In a previous post I mentioned that I was working on a baby book.
This is still true, and I’m thrilled to finally be able to reveal a couple of pages of art.
The book is being illustrated by Minneapolis based costume designer and artist, Stacey Palmer. I’m also very fortunate to be able to call her my sister.
The book was originally illustrated by me 13 years ago, but I never was happy with the artwork. Though I too am an artist, I work more with vector and pixel art. I saw something very special in Stacey’s watercolor art style that perfectly matches the feel to this book.
All of the art is made by watercolor on an 11×17 sheet. Once the painting is complete, I scan the image and do some color correcting for reprinting. Some color is lost when it’s scanned, so I have been going in on a paint program I own with watercolor brushes to touch up the images.
The original watercolor artwork is about half done. In total the book is 26 pages. Once the watercolor pages are complete I will finish the color enhancing and then format the text and images into a book. Ultimately I want this book to be a board book, but at this time I only have the resources for softcover, eBook, and possibly hardcover.
So there you have it! I am very happy with how the book is coming along and can’t wait to share the rest of you.
About thirteen years ago I wrote a baby book in my children’s illustration class in high school. I wrote it for my nephew, who wasn’t yet born. I didn’t know at the time what I was getting into. After writing the book, my teacher asked me if I ever considered getting the book published beyond just the self-publishing our class was doing. I shook my head, never once giving it a thought.
As my friends and family continued to have children, the book kept coming up in the back of my mind.
I kept wishing I had the book ready to give out to people.
There were a couple of things that kept the book from happening
1. I knew the art just wasn’t right.
I spent maybe a week on the original art. After all, it was just a project for school. I never originally intended for it to be published for an audience. I did the whole book in colored pencil. There are a few pages in there I still think are cute, but most of the drawings are just not what I ever would publish.
2. How would I publish the book?
13 years ago, there really was no such thing as cost effectively self publishing a book. Sure it was possible, but it was risky, especially with someone who was heading to college. I didn’t have the money to risk printing 500 or 1,000 copies of a hardcover book I couldn’t get people to buy. Print on demand didn’t exist.
For a long time I forgot about the book too.
Collaborating with my sister for the art, and adjusting the manuscript slightly, this book is actually going to be released for everyone to read.
I would love to give more information out on this project. Any marketer (especially for books and video games) will tell you not to keep your projects secret. They’ll say, “You have a bigger chance to be noticed if you talk all about your project as it progresses.”
And despite being a marketer myself, I am going to go against that rule for this story. I held this book in for 13 years, with only a few family members seeing it. I can wait another few months.
Once we have a set of artwork completed, I will release the images and give more information on the story.
In the mean time, if you are a book reviewer that wants to be first in line for a copy, you can fill out the form onthis page.
If you’re not a reviewer but want to be the first to know any updates, you can contact me directly at
contact [at] jmwenzel [dot] com and I will be sure to send you an email once I have more info.
Update: First look for the art can be seen on this post.
I have so many ideas going on through my head it is has been a blessing and a curse.
It’s been a blessing because I never have a moment when I go, “Now what?”
Usually I am always busy with something, and my brain is constantly churning. This has been a blessing to me because it keeps me motivated and passionate. Writer’s block? No problem. I just move onto some art for a while or write something different.
On that same note though, all my projects seem to curse each other. They aren’t a curse to themselves, but a curse to one another. Because I have so many ideas and projects I want to get done, I don’t have a problem bouncing around because I feel each one is important. Yet bouncing around has caused me to at times feel like I am not “completing” any one project. Perhaps one day they all will get done at once, but then there is a longer delay between each completed project because of this.
Do I have too many projects going on?
In a way, having too many projects can be bad. You could potentially spread yourself too thin and don’t do any one thing well. At the same I think it is good to spread yourself out some. Being diverse not only keeps things interesting, but helps you gain new skills that can compliment your other projects.
I decided the best way to go about having too many projects, yet give each the attention they deserve is to cut out the fluff. There are some projects I just had to simply cut from the idea box. Sure they’ll always be in the back of my mind, but I put them aside in order to get the ones that mean the most to me done.
I started comparing my projects to a, “Gamer’s Backlog”. For other fellow gamers out there, I think you will know what I mean. Too many games and not enough time to get through them all. So what do you do? Prioritize.
So what projects am I prioritizing now?
I am working on two books right now: a children’s chapter book and an illustrated book. Any time one is put on pause for some time, I hop over and do some art. I am churning some ideas out for a website project, but that isn’t going to happen for another couple of months. Otherwise, all the other idea bubbles floating around in my head I am putting a pin in them and holding off until I get a few of my priorities done.
Below are some of my art projects I have been keeping busy with:
I have very little formal schooling with graphic design. I took a little bit of graphic arts in college, but did not major in it. I am quite critical of both my writing and art, but every time I publish an art piece for sale I feel a little better about showing off my work. Art has been, in a sense, a form of therapy for me to learn how to be confidence in my work in general. This has spilled over into my writing as well.
This is why it has been important for me to be diverse in my projects.
One project can somehow either directly or indirectly help your other projects.
I once had too many projects going on. And to some, one may argue I still have too many projects going on.
Now I think I have just enough now after I learned how to put some in the back burner and prioritize. Just like with anything else, balance and moderation is key.
Do you have a lot of projects going on? How do you balance all of them?
These gender reveal party invites feature a controller with “Boy” and “Girl” buttons.
These invites would be great for any gamer out there having a baby. Any of the text can be customized, so the invite does not have to say, “Gender Reveal Party!”
This design also comes with matching stamps.
Sadly the stamps cannot be customized. I think it has something to do with getting approved for the postal service first, before even being able to put them up for sale.
I started by making the design yellow because I wanted to make a neutral tone baby invite. It ended up being a gender reveal party though, so I added the pink and blues to it later. Of course I believe any gender can love pink or blues, as girls can like blue and boys can like pink. This is just one design, and I plan to make many more.
If you have a custom design you’d like me to make for you, I would be happy to discuss further. I have only begun to scratch the surface of design ideas I have, and would love to have more practice.
Have any crazy gender reveal party stories? What did you do at a gender reveal party? Balloons? Cakes?
I have a tuxedo cat that I love and adore. He is a 9 year old male that always looks crabby, but he actually is pretty sweet. So I have a little thing for tuxedo cats.
I decided to move away from my gamer / nerd designs and make a cat design this time. I have to admit, I am hooked on cat designs, so I probably will make many more after this. This tuxedo cat mug features a simplistic cute kitty with a ball of red yarn that wraps around the cup. You can see both sides of the cup in the photo above.
If you’d like to buy this Tuxedo Cat Mug, you can visit my Zazzle Store page and purchase it there.
When I am not writing, I love to do crafts and artwork. I enjoy many different mediums, but vector imaging and pixel art has been my latest adventures.
And in case you wanted to see a photo of my handsome Tuxedo cat that inspires me, here he is. You can call him Kenny.
I also have another cat and dog, that I’m sure I’ll write about soon.
Finding that perfect spot as a writer isn’t always easy. I am sure that even if you “have a spot”, you often dream of another perfect writing space.
Right now, my writing space is my old beat up recliner, laptop, and a little end table next to me where I set my coffee on. It’s really not much, but that recliner has been the prime seat for my writing over the last 5 years. The recliner has seen its days, and sometimes I consider replacing it because of how worn it has gotten over the years.
In the beginning when I started to become a writer, I would use a desktop with a regular office chair. I do still find that I am more productive on a desktop. Though I do have a desktop I would love to use for writing, I have issues with my cats when I use it. I can’t lock them out because they have separation anxiety. To let them in means my tom cat will jump in front of the screen and aggressively paw at it. I think he still holds a grudge against computer screens from my World of Warcraft days.
Strangely, my laptop doesn’t bother either of my cats. So other than them lounging across my lap when I type, they behave much better when I’m using a laptop vs desktop.
Crazy, I know. What can you do though? Cats always seem to find a way to own the house.
What is my dream writing space?
I have a lovely 4 season porch with a wooded backyard. It is truly a writer’s dream, but that too needs some work. It is almost impossible to keep that area warm in the winter time when it’s twenty below outside. So until I figure that out, it’s really only usable a few months out of the year. Really, that porch would be my dream office if I could somehow set it up just right.
Otherwise, my dream space is pretty simple; a quiet room with a comfy chair and a proper desk. I’d love it if my one cat wouldn’t have such a grudge against computer monitors, but I’ll make due. I still love him despite his quirk. Ultimately, he just wants attention.
For now I will continue to love my crusty old recliner. It’s comfortable and gets the job done. As I write this piece, I am sitting on ‘ole reliable. It’ll be a sad day if I ever consider saying goodbye to it, but for now it stays right where it is. I set up a “Writing Space” Pinterest board for those interested in following. Feel free to add me!
The indie video game, The Novelist made me reflect a bit on my own writer’s block and obsession over my work.
A quick sypnosis of The Novelist video game from Wikipedia: “Novelist Dan Kaplan has decided to take his family on vacation in the hopes of not only reconnecting with them, but also defeating his crippling writer’s block.”
Writer’s block was hitting me hard and I desperately wanted to write something, but ideas were just not coming.
Originally I was going to play The Novelist in hopes that playing a game about a writer, would make me want to write. It’s a crazy thought I know, but in a way it worked because here I am now…writing.
While playing the game, it made me realize that I have been obsessing over my work for so many months that I haven’t stopped to play a video game in quite some time. And I love video games, so why was I barely partaking in a hobby that I love?
So perhaps this small bout of writer’s block was just my mind telling me I needed to take a break. After all, we all need to unwind from time to time to keep our minds and ideas fresh.
I’m sure you’re wonderful what my verdict is on the game, The Novelist. Well, I’m not writing on here today to post a review. I actually am not much of a game reviewer anymore, even though I use to do it more in the past. I can say though, that I enjoyed the game. It only took me about 2 hours to get through it, but it was exactly what I needed at the time. So I am satisfied.
It felt good to turn a video game on again. After all, it is truly a hobby that I enjoy next to reading. I think it is important to get away from your work, no matter how desperate you are to get things done, and just relax. I seem to often beat myself up for taking a break. “But I haven’t finished my novel yet. I still have things to get done. I have to schedule and coordinate this and that before the end of the week.”
Don’t do this to yourself. Take a break once in awhile. Enjoy someone else’s work whether it be a movie, book, or video game and relax.
Then after giving yourself plenty of time to unwind and clear your head…get back to work.
For those of you who own a website, I am sure you have thought at some point how awful it would be if your website one day just disappeared. Well, it happened to me. I messed with the files in the admin settings for hours, talking to my hosting company through email and online chat. I swear every time they told me to do something that was to supposedly fix my issue, I had made it worse. Or, perhaps they were just telling me wrong information. I can point fingers at them and myself all day long, but what’s done is done. I lost hours of writing, hours from fixing random errors that showed up anytime I typed in my URL, and hours from putting back the few pieces and remnants of the site that I had left.
As I told my mom when talking to her about it, “I’ll take this as a learning experience.”
So what did I learn about losing my website?
1) Backup your website regularly
This is why I said previously that I can put some of the blame on myself. I didn’t back up anything. All my blog posts were never saved in any fashion. I used a handy website, Wayback Machine to recover all that I could. But I wasn’t able to salvage all of it. And even if you save all of your posts, there is a lot more to a website than blog content, especially if you do a lot of customization, uploading photos, and care even a little bit about web analytics and SEO.
It doesn’t matter how well your site is running. It can happen to you.
2) There is hope
(It’s not the end of the world, even if it feels like it)
As I stated before, I was still able to salvage some of my website, from having nothing saved. I pulled from the website that archives the internet sites to grab a handful of my posts and bring them back to life. It wasn’t much, and the posts I wrote that I enjoyed the most are gone forever, but not all is lost. If you have it in you to write, more content will come to you. This brings me to the next thing I learned.
3) I do indeed love writing and building websites
This confirmed it. I wasn’t just doing it fill my time with. Writing, blogging, and building websites is what I love to do. I realized that if writing and building websites wasn’t something that I loved, I would have quit right then and there.
But that’s not what happened. I came back, because I love it. Yes, I had to put a “Coming Soon” page up and step away from the situation for some time to cool down. But I came back. That’s when you know it’s more than just a hobby to fill your free time with…it’s what you love.
4) I should have done more with my site
When salvaging all that I could from my site, I realized how much worse the scenario would have been if I had dozens, hundreds, or thousands of posts. Then it got me to think…”Why didn’t I have more posts?” Why didn’t I apply myself more? Why were there 20 posts and pages to salvage instead of 200? It was a wake up call, that I needed to write more.
5) I am dedicated and motivated
Perhaps this is a cheesy life lesson to express from this experience, but it’s true. There was a short time that I had flung my arms in the air and thought I was going to quit for good. It was too much work. I didn’t want to start over. That was it.
Then I flipped that energy around.
“I don’t want to quit. I want to write. I want to blog. I want to keep working on my site.”
And that was that. I threw up the “Coming soon” page and starting building what I could back up.
It made me realize that I am not a quitter. I am afraid to quit, sometimes almost to a fault.
Losing my website made me realize that I am more dedicated and motivated than I thought I was. Of course I needed a little bit of encouragement from those I am closest too, but I took that ounce of encouragement and took it to the next level.
I learned a lot from losing the contents of my website. I hope to never have to go through it again, but I feel fortunate to have learned what I did now, instead of 3 years from now.
Have you ever learned something from a tough situation?
I see those “Game Over” shirts everywhere in various designs. I do enjoy the video game reference behind it, but I always felt like it was a little harsh on marriage.
This design I created is with the idea that as long as you have your Player 2 (your spouse) it won’t ever be a game over! Additionally, because it is a reference to gaming, I had to put controllers in their hands, and make it just a little pixelated.
To purchase this shirt, you can buy it on Zazzle! You can get it in various different styles and colors. Some colors work better than others. For the best results, I suggest getting it in a Navy Blue, Dark Gray, Black, or Brown.
You can also get it in Women’s Sizes, and tank tops!
I am starting to get back into art and design, and have been dabbling into pixel art. Pictured above are some of my latest creations. As I am getting married in the coming year, I was inspired to combine my love for video games with wedding designs.
To view my entire wedding collection, visit my Wenarts Wedding page on Zazzle. There isn’t a whole lot there, but more will be coming soon!