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Category Archives: Things and Stuff

Researching the Wild West

Sasspirilla Springs

The latest children’s story I am working on involves a small old western town in the middle of nowhere. Unlike other western towns, this one didn’t pop up around a gold or silver rush. Nope. This one popped up around a more unusual product of mother earth.

The story is in the outline stage and is being set around the people of the town itself. It’s staged to be a group of short stories that revolve around the every day life of these colorful, quirky, and sometimes misguided, characters.

I find it rather amusing to research the lingo used in the old west. Many of the colorful statements were used by people who were uneducated and, for lack of a better word, ignorant. Yet it closely resembles the “rap” style lingo spoken today.

As usual, the issues of writing a children’s story about a violent time in history brings up topics such as guns, violence, drinking, and much more. But I’m up for the challenge to tackle these issues in a creative way.

 

Megacon Orlando 2013

This year I attended my first con. During my visit to Orlando, I met with Ron (my illustrator and friend) and we attended the MegaCon Comicbook Convention at the Orange County Convention Center. As I said, it was my first con. My interest in the convention was to see and meet other independent writers and illustrators. I noticed the more mainstream illustrators draw in the same format, that standard hero post, comic book format. The more independent illustrators had their own formats, and, what seemed like, much more creative freedom. Those are the people we spoke to.
These people love their craft. There was no pressure to buy something from their table, and they were more than happy to just talk to us about what they do, and we, of course, told them what we are working on. Without giving specific details, many of the artists seemed to like the fact that we are focusing on restoring imagination to young kids. Don’t be surprised if Ron and I have our own booth here in the coming years.

 

Let Them Eat Gummy Bears

On a recent trip to Orlando to visit my friend and illustrator Ron, we took a day off and visited the Magic Kingdom. I didn’t realize until the day before that the New Fantasyland had just opened. Prior to my visit I did some research online and found that there were a few restaurants that had garden burgers in the Magic Kingdom. Being a vegan, I find it necessary to make sure I can find something to eat when visiting new places.

be-our-guest-veganWhile in the new Fantasyland, Ron and I decided to give the new “Be Our Guest” restaurant a try for lunch. The line was long, but it’s Disney … what line isn’t long there? I looked at the menu and saw one item that I could eat. It was a Quinoa salad with green beans, potatoes, olives, roasted bell peppers,
and, tomatoes. It’s sad that there was only one item, after all, the concept of a menu is to choose an item. When there is only one item, do you really have a choice?

The meal was good, not the best I’ve had, but I’d compare it to a typical sit down chain restaurant. What’s funny is all the servers say “Bon Jour.” and “Merci” but I think those are the only two words they know. If you do decide to eat there, remember this. It’s noisy. Real noisy. You also have to tolerate people walking around all three dining areas taking pictures.

Lunch was over.

For dinner, Ron and I were over at Epcot Center. I figured my best shot would be The Land pavilion. I mean, it’s the “land” right? After walking around a bit I came up to the Asian food area and asked the attendant if they had anything vegan. DITH (Deer In The Headlights) The attendant had to go get a chef. By now Ron was getting a decent taste of what it’s like to be vegan in public restaurants. It was becoming humorous. But Ron and I could find humor in anything. The chef came by and said “Yes, the vegetable lo-mein is vegan, and so is the tofu.”  “Tofu?” Why didn’t said attendant know that tofu is vegan? Did he even know it was there? I sure didn’t.

I ordered my meal and walked over to the dessert area. I thought I’d try my luck there. Ron and I looked over the display, then asked the attendant if they have anything that is vegan. DITH. The attendant went off to find a chef. When the chef came by they asked what they could do for me. I asked again, “Is anything here vegan?” Her response was, “Let me go check.”

Two more chef’s emerged from the mysterious back kitchen. Each adorned with their white kitchen coats and hats. One was carrying a binder. The magical binder was opened for all chefs to see. Apparently they were looking at the recipes. After a few moments one chef came over and said that they didn’t have anything that was vegan, but there is an allergy kiosk in the corner for people that have allergies to things like nuts and (wait for it….)  “I think the gummy bears are vegan.”

I bursted out laughing. Gummy Bears? Really? That’s the vegan dessert?

In my fit of laughter, I thanked him and told him that chances are they aren’t vegan because they are probably made with gelatin. (Gelatin is made from the collagen of animals. Remember that next time you make room for jello.) I know it wasn’t his fault they had no vegan desserts, but I did suggest they consider  that Oreo cookies are vegan. Dip them in dark chocolate, and Voila!

If you plan on visiting Walt Disney World, and you are a vegan or vegetarian. Take a look at this chart from AllEars.net. Vegetarian / Vegan Counter Service Meals in the Parks

Wordcamp 2012 – Miami

I just got back from WordCamp 2012 in Miami. WordCamp is a conference for people who use, design, and develop for WordPress. The conference was awesome. I gathered so much information I still have to sift through it all just to process it.

Right now, I am working with a company that is heavily into WordPress and I am developing some custom plug-ins. It’s actually a lot of fun, and challenging. The more I dig into WordPress the more I see how sophisticated it really is. It’s versatility allows me the freedom to create some very cool new features as plug-ins.

WordCamp was also a great way to meet new people. I look forward to next years event.

Looking forward to the New Year

With 2011 now behind us, we have no choice but to look forward to the new year. The first thing I am looking forward to in 2012 is to finally finish and publish my second children’s book, Steven the Vegan. It’s been a real challenge to get this book completed and I could not have done it without the crowd sourcing support of Kickstarter.com. Through Kickstarter.com I was able to raise over 2700.00 to complete the book.

2012 will also make way for my next project, another collaboration between myself and my longtime friend and illustrator, Ron Robrahn. Fields of Dreams is something we both came up with and will publish together. This won’t be a work for hire project with Ron, this is a true collaboration.

It’s been a year since I started my online serial, The Gaia Code, and I’ve already thought about some rewrites. Writing an online serial is not easy since you write on the spot with just a guideline and some notes to go by. But I plan on posting some new pages this next month. I usually write the page the night before and post the following day. Once complete I think I’ll work on the rewrites, then possibly look for a ghost writer or editor to hep finalize the work. Publishing a novel would be awesome.

My little black book, know as the app Evernote, holds every story idea I come up with, and there are quite a few. I have several new ideas in there, as well as a sequel for Earth the Sea Turtle.

Well this post is longer than I had anticipated. I want to wish everyone a Happy New Year and good luck to you in all your endeavors.

 

How I Write a Children’s Book – Part 9

We are quickly coming to the end of our story. I’m sure by now most of you know how it will end, but we’re here for the long run. Slappy now realizes he’s the one “person” who can save the baby pigeon.

In our final pages Slappy will come to the realization that he doesn’t need to fly, he’s unique as is. He will realize that being a plain-old-penguin is pretty special.

 

Page 25 : He dove into the water, flapping his flippers as fast as he could.
(Slappy diving into the water. On the water’s edge a woman says “Look at that penguin go!”, while a nearby man says “Wow!”. A child says “Mommy! Look!” )

Page 26 : Slappy just knew he could save the pigeon. He swam faster and faster.
(Slappy zipping through the water with a look of determination. )

Page 27 :Being underwater, he could see the pigeon above him nearby. The pigeon was fluttering his little wings trying to swim.
(View from Slappy’s perspective seeing the pigeon above him with ripples in the water as he splashes about.)

Read more »

How I Write a Children’s Book – Part 8

Let’s continue on with our story. When we left last our little penguin, he was daydreaming about what he would do if he could fly. It’s time we turn our daydreamer into a hero.

As discussed, our victim is a baby pigeon who will fall into the pond from it’s nest. We will setup our penguin to save the pigeon, and become a hero.

Instead of blathering about what we will do, let’s jump in and do it.

Page 20 : Slappy opened his eyes and sat up, “It was only a dream.” He said, sadly.
(Slappy sitting up,  depressed.)

Page 21 : He stood up, and stretched his flippers as he looked out over the wide pond. He looked at all the birds flying around the pond.
(Slappy looking out over the pond with all the birds flying around.)

Page 22 : He was about to go for a walk when he saw something happening across the pond. There was a mama pigeon crying and flapping her wings.
(View across the pond with mama pigeon frantically flapping her wings.) Read more »

How I Write a Children’s Book – Part 7

I want talk a moment about verbiage. In the beginning I mentioned that the grade level of the words did not matter at the first draft time. Although this is true, for me, I wanted to let you know the process I use to check these words. The Children’s Writers Word Book is a fantastic resource to find words, and learn what grade level they fall into. It also has a thesaurus for similar words and what grade level they are. Here are two words that I think may need to be replaced.

Imagined

“Slappy closed his eyes, and imagined what it would be like to fly through the air.”
The word “Imagined” is considered a 2nd grade word. If I wanted to change it, I have the option of using a kindergarten level word like “pictured”(K), or a 1st grade word like “thought’. Here I’m going to disagree with the book. (What?) I believe that young children today know what “imagination” is. It’s used in SO MANY kids shows that it’s no longer bound to a 2nd grade reading level. So, no change here. (Side note: I could change it to dreamed, but I did not want to imply he was sleeping)

Retrieve

“If I could fly, I could retrieve other things that get stuck in trees, like footballs, hats, and kites …”
The word “retrieve” is a 6th grade level word. Ouch! That may be a bit out of reach for our readers. We could simplify it with “get”, “find” or replace it with “return”, also indicating a sense of helpfulness. Read more »

How I Write a Children’s Book – Part 6

We are now getting to the meat of the story. Back in Part 1, I mentioned that the concept for this story came from my Illustrator, Ron Robrahn. He had sent me a sketch of a penguin and told me he had an idea for a story about a penguin who wishes he could fly. The story concept was sound, but needed some more substance to it. I saw the opportunity to make this more of a self-esteem story.

By the way, here is the sketch he sent to me. If you have the means, and have an illustrator, or someone with drawing ability. Try to get a sketch of your character, it can help in the story development process.

When I said this was a sketch, I wasn’t kidding. If you notice, it was done on the back of something that said, “CREWMEMBER”.

So let’s move forward with our story. When we last left our airborne-impaired penguin, he was watching the other birds flying around Sunshine Park. We established that he had tried some Wile E Coyote style methods to get into the air. To go to those lengths, we need to show how much he truly wants to fly. So how do we do that? Well, we could have him just go to the airport and buy 50 different tickets for 50 different destinations. (I’m sure Delta would love that.  “Penguins, they love to fly, and it shows.)

How about something a little more subtle, but with great graphic potential. Let’s spark the imagination in the reader. Let’s have him daydream about flying. This way, we show the use of imagination, and get to show what it would be like if penguins could fly. We can also show intent. By this I mean, what he would intend to do with this gift. Would he just fly around dropping ice cubes on people? What would he do? There would have to be a selfless act involved, since we are trying to make our protagonist into a hero.

So without further ado, here we go. Read more »

How I Write A Children’s Book – Part 5

We are already on part five. Be sure to check out the other parts if you’d just started reading this because you’ve missed some good stuff.

We’ve already introduced our protagonist, Slappy the penguin, and we’ve partially introduced the scenario. We now need to express his love of bird, and his sadness for not being able to fly. We can also introduce the relationship between him and Sam the ice cream man.

Page 4 : Slappy loved the mornings. This was the time of day when birds would sing, and fly from tree to tree in search of breakfast.
(Arial view of the ice cream cart in the park. On the cart are also pretzels, and donuts. You can see the walking paths, and closer to the readers view, some pigeons and blue birds flying about. Small, and near the cart is Slappy looking up toward the reader.)

Page 5 : Summertime is hot in Sunshine Park, and everyone knows penguins prefer cold weather. Slappy’s friend Sam runs the ice cream cart. He always makes sure he has something special for Slappy.
(Slappy tugging on the pant leg of Sam the ice cream man.)

Page 6 : This was Slappy’s favorite treat. Ice cubes on a stick.
(Closeup of Sam handing Slappy what looks like a shish-ka-bob skewer of ice cubes)

Page 7 : With his treat in hand, Slappy headed off to his favorite spot in the whole park.
(Arial view, similar to page 4, showing Slappy heading down the path, with ice-cube treat in hand)

Page 8: Slappy has a special secret spot in the park where he loves to watch birds. From there he could see the lake, and all the trees around it.
(Montage image of him scurrying under a bush, and up onto a boulder, with a wide view of the water and all the trees around it. Many birds fly around, darting in and out)

Let’s review : We now know that Sam the ice cream man is Slappy’s friend. So much to a degree that he creates a special treat for Slappy each and every day. We also know that Slappy has a special place in the park. This establishes that Slappy has been there for a while. In the illustration descriptions, we’ve included several statement indicating “birds”, lots of birds. Birds are a big part of the story and we need the illustrator to know this.

What we haven’t done yet is establish his love of birds, and his sadness about not being able to fly. Read more »