Saturday, October 04, 2008

The Last Renegade

Today I’ll be finishing a project that has kept me busy all summer. What I've been doing is illustrating a novel, The Last Renegade.

The novel is by noted author Mike Kearby, author of the great western novels Road to a Hanging, Ride the Desperate Trail, and Ambush at Mustang Canyon. It will be published in time for Christmas.

Like myself, Mike is a native Texan, and in fact was born in Mineral Wells, the same town I was born in—and in the same year, I might add, 1952. With this in common, you would think we had known each other for years. But, actually, we did not meet until just a few months ago.

You see, Mike grew up in Mineral Wells, whereas my family moved down the road to Fort Worth when I was very young. Over the years, I returned many, many times to visit my grandmothers and other relatives, sometimes staying for weeks at a time, but never lived in Mineral Wells again.

Thus, we did not meet until last spring when Mike decided that his next novel, The Last Renegade, should be illustrated. In his search for an illustrator, he came across my bio on Wikipedia, which mentions Mineral Wells as my birthplace. That got his attention. Then he took a look at my artwork, thought my style might be right for his book, and contacted me.

He visited me on his next trip to Austin and we had a great time, talking about Mineral Wells, Texas history, and a great many other topics we have in common. He left a copy of the manuscript with me. I read it, loved it, saw right away it was my kind of story, something I would enjoy illustrating, and the next thing you know I was hard at work on the project.

I should add that this is the first of Mike’s novels to be illustrated. His idea was that illustrations would enhance the appeal of the book for young people. As a retired schoolteacher, he has a particular interest in encouraging young people to read. Therefore, he created The Last Renegade to be especially entertaining for boys and girls in the 10-17 age range. But don't think this story is only for kids. Believe me, you can be older, a lot older, and get a big kick out of The Last Renegade. I sure did.

Mike is offering a sneak peak at the book on his website. This link will take you directly to chapter one. And while you’re there, be sure to explore the rest of his site to find out more about Mike, his other novels, and the collaborative novel project, a wonderful (and fun) learning experience he has brought to high school students throughout the state. Also, check out Mike’s new blog, Mike Kearby's Texas.

Well, it’s time for me to sit down at the drawing board and get to work. I’ve got one more illustration to draw, then The Last Renegade will go to press …

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Mystery of the Martian Gas Pumps

DREAM: Big trip to Mars ... upon arrival, I am surprised to find that the barren red desert occupies only a small part of the planet ... Mars is lush with vegetation and animal life same as Earth: birds, dogs, cattle, sheep, etc. and humans who of all things speak English ... amazing coincidence ... the men wear overalls and work in the fields ... they raise the same crops as on Earth, wheat, cotton, corn, etc. ... but there are no cities, only scattered rural ramshackle towns ... nothing made of concrete or brick, all the houses and other buildings made of wood ... no sidewalks, only beat-up old boardwalks ... and no paved roads, only dirt roads and horses pulling old rusty cars without engines ... the cars are look Earth-made, late 1940s vintage ... I see a Ford ... this can't be a coincidence ... my suspicions are confirmed when I see a run-down service station with retro gas pumps of the same era, late 40s, long unused, broken ... I get out my camera to take a picture of the gasp pumps, but am accosted by the local sheriff, a grinning Andy Taylor type who tells me no picture-taking is allowed ... why? ... he stops grinning and grits his teeth, "because it ain't none of your business where we come from" ... I back away, continue down the dirt street ... the women, I notice, wear long dresses FLDS-style ... then I realize that, crazy as it seems, there can be only one explanation ... these are polygamous Mormons who somehow made their way here years ago and terraformed the planet ... amazing to think ... long before there was a space program, the Mormons got here first ...

Monday, September 29, 2008

Why I've Been Away

Hasn’t been much activity on this blog the past few months. Except for a couple of posts about The Man Who Jumped (still haven’t heard who he was or anything else, by the way)—except for that and a few other stray posts, it’s been awful quiet here.

The reason for this inactivity is … is … it’s, uh … it’s because I, uh …

Actually, I don’t know why. I guess it’s because after retirement from my day job, the trip to Europe, etc. my life changed so much I felt disconnected from so many things that were part of my previous routine, one of which was blogging.

Does that make sense? I don’t know how to explain it better, except to say that retiring from the day job and beginning my new life as a full-time artist turned out to be a bigger shock to my world than I imagined it would be.

Would you believe I still have dreams about the old job? It’s like a phantom limb. It’s gone, but it still feels a part of me, on some unconscious level. Turns out it was a bigger part of my identity than I realized at the time, and when it suddenly wasn’t there anymore, I had to relearn who I am.

It’s not that I miss the old job. Far from it. With the perspective of time, I look back on it with a kind of horror now and wonder how I endured it for so long. Getting up at 5:30 every morning, fighting traffic, sitting cooped up in a tiny office all day, working at something that held no interest for me, only getting an hour or two per day or weekends to do what I really wanted to do.

I much prefer my life now, going to bed when I want, getting up when I want, working when I want, playing when I want, reading more, watching movies, swimming, taking up new hobbies like salsa making, spending more time with my family.

No, I don’t miss the old job. I miss some of the people, but not the job itself. Don’t miss it at all.

But it appears that I needed the past few months to recover from the old job—to decompress, as they say—and to learn how to do this new life.

So that’s why I’ve been away from this blog. I had to step away from it for a while and work some things out.

But now I’m back ...

By the way, I wasn’t self-evaluating and navel-gazing the entire time. I accomplished something over the summer. Something big. I’ll tell you about it in my next post …