Drawing Demons

Got busy with the pen and ink this weekend (while mopping mucus) and drew one of my demons.

The scan made the pen and ink lines, particularly on the shading of her legs, a little less clean (darn office scanner), but still okay. Maybe it’s time to invest in my own scanner. (I don’t think the office scanner, which only does PDF and TIFF files, is really designed for scanning artwork.)

A lot better than the scan of my acrylic vision of Dis, which is so dark and fuzzy it’s not even worth uploading. Arg. I give up. I’ve finished that scene anyway.

Back to nursing my cold.

Learning from the mistakes of others

Had a rotten cold this week, so I’ve been up a lot in the middle of the night, draining, and used the opportunity to make a dent in my bookshelf. Read Kelly McCullough’s Cybermancy in one sitting. Really good stuff. Also read two other novels that I won’t mention by name because I’m going to tank on them a little.

There wasn’t anything wrong with these two other books. They were engaging; they were fun reads; I finished both books. But I won’t remember them for their extremely cool ideas, twisty plots or memorable characters (the way I will Cybermancy). I’ll remember them because there were relatively small but important things about each of them that bugged the hell out of me and prevented me from losing myself completely in the stories.

The first one suffered from info-dumps. Huge clots of exposition by the narrator which are designed to give the reader information that couldn’t be conveyed during the action of the story. They killed the pace of the story for me and made the first half of the novel a total slog. Beyond being pace-killing, they came off as slightly patronizing. A lot of them concerned events in previous novels in the series (which I’ve read and didn’t really need to be told again in exhausting detail). Some of them just seemed to suggest the reader is an idiot who can’t look something up for herself. An example that stands out in my mind is the paragraph-long explanation of the male protagonist’s pet-name for the narrator, dulceata, which basically boils down to “dear one.” Yannow, I could have figured that out for myself from the context, really. And if I couldn’t, there’s always Google. And each time the word was repeated throughout the book (which was a lot), I found myself wincing at the memory of that condescending explanation. Not a good way to read a book.

The other didn’t condescend to me quite as much, but it suffered from a more grievous sin, cheesy character names. I think there’s a lot of power in names. Names usually sum up a character for me. Indiana Jones, Holden Caulfield, Harry Dresden. Great names for great characters. Cheesy names for non-cheesy characters cheapen the character for me, and cheesy names for main characters — characters whose names are repeated often through the book — are like nails on a blackboard. Naming a half-mad vampire “Wroth” is cheesy. Bleh. Made me twitch every time I read it. For the record, twitching is not a good way to read a book, either.

Things to keep in mind as I learn more about this crazy craft called writing.

Meh

Now officially after the end of August. And Neon Blue isn’t done. Meh.

It is, however, very close. And after getting my main characters into Hell, I managed to get them out (mostly) during a tight little writing sesh yesterday morning.

I think I’ve said here before that the ideas I look back on and think “wow, that was a really bright, shiny, sparkly idea,” occur to me while I’m writing (instead of while I’m driving to work or while I’m cooking dinner or some other equally contemplative time). That was certainly the case yesterday morning. A couple of pieces of characterization really came together for me. As did the bridge between getting Jou and Tsara out of Hell and to the end of the story.

Now I just have to push on through to the end.

Double-vision

Following Pardner John’s suggestion, I’ve been playing with Photoshop. Definitely more painterly. I’m not sure I’ve gotten the hang of the layer-thing, but my effort at making a topographical map of Dis is more respectable than my disastrous efforts with Illustrator.

And while there’s still a lot to be said for pen and paper (or acrylics and paper), I really liked the duplicate feature which allowed me to just copy the little black towers instead of having to redraw each one. Nice to have the map features all neatly labeled, too, instead of having to decipher my chickenscratch. Still, I don’t think I’ll be joining the ranks of the digital artisans anytime soon.

In the Valley

Screwing around on the internet this morning, I took the Elemental Balance Test. I’m a Valley, evidently (ironic, given that I live on a hillside).

Your result for The Elemental Balance Test…

Valley

~ 52% Water ~ 63% Wind ~ 67% Earth ~ 63% Fire ~

I have tripped into a valley

that is blue ’til you can see

Let’s see… your personality reminds me of the…

…warm Citrine that stands for abundance, protection and stability. Your colour is a dark yellow or orange.

Interpretation:

Out of the seven chakras, the Creative Chakra, which is associated with the element of earth and represents our need to preserve and grow, seems to be predominant in you. Though this guarantees you success in your job and in managing home and family, it may result in a materialistic outlook or becoming a workaholic.

You can balance it by wearing an Amethyst; its illuminating attributes that activate the Crown Chakra help us recognise the big picture and gain a spiritual outlook on life.

A Tarot reference concerning your predominant element:

If you are a young lass or lad and still unmarried your card is the Page of Pentacles. Young women, especially married ones, identify with the Queen of Pentacles, also known as the Queen of Diamonds. If you are a young, unmarried man, you are the Knight of Pentacles, and married or “mature” males are identified with the King of Pentacles, commonly known as the King of Diamonds. Ladies and gentlemen, here is your reliable man you’ve been looking for.

These are the results you will get if you score highly on…

None of the four elements: Balance Wind: Gust Fire: Blaze Water: River Earth: Valley Wind & Fire: Thunder Wind & Water: Clouds Wind & Earth: Canyon Fire & Earth: Lava Fire & Water: Tornado Water & Earth: Trees Wind, Fire & Earth: Storm Wind, Fire & Water: Stars Wind, Water & Earth: Forest Fire, Water & Earth: Avalanche All four elements: Harmony

Take The Elemental Balance Test at HelloQuizzy

—-

Right, okay, what about older married people?! The Aging King/Queen of Diamonds? And, oh, yes, I have all those amethysts lying around to pop on whenever I feel unbalanced. They look really good with my crown and scepter.

Pfft. I’m going back to Hell.

Visions of Hell

That half-a-scene further that I’ve gotten in Neon Blue is Tsara and Jou’s trip to Hell. My vision of what Jou’s home in Dis is like is very clear, but I’m having trouble getting it down on paper. Here’s my first draft of Tsara’s first glimpse:

I blink. Flashes of darkness. Blue swirling shapes. A bright orange streak that spreads along a horizon endlessly distant or too close for me to grasp – I can’t tell which. I can’t figure out where things are. There’s no point of reference. Everything around us folds and moves like cloth. A wheeling impossible whirlwind—

Eh. The rest of the scene is better (I think), but this first glimpse, which should be so easy to write, given the clarity of my vision, just isn’t.

So I got on Adobe Illustrator last night and tried to come up with an image to work with.

Urk! I now have huge respect for people who make art on the computer. That would drive me nuts! I came up with something passably like my vision, but nothing close to what I could have done with brush and paints (which I’ll probably get out tonight, since I wasn’t very happy with the image I produced on the computer). You go all you digital artists!

Aww, fuck

Well, it’s officially mid-August and I think I’m about a half-a-scene further on than I was when I hit 100,000 words in Neon Blue and got all foolishly optimistic about when it might be done. That’ll teach me.

On the bright side, most of that time has been spent on Lure and, surprisingly, Stars Avail, which I haven’t touched in eons and then all of a sudden I began dreaming scenes in Book II where Hauser and the cyborgs are contacted by the AI, Aiero. Those scenes are miles ahead of where I’ve written up to, but I’ve learned my lesson about fucking with the muse, so I’ve skipped ahead and written them out. Hopefully when I do catch up to them they’ll fit in and make some sort of sense.

Now it’s time to really buckle down and get cranking on Neon Blue. End of August. For real.

I likes a good chuckle in the morning, I do

Surfing for help with translating some English expressions into Mandarin Chinese this morning and came across this gem of a machine-translated Chinese menu. Had me chortling into my cornflakes. Until I came to the “benumbed hot vegetables fries fuck silk” and “fuck the salt (beautiful pole) duck chin,” at which point I sprayed my cornflakes all over my laptop and had to turn it off . . .

Man, what did we do before the internet?

The Tale of Broken Reed

(First draft for inclusion in Neon Blue)

She chews for a moment. “Did I ever tell you about my great-great grandfather?”

I shake my head.

“His name was Duàn Lú, and because he was the son of a magician, people were always coming to him and asking him to fix things, even though he had no magic himself and was so poor that he worked his own rice fields. One day a beautiful woman came walking down the Great Wall of Qi, carrying a broken basket. She brought the basket to Duàn Lú and told him that she’d put her heart in the basket and given it to her lover as a gift, but her lover had been unfaithful and the basket had broken and she’d lost her heart. Duàn Lú was so moved by her story that he offered to help her mend the basket, even though he had no magic and it was time to harvest his rice. So he went to banks of the Huang He, the Yellow River, and gathered reeds for the basket. The woman gathered with him and as they worked, he saw her legs through the water. Where the hem of her kimono had floated up, he could see fox legs and he realized what she was, a huli jing. A fox spirit. But he said nothing, and they took the reeds back to his house and repaired the basket. When the basket was so tight that it would hold even water, he filled it with the little rice he’d harvested and gave it to her and said, ‘now this basket holds my heart.’ And the huli jing was so moved that she married Duàn Lú and bore him a son. The son grew quickly and soon went to help Duàn Lú in the rice fields, and as they worked, Duàn Lú saw his son’s feet through the water and saw that he had fox paws like his mother. Duàn Lú’s heart broke and he took his son back to the huli jing and told her what he’d seen. The huli jing said nothing but the next day, when she sent Duàn Lú and her son out into the fields, she gave Duàn Lú the old basket and told him to take out the rice and sprinkle it in the water. And he did and when he looked at his son’s feet through the water, he saw only human feet. And his heart was filled with happiness and he went back to his house to tell his wife, but she was gone.”

“Never to be heard from again,” I say, guessing where this is going.

“Yup.”

“And Duàn Lú?”

“Died of a broken heart.”

I pour two cups of coffee and hold one out to Lin. “People only die of broken hearts in stories.”

Lin takes a sip and nods. “True. Convenient, really. I’ve always thought it would be worse to live. Realizing what you’ve lost.”

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