Weekly update

If I had storyboards, this would be a paid SubscribeStar update. But I do not.

Last week, I got to the end of a story arc on Hat Trick and instead of trying to push ahead, as is my wont, I decided to go all in on making kids’ books via zettelkasten. The idea is I work on whatever I want in the form of little note cards (which in my case are literally playing cards),

…and when a cluster of cards develops to the point that I can turn it into a book, I turn it into storyboards and kick off the process.


So I got started on Awesome Moments. But because A) I don’t trust my printer/scanner, and B) I’ve always wanted to illustrate a kids’ book by painting over 3D models, I spent a few days re-teaching myself how to sculpt in Blender.

During the process, I unearthed some reference pictures I drew for character proportions, and attempted to use them, but decided they weren’t right for my needs: I need big hands and feet, for a more cartoony look.

So I produced a new set of proportions, which I have yet to try sculpting or modeling in any way.

Yesterday, the thought occurred that it would be better to make a story that had only one or two characters, so that I can produce a finished book as soon as possible.

The List

To that end, I listed out all the stories and settings I have on my mind, in case any jumped out at me as the best candidate. This is not the first time I’ve examined my options.. I tend to go through the list each time I finish a project to try and pick the next one. But this time I tried to be exhaustive, and from now on, when I conceive a new project, I intend to go back and edit that list rather than make a new one.

Making Awesome Moments 1 is going to take 3-6 months no matter what I do. The idea of picking a project that allowed me to build incrementally toward it was more a joke and an excuse because having a list of all my potential projects is extremely useful to me.

But… then a thought occurred to me. And I already spoiled it at the beginning of the post.


John Michael Jones learns the Lord’s Prayer! I sculpt JMJ and his dad, I make a room with a bunch of stained glass windows, and I make the windows illustrative of the prayer in question. Bam.

Yesterday I smart noted the Lord’s Prayer and Luther’s large catechism on it. And this has me a little worried…

A Little Worry

Historically, I have not finished projects I’ve started. I like to jump around. Last year, I turned that around by picking tiny projects and committing to them come hell or high water.

The Smart Note/Zettelkasten approach is founded on the belief that jumping around is actually the right way to go — if you do it smart.

I have reason to trust it. But now, having jumped twice in a single week, trusting the process is getting hard. There is no intrinsic limit on it.

I’m going to give it 3 months. If I don’t have at least one book storyboarded by December, I need to reconsider.

Yet Another List of Projects

Yesterday, I went through my old attempts to build a 3D basis for book making and extracted a new proportion set:

Big feet, big hands, big heads gives a cartoon/toy feel. Sculpted forms plays into my prejudices also. I think it will do. I won’t know until I model a couple of characters, and ultimately make a book with them. But I have a good feeling about this set.

The single, most efficient way to test this idea of using lego people to make books is to design a book that only has one character. At most, two. Preferably a constant background. Preferably a blank background.

Basically, The Monster at the end of this Book.

Vintage Books for the Very Young: The Monster at the End ...

Although, come to think of it, making posters would be a good intermediate step. Just having finished, printable pictures would tell me a lot of what I need to go to keep, cancel, or modify the project. So, my prior contention that I should just use this as a way to do the Original Character challenge is probably the way to go. And that is probably what I’ll do.

But I started this blog post with the intention of listing as many potential projects as occur to me in the off chance that one of them will have an obvious “Monster at the End of this Book” story I can tell. And having that list will be useful. So I’m still going to make it. In alphabeticalish order.

Read on, reader!

Awesome Moments Models

Last time I spent any time on the Awesome Moments project, a few months ago, I came up with some drawings and a concept for proportions based on the drawings.

The idea is to make what I call “lego people”. Not that they have any physical resemblance to legos, but that I have hands and torsos and legs and heads and hairpieces that I can mix and match to create several different cartoony characters.

And the art style is an art style I can be happy with for most of my projects because, using them as a basis for paintings, I can produce higher quality books faster than if I were drawing them.

Mind you, I’m not 100% sure I don’t want to draw them yet. Only 90%. I’m sculpting and sketching away secure in the knowledge that I don’t need to make that decision until the book is ready to harvest from my deck box.

Thing is, this is not the first time I had the idea to do lego people for a project.

Continue reading “Awesome Moments Models”

What’s in the Cards?

  • Awesome Moments is sitting at 14 pages, 4 of which I mapped today.
    • The goal is book 1 is the Gospel, but with a brief bit on Eden, and a brief bit on the Resurrection to provide context. AM1 is the framework for all the other AM books.
    • All the pages thus far are Creation/Eden. I expect to get 4-6 more pages out of Eden, so let’s use that to estimate final book length:
      • 20 pages Eden
      • 40 pages Christ
      • 10 pages Resurrection
    • At a rate of 3 pages/day, that means 13 weeks before the cluster is ready to be harvested. That puts me storyboarding in November, aiming to release the book in January or something. Yikes.
    • But we’re going for max quality, so…
  • Hat Trick has 32 pages, zero new.
    • Aiming to make the final story about twice the length of the intro story, for a total of 100ish pages.
    • At this rate, it’ll be done when it’s done. Which is sad, because I was aiming for October, but unless I get bitten by a Hat Trick bug, it’s unlikely.
  • Trying to sort out what I’m going to do with Anvor
  • Trying to sort out what I’m going to do for “Trad Berenstain Bears” (that is, a series starring a large yet functional family).
    • John Michael Jones is a candidate for this, though he presently has a small family.
    • I had also hypothesized a family of space doggos on a star-faring houseboat.
      • However, for maximum functionality, we want people tied to land, and not sojourners.
      • Although… sojourners does work well as a metaphor for this life, as we await our True Home…
      • I have previously hypothesized a spacefaring family that was designed to be my favorite things about Star Trek. These two concepts could be rolled together.
    • A bad candidate is Anvor. Anvor is a bunch of stories I told as a kid that could or even should be reborn as kids’ books. None of them fit this archetype. However, Anvor and its existing lore would be a good candidate for the backdrop.
    • The final good candidate is V-Knights, another series of stories I told when I was young. This one would be extremely simple to convert into a functional family piece.
    • At the moment, none of the card clusters here have any pages.
  • Every now and again, I yearn to code.
  • I’d like to make some mermaid thing for my kid. Right now is too late to have it done for the next birthday, however.

So we’re looking at two or three months before I produce another product. Ouch. I’ll have to see if I can expedite the process. However, I do have a commitment to make my next book the absolute best product I can, regardless of the time investment.

I don’t think that’s ultimately a good plan. I think there needs to be a balance between quality and getting the products out where they are doing some good. But to strike that balance, I need to know which extremes I’m balancing between, and thus far I’ve only tried to work quickly rather than qualitatively. So, at least one book is going to take a loong time to make.

This week in making Kids’ books:

Having converted to the deck box method of making books, this week’s goal is to continue to seed my box. At least a couple of cards each day.

On the theory that Awesome Moments is the cluster most likely to be harvested next, and having done some “3D sketches” to get my knack back:

Each day, after seeding my deck, I intend to complete or retopo a sculpt to build up a library of pieces to use in future books. And I think I’ve worked out a guiding principle. I decided to post a challenge to teh twitterz (sic):

Continue reading “This week in making Kids’ books:”

Sculpting Warmup

This is part 3 of 2. Part 1 is why I’ve stopped work on Hat Trick for now (I have and I haven’t), part 2 is I’m likely to work on Awesome Moments next (we’ll see), and this is less a member of the series and more the fallout of that decision.

Here’s a bunch of pictures I’ve made by slapping down a 3D render, and then painting over it.

It’s not the only way I do things. I can also paint stuff without relying on 3D to cheat.

Wren Fall

And I left out the more egregious examples where the end result looked worse for the technique rather than better.

But I’d like to use the technique for Awesome Moments.

Or more specifically, I’d like to use a variation on the technique.

I would like to create a library of character pieces that I can mix and match to create a wide cast of characters. Stick Head A on Body B with Legs Q, and we all have the same hand model…

With each book I release, the new parts exponentially increase the number of characters, situations, etcetera, I can use. But first, I have to settle on a style and build the parts library for a single story.

It’s been about a year since I last did anything serious in 3D. I was starting to get a knack for sculpting in Blender when I made a lamb for a nibling.

But that knack has gone. And so, last night and today, I have been working on relearning how to sculpt in Blender.

Continue reading “Sculpting Warmup”

Awesome Moments

This is part 2; part 1, where I am with Hat Trick, is here.

Around Christmas last year, my wife set up a crèche, and my kid was all like, “What’s that?”

The child was directed to her father, who punted. It was an excellent punt. I wanted to weave a tale that spanned from a dragon tempting Adam, the first King of Earth, in a garden, to the return of Christ, the second Adam, nestling the nativity right into its context. But my brain wasn’t quick enough to manage it, so I just read a bit from the beginning of Matthew or Luke.

“Oh, gee, darn” the perceptive among you are saying. “You only relied on God’s words instead of your own words. What a terrible outcome.”

It’s okay. There’s sarcasm in the Bible. God thinks it’s funny too.

And I agree. Better to rely on the Word of God than man’s words.

Here’s the thing: Christianity is this epic thing. Angels and Dragons wrestling with flaming swords behind the curtain of reality. Echoes of Christ back to Adam and forward to the end, which is the new beginning.

And the available kids’ books are… well, they are sanitary. The heady communal wine has been replaced with grape juice. In sippy cups. And it’s probably really peach juice with artificial grape flavoring.

I’m not saying let’s break out the book of Judges or the Song of Solomon and read ’em to our five year olds. But our five year olds do need the death and resurrection of Jesus, which means there’s a level of sanitizing that you just shouldn’t do.

It’s an old conundrum on this blog. In the words of C.S. Lewis, “As far as that goes, I side impenitently with the human race against the modern reformer. Let there be wicked kings and beheadings, battles and dungeons, giants and dragons, and let villains be soundly killed at the end the book.”

Continue reading “Awesome Moments”


So, right now, I’m taking notes on blank playing cards.

There was some German sociologist who got the bright idea of keeping his notes in a box and numbering them 1, 2, 3, 2a, 2a1… etc… and allowing clusters to develop naturally. When a cluster got large enough, he could turn the cluster into a book. In this manner, he published some 80 books in his adult lifetime.

I’m neither a sociologist nor a great respecter of sociology. But I hypothesize this method can result in superior books on my part if I just do card notes for whatever I feel like tinkering with, and then ‘harvest’ clusters of cards to convert to my current bookmaking workflow. An Awesome Moments cluster has already started to develop.

Which brings me to my current labors on Hat Trick.

Hat Trick 2: Night Mare Nightmare, AKA Hat Trick 1: Night Mare Nightmare, consists of two parts. Part one is a story about Arthur Rabbit as a child, and is almost mapped out. Part two is the proper sequel of Hat Trick 1: The Death of Arthur, AKA Hat Trick 0: The Death of Arthur, and wraps up Arthur’s struggle with the Night Mare. The idea is to make the second book a worthy sequel to the first book, while at the same time making it able to stand alone as a comic book and to serve as a new, better foundation for the series.

Part 2 of Book 2 is not well conceived and planned. Up til now, my method of storymaking has been to plow ahead and see what I come up with, albeit I do start with the climax in mind, so I have some assurance that the story will work, and I do typically lay out an act-based plot structure before writing.

I have been considering planting HT2 it in my card case and harvesting it when it grows ripe, just converting my entire workflow to this new zettelkasten system. However, now I have a better idea. I will finish the mockup for part 1, plant the second story in the card case, and start seeding the card case for whatever I feel like. When Part 2 is ready to harvest, I’ll mock up the rest of the comic.

The result is Hat Trick 2 has been changed from definitely my next book to probably my next book.

My next book is whichever ripens first.

I will keep this blog updated with the statuses of the seeds in my card box. By way of example, the Awesome Moments cluster is currently about 15 cards, including 6 concept pages. The Hat Trick cluster has nothing, but over the next couple of days, it should grow quite a bit.