• "Where are the restrooms?" (asked 5-6 times by various people).
• A small display of my books crashed to the floor, silencing the room for a moment. Priceless.
• People who weren't interested in books, mine in particular, averting their eyes as they slinked by.
• An adorable, curly-haired 7-year-old named Jerry. Jerry! I fell in love immediately.
• A Girl Scout troop from Virginia. "I was a Girl Scout when I was a kid." I said. "Did you win any awards?" one girl asked. "No, I quit after my first year as a Brownie. I was a rotten Brownie." They laughed.
• A cluster of girls around 8 years of age giggling and asking me questions about how books are made. One of the girls showed me a selfie of her making a silly face with the taxidermy opossum in the visitor center display room.
• Nice people from all over the world came through that visitor center. I met many teachers and librarians, and I thanked them for their work in case they didn't hear it enough from everybody else. I could tell they didn't hear "thank you" much at all.
• A woman with her little boy who had never been to an author signing before and were ecstatic meeting a real live author specimen.
• Kids who stood around waiting while their parents poured over maps or guides. Nothing entertains me more than watching a kid gyrate and make goofy faces to himself when he thinks no one is paying attention. Oh, but I am, kid. Mwahahahaha. You might see yourself in one of my books someday.
And so cameras flashed as little ones posed with me or looked on while I signed their books. It was a good day. I do it all over again in Knoxville on July 11 (Union Avenue Books at 11 a.m.), where I'll also do a reading, the first one for this book. Come by if you can, and you'll get to hear me talk like a squirrel with a speech impediment. It'll be fun!
One day a good fortune befell him, for he hit upon Lane's translation of The Thousand Nights and a Night. He was captured first by the illustrations, and then he began to read, to start with, the stories that dealt with magic, and then the others; and those he liked he read again and again. He could think of nothing else. He forgot the life about him. He had to be called two or three times before he would come to his dinner. Insensibly he formed the most delightful habit in the world, the habit of reading: he did not know that thus he was providing himself with a refuge from all the distress of life; he did not know either that he was creating for himself an unreal world which would make the real world of every day a source of bitter disappointment. —from Of Human Bondage by W. Somerset Maugham
…and she busily scratches away. The story takes shape, the characters reveal deeper personalities and come to life. I continue to have little epiphanies about them and where the story will go. They're finally talking to me instead of staring sullenly from the page, refusing to give up the goods.
This is fun.
It does get difficult, finding time to work on this monster of a book. Jobs must be jobbed, bills must be paid. I'm lucky to have a partner who foots much of those expenses. Thank you, Dave. I am supremely grateful for your generosity and support.
I don't do extremely tight sketches. The details come later, when I'm inking and coloring. Some would say this is foolish, that I should figure everything out in the sketch stage. But since I do the finished art digitally, I can skip a step. It's just how I work. Stop looking at me.
I've been debating over how much of the work to share on this blog. Reason 1: story is really important in graphic novels, and not only do I not want to give too much away at first, but also because it can be hard to stir up interest in the book when you only reveal bits and pieces of what's going on. You should really see a series of pages to make sense of the story, and I'm not ready to do that yet. But I do want to keep people updated on the book's progress. Reason 2: I'm debating over using a pen name for this work, mostly because I want to clearly separate this work as a book for an older audience, not one for kids. I also think it would be kind of fun to have a moniker, like the characters in the story.
Working digitally does leave a bit of an interesting quagmire. I will never be able to sell original art of this work, except for maybe the sketches, which I doubt anyone would really want anyway. Prints would be the only option. I often wonder if other comics artists think about this sort of thing, too. Since this is a fairly new world for me, creating comics, I don't know very many other comics creators. Hopefully that will change someday.
Because while this is difficult work, it's very rewarding to tell stories in this way—with words and pictures. I've done it for children, but I have things to say to an adult audience, too. Perhaps more.
The Lothario of Smith Street does not know when to say when. His will to woo is boundless; his energy bottomless. He will never stop banging his bongos if there is the merest hint that you may be swayed by his ardor. The Lothario of Smith Street wants you to know that, always.
Lisa and Adrienne, however, do know when to say when. For now, we shall say adieu to this weird little world we've created. In our absence, maybe this rich broth of random material will develop single-celled creatures that burble out into the universe. Unless it doesn't. But one lives in hope.
Once upon a time, Lisa and Adrienneworked for the same alternative newsweekly. Now, both spend their respective lives mining their creative souls and leading hermit-like lives. And so an idea was hatched. Every week, one would send the other a sketch—either in illustration or word form—and the other would make a companion to the sketch. The result would be posted on both their blogs every week, just for grins. Even if the result isn't award-worthy, the exercise makes both minds more nimble. Hopefully.
While you have accurately conveyed what it is like to sleep in the same bed as our cat McGregor, you did leave out one of his favorite slumber poses. On really cold nights, he clamps himself on to the back of my skull like the face-hugging tentacled beast from Aliens. And I wonder why I wake up feeling so drained.