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How I Write a Children’s Book – Part 4

We’ve come to the part where we actually get to start writing our story. Yay! Okay, page one, once upon a time. Page thirty-four, and they lived happily ever after.

I’m sure many writers wish it were that easy. It’s not. Keep in mind, as I write these articles, I am also writing this story. This is not something that was entirely written that I am showing you a behind the scenes view of.

When I write, I usually place a summary of the story, locations, goals and characters that are important at the top of the page.  As I enhance these aspect, I then alter the information.

Summary : A penguin wishes he was a bird. He loves watching birds fly through the air. Nearby a baby pigeon falls from it’s nest into a lake. The mother frantically calls for help, but no ones comes to her aid. Our penguin hears her cries and dives into the water, flapping his flippers like bird wings, and saves the baby pigeon.

Location : Central Park

Goal : Teach about being yourself and embrace who you are.

Characters :

  • Slappy – our protagonist, he is a small penguin who wishes he could fly.
  • Mama pigeon –
  • Baby pigeon –
  • Sam the ice cream man –

Right off the bat, I’m going to make one change. I know we spoke about using Central Park as the park for the story. Here is why I’d like to change it. My using a known location, people will expect more factual information in the story. I can hear the people now, “There are no trees like that in Central Park.”, “Pigeons don’t have nests in the area by the water because of the … blah blah blah.”  Let’s silence those nay sayers before they get the chance to write. Let’s just call it, “Sunshine Park”.

Location : Central Park Sunshine Park.

Now that’s out of the way, let’s start writing. Read more »

How I Write a Children’s Book – Part 3

Welcome to part three of how to write a children’s book. So far we’ve established our story idea, figured out where our story will take place, and our lesson. What’s next you ask? Let’s take some time to develop the story more. In turn, this will also help us develop the characters.

Let’s dive into a little more detail about our protagonist. Some additional detail will help us communicate to our illustrator how we feel the character should look. This is not essential to the story, but I usually see my characters in my mind as I write.

What’s in a name? With Eartha the Sea Turtle, the name was easy because it was based on real sea turtle. Steven the vegan rhymed. (For the record, in Steven the Vegan I named a female character Marion for a possible spin off book, Marion the Vegetarian.)

How are we going to name our lead character? We could go out and get a big book of names and go through it one by one. I think we can come up with one ourselves. Let’s think more about the character itself. Physical characteristics can often help us name a character, like a dog named spot, or a dinosaur named Rex. Visualize our penguin. Is he tall or short? Thin or stout? Does he speak? Does he have spots or a distinguishing mark? the list could go on, but I think you get the idea.

Okay, to keep this project going, I’ll make some decisions. He is small, not short, or stout, just small. He looks like a regular penguin, no weird marks. Of course with just this description alone, we could easily call him Tux. Everyone knows penguins look like they are wearing a tuxedo, so this could fit. But, being me, I’m not settling for what is expected. Let’s build some more details. I’m going to say that the penguin doesn’t speak. This is good and bad. It’s good because there will be no spoken dialog from him. It’s bad because we have to make sure our storyline and illustrations depict his emotions properly. I know what you are thinking, if he can’t speak how does he communicate. Well that will help us name him. To communicate, and get the attention of others, he slaps his flippers on his sides. Due to the way he communicates, we will name him Slappy.

This can also work to our advantage for parents reading the story because children can clap their hands with Slappy.

Next we have our victim, the pigeon. The more I think about the pigeon I think that our victim really needs to be a character that is cuter, and a bit more helpless. So I’m thinking that the victim isn’t the pigeon, but the pigeons baby. A baby pigeon. (I know, so one ever sees a baby pigeon in New York. Just go with me on this will ya?) The story starts to make more sense because the baby could fall out of a nest, and into the water. That creates the situation where our protagonist can become a hero.

Let’s review what we have…
A small penguin named Slappy who lives in an ice cream cart in Central Park. He spends his days watching birds fly, and wishes he could fly himself. A baby pigeon falls out of it’s nest, and into the water. The mama pigeon calls for help, and Slappy dives into the water, flying underwater, and saving the baby pigeon.

Next we will start writing the actual story.

How I Write a Children’s Book – Part 2

So we now have a story concept, “a penguin that wishes he could fly”. Next we have to establish why the penguin thinks this way and more importantly, the end lesson.

Let’s say he loves watching birds. After all, who doesn’t. He loves to see them take flight and zoom through the air. He thinks they are simply amazing. Being a penguin, sorely he can’t fly, but he can swim. We still need to establish the lesson. The lesson will be one of the reasons your book will be purchased. The lesson should be something a child can relate to, even if the parent has to explain it the first time through. For our story, the lesson could be something like learning to be yourself, or perhaps he learns that he can fly, but unlike the birds he loves, water is his sky. Yeah. I like that.

Now we need to establish what makes him realized this. Some event must happen for him to step up and show his true skill, and how it compares, or contrasts his love of flying. What if something happens so that he becomes the only one who can solve a problem primarily because of his swimming ability.

See how the story is developing. One decision leads to another.

So what could happen? Remember, the story is about a penguin that wishes he could fly. The event should involve a bird as they are a point of interest in the story. Read more »

How I Write a Children’s Book – Part 1

I am often asked the question, “How do you write a children’s book?” I honestly never knew how to answer that. I’ve only published one children’s book, and I have one set to be published later this year. In all truthfulness, I never really considered myself a children’s book writer.  But, hey … I’ve written two books. People who have read my second book really think its great, and I know my first book is good just based on sales. So I guess I am qualified to answer that question. But how do you answer a question that has so many steps to it. There is no one answer. It’s not like people ask, what’s your favorite color? (Hunter green by the way).

So although I cannot answer the question simply, I can explain my process. I am going to create a multi-part series on how I write a children’s book. So without further ado, here we go.

Read more »

I’m an honorary Night Hunter, sort of.

Last year I was contacted by the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Gardens regarding a new exhibit opening this year, Night Hunters. Night Hunters is a tribute to nocturnal animals that hunt their prey at night. The exhibit included several species of big cats that I had recently photographed at Panther Ridge Conservation Center. I was asked specifically for some shots of ocelots. I had frequented Panther Ridge several times and had some great shots of Cody, Macho Man and Delilah.

Today I received these images via email depicting where my photos appeared in the exhibit. Aside from being presented on the wall of the exhibit, additional photos I sent are included in the interactive displays also depicted below. If anyone visits the zoo and would like to send me additional photos I would love it!

 

What Apps I Use For Writing

With mobile devices allowing us to access information in the “cloud”, more and more apps are creating unique opportunities for us to keep track of notes where ever we may be. I will be honest, I get ideas ALL THE TIME. I have a few apps on my iPhone and my iPad that help me with my writing. So here are my top 5 apps I use that help me with writing. They are not all note taking apps, these include readers and research apps as well. Writing is more than just putting words to paper, or to keyboard.

 

SimpleNote App

Simple note is a simple note app (duh). What is great about this app is that it can sync to the cloud, and stores recent version of your notes. By being able to jot a note down, then access it on my iPhone, iPad or any network enabled computer, I don’t have to worry about copying files and figuring where the latest version is. Although it lacks many features a writer needs, it does have the advantage of being fast, and easy to use.

 

Wikipanion

Wikipanion is the mobile app version of Wikipedia, the online, user editable, encyclopedia. What is nice about this is that you can look up virtually anything, and bookmark it in the app. The down side is that you cannot sync your bookmarks between devices. But, an encyclopedia in the palm of your hands is great for research. I’ve used this to research cities, natural disasters, anything I can think of that I’d need for my stories.

Read more »

Creativity and Writing

It’s been a while since I have posted on my blog, but I do have a good reason. I’ve been busy. The company I worked for was purchased and I now have a huge creative outlet for new ideas. My mind is going wild. Inspiration comes from everywhere and I have compiled a huge list of new features and functions for the company’s website.

So where does the writing come into play? I miss it. I have an app on my iPad, iPhone, and MacBook pro called simplenote, it syncs notes on all my devices. I have notes for several new books, and even two comic book series that I cannot wait to get to work on.

I am also approving illustrations for Steven the Vegan and hope to get that published later this year. So, as you can see I’ve been busy. But I’m not complaining, I’m excited.

Wikileaks and Hopscotch

When I first heard about Wikileaks releasing classified documents, I first thought of the motto of the X-Files, “The Truth is Out There”. Any person with a reasonable intellect would know that our beloved government is not the “Elmo” of the world. We don’t go into foreign countries and just throw money at them and say, “Here. We love you.” It’s all business. What we think of them, and how they run their countries is always done behind the backs of the American citizens. Wikileaks has shown us the true face of our government.

But I’m not writing this to debate when what was done was correct or not, or if the U.S. Government is the Evil Empire. I am writing this because of a movie.

My father introduced me to a movie that I probably would not have even bothered to watch back in the 80’s. That movie is “Hopscotch”. Before you close your browser, this is not about the children’s sidewalk game.  Hopscotch is a movie staring Walter Matthau and Ned Beatty, and it strikes a similar story line to that of Wikileaks.

Summary

CIA agent Miles Kendig (Played by Walter Matthau) decides to quit the CIA. In his decision to quit, he decides to write his memoirs and send copies of each chapter to the world’s intelligence agencies. Of course, the CIA doesn’t believe him. So he does it, sending out chapters one by one. The information in the book reveals a lot of top secret information that would compromise national security, of not only the United States, but all major countries of the world.

Whose bright idea was it to send a box of poison cigars to Castro? … It’s a personal vendetta against me.

The CIA head, (played by Ned Beatty), decides to put an end to this, and to Kendig. What ensues is a cat and mouse game between the bumbling CIA and a masterful agent, Kendig.

Conclusion

I guess it’s true … “Life imitates art.”

Cards, Stories, Cougars and More

It’s been a while since I’ve blogged about anything on my personal blog, so here goes nothing … well, I wouldn’t say nothing.

Cards

I’ve been updating my Animal Totem Card App fairly frequently. The app, which started out with 40 animals, has more than doubled its size to 84 animals. I receive email requests from people who have purchased the app asking for specific animals. Most recently I have been asked for Panda, and Chipmunk.

Stories

Aside from working with my illustrator on Steve the Vegan, I have been writing some other stories. I’ve also been looking into children’s comic books as a medium to work in. Another story I have been working on is for a slightly older group of children and is based on animal totems and mysticism.

Cougars

Not just cougars, but jaguars, ocelots, clouded leopards and other big cats. I’ve been volunteering my web development services to Panther Ridge Conservation Center to help them generate some income in these difficult economic times. During a financial crisis like this, non-profit, animal-based organizations are usually hit hardest. So I created a new web site for them to collect donations, http://donate.pantherridgecc.org. I also create a site where people can purchase adoption kits for the big cats at Panther Ridge, www.bigcatadoptions.com lets you select an animal and receive a photograph, adoption certificate and more. It’s a great way to help them out and receive something in return, in addition to personal gratification for doing something for the animals.

and More …

I have much more going on, some additional web site design, I’m helping a friend develop an iPhone app, and more nature and animal photography.

Updates coming to my Totem Cards App

I’ve been working on a new card pack for my Animal Totem Cards App. The cards included in this, my first card pack update, are all animals that have been requested by people who have purchased the app. Part of the online journal portion of the App allows you to request an animal for inclusion in future updates. Card Pack updates are free for App owners.

I have scheduled the 1.1 release of the App which includes faster downloads, and iOS 4 compatibility. Future updates to the Totem Journal are also in the works.

I’ve had a lot of fun with this App, and I hope others enjoy it as much as I do.