I’ve Been Making Book Covers

Hey everyone!  Sorry for the lack of blog posts lately, but I have been very busy trying to get Adamsville 2 into port on time so I can have it at the printers by November!  It has a long good ways to go but I feel optimistic about the journey ahead.  There’s a lot to talk about with Adamsville in the future, but I wanted to share some of the other work I have been doing lately.

One of the things I have been working on has been illustration and designing book covers for other authors.  I recently finished up four different books, spanning a number of topics.

For something on the more illustrative side of thing, I recently finished covers for author Scott King’s books “National Cthulhu Eats Spaghetti Day” and a choose your own adventure book called “The Eyes of Hastur.”  Here’s the covers for both:

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Illustrating covers for middle-grade and young adult books is something I have been wanting to do more of, so these books as well as a few others I am working on for Scott, have been a lot of fun!

On the design side, I recently finished the cover for the book, “The Road To Briarwood.”  This is a follow up to the book Treverode The Defender, a book I also designed the cover to.  Written by Holly Bebernitz, you can learn more about both books on Amazon.com 

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And last but not least, I helped design the cover for a Elaine Keith’s book “Living Expectantly: Extraordinary Living In An Ordinary World.”  A great book on faith and life.

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As an author I know how important a good cover is and it’s been awesome getting the chance to help other’s books be presented well.  Here’s hoping I keep getting better at it!

Discipline, Focus and Positive Energy

In Blake Snyder’s final book in his Save The Cat books on screenwriting, Save The Cat Strikes Back, he writes:

“What was I? What specialty did I offer? What was my service? I was impossible to find, or even see, because I had no silhouette.  When they thought of me the writer what did they think? Well, nothing.  I’d thrown myself in all directions, not mastering one.”

I’ve recently found myself feeling a bit rudderless.  This might seem odd, because I just released a book.  It is doing well for something that is just getting its footing.  I’m currently in production on volume 2 and by all aspects, things seem to be on the way up.

I’ve mostly been thrown off because I’ve found myself falling back into that familiar trap of trying to do too many things and not strive to be great in one area.

We all get this way I think.  Especially if you work on long form projects like I do.  When you start working on a project  it’s very easy to be excited and enthusiastic every day you sit down to work.  Skip ahead a year or two and, even you are in love with the project, you can start to long for the days you can switch gears to something else.

I’ve always been focused in full on Adamsville from a comics perspective.  It hasn’t taken very long for me to be tempted by another graphic novel project, before I pull myself out of it and get refocused.

The temptation for me has been around the idea of other mediums, i.e. children’s books, screenwriting, etc.  I always think I can do more and accomplish more than I really can, given my resources in time.

It’s been my understanding from others, and in my own experience, that the best method for scaling more quickly in a given field, is to find a focus and give it your everything.  If you don’t want to become known as a romantic comedy writer, or a portrait artist only…  Your best bet would be to avoid writing romantic comedies and painting portraits.  Does this mean you can’t explore those side interests?  By no means.  I do however think, and this is what I am telling myself right now, that if you want to get to the next level and see tangible progress you have to get focused.

Think across almost any medium of art and you’ll see this.  A country music artist isn’t going to start doing rap music tomorrow.  A horror writer isn’t likely to become a period piece romance author tomorrow.  I think a better question is to ask why the country music star got to be a star, and why the horror writer is known for that as well.

The truth is, they have spent many years with intense focus on how to be masters at their craft.  They’re great at it because they’ve taken the time to know why certain things work and certain things don’t. The horror writer knows that if he plays by certain rules and pushes them further, he can make something great.  And probably knows that if he switched to writing a period romance piece, he would be rethinking the genre from scratch.  It’s tough and yields mixed results.

Well what can we do to improve ourselves? Ask yourself:

1.) What do you want to become known for?
2.) What can I do to get myself there faster?
3.) What distractions can I eliminate?

I want to become known as a master of all-ages science fiction/fantasy suspense graphic novels.  I can get there faster by staying focused on Adamsville and then related style projects.  I can eliminate distractions by not going into full production on any project that is not related to the above.  Sadly this means setting aside children’s book projects, or other web comic ideas, that take time away from this focus.  It’s not easy, but it is beneficial!

What about you?  Do you struggle with this?  How do you overcome it?

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If you haven’t read Adamsville, you can buy the first volume from Amazon for 20% off over the next two weeks!  They’re eligible for free Prime shipping.

The Gift of the Elves – Christmas Story

My wife, Viviane, was really excited to get a Elf on a Shelf for our girls this year. It seems like a fun idea.  You basically get a plush elf doll and every night you move the elf around the house doing different silly things.  In the morning the kids wake up to find the elf moved around the house someplace.  She wanted a story to go with the elf, but we didn’t really feel like buying the version that came with a book.  So Viviane wrote a short little story about the elf.  It was nice because we were able to incorporate Jesus into the story to a large degree since we are Christians and that’s particularly why we celebrate this holiday. We were also able to talk more about loving one another… than just a nice and naughty list from Santa.

We wanted to share the story with you all.  If you like it I have included a pdf version of it for you to share with your family and a set of just black and white images you can print off for your kids to color.  See the links below the story.

elf-book-christmas – Here is the PDF version for your e-reader or i-Pad

elf-coloring-book – Here is a PDF of the black and white versions for you to color.

Thank you for checking out the story.  I hope all of you have a Merry Christmas and Holiday Season!

Story’s Book : The Penguin, T-Rex and Kitty

My three year old daughter loves to come up with stories with us (her name is also Story).  A few months back I was looking for something fun to do with her since we kind of getting burned out on the books we had around the house and the coloring books we had, so I decided we should  make one.

It was a really terribly drawn book called the Owl.  Basically Story just said one thing after the other that the owl was doing and I did a quick drawing of it with crayon.  Here’s a page from it:

It was really just something fun for us to do, but Story LOVED IT!  She asked to read it over and over again, every night.  But then one day Story colored over the whole thing.  I was pretty bummed out about it.  I decided I wanted to try and actually for real draw one of her stories, so we moved to the computer so we would always have a clean file and she spun this little web…  Her most ambitious, funny and coherent story yet.

The ending cracks me up, even if its a little unsettling.  Lol.  But hey she’s a three year old. It’s such fun making these books with her.  I think we are going to work on making another three or so and I’ll do a small print run for her or something.  This is also something that was put forward to me that other’s might be interested in commissioning with their own kid’s stories.  If this is something people out there would be interested in having me do for their kids let me know!

The Original First Scene From My Pitch For Adamsville & A Word On Failure

I was looking through my old rejection letters from the first time I pitched Adamsville, (then just called THE UNKNOWNS) and it was surprising how I felt after looking at those rejections. I wasn’t saddened by them or upset, or discouraged. I enjoy this book series for myself and have enjoyed making it for myself completely. I will not find this experience to have been a waste. But what was even more encouraging was just the nice things said by the editors. I walked away from those letters excited about the reception I hope this version will find. We shall see.  The point being though that we all go through failures.  I don’t know if this book will find the success I would like for it to find, but I do know I won’t let the previous experience keep me from trying again.

What I thought would be fun is to post the original version of the opening scene of Adamsville. If you haven’t see this yet, I did this in 2008. Much has changed since then. It’s exciting! Enjoy.

Now go check out the current version and see the difference.

Unknowns Production Diary no 3 – Pitching and Process 2.0

Hey everyone.  Quick post here about the progress on The Unknowns.  Things have been just busy busy busy go mode lately, and much of my time has been spent with my nose to the grind stone.  I managed to pencil, ink and letter 20 pages of the comic in the month of August, which is awesome, but is actually 6 pages behind my goal of 26 to make sure  I finish by January.  It’s OK though because I ended up starting the pitching process for THE UNKNOWNS a bit earlier than I planned do.  Not to give away too much yet, because, honestly it doesn’t mean anything for the book yet, I felt I had someone in particular I want to  share the book with now rather than later. So I began talking with this person and got from them the OK to put together a pitch now and submit it.  I finished that up over the weekend, but it kinda threw off the groove I had production wise.   It’s OK though!  I’m really happy with the pitch.  One of the bigger things asked of me to provide a few color samples and I figured I would share a couple of those pages here real quick:

I am really proud of how the color work is coming out, though I know my plans at this moment are not to continuing the coloring process unless a publishing deal is on the table, asking for it.  It was challenging because I had to color these pages in a way that I hadn’t before, in simple tones, gradients and colors.  I’m used to heavy textures and over painting a scene.  It just didn’t look good here.  But the pages came out great and look nice in the pitch.  So once I know more about that I will share it.

Otherwise, I really started to feel some fatigue in my process of working on the book.  I wasn’t as excited to work on it and the pages were starting to look kind of sparse.  I decided that it was time to look back over the process I had instilled and see if it was working.  The culprit I found was trying to both pencil and thumbnail in the same phase.  I know guys like Doug TenNapel and all can do this with relative ease, but, while it was efficient, it was very draining for ME mentally.  So I took a step back and decided I would thumbnail this week’s set of pages and then attack it.  SO MUCH BETTER!  The penciled pages are flowing quickly, the thumbnails look good.  I also think that from here until the end, the plan will be to pencil through the book and just ink pages a bit here and there as I go.  That way all of the heavy mental work is done and it’s not just go mode!  Really enjoying this process so far.  Much better suited for me.  Just goes to show you, sometimes changing up a process is just as effective in motivating you over taking a break.

I mean, who has time for a break?! 0_0

Unknowns Production Diary 2 – Beginning Process


As I jump headlong into the actual production process of my newest graphic novel, THE UNKNOWNS, I thought it would be fun to talk about my process, what I’ve learned and how that might help all of you!

I have written and drawn one graphic novel already and started up the process on a second title before ultimately abandoning it and over the course of this process I have learned one thing in particular.  Organization and planning are EVERYTHING!   In my first  book, I sorta went on the fly with a lot of things.  I wrote and drew scenes one at a time over the span of three years!  That lead to a very disjointed process, though the final product I think is still quite strong.  With The Unknowns I wanted to try and do things the way I have always wanted to.

I decided that before I did anything I would spend my time getting my script in order.  I wrote the entire thing before I started laying out the book in anyway shape or form.  After the book gets in good order script wise you can thing move confidently into the thumbnailing stage.  The script phase is the best for fixing story problems and getting the order of things in the proper place.

For this project I sidestepped the thumbnailing process altogether.  I find the thumbnailng process kinda cumbersome.  Not because it’s not important.  It’s just that once I know how many panels I want on a page, I just sort of know what I want there.  So with this project I took my script and moved through the entire thing breaking it down into panels, and pages.  What this let me do is get my page count in order, and start planning for how long this thing will take me.  At 130 pages long and a deadline of 6-9 months, it lets me know that I need to be averaging around 3-4 pages a week to hit my deadline (head spinning).

After my page breakdowns are in place, I then decided to go ahead penciling my book.  I pencil my comics on 8.5×11 printer paper with a template I designed to fit page break downs.  You can download the template right here: comic pages layout  and a four pages version that I plan to use once I get a better handle on characters to move even quicker: comic pages layout 4 pages

I do very loose pencils that then get scanned back into the computer, gridded and printed out to be inked.  Here’s an example of what my pencils look like ready to be printed.

From there I start inking.  Which if you have been following me on twitter, you will know I have been a bit divided on lately…  I arrived at a decision with it and I will share with you all more of that next time.  I hope you’re enjoying this and get to work on your own project!

100 Cupboards and The Role of a "Christian Writer"


A couple of weeks ago I picked up a book I had never heard of before called “100 Cupboards.” I’m not quite sure why I bought it. I had never heard of it before. No one had given my a recommendation to pick it up, but I did nonetheless. Mostly I think because I had a nagging desire that I had to read it. I get that way sometimes. Most of you probably have the same experience. You go to a store, or you’re driving and for some reason you know you should go somewhere, read something, meet someone… Some would call this coincidence or generalize this and call it fate. Being a Christian, I call it God leading me. When I feel that urge, barring no direct understanding of why something could be evil (discernment would be the word) I will without much hesitation, go and do that thing. Usually to much good in my life. I can give numerous examples. Well, not to digress too far, but I say all of that because I was wondering why was I so drawn to this book! The answer was encouraging.

First off let me say a word about the actual content of the book. It was awesome! If you haven’t read it, please do. I think you will find a modern children’s classic in it and its sequel “Dandelion Fire” has been awesome so far. It gives off so much of the vibe I have been longing for recently with the void I have been feeling every time I crack open a new book from my bookshelf. It’s creepy, funny, inspiring and smart stuff in this series that feels like a cross between “Chronicles of Narnia” and “A Wrinkle In Time.” My wife hasn’t picked up a book in years for pleasure reading and she read it after me, finishing it in two days.

But what really encouraged me about this book was the author of the series. N D Wilson has all of the markings of one of the more imaginative and bold writers in the current children’s book industry. Especially in “Dandelion Fire” Wilson shows a bravado not many would attempt to take. Beyond his talents as a writer, it’s who he is as a writer that has been encouraging. N D Wilson is a no bones about it Christian. Why this is so encouraging to me is because I find it completely disheartening at the lack of Christians, or at least those who show no shame in the fact of what they believe in as if it’s a crime (present company sometimes included), that are writing books for all audiences and not tailored for a Christian only audience. I used to work in a Christian book store years back and it would make my stomach turn everytime I would walk through the fiction section there. It all just felt forced, devoid of genuine heart and, honestly, any real substance we could all chew on… Christian or not.

As a Christian, my world-view dominates the writings I do. I don’t try to force an issue on people though, nor do I spend time skirting it I hope. I believe what I believe, and that will inform me and the directions I will take with my stories. The danger so many of us (Christian authors I mean here) is that we feel we must force God into a story, instead of understanding that he already is there, regardless of what your characters believe in, or the subject matter. It’s a given. your job is to tell a good story. Period. And along the way it would be appropriate to not debase yourself to writing garbage. Hopefully you know what I mean by that. If not, think on it.

Some of the most beloved books in our history were written by Christians, but the content of the story can seem devoid of any real biblical overtones. When Tolkien was asked about the Christian content of his writings, whether it was deliberate, he said no, but that he couldn’t help what he believed in coming through. The stuff that matters, the ones that find a place with people, are the books that are genuine in telling a good clean story. I believe no matter what, we are to be good storytellers and that all people should be able to enjoy whatever it is we’re writing. If in the end it sparks discussion amongst its readers, then great! What I found in N D Wilson (so far) is someone who exemplifies an attitude and approach to being both a writer and a Christian that I think is right. He writes good stories first and foremost. Anything else you either glean from it through personal introspection, or find by examining his life. And for this reason I think this book will have a long impact on people, myself included.