Before I wrote NEIL ARMSTRONG’S WIND TUNNEL DREAM, I’d never seen how illustrations come together for a book. It’s a process! I found a great illustrator in Cole Roberts, but I also found myself with no experience evaluating his art. YIKES!
The first set of sketches came in red. I don’t know why, but they did. I worked with them, but I printed them in black so they’re clearer for you. In this first set, I looked them over to make sure I understood what’s there. The first two images are clearer than the others because Cole wanted a firm idea on how the book would start.
Chapter 1 – I wanted an illustration of how Neil got rid of his extra planes as a kid. He threw them out the window and watch them crash. Why? He wanted to build better airplanes.
Chapter 2 – It was about gathering the materials together. Cole wanted to show them in a notebook. It fit, by middle school Neil had lots of notebooks full of wind tunnel notes.
Chapter 3 - It was about building the tunnel so Cole suggested putting the materials together on a table with Neil trying to figure out how to put them together.
Chapter 4 – Neil's tunnel wasn’t working. This was the only chapter I asked for a change. I thought kids would think it looked like a geometric design. It’s a plane hanging inside the tunnel.
Chapter 5 – The tunnel was done, and it was time to show Mom. Neil’s wind tunnel blew off her housecoat and threw his plane smash-crash through a window.
Chapter 6 – Neil, age 16, told Mom he was going to Purdue. She was thrilled, till Neil said he’d be flying fighter jets by the time he turned 18. That’s when she dropped a jam jar on her foot. OUCH!
Take a quick look back and forth between Set 1 and 2. The first 2 chapters look the same. So do the last two. The biggest difference is in the middle. The setting for Chapter 3 is coming into focus. Neil’s in the basement looking at his materials. This is one of the biggest mistakes I made. I didn’t notice all that wood! I wish I had. Wood was never on Neil’s supply list.
Chapter 4 is so much better! You can see the plane. It’s clearly in the middle of the tunnel where it’s supposed to be, but I asked for one small change. I wanted the rod to run across the tunnel from side to side. In Set 2 it went from front to back. I didn’t think the real wind tunnel worked that way. Part of the problem was trying to imagine how Neil built the real wind tunnel. He didn’t leave detailed instructions!
Chapters 1, 2, and 3 look pretty much the same in Set 3. It’s interesting to look back at Chapter 3 now – I can see the wood. In my head I thought the supplies from Chapter 2 would be there, but I was wrong. Hindsight is always 20/20! It’s such a pity, but, you can’t know what you don’t yet know.
On Chapter 4, I love, love, LOVE the plane and how it sits in the tunnel! It’s perfect, and that’s what I told Cole. Every time he sent a new set of thumbnails, it was my job to look them over, then send an answer to him either the same day or the next one.
If we agreed, it was easy! Cole moved ahead to the next set of thumbnails. If we didn’t, we had a conversation via email about how to proceed. At this point, it was easy. Chapter 4 was the only place I needed corrections, and Cole understood what I was asking for in both Sets 1 and 2.
BTW – I sent him a copy of the book after we both signed the contract. I also sent him another copy, autographed, after it was published.
Next up, Set 4! Stay tuned to see what’s up next with his illustrations!
Set 4 is where the wood hit the fan. Not literally, but it felt like it!
This time I saw wood in Chapter 3, then again in Chapter 5. We were near the end of the thumbnail process, but I had to ask Cole to make a change. The reason – wood was never on the supply list, and I spent hours researching it. I came up with the four supplies show in chapter 2 – stovepipe, electric motor, rheostat, and fan blades.
BTW – Neil needed a rheostat so he could set the speed to high, medium, or low on the fan blades.
Fun fact #1 – The fan blades aren’t from a fan. They came from an airplane. Really!
Fun Fact #2 – The wind tunnel you see in Chapter 5 was based on the research notes I sent Cole. Did you know that Neil Armstrong modeled his wind tunnel on the one the Wright Brothers built in 1901? Without that wind tunnel, their plane wouldn’t have got off the ground.
Cole understood, and I appreciated it. When you’re this far into the process, it can be hard to back up the train. Cole did! As for the other chapters, they looked great! Until – I discovered something new. YIKES!
When I started writing about Set 5, I thought it was the first set of ‘tight lines,’ but now I think Set 4 is too. Either way, I’d never heard of tight lines before. If you compare the first 3 sets of illustrations to the last 2, the lines look way different. The first 3 are sketchy. The last 2 look tighter, more like the lines you see in a coloring book. At least that’s how I understand tight lines.
Look at Chapter 3, 4, and 5. HOORAY! No Wood! The illustrations match my research and my words. In Chapter 3, Cole used the supplies I wrote about, plusa few common tools like screwdrivers. I forgot there was wood in Chapter 4, but Cole changed the focus in both chapters to show only the tunnel. Brilliant! It was an easy fix, and I was grateful for it!
In Chapter 6 I discovered a new problem. I wanted the illustration to show Mom dropping a jar on her foot. I thought the scene took place in the kitchen. It didn’t! While Cole was working on Set 5, I double checked my research, and I discovered a mistake. The scene really took place in the basement. YIKES!
I was so embarrassed ! I apologized to Cole and asked if he could switch the setting. Cole took it in stride. All the way through it looked like the kitchen sink. With a few small changes Cole turned the sink into a cabinet. I was so grateful! The hard work was all done. The final sketches were approved. All that remained was shading in the images.
Chapters 2 and 3
Chapters 4, 5, and 6
This is a copy of the last set of images I got from Cole. I lost the original file. I submitted them in my manuscript, and IngramSparks rejected them. My error message told me to convert the illustrations to grayscale and to 300 dpi.
I didn’t know what to do. I emailed Cole, but he doesn’t work with the interior files. Thank goodness one of my critique partners did. Rick is a tech guru! He solved both problems.
DPI’s are Dots Per Inch, and 300 dots per inch makes great pictures. Grayscale is a series of shades between black and white. There are 256 different shades. I can believe it, looking at the images above.
Rick emailed the changes, and I pasted them into my manuscript. I resubmitted them to Ingram, and they were accepted. Hooray!
Cole’s final illustration is below, the cover art. It went through the same basic process as the black and white ones did, but it went much faster with only one image. Here’s a screenshot of the final cover.
This is me with Merrill Rainey at the Marvelous Midwest SCBWI conference last May. I asked Merrill in 2018 about finding an illustrator for my debut book NEIL ARMSTRONG’S WIND TUNNEL DREAM. He loved the idea, gave me great advice, but couldn’t do the illustrations himself. His story – his agent would have had a fit! I believe it . . . I can’t afford Merrill’s prices!
But at the conference I got this illustration of me . . . FOR FREE! On Saturday night, the conference set up a carnival midway with games, and prizes, and charicatures. Guess who did mine!
I still have it. I just gave it a frame, and a home at my lake house.
I found the perfect frame. It’s a dark hunter green. I put Merrill’s caricature inside and closed it up.
Now it’s easier to read the words, ‘It’s THE POOP DECK!’ There’s a story behind them. While Merrill was busy drawing me, I was telling him about the darn ducks at the lake. They think the boat dock is their personal poop deck.
NOT! It’s THE boat dock. I’d love those ducks if they would just stay in the lake. They don’t, and when they land on the dock – they POOP! Someone has to clean it up, and sometimes it’s me.YUCK!
So that’s why Merrill added in the caption, but I edited his words because it’s NOT the poop deck!
Here’s the display I promised you in the title. I took the first photo a few months ago when I added Merrill’s caricature. The ducks and the giant wine bottle were already there.
I got the idea when those darn ducks decided my dock was their poop deck. I added Merrill’s caricature third. I never see possibilities right away, but as soon as I did, I framed his work. It belongs at the lake with those ducks!
Last week I had another great idea. I thought about the hidden compartment and how fun it would be to put something inside. I looked around our lake house and found these two characters. One is a doll made with buttons from my favorite antique shop. The owl came from a critique partner’s store. He’s so cute he didn’t even have to give a hoot to come home with me!
There’s room in the bottom for two wine glasses. I thought about putting them in, but glass breaks so I didn’t. Also I have a new granddaughter. I’d rather put in things that she can play with. How fun would it be for her to open the bottle and find treasures inside, just for her!
Didn't get enough of President's Day on Monday?
Try this blast from the past! It's my three-part Presidential Trivia Challenge from 2017.
Answers below each challenge. Good luck!
Challenge #1 - Can you match a president's name to his picture?
#2 - Can you put a few presidents into historical order?
#3 - Presidential trivia: I'll give you a clue. Can you identify the president?
These are images from an interview I did with Kaitlyn Leann Sanchez on December 19, 2019. Her article focused on how I wrote and self-published my debut book. She finished up with a very nice book review for NEIL ARMSTRONG'S WIND TUNNEL DREAM.
Click on this link, and you can read our December interview:
I was thrilled to be part of READING, WRITING & STITCH-METIC’S 2nd birthday. It’s June McCrary Jacob’s website. She picked her top 5 posts from last year, and I was honored to be NUMBER 4!
June asked me two questions: 1.) What lessons did I learn from writing and publishing my debut book? 2.) What is my next project? My answer included the first illustration from my new book coming out in May, LAKE FUN FOR YOU AND ME.
Click on the link below and scroll down to NUMBER 4 for my interview. https://authorjunemccraryjacobs.blogspot.com/2020/02/mmgm-2nd-blog-birthdaycelebration.html? fbclid=IwAR0_TFw9MTH2f4C_q8HEEVFta3_BZyEBh6eAzzQtljzUrALYTj3OLweVZnY
Thanks to my critique friend Karen O’Leary, you can listen to the first chapter of my book for free. She recorded it on her website, Time Out With Bear. The price - 7 minutes and 21 seconds to listen to the recording.
Two confessions - first I finally listened to Karen’s recording tonight, and I loved it! It came out around Thanksgiving, and I’m sad to say I didn’t make time to listen back then. Karen even added in sound effects! My favorite . . . my words made her giggle, and she didn’t mean to. Making someone laugh is a great thing!
My second confession – I like hearing Karen read my words better than hearing myself do it. I don’t know why. I listened to the computer read them millions of times before I finally published them. My best guess is the writer in me is listening for mistakes on the first page or two. After that I can relax and enjoy reading aloud to kids. When I hear Karen read, I just feel the joy of listening to my words read back to me. It’s lovely!
Here’s Karen’s link. I hope you also take a little time to check out her other read alouds. Karen has some GREAT titles!
When I was a kid, I loved magnetic letters on the refrigerator. I loved moving them around, making new words, and taking them apart. It was one of my earliest reading and writing experiences. Now that I’m an adult, guess what’s on my refrigerator!
It starts with the name of my favorite place, Norris Lake. Below it are the names of the people I love most, my family. My husband and I are there, our parents, our three kids, and two spouses, so far. It’s like a crossword family tree. But in December, suddenly someone was missing, the newest member of our family.
Everyone was there, till December 21st. That’s when GG was born, and I needed more magnets, matching ones. I messaged my magnet guru, Rochelle from Rovals. She sent me the letters to spell GG’s name, plus a little surprise. When I opened her package, there were my favorite two letters – GG – for grandgirl!
Look at the picture below. It’s GG’s name on the refrigerator. I connected it to her mom because their names both end in ‘N.’ The second picture is a crossword of their brand new family – my son, his wife, and my GG!
Someday GG will play with all those names on the refrigerator. She’ll move them around, make new words, and take them apart. My refrigerator will be full of mismatched names, but that’s how it should be. They’re meant to be used, to help a child’s brain come to life. Best of all, I’ll be there to watch, and play with GG too.
When I write, I can only have one voice in my head, mine. A little noise is fine. But too much, or worse yet, WORDS, and I must change rooms or pull out headphones. Then I can write on!