Children's & Fantasy/Sci-Fi Books

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At the Orange County Children’s Book Festival

We had fun today meeting people and signing books at the Orange County Children’s Book Festival. The Orange County Children’s Book Festival is in it’s 10th year. In 2012, there were over 150 authors, more than 25 illustrators, dozens of storytellers and great family-oriented entertainers. The Festival featured over 125 booksellers, educational exhibitors and related vendors. More than 35,000 people attended the Festival last year.


My co-authors Josh & Harrison. They’re much better at selling books than I.

We were invited to present on the MG/YA stage. Below is a photo of Josh and I during the question and answer portion of the presentation. And yes, I am wearing a Nimpentoad t-shirt. What are the odds?


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Interview with Lisa Kovach from B&N Oceanside, CA

Lisa Kovach is the Community Relations Manager (CRM) at Barnes & Noble Oceanside. As the CRM, Lisa partners with the community to support local pre-K-12 schools and non-profit literacy and arts organizations through in-store and off-site events (including book fairs, author events, and children’s events), institutional business, special events programming, and various community outreach programs at the store. Lisa also handles bulk book and NOOK sales for institutional and corporate businesses.


What makes your bookstore different and special?
The caliber of our booksellers is unparalleled and truly sets us apart. From college students to teachers, our booksellers have a diverse set of skills and interests that enable them to make expert recommendations to our customers. Our booksellers’ passions are eclectic but our commitment to service is shared and the customer experience is more engaging as a result.

Do you carry products beyond books?
Yes, we definitely offer more than just books! We have a wide selection of products including our eReader devices, such as the NOOK HD and Simple Touch, home and gift items, music, television and movies, toys and games as well as magazines. We also have an amazing Café, which has everything you could need, such as Starbucks coffee, sandwiches and soups, Cheesecake Factory Bakery desserts, fresh-baked cookies and desserts and Harney & Sons teas.

Henry: Come for the books, stay for dessert. Cheesecake? I may never leave.

Do you offer book-related services to your customers?
Every month we have two book clubs that meet in our café to discuss select titles. We have a fiction book club, which has been around for more than 10 years, and a science fiction book club that will be celebrating its 10-year anniversary this August. The club’s members include Barnes & Noble employees, as well as customers.

Do you cater to certain types of readers?
As the world’s largest booksellers we encourage all types of readers and we do not cater to a specific genre or type of reader. However, since we are near a military base, we do have a large selection of military books.

What are some of your upcoming events?
Some upcoming events include:
July 27, 4:30 pm – Catherine Follestad
July 29, 3:30 pm – Lean to Read and Write with LeapFrog
July 31, 11:00 am – Carlsbad High School Lancer Dancers
August 10, 7:30 pm – Fiction Literature Book Group

We also have regularly scheduled events, including Mom & Tot storytime every Wednesday at 10:30 a.m. and a Pajamarama storytime every Friday at 7 p.m. During Pajamarama, kids are encouraged to wear their pajamas. We also host NOOK University every Saturday at 9:30 a.m., where customers can learn everything they need to know about NOOK.

Henry: Kids have all the fun. When I wear my pajamas in a B&N, it’s just creepy.

How do you engage in an ongoing way with your customers?
Our goal is to make every customers’ experience in our store a positive one and for them to leave our store with a smile on their face and a book in their hand. One of the ways we aim to provide a positive experience and engage with our customers is through offering excellent customer service and going above and beyond for our customers. We also engage with our customers by offering fun and exciting events that our customers would be interested in. Through our events we can engage with our customers and develop relationships with them that will hopefully last a lifetime.

Is there anything else you’d like to tell us about your book store?
Our bookstore is more than just books. It really is a place for families and friends to come, find what they need – whether that is a new fiction release, their favorite children’s book or one of our items from toys and games -, visit our Café, meet up with friends, and  have an overall great experience that makes them want to return again and again.

This article is also posted to the San Diego Children’s Books Examiner.

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‘The Last Unicorn’ movie by Peter Beagle showing in SoCal

What most fantasy fans know is that Peter Beagle wrote the classic story ‘The Last Unicorn’. What many may not know is that there is a wonderful movie adaptation, and it is playing in SoCal. Here’s a quote from the author.

“The book was a nightmare to write, and I hated it when it was finished. It took me years to realize I hadn’t screwed it up after all, and that the book worked and people liked it. I felt better about the movie — writing it went fairly well, and in the end I thought it came out quite the best thing that Rankin-Bass ever did. But what I didn’t foresee was that it would actually become a bloody classic, that it would move so many people so strongly. I get any number of people who come up to me at my signing table and say, ‘Thank you for my childhood.’ And I often get people who stand there motionless, clearly wanting to come up and talk — but they’re just shaking, and sometimes when they try to talk, they start to cry. When I see that I just have to get up and hold them, telling them, ‘It’s all right; I’ve become a big crier myself in my old age.’”


Two years ago Peter finally settled the eight-year struggle over the fact that he wasn’t getting paid any of his Last Unicorn film royalties, despite millions of copies being sold. The settlement opened up all kinds of new possibilities, one of which was this screening tour. They are putting Peter and a gorgeous new digital print of the film out on the road together for 10-12 days of every month for the next two years, so people can finally see it on the big screen after a lifetime of watching it on home video). At each screening they are holding Q&A sessions with the audience, giving everyone a chance to meet and talk with Peter, handing out raffle prizes, etc. So far it has been incredibly successful. They had 800 people come to the premiere back in April; in June they had 13 sold-out shows in Austin, Houston, San Antonio, Kansas City, Denver, and Fort Collins; and last week they had another sold-out show at the American Film Institute theater in Silver Spring, MD, just outside Washington DC.

For details about the tour, see: www.lastunicorntour.com.

To sweeten the deal, they are giving a special prize for attending a screening. All you have to do is come up to Peter’s signing table at the theater and say “Henry Herz sent me,” and they’ll give you a free 35mm film frame from an actual 1982 theatrical print of The Last Unicorn, in a protective glassine envelope signed by Peter himself!

SoCal Show Schedule:

Tuesday 8/20, 7 PM at USC in Los Angeles: [SOLD OUT]

Wednesday 8/21, 7:30 PM at the Regency Lido Theatre in Newport Beach:

Thursday 8/22, 7 PM at the Cal Oaks 17 in Murrieta:

Saturday 8/24, 2 PM at the Town Square Stadium 14 in San Diego:

Sunday 8/25, 2 PM at the Gas Lamp Stadium 15 in San Diego:

This article is also posted to the San Diego Children’s Books Examiner.

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Spotlight on Barnes & Noble Carmel Valley/Del Mar (San Diego)


What makes your bookstore different and special?

Our Booksellers are what makes this store so special.  The booksellers are avid readers, so a customer can always get a recommendation.  Our kids booksellers read many of the new titles and have vast product knowledge for all ages.  We feel this is what sets us apart from online bookstores like Amazon.

How was your bookstore started, and with what goals?

Barnes and Noble ‘s beginnings can be traced to 1873, when Charles M. Barnes started a books business from his home in Wheaton, Illinois.  In 1917, his son, William, went to New York to join G. Clifford Noble in establishing Barnes and Noble.  The company developed a world wide reputation for excellence by serving millions of customers with its comprehensive selection of general trade books, academic titles and textbooks and medical books.

Do you cater to certain types of readers?

We have books for everyone; bestsellers for people who want the new books as well as the ability get that older backlist title. With the addition of our E-reader NOOK, we can get books into everyone’s hands any time any where.

What are some of your upcoming events?

We had a customer appreciation event June 28-30 that included Curious George here for the kids.

Henry: And, of course, I’m looking forward to scheduling a Twignibble signing at your store. 🙂

How do you engage in an ongoing way with your readers?

We have a Facebook page at Barnes and Noble Del Mar as well as a display of bookseller recommends.  Our booksellers are always ready to discuss a great book.

Is there anything else you’d like to tell us about your book store?

We are open everyday from 9:00am to 9:00pm.

We are located at 12835 El Camino Real, San Diego, CA 92130. 858-481-4038

Our Kids Lead Deborah Gatto is available to recommend a great children’s book for any age.

This article is also posted to the San Diego Children’s Books Examiner.

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Morgen Bailey’s Writing Blog Spotlights the Herz Authors

from http://morgenbailey.wordpress.com/2013/08/09/author-spotlight-no-310-henry-herz/:

Complementing my interviews, today’s Author Spotlight, the three hundred and tenth, is of children’s fantasy author and interviewee Henry Herz. If you would like to take part in an author spotlight, take a look at author-spotlights.

authors72Henry Herz writes fantasy and science fiction stories for children, aided in this noble endeavor by his two young sons, Josh and Harrison. Henry’s love of the fantasy genre began in elementary school with Where the Wild Things Are and The Lord of the Rings, and continued in high school, college, and beyond playing Dungeons & Dragons and Warhammer. Henry is a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators, and writes for the San Diego Children’s Book Examiner.

Like their father, both boys are big fans of fantasy, science fiction, and the annual Comic-Con convention. They have an entrepreneurial bent too. They’ve started three web-based businesses selling LEGO party favors, custom cast bases for Warhammer, and painted concrete yard sculptures. Their efforts have been featured on Young Entrepreneur Magazine, Wired GeekDad, CNN iReport, TheOneRing.net, and the Warner Brothers’ website for The Hobbit movie.

The writing trio’s first book, Nimpentoad, is a stunningly illustrated high fantasy early chapter book. It has earned over 85 Amazon 5-star ratings to date. The unlikely hero is the bright-eyed Nimpentoad, a furry little creature who’s been victimized by the bigger creatures of the ancient forest one too many times. Nimpentoad convinces his fellow Niblings to make a perilous journey to a castle where they hope to find refuge–if they can just evade and outwit the ravenous goblins, trolls, rhinotaurs, and other perils that stand in their way.

TwigFront72Nimpentoad expands the ecosphere familiar to fantasy fans with adorable, fuzzy nibling protagonists. Their dark Grunwald Forest is also home to creatures like rhinotaurs (menacing, muscular minotaur/rhino hybrids) and neebels (two-legged beasts with gaping maws). Parents appreciate the implicit lessons on bullying, teamwork, perseverance, and leadership.

The writing trio’s second book, Twignibble, is a fantasy easy reader. Twignibble is a very smart and mechanically adept sloth, with animal friends all over the world. When he learns that his friends are in danger from pollution and poaching, he builds a helicopter to visit them. Twignibble helps each friend by making them a special gadget. Kids love the cute animals and funny inventions; parents appreciate a book that promotes friendship, empathy, and protecting the environment.

And now from the author himself:

NimpFront72I originally drafted our first story, Nimpentoad, as a way to interest my young sons in the fantasy genre. It did that, but my sons also gave me feedback on the plot and suggested character names. So, what began as a simple tale to instill a love of fantasy gradually morphed into a collaborative writing effort.

We had no plans to publish initially. We just shared the book with family. When my sister-in-law commented, “You know, this is really good. You should consider publishing it.” We thought about it, and decided to go the self-publishing route. Nimpentoad was born. And thus, my writing career offers a good example of the Butterfly Effect*.

The book has gotten a very positive response, and this has encouraged us to write other books. All of us are big animal fans and lovers of nature, so a book featuring pro-conservation animal characters was an easy choice. We were tickled when we came up with the idea of a sloth protagonist who must overcome his torpid nature to race around the globe to help his animal friends.

Other books we have in the works include re-writes of classic children’s tales and a science fiction picture book. Finstin, an inquisitive alien boy from the planet Nubnub, gets lost on a hike and hopes his encounters with strange creatures don’t prevent him from reaching home before nightfall and its perils.

I should caution aspiring writers about self-publishing. It is very much a two-edged sword. Self-publishing offers some distinct advantages over traditional publishing, such as complete control and speed. But, as Spiderman says, “With great power comes great responsibility.” A self-publishing author is responsible for (i.e., must personally perform or pay someone else to perform) a diverse and daunting range of tasks, including copy editing, book formatting, technical aspects of publication (e.g., getting an ISBN number and barcode for the book), promotion, printing, warehousing, and fulfillment (the last three just for printed books).

So, self-publishing is not for the faint of heart or for people who don’t enjoy learning new things. When we think of a writer’s career, we imagine them honing their literary craft over time. Self-publishing authors have a second path they must follow simultaneously, which is to hone their publishing craft. Because I’m self-employed, I have flexibility with my time. The process of writing and publishing children’s books would have been even more challenging were that not the case.

The other practical consideration for self-publishing is financial. Do NOT think you’ll write a great story, push it out on Kindle, and immediately be able to retire on a never-ending stream of royalty payments. Just as developing your craft takes time, developing a platform and an audience take time. So, by all means write, but do NOT quit your day job. At least not immediately.

We’ve all hear the term “midlife crisis”. I didn’t give it much heed up to this point in my life. But then I look at myself and see that I’ve transitioned from salaried employee to being my own boss, and from being a reader of books to a reader AND writer of books. But whether you are middle-aged or not, writing offers a wonderful way to express yourself and bring enjoyment to others. Just as the journey of a thousand miles begins with that first step, the journey to your book starts with that first keystroke.

*Per wikipedia: “The butterfly effect is a common trope in fiction, especially in scenarios involving time travel. Additionally, works of fiction that involve points at which the storyline diverges during a seemingly minor event, resulting in a significantly different outcome than would have occurred without the divergence, are an example of the butterfly effect.”

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Interview with NY Times Bestseller ‘Finishing School’ and ‘Parasol Protectorate’ author Gail Carriger

New York Times Bestselling author Gail Carriger writes to cope with being raised in obscurity by an expatriate Brit and an incurable curmudgeon. She escaped small town life and inadvertently acquired several degrees in Higher Learning. Ms. Carriger then traveled the historic cities of Europe, subsisting entirely on biscuits secreted in her handbag. She resides in the Colonies, surrounded by fantastic shoes, where she insists on tea imported from London.

‘Etiquette & Espionage’ is her YA steampunk most recently released, and ‘Curtsies & Conspiracies’ is book two in that Finishing School series, out November 5. The graphic novel (manga) adaptation of her third book, ‘Blameless’, is also due out this year in November.


For what age audience do you write?

To the best of my knowledge, my youngest reader is 10 and the oldest is 95. The language is Victorian in tone but modernized to be more comfortable than, for example, Dickens might be for a young reader. These make great gateway books for Austen. While ‘Soulless’ did win an Alex Award it is not intentionally young adult. There is violence (generally comical) and nookie (not overly explicit) so if you are concerned please skim through the text first yourself. That’s one of the many reasons I wrote my new ‘Finishing School’ series, which is intended for a YA audience.

As for genre, my adult books are usually filed under science fiction / fantasy although some stores put them into romance and few have stuck them into horror. I consider all my books a mix of steampunk and urban fantasy. I like Carrie Vaughn’s term “urbane fantasy” which nicely incorporates both sub–genres. There’s also the delightful “teapunk.” There’s certainly enough tea in my books for that. I like to spoof the original Gothic classics so there is also good dose of comedy in the ‘Parasol Protectorate’ – giggling readers are good.

Henry: “Teapunk” I love it!

Tell us about your latest book

The ‘Finishing School’ series is set in the same world as the ‘Parasol Protectorate’, only 25 years earlier, and features a finishing academy located in a giant caterpillar-like dirigible floating over Dartmoor in which young ladies are taught to . . . finish . . . everything . . . and everyone . . . as needed. There is steampunk etiquette! There is well-dressed espionage! There is Victorian fake food. There are flying mechanical sausage dogs named Bumbersnoot. The first book, ‘Etiquette & Espionage’, released Feb 5, 2013 as an instant New York Times Bestseller. It can be purchased anywhere fine books are sold. The second book ‘Curtsies & Conspiracies’ is out Nov. 5 of this year, just in time for the holidays.

Henry: I can totally see a dog-owner naming their Dachshund Bumbersnoot!

What do you hope readers will get from reading that book?

I want to cheer people up and give them a fun read. Maybe keep one or two readers up all night. I love it when people complain I made them laugh out loud on public transport. Other then that I have no real agenda. I also would love to be at least one person’s favorite author.

Henry: There is also the hard-to-attain goal of making someone laugh so hard that their drink comes out their nose. But first, laughing while on public transport.

What advice would you give to aspiring authors?

Honestly and rather crudely? 1. Sit your arse in that chair and write. 2. When you’re done writing only then do you get to edit. 3. Give it to three highly critical people to attack with red pens. 4. Fix it and submit it. 5. Let it go, sit your arse back down and write something else as different from the first as possible. 6. Wash and repeat.

Henry: Yup. Persistence and developing one’s craft. That’s writing craft, not aerial craft.

Do you have any favorite quotes?

Dum spiro spero which means “While I breathe, I hope” (paraphrased from Theocritus and Cicero). I also like Terry Pratchett’s FABRICATI DIEM, PVNC the motto of The Ankh-Morpork City Watch. I have a weakness for Latin… and pseudo Latin.

Henry: The Watch’s current motto is “FABRICATI DIEM, PVNC”, as inscribed on the old Treacle Mine Road Watch House. Apparently, the last part of the original “Fabricati Diem, Pvncti Agvnt Celeriter” (“Make the Day, the Moments Pass Quickly”) was deleted. The motto is actually pseudo-Latin, and doesn’t actually mean “Make my day, punk”, although it should.

Do you have any strange rituals that you observe when you write?

I require a cup of tea, as a general rule. But I don’t think that’s strange.

Henry: Not at all. Plus, writing without “t” would be the far less interesting wriing.

If you could have one superpower, what would it be?

The ability to breathe under water. I practically live in the water already, and this would simply be a useful extension of my natural proclivities.

Henry: It would also protect you from the risk of drinking your tea too quickly.

If you could have three authors over for dinner, who would it be?

P.G. Wodehouse, Jane Austen, and Gerald Durrell. Because I think that would be hilarious conversation.

Henry: Wikipedia helpfully provides: “Sir Pelham Grenville Wodehouse was an English humorist, whose body of work includes novels, short stories, plays, poems, song lyrics and numerous pieces of journalism. He enjoyed enormous popular success during a career that lasted more than seventy years, and his many writings continue to be widely read.

Gerald “Gerry” Malcolm Durrell was an English naturalist, zookeeper, conservationist, author and television presenter. He founded what is now called the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust and the Jersey Zoo (now Durrell Wildlife Park) on the Channel Island of Jersey in 1958, but is perhaps best remembered for writing a number of books based on his life as an animal collector and enthusiast.”

Jane Austen was… well, if you don’t know, you should stop reading my blog and go read ‘Sense and Sensibility’ or ‘Pride and Prejudice’.

What would you like it to say on your tombstone?

“Classic author moment, “Oh dear, did I kill that character or not?”
or perhaps.
She would rather have drowned in tea.

This article is also posted to the San Diego Children’s Books Examiner.

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Writing with My Kids

CNN iReport recently put out this call to dads:

“It’s been 30 years since the release of Mr. Mom, the 1983 comedy-drama about a dad who loses his job, becomes a stay-at-home dad, only to discover he’s clueless about managing a household.

At the time, that was being a mom. Now it’s just being a parent.

Though the stereotype of the incompetent, bumbling father still persists in consumer-product ads, the reality is, today’s dads bake cookies, change diapers, drive mini-vans, have tea parties with their daughters – and are proud of it.

So dads, we want to hear from you. How do you spend your time at home with the kids? How is your parenting style different from your own father’s? What kind of dad are you?”


Last year, my beloved father passed away after 59 years of marriage to my mom. He was a kind and gentle soul; hardworking, soft-spoken, and absolutely devoted to his family. I asked him to be the best man at my wedding because he was the best man I knew. I miss him.

My childhood memories of dad are right out of 1960’s TV like The Dick Van Dyke Show, complete with him coming home from work with briefcase, sport coat, and hat. He was the breadwinner. Mom was the homemaker. Much of dad’s time outside work was spent fixing things around the house, maintaining the yard, paying the bills, and other tasks required to provide for his family. I remember being just a little sad that he couldn’t spend more time relaxing with us.

After I became a father, I decided that while I may not be as good a man as he was, I could spend more time with my family than he did. Three years ago, I made the switch from salaried employed to self-employed entrepreneur. This affords me wonderful flexibility in how I spend my time.

One day, I drafted a story to interest my boys in reading fantasy (being a Lord of the Rings fanatic myself). They liked the story, but something else happened. They gave me feedback on the plot. They came up with creature names. A simple learning exercise morphed into a rich collaboration. After that, my sons helped provide art direction to the illustrator, and participated in promoting the book.

Our first book Nimpentoad is a fantasy for 3rd-5th graders. It has earned 86 Amazon five-star ratings. Nimpentoad has reached as high as #1 in Kindle Best Sellers large print sci-fi & fantasy. And my young co-authors have been featured in Young Entrepreneur, Wired GeekDad, and the Warner Brother’s website for The Hobbit movie. But this is about more than writing a book kids enjoy. It’s been about spending time with my boys as I fulfill my paternal duty developing them into kind, successful adults.

The fun time we’ve spent has also taught my sons valuable lessons about creative expression, public speaking, interacting graciously with others, running a small business, and being responsible with their money. They split the book profits, half of which goes into savings which they cannot touch.

We just published our second book Twignibble. Hang on to your hats!

This article also appeared on San Diego Children’s Book Examiner.

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The Nimpentoad authors at San Diego Comic-Con

My fellow Nimpentoad and Twignibble co-authors and I had a great time wandering the Exhibit Hall at the San Diego Comic-Con. Here are a few pictures.


Nothing starts your day like meeting a zombie from the Plants vs. Zombies game my boys enjoy playing.


For us older folks, it was a real treat to meet Peter Beagle, author of “The Last Unicorn”.


Here are my co-authors with comic artist Ken Meyer, Jr.


Here are my co-authors with Katie Cook, who writes “My Little Pony” for IDW Publishing, and has also done licensed illustration work for DC, Marvel, Star Wars, and Lord of the Rings.


Proving again that timing is everything, we just  happened to wander in front of the Badali Jewelry booth, when our friend Cliff Broadway from TheOneRing.net was conducting a Lord of the Rings trivia quiz. Have I mentioned that I am a Lord of the Rings Rainman? It will then come as no surprise that we won the quiz, and left laden with terrific Tolkien booty, much as Bilbo ended his Hobbit adventure riding a pony burdened with treasure. As a bonus, we got to meet the Rice sisters, who write and star in the weekly Happy Hobbit video that is shown on TheOneRing.net.


In the foreground, my co-author Harrison. In the background, the smoking hot Evangeline Lilly, who will be appearing in the upcoming (second) Hobbit movie. We also saw Sir Richard Taylor, who heads up Weta, the company that makes props for Peter Jackson’s movies.


Here my co-authors pose with the largest Domokun I’ve ever seen.


An enormous Azog the Orc in front of the Weta booth was not nearly as welcoming as Domokun…


At the IDW Publishing booth, we spoke with several comic book illustrators. As it turned out, fate smiled upon us again. We have a friend Sohaib Awan, who writes the comic JINNRISE. His illustrator, Andrew Huerta, was there and graciously offered to sketch Nimpentoad !


Here is the wonderful end result he knocked out in no time flat.

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SDCC interview with comic book artist Ken Meyer, Jr.

Ken Meyer, Jr. has been doing art of one kind or another since he was a kid. He started drawing by tracing comic books using carbon paper (ask your grandpa). He became interested in more realistic comics, and then in illustration and painting. He has done some short Marvel comics pieces, but most of his comic work was done for smaller publishers like Caliber and Revolutionary. Today, the lion’s share of his art is painting.

Ken has graciously to tell us a bit more about himself and his work. In the photograph, he is the one on the left…


For what age audience do you illustrate comics?

It has varied. The Marvel comics I’ve done are for all ages, while the Caliber work was more mature (but still able to be read by all ages). I have done a lot of horror art and some horror themed stories, so I guess the audience would depend on how much they could handle!

Henry: Challenge accepted!

Tell us about your latest work.

Lately, my work has been either doing altered Magic cards (Magic the Gathering is a collectible card game, and people send me the cards I have done to paint new images on them, making them more collectible), illustration for various uses, or portraits and other types of art. I also do “sketch covers,” which are actual comics with totally white covers (aside from the logo). They are made that way so fans can get their favorite artist to do drawings on the covers. I have done several Avengers (the movie character versions), and Walking Dead covers, with more to come.

Henry: Note to self: order one of these from Ken.

What aspect of illustrating do you find most challenging?

It depends on the job, to some degree. In comics, the most fun part is the initial layouts/thumbnails, where I am working out the composition of the page, what the best viewpoint for any given panel would be, etc. Considering I tend to use a lot of photos and models for reference, the most challenging part is probably getting people together and shooting the actual photos. If I am doing the strip completely out of my head, the most challenging part is probably doing any given viewpoint (worm’s eye view, bird’s eye view, etc.) correctly. Oh, and horses.

Henry: Note to self: do NOT ask Ken to paint the Riders of Rohan.

What is a powerful lesson you’ve learned?

To be honest, the most powerful lesson I learned is that it is very hard to actually make a living as a comic artist. You have to put a lot of work and time into comics, and the pay is not usually proportional to all that work (which is why a lot of people go into other fields such as animation or games). If you are in comics, most likely you are in it because you really love the genre.

What’s been a memorable experience that you’ve had?

I really love music, and several times, when I knew I was going to a concert by someone I really liked, I would do a painting ahead of time and take it to the show to try to meet the musician. It worked several times, and I met some of my favorites (Elvis Costello, Bruce Cockburn, Loudon Wainwright, Tori Amos and several others). Those were memorable for me!

Henry: And memorable for them too. That is certainly a unique way to get their attention. Well played, sir.

What advice would you give to aspiring comic or graphic novel illustrators?

The most crucial advice, and the advice you almost always hear, is just draw draw draw. Keep drawing, practice all the time, draw everything (not everything is skin tight-clad superheroes), and then draw a lot more. I had a professor who was an incredible draftsman, and he said the only reason he would be considered a better artist than us is that he had gotten a lot more terrible drawings out of the way. Of course, it helps to look at your favorite artists. See how they handle problems, the way they compose a panel and page, etc. Copy them for awhile, eventually you will come into your own style. Look at books and online sources. Draw from life. Just draw.

Do you have any favorite quotes?

“I am an artist you know … it is my right to be odd.”
― E.A. Bucchianeri, Brushstrokes of a Gadfly

Henry: It does seem to come with the territory. 🙂

Do you have any strange rituals that you observe when you illustrate?

Does painting with a chicken on your head count?

Henry: Yes. Yes it does. Best. Answer. Ever.

If you could have one superpower, what would it be?

It would be the superpower to mimic all other superpowers. If there is a void of superpowers, then perhaps the good old standby, flight. If I am feeling altruistic that day, then it would be the power to manufacture any amount of food out of thin air.

Henry: Good for you for thinking of others!

If you could have three illustrators over for dinner, who would it be?
Oooooh, tough one! I will say Alphonse Mucha (to talk about his big Slav epic mural series), Bob Peak (an illustrator popular in the 70’s mostly, who did magazine illustration, movie posters, etc), and comic artist Bill Sienkiewicz (who started in comics as a clone of then very popular realistic comic artist Neal Adams, but went to to become one of the best multimedia artists ever, and is still creating amazing work today).

What is your favorite creature that exists only in literature?

When I was young, I was a huge fantasy/heroic fiction fan, and read stuff like The Lord of the Rings, Edgar Rice Burroughs (John Carter of Mars), Conan, etc, non-stop. So, you are talking about a lot of imaginary creatures to choose from! I guess I will say the Sirens…you might drown, but you would have fun doing it.

Henry: Always the ladies’ man, eh?

What do you like to do when you’re not illustrating?

I have several activities that siphon good working time away from the desk, unfortunately. I play tennis frequently, for example. I read a fair amount (but have become selective, choosing authors I have already read a lot of, such as Stephen King, Chuck Palahniuk, John Irving, etc.), plus tons of music magazines. I would say “listen to music,” but I do that all the time anyway. I probably watch too much TV (shows like Game of Thrones, Dexter, Breaking Bad, Stewart/Colbert/Maher, and like to see as many films as I can as well. So, you can see the easel has to do its share of fighting for attention!

What would you like it to say on your tombstone?

“There was no shortage of art created, and no amount of time wasted!”

Where can readers find your work?

If you want to search in the comic book stores (which nowadays, means going online), I have a graphic novel called “Gustave, PI.” I have a few Marvel stories in comics, such as Open Space number 4, Marvel Portraits of  Universe 1, and Midnight Sons Unlimited 4. Caliber comics I have done include about seven issues (and about 11 covers): Kilroy is Here, stories in the anthology Negative Burn, and many covers. I also have many covers for Revolutionary Comics (music- and sports-related). You can search out the Tori Amos RAINN benefit calendars I put together between 2005 and 2009 (as well as her tour book for the “Dew Drop Inn” tour). I have a ton of work in various White Wolf game books, mostly for the lines of Vampire the Masquerade, Demon, Wraith, etc. I have also done a lot of cards for their Vampire the Eternal Struggle series (originally known as Jyhad). The game Magic the Gathering has card art by me, mostly in the Arabian Nights and Ice Age expansions. You can, of course, always go to my website if you have a few weeks to waste (there is a lot there, but I will be revamping it soon), or other websites that have my work for sale, such as Fine Art America. I also have a DeviantArt page.

Ken will be at San Diego Comic-Con in Artist Alley table II-6.

This article is also posted to the San Diego Children’s Books Examiner.

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Interview with NY Times Bestselling ‘Babymouse’ & ‘Squish’ author Jenni Holm

Jennifer L. Holm is a New York Times bestselling children’s author and the recipient of three Newbery Honors for her novels ‘Our Only May Amelia’, ‘Penny from Heaven’, and ‘Turtle in Paradise’. Jennifer collaborates with her brother, Matthew Holm, on two graphic novel series — the popular Babymouse series and the bestselling Squish series. ‘Babymouse for President’ is an Eisner nominee.

Thanks for interviewing me. I have a personal San Diego connection. I was born here! (At the Naval Hospital). And my family and I attend Comic-Con every July, so we love San Diego.

Henry: Thank you so much for taking the time out of your busy schedule to speak with us. And for our readers, the Newbery Medal is given to the author of “the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children. The Newbery (along with the Caldecott) is considered one of the most prestigious children’s literature awards in the United States.


For what audience do you write?

I write middle grade fiction (‘Penny from Heaven’, ‘Our Only May Amelia’, ‘Turtle in Paradise’) and graphic novels with my brother, Matt Holm (The Babymouse series and the Squish series).

Tell us about your latest book.

My latest book is ‘Squish: Game On’. It actually features a comic convention.

Henry: Amazon helpfully adds “a hilarious, action packed graphic novel series from the award-winning creators of Babymouse! Filled with superheroes, comics within comics, and gross-out science, Squish is perfect for fans of Dav Pilkey’s ‘Captain Underpants’, Dan Gutman’s ‘Weird School’, and Jarrett Krosoczka’s ‘Lunch Lady’.

Beep! Beep! Squish can’t get enough of his awesome new video game Mitosis! (Mitosis is what happens when cells divide. Who says video games can’t be educational?) In fact, he may even be obsessed! He plays at home . . . at school. . . even in his sleep! Are video games taking over Squish’s life?! And can Squish’s favorite comic book hero, Super Amoeba, stop the Creeping Black Mold that’s taking over Small Pond?”

What do you hope readers will get from reading that book?

Kids today have to deal with the challenges of different media (video games, etc.) This book tackles what is a common situation a lot of kids face.

Henry: The heartbreak of unwanted mitosis?

What aspect of writing do you find most challenging?

It’s hard to live in your own head all day.

Henry: Some heads more than others. The voices. The voices!

What is a powerful lesson you’ve learned from being a writer?

The impact you can have on a child. A book can really change someone’s life.

Henry: I admit it was delightful to hear that after reading ‘Nimpentoad’ one of my little readers will now eat mushrooms. A small victory, perhaps, but we take them.

What has been a memorable experience that you never would have had if you had not been a writer?

I probably wouldn’t be able to wear pajamas to work.

Henry: And fuzzy slippers?

What advice would you give to aspiring authors?

Read! Read! Read!

Henry: Yes. I heard this great saying at a SCBWI conference, “Just as the lion is the product of all the zebras she’s eaten, the author is the product of all the books she’s read.”

Do you have any favorite quotes?

Keep calm and revise on.

Henry: Good one. I don’t think all aspiring authors realize how much revising is required.

Do you have any strange rituals that you observe when you write?

I generally don’t like to discuss whatever I’m working on. I worry I will jinx myself. (I’m pretty superstitious).

Henry: How do you feel about black cats walking under ladders on Friday the 13th?

If you could have one superpower, what would it be?

The ability to make the house be instantly clean (I have two kids).

Henry: So, you’d be exercising that power frequently. Very original superpower. Well played, Jenni. Well played.

If you could have three authors over for dinner, who would it be?

Lloyd Alexander (my childhood hero), Bill Watterson (my whole life hero) and Hal Foster (my Prince Valiant hero).

Henry: Wikipedia helpfully adds, “Lloyd Chudley Alexander was a widely influential American author of more than forty books, primarily fantasy novels for children and young adults. His most famous work is The Chronicles of Prydain, a series of five high fantasy novels whose conclusion, The High King, was awarded the 1969 Newbery Medal for excellence in American children’s literature.”

Hal Foster was a Canadian-American illustrator best known for his comic strip Prince Valiant. And of course, we all know and love Bill Watterson from the comic strip Calvin and Hobbes.

What is your favorite creature that exists only in literature?

The dragons from Anne McCaffrey’s “Harper Hall” series.

Henry: Dragons. It’s always dragons. There has to be some deep psychological root for our affinity.

What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

I have recently taken up fencing and I love it!

Henry: Touche!

What would you like it to say on your tombstone?

She Liked to Revise

Henry: Or “She Liked to Revise”, then “She Liked to Edit” underneath, then “stet”.

Where can readers find your work?

www.jenniferholm.com and www.babymouse.com. And I hope to see everyone at San Diego Comic-Con!

This article is also posted to the San Diego Children’s Books Examiner.