Thursday, April 30, 2015

Picking Pictures

In selecting the illustrations for Chasing Dreams, The Toki-Girl and the Sparrow-Boy, Book Two, which is coming out in late June, 2015, I went all around the world!

I visited the University of Wisconsin, Chazen museum, the National Gallery, the Victoria and Albert, the Library of Congress, LACMA -- oh, so many wonderful places with fabulous public domain collections available for the download.  Here's another beautiful period print.

Have I mentioned that I love the internet?

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Don't go breaking my heart!

I'm in the throes of editing right now.  An editor's job is to break your heart by ripping your manuscript up one side and down the other.  With luck your editor actually understands what your book is about and doesn't want you to write an entirely different book to his or her vision.  I am lucky that way.

Here's another illustration from The Toki-Girl and the Sparrow Boy, Book 2, Chasing Dreams, which will be out at the end of June.  This is a KurasuTengu, by Hokusai.  Enjoy!

Thursday, April 23, 2015

The Value of Illustration

Is there a value to illustration?  Maybe, sometimes.  Do book illustrations always color one's perception of the characters forever, or will Emma Watson always be Hermione Grainger?  Will the illustrations take you into the world of the book, or will they interfere with the reader's imagination?  All reading is to some extent a partnership between the imagination of the author who crafts the tale and that of the reader who brings it alive in her or his brain.

The illustrations in Chasing Dreams, Book Two of The Toki-Girl and the Sparrow-Boy  series, are drawn from period prints showing life at the time of the stories.  I hope this enhances the imaginary experiences of readers in a very unfamiliar world.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Illustrations and Editing

This handsome fellow will be one of the illustrations in Chasing Dreams, Book Two in The Toki-Girl and the Sparrow-Boy series.
Now, I am working with my editor to make Chasing Dreams the best, the most exciting, the most fun and interesting book it can possibly be -- and that will be pretty darned good!
It's coming out in June.  Get ready!

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Check out this picture! And that blog!

No, not the one that got you here, the one below.  This will be one of the illustrations in The Toki-Girl and the Sparrow-BoyBook Two, Chasing Dreams.

This print is by Hiroshige, dated 1833-35.  It's titled "crane," but it doesn't look like one.  With the orange-tipped feathers, the downturned beak and the orange face -- all characteristics of the Toki -- this looks exactly like a Japanese Crested Ibis, which is a Toki.

I also have a Guest Blogger post in Chris Brecheen's wonderful Writing About Writing.  As we start publication, there's a lot to say about this end of the process.  Check Chris's blog out.  Lots of interesting and amusing material there.  Including mine!

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Illustrations by Masters

The first job is always to write the book.

The next job is to publish the book.

This involves editing, copy-editing, font and format selection, front and back matter, cover design, cover art, producing the final, and interior illustrations.

I've been working on interior illustrations for Book Two: Chasing Dreams.

With the help of my Editor Extraordinaire, I have been visiting museums around the world to find traditional Japanese woodblock prints that will illustrate The Toki-Girl and the Sparrow Boy Book Two: Chasing Dreams.  

I have virtually visited the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the Chazen Museum at the University of Wisconsin in Madison, and -- treasure trove -- the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C.  So many of these prints were advertising for theaters and actors, for sumo wrestlers and courtesans (orin); or were erotica; or as souvenirs or even travel guides for those traveling along popular routes or seeing important sights,  and there was even political commentary.

They were mass-produced, and the same prints have found their way into many collections -- including mine.  Famous prints have been reproduced, either as actual woodblock prints, pulled from the same blocks, or from new blocks painstakingly carved based on the original prints, or by a variety of "modern" methods that lack the depth and richness of the originals.   Many, sadly, have been lost.

Thousands and thousands remain.  They are "public domain," which means they can be used freely, though a particular reproduction of a famous piece, like Hokusai's Great Wave, can be copyrighted.

Paintings, like Hiroshige's, and preparatory documents, like the Hokusai sketchbook -- new to me and an absolute delight -- will, I hope, thrill the readers of Chasing Dreams with contemporary visions of Japanese life as much as they do me.

This is by Hiroshige Ando, printed in 1856.  The people in Hiroshige's landscapes are remarkably individual and usually remarkably alive with a sense of fun.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Who you know...

They say it's not what you know, it's who you know, and nowhere is that more true than in the world of writing.  There's a gigantic industry out there, parts of it bearing formerly respectable names, designed to take money from writers.  Free advice (urging you to pay for more) abounds.  The real industry that publishes books has vanished into inaccessibility.  You can't actually get there anymore, not without a native guide.

A certain few people, most of whom teach at MFA programs, still claim that query letters, sent snail mail, to the three agents in the whole world who will even accept unsolicited queries, one at a time, giving each six months to think about it (and never answering at all) so that, if accepted, you might get your work sent to one of the few marketplaces that will give a glance at unsolicited submissions even if agented.

If you actually attract the attention of a publisher, it's likely going to be a small one, one that will provide you with hardly any of the services (editing, etc) that publishers used to, and all the marketing they'll give you is a place in their catalogs.  Basically, you're on your own.  Want to reach your readers?  The odds of winning the lottery are better.

Note the use of the word "unsolicited" above.  That means unless you have a PERSONAL IN of some sort, you will not be able to even reach anybody at all.  Ever.  It's not what you know, it's not how good your work is, it's WHO YOU KNOW.  This is where you come in.

The Toki--Girl and the Sparrow-Boy is a small-press independently published book.  It's doing well, slowly finding its audience among the huge clamor that is book publishing today.  The next book, Chasing Dreams, is even better, and shows The Toki-Girl and the Sparrow-Boy for a series that can and will grow, expand, and last.

Set in a realm of historic fantasy, these books are ripping good adventures for boys and girls with plenty of monsters, challenges and excitement as Japan leaps from toppling feudalism to first-world power, while never losing the core culture, values and beliefs that make it unique even today.

So, who do YOU know?  Do you know somebody who knows somebody who knows somebody who just might sell books for wider distribution and film and series rights?  Will you perform a introduction?  That's all it takes to get some fantastic books out of the slush pile.

I want to meet your friends.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Devil's in the Details

I was recently in a place where I could buy REAL bagels.  So I did.  Quite a lot of them.  Just because it's bread cooked in a ring shape does not mean it's a bagel.  Like pretzels, there is a water bath involved.  This is mandatory.  Without that bath, the crust does not bake properly crisp and the product lacks bite.  I loath the bread-ish doughnuts that lack that bath which are popularly passed off as bagels.

It's that little detail of the proper water bath that makes a bagel a bagel.  It's a detail, but don't try to omit it, or you're SO NOT toast at my house.

Along the same line, those pesky bits of word usage, of punctuation, of grammar, are the devilish details that plague writers.  If prose is not smooth, if it's incorrect, if the punctuation doesn't help the reader understand how the text is read, if spelling errors about, if the formatting isn't consistent -- the reader's attention is jerked out of the story and into the way the story was crafted.  That harms the reader's experience and spoils the story -- whether the reader realizes this is happening or not.  It's very important to rewrite, edit and copy-edit to make reading the story the best experience it can be for the reader.

This has been bugging me a lot lately.  FB is giving me great problems with changing my correctly chosen and spelled words into contextual gibberish.  Repeatedly.  After correction.  In secret, so I won't know until tomorrow.  It also insists on capitalizing in their entirety certain words.  BUDDHIST is one.  FRENCH is another.  Today, it started doing this with MARY.  I am starting to suspect Ghost-in-the-Machine messages from French Buddhists named Mary.

So I am not "sharing" anything that is badly written any more.  I don't care if it's funny, or pertinent, or even important.  I want my readers' experiences, like my bagels, to be crafted to the best of standards, so I am finding it important to hold those standards high all around.

THIS is the sort of place one buys bagels.  This is the sort of place one buys books:  The Toki-Girl and the Sparrow Boy.  Book Two is coming!

Thursday, April 2, 2015