A Long Journey- the X-tails come to life

The X-tails……. the start of an amazing journey!

It was near the end of 2012, when I realized that I needed to try something different.  Through my search for a literary agent, I realized that the X-tails concept may be a challenge for some people to envision.  Although I created the X-tails for a book series, I believed the X-tails could be so much more than books.  In order to better explain the books and general concept, I decided that I needed to bring the characters and X-tails to life.  Rather than tell, I was going to show the X-tails!

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I originally thought the concept was self-explanatory, but it later dawned on me that it’s not.  In my head, I pictured these funny, vibrant, and cool characters, but the problem was, it was a picture in my head that no one else could see.  It’s difficult to describe in words the six characters in my short children’s book manuscript.  Illustrating the characters would help bring out their personalities and voices.  The other main part of the X-tails’ concept is the stunts, which I envisioned having a “real life” feel.  The illustrated stunts would be something you would see in a magazine, but without having illustrations to look at, it’s not easy to picture a lion or hippo doing a McTwist, Tailwhip, or even a Kickflip.  The illustrations would help to show the originality of my stories.  Other parts of the concept could easily be conveyed through my manuscript such as safety, being active, humour, fast-paced action, suspense, and important life lessons.

I immediately began to search for an artist to do a couple of illustrations.  I was not looking to illustrate my story; I only needed two illustrations to show my concept.  For the first illustration, I made a detailed description of the characters holding a skateboard, snowboard, BMX bike, surfboard, mountain bike, and skis.  I carefully described each character’s appearance and personality.  The second illustration would be an action scene, portraying that “real life” factor that I was going after.  I found a freelance illustrator and hired him based on a balance of affordability and talent.

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I was super excited!  We signed a contract specifying that I would be the sole owner of the illustrations.  I sent the illustrator the files describing my requested illustrations.  A week into the project, I received some discouraging news.  The illustrator would not do the two illustrations unless I agreed to increase the price by an amount being 10-fold of the original price.  He felt that the illustrations were too complex and too much work for the standard illustration price.  I was obviously not happy!  Paying more money was not a viable option for me.  We terminated the contract, and I was refunded my money.  In hindsight now, I know that it was meant to be.

A couple more months went by, and although I strongly believed in the X-tails, I was beginning to lose momentum and motivation.  My wife, Corrie, on the other hand wouldn’t let our dream die.  She contacted Dragonpencil, which is a small children’s book company in the U.S. that has a variety of services including illustrators for hire.  Corrie convinced me to give it another try.  An illustrator by the name of Victor, immediately caught our eye.  His illustrations were amazing!  He had an impressive background of work, including Disney, the Simpsons, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.  We were told that Vic is easy going and very professional.  We decided to hire Vic to complete the two illustrations.

Wisdom the LionCommunication with the illustrator and project manager occurred through a personalized message board.  I sent Vic my descriptions for the two illustrations.  I waited nervously.  I received a response an hour later.  Oh oh, I thought before opening the message.  The response read: “Thank you for selecting me as your illustrator.  I will check the files and will work on something really cool!! Let the fun begin!”  OK, so far so good, but Vic hadn’t yet looked at the project description files.  I continued to wait nervously.  I received another response from Vic two days later.  The response read: “Here are the 2 pencil sketches for your review.  If you have any edits please let me know.  If these are OK, I will begin to color these.  I want to tell you that you have a 24K Diamond here.  This project is so unique and it so cool, have you thought about pitching it for a cartoon?  Have you considered to develop an app of it like the X-tails games plus the children’s book, etc.  I am so excited with this!”

Now that was a great response!  I was thrilled, but at the same time, I was petrified to open the files that Vic had sent.  What if Vic’s illustrations of the characters were completely different than I had envisioned?  What if the X-tails were not cool or vibrant or funny?

The X-tailsI opened the files, and took a few seconds to absorb all of the characters.  I was ecstatic!  Vic had nailed it!  The characters were exactly as I had envisioned, all except for Mischief the Wolf.  I carefully studied Mischief, not sure what to think.  He was much smaller than I had pictured in my head.  After a few seconds, I fell in love with Mischief’s new look.  He was perfect for my sneaky and mischievous wolf!

One thing I have learned about Vic’s illustrations is if you like the pencil illustrations that are provided as an initial draft, then you will be absolutely blown away with the final color illustrations.  Now that the X-tails had been brought to life, I figured that I would be able to find the right agent for this project.  I prepared to send out more query letters to agents.  Little did I know, I was soon going to make a decision that would propel this project in a completely different direction…

– L.A. Fielding

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