Thursday, August 30, 2018

Scarecrow Standees

Quockerwodger the Bucket Scarecrow and a couple of Winnowings in front of a cornfield.
Just thought I'd share a fun little part of my creative process.

A significant component of the development for my children's book, The Scarecrow Harvest Festival, involves making miniature pop-up figures or "standees" for my son. He loves these little cardboard guys and our house has amassed quite the collection of them. In addition to standees of my own drawings, I've also built paper figures from other sources such as (which is a fantastic website, by the way. You should definitely check it out for some great spooky, atmospheric artwork, music, paper toys, games and lots more. Seriously, just go take a look), The Papertoy Monsters Kit by Brian Castleforte and a bunch of other paper toy artists, and even some pretty cool pop-up playsets from Wendy's.

I usually start with an idea my son gives me like "a bucket scarecrow" or "a swamp witch" or "a praying mantis ghost" and just let the image take me where it will. It's a fun, loose drawing exercise. Advanced doodling really. But it helps me build up the world of the Scarecrow Harvest Festival, and who knows- I might even expand these characters out into future books. There's certainly a lot of fun things I could do with them.

(Also, sorry for the blurriness in some of these photos. My phone's camera is all scratched up and it's going to be a bit before I can get a new one.)

Gowpen the Counting Scarecrow and Haspenald the Star-Gazing Scarecrow also having a wander through the cornfield.

An old turnip-headed scarecrow (with teru-teru-bozu friends) and a watermelon scarecrow hanging out with Jonny Chiba's Nom Nom monster from the PaperToy Monsters Kit

A pair of Mantis Ghosts and a Swamp Crab trying to catch the last subway car of the night.

A Walking Mangrove Tree and a... Brain Plant (based loosely on a drawing of a D&D Xorn my son saw) waiting in line with an ax-wielding werewolf from Ravensblight for tickets to a Tangerine Dream concert.

The Brain Plant having an important business meeting with a Grim Reaper from Ravensblight and a couple cavern adventurers from a Wendy's toy.

Some more Wendy's toy characters inviting a Pascagoula Robot-Mummy (version 2.5) to their sweet New Year's Eve party.

Saturday, August 18, 2018

Review: Monkeyboy by S. Shane Thomas

This is the tale of Han, a young humanoid monkey, and his band of friends as they adventure across their homeworld of Nibiru in a star system far from Earth. Humanity came to this planet on massive Ark ships reverse-engineered from the space-faring technology of lost Atlantis. Upon arriving on Nibiru they discovered and rescued peoples from several other space-faring species that had been imprisoned by a fallen race of would-be galactic conquerors called the Anki. Everyone on Nibiru lives in relative harmony, but  Han and his friends discover that the ancient Anki are not as extinct as everyone thought.

Accompanying Han is a gang colorful, unusual beings: Wisp, a shapeshifter made of pink clouds and his childhood friend and constant companion; Sita, a mixed human/alien girl with long, rabbit-like ears; and Cray, a giant praying mantis-like creature whose mind is perpetually linked to the collective intelligence of his people.

Monkeyboy is like a wuxia novel mixed with space opera then blended together with classic mythology.  The setting draws heavily from Mesopotamian legends such as the ancient and god-like Annunaki, and the knowledge bringing Apkallu- here called Nephilim and depicted as living synthetic servants to the Anki.

The story draws from other myths too. The main character’s full name, Hanuman, is obviously borrowed from the Monkey King of the Indian Ramayana epic, though personality-wise he more closely resembles Son Wukong of Journey to the West. His personality also mirrors Wukong- though maybe it is more akin to Goku, the protagonist of Akira Toriyama’s Dragon Ball, which was inspired by Journey to the West. Han can be brash and easily distracted, though he is aware of these foibles and it is interesting to watch as he works hard to overcome them.

Before reading Monkeyboy, I would strongly recommend checking out Shane’s other LARC novels first. Distant Origins will fill you in on the background of the lost Atlantis technology and humanity’s journey to Nibiru. Han’s own origins- as well as the motivations of the Anki antagonists- can be found in the anthology LARC Transmissions. Be aware, though, that there is a bit of a tonal shift between books which can be a little jarring. While Monkeyboy is geared towards juvenile readers, Distant Origins and LARC Transmissions seem to have been written for an older audience. Once you get used to the shift in writing, though, the more action-packed adventure in Monkeyboy is a fun read.

If there is one major critique, it is that the ending is a rather blatant deus ex machina. There really isn’t any build-up to the solution that saves the day. But hopefully, this point will be explained in further adventures of Han and his friends. That quibble aside, though, Monkeyboy is a great read if you’re a fan of quick martial arts action in a unique setting.

You can get a copy of Monkeyboy here.