A Book of Many Maps

The first of many maps in “The Adventures of the Salamander.” This map depicts Salamander Village, and highlights the path taken by Slippy as he worked his way through the village to the bakery, where his family was forced to bake cupcakes for the invading lizards.

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Each place visited by Slippy has a new map. Maps give a unique perspective on the stories, and help the reader to visualize exactly how our hero accomplishes his goals. If you like maps, then “The Adventures of the Salamander is the book for you!

Anatomy of an Illustration

This is the most complex image in the new story, so far.  With it, I wanted to show the process I use to make my illustrations.  The first image shows a very rough sketch.  This is how all my pictures start.

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After sketching all the characters and content, I scan the image and begin the outlines.  Usually, I use a darker pencil to create the outlines.  In this image, however, I outlined everything with my pen-tool on the computer using Photoshop.  

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Next, I add a layer for color.  Photoshop allows you to add layers with different properties, and in this case the colors are set to “multiply,” which allows the layer beneath it to show through.  In this way my outlines are preserved, and I don’t have to worry about erasing them by accident.

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Flat colors are just a first step in coloring.  Shadows are added on a new layer to create the illusion of depth and to add contrast to the flat colors.  

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Highlights are added to complete the 3-dimensional appearance of the image.

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Finally, I have prepared a special series of filters that I apply to all my images in order to give them a textured appearance.  This also brings out the colors and enhances the images contrast.  

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In this illustration, Slippy the Salamander, acting as arbiter, addresses the Tri-Lateral Commission on the green moon of Trillak, known as Piggle-Paggle-Ding-Dong-Doodle.  For a full explanation of the history of this unusually named moon, see “The Adventures of the Salamander – Book II – or – Slippy and the Progression of Problematic Predicaments – Volume 7 – Appendix III – Pages 141-144.

Publishing Academy – Author’s Panel

I was fortunate enough to be invited to speak on a panel of published authors for Open Book’s Publishing Academy – Fantasy Fiction Workshop.  Look, I even have proof – that’s me, second from the left … the one that looks totally out of place 🙂

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What a great time! We had a wonderful discussion with the students and the other authors on  the panel about where we get our ideas, how we keep from being distracted and other valuable insights into the writing process.  Other authors included Wesley Chu, Libby Fischer-Hellmann and Patricia Ann McNair of Columbia College among others.

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The students were great, and they asked some fantastic questions.  Luckily I remembered to bring my “Adventures of the Salamander” bookmarks to hand out to everyone.  I look forward to doing more projects and presentations with Open Book in the near future. 

Open Books is a nonprofit social venture that provides literacy experiences for thousands of readers each year through inspiring programs and creative capitalization of books.  Learn mor about them on their website:  http://www.open-books.org

My Visit with 826Chi – Writing Lab

Thank you 826Chi!  I had a great time presenting my drawing techniques to your writing lab class today.  I really enjoyed reading to the kids (and adults) and answering their questions.

Here are some of the questions I answered today:

Q: Who is your favorite children’s book author?

A. Dr. Seuss

Q. What inspired you to write “The Adventures of the Salamander”?

A. I found the original story that I wrote when I was five years old in my mom’s attic.  I was very excited to find my old story, but when I read it, the ending was so bad, I had to write it all over again.

Q. What is your favorite illustration you drew for the books?

A. I really like the picture in which Slippy and Squeeks are running from the Earth-Wyrms.  I also really like all the maps.

Q. Are you writing any other books?

A. Yes, I am working on finishing “Return of the Mirms” the sequel to “The Adventures of the Salamander.”

I also really enjoyed the pink salamander drawing we worked on together, that was fun!

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826CHI is a non-profit organization dedicated to supporting students ages 6 to 18 with their creative and expository writing skills, and to helping teachers inspire their students to write.

Visit the 826CHI Website

A Great Review from Kirkus!

I could not be happier!  The Adventures of the Salamander was recently reviewed by Kirkus, “one of the most trusted and authoritative voices in book discovery.”  Here are just a few of the great things they had to say about Slippy and his tale:

“The series does for naturalism what the Magic Tree House series did for world history”

“…an engaging story, a sympathetic protagonist and great illustrations…”

“…should appeal to both boys and girls from a wide variety of backgrounds…”

“Entertaining and educational; a welcome find for parents and kids looking to get hooked on a new series”

While the true judges of the series will be the children who grow up with it, it is great to be recognized by a well respected organization like Kirkus.  Read the whole review here:

Piggle-Paggle-Ding-Dong-Doodle

Slippy and his friends travel to Piggle-Paggle-Ding-Dong-Doodle via rocket to attend the 3rd Meeting of the Tri-Lateral Commission.  For a detailed history of Piggle-Paggle-Ding-Dong-Doodle, the Great Interplanetary War and the unfortunate fate of the planet Limpoo, please refer to Book II, Volume 7, Appendix 3, page 141 of the Adventures of the Salamander, also known as “Slippy and the Progression of Problematic Predicaments.”

I had a booth at the Wednesday Morning Movie at Classic Cinemas in Fox Lake.