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Friday, 9 September 2016

Beginnings of two Middle Readers: Punch-Out! and The Search for the Ugg

Temporary cover design for book. 
The images help me to edit text down to the basics. 
Back in Thunder Bay for a couple months, I've been working on first drafts for two novels, both middle readers. (Special thanks again to Ahti Tolvanen for use of his space! I wouldn't be getting all this work done without his help.) Which novel gets attention at any one time depends on my mood and which story's "voice" begs the most for completion. It's some kind of internal moral drive attached to themes needing to be unearthed. Audience reaction to my previous books has given me much more confidence in my work, so I truly believe I can have a positive effect in a child's life and beyond. Punch-Out!, set in Thunder Bay and various small towns in Mexico is a story of a boy named Devin who has a few adventures when he is signed up for an exchange program. He deals with the kind of violence that occurred in my childhood. I was only peripherally involved, taking on one bully (the basis for the first chapter) by getting him to follow me along a fence from which he fell into a yard protected by an angry dog. Set in a time when Thunder Bay was one of the most violent cities in Canada the story deals with realistic growing pains and some of the thrills involved in growing up. To add further dimension to the story one of the characters, Jimmy, is a tall and lanky First Nations kid who provides insight into what it means to be an indigenous boy growing up amongst the children of immigrant parents. Jimmy suffers his own growing pains witnessed by Devin, including two violent encounters that further bond the two boys. Devin's sister and his new friend in Mexico, Veronica, are secondary characters whose story lines build throughout the novel to become equally important to the underlying themes of the novel. Although I have no imagery yet for Punch-Out! this book may not need imagery, mostly because it's based on a number of true stories from a couple of my experiences and those of Mexican friends who gave me an idea of what life was like for them in Mexico when they were children. Potential illustrations for this story might be superfluous and a hard fit with the general mood. Special thanks to my hosts in Texcoco.
     Punch-Out! appears to have heavier themes in comparison to The Search for the Ugg, which is a fun fantasy journey with mad-cap characters, but there is a strong message about Canada needing to go green. (We are big polluters. Each Canadian contributes about 350 times the average CO2 emissions of the majority of people on the planet.) The protagonists have to deal with issues surrounding the Tar Sands, running out of oil, pipelines, protests and being forced to find other methods of travel. It's fun to deal with issues and have characters react in different ways. One of the protagonists is Silver, a First Nations university student who is asked by the mayor to chase down the Ugg on her own. While everyone else heads off in the wrong direction, Silver finds the Ugg and gives him a mission, one that causes havoc.
Dr. Yes tries out new foods outside of the International Fast Food Restaurant.
     When I write I do so directly into InDesign to format the text with the images, which is phenomenally  easier than having to write the text first and then create and place the illustrations later. Creating imagery simultaneously with the design will save a great deal of time and trouble.  
    All this fun work has to be balanced with selling my other books at markets and festivals and staying on top of getting groceries and paying rent, costs of which have gone up dramatically in Thunder Bay in the last couple years.

Monday, 9 May 2016

Writing in Finland


My wonderful host, Anna,
checks her phone.
Writing in Vihti, Finland
     I'm hold up in a cabin in the wood care of the Tolvanens. My father knew Ahti Tolvanen years ago when they both taught at Lakehead University. I met Ahti through my friend Anna who I came to visit in Helsinki. Anna is moving to Oulu when she returns from Singapore.  I had a chance to see her  and a bit of Lapland and the Arctic Circle. We also travelled to St. Petersburg to visit the city and stroll around the Hermitage museum, which was larger than I expected. Anna, as of this writing, is in Bali on vacation with a friend. I plan to stay here at the cabin for a while longer. The next stop is either Holland or Spain.
Meeting with Pirkko-Liisa Surojegin, one of Finland's top
 children's book illustrators, now retired.
Northern lights in Oulu, Finland.
Cindy, the house cat.
In the Hermitage, St. Petersburg, standing in front of Danae by Rembrandt. 
Anna at the Hermitage.
Giving a talk and reading my books to
children at a Finnish International
School in Vantaa.
At Caisa conference room to attend meeting
with a presentation by Sandi Boucher.
Host Ahti Tolvanen.
Members of different political parties attend. 
So my mission right now is to complete several projects and find an agent or agents to represent me in order to procure a publisher in the United States or Europe. I had a publisher in Canada, but because a Canadian bestseller is considered only 5,000 copies it made sense to try my hand at self-publishing for a while. That went far better than I expected. I was earning a profit of eleven to twenty dollars per book after the printing costs were paid, which didn't take long, due to the wonderful support of the citizens of Thunder Bay. I spent $50,000 in three years printing four books. However, I'm not making a professional wage and for that I need a better publisher with wider distribution. So, here I am in Finland cleaning up a couple projects and starting a couple new works. The surroundings are immensely inspiring. Ideas come to me while I'm doing yard work, housework, canoeing, or when sitting in front of the fireplace. I've been incredibly productive and feeling great, although I feel a little like I've abandoned my home town, family, friends and others. So at some point I'll have to regroup in Thunder Bay. 

Monday, 30 November 2015

The Boy from the Sun: Expanded Edition –Second Printing

The Boy from the Sun is selling like hotcakes. Thank you Thunder Bay! In the last three months I've recovered 20 percent of the printing cost! A record for me and it means every dollar I invest eventually quadruples. And every new book I print gives me more selling opportunities and new markets. It doesn't make me rich, but it keeps me self employed as a full time artist, which is rare in these parts. I had 2,000 of 5,000 books delivered. The plan is to sell the rest in other cities. So later this year I will buy a vehicle for the first time in my life to take the books on the road beginning with Winnipeg.


Friday, 6 November 2015

AMA: A Story of the Atlantic Slave Trade


I met Manu Herbstein in Accra, Ghana in 2012 and one of the discussions we had was of our difficulties with the publishing industry in our respective countries. The link HERE is where you can order his book and has a brief description of Manu's current troubles. AMA: A Story of the Atlantic Slave Trade, is a great story and well-researched novel which won the 2002 Commonwealth Prize for Best First Book. 

The description below is provided by Daniel Musiitwa 
The story is set in the west coast of Africa, where Ama (or Nandzi as she is then known) lives. After her village is ransacked, and hundreds of her kinsmen are shipped off to slavery, Ama is left alone to care for her baby brother. Life turns even uglier when she is later captured, raped and enslaved. Although she manages to escape the first time, she is recaptured. We follow her journey into slavery, as she is transferred from one group to another, eventually ending up onboard an English slave ship, where she unsuccessfully tries to instigate a rebellion.  Ama, as she is now known after being renamed by her slave masters, is shipped to Brazil, where along with other slaves, she starts a new life working long, back-breaking hours and suffering humiliation. Still her spirit never breaks, and Ama refuses to see herself as a slave. 

Ama has been taught at several U. S. universities including Harvard (Prof. Emmanuel Akyeampong), East Carolina University (Prof. Kenneth Wilburn), Carleton College (Prof. Martin Klein, University of Toronto) and Boston University (Prof. Heidi Gengenbach, University of Massachusetts). This fall Prof. Rebecca Shumway is teaching it at the College of Charleston in a HIST 361-02 course entitled West Africa in the Era of the Slave Trade.


Reviews: "A book written with tremendous moral passion about a monstrous episode in human history." The Right Reverend Bishop Richard Holloway, Chairperson for the pan-Commonwealth judging panel, author and former Bishop of Edinburgh.

"A monumental work, epic in scope and design, and clearly the result of extensive research, which has been skilfully woven into an enchanting narrative. This panoramic story, with its vividly realised characters and heroic action, restores the ancient link between history and literature." Africa Book Centre, London

"Ama is a story of struggle, resistance and inner strength. Great attention is paid to detail and the descriptions are atmospheric and sensual . . .this is a notable debut which amply deserves its recognition, in particular because of the deep research which underlies the text." Rayda Jacobs, Rapport (South Africa) 29/06/02

Friday, 19 June 2015

Gifts from Finland!: The Beautiful Illustrations of Pirkko-Liisa Surojegin

I contacted an illustrator in Finland whose work once appeared in Canada in a collection of stories called the Kalevala. We exchanged a few emails and Pirkko-Liisa was very helpful with information regarding the industry. We agreed to exchange books, and to my delight she sent me five book that she illustrated. Her work is beautiful, and very inspiring, but sadly she has retired from the industry a few years ago finding a new love: gardening.


Saturday, 23 May 2015

The Ugg Lives! Dr. Yes, and Book Stand


Christopher Rantala made wonderful bookstands for me and Summer Havelin did an amazing job creating two stuffed Uggs, along with a surprise Fimo version of Dr Yes, both from the Ugg and the Drip. Both commissions were created for promotional purposes. Thanks!! They look great! The kids love them.




Wednesday, 13 May 2015

Giving Back: Big Book Giveaway at 3 different schools in Thunder Bay.







To give back to Thunder Bay for all the public's support of my endeavours as a self-published author I wanted to give away 300 books to kids across the city. About 260 + children each received their choice of one of three of my self-published picture books in the last month. And last year I gave away 90 books in Surrey, B.C. In T. Bay, I visited three different schools. The best reaction came  from kids who asked me, "Can I take this home?" When I said yes, they were either thrilled or stunned. The response from the principals, teachers and the kids was fantastic. I did get paid for the readings, which basically covered the printing costs of the books, but the fun and excitement generated was what it was all about.
The photos above were taken last week at Ecole Catholique Franco-Superieur, in grades 4 and 5. At Ogden School kids in 2nd and 3rd grades got books. I did readings in two sessions. During the second reading the teachers were whispering and talking in the halls. They apologized for the distraction as it turned out that Ogden was in lockdown mode informed that a "shooter" (man with a gun) had  left Intercity Mall which was evacuated. The teachers and staff handled everything very professionally and quickly. A group of children waited in the library for their parents, a few distracted by the books they just received. The man with the gun was soon after arrested without incident. 
     At St. Martins (photos below) in Westfort I did the reading in the gymnasium to 88 kids who all got books.

I also talked a little about how the stories were created, the underlying meanings, and what it's like to work as a freelancer and self-employed person. The children had lots of questions and were very attentive. There are always a few good insights and I get a few good laughs from the unpredictable responses, questions and interpretations. Thanks to all involved. It was a blast. I might do more come September. Please contact me if you think your school might be interested. Thanks!

Monday, 9 February 2015

Book Stand by Carol Kajorinne with Books

                                             I commissioned Caroline Kajorinne, a young metalsmith in Thunder Bay to create a book stand for me. Her boyfriend, Kriev, did a little sculpture version of the Ugg, featured at the top of the stand, complete with little buildings and the cloud of dust the Ugg kicks up when he stomps down his path. You can see Carol's work HERE. The stand and my books will be at Espresso Joya, opening this week at 8 Cumberland. I will be available to sign books on the 27? - date yet to be confirmed.

Sunday, 8 February 2015

Helping out students at Confederation College



Had fun last week helping out students of the film program at Confederation College, playing the lead role as the "Liftman" - operating an elevator, getting berated mostly by the tenants in an old apartment building. The students are from all over the world this year - Sudharm from India, Zhenya from Ukraine, others from the Caribbean, South America, and elsewhere. Some shooting was done in an actual apartment building, but the students built a set in the green screen room at the College where most of the filming was done, and allowing for some special effects. Can't wait to see the results.

Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Interview with upcoming radio host and author, Sadie Nastor


Bright young Sadie Nastor, a neighbour and fan interviewed me not long ago about my books. She is an author herself, having completed a novel! Good going Sadie! You can check out her other podcasts HERE. And check out the interview with me HERE.

Tuesday, 20 January 2015

Opening Night rescheduled: Some New Works Including Images (illustrations) for a secret international project: EMERGENCE


Special thanks to Thomas White who is opening his Espresso Bar/Gallery in the newly happening downtown North Core centred amongst our booming new restaurants - waiting times of up to two hours! Thomas is likely to do well from the spillover alone. Paintings I couldn't complete for my last show, will be featured here. Joya will be open this Tuesday, February 17th. Official opening night for the show will be announced shortly.

Friday, 26 December 2014

Minor News - saw a flying squirrel!

Photos taken from the Internet

Christmas night. My cat, Emily and I saw a flying squirrel last night. We were outside at 11pm, behind my brother's house near Central. Emily was staring up at a tree, watching what I thought was a chipmunk running up and down a branch that was as high, and next to, the 3 story house. I couldn't recall ever seeing a chipmunk or squirrel running around at night. So I kept my eyes on it, wondering what it was doing. The squirrel jumped from the branch. All of a sudden this thing with giant wings, but in a square shape rather than normal bat wing shape, came flying towards me. But I still immediately thought it must be a giant bat. I ducked slightly thinking it might hit me, but it swooped in a big curve and landed five feet away on the tree to my left. The wings had vanished and a small squirrel ran up into the tree. Then high up on a tree to my right another squirrel was running around, so there might have been two of them. I've never seen one before!