I’m Back!

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It’s been quite some time since I’ve posted anything on this blog.   A great deal has happened since my last post ages ago.  Most significantly…I had a massive heart attack in Iceland on our way to Scotland!

We were changing planes at the airport in Reykjavik when the massive heart attack happened.  We had only been on the ground for ten minutes changing planes on our way to Scotland.   The heart attack came out of the blue with no prior warning signs or indications that I might be at risk of having one.  Luckily, a pilot and flight crew from another Icelandair flight saw me collapse and immediately called their 911 before my head even hit the floor.

Two doctors happened to be passing by and immediately began performing CPR on me.  Most likely they saved my life.   I was brought back from the dead five times!   I was taken to the hospital in Reykjavik where I had a quadruple bypass.  I got THE BEST medical care you can imagine!   I was in ICU for one week; CCU for one week; and then spent the third week resting up in our AirBnB until my lungs were completely clear of any traces of pneumonia and we could fly back to the U.S.

I’m happy to report that six months later I’m doing just fine and am pretty much back to normal.  I am getting back into my work routine in the studio.  AND…John and I have started a new Etsy Shop where we’re selling my original artwork, sketches, drawings, colour studies, etc.  In time we will also be selling notecards of my artwork as well as John’s photographs.

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I’ll try my best to keep this blog more up-to-date.

I’m having to relearn all the ins and outs of the website, the blog, Instagram, FaceBook, and Twitter!

Slowly making progress in the studio

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Ruby & Rufus is finished.  I’m very pleased with the illustrations.  My book designer did a fantastic job with the front cover.   She created the front cover from five (5) separate pieces of art and a layout that I had done.  She made some brilliant decisions—the biggest one was to reverse the layout I had submitted.  Perfect solution!

Front Cover

I am now halfway finished with the illustrations for Pearl!  My goal is to have Pearl wrapped up and delivered to Boston by the end of the month.   Then, while the momentum is still going, I’ll go right onto to finish Pearl’s Lost Pearls.  That leaves only Gus & The Hatchlings to finish and I will be caught up with outstanding book contracts!

My reward to myself after I finish these last three picture books in the Gossie & Friends series is to finish writing the first draft of THE DARK SECRET OF WYTHE’S END.  A novel that I’ve been working on for a couple  years now (but put on hold so that I could concentrate on the finishing the picture books that I owed).

I’ve written eighteen chapters so far and anticipate the book will have around 30-35 chapters.  I’m obsessed with the two families in the story.

Wythe's End Front 1

Wythe’s End (the rambling family estate) is a character in the story as much as the family members.

This will be a productive  year!

BACK AT THE DRAWING BOARD

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It’s been quite while since I posted anything.

The good news is that I am finally settled back in at the drawing board in the studio. RUBY & RUFUS is finished and is now at my publisher’s offices in Boston. PEARL will be finished in two weeks. Then I can catch my breath before plunging into finishing PEARL’S LOST PEARLS and GUS & THE HATCHLINGS.

I did write a new book for the Gossie & Friends series about a week ago and my editor has signed it up. The new book is titled PEARL & ROO

Ruby & Rufus Production Board.

The finished art.

How a book starts…

Making progress.

Finished piece of art.

 

And here is Pearl & Roo!

How Research Begins…

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RESEARCH UPDATE: Words. Whenever I come across an interesting word, or a word that I have never encountered before, naturally I want to remember it or them.
When I first read the historical novel, THE CAMERONS, set in Scotland in the 17th or 18th century, I came across a word that I absolutely fell in love with, and, it in turn changed the course of my entire life.
The word was “moudiewart”—the archaic Scottish word for ‘mole’. To paraphrase how it was used in the novel, a young Highland woman is taking her Lowland lover to meet her family for the first time. She describes them as “Och, they’re naught but moudiewarts scrabbling underground.” Or, something to that effect. Her family were miners.
Naturally, the first thing I do when I come across a new word is to 1) make a notation and 2) look it up in the OED for more clarification.
I discovered that moudiewart wasn’t the oldest form of this fascinating word used to describe moles. The most archaic is “moldo warpo”—literally “earth thrower”. There are many variations of moudiewart: mowldiwart, mowldiwarpe, moldywarp, mowdiewart, etc. Each word sang to my heart and became the foundation for an entire mythology.
But, to get back to my original post about words. I have to share with you a few new words (and some already familiar to me) that I came across in THE OLD WAYS. Just from reading these words your imagination will flare and be fired up. And you easily see why they are now an integral part of my literary life.
1. Trods & holloways
2. The Doorway & meteor showers
3. Humans are animals and like all animals we leave tracks as we walk: signs of passage made in snow, sand, mud, grass, dew, earth, or moss. The language of hunting has a luminous word for such mark-making: “foil”. A creature’s ‘foil’ is its track.
4. Green roads, drove roads, corpse roads, trods, lets, dykes, drones, warns, snickets—say the names out loud and at speed and they become a poem or rite — holloways, bostles, shutes, driftways, lichways, ridings, halterpaths, cartways, carneys, causeways, herepaths.
5. Many regions still have their old ways, connecting place to place…
6. In the Netherlands there are ‘doodwegen’ and ‘spookwegen’ — death roads and ghost roads—which converge on medieval cemeteries.
7. Certain coffin paths in Cumbria have flat ‘resting stones’ on the uphill side, on which the bearers cold place their load, shake out tired arms and roll stiff shoulders; certain coffin paths in the west of Ireland have recessed resting stones, in the alcoves of which each mourner would place a pebble.
8. The way-marking of old paths is an esoteric lore of its own, involving cairns, grey wethers, sarsens, hoarstones, longstones, milestones, cromlechs and other guide-signs.
9. Paths are the habits of a landscape. They are acts of consensual making. It’s hard to create a footpath on your own.
10. Like sea channels that require regular dredging to stay open, paths need ‘walking’.
This will give you a taste as to how I take notes, what catches my eye and inspires a creative thought, and which words and ideas I take to my heart.
This is how I read: Carefully underlining and making notes in my notebook!

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When is art real?

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Today I posted this on my FaceBook page:

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I’m reading Jacqueline Winspear’s “Maisie Dobbs” books and this question was put to Maisie Dobbs in the current book I’m reading:

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The above quotation is my paraphrasing of a question put to Maisie Dobbs in an interview. I like to ponder the imponderable questions in life.  Especially when the question strikes close to home in my own creative life and struggles.

As an illustrator, editors, art directors, and book designers like to see what an illustration or entire book will look like before the finished art is completed.  This is always a peril for me because once I have worked out the composition for an illustration, and can see exactly how it will look as a finished piece (in my mind), the illustration is finished.  I pretty much lose interest in the picture but still have to do the finished hands on work to create the finished illustration that will appear in a book.

So, when I came across the question as to “When is art real?” it gave me pause to understand why I struggle so much in finishing the art for a book.  In my mind once I know what it’s going to look like it’s finished.

Words to live by…

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Four days ago six tiny baby mice appeared in the kitchen here at John’s house in Dearborn.  We did our best to feed them (kitten milk replacement formula as instructed) and kept them warm and safe.  None of the week old baby mice survived despite all our efforts.

Since I was a young boy I have always loved animals and birds.  Especially farm animals and small animals.  I cannot bear to see any animal suffer or be mistreated.  We were so hopeful that these baby mice would survive and would live out their life with us, cared for and loved.

Here are some photos of the tiny mice.

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Summer reading murder mysteries…

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I’ve spent most of the summer reading murder mysteries by M. C. Beaton, Peter May, and Jacqueline Winspear.  I have become a huge fan of all three writers.  Each one appeals to me for different reasons, but the one thing they all have in common is the fact that they are all outstanding writers!   Brilliant, actually.

I read/listened to all the Hamish Macbeth mysteries over a period of 40 days or so.  Then I moved on to Peter May’s Lewis trilogy.  I took a break from these beautifully written books only because they are a bit more gritty and graphic than the “cozy” murder mysteries of Beaton and Winspear.

Here is the Lewis trilogy:

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I particularly love the cover designs and artwork done for the front covers!