A character he created years ago for stories he told his son when tucking him into bed is the star of Howell resident Jon King’s first children’s book, “Ishkadoodle: A Boy, His Vacuum & Their Outerspace Adventure.”
This is the first book by King, co-host of the popular “Mike & Jon in the Morning” show on WHMI-93.5 FM since 2002, and occasional writer on The Livingston Post.
His son, Joshua, who is now 20, was a child of just 4 or 5 when Ishkadoodle was born.
In the stories King told his son, Ishkadoodle had all sorts of adventures in which his vacuum cleaner figured prominently.
The real boy and the fictional boy had some things in common: a spirit for adventure, and a fascination with vacuum cleaners; while Josh had his own toy Dirt Devil, Ishkadoodle’s vacuum, named Vroomy, was created as a full-size co-adventurer.
Though the real boy outgrew his fascination with vacuums, Ishkadoodle continues to enjoy adventures with Vroomy.
The locale of Ishkadoodle and Vroomy’s first big adventure is no accident: King describes himself as “obsessed” with outer space.
“I remember watching one of the Apollo launches as a child,” King said, “And from that moment until now, I am an amateur space enthusiast.”
The idea to write his own book came about, King said, after his friend David Hayes “generously” let him co-write the book “Hot Mess,” which is based on a screenplay by Hayes, and “definitely not a children’s book.”
“I began to think of ideas for my own book, and Ishkadoodle was this fully formed character that I had already created,” King said. “It seemed like a natural place to start.”
Two years later, “Iskadoodle” is available on Amazon.com.
The story is illustrated by Joshua Werner, an artist King met through Hayes.
“I immediately loved his style,” King said.
For fans of the Community Theatre of Howell, Werner illustrated the program for the group’s recent production of “It’s a Bird, It’s a Plane, It’s Superman,” which King and Hayes co-directed.
The illustrator even got in a cameo as Jimmy Olsen in one of the performances.
Werner’s illustrations are perfect for King’s words, matching the feel and rhythm of the story.
While King said the self-publishing route isn’t as difficult as some might think — “It’s much-easier today than it was in years past, thanks to print-on-demand technology” — it isn’t cheap.
“You really need to see it as an investment in yourself,” King said. “If you believe in yourself, you should be willing to invest in yourself.”
King’s advice for anyone considering self-publishing: “Be flexible. Ask for and accept advice from those you trust. Be patient, but be persistent.”
And King warns that the move from story telling to story writing was difficult.
“For anyone who ever thought, ‘How hard can it be to write a children’s book?’ — of which I was one — let me say that it’s not simple. Like anything else worthwhile, it takes time to do right.”
King passed along some advice his friend Hayes gave him.
“Hire a professional editor, and listen to what they have to say,” King said. “It made a world of difference.”
Ishkadoodle learns in his outer space travels with Vroomy that it’s good to be curious and adventurous.
They also learn that the solution to a problem might not be the obvious choice, and that it’s good to be flexible and open-minded, King said.
Ishkadoodle isn’t the only character King’s created.
“When my daughter Emily (now 17) was old enough, I added a character called Siskadoodle, who followed Ishkadoodle around on adventures.”
And for his youngest daughter, Claire, 10, King’s created a completely different character.
Claire — who will still get told bedtime stories by her dad King as long as she’ll let him — now thinks of her dad as “Dr. Seuss,” while Josh and Emily think it’s humorous that this story and character from so many years ago is now a book.
“They — and most especially, my wife, Carolyn — have been nothing but supportive,” King said. “That has really made this all worthwhile.”
Fans of Ishkadoodle and Vroomy will be glad to know that King is working on a sequel.
“Ishkadoodle: A Boy, His Vacuum & Their Outerspace Adventure” is available on Amazon.com. Click here to get your copy.
If you’d like your copy of “Ishkadoodle: A Boy, His Vacuum & Their Outerspace Adventure” autographed for you, or as a gift for someone special, you’re in luck!
Jon King’s Author Showcase is set for 6:30-9 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 20, at the Howell Opera House, 123 W. Grand River Ave. in downtown Howell.
Other authors featured at the event include: David Hayes, Melissa Keir, Colleen Gleason, Darci Hannah, Michael Glenn Monroe, J. Ryan Fenzel, Joshua Werner, Kaaren Christopherson, and Tracy Gardner Beno.
There will be wine sips and holiday treats, plus a gift basket raffle.