Monday, April 17, 2023
Saturday, April 15, 2023
After all this time, the release date for Reynard’s Tale is just a few days away. The book will be out on April 18, so if you’ve ordered a copy, that’s when it should arrive in your mailbox.
Here’s a look at a little illustration I made as a print to give as a gift to everyone who will be attending the Reynard’s Tale release event (Ales and Tales) at the Handley Library in Winchester, VA on April 22nd. As I write this there are still some tickets available!
(You can read a little more about this print over on my Patreon, in an open post.)
This book means a lot to me, and I’m hoping against hope that it finds its way into the hands of the readers who will love it most. It’s different that the books that I’m most known for, which makes "finding its audience" a little bit of a challenge. It’s also very personal and working on it was ….well, I’ve never had a creative experience quite like it.
It’s a toe dipped into unknown waters, and I find that I want to keep swimming…
Thursday, March 23, 2023
Post-covid author visits still seem like a nostalgic novelty, but I did one this week—traveling to the southernmost edge of Virginia in my Little Red Truck.* This visit was emotionally intense and also had all the lightness of a springtime ramble in the hills. But also, while I was away, The Hatke Family Cat passed away.
I say “My Cat” but we’d broken up, actually. She moved out years ago and went to live with the man in the house just across the abandoned railroad tracks. Still close enough to know she was there, but rather definitively Not With Us.
Still, the thread of her life stretched back almost to the beginning of our family. She came to us as a kitten and we never knew her exact age, but she was nearly as old as my daughter, Angelica, who is twenty.
The river keeps flowing no matter what you do.
*More about this author visit soon. Kind of a lot happened.
Monday, March 20, 2023
The Monster Market: Hearth and Home
Last year I quietly recorded ten (of a projected 13) episodes of a sort of folkloric bestiary podcast with my pal Zack Giallongo. We called it The Monster Market. The idea was that for each episode we'd pick a theme and then each of us would talk about three creatures that fit the theme. It's been tremendous fun.
Episode 2 was posted last week. The theme is domestic spirits.
We also agreed that we would illustrate each of the creatures we discuss so that, in the end, the podcast itself would be a sort of illustrated bestiary. I'm way behind on my illustrations, of course. But thanks to a nice hand-bound sketchbook from Tim Canny (and a little inspiration from Angelica) I finally settled on a trajectory for them. I'm aiming at a sort of folklore field guide approach. Here are my first two pages in the raw:
Stay safe out there.
Thursday, March 16, 2023
I'm Sure this Door is Some Kind of Metaphor
I've been designing doors in my sketchbook. At a certain point I visited the Strong Oaks Woodshop with a scheme in hand. I've been stopping by periodically over the winter, in my little red truck, to pick up loads of scrap bits to burn in our wood stove.
Keeping warm with cast-off bits—one of the little things that gets you longing for Summer.
Over this last weekend Mike built the door and helped me arrange for my design to be cut from a sheet of 1/16" steel on the wood shop's laser cutter (it was amazing to watch). Then we polished and placed the design as the last of winter's snow flurried outside. Finally we wrapped the door up in padded plastic and I drove it home in the back of my little red truck.
Not scraps this time but treasure.
And it all began as a few sketches.
I've written a longer piece about this process over on my Patreon, along with video and lots more pictures. It's an open post, so feel free to have a look.
Friday, February 24, 2023
Still Writing, Still Learning
It was August when I opened up my notes and started serious work on redrafting this novel. I had planned to wrap it up in mid-November. I never guessed that I would still be working on the final few chapters with March looming. But one thing I can say:
I have learned a lot from writing, and re-writing this book. And I’ve learned a lot from sitting with a story for fifteen years from inception to final draft. And even here in the final weeks, as I push to the end, I will sip my morning coffee and a little bit of plot or theme or a moment of character will snap into place like a puzzle piece.
But still, I am *aching* for this one to be finished!
It’s time to turn this one in, hoist my little knapsack full of lessons learned, and walk on down the road to the next project.
Monday, February 13, 2023
I remember when my sister was in high school and wrote this snarky Valentine's Day song. I'm glad she's still singing her offbeat originals (with her daughters!)
Monday, December 26, 2022
Tuesday, November 22, 2022
Sweet Circus Dreams
Monday, November 7, 2022
I am Writing.
For me it’s NaNo(re)WriMo.
I have a little logbook.
I have an eighty thousand word manuscript to use as a starting point.
And I have many-pages-long document full of notes from a Very Sharp Editor. These notes cut deep, and I found them to be very frightening for a long time. The notes (very rightly) pointed out some problems with the narrative that were just so dreadful I would just sink into humiliation at the thought of opening the manuscript. I wanted to just pretend the book didn’t exist.
But it did exist. It does exist.
I have a little blue drugstore notebook that Denver bought me when I was visiting. I’ve used it to re-outline the whole story, longhand, bird by bird.
Wednesday, June 8, 2022
They Sprout When You Least Expect Them
I had a birthday the other day (I try to keep it to one a year). Early in the day I ran out to do a few errands in town and I popped by the post office to check my box.
Setting up a PO box was a good decision. It’s been a source of joy and little surprises. There are letters from young readers, but also, sometimes, heartfelt notes from parents, educators, librarians, and booksellers. These are the unexpected encouragements—the little reminders that my stories really *are* being read out there in the Big World.
When I checked my box on my birthday there was a key. A key! A key means there’s something in the package locker (I have a Very Little Box). Inside the package Locker I found a box that looked like this:
And inside the box was a note that said “Happy Birthday!”
And there was this:
A perfectly sculpted little onion head from Mighty Jack.
So thank you, dear reader, for making my day.
I’ve been in one of my Very Circus-y Moods of late—practicing some of the old tricks and sketching ideas for small scale stage shows and just generally thinking in terms of calliope music and tattered finery. In the midst of these revelries I stumbled on this video of David Dimitri’s One man Circus and I think it’s absolutely charming:
Wishing you a day of subtle surprises.
Tuesday, May 31, 2022
This is a print of an early drawing of Leonardo’s that I bought when I was 16 years old (probably only a few years younger than he was when he drew this). I got it in the gift shop of the Uffizi gallery in Florence and it’s been rolled up in a tube ever since. I’ve carried her with me from house to house for—
…well, for half a lifetime, really.
Just the other week I had her framed and, somehow, it was the perfect moment.
My tiny studio has been steadily accumulating talismans, totems, and charms. Everywhere I look there are mementos full of meaning. Stories fill the nooks and crannies.
And, so far, there’s still room for me.
|*wee Ben c. 1995|
Thursday, May 26, 2022
Here is a video of my sister and my nieces, recorded behind the old forge at my parents place in Indiana. This video made my day.
Yesterday I took a walk at the land near the river during that last breath of twilight and watched a barn owl drift like a slow ghost over a field of fireflies. It turned silent figure eights, dove into the grass and resurfaced. It passed close enough to me that even in the lost light I could clearly see it's dark alien eyes and tiny beak.
I played a song for Ida and then drove home in the dark.
*edit: How did I miss typing the word "owl" in the first draft of this post?
Wednesday, May 18, 2022
More Praise for Used Books
Tony has been reading a lot of Terry Pratchett, and so when he suggested that I would particularly enjoy Small Gods of course I picked up a copy. Because Tony knows.
I looked at Blue Plate Books first, but their Pratchett selection was startlingly lean. So I moved on to Thriftbooks.com and only a few days later a little green package showed up in my PO box. It gave me that special PO Box thrill. I'm always thrilled when things show up in my PO box, even if they are things that I specifically ordered in a state of absolute sobriety.
See, the thing I love about buying used books is that sometimes you get *extra stories*. Not always, but sometimes. Every so often a pre-owned book offers you such a tantalizing snippet from another person's life that you're taken off guard. It’s the wonder of a sudden intimate look into lives that will never, ever intersect with yours. The world gets a little bigger and a little smaller at the same time.
Here’s the inscription I found on the title page of my copy of Small Gods:
I will always wonder about Jason. And about Jason. And about sweet Tasha (that intelligent, zany nut). Did Jason-2 and Tasha stay together? Was Jason-Prime a previous boyfriend? Is that what it means to be elite? To have dated Tasha? Where are they now?
I'll almost certainly never know. But I like to imagine that all four of us (Jason, Jason, Tasha, and me) all share a love for Terry Pratchett. Just like Tony.
<slaps knee repetitively>
Best of luck and lots of love,
Wednesday, May 4, 2022
It’s the most frequent scribble in my notebooks, that little analogue that is Ben-but-not-Ben. Always walking, always thinking. Often head down. Frequently with a satchel or bag. A wanderer. A traveler.
Of course it’s nothing new to say that the legs the the brain are connected, that walking and thinking go hand-in-hand. But for me scribbling completes the trifecta, the Creative Trinity.
Move the legs, move the brain, move the pen.
The legs wander, the brain is messy, the lines are crooked. But if you ask me that’s where the real beauty lies.
So keep wandering.
And, if it’s your thing, keep scribbling.