Con Season

posted in: Conventions, Stuff I Like | 0

I’ve been quietly working on comics over here, mostly Era of Great Wonders. John really wants to get a full graphic novel out this year for it (although, honestly, I’m only 1/3 of a way through the script he’s given me, and it’s taken me two years to get this far!).

I’ve also remembered that I need to be producing posters, because sadly, original characters don’t really help you make your table money back. So to that end, I’ve been drawing more Borderlands characters, and hope to have a few more before we are well, and truly, into convention season. Here’s one I started last year, and finally dusted off, inked, and colored:

salvador

Before Krieg came around, I was half in love with Salvador. Maybe a little more than half.

Also, wow, these colors look way different on my monitor. I may need to tinker around with them to get them as rich as they look on my cintiq. Mind you, the printer always prints it up another way, so… at a certain point you just have to let go.

Right now I have a RakkMan I started, that I hate, and need to redo, and I also promised my husband I’d draw him some Claptrap images, one of which has to be the Disco Claptrap, because our play-through when he discovered that skill was one of the happiest I’ve seen him in a long while!

Garden Age

I’ve been playing a lot of Dragon Age recently, while working on pages for All the Growing Things.

This is what happens.

gardenage2

While not as pretty as the actual Dragon Age cover, I’m still pretty pleased with it.

At some point, I will resume posting comic pages online. Right now I’m simply trying to get as many done as possible (I have dreams of finishing issues 4 and 5 of Era, and compiling them into a book by mid summer!) Because I’m trying to get all of the pages done at the same time, it means I have a bunch of half-done pages, but nothing I’m ready to post yet.

Some quick thoughts on Dragon Age:

A lot of people are comparing it to Skyrim, and while I can see the initial comparison, I don’t really think that’s fair to either Skyrim or Dragon Age.

Dragon Age: Inquisition does have an open world feel to it, but it’s not as sandbox as Skyrim. You can play Skyrim for hundreds of hours and never touch the main storyline. And that’s something I LOVE about Bethesda games.

DA:I on the other hand is seriously story driven. While you can roam around maps all you want, you can only unlock new maps by completing story missions.

The only complaint I really have (and it’s not much of one) is that DA introduced so many new game mechanics that I really didn’t know what I was doing with the game, while removing old mechanics I relied heavily upon (detailed tactics comes to mind).

All in all, it’s a pretty fantastic game, and I’m having to restrict myself from playing it (and I am now counting down the days until Friday, where I plan to play it to my heart’s content. Or, well, until the early hours of Saturday morning.)

Save Me From Myself

posted in: Conventions, Stuff I Like, writing | 0

At some point on Monday I figured out how to sync my kindle up so that I can borrow ebooks from my local library. I came at it in a round about way, and long story short, I discovered insomnia can NOT be cured by binge reading Regency romances.

I also learned some new words, because I am not normally a regency reader, and I had no idea that panniers existed, much less were collapsible. I sort of figured women just sort of wore… hoops-or something!-back then.

I’ve spent most of my life just dismissing the whole concept of regency dress as confusing and overtly complicated, without ever thinking much else about it. I also, apparently, didn’t realize that Regency romances take place a full century before the steampunk Victorian period.

I am thankful, however, that only a few ebooks of the series I was binge reading are available, because I’ve read an embarrassing amount of them in the past 48 hours, and I need to do something with my life other than try to figure out if a duke is “higher up” than a “marquis” and what happens if an exduchess marries a marquis. Does she become a marquis, or does she stay a duchess?

How do proper nouns work? Why does everyone go by their title, and not their first name?

Who knows?

A few other people in the greater Albuquerque area are also puzzling through this series however, so I’m on hold until I can answer these absolutely nonvital yet absolutely engrossing questions by reading any further. At least until they return their ebook copies.

I’m hoping they’re slow readers, because the amount of work that has piled up due to insomnia-fogged brain and distracted regency thoughts is a bit daunting.

(See? “Daunting.” My vocabulary is changing the more I read! Exquisite! …although if I were true to the Regency feel, I’d say it in French and in a confusing manner.)

I did accomplish two things of note since last I blogged, however: I finished my Dashiell Hammett/Lovecraft/Spelljammer short story mashup. It’s pretty terse, and I’m not sure that anyone who likes (or tolerates) my normal prose writing is going to like it, but I’m still pretty proud of it anyways.

I also managed to head off to the printers today and pick up a mass of poster printings. They still need to print the books (and to say I’m getting nervous on the turn-around time is an understatement.) At the end of the month we’ll be at the ACE convention, and I’m a more than a bit terrified I won’t have much to show for myself since last year’s convention. Except, well, some posters.

And everyone likes posters, right? *She says with a desperate grin*

*whispers* I’m so tired.

Red Harvest Hater (a mild rant)

posted in: Stuff I Like | 0

I’ve been reading a bunch of Dashiell Hammett’s stuff since I found an old trade paperback of “The Continental Op” on one of John’s bookshelves a few months ago. I tore through it, and sort of fell in love with the whole concept: the gritty and explosive violence, the hero who was just as threatening as the villains, the way some mysteries remained mysteries after everyone (but the op) died.

John was a bit surprised at how much I fell in love with Hammett’s work, and I kept bugging him for more. While I know a lot of people are more in love with Raymond Chandler, and the way he writes such striking descriptions, (“…he looked about as inconspicuous as a tarantula on a slice of angel food cake.”*) there was something about the stripped down staccato firing of Hammett’s prose that really resonates with something in me.

I’ve been painfully aware when I write just how verbose and unnecessary most of my words are. A lot of that comes from fear, I think. As if I’m terrified that I can’t explain or convey what it is that is important, so I throw all the words I can think of at the reader, hoping something will stick.

With Hammett, it doesn’t matter. He’s not trying to trick you in to guessing whodunit – he’s just laying out a series of facts, and if you come to the same conclusion as the hero, great. If not, that’s okay: the villain gets away as often as not in the books. Sometimes you don’t have all the facts, and there’s nothing the reader or the character can do about it.

There’s also something great about Hammett’s work where he switches the old rules around, and he spends most of the story telling you, not showing you. But the voice of the narrator is so strong, that it ends up showing you the Continental Op’s character. Terse, and matter of fact.

It’s one of the things I love about Hammett, and it’s one of the things that someone who read my beat up copy of Red Harvest, apparently hated. There are notes scrawled all through the margins, underlining words, turns of phrase, and commenting how poor the writing is. That it’s “garbage” or that it’s “loose.” I can’t turn a page and not see this person’s opinion, scrawled across the book.

In pen.

It’s driving me a little nuts to be honest, because who does this? And it’s not just the first few pages of the book. This goes on THROUGH THE WHOLE BOOK.

And it’s not the meet-cute sort of thing like you find in Abram’s “S” book that I desperately want to read. This is an attack on an author I really enjoy, and a book that I would like to enjoy, but I can’t because of my seething hatred for this bygone person, who’s own hatred is echoed on the pages of my book.

It’s not the relaxing, drift-off-to-sleep reading experience I’ve been looking forward to.

Honestly, and in pen. Who does that?!

 

* From Chandler’s Farewell, My Lovely. The whole book is filled with crazy similes and metaphors.

Distractable

posted in: odds and ends, Stuff I Like | 0

I know I get distracted easily, but I meant to tell y’all that I saw this neat youtube cartoon called RWBY while at my friends’ house!

It really makes me want to learn how to make little animated shorts so that I could do my own Maude series, but I know that it’s all harder to do than it looks.

I’ve only seen up to episode 8, but it’s pretty awesome. I guess there are all sorts of hidden clues and hidden stories within the stories, with themes and… er… thingies? Literary thingies? Thingies that after you find out about them, add depth to the story itself. I don’t know what that stuff is called.

Anyways, they’re there if you know to look for them. My friends are really smart though, so they pointed a few of the ones out that I didn’t pick up on.

(And by “few” I mean everything except the red riding hood parallel.)

Corposants and other Strange Things

posted in: Stuff I Like, writing | 0

So I’m about elbow* deep in this new story I’m working on, tentatively titled “A Shadow Under Innsmoon.**”

I’ve been reading up about Flying Polyps (SPOILERS! Oh. Wait. You’re supposed to warn people before you say it, aren’t you?) and believe that they are way too underrated of a monster. Supposedly they exist on more levels of existence than in just the physical world, and other scary monsters hate them. How are they not awesome? They sort of phase through walls and distance, and only certain types of electrical fields can slow them down or imprison them (which leads us to the Saint Elmo’s Fire, below.)

They are so strange, in fact, that two of the other really scary monsters of the mythos have gone to war with them! Elder Things were able to lock them deep under the sea in basalt towers (SPOILERS) while The Great Race of Yith was later destroyed by them in the far distant future. Or something. I’m going off vague memories of playing Call of Cthulhu with refreshers from Wikipedia here and there. All in all, they’re pretty great, and while they’re no Mi-G0 (“But I just GOT here!”) they’re still pretty cool.

Mi-Go are still my favorite lovecraftian monsters though, mostly because of all the bad jokes you can make about them!

I was also researching*** Saint Elmo’s Fire (also called ‘corposants’), which is kind of a neat sort of phenomenon, or substance, or whatever the heck it is. It’s interesting stuff. I guess it happens when there’s a lot of electricity going on, and it tends to look like flames that appear on the end of pointed things like ship masts, church steeples; one guy even said he saw it on the back o the Hindenburg before the ship blew up! I guess it’s a plasma, and not actually fire or electricity, but I have no idea what that even means. Plasma is… I don’t’ know. Isn’t the sun made of plasma? Something like that.

Also, did you know that “electricity” comes from a Greek word meaning “amber” because amber rods could be used to make electric sparks? (I can see the experiments now, involving amber rods, and cat fur, and later: stitches at the doctor’s office.) And that people have been mucking around with electricity in various forms for centuries (millennia?) before it was finally harnessed to do things like power laptops? Pretty neat stuff.

I have a friend who, when we were kids, would rub balloons on her cat, and then we’d watch her (the cat) run around, surly that her dignity had been compromised by a stupid balloon. This friend later went on to become a scientist, so I’m sure that if anyone could tell you an accurate history of electricity, as well as a proper definition for a plasma, it’d be her. She could also tell you if the cat ever revenge-peed on either of our stuff, but I don’t think it did. I remember her cat having the patience of… well… of a saint, if that’s something you can compare a cat to.

I… I also wanted to make a “patience of a saint” combined with “corposant meaning ‘holy body'” and “rubbing balloons on a cat’s body” joke… but I’m not sure how to work it out. Instead I’ll just set all the pieces out, and you can put them together in any which way that fits. I imagine it’s a bit of a crossword puzzle with “corposant” in the center of everything.

Okay, I guess I should get back to working before my brain starts to misfire completely.

 

* I figure you get your hands dirty, your wrists, then you work your ways up your arms, and then you’re pulled in at the shoulders and are now standing “in it.” Sometimes analogies don’t work the way I think they should. Or maybe I’m just weird. Or maybe it’s two things?

** It’s a lovecraftian sort of space-going steampunk story, so I don’t know if it’s tacky to (mis)use a title he’s already used. I’m on the fence on this one, but John seems to like it. Mind you, John is supportive to the point of unreliable judgement in my favor, so I’m still not so sure it’s a good idea.

*** …er… “looking up in wikipedia”

Ten Books (part 2)

posted in: Stuff I Like | 0

Five more books! I don’t know how to easily start the list to count from “5” and count up from there, so I’m just letting wordpress do it’s thing and start with a “1.” I have nothing to prove to you wordpress! Nothing!

  1. Declare by Tim Powers
    This is probably my favorite book ever written. While I really enjoyed Last Call and Anubis Gates, there was they way he took WWII history, mixed it with some cold war history from the 1960’s, and then connected everything together with a Lovecraftian Mythos. The way he writes the unknowable and unnameable is fantastic, and I am currently in the process of my yearly read of this book.
  2. Guards! Guards!, Witches Abroad, and Lords and Ladies by Terry Pratchett
    These are three separate books, and I know I’m cheating, but I really sort of consider all of Discworld to be one book. I think, in a way, I tend to like books in series because it helps immerse the reader into the world, and I don’t see things as “books I like” so much as “worlds I like.” These three books are my favorites of Pratchett’s, with my three favorite characters (in no particular order) are: The Patrician, Samual Vimes, and Nanny Ogg.
  3. The Nurses Journals in Fallout 3, just outside of the Germantown Police Station
    Okay, I know it’s not from a book or anything, but when we talk about world building, this was when the game world became real to me. I spent a good hour searching for old computer terminals and reading what the nurses (or were they doctors?) were trying to do to help with the radiation sickness, and it was as engrossing as anything you’d read in On the Beach or Alas, Babylon.
  4. Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler
    This sort of rocked my world when I first read it. I’d read a few “wasteland” sort of books, (including the above On the Beach and Alas, Babylon) but none had the sheer terror and feel to them that Parable of the Sower did. By the time I made it to the end of the book, I was sweating and a bit traumatized. I never had the guts to read the sequel in the story, because as ambiguous as the book ends, it’s ambiguous enough that I can squint and pretend it was on a happy-ish note.
  5. Brain Plague by Joan Slonczewski
    How easy of a title is that? And I always forget the dang thing. I’m always trying to explain this book to people: “It’s about these people who can get nanotech put into their bloodstreams, and what the public doesn’t realize is that the nanos are sentient and that they’ve formed communities, and like other communities, sometimes they are at war with other ones, and then there’s this artist, and she gets some, and then she wonders if her art is better because of her, or because of the nanotech, or if it’s just the fame of having had the nanotech implants, and then there’s this whole conspiracy where….” …where I have to take a breath because, yes, I did that all in one long run-on sentence. I know I’m not the only one that’s read this book, but there are times I feel so alone trying to explain just how great this book was.

 

Ten Books (Part 1)

posted in: Stuff I Like | 0

(Part 1, because I am wordy, I guess.)

There was a facebook meme going around along the lines of:

In your status line list 10 books that have stayed with you in some way. Don’t take too long or think too hard. They don’t have to be “right” or “great”, just ones that have touched you. Tag 10 friends, including me, so I can see your list. It’s a great way to find new books.

I thought that it was actually a pretty interesting one, despite the obligatory “tag your friends” bit at the end, but I did talk to my friend Sheri into doing it, and you can check out her answers at her blog! As it is, I thought I’d write up some books that, for better or worse, have stuck with me. I’m also willing to play fast and loose as to what a “book” is in my world. I’d rather say  “Ten things I’ve read that have stayed with me.”

  1. The Black Cauldron by Lloyd Alexander.
    Until I read this book, I had been faking my way through classes. I was in fifth grade, and at this point I was tired of making up fake books to pretend to have read for my book reports. It wasn’t that I couldn’t read, but it was rather that I didn’t read for enjoyment, and it was a terrible struggle to sound out words. I had no patience for the stillness of a book. This is the book that changed that. After reading this book, I became an avid reader, and read everything I came across.
  2. Crystal Shard by R.A. Salvatore
    This book had a scene early on where the dwarf liked the brains of his enemy off his battle ax. It was so gross and so awesome I remember looking up in class (still in fifth grade), looking around at everyone and realizing that no one else just read that. Books were like a secret between you and others that read!
  3. Stranger in a Strange Land, To Sail Beyond the Sunset, Time Enough for Love, and I Will Fear No Evil* by Robert Heinlein
    Fast forward to sixth grade. By now people noticed I was reading everything I could get my hands on. Also, I had learned how to avoid the geese at the public library, and now had my own library card. For my birthday I was given these four books, and I read them as if they were all one book, split into several parts. Because of Heinlein’s willingness to play fast and loose with continuity and put Lazarus Long into everything, I’m still not certain I’m wrong. I never finished Stranger or Time Enough, although I did get to within twenty pages of finishing Stranger. I remember vividly putting down the book in the middle of the FBI raid with Michael Valentine Smith sitting at the bottom of the pond/pool thing, and I just never went back. So for me, he was never found, never shot, never anything. He’s still sitting at the bottom of that pond, holding his breath the way a martian can. I Will Fear No Evil is probably my favorite of the Heinlein books because anytime you have something with gender swapping, I am there. I dislike the idea of rigid gender identities, and at 12 years old, Heinlein was the first to show me that nothing was set in stone.
  4. Battlefield Earth by L. Ron Hubbard.
    I hated this book. This was lent to me by my uncle (he was the one who gave me the Heinlein, so I thought Battlefield Earth would be good too, but it was not.) I had no idea, until I started Battlefield Earth that you could hate a book. It was a memorable learning moment, and since then I’ve always had a willingness to close a book and never read it further. Some books you like, some you don’t care for, and some you hate with a fiery passion. I can’t tell you why I hate(d) Battlefield Earth, only that as a young pre-teen, I did. I believe that this might also have been the time I started writing, certain that I could do better. (I’ll never be as successful as Hubbard, but when you’re 12 you don’t know that, and even if you did, it wouldn’t stop you.)
  5. Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand
    We’re now into highschool, and things were tough for me. I vacillated between honors and remedial classes, depending on my patience and my teacher’s opinions as to where “I belonged.” Many people started making comments about my being on the “Five Year Plan” and what was worse, I didn’t know what that meant. My best friend in the world (who stayed in honors classes) was given a copy of Atlas Shrugged to read, and I picked it up at her house and read it over a few days. I wanted to prove to myself that I was smart enough for honors classes “If only I would have applied myself” and so I finished it and gave it back to her. I’m not sure she ever actually read it to be honest, but because she was the only person I’ve ever known with a GPA higher than 4.0, I imagine it didn’t bother her grade much.I liked the idea of a world that ran on meritocracy, and of course, when we imagine these worlds we always imagine ourselves at the top of the pile, don’t we?** You’ll never meet someone who wants to go back to the “good old days of chivalry” and be the one shoveling out the stables. Atlas Shrugged plays on the same sensibility: that you are the most talented person you know, so of course you deserve more than others. This doesn’t take into account the world that functions because of the people that get up at 4am and do the crappy jobs: the garbage truck drivers, the police officers, the doctors working at the clinic that’ll treat anyone for any reason. There are so many unsung and unknown heroes that just aren’t glamorous enough to live in Galt’s Gulch, and as I grew older, I started to question where “my people” are in this book. Oh, right, Eddie Willers is left sobbing by the side of the track, abandoned by the very people (including Dagny) who he supported and worked for.  So long Middle Class, we hardly knew ya!

    Now that I’m older, the part that sticks with me most about this book is where they fly over New York City, and Galt’s speech about “turning off the lights of the world” is realized, and you see the lights of the “Greatest City on Earth” go out, one by one. How is that not a tragedy of hubris? How is that not throwing out the baby with the bathwater?

    When I hear politicians talk about Atlas Shrugged, I have to question that politician’s understanding of what they read, not to mention their understanding of “socialism” and history.

 

 

* Bonuses! I refuse to follow rules and only count 10 books!
** How many people believe that during a zombie apocalypse they won’t be zombie chow? I mean, look at the numbers, and it’s not just the good and honest people that are alive for the movie – it’s just a handful of people, and chances are you and I are dead, or about to die an unpleasant icky death. I mean, I know we’ll all do our best not to be the zombie, but numbers are just against us.

Stuff I’ve been reading – Amulet #1

posted in: Stuff I Like | 0

I’ve managed to read two new comic trades recently, so that’s been nice! I picked up Amulet #1, and was also able to catch up on the latest Locke & Key trade as well! I have a tendency when I get comics to pick up one that I’ve been waiting for, as well as trying out something new as well, this way when one series ends, I’m more likely to have something new to read to replace it.

Newest things first:

Amulet #1 is by Kazu Kibuishi who compiled the Flight books. I was really impressed by Flight (I only have books 1 and 2), and when I saw Amulet I knew I wanted to read more by him. Amulet is pretty clearly something written for younger audiences, but that doesn’t mean it’s childish. The back of the book reads: “After a family tragedy, Emily, Navin, and their mother move to an ancestral home to start a new life.”

Adventure ensues.

The tragedy that takes place early on in the story is handled amazingly well – it doesn’t gloss over anything, but it doesn’t dwell on anything either. The monsters are fun and I like the way the some of the monsters are “hollow” in this book.

The coloring in the book is also incredibly beautiful, and combined with the monster and critter designs and the world designs (giant mushrooms that can be used as parachutes?!) it really feels like a well thought out world, which is charming.

I also like the way it looks like Kazu Kibuishi uses pencils to create his drawings, and then digitally colors over them. (It could be watercolor or something, I’m not sure) but either way, it has a loose, free-handed quality that I especially love and admire when I see it done. (I’m a huge fan on penciled comics, I don’t know why I haven’t tried any of my own…)

Do I have any negatives to say about this book?

Not really. The worst thing I can really think of is that I’m more invested in the art and the world building to the point that I really don’t care much for the main bad guy. I’m just not sure if I care if he’s really a bad guy, or is just a misunderstood-probably-will-be-a-good-guy-later type of guy, or what. Mostly I want to see more beautiful pictures of the underground house, or the house walking, or those little leaf eating critters… the over all plot isn’t really all that captivating. But the art and world building is more than enough to carry the book.

(As a head’s up, I’m not affiliated or anything with Amazon, I just thought you might like the link. I don’t get money if you click through or whatever.)

In other news:

I’ve been painting like a crazy woman for this show in March, but I HAVE been working on All the Growing Things and Vagus (and another, as yet, unannounced comic) in my spare time, which is usually an hour or two before I go to bed. It’s super slow going, but I’m hoping I can distract you all if I start blogging more often. What do you think? Distracting? Yes’m.