Behind the Scenes of a Dinosaur Obsession

I fell in love with Dinosaurs when I was six years old. It’s the perfect age to discover something that is going to take root in your soul and stay forever.

This year was 1993, and Jurassic Park was everywhere. That certainly helped. Convincing my mom to buy me dinosaur books and toys, and take me to museums was really really easy. My mom liked dinosaurs too, although really she just enjoyed encouraging whatever we were enthusiastic about. This is one of the reasons my sister and I are so awesome.
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I grew taller. Obsessions came and went, particularly Star Wars, Monty Python, and Doctor Who (which is kind of like Star Wars and Monty Python mixed together), but Dinosaurs always remained. There were always dinosaur toys on the floor of whatever house I was living in. Dinosaur stickers on my bag. Dinosaur doodles on nearly ever piece of paper I owned. The research about dinosaurs changed, things I thought I knew updated. Pterodactyls lost the dactyl. Velociraptors shrunk and grew feathers. Triceratops becomes a juvenile Torosaur. Brontosaurus is made defunct, (a Brachiosaur skull on an Apatosaurus body, or some such) and then gets reinstated! Mind blown. I keep up with it as best I can, while still treasuring my 1990’s Smithsonian Field Guide, whose illustrations are becoming increasingly inaccurate. I own Jurassic Park on VHS, DVD, and BluRay.

During our first year of dating, my then girlfriend (now wife) takes me to see the ‘Walking With Dinosaurs’ stage show extravaganza, with the most ridiculously giant and accurate puppets you’ve ever seen, and I feel exactly what it feels like to encounter a walking breathing 60 foot tall creature. As do all the other 6 year olds in the audience, as we are the  only unaccompanied non-minors in the house. Thus begins the dinosaur birthday tradition, Michelle has found dinosaurs for every birthday since we met.

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My son, Wellington, is now two years old. A little young, I think, to truly grasp what dinosaurs are all about. He’s got a plush Triceratops, and a electronic biting T-Rex in his toy bucket. Recently, he picked up the trike, and made it growl. I didn’t teach him that, he just knew. I can’t wait for him to get a little bigger. We’ve got movies to watch, museums to visit, and all the paper  in the universe to doodle on.

It’s gonna be awesome.

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This personal recollection was brought to you by: A-to-Z-asaurus! A Dino Guide with Teeth! I wrote the book, and my pal Mike Spiers did the illustrations, and we’re using Kickstarter to raise funds to get it printed. If you’re all interested in a book of silly dinosaur facts and outrageous opinions, with lavish illustrations, please check it out! We have until November 4th to get enough pledges to make the book a reality, so now is the time!

 

Stuff What It Is I’m Doing Already!

Happy New Year!

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Notice the date stamp, it’s Jan 29th. Happy Newyearsing in January is fine. If I had waited a few days until February, however, the consequences could have been disastrous!!

So what have I been up to lately, I hear you ask? In my imagination, you’re very interested. Well, the answer is a resounding shrug. my 2015 was not overly eventful. I played with my one year old as much as possible, watching him gain new powers and talents has been really interesting. I Paid all my bills somehow, that was nice. I did two events, and they were both fairly impromptu. As I told several people during the day I wandered around the San Diego Comic Con “I’ll be ambitious next year, I’m too tired right now!”

Sleepiness is the enemy of accomplishment. I have lots of great ideas, but not all that much follow through.

I actually did complete two projects entirely last year, but I couldn’t talk about them at at the time, which made my social media presence all the emptier.

Pirate Penguin vs Ninja Chicken book 2 is coming out in March! Finally! I’ll talk more about it when the time for UltraPublicizing is nigh. I’ve actually had it finished since before my wedding in 2013! I just had to take it out and give it a bit of a polish.

Also, I had the very great fortune to adapt and illustrate the graphic novel version of one of my favorite author’s novels, Sir Terry Pratchett’s Small Gods. I’ve been angling to play in the Discworld universe Terry created, and getting to do so officially was a thrill. Not speaking about it for the entirety of 2015 was not easy. I still can’t say too much about it, as I am not in charge of the book’s publicity. But it’s public knowledge that the book is release in July of this year, so I look forward to sharing the cover, and more information as I am in able. I may even have to give the San Diego Comic Con a miss this year, as I’ll most likely be in the UK at the time, doing book release type thingies.

In the meantime, I have several projects in the works, that I’m excited to share when the time is right.

I’m finishing up a Dinosaur ABC book with my friend Mike, who draws fantastic dinosaurs. You’ll recognize his artwork from the ‘Hansel and Gretel and Zorbax’ chapter of Fairy Tales I Just Made Up.

I would like to release a collection of the thousands of tiny story ideas I’ve been accumulating, but will never realize fully. So some sort of big pile of 2-5 page comics, chock full of my usual weirdness.

Does anybody remember Divine Whiners? I serialized that as a webcomic for the better part of a year a few years ago. Never finished the story. I’d like to complete that, and release it as a book. Is anybody interested in seeing that happen? Hands up please, I’m very interested to know.

My novel is as half finished as it ever was. I have a four issue comic miniseries of my own devising I’d like to get around to drawing sometime. It’s pretty cool. I might start another webcomic. I might release an ebook of some sort.

Again, lots of stuff I’d like to do. Not sure how well I’ll follow through, at this quadrant of my life. When my son is done teething, and everybody is getting a full night’s sleep regularly, I’ll probably explode back into the public consciousness and be so productive you can’t even stand it.

Thanks for listening to the mixture of boasting and whining. I apologize in advance, retroactively.

 

 

A look back

What a wild and crazy year 2014 was! Let me tell you all about it.

For me, it was a bit of a roller coaster, lots of ups and downs, and even a loop-di-loop, with overpriced souvenir photos at the end.

January started with lots of driving. That theme continued throughout the year.driving My wife and I were living in Eugene Oregon at the time, but had driven down to Los Angeles California to be with Fambly for xhristmas/new years. We drove back up, all in one day, which is like, a 15 hour drive and not recommended.  The next day, we participated in a German new years tradition called ‘Perchtenlauf’ – a buncha people dressed up as monsters, and then we paraded blindly through downtown, confusing most of the lots of people.

And then it got really cold! We got the full polar vortex treatment, snowed in to our apartment for 3 days, with very little foods. Trees in our front yard exploded. IMG_7876There aren’t any plows in Eugene, since it ‘never snows there’, so the roads were icy for weeks. Eventually, we escaped to go buy groceries, and also go watch the lego movie. We saw people on cross country skis going through downtown. It was kinda magical.

IMG_7877And then, we realized we were pregnant. Michelle actually was scheduled to go on a business trip that would involve the drinking of lots of fruity wines, so she figured ‘I’d better check just in case.’ -We knew since before the wedding we were planning on having kids, but this was earlier than expected. Michelle had actually been worrying for a while that she wouldn’t be able to have children, but NOPE!

And so we drove back down to California to tell all our parents, surprising and delighting everyone. Michelle’s sister’s children are 2 and 4 years old, so we were in the perfect position to score lots of hand me downs.

Back up to Eugene to pack up all our house, so we could rent a truck and move back down to California. See, I told you, lots of driving. We really liked Oregon, but never figured we were going to be there permanently, and that we would know when the time to move came. Being near family for this life changing event seemed smart, I personally insisted on being in hugging distance of my own mum.

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On the big drive back down, we stopped at the halfway point, in Susanville, Northern California, where I was the guest at a school literary festival, and gave lots of speeches on the theme of ‘follow your dreams.’ – it went very well, although the first day was a little crazy, because the drive into Susanville was downhill, and very icy, and I was driving a large unfamiliar truck. IMG_7875Spent several hours worrying about driving off a cliff, and checked into the hotel at 4:00 am. I then woke up at 6:30, to get to a school that started at 7:00 so I could do the first of several assemblies. I don’t care for coffee, so I had hot chocolate by the bucketful, and gave the most wired, sleep deprived presentation of my life. The festival was for three days though, so I was well rested just fine in time for the big event.

I really like giving school presentations, and want to to figure out how to do more of them. I’m not good at setting them up, and they usually happen when a school approaches me first, rather than the other way around. If you’re reading this, and want me to come draw penguins at your school, do get in touch!IMG_7871

So we made it back down to my home town, about 20 minutes from my parents house, and about 2 hours from Michelle’s parents. This is a much cheaper, kinda boring area to live, which is a bit of a drive from all our friends, but affordable. We find a really nice duplex, the landlord is an old family friend. They’re in the midst of renovating it, and we can move in in a few weeks. So, we decide to take a cruise!IMG_7873

Actually, we had been planning this for a while. It is Michelle and my 1 year anniversary, and her parents 30th. Their family loves cruising, I’ve never done one before. It’s very relaxing and fun, Michelle learns to play the Ukelele, and I practice my eating.  I do lots of writing while Michelle is napping. (I’m at my most creative when distraction free.) I also film a detective infomercial for some reason.

We visit each of the hawaiian islands for a tiny taste of what they’re like, and then zoom back home. On the way back, Michelle’s dad Fred gets Pnemonia and Blood Poisoning, and we spend several days in the open sea, with no way of contacting the shore to report this medical emergency. The ship’s doctor keeps him stable, but the trip back is considerably less relaxing than the first part of the voyage. His big regret is that being in the medical bay mean he missed Lobster night. I helpfully eat his lobster for him.

Plans to put ashore in mexico, and have him helicoptered to San Diego don’t end up being required. Ultimately, modern medicine saves the day, and everyones fine. Still, a very tense couple of days.

So we come back ashore, and decompress in our brand new house. It’s considerably more spacious than our apartment in Eugene, with a garage I can fill up with the comic book contents of my business storage unit, and a backyard, where I can park my TARDIS. That’s right, I have my own TARDIS. I’m pretty cool like that.

We unload our moving truck, and the contents of our three, count them, three storage units, and fill up the house really quickly. Fighting the clutter will become an ongoing battle. And now to get back to work.

I’ve been working on a children’s book for nearly three years, fairy tales I just made up, and I finally finish it. I’ve been fantastically fortunate to collaborate with a number of illustrators for it’s contents, and I just now get every picture that I need, and the book is DONE. We decide to do a kickstarter to raise the funds to print the book. I’ve been thinking about doing a kickstarter for a while, and this project seems like a good match with the ideals of the fundraising platform.KS

I spent a very hectic month coordinating the campaign, it requires a fiendish amount of publicizing, the amount I should be doing all the time, but which I find exhausting.

During this time, my friend Mike visits from england, and I attend a Hollywood Movie Premier with him, in  Mann’s Egyptian theater, down the street from Mann’s Chinese theater. The more famous theater is hosting the Guardians of the Galaxy premiere, but the Egyptian one is the theater at which Return of the Jedi premiered. We recruit my friend Ben to accompany us for the evening, and it all goes pear shaped from there. Mike has what can only be called Charlie Brown Karma, and we manage to leave the tickets for the premiere somewhere inaccessible, and we spend about 4 hours very nervously thinking we won’t get in to see the movie, that one of us has frown across the planet to see.

We ultimately are let in, kicked out, and then sneak back in. The movie is too long, and fairly uneven. We end the night in Denny’s, the only restaurant open, giving a nice sense of anticlimax to the evening.

a few days later, we drive down to comic con in San Diego, which I bombard with flyers about my kickstarter. This is my second year not having a booth at Comic Con, and it is much much easier that way.

Michelle’s friend Dani comes to visit her while I’m away, brining her toddler along for a vision of our future with children. Remember, Michelle has been quietly pregnant this whole time. They end up going stargazing with Dani’s new telescope in the desert, bitterly cold, and cosmogenically amazing.IMG_7869

The kickstarter ends, we reach our goal literally in the last hour, I’ve chewed all my fingernails and toenails to the bone with suspense.

After some more fussing, during which I get the book edited, and try and include the person that won the ‘be included in the book’ option to actually send me the book, we get it to the printer in September, and have them back in our hands in november.

During this time, I fly to St. Louis for my friend’s wedding, and master baking. All the bagels I could ever want baby!

Speaking of baby, guess what? We got pregnant in early february, and now it’s late october. It is time!

We’ve been seeing a wonderful midwife who lives in Ridgecrest, about an 80 minute drive from our house. There are two local midwives who live closer, but the one who lives 5 minutes from our house is pregnant her own self, and due a few days before we are. The next closest one has been picking up all the slack, and during our interview with her, she seems fairly stressed. So we elect to drive quite a ways for our monthly, then bimonthly, then weekly checkups. Our midwife is from New Zealand, which we take as a good sign. I visited NZ in 2000, as a student ambassador. Michelle loves Lord of the Rings and Flight of the Conchords. We are planning on naming our child Wellington. Good omens abound.

Michelle has had her heart set on a home birth. We rent a birthing pool, which is really nice, like having your own jacuzzi set up in the living room. We have a fair amount of drama that I won’t get into, the birth process started monday at about 2 am, and ended friday at 5:42. We end up transferring to the hospital for Ptocin, Michelle is handling the pain like a champ, even after 4 days of pushing, but she needs a little chemical help to get the babys’ big ol head out. The midwives come with us as Doula advocates (always nice to have someone who speaks all the medical lingo on your side – michelle has lots of opinions about the kind of birth she wants.) Everyone keeps getting her ready for a C-section, but she proves them wrong. Wellington Emmet Secret-Bonus-Middle-Name Friesen is born absolutely perfectly. He reminds me of toothpaste being squeezed out, as he appears to have no bones.IMG_7870

We get to hang out at the hospital all weekend and recuperate, we got our insurance sorted out beforehand, and I basically get a free baby. All the grandparents clomp arround, bringing balloons, and scarves, and bagels and steak.

It’s a really nice way to become a parent.

My mother and sister are not really into babies, and Michelle worries they won’t take to Wellington. FALSE. My mother gets hit with a truck full of grandmothering, it’s crazy. She stays with us a couple days to help with everything, and when we wake up in our own house, we find that she’s cleaned it, and made breakfast. This hasn’t happened in her house since about 2003.

Welli is adorable and loud, the two things you look for in a baby. We’ve been basically hanging out, getting to know him for the past couple months. He is really smart for his age. Every time I hold him, I have to remind myself this is MY son, the heir to my throne. It’s surreal.wee

Late November – my books arrive, and I hold a baby in one hand, while signing and enveloping books with the other. It’s ridiculous how much data we have for special requests and stuff, and I manage to get everybody what they’re expecting, for the most part. Only a few packages don’t reach their owners before christmas, and only a few have the wrong thing inside them.

We host a book release party, something I’ve never had the pleasure of doing before. It’s in Collectors Paradise, a comic book store I’m friends with, at an art gallery space in the back, so I can display a lot of the original art from the book. Have a fantastic time, I’ve obtained fancy clothes for the event, something I don’t normally do, including new shoes. I prance around schmoozing and feeling important. Afterwards, pizza. It’s a lovely night.

The next day, we return home, and find our house has been broken into, and all of our technology stolen. crimeIt’s a less lovely night. The police come, dust for fingerprints. The thieves drank our alcohol while robbing us, and left the bottles with smudgy thumbs on them. There’s also a thread from a tshirt caught in our lock that they picked, which I thought was something that only happened in Sherlock Holmes novels. I have to explain to the police why I have a police box in my back yard. (TARDIS!)

We lost the TV, Video games, laptop computer, computer monitors (but not my tower, so my data is safe) – Michelle’s breast pump (now we can’t pump milk and have people babysit well and let us get some sleep for a change. This is the worst aspect.) and a bunch of smaller personal stuff.

It sucks, but everything is ultimately replaceable. Our neighbors were robbed at the same time, and there house was destroyed. Ours was lightly ransacked, but theirs had furniture and children’s toys smashed, and really heavy stuff stolen, like washer and dryer and couch. It’s very likely that the thief was their sister-in-law, who is a problem person.

They’re moving, and we bought a fancy security system. Hope our next neighbors have less crime connections.

We proceed to have the merriest christmas ever, with our house full of approximately everyone we know, and all the food and board games you can eat. New Years is a bit more sedate affair, with just me, Michelle, Welli, and a ridiculous amount of laser light shows projected on the ceiling. My sister shows up with her playsation 3, and we try out the new video game we got for christmas, which we haven’t been able to play. Our inlays bought us a new television, with more bells and also whistles, and we watch Pitbull’s Rockin’ New Years, because it’s the only channel we receive.

And now it’s 2015! We all have to start wearing double ties, Back to the Future said so. Wellington’s first birthday will be 2 days after the events of that movie, so we’re thinking that will be the theme of his party.

I’ve been moving slow the past couple months, very sleep deprived. Somehow I’ve been paying the bare minimum of bills, and surviving. My family has been so supportive lately, I feel deeply in debt to a lot of very nice people. I don’t think I could do all this without them, and I’m glad I won’t have to find out, since I do have them. I’ll do another blog post about trying to be an author and father at the same time. The short answer is, that I haven’t been very productive lately, but I have the best excuse in the universe. It’s a temporary problem, and as Welli gets older, I’ll have my target market living in my house, which can only help me write a ridiculous number of children’s books.

I’ll do another longwinded ramble about stuff I’m hoping to get done in 2015 later, lots of projects in the works, but this blog post has taken me weeks to pull off. I’m gonna go take a nap. Or maybe I should make 3pm breakfast. I dunno.

More Silly Videos!

This is a 3 minute adaptation thingy of one of my favorite book series, the Frank Burly Detective Novels by John Swartzwelder, one of the best and most prolific scriptwriters for The Simpsons.

I had a lot of fun making this comedy short, even if I don’t have a very good explanation for why I did.

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Michelle suggested I start a fish taco review blog, because I have loooots of opinions on the subject. So I thought I’d start off with a bang, and talk about my favorites (the fact that I was in the area to take photos didn’t hurt : )

Coconut Fish Cafe is in Kihei, Maui, HI, and apparently, there’s another one in Scottsdale, AZ, which I need to check out when I’m in the area. You can find them online at www.coconutsfishcafe.com

I’ll be doing more of these Selfie comics! Both about the tacos, and just  life adventures in general, because they are fun! Fish Tacos can be made in sooo many ways with sooooooooooo many ingredients, it was begging for a scholarly dissection. It won’t get one from me, but I enjoy eating about them and talking about them, so there.

Ray’s 2014 keynote address

at the Lassen County LitJam, in Susanville California, Ray Friesen gave a keynote address to a crowd of several hundred elementary and middle school students, on the subject of ‘Follow Your Dreams’ on which Ray is kind of an expert.

Here is the audio for the first three minutes. Anyone that actually took some photos or video is encouraged to get in touch, ray@rayfriesen.comray speech