Thursday, October 30, 2014

Finally, HOT TIMES Have Ended!

Finally, after 15 years, my story, HOT TIMES IN THE BIG CREEK WOOD, will be published!

(back cover) Bear Track Press 2015
I had rewritten and illustrated this story for the past 15 years. Time and time again, I was never happy with its outcome. Why? It wasn't ready to be born. I had to let the flames inside me go out. Extinguish strife and let the rebuilding happen.

It's never easy to write a children's book, and with the oodles of books out there most would think it an easy thing to do. Books and stories are personal. Sometimes they can sting. This story hit home. My home.

The story, Hot Times in the Big Creek Wood, is about my father. A good, hard-working, a caring man, passionate, yet hard-headed in opinion and hot-tempered. When crossed by anyone, like a misbehaving, inconsiderate neighbor--fur will fly, fences will be built.

My siblings and I were many years ago, party to my father's plan of building a "feudal fence" between his northern Michigan wooded property and that of his neighbor to the south. Both men were in their seventies and should have behaved as adults. But it was what it was and soon became a full-blown feud.

After the fence went up I watched and wondered about this situation. I noticed that my dad's behavior and characteristics fit those of the beaver--a diligent, non-stop builder, and those of his neighbor, well--a lumbering bear. It was after driving past the neighbor one day that I saw him sitting under an apple tree, eating apples in the shade as happy as a clam. He looked like a bear! Wearing bib overalls, bushy graying sideburns and all. I had my story characters. It rolled off my pencil like water!
Shanty-Bob Bear

Boomtown Jack, the beaver.

The place where my dad lived had been part of the Great Fire of 1881 and I researched that story online. I found fabulous and horrifying accounts of the raging blaze that ate Michigan. One particular event that was recorded was when a survivor of the blaze hopped into a lake and stood watching the fire all night standing next to another person in the water. All night, the two stood, silently as their homes were destroyed. In the morning, the man turned to his neighbor as the smoke cleared. The neighbor he stood next to all night in  the lake was, a black bear!

The story, Hot Times, centers around the feud between the neighbors, beaver and bear, where the beaver builds a fence so he won't have to watch his neighbor "shake his shimmy". Revenge becomes both neighbors' answers to the feud. They inadvertently bring hot times to the neighbor and if the bickering wasn't enough to affect the other's' lives, then the next thing that happened changes life for everyone.

I wanted to take and make this story a learning experience, for others and for me. My father never lived to see it published. Fences were built. Today I tore them down. He and I rarely saw eye to eye, nature and outdoor work was our connection. I added little phrases he used to say in the story. Hidden things that only my siblings and I would know. "Daylight in the swamp". "Arbeit macht das Leben suess!" (German for 'Work makes life sweet!') and "a dollar, 2.98". These little gentle touches helped tear my own fence down. I would like to say that the neighborly feud and my father's and my feud had had happy endings, but that just never happened. So I made it happen here.

At the end of the book I added how two people, different as night and day, can get along. I gave the story a positive spin and even added educational material. The beaver as a keystone species and the bear and his contribution to the environment help keep the neighborhood healthy and happy. It's all about seeing the value in the other and being tolerant.

The book originally intended to be a picture book is one of my graphic readers. The story although intense, has funny and sweet moments, with some cool information at the end on the Great Fire 1881 and Clara Barton, the founder of the American Red Cross. I am glad to finally put this file and all the versions of dummies and paintings away. It is done and turned out better than what would've come out ten years ago or three!

At long last, there is peace in the Big Creek Wood. After the fire, new green shoots sprout and grow, life continues, homes are repaired. And this is good for the Big Creek Wood.


Sunday, August 24, 2014

Yooper Summer Book Tour 2014

Ranger III ready for Isle Royale!
I have been on the road all summer! Well, I should say I've been a boat, an island, the trail, a seaplane dock, another boat, another island, more trails, a greenstone ridge, basalt outcroppings, boulders--and the road.

Edison Fishery outbuilding.
This would have been
fun to stay in!
My Michigan Summer Home was wherever I hung my hat--and hiking sticks. During my Yooper stay I stayed in hotels, camped in the Bear Track Studios "book mobile" van, and in our camper! It was divine.

My summer show season began July 7th at Mackinac Island and ended August 17th in Copper Harbor.

After my July Michigan Reading Association Summer Lit conference program stint on Mackinac Island and my week-long Sleeping Bear Dunes show/granddaughter vaca gig it was almost Yooper Time! I hurried home and prepped the van and packed the "book mobile" for my month-long Yooper Book Tour and my Trip of a Lifetime, Isle Royale, a trip I have been wanting to take for 24 years!

Da Yooper Lummakka.
Loves beer, eating tourist kids and polka--
not necessarily in that order.
My Yooper Tour included:  Marquette, Isle Royale, the Porcupine Mountains, and Copper and Eagle Harbors. Wow! I want to insert here, that we live in such a beautiful and amazing state full of incredible people, wildlife and history. Let me repeat, we live in such a beautiful and amazing state full of incredible people, wildlife and history! For me, it was a walk-about, a dreamtime and so much to take in a few short weeks! I returned home with my "yooper summer elixir" to store away to become future books, word and art--shared story.
Laughing Loon! Lol. Blah-lalalala!
I got to visit with a cabin-calling bull moose, a curious otter family, laughing loons, the grandparents of the famed Isle Royale Wolf and Moose Study. I enjoyed beach picnies, rock hunting and PASTIES. It was a gathering time of images, ideas, and memories for incubating and beginning winter projects.
Otters! Photo by Lisa Jennings

 Nature conservancy picnic with Lisa and Marie.
Toni's pasty--Yooper style with ketchup!





Research time in
Rolf and Candy Peterson's
backyard 















I swapped stories with sight-seeing veterans, enthusiastic camping parents, budding writers and I even met four retired teachers camping in the Porkies (whom I helped get their dinner fire going and showed them tips on how to make the next one!) So much fun, so many stories! So many things to do and places to see! I was never truly alone on any of these trails from Isle Royale to Copper Harbor. Everyone was out soaking in the summer.
Jeff and Josh on "moose watch"

On Isle Royale with my sister and her husband and son we often called out "trail appreciation!". This meant time for a moment to sink into the beauty of our surroundings and snap a photo. Ah! But wait!

On the down side of the trail I have to mention this one thing because we all want to keep our state pristine,"Where are your manners, people?!" I was sadly a witness to an entire family "camping" as they stripped a live cherry tree of its lower green, leafy branches for their fire next to their tent. Really people? Not cut, but snapped, bent and twisted the branches. Ow! Ouch! And NO! What the what?? HELLO! Outdoors etiquette is lacking in our parks and wild places. And we're not just talking littering. This etiquette--or lack of--was a topic of discussion that I had with a photographer in Copper Harbor.

He mentioned that the U.P. is becoming spoiled due to heavy tourism and a few rude dudes. These "campers" and "photographers" (trying to get "perfect" shots of wild areas) use everything from bow saws to chainsaws to alter the shrubs and trees or get firewood without having to leave camp. Again, wow! Wow!
Bear glyph on rock face--with other etchings.

And in Copper Harbor, where 1,000 year old petroglyphs can be found, boulders were etched with initials and graffiti. Word on the trail, is that attempts to protect the Viking ship glyph were futile as people ripped off the plexi cover, "just because they could". So please help spread the word, "Leave NO TRACE" should be stressed and followed up by "Leave NO DAMAGE". There is so much to see and do up here and it's just good manners and nice to keep it clean for the next Yooper traveler. Don't make me sick da Yooper Lummakka on ya!

Now with that, here are more Superior reasons why! And get up and out to the U.P. soon!

Gitche Gumee  Copper Country Wonderland
Pine song and sun
Wild Superior waves!
Top of the world! Lookout Louise, Isle Royale

Last Isle Royale hike with my sister Lisa, an awesome photographer.
Help promote "trail appreciation" and "Leave no Trace". 
Enjoy, explore, protect :) or else...


Lisa being attacked by Squatch outside of
Muldoon's Pasty, Fudge & Gift Shop, Munising.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

NEW Year, NEW Stuff, NEW Books!

www.loritaylorart.com 2014
Somewhere between holidays,and snow days I have had time to work on new book projects of the GRAPHIC nature. Not graphic as in "wait a minute Lori you're a children's author!", no, graphic as in ART, more ART and lots more ART! 

My last post dealt with new characters for a new story-line. And now here I am putting together COMIC BOOKS! In the last few years graphic novels and comics have been hitting the educational scene and I am so there! 

Befuddled "Crazy-Cat"
I have been crazy researching on how comics are a great way to TEACH! My personal teaching favorite is the comic character hero, Max Axiom. Max teaches chemistry, ecology and biology. Yes, comics teach and entertain. And yes, comics are fun and full of color. More of my favorites rich in content Thoreau's Walden graphic novel and Mouse Guard, Owly, and for funny fun Lunch Lady and the Magic Pickle.

"Tricky-Track Rabbit" the trickster 
And yet comics teach everything from science to history, math, poetry and more. Graphics--art--is a wonderful way to connect to kids--especially boys. The pictures break up the text and will get hesitant readers to read. And enjoy it--which is important with the lack of readers we keep hearing about.
"Ol-Man-Ramshackle" (actually Tricky-Track Rabbit in disguise)
Graphic novels and comic art is another way to tell a story, visually as well as literally. And I do love a good story. Pictures can say way more than words and convey emotion and evoke emotion. And humor is a good way to teach, part of the reason that I have always been interested in Native American legends, myths, and fables. Legends and fables are a fun way to get good ideas across using animals. 

(I found a young man in Ann Arbor sporting a frock like this, without the burs.)
So these are a few pages from my comic Crazy-Cat, Don't Chase That Rabbit!, that I hope to have published this summer. Crazy-cat finds out the hard way that his obsessive hunt for the trickster rabbit, Tricky-Track, causes him to miss out on life and thereby loses a part of himself--his beloved tail. This is a fave tale of mine I read many years ago. Not only are most traditional Native American tales entertaining, but they teach behavior and responsibility. How to be or not to be. Something else kids and adults need.

(I enjoy adding Arthur Rackham-ish trees that give clues...)
With this story I switched up the political views of the day to make the story more kid friendly. I came up with my own descriptive names instead of any one Native American tribal name for the characters. I had fun with a sing-song style of language here, too. And like my Holly Wild books, I give a bit of natural history, talk about predators and animal adaptations and included games and activities at the end. 
New year, new works, new fun! NEW STUFF!



Sunday, February 2, 2014

Snow Days, Art Days: Building NEW Characters!





The winter months are my creative months. I hibernate and ideas come to light and I work on them. I sketch them and begin building a world and story. And so the story begins from my memory and rabbit raising experiences of over 14 years ago. 

This is Ooglie Haargaard. He is a new character and new protagonist, rabbit hero for a new series I am working on. Made of Sculpley polymer clay, wrapped wire, and beaver and muskrat fur. He wears and old shirt of mine, a leather bag, and weasel jaw necklace and carries an actual beaver chew walking stick.

I decided I wanted to write about this rabbit's struggle. And it was for him from the get go, which is perfect fodder for a story. His story was a life and death struggle to live and then to continue to live. 

We or rather I, had raised pets rabbits for close to seven years. So I had a lot to work with. I sketched and drew my struggling hero first and then last weekend I created him from clay and wire. I glued on hair bits (hare bits, heh-heh) and gave Ooglie (his first name) a mo-hawk hairdo. This sparked creative license as the real rabbit had lost his hair and I thought this would work well in the story. So I gave him patchy fur and he wears clothes because, well, we dressed the real rabbit, Justin Thyme (Just in time :) in clothes to keep him warm when he lost his fur (he did get better).


I recycled materials that I had saved and glued clothing on the maquette, because, yes, I  HATE sewing. Extra Heavy Gel Medium works for what I need this guy for. While he was drying I sat down and recalled the place where we raised our rabbits. Goodrich. I had lived in Goodrich for 15 years so knew the area wildlife and habitats well. From memory I sketched our house, the yard, behind the yard and beyond.

And a story was born.

Now I needed a villain. I made a crow that same day and put him aside. Crow Boss, not a very strong bad guy--more of a trickster type, but a persuasive fellow who leads his crow bunch, Buzz, Burr, and Bob. I let that incubate this past week as I wrote more. 

Now I really despise making predators the bad guy. They do what they do to keep balance. But to another mammal or herp perspective, they are the enemy. So I came u with Danger the Hawk, and Haunt the Great Horned Owl. Still, they weren't really the villain I was looking for.

Then it hit me as I remembered all of the wildlife in the near woods and the most shocking find I had made in Goodrich. A wild boar! And boars are pretty bad dudes and do a bunch of damage.

The day I came across this wild find in Goodrich I was astounded--not what you are expecting to be on a bike path. Someone's car had either hit the boar or someone shot the animal because it died in a small field just off the dirt road. Nonetheless, here lie a wild dead pig that I almost ran over with my bike. As I was investigating the crime scene, a stout, striped critter ran through the grasses pell mell. Now having worked on a pig educational exhibit for the Metropark's Wolcott Farm Museum, I knew that young wild pigs were striped and figured that the young was still out and about. Then I started putting clues together remembered the wallow I had stumbled upon in the woods behind the house earlier that spring as I watched a hawk and her nest in the woods. At the time, I figured deer lived there with all of the tracks I found, and I was more focused on the hawk and the one million swarming mosquitos so left the woods. Then stories of torn and shredded gardens ans sightings came out. Here lie the culprit.


So yesterday, another snowy creative day, I created Baron von Pighoofen! or Baron BoarRegard. Here he is in the building process. I never really know how to start a sculpture, so I began with this big pig's pigginess. His royal snout! Pretty soon I had the head and hooves baking in the oven and ran in search of a boar bod. I repurposed a porcupine puppet (we have two) so the porky became a porker! I glued on hair and cut off hair and so my villain was born.

I now have begun writing the plot and putting together ingredients for the story. I have a world, strong good and bad characters and extras to add in as I go along.

By building the clay and wire critters, it helped me get into the their brain and how they would act and be.

My rabbit hero's name, Ooglie Haargaard, came to me in a dream. I woke in the middle of the night to write down with the name, Ooglie Haargaard. before I knew who he was or would be!
It wasn't until the next day did I decide he would be a rabbit.

I am excited to see where this tale and series will go. It is about released and escaped pets and wildlife living and struggling together in the big, dangerous suburban world. Each trying to survive. And it all began with a dream and clay.



Thursday, January 23, 2014

Book Reorder, A 2014 Celebration!

Books I have illustrated and written! www.loritaylorart.com/publications.html

I remember as a child the day that Scholastic book order forms went home. It was always the highlight of my elementary school career and I quiver now when I see my granddaughter's book order form. When the Book Fair came to the school, my heart pounded at the sight of shelves of paperbacks waiting for me, and my heart pounds when I download books onto my iPad. Having a real, live author/poet visit the school in Clarkston was beyond excitement, and I still feel the same today when I visit with other author/illustrators. You see, I have always been a nut about books. A passionist you could say.

When I stop and think about it, I had the love of storytelling--both writing and illustrating--since I was in sixth grade. My teacher told me that is what I would do when I grew I up, which made my young heart ecstatic. And in middle school I won awards for art and a contest in writing. But then by the time high school rolled around, a REAL career was suggested to me by my father. A real career, like the medical field. Art was a hobby--not a real job.

Build a Holly Action Figure! Find it and
more on Holly's Hangout Page!
www.loritaylorart.com/hollywild.html
But I still hung on--no clutched on--to the dream of illustrating and books, even after high school graduation when I was gifted a Gwen Frostic book which inspired me to take a commercial art class at the vocational school where I had taken medical assisting. Funny thing that medical field thing--I every job I had in it someone always told me that I should be doing art. Huh?! Drawing pictures and not blood. Hmm! Finally after flailing around in the medical laboratory field of pouring urine, pipetting blood clots and serum, did I take the serious art plunge. I struggled, practiced and perfected, day-after-day, year-after-year, through raising children and taking care of grandchildren. 
Now after all that hard work, can I look back and see where I have been and where I want to go with my art and storytelling craft. It's exciting really--I have so much more to say and do. Working on a mid-grade realistic fictional series like Holly Wild, illustrating ebooks, and now branching out into Kindle, picture books and perhaps graphic novel chapter books I realize this is my job. I'm a passionist for books.

And so it is with great excitement that I begin 2014 off by ordering 1,000 more HOLLY WILD: Bamboozled on Beaver Island (Book 1) books. I can't wait to see what else will come about this year.


"Crazy Cat Chase That Rabbit" www.loritaylorart.com/illustration.html