Here are some character sketches for the book that my friend, Kevin, and I have been working on. Some characters turned out to be very different than Kevin had initially written in his earlier drafts. Tholoman, for example, was supposed to be a grizzled old human male. Now he’s a “young” elf. We thought by making him younger we could have fun with the chemistry between him and the young girl protagonists.
We’ve also been involving our daughters’, too. Kevin runs all his revisions by his daughter, Clara. As for me, when I was sketching the Bokziks, a group of sometimes-half-animal antagonists, I didn’t realize my oldest daughter, Ashley, was peering over my shoulder.
“Dad, you should make her a half-squirrel.”, she said matter-of-factly. “It’d be cool.”
“Yeah?”, I looked up, startled.
So, I erased the crude “were-dog” that I had been working on and in its its place quickly scribbled out a bushy tail, squat hips, and tiny legs and feet.
“Like that?”, I asked, unsure.
“Yeah!”, she smiled back.
So, yeah, collaboration is fun. Sometimes it might even take you somewhere you never expected to be.
I’ve always liked maps. They tell you where you’ve been – or better yet, where you might go.
Before there was MapQuest or Google Maps there was the Thomas Guide, a hefty, seemingly indecipherable, yet indispensable tome of colorful road maps. Mine was gifted to me by my parents on my 16th birthday along with my first car, a 1972 Volkswagen Bug. Weighing in at three pounds and measuring over an inch thick mine only covered San Diego County, but in an era before cell phones it saved my rear more times than I like to admit. My Thomas Guide rode under the driver’s seat of that Bug and several others before it met its ultimate demise. I kept it far longer than it was useful. MapQuest’s printable turn-by-turn instructions knocked the books’ usefulness to its knees, Google Maps and the Apple iPhone severed its head altogether.
Although the Thomas Guide was practical I always preferred those with, well, a little more imagination. As a kid that meant the park maps handed out at Disneyland, Knott’s Berry Farm, or Wild Rivers. I enjoyed plotting my adventures along the colorful pathways and trying to figure out what attractions changed since my last “adventure”.
During our last meeting, Kevin, the author I have been collaborating with, and I decided that our book needed a map. After sketching out a ( very ) rough draft with him I returned home and pondered what such a map should look like. I decided it needed to be practical, like a Thomas Brother’s Guide, but also fun like the park maps handed to me at amusement parks. This is what I came up with. If it makes you smile, I succeeded. If not, well, at least I tried!
Oh! Any my daughter, Ashley, helped me with the design and color for this one. I’ll make an artist out of her yet!
I am in awe by how much work goes into the writing of a book. There’s the book itself – and then there’s all of the world building that takes place behind the scenes. World building is the history, characters backstories, creatures, cities – basically everything that goes into creating a believable world, or “atmosphere” in which the story takes place. It’s “frustratingly fun” to conjure up – frustrating in that much of the generated content may be omitted entirely in the actual book, but incredibly fun to dream up. My friend, Kevin, the author, and I are having a great time.
Here’s an excerpt from the book for which the above illustration was created. I hope you like it.
There was a loud crack of thunder and lightning beamed down from the sky brightening everything in the trees around them. Jalapeña and Raven looked at one another with wide eyes, realizing for the first time that they weren’t alone.
“Are those spiders,” asked Jalapeña?
“ Um yeah, Uh I think so? What should we do?”
“Just keep walking and hope we can see better when the lighting strikes again.” Jalapeña couldn’t believe what she had seen and Raven didn’t seem too sure about the spiders either. The sky suddenly lit up brightly and thunder shook through the treetops. They could both see clearly now, hundreds of bright red eyes glowed in the light. The spiders were getting closer and it was clear they were as big as the two girls, maybe bigger.
Jalapeña screamed, first a loud screech and the “RUUUUUNNNN!” Raven was already running ahead of her. Jalapeña started to run but was quickly pulled upward by something and swung forward through the trees.
At the next crack of lightning, she could see that she was swinging above where Raven was running and she continued moving forward as if on a pendulum. “Raven!” she screamed. She didn’t think Raven had heard her, the rain was now coming even harder and in large drops, the size of golf balls, splashing off of everything and causing small rivers and waterfalls to form all around them. The next lightning bolt Jalapeña saw Raven continuing to run along the muddy trail, not too far below her. What she saw ahead of her was even more terrifying than the spiders; a giant wall of water was rushing down the trail, pushing trees down ahead of it. It was headed right for Raven but there was nothing Jalapeña could do but yell futilely as the noise was now far too loud to hear or be heard…
“What should I call my team?”, I asked without looking up from my laptop, “‘Team Vandervort’?”
“I don’t want to sound conceited, but I really don’t know what else to name it.”, I continued.
“’Team Vandervort’ is good”, Jodie replied. She was scrubbing a cake pan in the kitchen sink. It was one of many left over from my oldest daughters’ latest baking frenzy.
I looked up from my laptop and over to her.
“I’m thinking about a slogan, too….”, I ventured.
“Oh?” ( scrub, scrub, scrub )
“How about ‘Help me nip cancer in the groin’?”, I asked with a hint of a smirk.
The scrubbing stopped.
I consciously refocused my eyes on my laptop and the registration form displayed on its screen, but I could feel her “are you ^#$@%# nuts” glare burning into my temple.
“…. weeeeeeeell, maybe not. Just ‘Team Vandervort’ will work I guess”, I answered quickly.
The scrubbing resumed.
And that’s the problem with Prostate Cancer. While Breast Cancer has captivated the public with humorous yet risque catch phrases like “Save the Boobies”, Prostate Cancer is quick to refrain from such things less people be offended. Admittedly, the prostate just isn’t as much of a crowd pleaser. I totally get it. I wouldn’t want to see one strolling down the street, either.
Regardless, the 2021 Prostate Cancer Walk is important to me. When I was first diagnosed in late 2019 I had missed it by a month. I promised my daughters that we’d walk next year – only to be denied again by COVID restrictions. This year, however, Prostate ZERO has pulled out all of the stops. It’s happening,
Unlike most cancers, Prostate Cancer can be cured if caught early enough. I walk to bring attention to the disease so that other men will be aware of this. So that they will get tested. So that they can “nip cancer in the groin” before it’s too late. I walk to support people afflicted with the disease so that they can afford the treatments and care that will make them better. I walk because I don’t want anyone else to have to go through what I have.
Rest assured that I am doing well.
It’s been well over a year since my prostatectomy, seven months since my last radiation treatment, and my hormone therapy will be winding down later this year. My PSA, an indicator of prostate inflammation – or in my case ( since I am lacking a prostate ) – cancer, has stayed undetectable. I credit my incredible medical team at UCSD Moores Cancer Society, my loving and supportive family and friends, and some pretty extreme lifestyle changes. I wouldn’t be where I am today without the help of so many people.
If you’d like to join me and “Team Vandervort” in the 2021 Prostate Cancer ZERO Walk please click here for my team page. On my team page there are two buttons: “Donate to Team Vandervort” and “Join Team Vandervort”. The second button, “Join Team Vandervort”, will register you to participate in the walk and prompt you to select a team. The first button, “Donate to Team Vandervort” will allow you to make a donation but not participate in the walk.
There is a 5k run/walk as well as a 1k walk. My family and I will be participating in the 5k walk.
A few months ago my friend, Kevin, asked if I would help him illustrate a book he had been working on. The book is based on a collection of stories he had told to his daughter, Clara, at bedtime and over long plane flights to keep her preoccupied. The stories tell the story of “Jalapeña”, an 8-year-old red-headed troll and her human friend, “Raven”, as they go on a series of adventures. Kevin shared his manuscript with me and, although I really enjoyed the story, I was hesitant to illustrate it. His story was epic. It contained a huge cast of characters and creatures and traversed a wide variety of places over different time periods.
“You know”, I told Kevin, “I’ve never done this before!”
“…I’ve just drawn comics…”, I continued, before he could interrupt. “… and, it’s almost a given that my artwork will improve as the book progresses. The illustrations might be inconsistent!”
“That’s okay!”, he replied, calmly.
In that instant I realized that Kevin and I were in the same boat. He wasn’t a professional writer any more than I was a professional artist. It’d be a learning process for both of us.
And then I smiled.
“Okay then.”, I said.
“Let’s do it.”
The experience so far has been nothing short of awesome…
“Are there any tests available yet?”, Jodie asked me.
“No, not yet. I’ll check again tomorrow.”, I replied, discouraged.
“I’m going to forget everything before I get a chance to be tested on it!”, I continued.
“Same here.”, Jodie smiled
It would be almost three months from the point I finished studying for my California real estate agent exam to when I was actually allowed to be tested on it. The testing centers were either closed or restricting the flow of candidates to a small trickle. Thank you, COVID.
Fortunately, I passed.
Over a year ago my wife, Jodie, decided to get her brokers license. She started in real estate over ten years ago right after our oldest daughter was born. She had done really well, too, building relationships and selling and buying homes all over San Diego.
“Well, what if I get my agent license, too? Then I can help you out – maybe hold open houses or something.”, I offered.
I smiled back. In real estate, agents work “under” a broker. My wife would essentially be my boss.
“Unless you have something against sleeping with your employees?”, I smiled.
“Nope”, she laughed back.
So we studied together. Then, after we were done studying, we waited together for exam spots to open up. It took me almost a year. It took her even longer because, to become a broker, she had to prove her work experience, a process that took forever due to the glacial pace of the Department of Real Estate weighted down by COVID restrictions.
Jodie passed, too.
We threw around names for a while and decided on “Vandervort Realty”. Over the years I’ve realized my last name can be a bitch to spell for newbies, but instantly memorable – if only because it’s a bitch to spell. It would be perfect for a company name – as long as we didn’t have to create any musical jingles to go with it.
The company logo proved trickier.
Initially Jodie wanted to go with a design she had found on Etsy, but I insisted on designing one for her. Illustration and graphic design has become my “thing” over the last few years, just as real estate hers.
“I work cheap.”, I told her. “You can pay me in vegan brownies!”
“Deal!”, she said.
We went through countless revisions. The endeavor expanded into a business card, listing sign, and Facebook Page, too. But finally the day came.
“I like it.”, she admitted.
“Really, so we’re done?”, I asked, stunned.
“Yeah”, she smiled, “Well, for now…”
“Good”, I smiled. “You have a lot of baking to do, you know.”
Take care. Stay healthy. Live life.
Vandervort Realty is a family-owned real estate brokerage located in sunny San Diego. We pride ourselves on making relationships, not sales. Our goal is to educate people to help them make the best decisions in any market. For more information you can contact me here on DrawnAndCoded, or visit our Facebook Page.
My cousin Paul and his wife April just launched a new BBQ Sauce, “Daddy’s BBQ Sauce”. The BBQ Sauce is based upon a family recipe handed down by April’s grandfather. Paul and April have served it for years at family gatherings in their backyard on smoked and grilled meats. Before I eliminated meat from my diet due a prostate cancer diagnosis I looked forward to it’s unique sweet taste and how it caramelized on the meat. Without sounding like a hypocrite, it’s delicious.
I might seem like the last person that should be promoting a BBQ sauce, but I want to be the first to support my cousins’ endeavor because I believe in it. It’s good. So good that I volunteered to create a logo for them to support them. Over the next few months they’ll be promoting “Daddy’s BBQ Sauce” on a road trip across the United States. If you see them, tell them their cousin Scott said, “Hi!”, and pick up a bottle.
“Daddy’s BBQ Sauce” is also available on their online store.
I used Clip Art Studio, Gimp, and ultimately, Inkscape to render the logo. The logo went through several iterations, each focusing on a caricature of April’s grandfather. Some of the other finalists are below, but most people I talked to favored the “laid back” demeanor pictured above.
Take care. Stay healthy. Live life. Try “Daddy’s BBQ Sauce” ( you’ll love it )!