Monday, May 16, 2016

My first book and life in the new apartment!

This is going to be one hell of an opening sentence, but here it is: Last week one of my wildest dreams came true!

A book of my comic 'Breaking Cat News' was published by Andrew McMeel Publishing, who is easily the best comics strip publisher around. I'm not bragging; frankly, I'm still in shock. Their comic collections include 'Calvin & Hobbes', 'Far Side', 'Garfield'--and now I can squeeze my little book in between all those great, heavy, incredible tomes, while calling to an echoing library "OH, HELLO ALL MY COMIC HEROES. FANCY SEEING YOUR BOOKS HERE, TOO! WILL YOU BE MY BEST FRIENDS?...NO? OKAY! BYE! I LOVE YOU!" And casually step backwards into a towering stack of bookshelves, knocking them over in a flurry of loose pages and old book dust. Watching in horror as the library stacks collapse one after another like giant dominoes, while I grip my face in both hands mouthing, "OH NO, OH NO, OH NO, OH NO..."

That's about as close as I'll get to my heroes, but I'm still walking around looking for excuses to introduce myself to total strangers as, "Georgia Dunn, published cartoonist."

"Is that my mocha latte? Did you say that's for 'Georgia?' ...'Dunn, published cartoonist?' WHAT? NOTHING."

If you can't tell by my giddy jokes and feverish anxiety fantasies, I'm incredibly excited. Mostly I wish I could go whisper this news in the ear of my 8 year old self and watch her start screaming. Probably things like, "WOW, REALLY? I PUBLISH A BOOK OF COMICS IN 2016?!" And "WHO ARE YOU?!" And "GET OUT OF MY HOUSE!!"

My first book, (I say "first" with finger quotes and an optimistic grimace) is 'Breaking Cat News: Cats Reporting on the News that Matters to Cats.' It's in bookstores right now, and you can order it on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Indie Bound!

If you've known me a long time or followed this blog for a few years, you know this is something I have worked toward since I was a kid. I'm extremely grateful to the folks at GoComics who have given me some pretty amazing opportunities since syndicating the comic. They're like angels who get all my 1980s Garfield Halloween special references.

That's my news on the comic! In our home life, I have good news too: We have a new apartment, and it is lovely.

This year I promised to blog more than I did last year, and I did it! In 2015 I blogged once, and this is my second post since January!


Okay, I might make my goal to try and blog at least once a month! Then work my way to once a week. If I blogged more, is that something folks would like? Let me know in the comments!

As I was saying, since my last post, we have found an apartment in California! If you don't know, my husband Ryan (the Man in 'Breaking Cat News') got a new job this January, and we relocated from Rhode Island to Southern California. 2016 hit the ground running and we've only just begun to look around and take a breath.

Or if you rather, a sniff....
(The boys checking out a new window).

We managed to find a nice apartment with big windows and sunny patios. It is quite the change from our little apartment in the Big Pink House. That apartment was beautiful and will always have a special place in our hearts, but I have to admit--with a toddler, a baby, and three cats, it is a relief to have a bit more space. Ryan and I can watch television at night without worrying about waking the kids. Our son and I can have mini-dance parties while we make dinner. Our daughter can practice crawling in wide laps around the living room. Puck can watch the birds undisturbed. Elvis has new patrols to carry out and spaces to check. Lupin can race up and down the stairs to his psychotic heart's content. We can breathe and spread out a little. It's still not quite the same as when we had our home in Covington, WA, but there are welcome similarities.

For instance, we have a mantle (and a fireplace) again!

The above photo is a collection of the odds and ends we placed on the mantle while unpacking. I glanced at them during a chaotic walk through of our box-and-moving-supplies filled living room and thought they looked charming together. The trees and the star stayed! In the above left of the photo, you can see a picture of us with our son taken in the Covington home we had to sell. The star originally hung above the fireplace there. In the Big Pink House apartment, Ryan and I hung it over our bed. Somehow when we'd lost so much, it felt comforting to have it near. It's really nice to hang it in our new living room. I think it's a good sign.

Below is a photo of our new kitchen!

I call this spot "Pancake Central."

The past couple of months we have taken on the challenge of settling into our new surroundings.

Checking out the local diners.

Unpacking our belongings.

Unpacking the cats.
(JK, Elvis just can't resist a cardboard box in the sun.
Who can?)

The kids and the boys adjusted to the move better than I even hoped. Our daughter took it all in stride. We pretty much just put her down on the new floor and she crawled away into a box of toys. Our son was given a big boy bed, and this seemed to make the transition much more natural somehow. Maybe so much changed that it just sort of made sense he'd be in a new space too. I'm not sure, but he was terrific.

The cats took to the new apartment wonderfully. They spent one afternoon hiding out in our bedroom, and then Elvis emerged with a mental check list of places to investigate for whatever it is he checks spots for. (Snakes, I always imagine). Puck loved the new windows. Lupin could live anywhere from a moving train to a house boat to a shuttle on the Moon, I swear. He is ridiculously adaptable, it's wild! He's just happy to be wherever he is. What a great guy!

The boys eating breakfast.

Gwen's side of the nursery.

The nursery, 75% cleaner than it will never be, ever again.

Luke's new "big boy bed." The frame is from the 1940s, super sturdy
and in beautiful condition. We found it at a secondhand shop. They just
don't make furniture like this anymore!

Luke's crew, featuring his fuzzy penguin, "Pengo," who
occasionally makes appearances in the comic.

Gwen carefully examining a graham cracker.

Me: "Now close your eyes and take a nap."
Luke: "Okay, Mommy."
Makes this face.

Luke asked if we could make the cats one of the cardboard
houses in the game "Neko Atsume." And so, we did! Here's
Lupin checking it out.

Pucky soaking in the sun.

Tea party time!

I temporarily dyed my hair green around St. Patrick's Day!
It's already washed out, alas, but it was stayed for Easter!
Ryan took this Easter Sunday.

Gwen and Ryan. Some bunny loves her Daddy!

We had just about finished unpacking and setting the apartment up, when April dawned. April is a little intense for us, but in a really fun way. Our children are both born in April, almost exactly two years apart (within two weeks, give or take). I'm determined to give them each their own birthday party. I don't know if you've ever had to share birthday parties with a loved one, but I have, and it's the worst. No matter how many paper straws I have to buy in April, these kids are each getting their own day! THIS, I SWEAR!

Gwen's first birthday!
This year FLEW by!
(I really need to finish that blog post
on her birth story!)

Gwen's birthday party theme was "fairy tales."

Table with woodland creature sandwiches! (We used cookie cutters).
Cannot take credit for the cake, our local Whole Foods made it.

Luke patiently waiting for lemonade.
He is wild for lemonade right now!

Auntie Gray came down from Seattle for Gwen's first birthday!
(For 'Breaking Cat News' readers, this is the real 'Intruder!')

Uncle Preston came down too! If you've followed this blog for a while,
Grace and Preston are dating! How cool is that?!

Grace and Pucky sharing a moment.

Luke's third birthday! He had a "Dragons Love Tacos" themed party,
based on the book by Adam Rubin. Luke LOVES that book! 

Our aunt Joanie flew in from RI for Luke's birthday! This is
the cake she brought, with little dragon candles.
 She took this photo, I love it so much! 

Luke wanted everyone to have a party hat, including Buzzy Mouse.

I can't believe Luke and Gwen are three and one already! This past year has gone by so fast. I feel like we just brought Gwen home from the hospital, and she's already practicing standing and starting to talk!

At the end of April we visited Seattle for the North West Majors, and that should probably be another post in the future. Our friends pooled together to surprise us with plane tickets, two more friends let us stay in their condo in exchange to care for their adorable dog and cat (and you know how I feel about cats!) and it was just an excellent time. It was the first time we'd returned to Washington since we had to leave. When Ryan and I walked into the airport we were each hit with the feeling that we'd come home after a long, weird vacation. I'll try to write another post soon, explaining the feelings more. This post as already run long, and I need a reason to write again before I let another month pass. Let's hit the pause button on the Seattle trip!

Now we're back, and life in California is still very new and really nice. It's a beautiful place and we like where we're living. Ryan loves his new job. He's back in his field and at night he works on animating a video game that he's making from scratch with two of our friends back in Seattle. I take care of Luke and Gwen during the day and write and paint 'Breaking Cat News' in the evening.

Recently, some nights when we've both finished our work, Ryan and I make popcorn and tea and watch one episode from the last season of 'Poirot.' We've been saving it, knowing it's the last, and it's been a lot of fun watching them together curled up on the couch under a fuzzy blanket. And it's a sign of settling in; nothing to pack or unpack, nothing to put away, nothing to set up or organize. Just a few quiet moments at the end of the day to cuddle and try to solve a mystery. The cats eventually drift over, and soon we're covered in cats, sipping tea, and it's the best. I love it so much.

I'll leave you with a few more photos from the new apartment.

Our earthquake kit, complete with a helpful cat!

The owl and the pussycat! Pucky lounging on our bed.

Setting up our beloved couch, "Big Red!" This couch was in
storage the entire time we lived in RI and we missed it SO much!
It is the most comfortable couch in the world.

And the cat's couch....

My Mom sent us a dark blue fuzzy blanket covered in foxes, and
we changed up the couch a little to honor it. Without waking Lupin.

And last but not least, a photo the new book!!! A whole pile of them!


Thank you again to everyone who has ordered this book! The first print sold out in pre-orders, and the book went into a second printing mid-April--before it even hit stores! That is amazing and makes me so happy, thank you! Please, if you can, leave a review for the book wherever you can. And if you're on Goodreads, they just gave me an author profile! You can follow me here!

It is still strange and surreal and entirely wonderful to write things like that. Thank you for all of your support and encouragement! I hope this will be the first of many books!

And I'll be writing another blog post soon, within thirty days. That's my *new* blog goal for 2016.

I hope everyone is having a great night!

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

3,000 Miles Back West. Wait, what? NO, I KNOW, RIGHT?

New Years Eve is one of my favorite holidays. Okay, if you know anything about me, you know every holiday is one of my favorite holidays. I admit it (I can't hide it) I love celebration! There are so many great things about being alive, I like taking a moment to celebrate each little detail. In recent years holidays have exploded. It seems like there is a day for everything now. A day for pirates, a day for donuts, a day for cats, a day for black cats--I love it.

New Years really does rank pretty high for me, though. A pause to reflect, a deep breath to consider the future. I like making resolutions, and some years I even keep them! And if I don't keep them, I repeat them and try again. One of my repeat resolutions this year is "blog more." I love blogging, and in 2010-2013 I was better about blogging regularly. I have not posted in almost a year, but I have a great excuse:


Surprise! It's a girl! ...And it's nine months old! We had our second child last April, and named her Guinevere Pamela--Gwen for short. I promised myself that my first new blog post would be her birth story, like the one I wrote when Luke was born. I have been chipping away at it, a paragraph here and there, for... Nine months. It's close to being done, and I will share it soon!

And if you read Breaking Cat News, you know that I've been hard at work writing my comic this year too! Between writing a comic and a new baby, plus a very active two year old, blogging totally fell apart. Especially when I gave myself an excuse to put it off, in the form of writing a picture perfect birth story for Gwen to read one day, look away from the screen, and whisper in awe, "Wow, Mom. I do feel loved and validated."

So, instead, I'm just going to fall back into it today and let you know what's going on in our lives, because it's a lot!

2015 was a great year. Our daughter was born. Luke turned two. Ryan and I worked hard! Ryan took on multiple contracts, including one with the toy company Hasbro! He got to work on Play Doh commercials, ads for the new Star Wars toys, Monopoly commercials, Nerf commercials. ...A lot of toy commercials, if I'm being honest. But how cool, right? You can watch one of them here, if you like; Ryan edited this Nerf gun commercial.

As I said, I wrote Breaking Cat News. I took a two month break when Gwen was born for baby cuddles, sleepless nights, and zombie mornings, but couldn't stay away for long. In the daytime I cared for our children, and most nights starting at 8pm I wrote, sketched, inked, and painted the strip.  BCN was syndicated by Universal Uclick in 2014, and many new readers found the strip through their GoComics site in 2015. During the year I added a few new characters, wrote a Halloween special in addition to a second Christmas special, and got to connect with people all over the world about cats! In December, Uclick flew me out to Kansas City to visit their offices and discuss the BCN book! (YES, I SAID BOOK!!! SO EXCITED).

SPOILER ALERT: Everyone at Uclick is amazing and the book comes out this May!

Two days before I flew out to Kansas City, Ryan was contacted about a job opportunity in California. And so at the beginning of December, I was in Kansas City for three days, came home, and Ryan left and was in California for two days. It was all very exciting and very stressful. It felt like all the work we had each put in during 2015 was (hopefully) beginning to pay off. I spent the days Ryan was away watching Christmas specials with the kiddos, cuddling the cats, and hoping for the best.

And then, a couple of days before Christmas, Ryan was offered the job in California!

SPOILER ALERT: I am writing this blog post in California!

It was hard to break the news to family. For almost two years we'd been living in Rhode Island, close to our parents, grandmothers, aunts, uncles, and cousins, and that had been wonderful. I'm really glad we were able to spend some quality time with our family, especially while Luke and Gwen were so little. Leaving them was awful, and if I could have found a way to trick my Mom into a box and smuggle her into our storage pods, I would have. But, you know... kidnapping charges.

Still, great time with family aside, we had an unexpected tough time readjusting to Rhode Island. We missed the west coast very much, and Ryan missed having a full time job vs working contracts. He was having great experiences and getting to work on interesting projects, but a full time job with benefits is hard to beat. If you've read this blog for a while or know us in real life, you know that in 2012 Ryan was laid off from a job he loved two weeks after we bought our first home, when I was six months pregnant with our son. A nightmare scenario for sure, and it sent our lives into a financial tailspin for a couple of years. We eventually made the hard choice to sell our house and move back to Rhode Island to recover, financially and emotionally. We put a lot of hard work in, we supported each other, we cheered each other on, we didn't let each other give up on our goals. We shared an office in our home, we worked back to back on projects almost every night, covered in sweat, tears, and cats. Back on our feet and ready for the next chapter, this job offer could not have come at a better time.

And so, Ryan accepted it. We had just about three weeks to pack up our entire apartment, the kids, the cats, and get ourselves back to the west coast.

Luke and I on Christmas morning at our Aunt Joanie's!

The kids on New Year's Eve. The noisemakers were a BIG hit!

It's just not a party until some girl loses her shoe.

Lupin helping us pack the apartment up for California.

Lupin continues to help....

Elvis sensed change immediately and needed extra cuddles early.
We both did, honestly....

Ryan packing his Pengo arcade cabinet!

Packing went quickly, if not feverishly, and we were lucky to have some great friends help us to move everything into our storage pods! (NOT TO GET ALL GOLDEN GIRLS ON YOU, BUT THANK YOU FOR BEING A FRIEND NATE, CHRISTINE, WILL, AMY, EMILY, JOSEPH, AND AUNT MAUREEN). We decided that Ryan would drive our car with the cats to California, and I would fly with the kids. I was nervous all over again, just as I was when we moved back from Seattle. Being so far apart from your partner is rough, even if it's just for a few days. I love Ryan like crazy. He's my best friend, and watching his little dot get further and further away on Google Maps as I looked up whatever town he was driving through was hard.

I stayed with our Aunt Anne for a few days, and then boarded a plane with Luke, Gwen, and my awesome sister in law Megan. Ryan arrived in California about seven hours before we did, and got the corporate housing we're staying in ready with groceries and flowers--since he'd been on the road during our six year anniversary!

Ryan the morning he left with the cats for the west coast.

Ryan letting Puck out of his carrier to stretch his legs during a road break.

Luke watching the planes at the airport.

Luke with my fabulous sister in law, Megan, who flew with us
to help me with the kids, thank goodness!

Luke and Pengo on the plane.
(That's the real 'Fuzzy Penguin' toy, if you read BCN!)

Gwen and Luke on the plane.

Plane selfies!

Luke decided his penguin could fly during our layover. 

Reunited in California with Daddy!

Lupin wasted no time in exploring the corporate apartment we're staying in.

And that's about where we are now! We've been in corporate housing for almost two weeks. It is a beautiful apartment and it feels a little like being on vacation, which is very nice. Still, I can't wait until we find a new home to settle into and we can be surrounded by our own things in our own space. Plus, Ryan got me a gnome lamp for Christmas and I MEAN C'MON NOW, I NEED TO UNPACK MY NEW GNOME LAMP.

This is a huge change, one that I'm definitely still processing. It happened so fast, there wasn't a lot of time to pause or reflect. Everything had to get into boxes, the boxes had to get into the pods, and we had to get onto the plane, and.... Here we are! I'm incredibly relieved that the move was without event and we are all safe and sound and together. I can be anywhere, as long as we are safe and sound and together. And the cats don't hate us too much.

Elvis settling in. He appreciates that the furniture matches his fur.

Pucky kept his morning bird watching appointment.

Luke missed his buddy Lupin.

Luke and Pengo watching Saturday morning cartoons.

Gwen playing on the floor.

An exhausted selfie I took as the toll of the move crept in. I felt a little tired,
a little homesick, but still noticed how great the lighting was and just had to click a pic.
(That's how I know I'm okay. When I stop noticing fabulous lighting, just close the coffin).

Gwen chilling with her girls.

I had to take a break from writing BCN, since 1. My scanning equipment had to move across the country without me. And 2. Mentally, this is a lot, and I need to take it in and rest and settle before I can be funny again. The readers have understood this for the most part and been amazing. Readers have been leaving comments on my studio FB page and Twitter of encouragement and support, and it's meant so much to me. If you have done that, I can't thank you enough.

I'm still getting Luke and Gwen back into a routine and feeling happy (and aside from Luke's chaotic naps, they've both adjusted great!) I'm spending a lot of cuddle time helping the cats are feel secure. Lupin is thrilled at a new space to check out, Puck is comfortable finally, and Elvis in a surprise move no one could have predicted has been much more relaxed and happier since we arrived in California. He was always wound really tight in our apartment back in Rhode Island, we're not sure why. Ryan jokes that "100 years of history to sense and sniff and investigate" probably had him overloaded. Maybe Tilly was teasing him (that makes more sense if you read the comic!) Whatever the reason, he has been having a great time and I'm so relieved!

And so, there's my first blog post for 2016! Hopefully I'll have Gwen's birth story to share soon, because it's a fun story. I've been INCREDIBLY lucky to have two great, easy births. You'll never like me again if you had a tough labor (I'm joking, please still like me if you've had a tough labor. You're my hero). In the meantime, wish us luck on finding a new space to call home! I'm hoping that a month from now we will be settling into "home." I'm also hoping that I can start working on BCN again and have the comic up and running at the beginning of February. If you miss reading it, I promise, I miss writing it. I've been brainstorming headlines nonstop, and I've got stories planned for most of the year already!

Plus, remember, the first BCN book comes out in May!!! Ahhh!!! SCREAM AND JUMP UP AND DOWN WITH ME, AHHHHHHH!!!!

2016 is already... Really different! I hope it stays a good different!

Happy 2016, everyone, a few weeks late!

Lupin vowing to catch those giant cat toys in the distance....