it falls within the boundaries of middle-grade and appeals to the audience we’re targeting with Frenzy. I'm working on something. Like Frenzy, it’s a mix of three genres: horror/adventure/science thriller. The only specific I can offer for now is that I had the bizarre idea of putting characters in a horrific situation set in vividly colorful locations. As I’m writing, I’m envisioning brilliant blues, lush greens and hemoglobin reds.

Q: What’s a science thriller?
A: Michael Crichton, one of my favorite authors, was the king of the science thriller before he passed away. His books, Jurassic Park, Congo, Sphere and Prey, to name a few, are fast-paced adventures loaded with interesting bits of advanced science and technology. That’s basically what a science thriller is all about.

Although I doubt I’ll ever attain Crichton's level of skill at the genre, one of my favorite things about writing is finding some obscure and fascinating bit of information that I can throw into a story. For example, while researching for Frenzy I discovered that the silvertip grizzly bear’s sense of smell is seven times greater than that of a bloodhound. Not only can they smell your fear, they can smell your fear from the next county over. Grizzlies can pick up the scent of a dead animal twenty miles away. I like to add those kinds of details to my stories, not just to ground my fiction in reality, but also to motivate kids to do independent research on topics they might not otherwise take an interest in.

Here’s Amazon’s list of top science thrillers currently on bookstore shelves.

Q: Where will I be able to buy your books?
A: Presumably the usual places. Bookstores (traditional and online). I’ll be sure to post links on Twitter and my website when the time comes. I’ll also be holding contests, so it will be possible to win copies. Just keep checking in on me for details.

Q: Will your books zoom up the charts and sit perched at the top of the New York Times Best Seller List for decades?
A: According to my mom, yes.

Q: Do you have a website?
A: I’m in the process of building one at www.robertlettrick.com. Right now there’s nothing there but a placeholder image. As soon as my site is up and running I’ll let you know. Until then you can find me on this blog (which I hope to update with regularity) and on Twitter at www.twitter.com/robertlettrick.

Q: What are some of your favorite books?
A: Growing up I was an avid comic book collector. Sadly, I lost thousands of comics when my family’s house burned down in 1987. The first MG novel I read was Wrinkle in Time and it's still one of my favorites. I enjoyed The Boxcar Children series, mainly because of the way Gertrude Chandler Warner was able to make crusty bread and boiled potatoes seem so delicious. I read Peter Mayle's travel books for the same reason. J.K. Rowling took food porn to a whole new level in Harry Potter through her descriptions of Hogwarts feasts. If I could have one super power it would probably be the ability to make roast beef, cakes and French fries pop up out of my table top.

Hmmm…where was I? Oh yes, my favorite books. The aforementioned Harry Potter:SS was the book that set my career as an author in motion. The idea that one person could create such an incredibly rich world populated by immensely likable characters was mind blowing. Although I’ll never forgive J.K. Rowling for what she did to (deep breath) Lupin, Tonks, Colin Creevey, Lavender, Mad Eye Moody, Dobby, Fred, Sirius, Dumbledore, Snape, and Hedwig (wow, I just envisioned one of those Academy Awards films featuring Those We Lost Over The Years At Hogwarts), I still owe her an enormous debt of gratitude. The Butcher of Edinburgh and I even share the same birthday, July 31st, so I feel a special kinship. I’m sure it will forever remain one-sided.

I also enjoyed:
Holes
City of Ember
Hunger Games
Percy Jackson and the Olympians
Life of Pi
The Highest Tide

Adult novels? I love anything by Michael Crichton, Norman Maclean and Herman Hesse.

Q: You mentioned that you used to collect comic books. Did you ever think about becoming a comic book writer?
A: Actually for most of my teens and twenties I wanted to draw comic books. I did an internship at Marvel Comics which led to some freelance penciling work. I also drew a three-issue mini-series for Harris Publications. I was serious about comics so I entered the Sequential Art MA program at the Savannah College of Art and Design. I’d love to write comics in my free time and that’s something I’ll actively pursue soon.
Q: Where do you get your ideas?
A: In my opinion, the trick to good ideas is sensory deprivation. You have to shut out the world around you if you want to tune in to the world inside your head. If I’m alone and not plugged into the figurative Matrix of day to day distraction then my creative juices flow. I’ll admit that I get most of my book ideas in the shower where I’m not bombarded by the internet, music, my phone, etc. Sometimes ideas come while I’m on long walks, driving or, on the rare occasion, in a dream. They never come when I’m sitting in front of the television.

Q: What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
A: I like to explore new places. I've moved around a lot over the years, but there are still so many places I want to visit. My goal is to get to the point as a writer where I can just keep moving from beautiful city to beautiful city, writing somewhere new every month, soaking up the local culture on my breaks.
I’m also an information addict. I’m always scanning the internet for weird, obscure facts, many of which make it into my books.

Q: What are your long term goals as a writer?
A: It’s all about writing books that tap into that little creative nougat in kids’ brains. The part that inspires them to write or draw or compose songs or dress up in homemade costumes. I've been inspired by so many people over the years, it would be great to inspire others in return, especially children. My second goal is just to get better and better at the craft of writing. 

Q: Do you have any advice for someone who wants to become a published author?
A: Yes, and it’s the same advice I’d give to anyone with a dream. Go after it with all of your heart. Ignore the naysayers. Ignore that creeping self-doubt. I really believe that if you want something in this life then it can be yours as long as you’re willing to put in the time and hard work to get there. Never give up. Even if it takes twice as long as you thought it would. Just keep plugging away and eventually you’ll get that book deal, that team contract or that show at a top gallery.

The boxer George Foreman once said, “The world is full of people who want to play it safe, people who have tremendous potential but never use it. Somewhere deep inside them, they know that they could do more in life, be more, and have more -- if only they were willing to take a few risks.” That’s coming from a guy who won the World Heavyweight Championship at the age of forty-five, twenty long years after losing it to Mohammad Ali! The point is this: if you want something bad enough, no matter your circumstances, then who can stop you? I mean besides George Foreman. I’m pretty sure he could stop you.

Q: Do you have any charities you’d like to direct my attention to?
A: I like your spirit of generosity! Kudos. Yes, as a matter of fact, I do. A friend of mine, Todd Niemi, is writing the screenplay for a movie about elephant activist Lek Chailert. As the founder of the Elephant Nature Park in Thailand, Lek is doing some amazing work and it’s very easy to contribute to the cause. You can even choose to sponsor a specific elephant or just buy it lunch.
I suppose I could have saved that last Q&A for another blog, but why wait? Elephants gotta eat.

Elephants love when Lek sings them to sleep.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

The Proposal

Last week I responded to an online ad posted by someone looking for an artist who could draw in a Disney storyboard style. After reviewing my artwork on this blog, the client--I'll call him CT for the sake of anonymity--explained the scope of the project. CT had decided to propose to his girlfriend of three years on Christmas morning. He had the great idea of presenting her with a book of drawings highlighting several key moments in their relationship. The first half of the book covers important events leading up to the proposal. For the second half, I drew the proposal (how CT envisioned it happening) and then a few extra scenes that CT hopes to see in their future together.
CT had a distinct vision of how the illustrations should look stylistically. The first reference image he sent was of a piece of conceptual art from the Pixar movie Toy Story II. It's a beautiful drawing. The artist was able to evoke a lot of emotion with minimal line work and color. With this image I had all of the artistic guidance I needed to get started.

(c) Pixar. All rights reserved.
CT then sent me a list of nineteen scenes to illustrate, with detailed descriptions of the surroundings, clothing, emotions, etc. He also sent me a few dozen photos for reference. I was impressed by the thought and care he'd put into the preparation. There was no doubt he wanted this book to be something special. When all of the drawings were finished and painted, I bound them into a scrapbook cover that CT picked out and Fed-Exed the completed book. He received it on the 22nd and loved it.
CT was nice enough to allow me to post the finished artwork here. We had a tight deadline, which had to include a day for shipping, so I poured my heart into the work because I just really loved this project.
In my last two blog posts I mentioned that I was thinking of starting a new business venture. CT's book is exactly the sort of project I'd love to work on for future clients. The book concept would be great for anniversaries, weddings, births...essentially capturing life's memorable moments.
Below are photos I took with my phone of the finished pages. As CT pointed out when he received the book, the actual colors in the illustrations are more vibrant in person.
CT proposed yesterday. Did his girlfriend say yes? You'll have to scroll to the bottom to find out.



































She said "Yes!" Congrats to the newly engaged couple.