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Tuesday, May 28, 2013


I am so excited when people I know go out and do it again. Last year B.r. Stateham asked me to do one of his covers. It was great fun, and he was very specific and clear about what he wanted (LOVED that, especially as I was at the beginning of learning how to paint with Photoshop, so it took a great deal of head ache out of the work- oh and he was a pleasure to work with, the best kinds of customers!) The cover I did for him:


I love that he likes to work with different artists and it's great to know (as I later found out)  had admired his writing when I was a tad younger. And even better, I like to see how other artists handle the same thing in a different way!

And now his NEW book! Check out his other work, especially if you're an aficianado of crime and mystery novels! Anyhow, drumroll if you please, the new Turner Hahn and Frank Morales from the Dark mind of B.R. Stateham (and brother illustrators Javier and Jesus Carmona):









Turner Hahn and Frank Morales Are Back


Homicide detectives Turner Hahn and Frank Morales are back on duty in their new novel,  Guilt of Innocence.

The two are investigating a couple of murders which pushes them to the limits of their wits.  One case involves the death of a very successful corporate lawyer.  A high priced corporate lawyer who happens to be married to a woman who heads the largest cosmetics firm in the country.  How the murder took place is perplexing enough.  But as more bodies begin to drop Turner and Frank soon realize they are facing a maniacal mastermind who may very well be smarter than both of them combined.

Twists and turns, dead ends and red herrings . . . with an ending that will truly be surprising.  This case has it all.  And this is only case number one!

Case number two involves the disappearance of a young girl fifteen years earlier.  A Cold Case File.  Except it is not a cold case any longer.  The girl has returned.  And now lies on a cold metal table in the morgue.  Someone has gone out of their way to make the homicide look like a suicide.  Apparently a crime syndicate is frantic to make sure neither Turner nor Frank find out the facts surrounding the girl's disappearance fifteen years earlier.  A hit man is in town grimly eliminating everyone who may have known the girl. A hit man with orders to possibly rub out Turner and Frank as well.

And again the real killer is someone whom no one would have ever suspected.

Turner and Frank are at their best.  Dry wit, interesting characters, lots of action, vivid imagery, and two genuine classic mysteries.  All of it can be found in Guilt of Innocence.  Find it anywhere ebooks or sold.

B.R. Stateham is a sixty-four year old curmudgeon who writes genre fiction.  With an antiquarian's body yet with the mind of a fourteen year old boy, the author's imagination still wanders down dark alleys and mean streets looking for a dangerous rendezvous or dons a Federation uniform and straps on his waist a 20 megawatt laser blaster to go out and hunt Martian grave robbers.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Part B) Syncopated rhyme, my process of futzing with words...

Most of my process has been about the art on this web. Some know that I've published a few pieces on writing in the SCBWI's Bulletin (as well as a few other places from Children's Writers and Illustrator's Market:2004 and instructional articles on Yellapalooza's website and others) not only on illustration but also on writing. I thought I'd share a few thoughts about the W-i-p and a little about my thought process on writing.

The first thing is to actually write it all down, even if it stinks.Realize some of this writing is actually REwriting, after you've got something down on the page, and I'll write a bit more in depth about that on Monday.

I've said I dream a lot, and it's a truth. There have been times the line or the image will hit me (sometimes enough to wake me up, others it was strong enough to haunt me in my awake times.

There were so many trepidations for me writing my friend Ann's story. First I'm not an African American, though I was a good friend to her and goodness knows she inspired me. Second, as much as I love Old Orchard Beach, I didn't live in the time period, and the very layout and character of the beach could and did change, often from year to year with fire, the economy, changing times, weather and construction. Because ultimately though she and her family accomplished a great deal, some of her story is groups of people's history, not just her own. I wasn't qualified, I wasn't empathetic enough, I didn't know enough, I wasn't talented enough...

The very first thing anyone has to do is give yourself permission to tell the tale.

When Ann passed, I realized I'd been given this huge gift not only of her friendship, but also the story, her permission and encouragement.

And if I didn't tell it, who would?

Once over that hurdle, amazingly the first line POPPED into my head:

"Sun's UP! Out of bed!"

Sounds easy but it wasn't, it took a long time to get to that point, and it was a matter of remembering her and her joie de vivre, and wondering what she would have been like as a child and there it was. Sometimes finding the right words can be real work, it's not a matter of difficulty it's a matter of what fits, what tells the story.

Once you have them, funny thing, it often feels inevitable. Too often novice writers don't have enough faith in themselves. A lot of time is spent on telling the mundane tale, and hardly anytime is spent on the choice of words.

Anyone can (and probably has) written that bunny story. Beatrix Potter wrote it because she LIVED with them. Unless you live with them (the bunnies, not Beatrix Potter, because THAT would be a story), why do it? The whole point is to share what you alone can share. And once you find it, being patient enough to find the inevitable words. You find those and I guarantee you've hooked your reader--- I believe there's something visceral when you find them, better than any incantation, because it's the flower of your book. Monday I will blog again, and go into more depth than this about how I actually write my syncopated rhyme. Hope you'll tune in then...

Three reviews: Part A, insert (link, name opinion here) post...

Lee Wardlaw
Illustrated by Eugene Yelchin
Henry Holt and Company, LLC  2011

Told in senryu (a form of Japanese poetry similar in form as haiku), this tale of adopting a cat is by turns touching and humorous. The bits of poems are strung together for the larger story and play at the heart strings plucked by a maestro. It's evident the author loves and understands cats and their quirky nature, and despite the spare nature of the words, I caught myself smiling and nodding to the presentation and this initially prickly character.

The cat in the shelter so poignantly expresses a feeling  anything breathing with a neck can relate to at one point:

Gypsy on my left.
Pumpkin, my right. Together,
we are all alone.

I loved his feisty spirit (wish I had adopted him) and dry wit, every step of this journey is faithfully chronicled:

"Won Ton? How can I
be soup? Some day I'll tell you
my real name. Maybe."


The choice of words are delightful as well as some of the references from toes and worms to belly and bread, the poems don't only fulfill the purpose of telling the story or describing Won Ton. The new relations, the forms slide over into the art category for me, and a very down-to-earth introduction for something that many find intimidating like poetry.

The illustrations are a wonderful blend of the sensibilities of the Japanese silk paintings,  and cartoon. Fresh colors, descriptive lines, it's easy to see why Eugene Yelchin is a Caldecott Honor artist. From the fit of the illustrations with the capules of character and truth, Won Ton is a touching tale for anyone who loves rescue, cats or just the way families can be made.


Other books by Lee Wardlaw101 Ways to Bug your Parents, 101 Ways to Bug your Teachers, 101 ways to Bug your Friends and Enemies, Bubblemania, Seventh Grade Weirdo
Other books by Eugene YelchinBreaking Stalin's Nose, Seven Hungry Babies



Mrs. Harkness and the Panda
Alicia Potter
Illustrated by Melissa Sweet
Alfed Knopf, (Borzoi Books) 2012

Mrs. Harkness and the Panda is more of a picture story book than a picture book, but oh what a story and book! And pictures! The universal appeal of this book, though told about a long ago period and of a woman, it's still very relatable to kids. Mrs. Harkness is a product of her times and dutifully stays home when her husband goes to China in search of the elusive Panda (I remember reading it was FIFTY years before the West actually found a real panda, from the time of hearing of their existence to concrete proof; till then the panda lived in the same realm as Yeti, UFOS, the substance of myth).

When her beloved husband dies unexpectedly, Mrs. Harkness takes on his passion, his expedition. Despite having no particular talent or experience for the mission, being discouraged from it by society in general and friends and family in particular, and the near impossibility of the task, Mrs. Harkness takes it on, nonetheless. Everyone has wanted to pursue something, or gone against the grain of "common knowledge". Told simply, it's a wonderful story to be read to a young reader or by the young reader with a thirst for knowledge.

Melissa Sweet, another Caldecott honor recipient, uses her signature collage, paintings incorporating Chinese papers garnered from her personal trip to China. Just as Mrs. Harkness journeys through the trek from her cozy shop in New York City to the cities, then jungles, and then the snow laden mountains of China, the layers of papers and paint take us along and perfectly along the story path. I love how simple the painting of Sweet's rendering of Mrs. Harkness (reminds me very much of my New England heritage), and yet the likeness is uncanny.

A jewel of a book, I hope it makes it's way into not only a lot of hearts, but as many curriculum as possible.

Other books by Alicia Potter: Fritz Danced the Fandango (Ethan Long, illustrator)
Other books by Melissa Sweet: Charlotte in Paris (Joan MacPhail Knight, author), Brave Girl: Clara and the Shirtwaist Makers' Strike of 1909 (Michelle Markel, Author), A Splash of Red (Jen Bryant, author), A River of Words: the story of William Carlos Williams (Jen Bryant, author), Girls Think of Everything: Stories of Ingenious Inventions by Women (Catherine Thimmesh, author)



Mirror, Mirror: a Book of Reversible Verse
Marilyn Singer
Illustrated by Josee Masse
Dutton Books, and imprint of Penguin Group, (USA) Inc. 2010

Such a clever idea! Singer revisits the fairytale in a most personal and reinvisioned fashion. Short, rather spare poems share the heart of a fairytale's protagonist. Except if you flip it and read it in the reverse, the other side of the coin becomes apparent, and you realize there's at least two sides to every story! I share one of my favorites here because the only way to do this (new-to-me) art form justice is to share it:

A beast                                                                              Longing
can love                                                                             stirs
beauty.                                                                              a soft heart.
A moist muzzle                                                                   Look
can welcome                                                                      beneath the fur.
a rose.                                                                               A nightingale singing,
A hairy ear                                                                        can prize
can prize                                                                            A hairy ear.
a nightingale singing.                                                           A rose
Beneath fur.                                                                       Can welcome
look!                                                                                 a moist muzzle.
A soft heart                                                                        Beauty
stirs,                                                                                  can love
longing.                                                                              A Beast.

I even found simply reading the words a compelling grouping of words that tell the tale in a new light. The Illustrations sparkle in bright colors and child-like optimisim and simplicity while reflecting perfectly the topsy turvy nature of the book and the poetry. I have to say after my initial reading, I wanted to sit down and play with this format.

Other books by Marilyn Singer: Tallulah's Tutu (Alexandra Boiger, illustrator), Tallulah's Solo (Alexandra Boiger, illustrator), A Stick is an Excellent Thing: Poems Celebrating Outdoor Play (LeUyen Pham, illustrator).What is Your Dog Doing? (Kathleen Habbley, illustrator), Monster Museum (Gris Grimly, illustrator)
Other books illustrated by Josee Masse: The Care and Keeping of You, (Valorie Schaefer), The Care and Keeping of You 2 (Dr. Cara Natterson), The Feelings Book (Dr. Lynda Madison)

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

PB (and J?) inspirationals...

I will be starting a review gig on Blogtalk radio, It's Story Time with Jd Holiday this weekend. Look to my Facebook pages for specific details. It's great I get to review a picture book every few weeks, it gets me back into the habit of     reading, looking, thinking... oh ALL things PBs! I start a class in intensive visual storytelling, and wading through this all, so you know what? I haven't been this excited in a few years. I may complain (if I do, hit me side the head with a wet noodle please, because getting most of what you want can be a good thing, and if it's a bit of work, well, suck it up buttercup, it WILL make you better for it. That's what you say to me. because I'm really talking about me, lol), but make no mistake, it's me falling back in love with what inspired me twelve years ago.

So for the prep I will read bunches of books to choose the one I will review. But what to do with the other books? How about reviewing it here? Great thought, right? So here's my deal. I don't review books I have far too much criticism for or don't personally like. People work too hard to get something like this out and about, and there are plenty of others, if it is horrible to pop the bubble. And if it isn't, I won't be the one to dash dreams, puncture egos, scatter efforts. So here are the books that didn't make the cut this time around (but that doesn't mean they might not at a later date, because I really liked them all for different reasons:




Zachary's Ball
Matt Tavares 
Candlewick 2000

This one is for baseball lovers. Zachary's father takes him to a Red Sox game and catches the ball. From then on the magic happens, clinching Zachary's love of baseball. But what happens when the ball mysteriously disappears?

This is a strong story, especially for reluctant readers, as it's a little more of an inbetween picture book and a story book. The illustrations are full of life and expressive characters ala Chris Van Allsburg (The Chronicles of Harris Burdick, The Widow's Broom, Jumanji, The Garden of Abdu Gasazi) and Brian Selznick (The Invention of Hugo Cabret, The Houdini Box, The Boy of a Thousand Faces).

Zachary's Ball  truly captures the love of this All-American passion.

Other books by Matt Tavares:  Becoming Babe Ruth, There Goes Ted Williams, Mudball, Henry Aaron's Dream, Helen's Big World (with Doreen Rappaport)




The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind
William KamKwamba & Bryan Mealer
illustrated by Elizabeth Zunon
Dial Books, 32 pp

When hunger hits, William's people suffers. William puts together odd bits; lessons from far away, pieces of refuse against the ridicule of others and the plight he finds himself in

A story of hardship, creativity and a world away from many children of America's experience. William is a young boy in drought ravaged Malawi, Africa. The language is strong, the visual compelling as is the story.
The illustrations feel tactile and visually kinetic, using mixed media-- painted and cut paper. There's temperature and movement as well as beautiful design, much as William does from the scraps to windmills to power what he calls in the book "electric wind", the pictures perfectly complement the text.

Based on William KamKwamba's real life experiences, empowering, Inspirational, truthful, The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind is up for the Chickadee Award (2013-4) was chose by Amazon as one of their best books for 2012.

Other works: William KamKwamba and Bryan Mealer: The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind,  Bryan Mealer: All Things Must Fight to Live, Winning and Losing in Football's Forgotten Town, Muck City. Elizabeth Zunon: Lala Salama: A Tansanian Lullaby, My Hands Sing the Blues: Romare Bearden's Childhood Journey


Candlewick Press,  2009

A fanciful tale seeded from an actual event, this is a book that is a gem. Fun to read, charming, jeweled illustrations, the story opens in a storm at sea , with a boat load of circus animals. The ship sinks at sea, the animals survive the swim to mainland to the surprise of a small town waking up to the adventure of their lives. The pacing is just right, and the whole idea, while farcical, is endearing and as well. I found myself giggling at a few of the illustrations, and having read a few books to youngsters, I think they will be delighted when they recognize the "hidden" circus animals, when they try to avoid the greedy circus boss. I would say which were my favorite illustrations (most of them, actually!) but it's such a subjective thing, I will only say I just love the way Chris uses color, chocolate for my eyes!

Other works by Chris Van Dusen: Randy Riley's Really Big Hit, A Camping Spree with Mr. Magee, If I Built a House (and bunches of others...)

Tomorrow I'll review two more books and share my latest WIPs. Hope you tune in listen to my mystery book review!




Monday, May 13, 2013

Something's fishy...

I realized a while ago I've got some neat "old" work, from when I did line drawings to sell as rubberstamps. Most of them sold (not for much, I figured it would keep me in "pin" money and hone my line skills, and it did) but someone accusing me of plagiarizing my own work, of a drawing that had sentimental meaning to me and the resulting down turn of sales because of it, left a bad taste in my mouth, so I stopped marketing them. Fast forward to now, and I'm trying to think of ways of supplementing my income. I sold the rights to rubber stamp companies, but I can put the images on anything else I want because I didn't sell the copyright images away. Looking at them, I like them (all, mostly) they're nice as the line drawings, but I also got the great idea of "coloring" them and selling them in Photoshop. So here's the heart drawing to finish product:




So that was fun. Don't hate the results. May go back one day and play some more. The next thing was inspired by a friend who had done a mermaid, and I just loved drawing mergrrls as a kid. I decided to try something different; not sure how successful I am at it (and it's not completely finished). I wanted to incorporate my heart theme, and I decided to paint her like a tropical fish. 


 I still have to finish the hair and jewels, lighten up the upper torso, and correct the wet sheen on the scales and tail. But I don't hate it still, and had loads of fun. I loved the image to begin with, so I may end up rethinking this again as well. The light blue is actually just to see the layers above and what it would look like with a colored background, like if someone wants a colored t-shirt or other product).











For now, I will finish add it to my different stores (three I like a lot: Zazzle and Society 6 and Redbubble). Hopefully the masses will fall in love with what I'm doing so I can do some more of it! All art by Agy Wilson, All rights reserved.