Monday, June 16, 2014

Clarence the Cowardly Vampire

Just another sample mock-up page from the upcoming book.  Lots more brewing where this one came from.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Inspiration Monday: Mercer Mayer

When it comes to books that have been a wonderful source of inspiration, not only for my own book-in-progress but for my life in general, a big part of that comes from the amazing Mercer particular, a series of books he did back in the '70s which I grew up with and re-discovered over time.

One of the first books I remember my mom reading to me over and over and over and over again was Little Monster's Bedtime Book, a collection of rhymes about creatures such as The Stamp-Collecting Trollusk, the Kerploppus, the wild-n'-windy Typhoonigator and many others. This book was treasured to the point where the final page's benediction of "Good night, sleep tight, don't let the Zipperump-a-zoos bite" became a familiar saying in our house even when the book wasn't being read.


For a long time Little Monster's Bedtime Book and other ones such as Little Monster At School were the only ones I had vague memories of from childhood, and eventually they would go slipping from my everyday consciousness...until one day at University of Michigan, one of my friends living in the dorms had a copy in her room of a book called One Monster After Another. Upon cracking it open, I was faced with an incredible memory pang of a long-forgotten shadow from my youth: the Trollusk, the Grithix and the Grumley, the Yalapappus...many of the same creatures were there, staring back at me, but in more detail and fuller realization than those depicted in the Bedtime Book. In particular, the haunting image of the Wild n' Windy Typhoonigator, there in the sky, sucking up the Blue Ocean of Bubbly Goo, seared itself into my brain. By that time I had forgotten the actual title of the Bedtime Book I had grown up with, and in those days when the Internet was a "new thing" I had very little way to track down the origins of these mysterious memories.  

Thus began a search for the original book that had these wonderful creatures and contained that final line of "Don't let the Zipperump-a-Zoos bite" of which the exact title escaped me. A query through a used-book dealer in Ann Arbor led me to discover not the Bedtime Book, but another distant memory found in Professor Wormbog and the Search for the Zipperump-a-Zoo, which they found for me. Though not the exact cigar I was looking for, it was close enough to become another piece of the puzzle, and another fantastic book for my collection. Like the Professor himself, I was still on a search of my own..

Years later after moving to Vancouver, I was walking down Granville Street on my way somewhere, when something (perhaps an angel of some kind) literally stopped me in my tracks and craned my neck to the left, and I found I was standing in front of a used book store I didn't even know was there. I walked inside and discovered, to my delight, a copy of One Monster After Another, in beautiful condition. I'm not making this up. It really happened that way. 

Eventually as the Internets matured and a lovely friend named eBay came along, I did eventually track down a copy of my coveted Little Monster's Bedtime Book (with a different cover design than the copy I had as a kid), and my own search for the book with the good-night blessing was complete.  

Then, topping it off several years later was the day our Auntie Marg cleaned out some books from her house to give our kids, and along with them was Professor Wormbog's Gloomy Kerploppus, which I didn't even know existed! You can imagine the major SQUEE-fest I had upon finding this out. 

All things considered, when I look at these treasured books of mine and read them to my own kids, I marvel at the imagination, the whimsy, and the rich, wonderful details in the illustrations. I pore over them and wish I could draw with the same level of skill, but they give me the spark I need to try my best. Their influence can surely be found in rhymes I have written for my own book, such as Wixel-Flint the Cricket Watcher and other tales of weird & wacky creatures. So it is to Mr. Mayer himself that I raise my glass and thank him so much for lighting my path, with a few Zipperump-a-Zoos hiding along the way. 

Book illustrations © Mercer Mayer/Golden Books

Monday, June 2, 2014

The DJ

Right beside the highway in a desert far away,
Where snakes and lizards slither and coyotes howl and bay,
A tiny building sits there, with no windows, just one door,
Inside there's cracked paint on the walls and carpet on the floor.
The air is thick and stuffy, you could cut it with a knife,
And in the fog a DJ plays the soundtrack to your life...

These are the first few lines of a poem that will be in my book called The DJ.  The inspiration comes from several sources. My dad was a DJ when he went to college, and when I was young he would play me old recordings of his shows. When it came my turn, my first stop upon arriving at University of Michigan was to their WCBN campus radio station, where I had my own free-form show for several years. 

Also one of my favorite poems of all time is Ballad of the Sandman by Mike Agranoff, introduced to me by an old high school buddy of mine. It tells of the history and commercialization of late night radio from its golden age to what it became in the early's a gripping, haunting tale and made all the better in Agranoff's own spoken word recording of it

There is also some inspiration gleaned from Wolfman Jack playing himself in George Lucas' American Graffiti....I love the concept behind this mysterious phantom DJ in a tiny building who is metaphorically playing the soundtrack to the characters' lives as the film plays out. 

My illustration for the poem here is based on the exact layout of the WCBN radio station, where I would sit in the dark hours late night and early morning, spinning records and making magic.