Sadly, it was time for the BHAG Monster (Big Hairy Audacious Goal Monster) to leave for his new home. BHAG was sent to me by Tea Silvestre, The Word Chef, in recognition of completing my book How to be a Finance Rock Star.
Once BHAG finished hanging out with Fluffy the Finance Feline (there’s video evidence right here), I was to pick another worthy achievement and send him on.
Heavy with the burden of choosing a worth participant (am I laying it on a bit thick?), I looked far and wide for the right person. I realized the perfect choice was right under my nose. Jennifer “Scraps” Walker, the illustrator extraordinaire of Fluffy & Co, had just released her first Comic Cookbook What to Feed Your Raiding Party.
Jennifer is a multi-passionate writer and artist who believes in the power of creativity, cocktails, (parenthetical references) and having a good laugh (generally at her own expense). A bookkeeper by day, she worked her way through Culinary School, graduated in 2000, and did a brief stint as acting pastry chef for a plantation resort in southern Georgia before the need to pay all her bills (in the same month, that is) brought her back to bookkeeping.
In 2007 she started her first webcomic and has since gone on to have comics and illustrations appear in various publications. She works from her home office, affectionately called The Abyss, in Tallahassee, FL, in the home she shares with her fiance.
Nope, this is the first one!
In January, 2008, I jotted down an idea in my red, go-everywhere notebook: “something to meld comics & cooking. Either a cookbook done in sequential panels or a story that integrates food & cooking w/a story.” (Originally posted on Beyond Funyuns & Dew, What to Feed Your Raiding Party?)
The biggest challenge was just getting it done!
I’m great at coming up with ideas and starting projects, but I’m the first to admit my follow-through isn’t always as consistent as I would like it to be. Bringing the book to completion was a real proving ground for me, setting the tone for finishing future projects as well as those UFOs (Un-Finished Objects) hanging around my studio.
My biggest fear was that no one would want/like it. Thankfully, the response has been great so far, so that fear seems to have been unfounded.
I officially began work in January, 2010, and sent it to the printer in May, 2012. That’s 2 years and 5 months, but we’ll round up and call it 2 1/2 to keep it easy.
This cookbook–unlike most–had a two-fold approach: part 1 was the recipes (otherwise it wouldn’t be a cookbook), part 2 was the comics (otherwise it wouldn’t be MY cookbook).
At first I tried tackling both at the same time and found that recipe creation was the “easy” part; getting my brain in gear to produce the comics was a lot harder than my webcomics experience led me to believe.
There’s a big difference, I learned, in writing and drawing an ongoing series (or two) every week where the story can take as much time as it needs/wants to get where it’s going. When writing for print, the beginning, middle, and end of the story all need to fit within certain confines–something I was NOT prepared for, and I struggled a bit to write them (even though you’d think–as I did–that having them be parodies of movies would have made it easier, there was still a lot of work involved in getting them ready to produce).
Once the scripts were written–which took ages–I was ready to start producing the comics, themselves. To ensure consistency throughout the 90 pages of comics, I wanted to pencil (just what it sounds like, doing all the layout and pencil sketches for what would make up the finished pages) everything first, then tackle the inking.
I started drawing in the summer of 2010 (I started dating the completed pages that September, when I was already into Chapter 2) and finished penciling the last page of the epilogue August 16, 2011, an entire year and then some. Once all the pencils were complete, it was time to start inking (going over the pencil lines in ink, adding depth and details in the process). This was a MUCH faster process, as it always is for me (after all, I’ve made all the tough decisions during the pencil stage), and only took 4 months.
By this point I’d also gotten back to the recipes. Most of them had been created and written down at the beginning of the project, but there were still some holes to fill for each chapter as well as the nutritional analysis to be done for each recipe (I wanted to be able to include basic nutritional data with the recipes).
Long nights of data entry (never my favorite part and, had I an intern or assistant, this is the part I’d gladly have turned over to them) into a computer program purchases specifically for this task got this done not too long into the new year. Of course, then I needed to scale each recipe into 3 different quantities each (again, an integral part of my original plan, which entailed making a form to use with each recipe in the 2 massive binders my working copy required).
For a lot of authors, at this point it’s in the hands of a publisher who organizes additional illustrations, the layout, editing, the cover design, and the printing; all of which can take many months to even a year depending on the planned release schedule. But I’m a do-it-yourself type and that extends to the publishing bit, too–I just wasn’t interested in giving up creative control over any part of the project, I never even tried to find an agent or traditional publisher.
Spot illustrations and the illustrated techniques that are sprinkled throughout the book went quickly (January and February), and, really, so did creating the 150+ charts (yay for spreadsheets) that the book required and then converting them into image files. Page layout went pretty swiftly once I had my basic design in place (lots of copy and paste–LOTS) and I was pretty shocked when the book ended up at a whopping 264 pages.
After that it was just turning it into the printer. In 2 weeks (using a local printer helps turnaround time!) I had my first set of books.
Lots of outside support!
I set up the blog at whattofeedyourraidingparty.com as a production diary and an accountability tool. Knowing I’d committed to showing up each week and posting what I had or hadn’t done was a pretty big motivator to do at least something. In addition, a lot of my friends and acquaintances were really looking forward to seeing the book in print, so the frequent “How’s the book coming?” sorts of questions were a good motivator to keep on trucking along.
Midway through the book process I was at the mall (a rare occurrence) and wandered into the Build-a-Bear out of idle curiosity and saw they had a monkey-body (I thought they were all bears, all the time, and I was past my bear infatuation by then). I have a thing for monkeys (totem animal), but couldn’t justify the BaB cost at the time. So I made a deal with myself, once I finished the book I could get my Build-a-Monkey and put him in a little chef’s outfit; he would be my reward.
Well, the weekend after I’d seen the proofs from the printer, I went to the mall and he was the LAST of this style monkey available–he was the floor sample, even. So I named him Chef George (even has it on his birth certificate), got him all dressed up (including iron-ons that match the logo on my own chef’s coat), and now he comes to conventions and signings as part of my table decorations. When not at conventions, he stands on one of the organizational units in my office, and watches over me while I work.
Message from The Numbers Whisperer®:
I bought What to Feed Your Raiding Party and I love it. Even if you aren’t a gamer, the recipes are quick and easy for anyone who wants to entertain their friends with something other than chips and pizza.
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