Friday, December 30, 2005

TGIF


Guess how much work I was able to get done this week with the kid out of school and at home with me?

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Resource guide cover



I created this illustration using Adobe Illustrator, Photoshop and Painter. It ran on the cover of XL, a weekly entertainment magazine in Austin.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Attack of the toddler

Sketches for JUSTIN — 10 in all — are due in less than a week. With all that's transpired over the holidays, I haven't done anything with this book until today. It's time to sketch.

The challenge is that my 4-year-old son is out of school until next week, so he is home with me. We try not to use the television as a babysitter our son although, sometimes, with our crazy schedules, Dora the Explorer makes for a great nanny. I started trying to put my ideas on paper, but as soon as I start making progress, my son goes on the attack. He loads his weapon, cocks the trigger, and starts pelting me with questions, request, demands and statements so fast, I can't seek refuge quick enough. Bomb number one: Dad, can you make my breakfast? Bomb number two: Dad, can you get me something to drink? Bomb number three: Dad, can we go outside to play with my scooter? Bomb number four: Dad, I need a band-aid on my owie (he fell off the scooter). Bomb number five: Dad, I'm firsty (like pronouncing thirsty as firsty will add a cuteness factor that I won't be able to resist). This is just a simple sampling of the ammunition he has been using for the past three hours, and I've promised myself, I ain't gonna get mad...I ain't gonna get mad...I ain't gonna get mad. But mine is a simple mind, not able to process all that he's lobbing at me so quickly. He's breaking me down. I’m about to crack. I’ve got to fight back, or surrender, ‘cause I gotta get these sketches done.

Dora the Explorer to the rescue! And when Dora's video runs out, there's always Sesame Street, Little Bill and Jay-Jay the Jet Plane. I've lost the last few battles, but I'm gonna win the war!

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Taking the show (New Voices Award)

Eight years ago — wow, I can't believe it's been that long — I stood onstage alongside eight other contenders in the Upper Midwest Natural Bodybuilding Championship (NANBF) pose off. I stood there trying to fight back nervous quivers, wearing nothing but my oil-stained posing shorts. My muscles ached after having spent almost an hour onstage running through the line-up of required poses, a posing routine to music, and the final pose-off between competitors. During this exhibit of stone-like muscle, fragile egos, and congealed testosterone, one must wear their brightest smile, although parched and practically dehydrated (absolutely no water on the day of competition, sweating onstage will count against you). As my mind drank in the electric-charged cheers from an audience of well over a thousand — and, yes, a few cat-calls, too — I came to realize that my presence there represented the hard work of, not only myself, but, many people. Brian, Jennifer, Malea, Greg, Scott, Tracy, Rock, and so on, were my comrades in this battleground where muscle, grace, symmetry and physique win out. These people understood the sometime misunderstood quirks and rituals of the bodybuilding subculture. We worked-out together, practiced our mandatory poses together, critiqued each other's 3-minute-to-music routines together.

For six months, I did what bodybuilders do (sans the drugs): I worked out daily; ate the prescribed meals; drank three gallons of water a day; laid out in a tanning booth for three weeks till my skin was so dry and taut I could have sworn it had shrank three sizes smaller. I even did "the walk," as they call it, that strut-walk that bodybuilders do with lat muscles spread wide as though mimicking a cobra snake, butt muscles so tight they eventually grew numb, and a swagger so heavy everyone in the newsroom where I worked at the time must have felt the tremor from each one of my steps. I did it all. And on the night of the competition, I still lost.

Now, I can't exactly parallel this experience to my writing competition experience because, in the case of Lee & Low's New Voices competition, I actually won (yea!). I just didn't win to the extent I had hoped (read: published manuscript). And the reason why, I think, has to do with attitude. Again, I did all the right things: Everyday, I read several picture book biographies, I wrote, revised, cut, and even enlisted the help of a few published writer friends (comrades on the writing battlefield). But my goal for the New Voices competition was the same as it was for that bodybuilding competition: I wanted to simply qualify as a competitor. I wanted to be good. I didn’t push to a level of greatness.

So, what am I going to do now? The same thing I did after losing that first bodybuilding competition. Then, the very next day, I entered the gym as usual, however, I lifted harder, posed more often, increased my caloric intake to the size I wanted to attain, then, for the next year I lived and breathed bodybuilding like a vampire breathes for blood. I resolved to return to the Upper Midwest Natural Bodybuilding Championship the following year with a new goal: This time, I'd take the show.

I did return, and although I didn't take the show, I did walk away with an almost waist-high trophy, first place in my novice age/height category, and I took second place in the "men's open" category for my weight/height.

So I'm changing my writing goals: Next year, I'm taking the show.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

My voice has been recognized

I am pleased to announce the news that my picture book manuscript, It Jes’ Happened: When Bill Traylor taught himself to draw, was selected as a Lee & Low Books New Voices Award Honor winner! The official news is forthcoming, and will officially be announced in January on Lee & Low's website.

Lee & Low Books is an award-winning children's book publisher specializing in multi-cultural themes. It's truly an honor to have my work recognized by the editorial staff of this publishing company.

The story

I had been up late the prior night celebrating my 42nd birthday, so the cell phone call first thing in the morning barely woke me up. Quickly, I jumped out of bed thinking it might be my mom calling from the highway. I knew that she, my brother and his wife would be passing through Texas on their way to Galveston headed for a 10-day Christmas caribbean cruise. I wanted to wish them one last bon-voyage since I wouldn’t be able to reach them over the holidays. The familiar chime on my phone told me that I had missed whoever had called. I checked for a message.

"Hello Don, this is Louise May—" Nothing else needed to be said. I recognized the person on the other end of the phone. Louise was my editor on two books I had illustrated for Lee & Low. I knew exactly why she was calling. The writing contest! I had hoped to get this call.

"I have some good news about the Lee & Low Books New Voices Award, I left a message on your home phone yesterday, so I thought I'd try your cell today," she said. I hadn’t received the message because I never check my home phone mail. I listened to her message in it’s entirety, then waved my hands up to the heavens like some folks do in church, only I do at home in the privacy of my studio. I dashed, practically tripped down the stairs to share the news with my wife.

Now, the first thing I had to do, after sharing with my wife — even before returning Louise's phone call— was to shoot off an email to Cynthia. She's such a champion of all things concerning writing/publishing, so I knew she'd appreciate my excitement, if anyone would.

After a short round of phone tag, and leaving a completely indecipherable voice mail (I was nervous), I finally connected with Louise who gave me the details. As an honor winner, I’ll receive $500. I must admit, I had to fight back my disappointment at not getting the top award (a publishing contract) but this is fantastic considering just a year ago, I wasn’t writing anything. Besides that, Louise expressed her interest in acquiring this manuscript after some further development and revisions. Should they acquire the manuscript after polishing, they’d like for me to illustrate it. Cool.

What a great way to end the year. I can't express the gratitude I’m feeling toward those who offered inspiration, insight, feedback, critique, copyediting, and all around kindness in helping me to achieve this goal: Austin SCBWI, and specifically, Cynthia Leitich Smith, Dianna Aston and Chris Barton. Thanks again.

Monday, December 19, 2005

The littlest angel



I took this picture of my son this past weekend. He played an angel in a nativity scene during his Sunday school class. Yes, he knows how, and when to pose for the camera. The photo reminded me of the book, The Littlest Angel by Charles Tazewell. In it, a little angel cannot stay out of trouble in the celestial city:

"His halo was permanently tarnished where he held on to it with one hot, little, chubby hand when he ran, and he was always running."

With the exception of the chubby hand, that verse would describe my son to a tee, he's always running, too. My favorite version of the book is illustrated by my friend back home in Des Moines, Iowa, award-winning artist/musician Paul Micich. I had the honor of seeing a few of the paintings in progress when created them some 15 years ago.

After converting the photo to black and white, I re-colored it using Photoshops variations tool, and added a diffuse glow.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Dog-gone t-shirt designs!



This is one of several dog lover t-shirt designs I created last week. Yes, it’s message is a tad bit over the edge, but that’s what my client asked for — edgy, but huggable. The challenge, of course, was how to use the word as nice and palatable as possible. Pit Bull is the breed of dog that comes to my mind when I consider the message above. But, I was warned to stay away portraying a pit bull as…um, bitchy. Pitt lovers like their animals portrayed as kind, loving and friendly. Nothing like getting your face ripped off, lips first, by a friendly pit bull, huh? Anyway, I went with a generic-looking dog, and kept the design light and whimsical. Excuse my poor attempt at watermarking the image, but this is the internet. Know what I mean?

Friday, December 16, 2005

Frustrating Friday

When I graduated from high school, the city of Des Moines contacted me to create a series of maps locating evey fallout shelter in the city. It would need to include major highways, roads and familiar landmarks. I had just graduated from a vocational technical high school where I specialized in graphic art, and later that fall, I would attend a graphic arts program at a local community college. A project like this made perfect sense, however, it also made my stomach turn. I didn’t do the project.

I’m very much an artsy-fartsy kind of guy, my brain works best in the visual/spacial/subjective realm. Don’t be objective with me, I’ll just be confused. Complicated maps, charts, and diagrams are not my thing. Fast forward twenty-something years later: I work full-time creating art like the map described above.

Here’s a snapshot of an hour from my Friday:

I had an hour to create an infographic that would illustrate the differences in voting demographics between two states. These graphics would need to include numbers dealing with population, racial breakdowns and election turnouts. Keep in mind that three hours before, at my home studio, I was in my seventh-heaven creating t-shirt designs which incorporated cute cuddly horses, cats, rabbits and doggies.

I didn’t have time to pout because I only had an hour before the reporter would be leaving for the day and I, too, had to leave. My son’s after school care was soon to close for the day and my wife, who usually picks him up, is at her office Christmas party. My boss handed me a sheet of paper with a long list of numbers. It was my job to sort through these, find the trends, and present them as a graphic using a combination of bar, feverline, or pie charts. With my dyslexic tendencies, my mind began to spin. But, there wasn’t time for panic. I just had to do the task, all the while, bombarded with questions from editors, reporters, and copyeditors. None of their questions had anything to do with this particular infographic. I deciphered the information the best I could, and created my graphic. Then I shot out the door to pick up my son, tossing the graphic on my bosses desk on my way out. The stress had been so high, I had chewed the inside of my cheeks to a shredded pulp, and my jaws ached from clenching them so hard.

When I returned, my boss informed me about the many mistakes. I turned my eyes from his because I knew he was frustrated, as well was I. The mistakes really came to no surprise to me because, like I said before, this type of work simply isn’t my thing. Cartography and the making of charts have never been included in my life’s mission statement. I’m an artist, specifically, an illustrator.

It’s Friday night. I’m headed home. I’m stressed. I think I’ll need an ice cold…Kool-aid. ; )

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Make-a-plan Thursday

Ok, truthfully, I don’t have a plan. But I need to consider one. In order to squeeze in these next few projects, I'll have to volunteer to work the evening shift at my full-time gig. I don't mind the evening shift because it allows me to work on my freelance projects during the day, then head into work at 3 p.m. More of my sweet creative juices flow in the morning. The salty ones flow in the evening. I’m not wasting the sweet ones making locator maps and business charts. The problem with working the late shift is that I don't get to see my family until the weekend. And with this schedule, I’ll need to work weekends, too.

My son needs his dad. I know this because of the difference seen in his behavior on those months that I work an earlier shift. Dad don't play. Not saying that mom does, but I do believe that a healthy fear factor plays a huge role in raising a well disciplined kid. The wife ain't very scary. The wife needs me at home, too, or the little bugger runs amuck, which makes for a tired and cranky wife when I get home at 11:30 p.m.
So, I need a plan. I have a busy few months ahead, and I need to be a husband and dad, too.

Today, I officially began working the night shift. My son just called to say, "Dad, I want you to come home because I love you." Cute little bugger. Now, I'm off to make a plan.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Progression Wednesday!

The contract for Ron came in the mail late yesterday. My timeline of a signed contract was right on. Ron will be published by Dutton Children's Books, a division of Penguin Group (USA), spring of 2007. The contract is 11 pages thick! Technically, as of this past September, I have no literary agent. I’m on my own this time. I'm no specialist when dealing with legalities, however, I've seen enough of these, and had enough conversations with former agents that I sort of know what to look for. The thing is, my agents NEVER accepted a contract on the first round, so although at first glance, it looks fine to me, I'm feeling like I need to be picky about something...on general principal. I don't know. The cool thing is that I’ll receive a very nice bonus once the book is actually published. I've never had that in a contract before. I mean, after I've been paid my final advance, I'll get an additional bonus once the books show up on store shelves. Cool.

Also received the manuscript and proposed layout for Justin (sketches due in three weeks). This will be a 10-page story as part of a basal reading program. Harcourt has given me the choice between a work-for-hire contract, or a school rights only contract. Do I know what difference? No, not really. But I’ve always been advised to run from work-for-hire agreements, and my gut feeling tells me that a school rights only contract would offer more flexibility should a trade, mass market, or magazine publisher want to pick this story up.

I’m also finishing up my animal lovers t-shirt designs which will be licensed to Austin Cotton. Iroic, huh, if you’ve ever read my thoughts about animals. Anyway, I'll post pics later this week.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Determination Tuesday

Ok, I just accepted a book project with Harcourt. They'd like for me to do something along the line of Summer Sun Risin'. Don't ask me how I plan to squeeze in 10 paintings between now and February, but they are emailing the manuscript today. I'm supposed to start sketches for R around the first of February, and Z is just kind of floating up there ready to drop anytime between now and...well, I don't know. I just bought a brand new car on a used car budget. So, it'll all have to work itself out. Geez, I hated turning away the SF project.

Oh, and did I mention the toss designs with DT and WM are a "definite go!"

Monday, December 12, 2005

Nail biting Monday

Decisions. Decisions. I am an illustrator of children’s books. That means I accept children’s book manuscripts to illustrate. So, how come it seems like I’m turning away more manuscripts than I’m taking on? I’m terribly excited about the upcoming book Z. But I was supposed to be knee-deep in book Z by now. I'm not. That's why I have so much time on my hands to blog. I had hoped to have sketches for book Z finished before starting sketches on book R in February. But I haven’t received contracts for either, yet. Today, I receive two more book offers. One offer came from SF and the other from H, both in the educational realm. I don’t frown at taking on educational books because, so far, the only advantage I’ve personally experienced between trade vs educational is the glamor factor. It’s kinda glamorous to say you have a bookstore trade book that just released. A book that is recognized by review journals, and awards committees are preferred by some. But, I’m finding that educational books pays just as well — better in some cases (in this case). Educational books don’t pay royalties, but raise your hand if you are a children’s book illustrator and you’ve actually received a royalty. What to do — what to do. I don’t want to back away from either of the projects I’ve already agreed to do, but I don’t want to wait around and possibly lose all of ‘em either. That happens sometimes.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

It's beginning to rain holiday cards



It’s that time of the year again. Holiday cards are rolling in — not only from family, and friends — but from clients, and publishers. So far, I’ve received a card from Scholastic, which features a cool "Can you see what I see" game on the cover, with the search items on the inside. I’ve also received cards from Houghton Mifflin, Zondervan and Half Price Books (I illustrated the cover of their 2006 calendar). Curiously, the card received from Half Price Books is one I can plant. The instructions indicate that if I plant this card in loose dirt, and water it twice a day, it will germinate in 1-4 weeks. Thank you, but— um, I’ll probably plant it in the trash after the holidays, although, on second thought, it might make for a great science project for K. Looking forward to receiving many more holiday cards from publishers, and clients in the coming weeks. Man, I need to get busy and send holiday cards in the future.

Edit to original post: I just discovered where Light Wave is now just $895.00, instead of $2,000+ as it was just a couple years ago when I first looked into purchasing it. I may be looking at testing for some of those movie properties in the future.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Hollywood knocked once again

I don't know, Hollywood must be somewhere in my life's mission statement. For the third time in the past few years, Tinseltown has come knocking at my door again.

My first missed Hollywood opportunity came from Sony and Columbia Pictures. They were looking for a creative way to promote the movie Big Fish, a Tim Burton flick that hadn't been released yet. The movie featured a series of tall tales, so they decided to hire children's book artists to illustrate scenes that were featured in the movie. Since I was the first of several artist selected, I was given my choice of which story to illustrate. I chose "Catching the Beast". After a couple days, when neither the contract or the movie script arrived as promised, I called the art director. He informed me of their decision to hire bigger-name illustrators who had won major awards. My name is Don Tate, and I hadn't won any awards. They ended up going with Caldecott medalists, and honor winners David Small, Molly Bang, David Shannon, and Sophie Blackhall (Click here, then click "enter site" then click "tall tales" skip intro). No disrespect to any of these artist, they did a beautiful job, but I could've done just as well. I do feel good in knowing that originally, I was selected based upon one thing only: the art director liked the art on my website — awards or not.

The second flirtation I had with fame came was...well, picture this: I'm at work, my cell phone rings, and I answer. The caller introduces herself as Karyn Parson, the actress who starred alongside Will Smith in the TV show "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air". Needless to say, I bit a hole through my lip. She was in need of an illustrator to create the art for a children's book to be produced on CD. She had written the story, and it would be told by actress Alfre Woodard. She over-nighted her manuscript, along with a detailed story board. Unfortunately, I was over-booked with licensing commitments to squeeze in the 80 illustrations needed. Unlike the snooty character she playeded on "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air", Karyn is an extremely warm person. She gave me the ultimate compliment in replacing the screen saver on her computer with an illustration from my website. I was honored. Click here to see a portion of the story which ended up being illustrated by Mark Page.

I was recently contacted by my licensing agent. She wanted me to test my skills for an up and coming property. Apparently, Warner Brothers and Scholastic are rushing to put together a picture book version of a major animated motion picture to be release next year. I'd love to break the news here, but I don't want to get myself into trouble.

A property artist is one who can mimic the art and style of a particular creative property using a master style guide provided by the licensor. For instance, Walt Disney has been dead for years, but plenty of licensor-approved artist are still bring Mickey Mouse to life even today.

The problem is, first I'd have to test for the project. Scholastic and Warner Brothers would need to approve, then all 25 illustrations would need to be finished by mid-February. Judging by the style I was given, the illustrations would need to be built in a 3D program, then imported into a program like Painter to get the soft oil-like affect. This is not enough time for me, and I wouldn't feel comfortable taking on a project like this until I made an investment in a higher-end 3D program like Lightwave or Maya (both $2,000+ programs). I use an outdated version of Raydream ($99.00), which is fine for simple 3D rendering, but I ain't trying to illustrate Shrek with it. My agent urged me to do whatever I could to take this on because, under the circumstances, in her words: "this is going to pay some real money!"

I need some real money.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

An illustration from Fuzz



I'm not sure why I've referred to this book as Fuzz. Maybe Fuzz is the catepillar character who also stars in the book. With all the projects I have going on between work, and home, and in between, they all start to mush together. This is — I know for sure — Tad, the other character in a 6-page, early reader that I just finished for Scott Foresman. I started this as a pencil sketch. I scanned my sketch and used it as a template to create the outlines and basic colors in Adobe Illustrator. I finished up in Photoshop using the dodge and burn tools for shadows and highlights.

Monday, December 05, 2005

My YA writing exercise

I cheated myself when I said that I didn’t actually do the writing exercise at Saturday’s workshop. Actually, I did, I just didn’t get much accomplished in the time allotted. Here’s what I wrote (this version rewrote and quickly revised):

I know boys aren’t supposed to cry, at least that’s what Harley, my mom’s so-called husband, told me the last time he slapped me in the mouth, causing my lip to bleed. But this time I couldn’t help it, when he hit me with that bottle he was drinking from, I hit him back. I didn’t mean to, it was more reflex than anything else. But when my fist hit his jaw, he lost his balance, tumbling back, falling clean over the lazy-boy chair. He was so drunk he couldn’t even get up, and seemed more concerned with retrieving his bottle than anything else. I dashed up the stairs to my room while cursing him uncontrollably. I snatched the phone off of the wall, and slammed the door so hard behind myself that my autographed picture of Tim Duncan fell off the wall crashing to the floor. Seeing it lay there cracked and scratched didn’t help matters any. I had got that picture at a Spurs game the last time I visited my dad in Texas.

"Jay!" I could hear Harvey yelling, but I couldn’t make out what he was saying. I could hear him fumbling around downstairs, it sounded like he may have fallen again. I locked the door behind me.

I grabbed the phone, and slowly dialed the number, I had to get in touch with my dad, my real dad. A tear welled up in my eyes, rolled down my left cheek and into my mouth. It’s salty taste made me cringe as though I had just swallowed a teaspoon of gasoline.

"Hello," my dad answered. I tried to collect my composure, so he wouldn’t know I had been crying, but hearing his voice seemed to make my chest heave even worse. Quickly, I reached over to hang up.

"Hello," he said again. Jay, is that you?— Jay?" Damn, caller ID, he knows it’s me.

"Hi…dad…um, I need—"

"What’s wrong, Jay, are you ok? Is everything alright?" He asked.

"I need to ask you something very important," I said, practically choking the words out of my mouth. My mind kept going back to the last time that I had asked him this question. Then, he said no, and his faulty excuse cut like a knife.

"Dad," I asked. "Can I come live with you in Texas?"

Click…buzzz. The line went dead. Harley had pulled the phone cord from the socket.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

The Smith's workshop on writing YA

Yesterday I attended a writing workshop given by authors Greg and Cynthia Leitich Smith. For more thoughts on the workshop itself, see Varians post.

One of the most valuable things I walked away with (but can't seem to find now that I need it — dang!) is a character development worksheet. On it, one fills out a list of important details about the character being developed such as name; age; hometown; address; eye color; pets and so on. Looking over my list brought many ideas on the direction my novel could take — things I hadn't considered before.

While I learned much about writing for young adults, I was also tuned into the mechanics of their presentation. I've been getting more invitations to speak to groups of adults, so I wanted to see exactly how the pros do it. Three things especially stood out: The agenda, the examples, the interactivity, and the take-home goodies.

Before delving into the meat of their talk, they briefly set an agenda, giving us a clear picture of why we were there, and what we would do over the next hour or so. As they spoke, they offered many examples of books to support their words. This proved they had done their homework. Both Greg and Cynthia kept us on our feet by keeping the audience involved. In one case, we were asked to fill out our character development list, and given a small writing exercise. But they didn't take volunteers until after they started picking folks at random. I learned that next time I’ll do the writing exercise and not sit there and think about it, and given the groans of those who were called on, they learned the same thing as I. Lastly, they handed out a YA novelists bibliography and reading recommendations.

I have been doing one thing right. I've been reading. I'm not a fast reader, and with my busy schedule, I only get in a few pages per day, but I'm continually reading something. Once I finish Red Polka Dot later this week, I'm moving onto Tofu and T. Rex. Then I'm going to take Cynthia’s advice and read a book before I judge it (I sort of eluded that it may be inappropriate for teens in an earlier post). I'm going to read Rainbow Party, not only because it's so controversial, but because...well, dang-on, it sounds tantalizing to a brotha.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Valentine is going out of print

The Legend of the Valentine, the second in my picture book career is going out of print as of December 15. The author, Katherine Grace Bond, graciously informed me through an email when I wasn't notified by the publisher.

The Legends series seeks to explain the meaning behind common holiday symbols such as the candy cane; easter egg; Christmas tree, and Valentine. The series is sold primarily through Christian book stores, although, at least initially, it was stocked through major chains such as Barnes & Noble, Borders, Book People, and others. The Legend of the Candy Cane was the first in the series, and it sold something like 200,000 copies at the time I was approached to illustrate Valentine. The Legend of the Easter Egg was another strong seller. Following such great sales successes, it was believed that Valentine would do just as well. I was dubious. I was thankful, appreciative, excited and honored to be asked, however, I was skeptical. I kept my doubts to myself. I was worried because the other books in the series feature caucasian children. Valentine features an African American kid. Therefore — in my opinion — in order for Valentine to compete with her sisters, she would need to be heavily supported by black book buyers as well as white book buyers, and everybody else. Again, because of the Christian subject matter, the majority of these books were sold through stores, not school libraries. The last few times I visited my local bookstore — Christian or otherwise — there weren't very many people who look like me shopping. Need I say more. I won't.

Zondervan offered the author and I an option to purchase the remaining books in stock for about a buck-and-a-half apiece. Although, I'm saddened that they won't be on book shelves, I'm happy that I can purchase the books at such a great price, and maybe resell them at school visits or fairs. There are 879 hardcover copies remaining, and 20,000 board books. Whatever is left over after the author and I purchase our copies, will be sold to the highest bidder.

I suppose I should feel worse than I do, but for some reason don't. again, I somewhat suspected this might happen from the start.

The Legend of the Valentine teaches a very important message. It encourages peace and reconciliation over retaliation and violence, and it does so without getting too preachy. What saddens me most is that this message will not reach children any longer, at least not through this particular book, and I don't know that there are many other books out there that teach messages like this.

Now, looking at the bright side, most books go out of print eventually, many times only after two years in print. Valentine's been around for almost 5 years. It made the CBA best seller list the first month it published, and so far, it's paid more than any book of my picture book career, $15,000+. I can't complain too much.

But I do want to encourage African American parents to support books that speak to our children because — as evidenced here — they will go away if you don't.

Here's a link I found at The Purple Crayon on keeping your books in print.