Tag Archives: novels

The Hermit and the Coyote, a Cell Phone Case, and Marketing

Screen Shot 2016-07-26 at 11.15.13 PM

Keep your phone warm and fuzzy.

Some people fail. Some people fail spectacularly. Kaija failed mythically, and now she’s trapped in the part of the fairy tale when the monster appears.

When Kaija couldn’t find contentment in the human world, she checked out, turned in the key, and went off the grid. For fifteen years, she’s lived between worlds, hiding in the desert, holding herself apart from nature just as she has from civilization, but when disaster strikes, she finds that no woman is an island. She is dragged, kicking and screaming, to the realization that no woman is an island.

The Hermit is a novel for adults who still love fairy tales, people searching for transformation and magic, readers open to contemporary fantasies with elements of horror and romance, grown-ups who still wish they could talk to the animals.

Not that Kaija wants to talk to the animals–she’s a hermit, after all, and hermits don’t want to talk to anyone–but she can’t make them stop talking her. She can’t force them to quit sharing their fears about the legendary monster stalking the Sonoran Desert. She can’t run away anymore; she’s run as far as anyone can go. If she wants to maintain her sliver of solitude, she’ll have to shrug off the hermit’s mantle, gather allies from both worlds, and go on the offensive to defeat the true monster.

The paperback version of The Hermit will be available this Thanksgiving, but if you want to read it now, it’s already available in the Kindle store ($4.99 for 426 pages of delicious mythopoetic rampage) for your reading pleasure.

If you just love the cover, you can purchase the image of Kaija and her coyote companion on this cell phone case (and pretty much anything else on which you can emblazon images) in my RedBubble shop.

Confidential to all the people who, according to my stats page, woke up this morning, visited QvD in search of a new comic, and got nothing at all: better 15 hours late without a comic than no update, right? If people love my comics as much as they say they do, I hope they’ll consider laying out $4.99 for my book. It’s like reading my comics, but you create the pictures with your brain, so they’re much better drawn, and the word part lasts a lot longer.



Candy Delight Mandala


Delicious and nutritious. Tastes just like chicken. OK, just like chicks. Well, actually, like marshmallow Peeps.

Today I had some very intensive conversations, one with the Rabbit and one with Misses Kitty, on the subject of marketing for artists. I have a fair amount of experience in marketing for other people. It was a huge component of my last real job, and I worked closely with the marketing people when I was in traditional publishing, but I never enjoyed it, or excelled at it. The Rabbit and Misses Kitty are sort of better at it than I am. But I’m supposed to try.

After all, the Owl, whose book coming out really soon, sold her house, bought a van, and swore to spend the entire year on a publicity tour. That’s a real commitment. And what have I done? Made some posts on social media? My books are good. I’m a good writer. But beyond that, the process loses my interest.

Also today I finished reading my next big novel to The Man (I have a slender kids’ book that will come out later this year, but it’s actually older than The Hermit.) This next book is science-fiction-y, and murder-mystery-y, and dystopian-y. It’s also about 800 pages. For quite some time I puzzled over how to cut it down to a manageable level, but the people who’ve read it don’t seem to think it needs cutting down. Still, it needs some editorial work. In reading it to The Man (800 pages, which took about 5 weeks) I found dozens of typos and a number of continuity errors and things like that. After this next book is published, and I have participated in some marketing-related activities, I will make about 2 more passes and then maybe start the entire agent-seeking process all over again. If I can actually sell some copies of The Hermit before then, it will help.

Now I’m writing a horror novel; it’s a genre I’ve barely touched on in my life, even though I read everything Stephen King wrote prior to 1996 and some of the stuff he wrote after it, and all of Clive Barker’s early stuff, and HP Lovecraft and other writers in that vein. I know I can write a novel; it remains to seen whether I can be scary.

Not that I’m scaring anyone with a crayon mandala in cotton candy pink and marshmallow Peep yellow. And I guess those are blue M&Ms and the green are those weird sour candies that kids like today. They didn’t have them in the ’80s, as far as I can remember, so I never got a taste for them.

You know what would help, though? You could buy my book, support my Patreon,  or order my merch.

1000 Origami Cranes


Yes, I counted them.

On December 8, 2015, I decided to implement 2 minor changes in my life. First, I began teaching myself to play the ukulele, and second, I began folding 1000 origami cranes. Now, just under 5 months later, my time investment has manifested into accomplishment. Not that I will ever be performing Led Zepplin’s greatest hits on the ukulele for an appreciative audience, but I can make songs come out of the thing, anyway. And here are my 1000 paper cranes.

If you’re unfamiliar with the legend of the 1000 paper cranes, it’s an old bit of Japanese folklore: whoever folds these cranes in less than a year and keeps them in their home will be granted a wish, or lifelong luck. Some say they stand for prosperity and health, or for prayers for peace. Things like that. It was a more obscure superstition until after World War II, when a little girl named Sadako Sasuki, dying from leukemia caused by her proximity to the atomic bombing of Hiroshima as a baby,  started to fold them in the hospital while praying to beat the cancer. She didn’t make it, but her determination was communicated throughout the country until she became a symbol herself.

Traditionally, the cranes are threaded together on 25 strings in bunches of 40. I think I may put them into a less rigid accounting, but the main thing is to keep the rainbow pattern.

I never had a specific wish associated with these cranes. I’d like peace and prosperity and good health, surely. But really I was just trying to remind myself what it’s like to see a big project through to the end. For me, the end wasn’t about wishing, but about returning to the beginning. From the beginning, I knew that when I finished folding cranes, I would start writing a new book, a different book from the other books I’ve written, a book that would be unconstrained by the world’s notion about what’s OK. A horror novel, a ghost story, a tale of obsession, a metaphor for addiction. A book where extremely messed up things happen to wholly innocent people because the world is inherently unfair. A book without apology, that doesn’t care if it offends you, because frankly, the world doesn’t care if it offends me, so why pull punches? My 11th unpublished novel…

Selling is boring. Selling is the worst. Creating things is exciting, and it is the best.

To that end, I’ll probably be changing the format of the blog in the near future, but it’s uncertain what that would look like right now. It doesn’t seem possible to just stop drawing comics, but it been proven repeatedly that 4 comics a week isn’t feasible. There are other things to do.

When Harry Potter Fanfic Mashups Go Wrong

I guess I could have worked a lizard in there somehow but I could only think of Daniel Pinkwater novels and a minor character from Fullmetal Alchemist.

I guess I could have worked a lizard in there somehow but I could only think of Daniel Pinkwater novels and a minor character from Fullmetal Alchemist and this is weird enough as it is. Do kids still read Daniel Pinkwater?

The odds that anyone gets all 5 references here are kind of slim. Harry Potter’s pretty universal among a certain cohort, as is Snoopy, but there’s not a tremendous overlap there. I’m sure kids recognize Peanuts, but I don’t know how many of them, outside of the music theater group, know You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown. A lot of people love His Dark Materials but the first movie flopped and it’s not as popular as it ought to be considering how the book is. Guardians of Ga’hoole is a terrific story, too, but it’s even more obscure. The movie was straight up awful, and there are so many books that you have to be pretty committed to the story. I highly recommend it, though, if you would like to read something that riffs off of Lord of the Rings, is written for kids, and stars a large cast of owls. And then I threw in a terrible, but catchy, pop music song from 5 years ago.

So, like everything I do, its potential appreciative audience is already minuscule before I even ask anyone to read it. But here it is. The idea’s been cracking me up for a couple weeks already. I’m dying to see if anyone else gets even a chuckle out of it.

At least it pleases me.

I like this black and white style too. I’ve been using color and fancy backgrounds to cover up inadequacies in the artwork, but it’s time to scale back and let the lines start speaking for themselves. I have another idea that will look better in this style too, or at least in black and white with only a few colored accents.

Mapping Stories

Jacks, my little hero

Jacks, my little hero. From the unpublished novel The Girl Who Followed Her Own Counsel. Drawn sometime in the late 90s. 

It took me 17 years to write the first draft of my first novel, and while the storytelling came hard, the characterization and world-building came easy. I lived in that world for years, and it’s an easy one to go back to. I believe I did sketch out at the major city at least once, but it was a picture drawn from memory; I didn’t need or use it as a reference, because I knew exactly where everything was. I knew it so well that when I wrote the sequel, I still didn’t need the map, even though the characters spent time the other side of town, where Jacks rarely ventured in the first book. I wish I still had that map, but I have a feeling it’s long-gone; I haven’t seen it in years. Possibly, it was done in a notebook, in which case it might turn up.

Mallory's mansion, from my 9th unpublished novel, The Hermit, sketched on the back of a library receipt.

Mallory’s mansion, from my 9th unpublished novel, The Hermit, sketched on the back of a library receipt.

Mallory’s mansion was the first time I needed to sketch out a scene I couldn’t hold in my head. It’s a sprawling, one-story adobe, built around a series of inner courtyard gardens, and this drawing helped me keep the protagonists’ progress through the building straight in my mind. Kaija, the eponymous hermit of the novel, knows the building well, but she hasn’t been there in years. Mallory has passed away, and Kaija and her friend, Little Brother, are systematically searching the rooms for a message they believe Mallory may have left.

New Pueblo timeline, showing the history of the city and the history of several families, along with the protagonist's progress.

New Pueblo timeline, showing the history of the city and the history of several families, along with the protagonist’s progress, from my 10th unpublished novel, Greenpunk

When I started Greenpunk, I knew it would be at least as complicated as The Girl Who Followed Her Own Counsel, and also that it wouldn’t be a world I could live in. First of all, it’s a dystopian novel and not as pretty as Jacks’s world, and second, my aging brain can’t handle spending 17 years on a first draft. The 2 years it actually took really wore me out; I still haven’t started revising, because it was so cumbersome to gestate (800 pages!). To keep the details straight, I used 2 visual mnemonic devices: a timeline, and a family tree. The timeline actually starts a hundred years before the novel; it’s a murder mystery, so the backstory needed to be firmly in place before the writing began. I started the timeline before I started the novel, added to it as I became more familiar with the world, and then set it aside about 2/5 of the way through the story, once all the characters had met. At that point, I mostly only consulted it to remember the ancient history, the things that happened before the main characters were born.

The Collier family tree. On the off chance that I ever finish revising and sell this novel, I’ve blotted out the details that are mysteries in the book so as not to accidentally ruin the surprise. If it ever comes to that. I don’t think it’s possible to actually read the timeline above, so I didn’t bother editing that, although it’s full of spoilers.

The Collier family tree was a document I consulted frequently as I wrote. Not only did it help to keep the history of the city’s most illustrious family straight as Rip, my protagonist, began to sort it out himself, it also gave me easy access when I needed to bring in new characters. Looking at this chart, which I drew before I started writing, allowed me to answer questions such as, “Who are so-and-so’s confidantes?” and “Which characters are most likely to rebel against the patriarch?” and “Who dislikes whom?”

Darkest Agola, a child's fantasy world, set on top of his physical world

Darkest Agola, a child’s fantasy world, set on top of his physical world

I’m excited, because the night before last I drew the above map. The first week of August, I’ll be taking a writing retreat to Flagstaff with another writer, where I hope to draft the entire script for the graphic novel I want to start drawing in the fall. This map helps me envision a lot of the story. My protagonist, Prince, is 10 years old on page 1. He lives on his family’s farm, but he envisions it as a magical world where he can set the rules. The upper right hand corner represents the part of the farm his grandmother sold off before he was born, which is now a suburban cul-de-sac. Obviously, a lot of the story’s conflict takes place at the border between these 2 worlds.

A lot of the writing is done in my head, often long before words get committed to paper. Maps, timelines, and family trees help cement the details so they’re firmly drafted before the actual draft.