My Daily Routine


It’s three o’clock in the afternoon and I’m slowly waking up after a long shower and am now having my first cup of coffee.  The sun is valiantly trying to break through the clouds.   Henwoodie is quiet and waiting for me to wake up.  

I had posted that I am living the life that I always imagined I would live.  That life includes working in the studio all night (until six o’clock in the morning) and sleeping late.  I’ve never been a morning person.  I am most productive after three o’clock in the afternoon.

At the moment I’m working night and day to finish a pressing book deadline.  The writing is finished. The editing is finished.  And the layouts are done.   Being both a writer and illustrator means that I bide my time between writing and illustrating.   I should point out that writing comes much more easily to me than illustrating.   I am a writer who illustrates rather than an illustrator that writes.

For some strange reason I don’t have the fear of making mistakes with words, even when I do make mistakes.  And lots of them.   It’s facing a blank piece of paper knowing that I have to try to create magic with pencil and gouache that is terrifying.   I’m definitely the white knuckle type of illustrator.

Once an illustration is finished, then the book.   I can only see all the mistakes I made.  Small things that I should have changed, would love to change.   It mystifies my friends and family that once a book is finished I really don’t have any more interest in it.  I seldom look at the published printed book.   For me, it’s the creative problem solving process of writing, designing, and illustrating a book that fascinates me.   When I’m writing or illustrating I really do “live” the moment in time in the story.

Interestingly enough, what I do love to read and reread over and over are my research notes when I’m working on a more ambitious writing project.

In 1978 I first ventured to Scotland for eight weeks and fell in love with the landscape, the people, and the prehistoric sites.   From 1978-98 I kept going back in order to visit, think about, and do research on ancient sites in northern Scotland, the Orkney and Shetland Islands, and the Outer Hebrides.   These twenty years of research shaped and brought into focus the foundation of nearly all my writing.   My focus is on the origin of folk beliefs associated with ancient sites.

Since 1980 I have been writing, taking notes, creating characters, and an entire mythical world in which my books are more often than not take place.   The title of this epic heroic saga/mythology is: THE LAY OF MOEL EYRIS: The Saga of the Bear’s Son.   

There are five books in the opus: The Secret Book of Moolstery; The Secret of the Mool Dykes; The Secret of Morag’s Too’er; The Secret of the Myvyrian Map; The Secret of the Dragon Eggs.

The world of Moel Eyris is a richly layered, complex narrative.   Nearly every picture book that I write and illustrate are ‘folk tales’ from this larger, more ambitious work.

I have posted videos on youtube where I read one of the more lively and interesting ‘background’ stories as to how one of the principal characters came to be in Moel Eyris.   

As this blog progresses I will most likely post thoughts and ideas as to how the narrative is coming along.  I have drawn detailed maps of the archipelago and know its history better than I do American history.   The lives of the islanders fascinate me.   Being an illustrator means that I think in picture scenarios and often write in “scenes” (very much like a screenplay).   I know the islands’ story from beginning to end.  I have written Time Lines, Word Lists, Chronology, Overview, and detailed descriptions of each island, each farm, village, inhabitant, etc.   it’s now just a matter of telling the story in an interesting way and let the reader discovery for himself (or herself) the magical and mysterious world of maols, skeely-wifes, trows, Mole Island bears, the Yule Bear, the Faärlanders, broken men, standing stones, mool dykes, dwarves and, of course, ghosts.

My goal is to finish the first book by the end of this year.   Hopefully by then I will have pretty much wrapped up the last of the outstanding picture book contracts and can concentrate of LOME.

Now, back to my daily routine.   Once I’m awake I read and reply to a vast number of emails: queries from readers, queries from my editors or art directors, and newsy emails from friends.  I read The New Yorker, Publisher’s Weekly, Scientific American, National Geographic magazine, and other periodicals while drinking my coffee.   I’ll do a bit browsing on the internet looking up words or islands that I have made note of and want to read more about.  

Around 4 o’clock the pups and I will take a long walk in the meadow and woods.  If the river isn’t swollen from all the rain we’ve been having, we’ll hike down to the river for a swim.

I head up to the studio to start working in earnest around 5 o’clock  in the afternoon.   Dinner is at 8 o’clock.  Coffee is at 9 o’clock and then I settle in for a long night of uninterrupted drawing and painting.   I take another coffee break around 4 o’clock in the morning, eat a bagel, then back to work until around 6 o’clock in the morning.   The pups stay up with me and go out every two hours or so.

I sleep in short blocks of time in the morning hours between 6 am and noon.   The pups let me know when they have to go out.  Like a zombie, I pull on my bathrobe and head downstairs to let them out.   I’m one of those people that doesn’t really wake up even when I’m walking and talking to the pups.   Fortunately, I can go right back to sleep and not really wake up until around one or two in the afternoon.  

And that’s when my typical day begins.  

I always say that nothing is going to happen before noon that won’t happen after noon.

It’s now time for the pups’ afternoon hike.   

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