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1. Professional Comic Artist -Work Just Not Out There? Here Is WHY

There are a lot of very high calibre comic creators out there who have been working away for many years -John Erasmus, Tom Elmes, Jim Ritchey et al. And despite the quality of their work and the years they have put into the industry they struggle to get work.

Why?

The answer is quite simple: the wannabe.

You see, years ago you had to schlepp your projects or portfolios around to publishers and talk to them, find out what they were looking for and even amend projects to suit their needs. I seem to have spent much of the 1980s-1990s doing this and it paid off for a few creators.  Editors responded to letters as well which helped.

But then came the internet. People who could only contribute to small press comics put out by friends now had a new tool -web pages where they could post their art and even publish web comics and charge people to see their work (that died a death when people realised they were not exactly paying to see a great comic strip. Do not get me wrong -there were some nice online comics but, seriously, why pay every time you wanted to read a comic online when you could buy others and pay once and it was yours to peruse whenever you wanted?

As a creators agent I used to get between 60-100 packages a week and whatever was popular at the time was copied and became an "original concept".  The movie Blade Runner -the number of strips sent to me that were just simply that movie -or part of it- was incredible.  Then writers would send you their own personal 'Blade Runner' scripts.  The same applied to The Evil Dead and when the Watchmen comic was published...oy!

I keep notes and out of around 600 or so  "I am going to make comics my career -this is what I've allways wanted to do" most vanished pretty quickly having discovered that you needed to keep to deadlines and could not just change someones script or characters to how they wanted them.

I had this problem with a number of artists who worked on scripts of mine to submit to publishers. I got ten pages of comic work in the post one day, read them and wrote back: "It looks nice but you could have completed ten pages of my story that could have been submitted."  And in reply I got: "This is based on your script. I thought I'd change the character names and some of the scenes."

Now, we had talked about this at length, given all the reference material that would be needed and even explained why certain characters had specific names. And the artist had nodded and understood but when he got home he "decided to change things as I think they will sell better with these changes".  I explained that this is not how comics work.  An editor does not give you a script written by someone and you decide you need to re-write it all or make major changes -some writers plan story-lines and incidents that are designed to be added to issue by issue until it all comes to a head.  Besides, you start playing that game the writer is going to tell you where to stick your guillot nib.  And the editor is not going to use you.

This happened several times to be on joint projects but when it happened professionally I just exploded. I wrote a series of scripts for Fleetway/Egmont (Revolver in particular).  The editor told me at a meeting that the title and theme of the scripts was so liked by his co-editor (who was an utter ass) that they would use different titles for my scripts.  Why? Well, the co-editor wanted to use the titles. We bite the bullet in this job and since I was being paid...phah!

The editor then decided to use a "new hot talent" to draw one of the scripts.  When it was published I missed it in the relevant issue until someone pointed to my name as scripter.  Thew artist had quite literally re-written the script while drawing it that it made no sense.  I pointed out to everyone I could that this was not really my work!  Then the editor used my scripts vastly altered so I was never paid. That happens a lot.

But back to the wannabees. I have had writers who have -seriously- told me: "I dig your art. I have a shit hot project for you!"  My response: "Is it for a publisher -what is the pay rate?"  Silence. I have now, between 2012-2014 had six offers to draw "sure hit" graphic novels of between 120-200 pages for nothing. I have even had the "It's 120 pages and once that's done we can put something together for a publisher"....so what -WHAT- is the 120 pages graphic novel for?  Oh, I can tell you that because I have seen this on a number of occasions happen to other artists.

Comics, probably because of the TV series The Big Bang Theory and even the Watchmen film and republished book, have become "hip".  You see it in most fields -Crop Circles are hip and cool -Timmy is a Crop Circle investigator. UFOs are "popular" so suddenly Timmy sets up his own UFO group and gets in touch with newspapers/TV about his 'professional work' (based on a subject which he's read up on quickly -which is why Timmies spout such inaccurate crap).  Oh, "mystery big cats" are hip -Timmy is now a Big Cat investigator of the same quality.  All these ghost hunting TV programmes....you guessed it.

So, people who really cannot draw or are of a lesser standard than you might expect from a pro, jump in and publish their own comics or graphic novels (Print On Demand is a cruel thing, baby).  Now, if they do this as a hobby or for fun then okay.  Sell copies to their mates. No problem.  BUT it becomes a problem when these people decide they are now "comic book professionals".  I have heard on four occasions such people state: "My mother says I've become as good as those other artists in comics"...oh...my...gods.  How do you respond to that?

But then these people put their art online to sell at very high prices and you have to ask if they are selling anything?

There is another problem, and this is another first hand experience.  An American artist asked for a script set in the 1960s -he was a big Silver Age fan. The art pages he was selling on a well known comic site looked fantastic.  I outlined the idea and he said "Perfect. You write it and I'll draw it" -fair enough.  A few days later the guy got in touch as he had a problem "You say the villain is human on one side but the other part of his body is robotic/mechanical...what do you mean?"  I thought it was quite straight forward. I explained. No, he didn't get it. Eventually I had to draw a sketch and he understood. Next: "You say a huge tower block in the centre of the city and at the top on all four sides are huge clocks -I don't understand?"  Four sides to a building and a clock on each side. "I'm having trouble visualising this..." So, off went another sketch.

A few weeks later an email: "Attached are the pencils for the first five pages..." WHOOPEE!  I opened the files. Ah, he'd sent me...well, something but not pages of art. You could not even call them "roughs" so I wrote back pointing out what he had sent.  He wrote back that these were the finished art pages --a demolished skyscraper was a squiggly line at the bottem of a white page.  WTF???????  I showed these pages to two people -a gorilla character on a page was so bad we all thought it had six deformed fingers and then I realised it was a banana it was holding!  These were the finished pencils. THAT was his art and he wrote "If we could muster together $2000 I know an artist who'll ink the pages though we might be able to sell this based on the pencils!"

I was speechless but then I found something out from someone who knew the man.  This 'artist' did these 'pencils' but then paid another artist to ink the pages.  The other artist was actually drawing the pages and deserved every penny he got!!

We have the writers who want to be hip and say "Yes, I've written a graphic novel" and show their freebie drawn book.  The artist is insignificant because, as Alan Moore 'proved' it is the writer who makes and sells the book.  And the amateur artists fall for it all the time. Nothing happens with the book.

Then the artists who say they are pro and want money up front.  They have NEVER had anything published before and most of their work is amateurish but some of them are so full of themselves that they do get paid in advance.  It is interesting to note that out of 25 writers I've read the 'woes' of, only two ever got any pages for their money.  Some were told their books were two pages short of being finished...then nothing.  That has happened to me a LOT.

I have been begged for scripts to help artists out  "because you have a good reputation" and I have written short scripts of 5, 10, 15 or 20 pages and how many have ever been completed? Zero.  As one 'artist' put it to me when I asked how he was getting on with the script -"Aww, man, I am so hung over. Basically I've been going to gigs and clubs and getting wasted."  My reply: "We agreed on five pages drawn in three weeks -it's been over a month?" (If you CANNOT draw 5 comic strip pages in three weeks then go away. THAT is simple work) and I get "Well, you aren't paying me are you?"  My response is usually **** off.

But then artists who DO draw a full story disappear. They do not respond to letters or messages.  Then a year later you find they have changed some names in the story and been trying to sell it as their own work -I found this out in one case when an editor told me "I've seen this but with different names -it was drawn by ___ _____ -is this your work really?"  Too ******** right. Response from the artist ...well, he never did respond.

Now, as working for a paying comic company -there are only a few around and the glut of wannabe artists means they feel they'll pay you what they want and you'll like it- is not likely I publish my own books. These days I rarely if ever work with another artist but if I do the deal is simple:

(1) it is a joint project (neither of us get paid up front)
(2) Money to promote or push books at possible other publishers comes out of my pocket. There is NO financial input by the artist (yes, I know, drawing materials)
(3) Any money made is split 50-50 (in the past on more than one occasion I've let my percentage go to the artist)
(4) Although characters are mine the art is wholly the artists. I never ever lay claim to any art. The artist can try to sell this as extra income if he wants so long as a (c) characters/story is written on the reverse side of the art.
(5) if another (paying) publisher is interested then unless there is a set rate for writer and artist it's a 50-50 deal.

So, on one occasion when an artist I knew said he really wanted to work on a specific character and could I write a 20 pages story for him I did. I liked his work even if it had a few rough edges.  He liked the script!  "How much are you paying me per page? When do I get the first payment?" Again, WTF??? I sent him copies of his emails where he agreed to a joint project because HE had asked me to write for him repeatedly.  "Well, I don't see why I should work for free!" But I wrote the script for free -should I bill him?

There are now literally THOUSANDS of small pressers who publish their own books for fun and have no interest in comics -in fact they know nothing about comics. Good for them. Long may they continue and grow in strength.

Sadly, there are equally a great many comic wannabe types out there and the writers want their books drawn for free with no rights to the artist.  And there are artists who really cannot draw a pencil who want large payments per page for their "professional time".  These are the people screwing up the real comic artists and writers and some actually get published in high quality printed books by big companies!

A little aside here. I've been asked over and over again ad nauseum what I do in comics? I reply that I write, pencil, ink and rarely colour, oh, and letter (by computer). I get giggles or screwed up faces in response:"No, seriously -what is it you do?"  The skill levels of some artists (I'm being polite) are such that they have to use a computer tablet to draw and a lot use programs designed to do a lot of the work for them. The very idea of someone pencilling AND inking art is freakish to them, or as they say to me "old school" or "Retro". Their computers crash and they have nervous breakdowns. I have physical pages.

Someone who can write or draw well I used to encourage (I still do privately) but 95% of those out there labelling themselves as "professional comic writers/artists" are no such thing.  And for the real pros it means a loss of paying work. We DO have to pay bills and eat you know....or try to.

And what have any of the various comic "community" groups set up to promote and stand up for creators rights achieved? They have pulled in more wannabes as members.

Just a few thoughts.

Oh, I do have a bullet proof vest.



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2. A Major Stop Motion Exhibit in Barcelona Explores Starewitch, Švankmajer and Brothers Quay

“Animated cinema is the demiurgic art par excellence: matter comes to life and is transformed in the hands and imaginations of the creators. They, more than anybody, know about the secret life of objects.” This description, comes from the exhibition “Metamorphosis: Fantasy Visions in Starewitch, Švankmajer and the Quay Brothers,” now playing at the Centre de Cultura Contemporanea (CCCB) in Barcelona, Spain, and it's a good summary of the work of these four visionary animators.

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3. April Showers: Language and Style

I'm continuing my journey of what waters my writer's soul. I love to read books and I'm touching on a few books this month that have added creative water to my work. This week I'm going to chat about Kathi Appelt's TRUE BLUE SCOUTS OF SUGAR MAN SWAMP.  This one fun read and has a swinging beat. In this story Bingo and J’miah, raccoon brothers are on a mission to save Sugar Man Swamp. Two things standout for me in this book -- language and style.

I love the language here. There is a rhythm in the cadence of the language that reminds me of music. Here's a bit of lyricism : "Nosotros somos paisanos. We are fellow countrymen. We come from the same soil." This bit gives me a good chill. I also love that the language uncovers place. For example: “They say that lightning never strikes in the same place twice, but the same is not true for courage. As it turns out, when courage strikes, it almost always begets more courage.” The choice of begets here coupled with lightning puts me in mind of an old time southern Gospel preacher. I also get some Texas swing and Texas drawl on every page. I kept smiling with each twist of phrase. Specific word choice creates universal appeal. It makes the language breathe. Check the similes in your book. Watch out for the cliches. Do better.

The style of TRUE BLUE SCOUTS is all about the southern storytelling tradition with the Texas tall tale tradition mixed in.  Multiple story lines weave here, and reminded me of a great uncle of mine who was a master basket weaver. He knew just how to bend a strip of bark or a stalk of sugar cane into the perfect basket shape. Appelt jumps from head to head: raccoons, a rattle snake, humans,feral hogs, the Sugarman and more. She captures in her word basket the need to save our natural places, the preciousness of the world around us, and what exactly it means to be a hero. Style has a job, and in this case it's to bring everyone around to the back porch for a stor, to take the chills, the laughs, and riotousness and learn something too. Think about your style and do more.

I hope that you put you best efforts into the language and style of your work this week. It might just transform into something bigger than you thought it could be. I will be back next week with more April showers. I hope you return too.

Also please consider checking out my upcoming ebook PLUMB CRAZY from Swoon Romance. Thanks!

This week the doodle is on a egg. Here is "Spidey Egg."

 
Here is a little quote for your pocket.
 
I admire people who dare to take the language, English, and understand it and understand the melody. Maya Angelou

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4. The Martian, by Andy Weir

The Martian, by Andy Weir (Random House 2014), was delightfully gripping.  The basic premise--Mark Watney is an astronaut abandoned on Mars after his spacesuit is punctured by a rouge antennae during a storm.  His crewmates, in a desperate hurry to leave the planet before it's too late for them all, are sure he is dead.  But he's not.

And now he is stuck on Mars, alone.  The next manned mission won't arrive for four years; he has food for only a few months.  He has no way to communicate with Earth.   But Watney is nothing if not resourceful, and he refuses to give in....

What follows is a harrowing survival story, in which human ingenuity is pitted against an environment where the smallest mistake can become deadly.    Basically, it's a grown-up version of My Side of the Mountain on Mars, and I enjoyed it very much.

Mostly it's told in Watney's log entries (in which he records all the various technical jury-rigging and repurposing projects that fill his days--don't try these at home), but when he finally manages to communicate with Earth, we get to see how NASA desperately does what it can to rescue him, and how the whole planet becomes riveted by what's happening out on Mars.   A lot of what concerns Watney is fairly technical, and I confess I read lightly over his engineering endeavours.  But I was riveted by his potato farming adventures--Watney is a biologist, as well as an engineer, and the 12 potatoes that flew to Mars for Thanksgiving turn out to be life-savers (composting for the win!).

I was sad this nearish-future vision of the scientific world hadn't made many strides with regard to the inclusion of women as full fledged geeks- true, the commander of the original mission is female, but NASA command is still pretty much all male.  And there were two gratuitous bits of nerd culture slamming that I wish hadn't been there (Watley wonders why one crew member is a nerd when she is so beautiful, and the PR woman at NASA sneers at colleagues who reference the Council of Elrond, which she's never heard of).  But I guess it's believable; attitudes take a while to change.

There's some strong language (the first sentence, for instance, is "I'm pretty much f***ed"), but I'd be comfortable giving it to my own eight-grader because there's really no point in pretending he doesn't know the f word at this point.

Anyway, I pretty much read it in a single sitting, and recommend it enthusiastically to anyone who enjoys harrowing survival stories that are chock full of science--instructive as well as entertaining.  And of course it could conceivably described as "a testament to the indomitable will of the human spirit" etc. etc. which is, you know, not a bad thing in thing to be reading in these difficult times when one's own spirit might be daunted by all there is to do at home and work.  At least I don't have to combine hydrogen and oxygen in the kitchen in order to wash the dishes.

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5. Is Competition Good for Us? by Joan Lennon

Children's writers are a bit like fish in those shrinking ponds in a drought.  We're not yet at the stage of trying to breathe mud, but still, times are tight.  So, is competition good for us?

First, watch the video ...



Now, discuss!


Joan Lennon's website.
Joan Lennon's blog.

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6. Writing is Seeing

Author Kate DiCamillo tells us writers see and pay attention. 

http://www.katedicamillo.com/onwrit.html

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7. Q is for Quick & Clever Drawing



Street Scene, Barcelona

Participating in the A-Z Blogging Challenge has been fun, no two ways about it--but it's also been very, very time consuming. I've had to give up a few of my daily routines and practices, and one of these has been sitting down to draw or paint every day. Which is why it's good to have a nifty keeper book like Quick & Clever Drawing by Michael Sanders.

I haven't owned the book for more than a year, but it's been a handy reference guide for when I'm feeling lost and falling behind in my artwork, like right now. Originally, I purchased the book to help me gain some pointers with my travel journal and sketchbook when I went to Barcelona last summer (oh, no, not Barcelona again, I can hear you thinking. Apologies for bringing it up so often, but it's a very interesting place!).


La Sagrada Familia, Barcelona

But back to Quick & Creative Drawing. Basically, the book encourages artists at all levels to just go for it. My favorite quote from page 5 is: "Drawing is simply making marks on paper." Yay! That's the spirit!

Sanders encourages his readers to keep those initial "marks on paper" simple and uncluttered, in other words, be quick; be clever--e.g., if you need to use a cardboard template to get the angle of a roof right, don't be shy, go get the scissors. And be very willing and open to "make mistakes" while you're experimenting. As he also states, rather than tell yourself, "I can't draw," say, "I can LEARN to draw."
    Good advice--and what we all need to keep in mind about every creative endeavor we pursue, whether it's painting, writing, or learning to sew. And because it's the weekend and we get Sunday off from the challenge, I'm setting aside everything else in my life to grab my paper and pencils and go learn some more drawing tips. See you on Monday, and have a wonderful weekend. Eat chocolate!

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    8. Son of Batman: Freak’n Awesome Movie

    Son of Batman(Spoilers ahead: So if you wanted to watch the movie first, then I suggest you turn off the computer or mobile device, sit in the corner, and wait like a good boy or girl.)

    This year DC Entertainment is celebrating Batman’s 75th birthday. “Nice pecs for an old dude,” you might be saying to yourself. Or is that just me? Anyway, aside from this momentous occasion, there are a few things in the works for our favorite caped crusader coming out this year. In October we’ll be seeing a third and final video game for the Batman Arkham franchise (fourth if you count Batman Arkham Origins, which was not done by Rocksteady Studios), and this month we’ll be seeing the release of the animated film Son of Batman. However, this reporter got to see the early screening here at beautiful Wondercon.

    Assembled for the exclusive showing of Son of Batman at the Anaheim Wondercon were DC producer James Tucker, director Ethan Spaulding, character designer Phil Bourassa, dialogue director Andrea Romano, Jason O’Mara (his second time voicing the iconic Batman/Bruce Wayne), Stuart Allan (voice of Damian Wayne), Xander Berkeley (voice of Dr. Kirk Langstrom), Sean Maher (voice of Nightwing), and guest moderated by Rich Sands.

    For those who aren’t familiar, Son of Batman is a loose adaption of the 2006 comic story arc written by Grant Morrison, which has come to be known as Batman and Son. In this, we discover that Batman had a drugged up tryst with the curvaceous and deadly Talia al Ghul, which leads to the the Dark Knight never knew he had. Being raised by Talia and his grandfather, Ra’s al Ghul, Damian has been trained all his life in the League of Assassins to later become it’s heir. After an attack on the compound which leaves the league in ruins, and leaves Ra’s beyond the help of a Lazarus pit, Talia sends her son to live with the father he’s never met.

    The movie’s animation first made me feel like I was watching an episode of Avatar: The Legend of Korra, which would make sense because the director, Ethan Spaulding, worked on its precursor, Avatar: The Last Air Bender. After two minutes in however, when the bodies start hitting the floor, I realized it wasn’t going to be a light hearted cartoon. The movie’s dialogue was comedic at times, but in a good way. It was the action however that kept me going. The fight scenes and violence left nothing to be desired, intense and fully fleshed. And any time you can work in “bat-men” and “bat-guerrillas” into an animated movie, what else do you need?

    I think DC Entertainment hit it out of the park with this straight to home animated movie. Batman fan’s who either are or are not familiar with the Grant Morrison comic can appreciate the story and action that went into this feature. Son of Batman will be available for digital download on April 22nd, and available on DVD and Bluray May 6th.

    ~Nicholas Eskey

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    9. Snakes in the Art Class

    Patrick O'Brien invited live snakes, iguanas, and hissing cockroaches into his classroom at MICA (Maryland Institute College of Art). 

    His digital students sketched them from life, gathering inspiration for an assignment to create a poster for the reptile house at the zoo.


    The animals came from The Drawing Zoo, a company in the Baltimore area that specializes in bringing exotic animals into schools for drawing. The animals move, but not too much, and they don't mind the attention. They're experienced with people and completely non-aggressive. 

    The team from the Drawing Zoo has experience in both art and animal handling, and their subjects are well cared for. They say that "snakes, spiders, lizards, frogs etc. make great models because they are easy to transport, handle and care for, both inside and outside of the classroom." 
    ------
    All the photos are by Patrick O'Brien

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    10. Ink - Alter Egos Exposed S1E02 - Death & Resurrection (+playlist)

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    11. 30 Days: "The Dawn of Easter" and "Happy Easter" by Mary Ann Duke


    The Dawn of Easter
    by Mary Ann Duke

    Early morn, Easter dawn
    Sunlight breaks, streaking pinks 
    over prairie, mountain and sea
    My eyes flutter open. I snuggle under covers and wonder
    what it was like that first Easter morn to see
    the risen Christ walking, speaking,
    being near.
    A miracle then,
    And a miracle now.
    I scarce can comprehend. But I am thankful
    that He gave his life for you and for me
    And for all mankind.
    I’ll be grateful eternally.


    Happy Easter
    by Mary Ann Duke

    Bunnies, chicks, colored eggs and candy
    Bonnets and bows, frilly dresses and suits
    Who will find the most at our egg hunt?
    What prize will the Prize Egg bring?
    These are but ten of my favorite things.
    Happy Easter.

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    12. Incredible Art Auction

    CARSON ELLIS has put together an online auction of some incredible artists. And it’s all for a great cause — Victory Academy, a school for autistic children in Oregon.
    My friend and fellow artist, LeUyen Pham is only one of those numerous fantastic artists.



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    13. Saturday's Movie Moment

                  There are so many great lines in this movie, but one of my favorite is when Scarlett says; "I can't think about that right now. If I do, I'll go crazy. I'll think about it that tomorrow." Vivian Lee pulled off a perfect southern  accent.

    I  read that the British can imitate southern accents better than most Americans. Anyway, this song is dedicated to Sandee from Comedy Plus.http://comedyplus.blogspot.com/ Because she likes it:)





         Have a wonderful day, and a happy happy Easter! Thank you for stopping by A Nice Place In The Sun,

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    14. book review: Ask Me

    book_askme_100title: Ask Me

    author: Kimberly Pauley

    date: Soho Teen; April 2014

    main character: Aria Morse

     

     

    Ask Me is the most recent offering from Kimberly Pauley who self describes as “half Chinese half everything else”. She was born in California and now lives in London. Pauley is the founder of YA Books Central, one of the largest teen book websites in the world.

    Ask Me is a the story of Aria, a paranormal teen growing up in Florida with her grandparents. Like her grandmother, Aria has the ability to give and honest answer to any questions she hears. She provides an answer whether or not the question is directed at her. And, the answer is sometimes more of a riddle. This ability came to Aria at the age of twelve. Imagine being a 12 year old girl living with your grandparents who struggle to make ends meet and you suddenly find yourself blurting our answers to every question you hear. Aria was not very popular.

    As a defense mechanism, she chose to wear earbuds as much as possible  to block the questions. But, when Jade, the one classmate who defended her turns up dead, the questions fly so fast that Aria cannot avoid hearing or answering them. She hears herself speak truths that she does not know how to handle. And she actually begins connecting to people.

    She gets to know Will and Alex, the two boys who had been involved with Jade. Each of them warns her about the other and Aria follows her instincts in deciding who to trust. Readers wonder who will bring harm to Aria and who may be behind the murders but Aria trusts that she knows. Pauley maintains the intrigue about who really killed Jade until the very end.

    Aria was meant to be a weak character, one with no friends and little confidence in herself but in giving her so little support, Pauley neglected to develop her beyond her supernatural ability. She was simply a girl who answered questions. When she finally begins to have a relationship with Will, he manages to speak to her in a way that doesn’t ask questions; that allows her to have a choice in what she says. While this had to be so empowering for her, why did this freedom have to come from a male friend?

    Nonetheless, Pauley wrote this scene so well that readers will feel the flip of the switch when Aria becomes turned on to him.

    The ability to answer questions is an usual talent in which Pauley explores the power of truth and coming of age by embracing both our talents and our voice. Ask Me is a fun, smooth read that keeps you wondering to the end.


    Filed under: Book Reviews Tagged: Kimberly Pauley

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    15. Street Art: More from Apex, NC


    Zonkey outside the Music & Rock School building. A great place to learn to play an instrument certainly needs great art!



    I'm not sure who Wrench is but I tried to match the colors of the Zonkey to compliment the writing. I like the large, forward facing Zonkey portrait. It works well on this type of space.

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    16. Week in Review: April 13-19

    The Shadow Throne. Jennifer A. Nielsen. 2014. Scholastic. 336 pages. [Source: Review copy]
    Starstruck. Rachel Shukert. 2013. Random House. 339 pages. [Source: Review copy]
    Mansfield Park. Jane Austen. 1814. 464 pages. [Source: Book I Bought]
    A Year Down Yonder. Richard Peck. 2000. Penguin. 144 pages. [Source: Library]
    Starters. Lissa Price. 2012. Random House. 352 pages. [Source: Review copy]
    Mountains Beyond Mountains: The Quest of Dr. Paul Farmer, A Man Who Would Cure the World. By Tracy Kidder. Adapted for Young People by Michael French. 2013. Random House. 288 pages. [Source: Review copy] 
    And He Dwelt Among Us: Teachings From the Gospel of John. A.W. Tozer. 2009. Regal. 224 pages. [Source: Bought]
    Saved In Eternity (The Assurance of Salvation #1) D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones. 1988. Crossway. 187 pages. [Source: Bought]
    Safe in the World (The Assurance of Salvation #2). D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones. 1988. Crossway. 160 pages. [Source: Bought]
    The Life of Our Lord: Written For His Children During the Years 1846 to 1849. Charles Dickens. 1934/1999. Simon & Schuster. 128 pages. [Source: Bought]

    This week's favorite:

    I loved, loved, loved The Shadow Throne by Jennifer A. Nielsen. This series is oh-so-wonderful.

    © 2014 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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    17. Naming a sequel

    Question: If you wrote a book and it got published and there's a sequel to it do you have to come up with a title? If you can't think of anything can you

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    18. A Sculptor's Voice

    I would like to share the link to Andrea Blasich's new website. This sculptor's voice has to be heard.

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    19. Badlands/Cynthia Reeves: brief reflections on a stunning novella

    I have known Cynthia Reeves for what feels like a long time now. She is a friend, she is a cook, she is the mother of two talented children, she teaches, she writes. She is there, often, telling stories—standing at the counter in Libby Mosier's house, ruling over a platter of fine cheeses in her own home, walking a windy Philadelphia with me not long ago, as we searched (unsuccessfully) for a hostess-gift bottle of wine. We bought Di Bruno Bros. chocolate-covered pretzels instead. We found the party. We talked some more.


    But perhaps we don't really know someone until we dwell, quietly, with their work, and over the past several days, when I could tear away for an hour, I have been reading Cyndi's award-winning novella, Badlands, published in 2007 by Miami University Press.

    The story—about a dying woman's final hours and the blend of time, about the topography of regret and the last light of clarity, about secret dreams and the collective dream, about the bones we bury or seek to bury or can never bury—is one of the most beautifully rendered stories I've ever read. Devastating. Intelligent. Knowing. True. Locked in tight. Held so close. Never once losing its purpose, nor its rhythm.

    Think of Carole Maso channeling Colum McCann. Think of Jack Gilbert stretching out the lines of his poems. This is Cynthia Reeves.

    This is how she sounds:
    If hearing is the last sense to leave the body, then snowfall whispering over their faces, over itself, is the last thing they hear. Blankets laid gently one on top of another, nothing else. No weeping, no iron nail driving into pine board, no lamentation but snow sweeping over them, whispering its final prayer: Come, Grandmother, Great Spirit, hold them gently in your arms. Caro hears this whispering soft, softer now, and finally the quiet rustling of sheets.
    Find Badlands. Read it.


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    20. Demons Dance

    Insomnia, methinks, doth stink;
    It carts one quickly to the brink
    Then yanks those taunting forty winks
    And turns them into toss and blinks.

    The hell with all those leaping sheep!
    My thoughts on them would earn a bleep.
    Instead I stare, in darkness deep,
    As minutes into hours creep.

    The mind, it fills as demons dance
    So slumber doesn’t stand a chance,
    But as the daylight does advance
    They’re gone, without a backward glance.

    And then at last, I get to drowse.
    The lines smooth out between my brows;
    But obligations don’t allow
    The time to catch up anyhow.

    Another tired day will dawn,
    My pillow something I could pawn.
    I’ll greet the morning, pale and drawn
    And stifle yet another yawn.

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    21. Frozen: The Unsung Heroes of the Story

     

    Frozen Story TeamIf you’re a warm blooded human and have been out in public, then you’ve most likely heard that wildly popular and award winning song from the movie Frozen. Yeah, you know the one I’m talking about. The one that has gotten so far wedged into your head that brain trauma is the only remedy. Well don’t worry. This article isn’t about that song.

    No one can deny that Frozen hasn’t been a homerun for Walt Disney Animation. It has won the first Oscar award for an animated movie for the 91 year old Disney Animation Studios, and reports are claiming that it’s the highest grossing animated picture for the company, ever! A lot of time, planning and work went into this sweep of a film. But aside from the producers, the voice actors, and the animators, there are those that worked well behind the scenes who made the movie the hit it has become: The story artists.
    This year at Wondercon Anaheim we were joined by four story artists who worked on Frozen: Jeff Rango, Fawn Veerasunthorn, Nicole Mitchell, and Normand Lemay. Each of them shared what they felt what the term “story” meant for them. Jeff Rango, whose first work with Disney after his three years at Cal Arts was designing the Titans for a little animated film named Hercules, shared that for him, “Story is the architecture of a movie. And [that] the story artist is the architect.”

    Jeff is also the man who worked on making the scenes match up well with the movie’s music. “The songs are pretty much done before we start [working] with the scenes. I listen to the songs and try to design the scenes around them.” Jeff worked closely with the music and lyrics composers, Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez, during much of the process. Since the pair lives on the East coast however, Jeff had to do it all over the web. And because he really didn’t live near the animation offices, he had to get there early to make up for the three hour time difference. But he made it work. “Since my drive was an hour and a half both ways, it let me listen to the music probably over a thousand times. It allowed me to get a feel for it.”

    Fawn Veerasunthorn, Thailand born and having worked with Disney since 2011, shared that she felt the story process was broken up into two parts. The first of which is more or less pitching ideas, communicating and elaborating with others verbally, and also a little bit of “worrying” too. The ideas that make it through then are then put to a storyboard and sketched out. “With the scene that included Elsa and Anna after the coronation, we originally had it that Hans wasn’t going to be there. But as we sketched it out, we felt that Anna was just talking about her invisible boyfriend. There wasn’t enough Hans.” With the sketches, the story team was also able to focus on some repeating symbolisms. Over and over in the movie we see the gloves (protection/security) and doors (fear/hiding). They were able to decide where these symbols were most effective for each particular scene.

    Before any of the scenes are animated, the general ideas have to be discussed and finalized. To get a better idea of what would work for the animation, the artists create what are called “screenings.” They’re basically the proposed scenes drawn out in pencil and animated like a slow flip book. Potential dialogue is also given to each of these hand drawn scenes. “Screenings help put into perspective what will and will not work for the story,” says Normand Lemay. Normand, the Canadian born story artist, has worked for Disney Animation for four years, with Frozen being his first credited work.

    What about the snowman do you ask? Where did he come from? Well, you have Jeff Rango to really thank for that. Seen as the more comedic one of the team, he helped to design and name that silly but brainless pile of snow called “Olaf.” “I’ve lived in San Diego, and in [Ocean Beach] there use to be ‘Big Olaf’s Ice Cream.’ I pushed for that guy to be named Olaf.” Jeff also helped much with Olaf’s comedic singing scene, which personally was my favorite singing scene. Guilty pleasure you can call it. But that cute and funny snowman almost ended up on the cutting room floor if it weren’t for one scene that helped solidify his importance. “We decided that it should be Olaf who helped Anna realize that Kristoff might be her real true love and answer,” says Nicole Mitchell. She’s worked with Disney Animation for the last six years, first entering through the trainee program. “That she was loved. It helped Olaf to become a [real] piece of the movie.”

    There’s a lot of work that goes into an animated feature. A lot of it is what you see in the final product on the big screen. But like any house, it should be build on a strong foundation. Next time you sit down in a theatre, or flip on your favorite animated movie, don’t forget to thank those who helped form the supporting beams that hold the entire thing up, and allowed it to become something great.

    ~Nicholas Eskey

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    22. It's a dog eat dog world...

    I drew this one up for the 2014 Utah Addy's Call for Entries Posters! You can see some of the process here!

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    23. #542 – Cat Says Meow: And Other Animalopoeia by Michael Arndt

    c0ver.

    Cat Says Meow: And Other Animalopoeia

    by Michael Arndt

    Chronicle Books               2014

    978-1-4521-1234-3

    Age 2 to 4           28 pages

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    “Dog says woof . . . pig says oink . . . cow says moo. Animals and the sounds they make are paired up in playfully compelling ways in this eye-catching illustrated gift book featuring bold colors and an engaging use of onomatopoeia. Kids and parents will delight in discovering the ways in which the letters that spell out each animal’s sound are key elements of that animal’s illustration. With so much to see and to sound out, kids will relish this unique visual and educational experience, brimming with color and letters.”

    Review

    “Hi!”

    “Woof!”

    “Meow!”

    “Quack!”

    How do you say hello? Ask any of the animals in Cat Says Meow and you will get the answer you probably are expecting, but the animal may look a tad different from normal. The duck still says quack, but look closely at the animal that just spoke to you.

    Its left eye looks like the letter “q.”

    Its beak looks like a large “u.”

    Its right eye looks like an “a.”

    The wing looking like a large “c.”

    Its legs that look like an odd “k.”

    There is something odd going on. Still, if it looks like a duck, and it quacks like a duck, then it must be a  . . . wait a minute, that duck says “quack” and it is made out of the letters quack, which spells “quack!” This has to be a coincidence.

    cow pig

    Well, there are 25 animals in all, each greeting you in their native tongue, and each looking mostly normal. Take the cow. It greets you by saying, “Moo.” It looks normal as normal can be . . . wait, again. This cow is a bit odd looking.

    Its right eye looks like an “m.”

    Its left eye looks more normal, but still it looks suspiciously like an “o.”

    Its nose looks like another “o.”

    “Moo” says the cow that looks like moo.

    There is a definite trend going on. A random turn of the thicker than usual pages brings me to an owl, which says, “Hooo.” An owl that looks like “hooo” and says, “Hooo.” Interesting. A pattern has definitely emerged from Cat Says Meow. Every animal, on every page looks like it sounds.

    The author calls this animalopoeia, a word he has trademarked. Each animal, which the author also drew, looks like it sounds. A dog is “woof,” a lamb is, “baa,” and a horse is “neigh.” Onomatopoeia means words that sound like the actual act or thing. The words cough, growl, and boom are onomatopoeia. In Cat says Meow, all of these words are animal sounds. The author has coined these sounds Animal*opoeia. This is Michael Arndt’s debut children’s book.

    mouse cat

    Cat Says Meow is a great little book for teaching your child about 25 common animal sounds. As in reading, the words in each animal shape are formed from left to right, top to bottom. The large, singular illustrations little kids will easily recognize and will enjoy speaking like the animals and hearing you do the same.

    Michael Arndt explained Cat Says Meow and Other Animalopoeia and animalopoeia in particular, “[aim] is to promote verbal and visual literacy as well as foster a love of animals at an early age.” Part of the Arndt’s proceeds from Cat Says Meow go back to animal rescue organizations, groups that are also dear to me. The next time you hear a familiar “meow” and think it is your Fluffy, take a quick look,  it could be an animalopoe*ia.

    CAT SAYS MEOW: AND OTHER ANIMALOPOEIA. Text and Illustrations copyright (C w2014 by Michael Arndt. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Chronicle Books, San Francisco, CA.

    Youtube video found by Erik at ThisKidsReviewsBooks. His review is HERE.

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    Learn more about Cat Says Meow and Other Animalopoeia HERE.

    Buy a copy of Cat Says Meow and Other Animalopoeia at AmazonB&NChronicle Booksyour local  bookstore.

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    Meet the author/illustrator, Michael Arndt, at his facebook page:  https://www.facebook.com/animalopoeia

    Find more books at Chronicle Books’ website:http://www.chroniclebooks.com/

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    cat says meow


    Filed under: 5stars, Children's Books, Debut Author, Library Donated Books, Picture Book Tagged: animalopoeia, animals, cat, children's book reviews, Chronicle Books, dog, Michael Arndt, onomatopoeia, words that are sounds

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    24. Sonia Sotomayor Book


    Here are a few thumbnails/sketches for the new Sonia Sotomayor book (Bloomsbury) I'm working on. It's got a super tight turnaround, but I'm having a great deal of fun with the sketches and researching this fascinating woman.

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    25. from my garden to my table, on Tamra's birthday


    This isn't just Easter weekend. There isn't just sun out there, and my radiant son upstairs, asleep. This is the birthday of editor supreme and dear friend, Tamra Tuller.

    How can a girl like me, so full of gladness for a friendship like ours, say, You are really special?

    I went outside. Tiptoed through dew. Brought the brightest daffodils in.

    Happy birthday, Tamra!

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