Wednesday, January 31, 2007


I was tagged. Liz would like for me to reveal five little-known things about myself. Better question: What haven't I revealed in the blogosphere? Those who discovered this blog back in the day, before I cleaned it up, and those who've read my other blogs, know everything about me. I'm a fairly transparent blogger.

But after much thought, there are a few things I haven't mentioned here.

1. I've always been different. Intentionally. When I was a teen, I thought it would be cool to ride a unicycle because everyone else rode bicycles. I got my hands on one. And fell flat on my face, breaking my front tooth. I wore a gold tooth before grillz were fashionable. (see me, in middle school, with a gold tooth and a bleached gold spot in my afro)

2. I pierced my own ear with a sewing needle when I was 15-years-old. Not a biggie in today's climate. But I pierced mine back in the day before male earrings were mainstream. Back then, guys with pierced ears were considered to be either gay or thuggish, guys who'd probably spent time behind bars. It caused quite a stir at home and at school. I was raised in a strict Seventh-day adventist church where women weren't allowed to wear jewelry, much less men. So, I'd always plop in my biggest stone before Saturday service. A few years later, George Michael wore earrings in his Wham videos and then guys with earrings became the norm.

3. When I was a kid, I thought it would be cool to break a leg or an arm and to wear a cast. I was envious when someone came to school wearing a plaster cast and walking on crutches. I dreamed of the day I'd wear a cast signed by everyone. I never had the pleasure of breaking anything though.

4. As a child and well into adulthood, I dreamed that I could fly. I had this dream almost every night, literally. When I was attacked by someone, I'd raise my arms and slowly rise. If I rose was too slowly, I'd wave my arms hard, and the higher-up I'd go. I'd taunt my adversaries out of their reach. I was always disappointed when I woke up and realized that I couldn't fly.

5. Besides an artist, I wanted go grow up to be a magician. I remember at a Cub Scout event, a magician performed magic tricks. I was awestruck. I wanted to to do that, make things disappear, pull coins out of people's ears. Somehow, I got my hands on a magic book filled with the secrets of magicians. But the book was kind of spooky. Included a lot of witchcraft and images of demons. I left it alone. I had always been good with my hands, but I never mastered slight of hand. That, and I never liked being the center of attention. So performing magic was out.

Thinking back to being a teenager, I've recalled all kinds of stuff to reveal. So, here's a sixth. It's no secret, I'm not into sports. So, when I was in middle and high school, I hated gym. Despised it. Top it off, in gym, I was expected to undress in front of everyone, change into my gym clothes. Later came showers. I usually passed gym with a D-minus grade because I refused to change in front of everyone, and I only tolerated one public shower before I gave public showering for good. Wasn't until about 10 years ago, when I got into natural bodybuilding that I could proudly strut butt-naked through a locker room and not care.

I think everyone's been tagged. If you haven't, consider yourself tagged.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Cover committee

You ever hear the saying: Too many cooks in the kitchen spoil the stew? The saying came to mind as I took another stab at creating a book cover for ZOOM. Thing is, many cooks are necessary when designing a successful book cover. The cover art has to be inviting — that's where I come in. The title font must work well with the illustration — that's where the art director and designers come in. It must sell a zillion copies — that's where sales and marketing come in. And the publisher must like it or ain't nobody gettin' paid.

For over a year, I've been working with the folks above, trying to nail down a cover for a pop-up book. Normally, I'd not have much say in the actual design of a books cover, but in this case, because the title of the book is a part of the illustration, I've been included in the discussion.

In the beginning stages, I created several designs — they liked them all. But the book was put on hold for 8 months, and when I picked it up again, I'd changed my mind. I wanted a different look. So I designed some more. But the editor liked one of my original designs. So I built off that design and created another. Everyone liked it...well, everyone except the publisher. So, the art director stepped in and designed some covers of his own. They didn't fly. Next, it was handed off to a designer. The editor loved her designs. Marketing and sales approved of it. It was a go. But I hated it. Really, really hated it.

I'd decided to sort of excuse myself from the cover committee, hand over the art and let them do their thing. I mean, I've got two more books lined up that need attention and I need to get started.

But I can't walk away. Don't you know, an ugly book cover will follow you to the end of this earth, stalking you like an illegitmate child, showing up at every literary festival you're featured in, waving at you, beaming your first and last name from it's cover. I know, I got one... a book with an ugly cover, that is.

I can't let that happen, I'm gonna have to see this through. I won't have the final say, but at least I have some say, and I am thankful they've included me in the process. Sometime soon, I'll post a medley of the covers leading up to the final one.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Children's illustrator's do get respect

I'm completely finished with ZOOM, a novelty pop-up book I illustrated for Harper Collins. All I have to do now is burn the images to disc and express mail them. I imported the final vector art into Photoshop, color corrected them and used the "dodge" and "burn" tools like paint brushes to increase light and dark values at certain spots in the images. I am very happy with how this book turned out.

The guy working at Kinkos says to me, "These are very nice. Did you do them?

I say, "Yes. Thank you."

He says, "Class project or something?"

I say, "No, children's book."

He says, "So your going to try to get them published?"

I say, "They will be published."

He says, "Do you have other books published?

I say, "Yes, 6 trade picture books, three more in the works, and about another twenty other educational books."

He looks at me as though he's met a rap star. He says, "Good luck."

I say, "Thank you."

While out, I picked up two more books, both illustrated by Kadir Nelson: Michael's Golden Rules, and Henry's Freedom Box. Awesome, just awesome!

Edit to original post: I'm sick, ug. I just purchased tickets to Vegas. We're gonna visit my in-laws. I'm not sick because of the in-laws, I like my by-law peeps. I'm sick because of what it just cost me. Whoever says plane tickets to Vegas are cheap, obviously ain't been to Vegas.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Book binge

Shhh...don't tell the wife but, this afternoon, I went on a book-buying binge. Whenever I start feeling down — and I have been lately — picture books and Hot Wheel cars provide a quick picker-upper.

After checking my mailbox this afternoon, I started feeling better. Inside, there was a a little somethin'-somethin' waiting for me. It was from my licensing agent. The fleece and flannel fabric has done well! A celebration was in order, so first thing I did was call the wife to see if she'd be available for lunch. She was, so we sat and chatted over Chinese at Suzie's. Afterwards, I dropped her off back at work, and then I snuck over to Book People. I wanted to pick up a copy of Flotsam, the new Caldecott winner.

Originally, I'd set out to buy this book last summer, following all the buzz. But after I saw it...well, um, I didn't especially like it. Don't throw rocks at me, art is subjective. Not to diss Mr. W, I'm a big fan of his work, and I know he's way, WAY out of my league. But I like quirky, oddly distinctive styles of art in picture books. Left field stuff. That, or jaw-dropping gorgeous.

Regardless, today I decided to purchase it anyway, I mean, it is a Caldecott-winning book, and Mr. W is a three-time winner. Thing is, just as soon as I had the book comfortably tucked away under my arm, guess what I spied? Probuditi! by Chris Van Allsburg! Wow! Was this book on the Caldecott short list? Whether or not, I picked it up. If one book would make me feel better, then two would have me pimp-skipping out of the store.

As I readied myself to leave, satisfied with my finds, I discovered another: Bigger Than Daddy. Cool, cool, cool, cool, and quirky as all get-out. Just like I like. I had to put Flotsam back on the shelf. And on my way out, I snatched up a signed copy of Penny from Heaven. Not exactly my typical choice, but my intention is to read a Newbery honored book.

Well, they finally made me do it, update to the new Blogger. I didn't want to, but it started getting to the point that I couldn't get logged in. Sigh. The old one worked just fine. And where the heck's my old posts? And why do I need labels?

Thursday, January 25, 2007

The light at the end of the tunnel is a mirage

I may change my mind as time passes and wounds heal but, for now, I don't plan to illustrate another book digitally. I thought illustrating a book on the computer would save time but it doesn't.

The benefit of illustrating digitally (for me) is that change is so much easier. Revisions are as simple as a couple clicks of my Wacom pen. Theoretically.

Problem is, computer art is modular. It's no big deal to move one piece of an illustration from here to there. Change a color. Make something bigger. But one can quickly find themselves mired in endless change. Change a characters shirt from red to green and suddenly the background color needs to be adjusted. Change the background color, and everything needs to be changed for balance.

Finally, I'm finished with the artwork for the pop-up novelty book I've been illustrating. But I am so far from completely being finished.

Follow-up to last post: Currently, he is not looking at picture book manuscripts. Sigh.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Keeping track

So, my search for an agent continues. Lit agent that is, I have an art/licensing rep.

On this bedpost, I'll keep track of the agents I go through before I finally sign on with one. I could kick myself for letting this relationship go. Stupid, stupid, stupid. Patience is a virtue. But who knew at the time that someday I'd be writing books as well as illustrating them?

Someone recently suggested that I submit to a guy. I never even considered a guy agent. Didn't know any existed in this business. I think I'll give it a try. Though my bedpost metaphor, in that case, wouldn't be so cute.

Anyway, my search continues...

Monday, January 22, 2007

This time, I'm really finished

Last week when I said that I'd finished my sketches for FARMER, I was wrong. Fixing a few inconsistencies led to my resketching almost the entire book in just one weekend.

The story is set on a farm run by a German immigrant family, about 1930. Because I lacked good source materials early on, without realizing it, I resorted to creating a lot of close-ups or odd angles, taking the focus off of what I didn't know. What is a "chris-cross" garden, and what does one look like? What would a farmer in the 1930s wear to a funeral? A black suit of the time period? Or bib overalls? Would a German farmer dress any different than, say, a black farmer? Geez, I don't know. By the time I finished my sketches, and after several trips to the library, I'd found more answers to my questions. So I spent the weekend changing and adding details.

Finally, I spent this morning creating a layout of the book. I prefer creating layouts as opposed to dummy book mock-ups, unless the publisher asks for one specifically. When I worked as a book designer for an educational publishing company, we used flat spread layouts and that's how I've been doing it ever since.

I had quite an assembly line going — from the drawing board to the photo copier. From the photo copier to the paper cutter. From the paper cutter, back to the drawing board. And so on.

Now, problem is, after seeing the book all laid out, to size, with text, I've discovered a few more problems. For now, I just noted them, and will make revisions once I get feedback from the publisher.

I hope my editors won't mind, but I suggested a few places to cut text. Ouch! I know. But with 3000-plus words in 32 pages, one half-spread illustration per page, somethings gonna have to give or else were gonna have to go with 8-point condensed text.


Congratz to all the award winners! And thanks to Cynsations who provided early results when I couldn't get into any of the live webcasts.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Artist/writer critiquing writer writers

I think because I'm more illustrator than writer, insecurities haunt me after giving feedback to my critique partners, who are both published and soon to be published writers.

Critique partner: Thanks, Devas T., that critique was very helpful.

Devas T.: Good, so I was helpful?

Critique partner: Yes, very helpful.

Devas T.: Reeeeally? How helpful?

Critique partner: Um, very. You helped me to see a few things I overlooked.

Devas T.: I did? Me?

Critique partner: Yes. You.

Devas T.: Things like...what?

Critique partner: ???!!

Devas T.: So, on a scale of 1 to 10, how helpful...

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Hot Wheels war is on!

Ever since the day I kept the Poison Arrow Hot Wheel for myself, instead of giving it to my 5-year-old son, we've had sort of a competition going to see who can find the coolest car. And, apparently, the wife's joined forces with him. Since then, she's bought him his own Poison Arrow, sky blue. Mine's red. So, I'm jealous.

Not even a week later, she gets him two more Hot Wheels airplanes. What'd she get me? Beef jerky. I like beef jerky, but where's my Hot Wheels airplanes?

In retaliation, I bought myself a Hyper Mite. Two of 'em, matter of fact. So, the wife gets him a Hyper Mite, too, but his came with a Bat Mobile and a thumbnail-sized Batman. His Hyper Mite is ice-green with a cool metallic pattern print, gold rims. One-upmanship, huh? That ain't fair.

Well, you must know, this means all out war. Just wait till my next trip to Walmart or Target or Walgreens. Payback is a mofo.

I've temporarily put my other secret blog on hold until the spring. It's become high maintenance. But I do enjoy blogging about things other than work. So, for awhile, there'll occasionally be some un-illustration stuff up in here.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Lost an editor, deleted a post

I recently learned that an editor I've been working with is moving to another publishing house. We've been working together on ZOOM, a pop-up book, for well over a year.

On the bright side, J told me that she'll look forward to working with me again at her new house. But I'm feeling a sense of sadness, wondering if my book may be losing one of it's biggest advocates before it even hits store shelves? I'm sure this happens all the time with editors moving from house to house, so maybe there's nothing to worry about. I do look forward to meeting and working with the new editor and I wish I'd gotten to know the art department folks a bit better.


On another note: Yes I did delete my post about the King awards. According to Sitemeter, apparently, there was more interest in this post than what I cared to draw to myself. Though I didn't say anything inappropriate, like in my early days of blogging, I was less than jovial when I wrote it and, therefore, probably should have kept my thoughts to myself. Especially since I can't even discuss the topic without my heart beating real fast and my head getting hot.

Every now and then, I need to remind myself not to make statements that might alienate myself from others in the community. This blog is about giving readers a glimpse into what's going on in my professional — and sometimes not-so-professional life, and not about making controversial statements. Ok, well, occasionally. Or blogging wouldn't be any fun.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Picture book milestone!

I finished sketches for my next picture book! It took longer than anticipated, sketching over the holidays with my son out of school. But I'm done and ready for tweaking before sending to my publishers.

This book required 19 illustrations, plus the cover (pictured above), and possibly a couple of spots, but we'll make that determination later. For now, I need to work on some inconsistencies. I couldn't decide how I wanted the grandfather character to look so, for now, he appears different on every page. He sort of evolved as I went along. Now, I'll need to go back and make him consistent throughout.

With this book, my biggest challenge was deciding what exactly to illustrate, with more than 3000 words to choose from. The story is richly told, there's much to portray. Originally, I'd proposed producing this as a 40-page, or even 60-page book, but that was going to hike up the price, so we stayed at 32 pages. Normally when I approach a spread, I try to illustrate the main action, or scene. The essence of the words. But in this case, there's easily two, sometimes three, even four, illustratable (is that a word?) scenes per spread in which to choose from. So, I had to chose the most compelling scene to portray, and one that flowed well with the story as a whole.

When I first began sketching this book, I struggled. I hate to admit that. Last year, I invested a lot of time in trying to develop my writing skills. That meant writing every day, sacrificing valuable drawing and painting time. I had plenty of illustration work, but two books had been put on hold. In the meantime, I did smaller quick-hitting projects (though better paying), and I wrote. So when I started this book at the end of last year, I felt kind rusty and I didn't loosen up until almost half way through. Now I'll have to tweak some pages and completely re-sketch others before I send them to the publisher.

What to do next? My schedule is full between now and the end of the month. The final set of revisions, and final art for ZOOM, a pop-up book, is due to the publisher February 2. Final art for the cover of my tweener calendar, My Peepz 2008, is due at the end of the month. I need to prepare art for display at the San Antonio Children's museum. I'm the featured artist for February. Also, more textile designs have been requested by the end of the month to expand my line. Then, I need to do some character studies for RON, a book to publish in late 2008. But probably not until next month. Huh!

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

A Snowy Day!

My grandma wasn't superstitious or anything, but whenever something way out of the ordinary would happen, she'd always say: "There's gonna be a blizzard."

Well, today in Austin, it snowed. Wasn't quite a blizzard, but it was enough that it literally shut down the entire city and moved the governor's inauguration off the capitol steps and into Texas House of Representatives chamber. That's a big deal; it doesn't rain much in Texas, much less snow.

But the even bigger news is that my boss at my full-time gig called and told me not to come in. Too dangerous. Keep in mind, I work at a newspaper. Yes, grandma, there's gonna be a blizzard.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Book report: Martha Ann's Quilt for Queen Victoria

Recently, I had the pleasure of reading Martha Ann's Quilt for Queen Victoria, sent to me by the author, Kyra E. Hicks. This is the true story of Martha Ann Ricks, a former slave whose father — a free man and traveling preacher — saved enough money to purchase his family's freedom, and move to Liberia, Africa. Once in Africa, Martha Ann was able to attend school, and she learned to read.

As an adult, Martha Ann and her husband would visit the market and watch naval ships patrolling the Liberian coast, to prevent slave catchers from kidnapping black people. These ships had been sent by Queen Victoria of England. Martha Ann was so impressed by the queen, she decided to use her sewing and quilt making skills, taught to her by her mother, to make the queen a quilt. And she determined to someday present the queen with her gift and thank her in person.

After years of hard work, Martha Ann saved enough money to make the 3,500-mile trip, and with the help of the wife of Liberia's president, she does just that.

By special invitation from Her Majesty, Martha Ann visited Windsor Castle and presented her Coffee Tree quilt to Queen Victoria in July of 1892.

There's many things to like about this book. First, it used simple straightforward and easy to understand language. No flowery-written metaphors to decode. Second, the story is rich with history. Children will be eager to learn more about Queen Victoria; Liberia, Africa; and possibly quilting. After reading the book to my son, he had all sorts of questions about the queen. Shoot — I don't know myself, I'll have to look it up.

The story was emotional. I was touched by Martha Ann's spirit of perseverance. I cheered for her when she determined to stay in Liberia and go to school after most of her family had died from African Fever. Later, she set a goal to meet the queen, and she didn't rest until she finally did, even though everyone, including her husband, laughed at her.

Martha Ann's story was a new for me. I love it when authors choose to introduce and tell the stories of not so well known historical figures.

Kyra Hicks is also the author of Black Threads: An African American Quilting Sourcebook. And I was excited to learn that she'd purchased some of my fabric and gave it to a relative at Christmas.

This is the first time an author's sent me a book for review on my blog. Kinda cool. Notice I didn't call it a book review. There's probably some formal procedure I know nothing about. So, consider this a book report with my thoughts.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Illustrating a death scene

I'm in the process of illustrating a very difficult scene in a children's book, and I'm not sure how to approach it. In the scene, a young woman is viewing a dead body in a casket. Has to, that's what the text describes. It's important to show the emotion on everyones face. The story is making a point.

Obviously I can't show the body, even though, to a certain degree, what's going on in the casket is key to the text.

Hmm. I'm gonna need to think on this.

New Year's resolution haiku

Hate my new diet.

No bread, sugar or starches.

Jones'n a burger.


Ok, that was bad, but I'm real busy.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Introducing Elsie

Meet Elsie, my naked, wooden studio mannequin, so lonely as of late, she gave in and hugged an unsuspecting bottle of slow-drying Gamblin. I went ahead and sketched her in the act, since the page I'm currently working on calls for a young woman and her grandma in a sorrowful embrace.

Then, I'm locking Elsie away in my file cabinet. Ever since I've been getting back into shape, she ain't been looking at me right.

Monday, January 08, 2007

More on my grandpa's story

Yesterday, I had a wonderful talk with my grandfather. He told me about his past, from the time he ran away from home at age 14, until when he met and married my grandmother at age 18. He also told me about his journey to find his father. It's really a wonderful story, an adventure.

I took notes, and already I have more questions, so I'm going to call him again next weekend. Problem is, I think he's misunderstood my intentions. He left a message on my answering machine saying, "call me before you write my story" because "I left a few things out and I want you to get it right." Ok grandpa.

Grandpa is a voracious reader...of the Bible. Anything else, he'd probably consider too worldly, and therefore a waste of time. Or sinful. I'm not sure if he's understanding the concept of my writing fiction based upon his real life events. I think he'd prefer I write a biography.

Thing is, I'd love to write this story, and maybe I will someday, but right now it feels too overwhelming, particularly given my already busy schedule. The amount of research would be a project in and of itself. The Great Depression. Center Street, a one-time bustling business and entertainment district in the African American community. Railroad workers. Race relations in the midwest during the depression. I'm just not ready to take on something so big.

So in the meantime, I'm just going to enjoy listening to the stories about my grandfather's past. And hearing his version of how grandma pursued him even though he thought she was too mean and had his eye on other girls. Lol! Grandma would be so maaad if she knew what he said. I can hear her fussing at him now.


In other news: Welcome to the blogosphere, fellow Austinite and children's writer, Liz Garton Scanlon.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

In the studio

If it's true, as I read on a blog somewhere recently, that there is a correlation between a messy work area and creativity, then judging from these photos, I'm super creative.

Here I am in my studio, consumed with sketching FARMER, code name for I Am My Grandpa's Enkelin. No need to hide the real title any longer.

Some not so obvious things pictured:

--On the floor, several large Norman Rockwell books, although I think Kadir is the new Norman Rockwell, in terms of style.

--Martha Ann's Quilt for Queen Victoria, sent to me by the author. I'll blog about that later this week.

--Several other illustrator's books whose artwork inspires me: Terry Widener, Shane Evans, Mark Buehner.

--28 other books, checked out from the library, on the topics of: the Amish community, vegetable gardening, farming, old-time farming equipment.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Too many ands

I just finished a draft for a piece that I'm submitting to an editor at at my full-time gig. It turned out good, I think, but I've noticed something about my writing: I use the word "and" too much.

In my studio, I paint and draw and create illustrations on my computer. And I love doing that.

Too doggone many "ands" in one 18-word sentence. Sounds kind of nice rolling off my tongue, poetic, maybe. But in a 1000-word document, it kinda gets on my nerves. Kind of like when people always use the words "um" or "like."

In my studio, I, like, draw pretty pictures. Um. Then I, like, paint them, too. Um. Like, illustration is so cool. Like, don't you agree?

I'm gonna have to work on that.


Reading next: Raising Fences: A black man's love story. Heck, Valentine's month is approaching anyway, and a brotha doesn't mind reading mushy stuff sometimes.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Bud's story is similar to my grandfather's

After reading Bud, Not Buddy, I just wanted to stand up and applaud. Other than being an excellent story, it affected me so was because Bud's story is so similar to my grandfather's. Eerily similar. As I read the book, I kept telling myself that when I finished, I'd have to call my grandfather and have him recount some of the stories he used to tell us. Then I reached the end of the book and Christopher Paul Curtis, in his afterward, urged me to do just that. I don't remember my grandfather's story exactly, but it went something like this:

Just like Bud, my grandfather ran away from home as a young child. That was during the depression and he left behind several brothers and sisters and an alcoholic mother. With very few clues about his father, he stowed away on a train from Kansas City and ended up in Des Moines, Iowa. Coincidentally, one of the first black people that he met there knew his father's family and led him to them. They immediately took him in, but didn't know the whereabouts of his father.

My grandfather settled in Des Moines and lived his entire life there, never giving up on finding his father and eventually moved his mother and siblings to Des Moines. As an adult, he finally found his father. He was living in Kansas City. Turned out, just like Bud's new found family, he was financially well off. But he and his family rejected my grandfather thinking he was after their money, not knowing that my grandfather, though not rich, had made a good life for himself. After his father died and the family had squandered off much of the money, they finally opened up to having a relationship with him. I always thought it was weird when suddenly grandpa started referring to some lady as his mother, when I knew his mother and she had died a few years earlier.

My grandfather's father wasn't a band leader, but my uncle, my grandfather's son was — and still is. In fact, he was recently inducted into the Iowa Blues Hall of Fame.

That's kinda sketchy, but I'm blessed that my grandfather is still alive so I can get the story straight.


I just finished reading Bud, Not Buddy.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Stats this week

According to Urchin, here's a list of the top ten keywords that lead people to my website ( within the last week:

1. don tate 11.9%

2. hot men (I think probably from)11.9%

3. my peepz 4.8%

4. sacrificial love illustration 2.4%

5. illustration degree waste of time (I've never said that) 2.4%

6. how much do childrens books illustrators get paid (Not enough) 2.4%

7. acrylic paint light over dark 2.4%

8. bad santa claus 2.4%

9. computer illustration pad (Wacom, I love mine!) 2.4%

10. 2.4%

Other interesting words further down on the list:

24. saddam hell

44. brotha love

52. hot males

53. racist cartoon

61. hot men hot (Geez, are you noticing a trend here)

102. black childrens book writer don

Surprisingly, a large number of people found me from searching my semi-anonymous blog name, and my top, top secret anonymous blog name. Yikes!

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

After the holidays

Since I pretty much workout every day, my new year resolution will mean paring my workout schedule with a better diet in hopes of ridding my midsection of the spare tire I've been carrying around throughout the holiday season. That said, I hate to admit that, I did make a late night run to Randall's to pick up a vanilla creme cake. I never keep New Year resolutions.

School's been out the last couple of weeks and with my son at home, I haven't been able to get a dang thing accomplished. Soon's I start sketching, I end up feeling bad about leaving him to play alone or to watch television, so I end up putting my pencils away and playing Hotwheels or Boggle Jr. or miniature pool.

Can you believe, we've actually been fighting over Hotwheels? I've collected Hotwheels since before he was born. Now he loves them, too. A couple weeks ago, we found a rare Hotwheel plane, literally spotted it at the same time. But since I'm taller than him, I got it first. In the end, he opted for a flying helicopter and launch pad instead. But my Poison Arrow plane has been a sore topic with both of us each time he rediscovers it. In fact, funny thing, as I typed this blog, he woke up, walked in saw the airplane on my desk and had a disgusted look on his face which he aimed right at me. Go away, kid! You ain't getting my Hotwheel!

I'm enjoying our time together. We rarely get quality time like this, but with my FARMER deadline looming, I'm getting worried. So, as of today, it's back to sketching. I think. He's home one more week.

I've been reading, Bud, Not Buddy and it's absolutely one of the best books I've ever read — right up there with Black Boy, Native Son and Manchild in a Promised Land, three of my all-time favorites. Christopher Paul Curtis hit a chord with me; I tend to be partial to books with African American male protagonists in fight or flight situations.

Reading Christopher Paul Curtis's work has humbled me. I thought I could write a YA novel, but now I'm questioning that. Curtis has masterfully captured the voice of a 10-year-old black kid and I find myself smiling when Bud-Not-Buddy speaks and says things like "human bean" or "get a holt" or has conversations inside his head about dealing with grown people. And I love it that Bud is not hardened by his life experiences, but still an innocent child, scared of vampires and monsters that might lurk behind unlocked closet doors.

Putting away the holiday
Last night we put away the Christmas tree and our bad excuse for holiday lights. We packed away the wreath and deflated our blow-up snowman. Now life's gonna get back to normal. Normal is subjective, of course.