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Taking research seriously … with pirates

Pirate ResearchYou’ve heard the expression, “Writers write.” That is very true. I have a slew of story ideas I’ve been cultivating for the past year. One of the stories is a pirate tale. The goal is to create a story which can be turned into a graphic novel. Writing a pirate story is not as simple as it sounds. Most of my knowledge of pirates came from movies, and the Pirates of the Caribbean ride at Disney World. I wanted to learn more about real pirates, not just those in fiction. But I also wanted to maintain peoples expectations of pirates as well.

Jack Sparrow, the fictional pirate in the Pirate of the Caribbean movies, gave people a different view of pirates. Although his character is purely fictional, characters such as Bartholomew and Morgan, the two pirates who wrote the fictional Pirates Code, are actual pirates. Pirates did live by codes, but each Captain  did have a set of company articles, or rules. These rule were often very fair to the pirates, even compensating them financially for missing limbs.

As you can see, I take my research for stories pretty seriously. I’ve watched true documentaries of pirates, I’ve watched at least 7 different pirate movies, and I have read several books on pirates, pirate lingo, and even a pirate handbook.

I’ve also found that inspiration can come from anywhere, including a few replica pirate coins. When I wrote Eartha the Sea Turtle, and Steven the Vegan, I used photographs, plus a few visits to locations where the real animals resided, for inspiration.

I can’t tell you when the story will be done, but as always, I will keep you posted.

 

Myth Illogical is now on Kickstarter.com

We started our next project and have once again turned to fans to help back it. Myth Illogical is our latest project. It takes a child’s perspective at looking at mythological creatures … with a twist. What’s the twist? Well, if I tell you then it won’t be a real twist will it.

The story surrounds four characters, Bigfoot, Unicorn, Minotaur, and Dragon. As the story unfolds, Bigfoot is trying to scare the reader … unsuccessfully. He starts getting pointer and tips from the other characters until all of them are attempting to be scary. It takes an interesting look at fear by making things that are suppose to be scary, funny.

The primary goal of the book is just to be fun to read. No strong headed moral, but good old-fashioned fun.

Check out the kickstarter campaign, and please consider backing our project.

 

Steven the Vegan on VeganCuts.com

Today, Steven the Vegan was promoted on VeganCuts.com VeganCuts is an amazing service that offers deals on vegan products ranging from foods, to … books! While I was completing the layouts of the pages I contacted VeganCuts and asked if my book was something they’d like to offer. (Duh!) Of course, they said yes.

Be sure to checkout the deal at VeganCuts.com and sign up for their newsletter to get deals on other vegan products!

 

A New Children’s Book on Bullying

Two months ago I was asked to write a children’s book about bullying. Bullying is a serious topic that is getting much more exposure now than years past. Since this was essentially a work-for-hire, I cannot give too much detail about the book, but it does cover different aspects of bullying, include verbal, and physical.

The story is unlike other books out there. Those who know me, know I do things different … I make my own kind of music. This story had to be different. There are too many stories out there that end the same way. This story has a different ending, something both children and adults can truly relate to.

This is the second team-up of myself and the illustration team of Brian Krümm and Chris Hall. The two were instrumental in bringing my first book, The Tale of Eartha the Sea Turtle, to life. I’ve enjoyed working with them again on this very special project.

As always, I will keep you posted on the project.

 

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 »

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 »