Llama Knowledge for Posterity

Every great mind has its area of expertise. Einstein plumbed the physical secrets of the universe. Proust changed the world of literature. Edison pioneered modern invention.

And I write about llamas.

While crafting my life’s work, I’ve learned quite a bit about these wooly, flea-covered sheep-horses of the plains. I thought it might be fun to share a little of my knowledge. So without further adieu, I give you:

Monkey-Spankingly Fascinating Llama Facts

  1. Llamas can be separated into two groups: ccara llamas (which have shorter fur) and curaca llamas (which have longer fur.) I’m guessing Jeeves is a ccara llama, but maybe that’s something he’ll reveal to us later.
  2. Llamas have a natural fear of canines, like dogs and coyotes. This makes them useful for guarding sheep, since a llama will naturally freak out if a wolf or coyote comes near the herd. That may explain the negative reaction to the screening of “Old Yeller” I held at that South American ranch.
  3. When they’re provoked or threatened, llamas will spit at the source of the problem (see page 26 of Bob and the Pop-Up Book of Destiny.) Though they sometimes spit at humans, they mostly spit at other llamas. It’s a regular loogie-palooza!
  4. Llamas do not actually have hooves. Instead, they have two giant toenails on each foot with a pad underneath. They’re the animal kingdom’s equivalent of that creepy manicurist lady who works at a kiosk at the mall.
  5. Llamas can carry a quarter of their body weight, so they’re often used as pack animals on long journeys. However, they know their limits. If you try to put too much weight on a llama’s back, it’ll lay down or refuse to move.
  6. A llama’s stomach has three separate compartments. These are known as the executive, legislative, and judicial.
  7. A baby llama is called a “cria”, which sounds like an overpriced pastry you’d buy from one of those trendy bakeries.
  8. Llamas can eat up to 6 pounds of food per day. That’s almost as much as Paula Dean and Chris Farley’s heretofore undiscovered son, Ben.
  9. Llamas are believed to have been one of the first animals domesticated by humans. They were used by the people of ancient Peru to carry heavy loads, build cities, and play the lead roles in community theater productions of “Rebel Without a Cause.”
  10. Llamas communicate with their ears and tails, but mostly speak to each other by humming.
  11. The Andean people consider llamas sacred animals and refer to them as “silent brothers.” Kind of like Harpo Marx or Mr. Bean.
  12. Llamas are very clean animals and have almost no odor. Even their poop doesn’t have much of a smell to it, making it the perfect gift for your grandmother’s birthday or your wedding anniversary.
  13. Speaking of natural fecal wonders, every llama in a herd will poop in the same place, creating a community dung pile. By sheer coincidence, “community dung pile” was the name of my high school garage band.
  14. When they’re two years old, male llamas sprout a pair of “fighting teeth” to use in combat with predators and other llamas.
  15. Finally, llamas have specially-shaped blood cells, which store more oxygen. These cells allow llamas to survive at really high altitudes. They’re a bit like the Bear Grylls of red blood cells.

Stay tuned for more info on llamas, ancient treasures, and spongy snack cakes.

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Cover Design

As the rapturous day of Bob and the Pop-Up Book of Destiny‘s glorious release draws ever-closer, I thought I’d give you some insight into one of the more…artistic sides of my writing process: cover design.

Until the release of the next book, I’ll be giving you a step-by-step tour of the cover design process. You’ll get to see the cover as it develops; and your brain will swell with joy as the images dance before your eyes like a thousand tiny elves. Who are hyped up on caffeine.

I’ve always enjoyed drawing cartoons and comics (check out my comic series here), and have been transferring my drawings to the digital world over the past few years. Now I use Photoshop, but believe it or not, I used to rely on Microsoft Paint to produce digital art. Both the Classystrugeon logo and the image of Jeeves on the Bob and the Cyber-Llama cover were done in Paint.

After experimenting with a few different techniques, I’ve finally nailed down a process. First, I draw the image on a white piece of paper and scan it into the computer. So the first version of Pop-Up Book of Destiny‘s cover looked like this:

After the image is scanned, I use the brush tool to trace most of the pencil lines. Not only does this give everything the standard black outline seen in most cartoons and comics, it also allows me to enclose certain areas, which makes coloring much easier.

I also use the selection and movement tools during this step to resize or move certain parts of the image. For example, in the image above, I thought Jeeves’ neck looked a little too short. I moved it straight up and used the Photoshop brush to draw the area in-between.

There are two more steps to designing the cover: basic coloring and shading/detail. I’ll be sure to let you in on the process as the cover comes along!