April 27, 2012

Aggie illustration swag revealed

Per my promise, Blog, here's the cool stuff I got incorporating Anna Rettberg's beautiful illustration of Aggie and her heroes.

I ordered this 30 x 10 print from Bay Photo, mounted on gatorboard with offset (so it "floats" on the wall) and laminated. It looks so amazing here.

And I also ordered a mug from Cafe Press. The illustration's layout is perfect for this. I'm drinking out of it even as I type this!

Aggie fans, if you want to order your own print from Anna's online store, here is the link!

April 22, 2012

The Magic House art collection

Blog, here are two of the great things about my life:

(1) I get to meet and know a lot of creative, artistic people, and
(2) My husband loves to shop.

The cumulative effect of these two factors is that my home, aka Magic House, has acquired quite a collection of art pieces I really love. Oh, I'll add modestly that I make a lot of stuff of my own, and sometimes it turns out good enough to display proudly as well.

Yesterday I completed a project I'd wanted to do for awhile: inventorying our art collection. We have over 100 pieces of wall art and displayable objects, so many that we sometimes have to rotate them in and out, like a real gallery. It was fun for me to really appreciate and savor each piece by recording it, the artist, the place we got it, and its current location. (And yes, I am a little bit anal-retentive, why do you ask?)

I photographed a sample of things...some that are my favorites, and some that just seem representative of the sorts of things we collect.  And here they are:

Frank Lloyd Wright Bradley Skylight glass panel, and ceramic bowl with "rock heads" by a local artist whose name, alas, I have lost.

One of our prize possessions, the "Time Travel Orb," which is a fused glass ball with a floating boulder opal by James Yaun. The faux metal cat scupture was made by me. Also love this side table, with a concrete top with embedded rocks, one of a kind, by a Wisconsin company.

Also prized: original Route 66 Polaroid photo by our daughter Katie's boyfriend Chris Robleski (yes, we are fortunately to have a slew of his stuff on display), and painting of Santa Monica Pier bought for us at Dan Rice's Rt. 66 to Cali stand.

A total surprise gift from husband Davie, these are actual "etched" leaves in a shadowbox. Artist: Bookey Morey.

Print of a watercolor/ink landscape of Galena, Illinois by one of our favorite artists, Carl Johnson. We have five of his prints hanging in our house--this one is in the powder room.

Pizza house by Heather Goldmine, and Rinconada cat from Uraguay, on the living room window seat.

Centipede etching, #3 of 3, by daughter Katie Nelson, in the bedroom.

Milwaukee River Renaissance by Lynn Casper, in the bedroom.

A few years ago, Katie and I made custom ceramic cats for each family member for Valentine's Day. Each of us also got a photo of all four cats. Quill (for a writer) is mine, and Scrubs is Davie's (for his cleaning business).

I made this dish garden, which is currently on the wine rack under the installation of 12 of Katie's "textures" photographs.

Love this tile frame with a photo I took of Lake Michigan. Small root wood bowl with rocks. And the inimitable "Magic Bowl" which a local artist painstakingly made and now serves as our cats' water dish because they refuse to drink out of anything else.

If you receive/obtain/create beautiful things, it's very important to appreciate them, Blog. I make a point of walking around our home periodically, just looking at what we have. Beauty is one of the things that simply makes life worth living, wouldn't you say?

April 18, 2012

Aggie portraits revealed!

So, Blog, last time you remember I shared about my long term yearning to acquire illustrated versions of the characters from my novel Aggie's Nine Heroes.

And you also know that I semi-miraculously stumbled upon the perfect artist for this task, one Anna Rettberg.

Well, Anna outdid herself, and without further ado, here's the crew:

Can I get a crazed SQUEE? C'mon Blog, let it out--you need to with all this awesomeness!

Close inspection will reveal to you that there are little flecks on the image. That's because, although the final rendering is digital, Anna began by drawing each figure with pencil. I love that she left in the flecks for authenticity! She scanned the drawings and then worked in Photoshop to outline, color and shade them.

Okay, now let's let the readers take a closer look at each of the characters in this little slide show below. Who's the hottest guy? (*cough* Jason *cough*) And who could possibly be more adorable than Aggie, huh? Don't you just dig Brandon's fabulous smile? And Glenda's terrific hair? Lucas's elfin good looks, Nita's curves, and the complete charm of Bernie?

Well, Anna outdid herself, and without further ado, here's the crew:

Are they not, as I sometimes say, on beyond zebra? I can't get enough of looking at them. Okay, let's just take one more view, the way I'm going to do the 30" x 10" print that is going on the wall at Magic House:

Wow. Just wow.

Will I be sharing a photo of the art on the wall once I have it? Oh c'mon, Blog--what do you think?

All my thanks to Anna, and yes as I say this I am bowing down "I'm not worthy" style. She's the best.

UPDATE 4/19: Anna is now offering prints of the illustration in her online shop! If you'd like to order one, go here.

April 12, 2012

I wanna see my characters SO BAD!

Aggie, by me
So, Blog, here's the deal: When you're a fiction author, and privileged with the power to create characters, sometimes you become pretty fond of them. Now imagine knowing and liking a bunch of friends that you will never see with your own eyes, not even in photos. I'm sure lots of writers deal with this okay, but me? Well, it makes me bonkers, and not in the good way.

Case in point is the title character in my latest novel, Aggie's Nine Heroes. She's a bright, earnest, philanthropic young girl, as determined as she is cute. I wish I could see her. Not just Aggie, but her team of nine friends and family, everyone of them unique and special.

Complicating this is the fact that all my life I've wanted to be a cartoonist/ illustrator. Cartoon depictions of the A9H gang would be perfect, Blog, because Aggie, her grandpa Bernie, and her best guy friend Brandon are all comic book fans. I could almost see how they should all look...just enough to make me nuts, and far short of being able to capture on paper.

W-I-P cover, by me
Which did not stop me from trying. I did the above cartoon of Aggie, festooned in her beloved hot pink hula hoop. Not bad for someone who sucks at illustration--but of course nothing like I wish I could do.

Early on in writing the book, I developed a work-in-progress cover which I cobbled together in Photoshop in a most complicated fashion. It did give me a sort of feel for Aggie, her teen-in-the-90s casualness, her air of independence and self-reliance. Another feeble stab...

Aggie, by Katie
For a long time now, my cover designs have been done by my daughter, Katie Nelson, who clearly got her illustration genes from her father and is a professional graphic artist. Katie flattered me by basing her cover on my W-I-P one, and she did a fine job turning Aggie into a silhouette/cartoon hybrid.

Her execution of the silhouettes of the team of nine was also boffo. I don't know how she does this stuff.

The Nine Heroes, by Katie

So, that made for an awesome book cover, but I couldn't get over my crazy craving to somehow see my ten fictional buddies turned into cartoons. Thus it festered inside me for months, until one fateful day....

Via Facebook, I was introduced to an illustration of a bunch of TV characters hanging out together at a cocktail party. I took one look at the depictions of personal faves like Sheldon, Mr. Spock, Walter from Breaking Bad, House, and the rest...and I went completely bonkers, in the good way. When I checked out the blog of the artist, one Anna Rettberg, I went bonkers in the good way all over again.

This was my illustrator.

Aggie, by Anna
Seeing as Anna's TV illustration was in the process of going viral, I wasted no time emailing her at once. In spite of being on the verge of college graduation and suddenly in the limelight, she was happy to agree to a commission! It was really happening! My SQUEE must have thundered across the entire Midwest, Blog. I sent her Katie's art and my notes on the ten characters, and prepared to wait for the line art for my review.

It was only a few days later when the astonishingly speedy Anna emailed me a 4 MB file, which, when opened by my trembling hand on the mouse, revealed the line art of Aggie and her crew. My cat Cody was sitting in front of the monitor, and who knows what he thought when his mistress began to sob and laugh simultaneously.

They were perfect!

How can I possibly explain the experience of seeing on the screen these ten characters who before lived only shadily in my mind's eye...and yet now were so perfectly, spot-on recognizable? This was, without doubt, a Top Ten Moment in my life, Blog. Bonkers in the BEST way!

For now I will share here just the image of Aggie Borkowski, with her hula hoop. Sometime in the next couple of weeks I'll be clicking on another file in another email from Anna, and seeing the ten in full color.

Plan now on me not getting anything else done on that day, Blog. And plan now on seeing it yourselves, readers, as soon as it comes into my possession!

April 4, 2012

The 40s rocked!

Well, not literally, as rock 'n' roll wasn't quite a thing yet, but during March I became completely enamored of 40s music.

Speaking of March, we missed it, Blog! Mea culpa, 39 readers, for neglecting keeping you abreast. We were definitely thinking of you!  While listening a lot to Sirius XM 40s on 4.  I've always been a Big Band fan, but I discovered a source of all kinds of great music from the 40s, and now I'm obsessed.

So, mostly for my own pleasure but hopefully also for some of yours, I compiled my list of Top 25 Songs from the Big Band/Swing Era, in no particular order.  And I picked five of them that would be the ones I'd take to the desert island, interspersed here for you to take a listen if you wish.

Moonlight Serenade - Glenn Miller
String of Pearls - Glenn Miller
In the Mood - Glenn Miller
Pennsylvania 6-5000 - Glenn Miller
Stompin' at the Savoy - Benny Goodman

Jersey Bounce - Benny Goodman
Down South Camp Meeting - Benny Goodman
Sing Sing Sing - Benny Goodman
Moonglow - Benny Goodman
Opus One - Tommy Dorsey

On the Sunny Side of the Street - Tommy Dorsey
Tangerine - Jimmy Dorsey
Stardust - Artie Shaw
Begin the Beguine - Artie Shaw
Take the A Train - Duke Ellington

Satin Doll - Duke Ellington
Deep Purple - Kay Kyser
Ain't Misbehavin' - Fats Waller
Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy - Andrews Sisters
Laura - Woody Herman

Tuxedo Junction - Erskine Hawkins
720 in the Books - Jan Cavitt
Brazil - Xavier Cugat
Skyliner - Charlie Burnet
You Made Me Love You - Harry James

They sure don't write 'em like they used to, Blog.