I bought the book for a reason!

I’m trying to…TYRING TO…cut back on the number of books I have. And while that is an ugly sentence it’s the best way to say it. I don’t want to ‘rid’ myself of books. Or ‘throw out’ books. Or ‘get rid of’ books, those all sound so negative. I just have too many books.

So I am giving a bunch to a local school and no doubt some will head to Goodwill and the local ‘leave a book – take a book’ boxes. Of course I brought home 11 new books from my recent trip to LA so I’m treading water once again. But I have to make room on the stuffed shelves.

Yesterday I took a few hours to go through the shelves culling the book herd and something amazing happened. I enjoyed READING and LOOKING at many of the books that have sat forgotten on the shelf for months/years.

It’s been inspiring and (dare I say) fun.

And it makes me realize that in the rush-rush of daily life and deadlines and emails and worries over creating/editing new work that I have not spent time enjoying many of the books in ages.

I can add another goal for the new year – to take time each day to walk over to the crowded shelves, take a handful of books out from their cramped quarters AND make time to sit down and enjoy them again. That seems a silly thing to need to remind yourself to do, but they too easily become an invisible part of the environment. Reading them yesterday reminded me clearly not only why I bought those particular books but also why I wanted to write and illustrate books to begin with.




Posted in books, childrens books, kids books, picture books | 2 Comments

Day 2. Blessed be the snowman makers.

Winters continus to hold us hostage. Sure the kids like to slide – for about an hour – then it’s back inside to begin arguments for additional ‘screen time’. These hearings continue all day until the judge is exhausted and the case is won.

Some people on The Internets are saying that winter is a creation of Netflix. But the supporting evidence are weak, which means many, many people are taking it to heart. Evidence is so 1990’s.

As for me, I’m up early to draw again today. Later I worry about sliding and walking the dog (who seems much too happy about our current frozen circumstances) and waking to the grocery store. So Winter is actually responsible for a good many steps these days as we live on a hill and our cars are going nowhere until the Great Melt on Monday.

Blessed be the snowman makers for they make something from nothing.



Posted in Oregon, Portland Oregon | 4 Comments

Plot, Plot, Plot, Plop.

I’ve had many discussions recently about ‘plot’ in picture books. Or the lack of.

I speak at schools and picture book events quite often and one of my presentations is about how character trumps plot in picture books these days. (in fact it kind of always has). Whenever I start developing an idea that I think might work for a picture book, I immediately try and find my character. Then I unleash them into my idea (which is usually a plot outline) and see what happens. Most often it blows up and I realize that I have a complex story that simply doesn’t fit into modern picture book expectations.

Now this isn’t a completely original thought on this subject. I’ve read similar ideas about this subject in books and online.

But I always advise anyone trying to write a picture book to look at the story, look at their protagonist and make sure that the plot is being driven by the main characters POV. The unique voice of the character is what makes it work, not the plot.

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Hey! Winter nice to see you. Not.

Been a bit quiet around here. I’ve been busy and spent a lot of time in airports having flights cancelled.

But I’m back just in time to get snowed on. I don’t mind winter, no that’s not true. I’m not being honest, I’m trying to be liked.

I hate winter? Hate is too strong a word but maybe not that too strong.

Seasons. Everyone in my life loves seasons. I don’t mind SOME of them.

But the horrendous weather here in Oregon keeps me inside working away on deadlines that don’t go away unless I make them.

So thank the weather that I am getting things done. That I am writing and drawing. That I will soon email a bunch of pages to the art director.

Thanks winter.

My email to winter:


I’d say I haven’t seen you in a while but, well, I have. It seems you are always around, but that’s OK. How’s the wife? The kids? Great. So are you ready to move on? I mean, you can hang out here but I’m busy and I’m getting sick of having all the winter clothes out. Coats, hats, scarves more gloves, dry socks, boots.I’m sort of a cargo shorts and t-shirt guy – when the temperature is ABOVE 60 degrees.

Anyway, be well and I hope I don’t have to see you again for a long while!






Posted in Blatherings, Traveling, writing fiction | Leave a comment

On our watch

The Earth is dying.

Of course it will meet a very permanent end in 3 or 4 billion years, but I think it’s beyond argument that humans have proven they are incapable of caring for the planet (much less a country).

But my sadness comes from comprehending what has been lost just in my lifetime. How Earth is ultimately seen as a commodity and used, with little regard for anything beyond next week. The number of species that will be gone from the wild by the time my daughter is my age is even more depressing.

And now the irony of having just had a vote in this country that supposedly exposed a ‘rural vs urban’ divide. I hate to tell my rural friends, but there won’t be a lot of habitable ‘rural’ left if we keep selling everything out to make a buck. All that your children and children’s children will have is urban life – mainly because we can’t stop making a mess out of every underdeveloped corner of the country.

I can’t help but feel we have failed on our watch. I have failed, I have let my child down. Science keeps getting pushed to the background while personal ‘beliefs’ (which BTW only have meaning when they are personal beliefs and not state mandated systems) are given revered status.

“I don’t ‘believe’ that smoking causes cancer, therefore it doesn’t.” See how that works? Life is sooo much easier when you do that. Facts are horrible things.

Most people remember Orwell’s always evolving rules in Animal Farm (here’s a link incase you don’t remember). But I think we are seeing some additional rules being promoted in various ways in our culture these days. They sing a similar tune to the logical exploitation Orwell’s parable warns us against.

“I believe what I believe because I believe it. No evidence or facts can alter what I believe.”

“Compromise is weakness. To be strong means never compromising.”

“Always having an answer, even when you don’t, conveys strength. Strength is always right.”

“The rich are rich because they worked harder and deserve it more. They should bare no burden from those who are not rich.”

Machiavelli would love the America we are living in now.

And remember – for the majority of human history – humanity has been governed by Monarchy, either by family or via Oligarchy. Democracy was always a fragile thing, with many more enemies than friends. Democracy is messy, it can appear unorganized and it demands compromises for the better of all. No one should get everything they want but we should all consider the concerns of our fellow citizens. It requires empathy and patience and kindness.

It’s so much easier to not bother with all that. Even in Ancient Athens Democracy was turned to tyranny more than once. And after the Roman Republic collapsed it was mostly agreed that Democracy, while an inviting ideal, was a concept incapable of functioning in ruling a country.

Is it?

(and I already received an email that his post meanders a bit, and I agree with you. It does. It’s not edited that well. But hey, I’m on deadline and this was flapping around in my head. And so it goes.)


Posted in writing fiction | 2 Comments

It’s called a Book Birthday


Chicken Story Time has been let out of the coop!

Buy it, find it, read it, buy a few dozen more copies…same old thing.

Available all over the galaxy starting today.

I’m pretty sure it’s the best picture book ever about chicken’s going to story time.

Here is a sketch from the book and an early painting of the library from the book. I worked on this book for more than a year and actually started over painting it twice in different styles.





Posted in Chicken Story Time, picture books | 1 Comment

It’s making weather

Cold, wet, windy, colder, more rain, getting windier, is that hail? Outdoors in Oregon in December isn’t all that inviting unless your are a well insulated slug or a Alaskan Malamute.

But it’s pretty good weather to encourage me to sit at a desk and work on stuff. Write, draw, drink tea.

True, I miss the sun. The vampires and libertarians run wild this time of year. (See the historical thousand year war between vampires and libertarians in Oregon).

But here I am, getting ready to finish up the roughs on a new book and start scanning and then start the ‘real drawing’. I do all the final illustrations on the computer these days. It’s what people actually see in the finished book. This pile of pencil roughs will be bound for the recycle bin by Friday. And we might get some sun by then too!


Oh and Chicken Story Time comes out tomorrow! Make sure you get your 5 copies ordered.


Posted in Oregon, picture books, writing fiction | Leave a comment