Friday, June 30, 2017

31 Days, 31 Stories

Happy End of June, everybody... And happy Canada Day Eve to all of my friends up north.

I have decided what I want to focus on while vacationing in Washington state. As I mentioned before, I usually take on a full-length project, like Duck Town and Camp Omigosh. But this time I am going to do a whole bunch of short projects.

So, my lofty goal is to create a picture book manuscript for every day in July.

If you asked me a couple weeks ago if this was possible I would have said NO WAY... Picture Books aren't long... They shouldn't be more than 1500 words in most cases... And usually editors want them between 500 and 1000 words. However, they can be really tricky to write. Normally, I draft a picture book over the course of a week. But even that's not quite true because it often takes a long time just to come up with a decent idea. So, this "A Picture Book A Day" idea is a little bit kooky...

But so far I feel good about it... Probably in the same way Don Quixote feels good about jousting windmills.

I have gotten a head start... In the past two days I've written back to back picture books, and I'm two-thirds of the way through #3.

I'll keep you posted as the project continues... But I realize it might not be the most exciting blog topic... I'll try to just share the highlights.

I have been taking lits of photos, and if the wifi holds up, I should be able to post some of them.

Hey, is anybody out there planning to go to the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators Los Angeles conference?

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Word Count Wednesday - Summer Edition

Hey Creative Writers... Are you former students still out there? I hope the summer is going well for you, and that your muse has visited you once or twice.

It seems, so far at least, only a few of you are keeping up your blog. But I'm not here to guilt you if blogging isn't your thing. But I do want to tell those of you who have kept posting (especially Jodee) that I enjoy being able read your work now and then.

So, here's my progress report...

What Have Been Working On?

Picture books, picture books, and more picture books, Lots of false starts and half baked ideas, but three days ago  finally finished a fully developed draft of  MEAN SQUIRRELS, and then today I developed a brand new idea and wrote it from start to finsih in about eight hours.

Word Count: 2000 words

How Do  Feel About the Process?

I think I'm getting into the grove of summer break. I'm not writing my best work (not yet at least), but I am starting to have more fun, and the creative juices are flowing. Now that I am vacationing up in Washingtin state,  where I'll have more time to relax and write, I am going to embark on a new project.

I am going to attempt to write one PICTURE BOOK for every day of the month of July. I already got a head start by completing today's manuscript, I am also thinking about doing something on Youtube, since I attended VidCon with the girls. (But I am not crazy about seeing myself or hearing myself on screen, so I don't know if I will bother.)

What Am I Reading?

I started reading Ender's Game, but I forgot to take it on the trip!

I also need to get ready for fall by reading Jane Austen's PRIDE AND PREJUDICE and Ralph Ellison's INVISIBLE MAN.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Dinner with Matt and Emma

The other day, my nephew came to visit us, all the way from China... and he brought his girlfriend, Emma! Emma was born and raised in China (though it should be said her English is excellent). Matt has been living overseas since he graduated college. They are both world travelers, at such a young age. Here's a photo of them back in China, hanging out with friends:

This was her very first visit to America, and to celebrate her arrival we took her to a bunch of American places to eat... You know, like Chipotle and In-N-Out Burger. Those sorts of fine dining experiences you can't find any place else.

To return the favor, Matt and Emma treated us to a taste of their culture... and since I have long ago lost the ability to pretend to like food that I think tastes bad. (Which is usually anything that's not meat, potatoes, or pizza-related items.) Therefore, I was quite worried about this upcoming meal.

I knew I was in trouble when they started wandering down the "International" aisle of the grocery store.

They started shopping for ingredients that have way too much flavor for my taste-buds. I'm lookin' at you, Soy Sauce.

And speaking of soy, I became very worried when they began grabbing stuff from the Tofu section. 

I hate Tofu. I hate it so much that I've never even tried it. Actually, that's not true. One time at Costco, Cheri gave me something that she claimed was a chicken nugget. I ate it and she asked me how it tasted. I said it tasted okay. Then she revealed that it wasn't meat, it was Tofu. So now all Tofu tastes like betrayal. 

Then, the cooking began... and I was pleasantly surprised to discover that I liked the smells that were filling the house. 

(of course, anything is better than the odor that comes from the cage of our stinky bunny, Mr. Knightley.)

(Not on menu)

I asked if there were any secret ingredients involved and Matt gave me a karate chop. 

After I regained consciousness, we had a delicious meal. 

So, what do we have here? On the top left is Matt's Americanized version of Chinese fried chicken (A+). In the top center we have Pork (A+) and Green Peppers (didn't try it). In the top corner you can spot the Tofu and Tomatoes (didn't touch). And then, the final dish -- that red and yellow stuff -- is sweet scrambled eggs. That's right, sweet! I tried a bite, and it was too exotic for me, but everyone else seemed to love it. 

All in all, I was delightfully surprised by how much I love their cooking. Thanks, Emma and Matt!

Friday, June 23, 2017

Writing While at VidCon

Last Christmas, Cheri and I got the girls tickets to an Online Video Conference called VidCon.

We're here now. (Well, the girls and I are here -- Cheri is hanging out at home with the dogs.) It's the second day, and we are rather exhausted. My youngest daughter is definitely in her element. We're watching Jenna Marbles and Julien right now. My eldest has been having a good time too. She met the VlogBrothers and Josh Sunquist.

I have enjoyed it too... Although for much of it, I am about 30 years older than the target audience. So whenever the girls run off to meet a YouTube star, I've been trying to write.

I finally finished a full draft my picture book: Mean Squirrels. It's not that good.. But it is a finished draft, and that gives me a sense of closure, even if nothing else happens with it.

My daughters and I are thinkingbof making more video content, so be on the look out for more videos, Maybe next VidCon the girls with be the Next Big Thing.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

A Trip to the World's Largest Bathtub

Cheri Rocks!

Today is my new picture book's BIRTHDAY! So, that means I'll be doing my best this month to market the little fella, so that lots of families can experience the joy of Micha Archer's beautiful illustrations (while they tolerate my humble prose).

See how happy I was when the book first arrived on my doorstep?

In addition to shameless self-promotion, I would also like to spend some of my time showing my gratitude to the many people who made this book come to life.

And the first person I'd like to begin this gratitude express is my wife, Cheri Bradford.

As fate would have it, it was HER birthday yesterday. She has given me a constant flow of encouragement not to mention courage, and she's been doing it for almost thirty years of my life. So, since she has given me so many positive words... I wanted to give her some words as well... words set in stone.

For a while now, Cheri has been honoring the New Year by choosing a word... or does the word choose her? The word becomes a theme for the next 365 days. So I've kept track of her words: 

  • Dream
  • Health
  • Journey
  • Reach
  • Light
And thanks to the magic of the internet I ordered them in rock form, so that Cheri can put them somewhere in her garden.

Well, gotta cut this blog short. We're going to the beach... the classic way to take a bath! 

Friday, June 16, 2017

The Magic of Letting Go

Most of my writing career has been a GRIND. I sit down and force drafts out of me. That's when I'm successful. On my off days, like most of this month, I tinker with things until they peter out and then they remain unfinished, unloved.

But sometimes, I give myself permission to let go of my expectations... I don't always listen to myself when I do this. But there are times, when I let go of the reins... And some great things happen.

Three days ago, I wrote a funny little poem based on an idea I had kicked around for years. It might be doggerel, but who knows, it could turn into something that my agent likes enough to send out as a picture book. Even if nothing happens to it, I finished it! (Unlike so many other projects this summer.)

I've also made good progress with the island-themed play I'm co-writing. We have a very rough draft of Act One, Still lots of work ahead, but we had a read-thru with the comedy troupe, and they seemed to enjoy it.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Irons in the Fire

(I wrote this on June, 9th...)

 What have I been doing lately? Let me try to work backwards... yesterday (June 8th) was Thursday. I picked up Mom, and mother-in-law as well as brother-in-law at the Burbank airport. 

Then, sister and niece (all the way from Alaska) came over to the house. They went shopping for party food. Then, Cori fried up some halibut. It was delicious! Oh, and earlier in the morning, Mackenzie, Emily, Cheri, and I went to the Senior Breakfast at SCVi. The best part of the morning was the Clap Out, when the grads walk between two lines of kids. 

The student body, from the juniors all the way down to the 1st grade. It was very sweet. Oh, in the evening, we all went to Mountasia for ice cream and a Go-Cart Race. Ashley won be a mile. 

The day before (June 7th) was Wednesday. We worked at home, doing some final cleanings, including mopping the kitchen floor. Emily performed in her Drag Queen / King show. They had a small but appreciative turn out, and we sat at the very front row. It was a lot of fun. Emily lip synced to Sweet Transvestite from The Rocky Horror Picture Show. 

I think that about catches things up as far as the calendar goes. Right now, I am sitting in shaded parking space at the Higher Learning Church while Mackenzie is attending the graduation rehearsal. The is the second rehearsal. How much practice do they need? Tonight we'll be attending the ceremony and then we'll take the family out to California Pizza Kitchen. 

I've got a lot of irons in the fire... Lots of half baked, unfinished things... Hopefully I will get bored enough that I'll actually settle in and finish some of these projects. Lately my strategy has been to start something, and if it gies smoothly I don't stop until it's done... But if I hit some kind of a road block, usually because there is something problematic about the project, I stop and cast it aside until I'm ready to solve whatever problem there was... 

So, now I've got a lot of unfinished, half-baked projects... 

Glowdark -- fantasy middle grade

Kinderdragon -- the original submission failed... Rewrite?

Mean Squirrels... Whether I tinker with the chapter book version, or the picture book version, the moral dilemma of bullying in school keeps happening. How can I write about squirrels who are mean without turning it into a moral drama??? 

All Inclusive -- the new play I'm writing with Chris

Simple Machines -- picture book

How Not to Time Travel -- a middle grade / chapter book 

Monday, June 5, 2017

Cleaning, Puttering, & Tinkering

My eldest daughter will be graduating in less than a week. Relatives will be coming into town, so that means we must clean up our filth-hole of a house. On Saturday we concentrated on the inside, lots of dusting, sweeping, and window washing. On Sunday, we focused on the outdoors. Most of our yard is dead... Like zombie dead three times over. But we do have trees, bushes, and lots of potted flowers that are still alive. We went to Home Depot and got some more to add to the garden. Hopefully, the will outlive the summer heat.

I have done very little writing in the last two day. I did tinker with a new picture book idea, but I didn't get far. Today, the wasn't much house work on the agenda, but there was a lot of transportation tasks. I never imagined that when I became a father of two teenagers that *poof* I would magically turn into a cab driver... Who works for free, no less.

I did accomplish something worthwhile, creatively speaking. My agent and I went iver some edits gpfor my latest project. It should be ready to head out into the world this week. Fingers crossed!

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Curse You, Frank Underwood!

Why do I watch House of Cards? It's nothing but terrible people doing terrible things to others. Kevin Spacey's President Frank Underwood is a modern day Richard the Third, and as with Shakespeare's historical villain, the Anti-Hero of House of Cards talks directly to us, the audience. We become co-conspirators.

For the first time in the series, Robyn Wright's equally megamaniacal Vice President speaks directly to the audience. She says something along the lines of, "It's not that I don't know you're there... It's that I don't trust your intentions." And that really made me question, Why do I watch this stuff? I think part of the answer is because I want to see the bad guys punished. I want to the anti-hero fall apart, in the tradition of Richard III and Macbeth. But is that the only reason for binge watching a show like this?

I once attended a homeschooling seminar in which the speaker bemoaned many of the stories within pop-culture that focused on anti-heroes. He called them "bent" stories. If I remember the definition correctly, a "bent" story is when the values of the characters are warped and twisted -- the virtues of the story are ot in line with the virtues of a benevolent civilzation. A bent story would have characters doing bad things, and good things result from those bad actions. Basically, vice is celebrated.

Now, I'm not prudish enough to suggest that people shouldn't be writing "bent" stories. In fact, something like House of Cards offers us a window into current and past administrations -- by telling a bent story, it offers criticism of the real world. Yet, there is something more worth noting. I think that many people cheer for these anti-heroes, and see themselves within them... Even if they would never do anything similar in action... in their thoughts, viewers can vicariously experience what it is like to plunder and pillage, and commit all kinds of atrocious acts.

The original Richard III has a five act structure. The king is vanquished by Act Five. The original House of Cards, a BBC production, seems to follow a more modern the act structure. And although I don't like giving spoilers, I will say that a certain tyrant meets his maker by the end of Act Three.

The American House of Cards is now Five Seasons in... And it might keep going for another five. I have this terrible feeling that Frank Underwood won't be getting his comeuppance, and that fans of this anti-hero will take his message of power by any means necessary to heart.

Pop culture rant over. Now back to work, writing children's stories to combat the bent stories.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Resolution Check-In: June Edition

We're quickly approaching the halfway mark of 2017. Let's see how I'm doing with my New Year's Resolution.

1) Take More Photos (at least two a week)
I took 36 snapshots over the last thirty days. Nothing spectacular, but I did get some family photos at several places:

  • Foster's Freeze
  • Hogwarts / Universal Studios
  • the Renaissance Faire
  • the local Duck Pond
  • and... the Pantages Theatre
ACHIEVEMENT: 41.5% Complete

2) Write / Sell a New Picture Book

I signed the contract this month! The book will hopefully be released mid-2018.

I have also written a new picture book... so far I'm enjoying the drafting process!


3) Generate Idea for Next Big Project (Complete 25% of it)

This one is still in a bit of limbo... I stalled on one project about two months ago, but I've started something new that might take off. I'll know by the end of June whether or not it'll lead anywhere. 

ACHIEVEMENT: 20% Complete. 

4) Work on a Creative Project with my Daughters. 

Kenzie and I still make mini-recordings. It might turn into a podcast someday. 

ACHIEVEMENT: Pending...(We're going to VidCon this month!)

5) Show my appreciation more often / strengthen relationships and communication

Ugh-- I still suck at this one! And now I don't have the excuse of school anymore, since I'm two weeks into summer vacation. 

ACHIEVEMENT: 7.5% Complete

6) Lose ten pounds. 

This month I've been weighing in between 161 and 165 pounds... so everything is still good in this department.