A site for kids that love graphic stories

I always hope that my books will attract new readers and initiate them into the joys of graphic storytelling. I also recall that as a young artist I was constantly starved for good, sound advice on the tools and techniques of "real" illustrators. Now, as an adult who's found a foothold in the profession I looked up to as kid, I'd like to offer some guidance to aspiring kid artists hungry for help...or maybe just a good story. To fill this need, I've created RobotsAndQuicksand.com! R&Q exists for the kids that love wild stories and great artwork, and it has tons of features you’ll want your kids to know about:

The Drawing Board: a weekly blog offering advice to aspiring young artists on how to draw and tell stories with pictures. With kids showing so much interest in comics and graphic novels today, here’s a chance for kids to get info and insight on the craft of telling stories with pictures. There’ll be drawing tips, book reviews, examinations of some of the great artists of the past and present, examinations of the finer points of comics and illustration, and much more—and all DIRECTED AT KIDS with an interest in appreciating and creating graphic stories.

Dragon Girl Comics: a weekly web comic strip continuing the adventures of the characters from my middle-grade graphic adventure/fantasy novel, Dragon Girl: The Secret Valley. After all, what would a site dedicated to graphic storytelling be without a graphic story?

Free Stuff!: a page that will feature printable coloring pages, drawing templates, craft activities and more. Kids can design their own superhero, create a paper dragon, and they'll find something new added each month. It’s all just for fun, and it’s all FREE for kids (and teachers) to print from their own computer.

Home and Classroom: another weekly blog directed at the parents, teachers and librarians of kids that love graphic storytelling. I’ll be posting on the issues surrounding kid’s love for picture books and graphic novels. There’ll be plenty of insights from a working creator of children’s graphic stories (me!), and links to articles on the subject of bringing kids to reading through exposure to graphic literature of all kinds.

Tell your friends, tell librarians and teachers, tell parents, but most of all tell your students and kids: RobotsAndQuicksand.com is here!

Dragon Girl on GoComics.com!

My graphic novel, Dragon Girl: The Secret Valley, is now being serialized online at GoComics.com! You'll be able to read the whole thing over the course of the next few months on the same site where you'll find hundreds of great comics strips like Dilbert, Doonesbury, Calvin and Hobbes, and tons of other. You'll find it here! Of course, if you can't wait months to find out what happens to Alanna and Griffin, you can always just order the book here. Either way, enjoy!

The reason for it all.

Take a good look at the image below. The dashing figure on the right is, of course, Alanna— the hero of my graphic novel Dragon Girl: The Secret Valley. The equally dashing figure on the left is named Katie. For all of us authors and illustrators of stories for kids, Katie is what it's all about.

I didn't know Katie or her family, but thanks to a library in North Carolina, Katie knew me. She'd stumbled on a copy of my book, took it home and slipped into the secret valley of dragons for a few hours. Katie decided she liked it there.

As Halloween approached, I got this email from Katie's parent, with the above-left photo attached:

"My daughter loves Dragon Girl. In fact, she often tells people that she thinks you must have been secretly watching her as inspiration for your book! You see, Katie has been some type of dragon for Halloween five out of the last ten years. She is obsessed with dragons, so when she found your graphic novel at the library, she had to be Alanna for Halloween. She requested that I send you a picture of the costume we made.

Thank you for fueling our daughter's imagination and we look forward to the next installment!"

Being an author and illustrator of stories for kids is a tough gig—it really is. For the vast majority of us the hours are long, the pay is low, and there's a lot more rejection than there is acceptance. This is a job you do because you have to. Because someone told you a story when you were six...or nine...or twelve...that showed you your world could be bigger. It happened to Carl Sagan when he visited Barsoom and met John Carter. It happened to Gloria Steinem when she was transported to Paradise Island and met Wonder Woman. It happened to me on a trip to the city of Metropolis. It's happened billions of times over the ages. The right story lodged in the right head will stick there for a lifetime. Creators like me do what we do for the chance to pass on a ticket someone gave us a long time ago: a ticket to a place of new possibilities.

Welcome to the secret valley, Katie. May you never forget the way here, and here's hoping you get the chance to show someone else the path someday.

A "Smashing" success!

Next on my drawing board and computer screen will be a truly unique new graphic novel. I'll be collaborating with veteran children's science writer Sara Latta on a middle-grade GN about the Large Hadron Collider at CERN in Switzerland. We'll be teaching kids about the basics of subatomic structure and the Higgs Bosun particle, and what it all means to our understanding of the universe. Sound like a dry subject to you? Think again! Sara and I will be telling the story of the LHC in ways that you'll not only understand, but that you'll find entertaining and imaginative. Explore time and space with teenage guides Sophie and Nick as they explore the nature of the universe and the nuts and bolts of existence. SMASH will be coming from Graphic Universe (Lerner Books) in April 2017.

Dragon Girl Arrives!

NOW ON SALE! I spent all of 2013 drawing and writing: Dragon Girl-The Secret Valley! Dragon Girl is a 192-page (whew!) graphic novel for kids. It's published by Andrews McMeel, the comics powerhouse that's given the world collections of Doonesbury, Dilbert, Calvin and Hobbes, and a ton of other classic comic strips from the past 25 years. I'm honored to be sharing an imprint with so many other outstanding cartoonists. The folks at Andrews McMeel have a deep understanding and appreciation for comics, and I'm lucky to have had their editorial guidance for this project. We're already planning a lot of promotions and appearances to help the book find its audience. This fact alone would make Dragon Girl something special for me—I've never had a publisher give one of my books the kind of push this one's about to get. If I do say so myself, Dragon Girl deserves it. It's something special!

Dragon Girl is a ripping graphic adventure story that kids are going to find riveting. It's been getting great reviews, too. For those that need further persuasion on the merits of this fantasy masterpiece (Oh yeah, you heard me right!), I've posted a preview from the book here. Put on your best fire-proof gear ('cause you know how dragons are) and check out Dragon Girl: The Secret Valley.

Beatles For Sale

I've been a huge Beatles fan since... well...since there were Beatles! I can even remember (vaguely—I was five) the night they played The Ed Sullivan Show for the first time on February 9, 1964, hitting the culture like an atom bomb.

Well, here we are fifty years later, and my enthusiasm for their music, and for that moment in history, hasn't flagged a bit. As my own exercize in sharing the feel of that moment in time, I created a piece of digital art that is now available as a framed print from the online vendor ThreeDayGallery.com.
Click here to take a look and get one of your very own.

The return of The Sphinx!

It's been close to fifteen years since the Sphinx was last seen in the pages of Image's Big Bang Comics, but the character is still remembered fondly by its fans. Now, thanks to the folks at Pulp 2.0, the Sphinx will fly again, along with many of his other Big Bang cohorts! All the Sphinx's adventures are now collected into a trade paperback edition that will include all the original stories, plus never-before-seen art done for the character. If you missed it the first time, or if you'd just like a brand-spanking new copy of everything all under the same colorful (and brand new!) cover, this will be your chance! See why some of this work earned me a nomination for the Russ Manning Award For Most Promising Newcomer in Comics way back in 1998!

The games people play

I've been working for months with an incredibly talented and inventive iOS devoper to generate illustrations for a great new game he's been creating for the iPad and iPhone. (This is the same guy that did such a terrific job taking my storybook app, STOP MATH, from crazy notion to working reality.) The whole thing is now starting to come together. The demo I've played is really impressive, and as one of the few people that's been allowed to see the game in action, I can tell you I think it's going to be really cool!

The art at right is all I can show you right now to whet your appetite--there's still more programming to do before the app is released. But once it's done I'll be revealing much more of the art I did for this project, and encouraging you to download the app onto your own mobile screen and try it out for yourself.

Stay tuned. It's gonna be something special!

STOP MATH: the revolution will be digitized!

STOP MATH has arrived! My interactive storybook app for iPad is now available for download from the App Store! You can find out all about STOP MATH by going to www.stopmath.com, where you'll find descriptions of and images from the app. Or better yet, just go to Apple's App Store and purchase a copy for your iPad!

Colorful Characters

The Monster Alphabet, another of my collaborations with writer (and friend) Michael P. Spradlin, is now available at a bookseller near you! A whole new generation of little kids is sure to get excited about learning their ABCs once they discover that A stands for abominable snowman, F stands for Frankenstein's monster, and S is for sasquatch. No longer will you have to fan out across the countryside with your fellow pitchfork-armed villagers just to catch a glimpse of some cute, other-worldly creatures. Now you can just open this book— plus you'll brush up on your ABCs, too! The Monster Alphabet is published by Price Stern Sloan. You can latch on to a copy at your local bookseller, or by clicking here.