Sunday, December 30, 2012


I was amazed to hear on NPR the other day that there is a website called Byliner, where stories are being serialized. Not just anyone can serialize a story on their site. One has to have some pub cred, an agent or two, or, at the very least, a Nobel Prize. I'm kidding, but the interesting thing is that serializing is one way of dealing with the tremendous change in the publishing industry. Dickens was mentioned on the NPR story. His books were serialized to great effect. He was paid for his episodes, as I am sure those dealing with Byline are.

As for me, I simply decided to serialize a few of my stories....not for money but for enjoyment: the enjoyment of putting together a story that I think a few people might get some kick out of.

I suppose it is the same thing with my recent foray into doing animation. On one level, I hope to attract attention to my books. On another level, I am having the time of my life seeing if I can animate a drawing or whether I can put together a video with some degree of intelligence.

Making a video is not unlike making an illustrated book. The rules, parameters, hindrances, are almost the same. One thing is different. It is a major difference: timing. In a book, timing or page-turning, is left up to the reader. (I'm thinking of picture books where a child might linger for quite some time over one picture just long enough to soak up all that there is before his or her eyes.) A video, on the other hand, demands that the creator decide just how much lingering there is to be.

Here are the links to the two videos I've posted on YouTube. More are to come.



Meanwhile, here is the fifth chapter of the serialized book The Scrapbook, which was begun on the blog of September 30, 2012.  Just click on the images to enlarge.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Fired Up? Ready to Go?

Although President Obama had told many times before the story of how early in his campaign for the presidency he met a woman who inspired him with the words “fired up” and “ready to go,”  I had not heard the story until the night before the election, when the President told a crowd of Iowa supporters what had happened more than four years before.

As the President told the story, I remembered a similar story that happened to me when I was a new author. I was visiting San Francisco. My friend Doug helped me get an author signing at the downtown Borders. The only date available was Sunday at two o’clock. We showed up a half hour early. The public events manager was warm and receptive. She took us upstairs, where she had arranged a podium with a microphone — and a hundred chairs for the throngs to come. My heart sank. Who would come to hear me? The store seemed as empty as the Sunday streets outside. 

“Maybe we should go down to the children’s section,” I ventured, as two o’clock came and went. “Maybe there’ll be someone down there.”

Hesitant to admit she had over planned, the events manager nevertheless led us downstairs. The children’s section was just as deserted. 

Suddenly, just like the woman who burst in on candidate Obama in that out-of-the-way meeting hall, a woman came rushing up through the aisles.

“Where is everyone? I’ve come over a hundred miles to hear you.”

I was incredulous. Who would have heard of me? Who would have driven over a hundred miles to hear an unknown author?

“I don’t know. I guess I . . . .”

There was a bit of disappointment in my voice and a fair amount of regret. But she would have none of it. 

“You wait here,” she said. “I’ll round up some people.”

This woman, whose name I’ve forgotten, went up and down the book aisles and snagged whomever she could. A small crowd gathered, and I told them my story and why I write children’s books.

Afterward, I gave that woman a book. I wanted to thank her. 

But it would take years and the President’s story to understand fully what had happened that day. That woman in so many words had gotten me fired up and ready to go. It wasn’t the size of the crowd that mattered. It was who came.   

It is the same way with books. Although a book is a publication and by definition for more than one person, I no longer think about how many people will be affected by what I write or draw. Rather I think of the one person my book is meant for. 

That is goal enough for me.

Below is the fourth installment of Scrapbook. Click on each image to enlarge. The first installment was posted in the September 30, 2012 blog.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Lamb Plants & the Well: India 1929

Here is the third installment for the book Scrapbook, which I began serializing on September 30. Just click on the images to enlarge.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Scrapbook :: Installment # 2

Here is the second installment of the story called Scrapbook, which I began in my September 30th blog. Thanks to all those who wrote to say how much they liked the story and the idea of serializing a book on the internet.

Click on each image below to view larger.

Scrapbook :: Chapter 2 :: Dogheads—Egypt, 1929

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Why Not? New Steps to Take

Today, I have done a number of things I have been planning for a long time. I turned one of my limited-edition books into a print-on-demand and then made it available on Kindle. I decided to begin serializing some of my books on this blog. Let me explain all of this.

The print-on-demand book is called Beo-Bunny. It is a spoof of Beatrix Potter’s story about Peter Rabbit. My take is that Peter goes out to fight McGregor, just as Beowulf went out to fight Grendel. After all, if McGregor and his wife ate Peter Rabbit’s father, as Beatrix Potter tells us, then like Grendel and his mother, they, too, must be ogres. The idea came to me just as I finished Beowulf, A Hero’s Tale Retold (Houghton Mifflin, 2007). I decided to have some fun after such a serious project. So, I painted pictures in the style of Beatrix Potter, and wrote a little story in Old English or Anglo-Saxon that was simple enough that anyone could read (but to make sure, I did provide a translation).

Here is the cover to the book.

Here are the first few pages of the story. (To order a copy go to The Kindle version should be ready by October 1, 2012) 

This was not the first time that I have done such a thing. For The Cloudmakers (Houghton Mifflin, 1996), I published a limited-edition book purporting to show that the story I wrote came from a Tang Dynasty manuscript (which was not true, of course). For Island-below-the-Star (Houghton Mifflin, 1998), I made up a story about a tattooed man from the Marquesas Islands. For Seeker of Knowledge (Houghton Mifflin, 2000), I wrote a twilight-zone story about how the Egyptian hieroglyphs were deciphered. I have other stories as well in various stages of completion. (For more about this, please go to

I guess that all of this just goes to show how much concentration and energy goes into writing and illustrating a book. When a particular project is over, the energy has to be released. My release is to make fun of what I had been doing.

Someday, I’ll make all of the stories available as print-on-demand books, but for now, I’ll test the waters with Beo-Bunny. I’m also testing out Kindle. I don’t have a Kindle myself; so I don’t know how it will look. Kindle is not my first choice, but it is rather easy to do. With CreateSpace, where I did my print-on-demand book, they make converting a paper-edition into a digital edition a simple task. Reading through all of the contractual terms, the pricing modes, royalties, etc, was a bit of a chore, but, in the end, I decided that, since I could cancel at any time, why not give Kindle a try? I figure, too, that at $2.99 a copy, no one loses. 

I did have a fleeting thought, as I was clicking off boxes in my Kindle application: all of the rules and regulations do not augur well for the artist/author/creator. Right now, royalties are great, but I have a feeling that such fantastic deals will not last long. Before we creators know it, we’ll be right back where we were last century with a 10% royalty, if we are lucky. I really do believe that the bean-counters, the Romney entrepreneurs of this world, will do their damnedest to stuff the genie back into the bottle. Here is one example: for Kindle, under certain circumstances, you have to pay to have your book digitally delivered. The price is per megabyte. This “freight charge” seems to me to be just the first step in making sure those guys get most of the money.

Now on to something new—serialized books. 

Why not? Besides the occasional blog entry about some aspect of children’s book writing and illustrating, I thought it would be fun to post some of the books I have written. Why not let people enjoy them? After all, I have more stories in my drawer than I’ll ever get published or want to publish for money. 

The first book I have chosen is a long one called Scrapbook. Scrapbook lies somewhere between a graphic novel and and word novel. As with a graphic novel, I am asking the reader to piece together the story from elements other than a traditional paragraph-on-paragraph story. But, instead of images, I am presenting artifacts: letters, postcards, clippings—the kinds of odds and ends found in a scrapbook that tell the story of a person’s life. 

The story centers around Rozelle G. Hodges, an Indiana Jane, if you will, who went in search of the fantastic beasts, peoples, and plants described in John Mandeville’s medieval best seller, a travel book describing the known world (See more at Framing the story of Rozelle G. Hodges is that of Kenneth Dore, an eighteen year old who has just lost his parents and his grandmother. How the lives of Dore and Hodges are interwoven is the pith of this story, and I hope that it will be as much fun for you to read as it was for me to write and illustrate.

My plan is to post a portion of this story every few weeks. Happy reading . . . and let me know what you think. I also hope that the format below is legible. [Click on each image to enlarge.]