Projects

"Spire City Noir"
"Spire City Noir Anthology"
"Spire City/Johnny Saturn Series Bible"
"Johnny Saturn No 18"
"Johnny Saturn Planar Eclipse"
"Medieval Book of Lists"
"Name of the Shadow"
"Requiem"

Happy Days with Scott

Hello, My Friends! Salutations, Hola, etc.

Friday and Saturday I spent many rapturous hours working on my novel, the Apex Killers. I had been away from it for months, and digging back in is just fantastic for me. As I told Benita, I enjoy every stage of the writing process, from dashing out the first draft to repeated revisions working out every beat, filling in extra details and content, to polishing the manuscript as much as I can. Even formatting the book is enjoyable! This book has a lot of moving parts, so I’m probably going to hire an editor again to help me make sure I’ve covered everything. More on all this later.

Last week I wrote about the problems I’ve been having with my legs and feet. I’m happy to say that I’ve seen an orthopedic doctor, and he had a barrage of useful advice to help me get mobile again. For example, I’m wearing a compression sock on my left leg, and it has been heading off the excessive swelling. I’ve switched over to hiking boots, and they have offered me much greater support (and relief!) I even have some exercises that will help relieve the stress on my Achilles’ tendon. I was afraid I was going to have to undergo surgery and miss a great deal of work, or put off said surgery until I got vacation days to use for recovery and live in misery for half a year until those vacation days came back. Now I would like to think that I’ve reached the bottom, and now I’m ready for a significant turnaround in health. To better days!

Everyone knows that I’m a history nerd (my college degrees were in Medieval History and Creative Writing, as it turns out), Benita bought me some books on technology, masons and builders, clothes, and cloth dyes from the Middle Ages. This lady knows me! I’m one lucky guy.

Here is the latest cover I’ve created for Local Hero Press:

Finally, here is an excerpt from a novel that I wrote a long time ago, and which I am now going to self-publish. I wrote this in pre-internet times, and try as I might I never found an agent or a publisher. Now is a different time, and self-publishing is a terrific option. The book is titled “Name of the Shadow,” and this is an excerpt from chapter one:

 

PART ONE, CHAPTER ONE

Raeth pounded the strip of smoldering white iron, alternately heating it over a small, pedal-blown forge and working it on a curiously shaped anvil.  Satisfied, he pinned the iron to the anvil and then twisted it slightly with a pair of tongs. The tumbler, so intricate and precise, slowly came to life as he worked.  He began tapping at it again, carefully now, with yet another hammer. Finally, he buried the tumbler in the glowing coals of the little forge. There, embedded in the red-hot coke, its impurities would slowly bake away, leaving steel where before there had been only iron.

Raeth enjoyed his work despite the rigors of his apprenticeship to Jhold Mendynn, the master locksmith.  Raeth wanted so much more from life than a mere, “respectable” trade, but for now it would do. He was vain and well aware of his skill, which, for a boy of eleven, had already far outreached that of the other apprentices his age.

His master, oblivious to the merciless racket that Raeth raised below, lay unconscious in the little bedchamber above the shop.  Raeth didn’t mind his master’s tardiness, though, for there were certain liberties to be had in being a drunkard’s apprentice. When sober, Jhold sharply criticized every aspect of Raeth’s craftsmanship, yet the old locksmith never failed to present it as his own work when dealing with customers.

In three year’s time, when Raeth completed his eight-year apprenticeship, he would be eligible for the status of full journeyman locksmith.  Once certified, he then would be technically free of Jhold. The hard, economic truth, of course, was that once Raeth was a journeyman his status would change from Jhold’s ward, with its guaranteed food and lodging, to that of defenseless wage earner.  As such, Jhold would owe Raeth nothing, and he would be more a slave than before, beholden to his master’s grudging generosity: Raeth could have his wages cut, be laid off in the slow times, or be fired.

Raeth preferred not to look at it that way, of course.

Once certified, he thought with a smile, I’ll be free of Jhold Mendynn forever–free to make my fortune in the world. Jhold can starve, for all I care, and, without me to carry his workload for him, he probably will!

Using iron tongs, Raeth pulled a nearly completed lock casing from the coals. It was black, yet in the shop’s dim light he could see the ruddy glow that emanated from within the metal.  He plunged the casing into a small cask of fish oil, and it hissed in reply. Once polished, this piece would be complete, ready to house an intricate (and expensive) lock mechanism.  In the empire of Aorlis, where skilled handiwork and ferrous metals both commanded high prices, true locks typically were reserved for members of the aristocracy, high churchmen, and the fabulously wealthy merchant princes.

From the street beyond, a shrill whistle cut the air. It was Murt’s standard rallying call, used to gather the gang.  All prospective customers and ongoing projects were forgotten immediately, and Raeth, always ready for an adventure, closed down the locksmith’s shop in record time. Jhold, lying comatose above, would never know the better.

“Hey, Murt.  What’s the news?”  Raeth locked up the shop as he spoke, hanging the key around his neck by a thong.

The older boy, never quick to answer, regarded his Karmithian friend for a moment.

“Gang meeting.  Everyone’ll be there.  Come on.”

*

The port town of Enlith, capital city of Burlamshire, had been Raeth’s home all his life.  He barely remembered his parents, for he was only six years old when they apprenticed him to Jhold the locksmith.  That was the last time he ever saw them, for they never visited. Raeth grew up lonely, without parents or family, and Jhold took no other apprentices.  As for Jhold, well . . .

Raeth found no parental substitute in his new master, only a cruel taskmaster and a grudging instructor.  Raeth, in that innocent pragmatism unique to children, realized early on that his new master was a man bent on slow self-destruction; Jhold spent most of his evenings–and many of his days, too–fueling his depression with wine.  He wasn’t young when he first took Raeth in, but now, due to the locksmith’s excesses, he appeared far older than his age warranted. It was Jhold who taught Raeth when to run, for the craftsman could be an abusive, angry drunk.

Still, Jhold had been an able teacher, through example if not instruction, and, when sober, a superb craftsman. Raeth learned quickly, and from the age of nine on he already was capable of many of the more sophisticated aspects of his craft, work typically reserved for full journeymen, not mere apprentices.  Raeth felt challenged by intricate mechanisms of all sorts, and working with them came naturally to him. As Raeth’s skill and productivity grew, Jhold worked less and drank more.

When his duties were completed, or when Jhold was lost to the wine, Raeth would slip away and run wild with the local boys.  Some of these lads, like Raeth, were derelict apprentices, while others were the children of the urban poor and laboring classes, the accidental sons of whores, or the orphaned children of sailors.  Many of these boys were homeless, forced to fend for themselves or starve; these lived with the specter of death, and often were subject to the malnutrition, chronic illnesses, and parasites that were synonymous with life in large towns.  For some of these children, the only means of survival was prostitution. (So precarious was this pursuit, however, that more than half of them ended up face down in the bay, their throats slit, half-eaten by wayward sharks.)  Consequently, the roster of boys rotated regularly, and only the hardiest survived for long.  Those rare few who survived to adulthood invariably became as tough as iron, bled free of the petty empathies that plagued most humans.  These boys had a hungry gleam to their eyes, a feral light that promised little compromise.

The boys gathered in mobs, loosely knit bands that fed off the city.  If Enlith were likened to a mouldy crust of bread, then the boys were the maggots, maggots who produced only flies.  They vandalized, mugged, and practiced petty theft with near impudence, for in Enlith the law belonged only to those who could afford private armies or hired bodyguards.  The boys, of course, were wise to the ways of the town and chose their victims carefully. They feared no one but rival gangs, and the intermittent gang wars that racked the port town were celebrations of sadistic desperation, fierce and bloody.

It was rough going for Raeth at first.  He was born of Karmithian blood, but the other boys (like most of Enlith’s population) were born of Jotundgorn stock.  The Jotuns were a tall, rawboned race of sea rovers; they were wild-eyed, red-bearded berserkers who made natural warriors.   Karmithians, with their dark eyes and keen minds, were uncommon this far west in the empire. They were a small-boned, wiry people, easily tanned and darkly hirsute.  They too made fine warriors, but theirs was an art of discipline, speed, and cleverness, not brute force.

Boys who are different have always been marked for the worst kinds of attention, but Raeth was a stubborn lad.  His short lifetime of hard work, abuse, and loneliness had lent him a heart like iron and fists like boiled leather.  He never backed down from a fight, no matter how badly he was outmatched. Consequently, it didn’t take long for tales of his spunk and sheer meanness to establish his place among the bigger boys.  That, and Raeth’s swelling reputation as a poor looser, for he never admitted defeat, never gave up, and never gave in.

The “captain” of Raeth’s gang was a burly fifteen-year-old boy named Drak who had crooked teeth and dirty-blond hair that hung limply over his eyes.  Drak remembered no parents and had survived all his days by his wits and meaty fists alone. His “first mate” was the taciturn Murt, a gangly youth who spoke little but was as rangy as a wolf.

Raeth’s initiation into the gang came when he tangled with Murt.  It was a lost fight from the beginning, but one that Raeth was determined to win.  Slowly, inexorably, the larger boy had pounded Raeth to within an inch of his life; the Karmithian boy called for no mercy, admitted no pain, and battled on long after his strength had failed him.  Raeth had been a small nine year old, and Murt about thirteen and already quite formidable. Still, it was a noble defeat, and Raeth was part of the gang thereafter. It was a probationary membership, of course, because Captain Drak hated him; Raeth was a stupid Karmithian, after all, and not to be trusted.

As the months rolled by, Raeth roamed with the boys as often as he could.  The climate varied little on the coast; generally, it was comfortably cool and humid, with a salty sea breeze blowing in by day, and a warm land breeze blowing back out to sea by night.  Thus, the gang was active around the calendar. Raeth’s days, at least those when Jhold was sober, were spent at the locksmith’s shop, and most of his nights roving the streets.

Raeth’s popularity among the other boys grew steadily. He never refused a dare, and he cowered from none of their antics.  He pelted off-duty soldiers with offal, swam beneath the piers on the bay, stole food from the market’s stands, and even knocked hidden holes in unguarded fishing boats.  By now, most of the other boys conveniently overlooked Raeth’s cultural heritage and considered him a Jotun but for an accident of birth.

The underlying tension between Drak and Raeth never eased, however, and Drak’s practical jokes almost always centered on the Karmithian boy.  As 1196 passed (Raeth’s second year in the gang), Drak grew taller, ganglier, and he even took to toting a fearsome meat hook that he’d stolen from a dockside warehouse’s salt lockers.  If it were possible, Drak grew moodier as he matured. Now, when the gang’s captain called out his orders, his voice often cracked into a broken falsetto.

Drak was absent more often these days, and no one knew where he spent his time.  In Drak’s absence, the remainder of the boys looked to Raeth and Murt for guidance.  Drak and Murt now spoke little, and they were rumored to have had a falling out. Murt, despite his greater age and fighting build, now acted as Raeth’s unofficial second in command, just as Murt still sometimes did for Drak.

Some people, reflected Raeth, are born followers, just as others are born leaders.

As the year gasped its final breath, and old Chroneoss looked to his rebirth on New Year’s Day, Raeth came to believe that his position among the boys had nearly solidified–on the day he contested Drak for the captain’s “chair,” most of the guys would rally to Raeth’s banner.  He was tough and agile, a true contender for Drak’s position. As the Karmithian boy saw it, Drak’s day had nearly reached its dusk, and the dawn of Raeth’s was fast approaching.

Welcome Back, Scott

For far too long social media has killed my desire to blog–I mean, why repeat myself here when I’ve posted news elsewhere? It’s a problem, because news posted on Instagram and Facebook reaches lots more people than will ever stop by here. Or, will it?

In the spirit of blogging again, I’ve got a cup of hot English Breakfast tea, am sitting in my easy chair with my cat Dylan, and feel like expressing myself. (The design on the mug is from a poster I made that I call “The Odd Couple.”

I’ve got a two-week window to finish the first draft of Apex Killers, a novel that I’ve had to abandon for long periods of time due to other commitments. Today I’m going to re-familiarize myself with what I’ve already written, then come up with a gameplan to finish this sucker off. It needs to be finished, because it is my most daring, amoral, subversive, shocking book I’ve ever worked on. It has a lot of crossover potential, too.

I’ve been obsessed for months now with 3D art, and my tools of choice have been Daz3d and Blender, along the Facegen and a few other applications. While all this is very technical, I’ve come to see it as an extension of my art training, not a new thing. The learning curve on these things is very steep. I’ve come to see Blender as the most powerful digital too since Photoshop–there is nothing you cannot create within its framework. I’ve done the vast majority of my training with both these programs with free Youtube videos.

(Many of you are young enough that you don’t remember a pre-internet world. When I learned guitar, for example, the only way to learn more was self-discovery, jamming with other people, and occassional books you could find. Learning was a treasure hunt for knowledge, pure and simple. While I love the modern world and its almost instant access to learning, I also sort of miss the somewhat mysterious old , analog days.)

This week I’ve got a doctor appointment for my feet. Walking has been very painful for a while, now, and the pain of making it through the day has been exhausting. I’m not sure what is going to come of this appointment, but I can only hope that there is relief in sight. The pain has  been day and night for a while, and walking hurts as badly as any broken bone I’ve ever had. Wish me luck.

I watched the Netflix show Altered Carbon, and now I’m halfway through reading the book it was based on. So, so good. Both of them. There are major differences, but overall both versions (tv adaptation, original novel) are magnetic. I’m going to have to look into the schools of thought on Transhumanism, because I think there is much more there than I expected.

A couple of weeks ago I lost my father-in-law, Clinton Crowder. He was only 75 years old, and I believe he would have very much enjoyed another couple of decades. He was an avid musician, very active on the Bluegrass and Americana scene, and his love of music and his grandchildren kept him motivated and happy. Even now, I have trouble saying what Clinton meant to me, because at times he was my mentor, father figure, friend, musical jam buddy, and example of how to be a man and husband. Obviously, most sympathy should go to his wife Cathy, his daughter Benita, and his son Clinton the 2nd, and his many grandchildren, but I guess you could say I’m also sorry for myself and my own personal loss. OK, I’ve said enough. None of this is meant to be maudlin or dramatic. I would much rather celebrate the well-spent life of a truly admirable man than cry.

I’m out of time for now, but sometime remind me to tell you the recent story of how Benita and I transported a live sheep in the back of her car across three states. You cannot make this kind of stuff up.

Things On My Mind

This has been a pleasant weekend in that I’ve gotten to work on several of my projects. Yesterday, for example, I put hours of work into the “Black Dirigible,” lettering, designing, and so forth, only to realize that there is a page missing out of the batch. Yikes!

Today, I arranged my notes for “The Apex Killers,” the novel I had to leave off a few months ago and was never able to restart. It’s confusing to try to work my way back into that mess, let me assure you! Still, I can do it. This project centers around superheroes, vampires, corporate malfeasance, human trafficking, and a heavy overlay of immoral conduct of all sorts. When the villains are the good guys, then just how truly rotten are the bad guys?

I also played more with my 3D art obsession, going further on my creation of a 3D Greg Buchanan. Here’s an example.

Veterin 3D artists will know instantly that I’m at the bottom of the learning curve here, and that’s okay. One problem is that his hair is poking through his ear, and another is that I have not been able to paint his temples prematurely gray yet. It will happen, though. I’m patient.

I’ve also been learning how to use the program Hexagon, and I’ve made progress but I’m a painful newbie at this. Google Sketchup it is not!

Here’s what’s coming for me in 2019, and maybe a little in 2018. After a long absence from self-promotion, I’m about to enter a new promotional period where nothing is off limits.  I’m going to be visiting comic and book shops, doing signings, making posters, and publishing a lot of new material. I have a business plan worked out, and I know what I’ll be doing in what order.

I’m planning on doing a comic show here and there, maybe some author days at libraries, and developing my own distribution route. I won’t necessarily be doing it all on my own, either. If other creators and entrepreneurs decide to partner with me, that will be great. I’ve been involved in various forms of comic promotion for a long time, and I believe I have an interesting, bottom up strategy that will bear out results for small publishers like myself. This will be aimed at buyers of comics, books, and collectables.

In this age of self-publishing, the small publisher is not curtailed by a lack of options, but by a deluge of options for everybody. With all those people out there hawking their wares, how does one get their voice heard? How does one find their loyal, niche audience? More on this as it develops.

I have to be at work early, so that’s it for me this evening.

Scott

3D Progress

I’m aware that my fascination with learning 3D art is off the beaten trail of what I normally write about, but heck, it’s all me, and it’s all about our characters.

So, I’m trying to adapt my art style to my 3D work. And, as you might guess, my standard “hero” figure is also my work to achieve a look for Greg Buchanan.

Here’s my initial drawings for what Greg should look like after the last book:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This resulted in in this 3D extrapolation

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And then these resulted in this rather ugly morph for Genesis 8 in Daz Studio

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So, for round 2, I came up with this modified drawing. It’s essentially the first drawings, but rearranged with Photoshop’s Liquify tool.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

From drawing, I got these 3D images in Facegen Pro.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This, imported into Daz3 as a morph, gave me this much more acceptable base face:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So, it’s not perfect yet, and it’s not Greg, but it’s closer. I think the next iteration will capture him.

Personal Digest of Digital Dalliance

3-18

I’m beginning to come up with some very intriguing ideas for the distribution and sale of indie comics, prose novels, and art books. it’s fair to say that I may actually be coming up with a new business model. More as this develops.

 

3-27

Maybe it’s the weather, but I’ve felt like a complete pretender and fake today. I’m battling that by drinking a lot of water (good for fighting off the onset of depression) and jumping back into the writing project that I had to put on hold a couple of months ago.

I figure it’s better to take the proverbial bull by the horns than wallow around in self-doubt.

 

3-30

All right, cool new computer… Now to download and install all my regular apps. No problem, right?

 

3-30

All righty, in no particular order, I have installed Daz3d, Hexagon, Flame Painter, Open Office, Kindle Comic Creator, Kapersky Total Protection, Sculptris, Mesh Mixer, Daz Content Cataloger Easy, Daz Installer, and my Intuos tablet.

That’s a goog head start, I think. Lots more to come tomorrow.

 

3-31

After years of grousing about it, I just made the leap and am downloading a subscription (shudder!) to Adobe Photoshop CC. I haven’t even reloaded Clip Studio Paint yet, but I assure you I still love CSP. But, will Photoshop regain my love? Can it? Will it?

We shall see . . .

 

3-31

Installing Clip Studio Ex again involved many hoops to jump through. Yeesh. I understand that these applications can be abused by pirates, but gracious it make it hard on the rest of us.

I got all my purchesed 3rd part brushes reinstalled, but now have to re-find all my free brushes and transfer my own brushes back over.

The actual download of Photoshop is going to wait till this evening, because it’s like a six hour download.

It’s going to take me all week to get all my 3d assets re-installed. But, look at the bright side–I am fortunate to have so many 3D assets to use.

I am looking forward fondly to the point that I can make professional grade 3d assets myself. It’s coming.

 

4-1

Had a lovely day with my family today, being Mom, Missy, and Floyd. Very nice Easter.

Downloading FaceGen Pro, and kind of excited about that.

Photoshop looks different! It’s begging me to personalize it and bring over all my preferences.

Clip Studio Pain ne’ Manga Studio Ex 5 seems to have downloaded the wrong version–must figure this out!

Found brushes I had purchased and forgot to ever install, both for Clip Studio and Photoshop. Goody!

I’ve gained a little weight this week, so that means it’s time to batten down the hatches and get shipshape, counting my calories again. Don’t want to lose all this progress I’ve made!

Daz3D is running a sale today, and I got a great deal on some stuff.

I need to finish the Black Dirigible, then it’s time to put my new business plan into action. It’s daunting but doable.

Yes, I really do think in bullet points.

Happy Easter everyone!

Status, Projects, and Media

Hello, Friends, Associated, Well-Wishers, and anyone else who finds this blog post.

STATUS:

I’m alive and well. I’ve had a spate of medical issues to take care, with all the accompanying doctor appointments one would expect, but I’m fine. After that, work complications (it’s our busy season) have eaten up my time. I’m not complaining (online, that is), and I’m happy to have a good job. I’ll just leave it at that.

PROJECTS:

I’m working on hard on my next novel, also set in the world of Spire City and Johnny Saturn. At one point I thought it was done, but since then I’ve picked out areas where it needs expanded upon, and the novelette it was is well on the way to expanding into a novel. This one is not science fiction, but romantic adventure story. I only write science fiction when I have serious thought experiments and theories to share.

I am also hard at work on a personal portfolio. I’m going to publish this as a collected color portfolio, but the pen-and-ink art at its base is going to be illustrations for my new novel.

Recently, I had an epiphany. If I want to create great art, then I have to do great work. I can’t rush through the art and slam it out–that’s what I’ve made a career of doing. Instead, I need to do thumbnails, gather resource imagery, do value studies, make multiple color studies, and use all the resources and time at my disposal to make these pictures great. Will I succeed? Ultimately that is up to others to decide. I’ll show these to the world as they reach the pen and ink stage.

I’ve also been painting an acrylic picture of some dinosaurs. It’s coming along well, and completion is in sight. I’ve always loved dinosaurs, so it’s fun to bring them to life in my art.

MEDIA:

I feed my creativity with a lot of media. I don’t have time these days to read novels, and that makes me very sad. I have been able to make time to see movies, streaming television shows, concerts, and albums.

MOVIES:

Unacknowledged-An Expose of the World’s Greatest Secret: More of Steven Greer’s work into exposing the world’s governments’ attempts to hide the UFO and alien issue.This movie has unsettled some people I know, and shaken their world views at least a little. There is nothing new in here for me, because I followed this subject closely for years. Interesting at best, old hat at worst.

Rogue One-A Star Wars Story: I watched the first half before I lost interest. I was always more of a Star Trek fan, and even that has its limits.

Get Me Roger Stone: Enlightening. It’s easy to admire a cad for being a good good cad, sort of a wink-wink acknowledgement. In other words, I don’t agree with the politics, but I find the man himself fascinating as the subject of this documentary.

Below Her Throat: A charming (and sexy!) lesbian love story. I dug it in a sort of “A Room In Rome” way. It just seemed very sweet, really.

The Truth Is In The Stars: William Shatner makes a long journey to discover how Star Trek and its vision of different people getting along affected the scientific minds of today. I found this heartwarming.

TELEVISION SHOWS:

Embarrassing Bodies: British medical show that uses real-life people with their illnesses and then attempts to diagnose and cure them. There is lots of nudity (not the pretty kind), detailed surgery, and inflamed things on this show. It is strangely fascinating, however, and quite educational.

American Horror Story: I finished season 1, and this show is a real corker. Well acted and written, multi-layered with twists and clever diversions, I found it was absorbing to the max. The sets, the caliber of actors, the lighting, it’s all exquisite–and disturbing. Don’t watch this show if you are faint of heart or easily offended. I’ve watched the first couple of episodes of season 2, and I’m not sure I’ll go further because it’s disturbing. Can I stay away from it? We’ll find out, I guess.

Restoration Home: This is an outstanding British show about restoring old homes that are in danger of collapsing. People with big dreams commit themselves body and soul to saving old buildings to make a family home. It is a fascinating show, and much more gripping than what you would expect from the description. These old houses are always money pits, but these would-be restorers will not be denied.

Castlevania: A pretty good anime series set in the world of Dracula. Enjoyable, although still early enough in the series where the characters seem a bit two diminsional.

Defenders: I enjoyed this team-up show for what it was worth. The acting was good, but the plot holes were big enough to be a distraction. Once again Iron Fist came away as the least likable character. Seeing the characters and their casts all interract is fun too. Still, there are those nagging plot holes. A lot of those could have been fixed with just an extra line of dialogue here or there.

Marvel’s Agents of Shield: I used to love this show, and despite three very strong seasons I was in no hurry to pick this up for season four. I had become enamored in that time of the Warner Brother’s television shows, such as Arrow and Flash, and that just didn’t leave time in my viewing schedule for Shield. As it turns out, season 4 of MAOS turned out to be as monumental and great as season 3, which had heretofore been sort of a high point in the series. It was all androids, virtual reality, and science-like occult, and it was really good. (Yes, hardcore science and magic exist hand-in-hand this season, and it works surprisingly well.)

 

CONCERTS:

U2: Honestly, I believed my days of huge concerts was over. Too expensive, too loud, to late, too much hassle. On 9-10-17 Benita and I bucked that expectation by seeing U2 play the Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, Indiana. We’ve both been U2 fans for decades, and this was just too much to pass up. The band delivered exactly what we expected with great music, showmanship, and a little preaching. The video show that playing in sync with the band was the biggest video screen I’ve ever seen, wonderfully produces, and actually lent a visual element to the music that made perfect sense. The sound was good, our seats were good, the venue was very nice, the end result almost perfect.

Beck: I’m not overly familiar with Beck’s music–I’ve heard his big hits on the radio, but that’s it. I remember Kanye West stealing the mic from him at the Grammy’s, too. Anyway, I didn’t know the material, and I liked it. Beck seemed happy to be there, happy to be opening for U2, and he delivered well crafted music. In effect, opening bands can often be irritating, but Beck was not. I was impressed enough to decide to give his music some further listening. I will also not that a lot of concert goers were wearing Beck shirts, not U2 shirts. Wild.

Samantha Fish Band: I discovered Samantha Fish on Youtube relatively recently, and I became a big fan of her music almost immidiately. She plays some burning hot guitar, and sings with real heart, and I was won over. Most guys my age are unwilling to really consider a woman to be a super guitarist, and that is their loss. It’s about the music, not her gender. Now, the fact that I raised the gender issue means that I might be dealing with some sort of bias, but if you know me you already understand that I adore women, their power, and their vital role. (I’ll stop there, because I’m sure no one wants to hear me go on a rant about this.)

Governor Davis and the Blues Ambassadors: I’ve seen Davis play numerous times over the years, and he makes me smile every time he takes the stage. I have fond memories of even seeing him in an acoustic set during lunch at the City Market in Indianapolis. He and another musician sat and traded songs, accompanying each other. I was luck to be down there.

 

ALBUMS:

Neil Young-A Letter Home: At the same time Neil Young was trying to market his super high-definition digital music player, he and Jack White put out an archaic series of covers songs on an ancient recording device. This album sounds like an old album, with tinny sound, lots of overnoise, and no overdubs–they made all the songs in one take, apparently. It’s not easy to listen to, and only a true Young afficianado will really get it, I think. There are still a few good tracks on here, though, so don’t rule it out without listening.

Caveat: After decades of being crazy about Young and his music, I pulled back. I first became slightly obsessed with his work around 1983, but I have not purchased any of his more recent albums. Why this is more about me than about the iconic singer/songwriter. I still love his older music, and still listen to it a lot, but I’ll leave it that.

 

Bodies and Body Types–An Art Rant

In the 1990’s, a trend that had been building for a long time reach a natural fruition–drawing all superheroes as super-bulky weight lifters, and all superheroines as porn stars. Before it reached critical levels, men had become almost unrecognizable, covered in veins and with saliva flying from their mouths as they spoke and wildly over-bulging muscles on top of muscles. It looked bad. Some characters, such as the Hulk, would reasonably look like this, but most wouldn’t.

Artists were drawing women with exceedingly long legs, breast implants that hung from the collar bone, waist-lines reduced to miniscule proportions, a conspicuous lack of “saddlebags” on the outer thighs, and tiny feet. Their faces were out of proportions, with eyes too large and too wide apart, chins too small, noses all reduced to little upturned button noses, and great billowing masses of hair that floated freely on invisible air currents.

 

Some comic artists still cling to these conventions, and it’s time they let them go. Weight-lifters and bulking up got mixed up with being a superheroes, when in fact they have nothing to do with each other. Weight lifters need not be heroic, and superheroes need not be overly muscular to be heroes. Furthermore, the coveted “V” shaped body that weight lifters pursue is not particularly strong. Strength does not come from huge shoulders and biceps. Strength radiates from the fighter’s core, aka the abdoman and hips. This is why ancient gladiators were thick around the middle, because that’s where physical strength comes from. It’s why sumo wrestlers are so dangerous. If anything, superheroes would be all-around fit, much like a professional baseball player, or perhaps a middleweight boxer. This gives the athlete enough mass to dominate, but not at the cost of speed and agility and endurance.

2017 Undercover

As some might have noticed, I have spent the majority of 2017 with a low profile. There are several reasons for this.

  1. Much of my professional art work has been for other clients than myself, and thus I am not at liberty to show off what I’m doing.
  2. Many of my creative projects have taken a long time to complete, or are still in production.
  3. My day job kicked my ass.

So, here’s what’s on the plate for 2018:

  1. I’m going to get the Black Dirigible finished and published. My co-creators have waited long enough for this, I can assure you. Initial publication of this will be as the single issues “Spire City Noir” no. 2 and no. 3.
  2. Before the “Spire City Pulp” material (aka “Hauntings” and “Black Dirigible”) can get the trade paperback treatment, I need to write one more story for a guest artist to draw. I haven’t made up my mind on this one yet.
  3. The “Spire City Pulp” anthology of prose short stories and novelettes has been on hold a long, long time. Every time I come close to wrapping it up, I think of another short story I need to write to add to it. In 2018 enough is enough, and it’s time to put a bow on this. I am wrapping up my novelette “Skorned” right now, and the story I’ve tentatively titled “Fangs” is well underway.
  4. I am doing a lot of covers and commissions for other creators this year. In fact, I’m going to make my cover art a more prominant part of this website. I’ve done a lot of it over time, and it’s becoming more and more of a thing. It’s time for me to aknowledge it.

2018, Well Well

While I cannot say that 2018 snuck up on me, I can say that 2017 went by very quickly. It was a whirlwind from beginning to end.

Strangely, none of my plans have changed. I’ve still got covers I’m working on, I’m still writing a lot, and I still have a couple of other project in the background chugging along.

One thing I have to do this year is learn to make smarter use of the time I have, maximize it. Work has not gotten any less time consuming, so if I want to get stuff accomplished I need to squeeze maximum productivity out of what I’ve got. I’ve made great strides in this, but greater strides yet are on the horizon. I know this challenge isn’t unique to me, but everyone’s answers are somewhat specific to them.

I didn’t do any graphic art in 2017, and I don’t foresee doing any in 2018. However, this does not mean that I won’t be involved in comics! I plan to complete write my part of Planar Eclipse this year, and coordinate it with the parts that Benita has written. I also plan to finish writing and publish the Black Dirigible, and probably write an additional story for another artist to illustrate. The extra story will fill out a Spire City Noir trade paperback. It will include issue 1, aka Spire City Hauntings, and issues 2 and 3, the Black Dirigible, and some other as yet to be determined story.

I’m not sure if I have a social media strategy this year. The whole world is down on social media after the last elections, and I am of the same mind.

 

 

Darn It All…

In a remarkable fit of misfortune, my recently rebuilt dedicated graphics computer has crashed again. Apparently, it has lost its “BOOTMGR.”

So, until I can figure out what to do, no more illustration work.

I don’t know how serious the problem is, but the computer worked great for about a month but now, then no more…

I’m not as rattled as I was about this last time. When one door closes, then another may open, etc., and so forth.

I got almost all my programs reinstalled on this computer, and it worked great, and I kept all the content off the hard drive. Mind you, even though I’ve lost no content, I have the vast joy of reinstalling Daz3D, Poser, and Clip Studio Paint onto a new computer. These apps are troublesome and time-consuming to reinstall, as you can guess.

I had not gotten around to installing Photoshop yet, so that’s a small blessing.

So, what to do? How to handle this? Honestly, it was less of a hassle to have broken ribs or appendicitis. Ok, I’m exaggerating. A little.

There is no reason for this to hold up any writing assignments I may have.

This is a loss, but I’m still alive, still have my talent and experience to pull on, and another day will come. This is not the end of my illustration career.

(Note: My mom would tell me that I’m being overly dramatic. I’m not. Not much, anyway.)

Superhero Prose Anthologies

I’ve had the opportunity to have stories in several prose superhero anthologies, and for that I am quite greatful. In that spirit, here is a list of superhero themes that I believe would make great anthologies on their own.

1) Replaced: The hero has been replaced by a successor, or an imposter, or a version of themselves from another universe or the future, etc. Examples are numerous, such as Wonderwoman being replaced by Artemis or Hyppolyta are good examples, or the Ben Reilly Spider-Man, or the Christophe version of Dr. Doom, or the various Bat Man replacements (Azreal, Nightwing, etc.)

2) Exposed: The hero’s secret identity has been outed to the public, or his archnemesis has discovered it, or a loved one has found out. An example could be Daredevil’s public outing in the comics, or Spider-Man by the Green Goblin.

3) Framed: The hero has been framed and sent to prison, or slandered until the public hates them, or sought for a crime he didn’t commit. All of these have happened to Spider-Man, but even Bruce Wayne and Daredevil have been sent to prison before.

4) Possessed: The hero has been taken over by an enemy, or mind controlled by the same. Dr. Doom once took over Daredevil’s body, for example, just as Dr. Octopus once took over Spider-Man’s body.

5) Broken Origins: The hero thinks he knows his own origin, but finds out there is a whole lot more to the story than he thought. Examples would be such as when Spider-Man found out his parent were spies and killed by the Red Skull, or when the whole Elektra epic was inserted into the Daredevil story.

6) Fallen: The hero has become a villain, or the villain has become a hero. This might be happen because of mind control, or insanity, or trauma, or loss. Superman in the Injustic video games, or Iron Man (several times), etc.

7) Reborn: The hero has returned from the dead, in fact (Superman) or metaphorically (Batman). Or, a depowered or retired hero has gotten his powers or sense of purpose back. Maybe even an exiled character has been recalled home.

8) Crisis: The hero’s world is ending or rebooting, and his version of reality is getting destroyed. It could be a simple retcon, or an universal retcon, but the character has to wrap up his business and say his goodbyes.

9) Powerless: The hero’s powers have become unpredictable, or are fading, or lost altogether, or replaced with a different set of powers. Think of Superman Blue/Superman Red, for example. Maybe the hero has simply been made redundant.

All Over The Place Here

Interesting article about American airships. Educational more than eye-opening.

Black Lightning: This new WB show had an excellent opening episode. The politics of race and Black Lives Matter was a strong element throughout the show, and while some may find that heavy handed, I think these issues should stay in the national dialogue until something is done to correct them. I thought Luke Cage was covered some of this well, but ultimately bad plotting brought that show down, not the politics of race.

Star Wars: I haven’t watched any of the recent movies, not because I’m boycotting them but because I’m not as interested in them as I was a kid. I was 14 or 15 when the first one came out, and it was a mind-blowing cultural super phenomena. It was something new, and as a teen I ate it up. But, 1977 is a long time ago, and I just don’t feel it anymore. Additionally, the fan rancor surrounding the new movies is off putting. I didn’t let the internet hate around the Justice League movie keep me from seeing it and loving it, but for Star Wars it did.

The Scribbler: This is a little known movie from 2014 on Netflix that was surprisingly good, delightfully dark, and very well written. I really enjoyed it. It’s a gem worth searching out.

Superman: So, he’s back to his more iconic costume with the red shorts. Whatever.

Personal: I have not watched nearly as much television on the computer lately because I have been obsessed with writing. A vampires vs. metaheroes story I was writing as a short story for an anthology looks like its actually on its way to becoming a novel. I used to love vampire fiction, so the guts of this story were already lined up in my subconscious and ready to go, apparently.

Personal 2: Benita got me a longbow for Christmas, and I am looking forward to warmer weather so I can go and start playing with it. I don’t hunt, and I have no desire to shot or kill any living thing, but I do love medieval history, and the longbow was key to many great battles (Crecy, Agincourt, etc.) The medieval connection is why I wanted a long bow, not a modern compound bow of some sort.

Sidenote: Arrows are expensive.

Personal 3: About three weeks back I began a campaign to lose weight. I’ve battled obesity most of my adult life, and I was ready to make a change. I should have been ready decades ago, but that’s a story of its own. Anyway, I got a Fitbit and I signed up for My Fitness Pal. It was interesting to find out that I had been eating about 4K to 6K or more calories a day, and had been for years. So, I dropped all processed sugary stuff cold turkey, and brought myself down to a 2400 calory per day goal. The weight so far has slowly been coming off. 9 pounds so far. Maybe by tomorrow I’ll make the first 10 lb. goal. Anyway, I began at 286 lbs, I weight 277 now, and my long term goal is in the 230 to 200 lb range. Weight loss so far has been about 3 lbs per week, which I know is painfully slow, but I believe consistency will win the race.

Side Effect 1: Without all the processed food and sugar, my energy level is up a little bit, and my mind is clearer. That ranks as downright awesome in my book.

Personal 4: 2018 is looking to be my greatest year as a creator yet. I am thrilled with the literary and artistic projects I have underway right now, have great projects lined up, and I am deeply satisfied with the jobs, the process, and ongoing results. After being miserable all those years, I feel almost guilty enjoying it all now and. Happiness is a fragile thing, but right now I am choosing to embrace it and enjoy the ride. Right now does not seem like a struggle or desperate, and I am so grateful for that.