Archive for Writers

Road Trip Update

My 3,000 mile road trip turned into 3,800 miles and took me through California, Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, Utah, and Idaho before returning to my beloved Oregon. The trip was everything I hoped for. Plus more!

In addition to connecting with family and friends, I was able to take some time to focus on the Lobo story. In Santa Fe, NM I got to meet up with David Witt, Director of the Seton Legacy Project, and a great resource for me when writing the graphic novel. He has studied Seton for several decades and wrote a biography: Ernest Thompson Seton – The Life and Legacy of an Artist and Conservationist. I had peppered David with questions over several years, clarifying and verifying information I came across. David answered them all, with patience and grace. When we met in Santa Fe, David shared many of Seton’s original artistic creations, and he walked me around the house that Seton built.

David Witt, with one of Seton’s most famous paintings: Sleeping Wolf.

 

From there, I drove to the northeast corner of the state, where I visited the National Scouting Museum, which interprets Seton’s contributions to the founding of the Boy Scouts as well as houses artifacts from his life (including Lobo’s pelt).

Outside the National Scouting Museum

 

Seton’s ledger

 

Traps used by Seton

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

To top off the experience (literally), I walked the trail atop nearby Capulin volcano. From up there I got a wonderful view of the surrounding area. This was Lobo’s territory, where the story took place. It was amazing to be there, and I couldn’t help but feel the wolf’s presence.

Lobo’s territory

 

Since returning home, Daniel has sent me his finished artwork and layout for notes. As you’ve seen in his samples along the way, he’s doing a great job! I’m going over the entire thing, wearing my “picky” hat, trying to find anything that needs revision for the final. We’ve had several communications around this, and things are moving along nicely.

The end is nearing…for real!

LOBO Update

Daniel Becker, illustrator of my graphic novel, recently posted this for our Kickstarter backers. He’s doing a fabulous job, and is closing in on the completion. If you missed the Kickstarter and would still like to get a copy for a friend, family member, or yourself, you can order here: https://lobo-the-hunted-and-the-hunter.backerkit.com/hosted_preorders/cart

Daniel and I really appreciate your support and interest.

Robert

The progress is progressing

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Daniel A. BeckerCreator

April 26, 2023

Hello everyone,

A quick update on the artistic front.  The book is slowly but surely being coloured now.  Being the end of April, this is the point at which I was hoping (and working very hard) to have the WHOLE book completed and in print.  It truly does disappoint me that my own speed and work regiment wasn’t what I thought it was, and couldn’t keep to this already over extended deadline.  Alas…. it is what it is.  I won’t go into any excuses, only that quality takes hard work and time, and somethings you just can’t short cut.

But rest assured that the work that is being produced is coming out great.  I have been working straight through weekends the last 3-4 weeks, trying to get the whole book at least FLAT coloured.  What are ‘flats‘ you ask?  Well, its the part of the colouring process where I tediously select all the significant shapes and objects with the lasso tool in Photoshop, then give it a ‘flat’ solid colour.  This allows me to select shapes, objects, characters based on their unique colour and render them later when I put in the final colouring.  It’s not a glamourous job, nor a quick one to be done as it needs to be done correctly or you end up having to do a lot of cleaning up later.

Nonetheless, its also 60%-70% of the whole colouring process.  By getting a lot of the lighting and mood right for the scene, little more needs to be done to the overall image later.  I like to get a whole process (like the line art and lettering) done at a time, so that I stay consistent with that ethereal and flighty artistic ‘groove‘ that underlies the very fabric of the universe.  The result is what you see above and below:

There’s still a lot that will be done to these colours, but in many cases, less is more.  But when the lighting and tone is set up well from the beginning, it makes the final image really SNAP.

Even this is probably a little overcooked, but nonetheless, very pretty.  I’m also trying to emulate Ernest Thompson Seton’s own style of painting, or at least some of the colour tones, mixes, and moods he made with this artwork.  He was indeed a fantastic painter, and had a knack for capturing wintery and autumnal tones and mood very well (he also had a real penchant for painting wolves).

‘Sleeping Wolf’ by Ernest Thompson Seton

My plan for the colouring process is to have the colour pallet slowly change, both with the seasons (Seton arrived in New Mexico in October, and left in February 1894), and with the mood and theme for some of the scenes.  I wont spoil too much more of it for you, dear reader, but if all shapes up the way I’m planning, it should come out really nicely!

‘Fox and Mitten’ by Ernest Thompson Seton

Here’s a few more coloured images to tide you over for a while more.  I hope you’re all staying healthy and happy out there in the wider world.  Thank you ALL again for your incredible patience with this project, I truly believe that you will be rewarded for it (SOOON!!).

Cheers,

Daniel A. Becker~

Three Questions for Sheri Mabry

 

I’m on a Three Questions roll right now, as I’ve reconnected with another talented and interesting person I’ve come across on my writing journeys. So, here goes:

Sheri Mabry is an author with a writing services business. She also teaches yoga and meditation.

I had the pleasure of working with Sheri over several years. She was my literary agent, but she did a lot more than just market my manuscripts to publishers. She was a trusted partner in developing each of my writing projects. Her story-sense as well as her attention to detail were of great help in improving my work. I am grateful for her assistance and pleased to see she is working with other writers as well as successfully sharing her own work with young readers.

1.  What qualifies you to work as a writing consultant/teacher?

I have a masters in curriculum and instruction and have taught writing to children when I worked in the public school district.  So I understand the elements of writing. I founded a non-profit in the arts where we offered opportunities in the visual, performing and literary arts, so I understand the benefit of such expression.   I have experience as a literary agent, so I am connected to the industry.  I am a published (award winning) author with twelve books published, one to be released within a year, and a few more in the process, which gives me the experiences needed to give honest and true feedback to writers.  But I think what qualifies me the most is that I love working with writers and words. I love the process of writing as well as revising. It is like treasure hunting, uncovering something beautiful and brilliant. Working with new as well as seasoned writers is inspiring, and being able to support their path to publishing is an honor.

2. How do your personal pursuits (yoga, hiking, meditation) inform your writing?

That’s a great question! Yoga is “uniting” and so to me, writing is a form of yoga, bringing elements together to access that creative space and then expressing what you discover. Meditation allows you to find that peaceful space within where you have that access to truth and where story ideas can be discovered. Hiking in nature allows me to unite with my inner nature, and so it all works together to help cultivate the most beautiful conditions to create.

3. What advice do you have for someone who wants to get published?

I have lists of tips and bits of advice for those seeking to be published, but to keep it simple here:  take it seriously, and treat it like a profession. Read, learn, take classes, connect with others.  Ask questions.

Honor your time to write and commit to it.

Find ways to cultivate your creativity every day. Even if it isn’t writing—keep creating.

Have patience.

Mostly, never stop finding inspiration. Stay passionate. Nurture gratitude in this most exquisite way to express. And while you need to take writing seriously, also, be playful; find joy in the process. Finally, know that writing is a powerful way to express, and you have a great responsibility to share your talents and messages with the world. So…never give up.

Anything else you’d like to say?

My contact info is: www.sherimabryinc.com. You can find information on my website about the books I’ve written as well as the complete menu of writing services that I offer. If I can be of support, please schedule time with me. Wishing all of you the best in your writing endeavors. Write your Light!

Three Questions For Author/Illustrator Mark Fearing

Three Questions is an occasional feature on my blog when I want to spotlight interesting people I come across on my writing journeys.

In addition to having worked as an animator and creative director for Sony, Pearson, and Disney, Mark Fearing is a multi-talented author and illustrator of books for kids. He’s got more than twenty books to his credit, including Castle Gesundheit and the Middle School Bites series. His latest project, Welcome to Feral, will be released this fall. It’s a two-book graphic novel about the strange occurrences in the small town of Feral. Freya, a curious middle grader, keeps track of all the strange goings-on in town. And there are many, including deep secrets that attract strange beasties and ghouls to the town!

 

When I first attempted to write a graphic novel, a writer-friend put me in contact with Mark, who has extensive experience with that genre. Mark has been absolutely reMarkable in the help he has provided me, from basic formatting suggestions and marketing ideas to reading my manuscript and providing detailed notes that were useful in making revisions. I am so grateful for his assistance. 

Here are Three Questions for Mark:

1. You live in Portland. What impact does your location have on your work?

Compared to Southern California, it’s much easier to stay in to work because it rains nine months of the year! It’s a beautiful area. We are close to the city, not out on a sprawling country estate so it’s busy but not busy like Los Angeles. There’s plenty of walking paths so I get out several times a day with my dogs and that is important. Sitting at one’s desk, trying to ‘be creative’ will burn you out. I stay in contact with many of my friends in Los Angeles and I still Zoom into a critique group in LA when I can. Having moved here as an older adult and having a child the issues of good schools and an easy city to navigate and live in became more important so I have not totally integrated into any Portland scene. But I’ve met a lot of great people and I can’t imagine leaving the West Coast.

 

2. What writers and illustrators have had the most influence on your work?

Oh man…do you want me to write a book? I am enamored by countless authors and illustrators. IT starts with my dad who was an editorial cartoonist for 40 years or so. I can’t easily point to one person or style or genre of work even. I love expressionism, artists like Otto Dix, I love the line-driven illustrators like Ronald Searle, Quentin Blake, cartoonists like Walt Kelly, Sergio Aragones, Wally Woods, Jack Davis. Not to mention dozens of other animators, illustrators and comic artists. I love to see the personality of the artist in their work. As for authors, the list is as long and as varied. From Stephen King to Christopher Buehlman, Ursula K. LeGuin, Philip K. Dick and John Horner Jacobs. Favorite books include Frankenstein, Lord of the Rings, The Stand, Valis. Then you get author/illustrators in the children’s lit market and that list is long too. John Agee, William Steig, Valerie Gorbachev, John Burningham. And that’s just a start. I am interested in work that I could never imagine doing and work that is like what I do – but brings something different to it. I will stop here! 

Quentin Blake illustration

 

3. At the risk of being inundated with requests, why are you willing to help fellow authors and illustrators?

Many authors and illustrators have been generous with me in my life. I owe so many of my opportunities to people taking the time to help me, introduce me to someone and offer advice that I can’t imagine not doing that. And sharing what we know, what we have experienced, is a natural desire. I also try to understand exactly what the person talking to me is asking. What stage of a career they are in. I have known illustrators (especially) who seem to take delight in being cruel and judgmental with young people who come to them for advice. I think it’s important to understand exactly what they are asking and what they want to do. I mentor high school students and understanding what they want to do with their art is key. Some want to be illustrators/cartoonists. To do original work and fine tune their ‘voice’. That is different than a young person who wants to be a storyboard artist at Walt Disney. If they want to work in a studio, you can discuss exactly what they will need in a portfolio, what skills they will have to demonstrate. That is a different discussion. Start with understanding where the person wants to go and then direct their attention to the issues they may face moving in that direction. Ultimately there aren’t that many of us that are deeply interested in the issues around drawing,

Author Visit +

Yesterday I had a rare opportunity to share the stage with my music collaborator, G.T. Albright. G.T. has been in the music biz for 40+ years. He’s played in bands, recorded, produced, and written songs. We have been working together for about a year-and-a-half, with me writing lyrics and him adding the music. To date, we have collaborated on 24 songs, with many more to come.

Yesterday, we met with two 5th grade classes at Oakridge Elementary School in Oakridge, Oregon. The kids prepared by studying the lyrics to two of our songs. I spoke about the lyrics and then G.T. played the songs. He spoke about his process for developing the music, and he shared two different versions to one of the songs. It was a thrill to witness the responses of the students: they grooved to the rhythms, gushed with praise, and had lots of questions. Some had even developed their own music to the lyrics are were not shy to share them. Amazing!

Great job teachers, Emily Howard and David Gordon, and kids too. You made our day. We hope we made yours!

What’s In A Title?

You might notice that the title for our Lobo book as been revised. Originally, it was “Lobo: The Wolf That Changed the Man Who Changed America.” Quite a mouthful, huh? Quite lengthy, but them it really summed up what the story was about.

The trouble was, we got feedback from some folks who are planning a major motion picture on the project. They reminded us that a while back, there was a BBC broadcast on the topic with a similar name. That means that people who search our project will be linked to that broadcast rather than the movie they will be making.

Good point. So, we brainstormed several possibilities and came up with “Lobo: The Hunted and the Hunter.” Much more succinct and it still provides a taste of the story, and even adds a little mystery.

We even like it better than the original. Collaboration is good. So is mutual support. The movie makers are on board with us and will help spread the word about our project. As we will do for them.

Graphic Novel Journey (continued)

Once Daniel was comfortable with his sketches of the two main characters, he worked a lot on getting the setting right. The setting is a very important part of this story. Being from New Mexico, where the story takes place, allowed Daniel to draw on his memories and first-hand knowledge.

While my manuscript had the story broken down into pages and individual panels, with descriptions, captions, and dialog, Daniel made useful suggestions as he worked through the story. Based on his suggestions, I made revisions to make the story clearer and flow better. It’s very helpful for writers to get help from others. You don’t have to take all the suggestions, or even any, but it’s a good practice to get feedback. I welcome it.

Once the manuscript was revised, Daniel began working on six finished pages for publishers and agents to review. Those completed pages went through many versions. Here’s a sampling:

Pretty cool, huh? I love to see how my words become visual, complete with color. Here’s a few more of his finished pages:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We sent the manuscript as well as the completed art to several publishers of graphic novels. We’ve heard back from one, with a contract offer. We also have an interested agent taking a look, with the possibility of representing us as we move forward.

This may seem like it takes such a long time for things to happen (I’ve been on this four years!) because it does. Patience is a friend.

Will post updates.

 

The Graphic Novel Journey

Once I decided on the story I wanted to tell, I had to decide the medium for telling it. The story was too limited for a regular novel and too violent for a picture book. Graphic novel, a combo of the two, seemed like the best option. I settled on that.

Trouble was, I had never written a graphic novel before and I had no idea how to do it. So, I went to the library and started reading all that I could find, especially true stories (which are not that common). Doing this was very helpful from a story standpoint, but I still needed help in how to actually format the writing, since it involves illustration descriptions, captions, and dialog.

Searching online for formatting guidance helped somewhat, but the suggestions were often at odds. I needed some real-world help. Fortunately, a writer friend (Kurt Cyrus – check out his books, they’re great!) introduced me to one of his friends, Mark Fearing, another awesome writer. Mark has had great success creating graphic novels as well as picture books, and he was very generous in sharing his experience and insights with me. Many writers are like that, and I am so grateful.

Then came the researching, the writing, and the rewriting. Weeks, months, a year shaping the story, pacing, attending to details, checking them out with knowledgeable sources. David Witt, curator of the Seton Legacy Project, was a shining light. So was Julie Seton, the granddaughter of Ernest Thompson Seton.

Once the manuscript was ready, I started sending queries to publishers. And waited. And waited some more. Most of them I never heard from. No response – that’s how they reject these days. The few I heard from said I needed to send artwork with the manuscript. Ugh!

Now, the journey changed from finding an interested publisher to finding a talented (and willing) artist. Easier said than done. Every artist I spoke with wanted upfront payment. That’s understandable, but it wasn’t something I was willing to do, especially given that I didn’t have a deal with a publisher. I wanted to find an artist who believed in the project enough to do some work (not the whole book!) to show prospective publishers.

After a year of searching, I found my artist: Daniel Becker. I found him through Kickstarter, in which Daniel successfully raised money for a graphic novel project. It clearly demonstrated his entrepreneurial spirit and motivation. And, it showcased his artwork, which is excellent.

Although Daniel lives in Australia, he’s from New Mexico, where the Seton story takes place. He connected with the story right away and began drawing in earnest. Here’s some of his early sketches:

Next post I’ll show you the finished work that we sent out, and share updates on the project.

 

 

Do You Know This Man?

 

His name is Ernest Thompson Seton, and he was one of the most influential people in America during the 20th century. He was a naturalist, prolific artist, and best-selling author. He was also an expert wolf-hunter. That’s how I came to know about him.

In researching my last book, Friends of the Wolf, I came across many interesting stories. The most interesting was about this guy and his dramatic encounter with a legendary wolf that became known as Lobo. This encounter, during which Seton prevailed, led to a transformation in the man. He saw Lobo as a symbol of the vanishing wilderness and, after that, Seton spent the rest of his life working to preserve and protect animals and the land.

Ernest Thompson Seton was one of our nation’s first conservationists, and he is credited as one of the founders of the Boy Scouts.

So, why haven’t we heard about this man who contributed so much to our nation? Good question. I don’t have an answer. All I can say is that the story of Seton and Lobo compelled me help make the story known. And that’s what I’m in the process of doing, writing this story for all to read.

Well, not really “all.” Because of the violent nature of wolf-hunting, this book is not for the youngest readers. I’m thinking middle grade and up. And it will be in a format I’ve never tried before: a graphic novel. The book is entitled: Lobo: The Wolf That Changed the Man Who Changed America.

In the next posting, I’ll tell you about the four year journey to getting a publishing offer for the book, which came earlier this week. I’ll also share sketches and artwork that will be a part of the finished book.

Until then…

Farewell COVID Excuses

With the decline in COVID cases continuing and the rise of vaccinations, it appears that our lives are on the way back to normalcy. Do you even remember what that is? I’m not sure I do, but we’ll be finding out soon enough.

Gone will be the isolation we have experienced, the fear of sickness, the uncertainty of everyday life. No more keeping our distance, muffled voices, and paltry grocery store shelves. Yes, those will be gone, but we’ll also have to say goodbye to all those COVID excuses too.

COVID excuses? That’s right, during the past year we’ve developed a whole new set of excuses for why we can’t/won’t do something. I noticed this first when calling businesses to get information or help. The answering message was that, due to COVID, the wait to talk with a person would be much longer. Hmmm…let’s see, the people answering the phones were still working, but they were now working from home. Same number of people, so why should it take longer?

I noticed this in other areas as well: meetings cancelled (despite Zoom options), appointment postponement, and social engagements (despite safety protocols).  Anything you didn’t want to do, you had an excuse. Another boring meeting to attend? Sorry, can’t be there. COVID. Dreaded dental appointment? No can do. COVID.

The creative use of COVID excuses has been the source of entertainment (see photo above- sign reads “No plates or tags COVID ) over the past year, but it’s time to put them away. Save them for the next pandemic.