Monday, October 23, 2017

Monday Musings: Inktober Drawings 9-22

Inktober is almost over! The month has flown by, and I've only shared the first 8 drawings on here, so this post is remedying that lack of art. The words in parentheses (Fairy-tale, Urban, or Forest) indicate which of the original prompts lists I pulled that prompt from.

Day 9: The Genie (Fairy-tale)

This is a (bad) drawing of two of the Djinn from the Albion Quartet. They look smoochier than I originally intended (I was aiming for a hug) but it works. No, you should not consider this a spoiler of things to come in the series. But neither should you consider it not a spoiler.

Day 10: The Goblin Lord (Urban)

I wanted to draw something Labyrinth-related but not necessarily David Bowie. So I found a picture of Toby Froud (the actor who played Toby in the film and also the son of Brian Froud, who worked on the character designs for the film) and drew from there.

Day 11: The Wolf Boy (Forest)

Have I mentioned that I cannot draw people? Or animals?

Day 12: The Mad Hatter (Fairy-tale)

My original intention for this drawing was to do the Hatter in a non-traditional hat. A fedora. A beanie. Something off-the-wall. And then I realized this was the perfect opportunity to vent that urge to draw Bill Cipher that I've had ever since I finished watching Gravity Falls.

Day 13: The Slayer (Urban)

Wanting to do something other than people for this day, I went with a modern slayer's tool kit.

Day 14: The Grandmother (Forest)

I knew as soon as I saw this prompt I wanted to draw Spider Grandmother as she appears in Albion Apparent. I tried to represent the double-vision of her that Merlin Sees in the Second Sight, in which she is both spider and woman, though I think it's a little hard to tell because of the angle I drew her at.

Day 15: The Sandman (Fairy-tale)

I drew a fan-art rendition of Dream from Neil Gaiman's The Sandman. Original? No. But I've been reading the series lately and I couldn't get him out of my head when doing this prompt.

Day 16: The Shadow (Forest)

Not the most shadowy drawing I could have done, but the story-description adds some creepiness to it.

Day 17: The School Teacher (Urban)

How about 4 school teachers? These are basically thumbnails of some of the Albion teachers. I'm not convinced the bottom drawing is Vivienne, but I wasn't sure who else it could be. I'm most pleased with Excelsior and Akachi's sketches.

Day 18: The Phoenix (Fairy-tale)

Even though this was a fairy-tale prompt, I used a character from one of my urban fantasy stories. A friend of mine graciously allowed me to use her as a reference for this one. For those of you who are wondering, Ashes and Dust is my to-be-written vampire and phoenix story.

Day 19: The White Snake (Fairy-tale)

All I will say about this one is that the character exists in the Albion Quartet and you will know who it is by the end of Albion Apparent.

Day 20: The Lost Explorer (Forest)

The broken compass was an image I'd had in mind since first seeing this prompt. I wish I'd thought to add some color to this one because I'm finding my ballpoint pens very limiting when it comes to adding definition.

Day 21: The Bogeyman (Urban)

I originally wanted to give the viewer a more Oogie Boogie-like impression of my bogeyman. I think I ended up somewhere more in the vein of Candlejack. Either way, I'm a bit creeped out by my own drawing.

Day 22: The Jabberwock (Fairy-tale)

My design for the Jabberwock isn't terribly original. I definitely leaned on the original illustration for Through the Looking-Glass. I did, however take the "snicker-snack" sound of the vorpal blade and extrapolate that to a pair of scissors (which now I think on it might have been suggested in one of my conversations about the poem with friends over the years).

That's all for today. I'll put the last 9 drawings up next Tuesday sometime after I've finished the last one. Thanks for reading!

Thursday, October 19, 2017

ThrowBook Thursday: Narnia Audio Part 2 (Full Audio Rankings)

This is a conclusion to a two-part series begun in last month's ThrowBook Thursday. Check out the brief reviews of the first four Narnia books (that I listened to for this re-read) there.

I am including last month's rankings, adjusted to include the last three books. I'll only add notes for the books not covered last month, namely The Magician's Nephew; The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe; and The Last Battle. (Has anyone ever noticed that Prince Caspian is the only Narnia title to not begin with "the"?)

7. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe read by Michael York

How?! How did we pair Michael York with Narnia and get this? I expected to adore Michael York's reading because I typically enjoy him on-screen. Instead, I found his urbane style making large portions of Lewis' prose come across very condescending rather than the knowing winks that Lewis gives his readers (where he reveals that he understands life as they do). His Aslan is pitiful and his voices for Lucy and Susan are not that great. He does offer some fine voices for Tumnus and the Beavers, but I've listened to this one twice now and . . . I don't want to listen again. That's a sad state of affairs considering how iconic this book is and how dear it is to me.

6. The Voyage of the Dawn Treader read by Derek Jacobi

5. Prince Caspian read by Lynn Redgrave

4. The Magician's Nephew read by Kenneth Branagh (whose name is pronounced very differently than I thought)

I thought this one was going to rank higher before I listened to it again. It's the first Narnia I listened to on audio, and one of the first audio books I listened to ever. Branagh is the perfect Uncle Andrew. Hands down. If they don't hire him for the film, I don't know what I'll do. His reading of the book pulls you into the story and the time period perfectly. He has the perfect balance of fairy tale and adventure in the tone he uses. His Aslan is not as powerful as the readers who are ranked above him (Northam, Stewart, and Jennings), but he still understands the emotions of Aslan's character in this book. His rendering of Aslan's words to Digory is spot-on. (Why didn't we get Branagh for LWW?)

1. (tie) The Silver Chair read by Jeremy Northam

1. (tie) The Last Battle read by Patrick Stewart

Stewart is my favorite Aslan in these audio books. I worried that might have changed since I last listened to these books, but it hasn't. Stewart is also one of the most skillful readers in this series. With the exception of the mice (who are too squeaky for me), he presents every voice with perfect skill. His reading of the narration speeds up when things are tense and slows down when things are peaceful. He makes you feel every fear and joy the characters experience. I want Stewart to replace Liam Neeson as Aslan in The Silver Chair.

1. (tie) The Horse and His Boy read by Alex Jennings

Okay, I realize that I have (kind of) cheated by having a 3-way tie for best Narnia audio, especially when two of them were not tied last month. However, when it came down to definitively ranking the series, I could not choose among these three. All three readers are fine Aslans and none of them makes me dislike the book (the way Jakobi and York almost did). These three I would pick up to listen to again in a heartbeat. (I would also listen to MN again without much convincing, and Prince Caspian wouldn't take much convincing.) I did order them in roughly ascending order of preference, with HHB winning out because I will never not read this book, LB coming next for Stewart's skillful narration and perfect Aslan, and SC coming third because Northam just can't compete, as wonderful as he is.

If you have listened to any of the Narnia audio books or FotF radio adaptations, what did you think? Do your rankings match mine? Tell me all about it below!

Monday, October 16, 2017

Monday Musings: Keeping in Sync with Your Creative Drive

I have two more tips for keeping your creative bucket full that I did not cover last week.

Keeping in Sync with Your Creative Drive

Many of us have patterns and rhythms to our creative drive. I've mentioned before that autumn tends to spur me on to be more creative. It's not that I don't feel creative during other times of the year. It's more that when the first crisp days of autumn hit, I have to make something. I haven't always been aware of this trend, but ever since I first noticed it, it's something that I've come to expect, take advantage of, and even rely on (see last year's difficulties when I didn't experience this creative surge).

When I mentioned this in writing group two weeks ago, one of my friends said that she has  a way of telling when she's ready to work on a new project. Much like pregnant women tend to nest and get their houses ready for a new child, she starts cleaning and organizing her writing space. It's not a conscious act, but by becoming aware of her tendency to do this, she is now equipped. She knows when the organization comes, she's ready for the new project.

What I take away from this is that we all have cycles of creativity and inspiration in our lives. If you're having trouble keeping yourself in your art or your writing, take a step back and try to spot the trends in what happens when you're at your most creative (or your least creative) and begin to figure out what your cycle is. You may not figure it out right away, but the effort will equip you to figure out how to move forward. Sometimes your creative cycle won't be normal (see me last fall); that's okay. It doesn't mean you're broken or will Never Art Again! It just means you're having an off day/month/season and you need to find something that sparks your art or even take a purposeful hiatus. Sabbaticals aren't just for pastors and CEOs. Don't be afraid to take a break from your art to work out what's holding you back or deal with other priorities in life. Just be sure you jump back in afterwards.

And while you're taking a break, or figuring out your creative cycle, why not . . .

Learn Something New

Specifically, learn something new about your art form. Pick up a book on sketches or anatomy. Find a writing craft or exercise book that focuses on elements you have difficulty with. This kind of repeats my tip from last week about trying new things, but I'm more interested in the idea of consuming new ideas rather than producing them.

I recently picked up Steven James' first book on writing, Story Trumps Structure. I've enjoyed James' Patrick Bowers thrillers, and the fact that his writing process is organic rather than outlined intrigued me. How did he write mysteries without plotting? So far it's been possibly the most helpful book on writing that I've read. It focuses on tension and character and asking the questions that will drive your story forward in the most consistent and gripping ways. If you are a writer of any persuasion, I recommend reading this book. I feel much better equipped to tackle the edits on Albion Apparent and to write my other stories now than I did before I started reading it.

Do you have any other tips that help you keep your creative bucket full? Share them in the comments!

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Beautiful Books: Paper and (T)horns

It's almost NaNoWriMo time, which means that Cait and Sky are hosting a Beautiful Books link-up in place of their usual Beautiful People link-up. I've decided to join in with a post about Paper and (T)horns.

Two things to get out of the way before I dive into the questions: first, I am NOT doing NaNoWriMo, although I will be working on this story for the foreseeable future; second, this is not intended to be a novel (I am aiming for a novella, no more than 30,000-40,000 words).

What inspired the idea for your novel, and how long have you had the idea?

My friend Mirriam redrew the Beast from the live-action Beauty and the Beast film to make him more frightening, and I enjoyed her take on the character. In fact, I realized that I kind of shipped him with Maleficent, and thus the idea for Paper and (T)horns took seed. This was back in April of this year.

Describe what your novel is about!

A young man meets the girl of his dreams, only to have her curse him to a lonely eternity as a Beast.

What is your book’s aesthetic? Use words or photos or whatever you like!

"Beauty and the Beast" meets "Sleeping Beauty" meets The Prestige (with heavy dashes of "Cupid and Psyche")

Introduce us to each of your characters!

  •  "Beast" (he never tells us his name) is a former celebrity who has retreated into obscurity after his sister's death.
  • Molly is a magician's daughter with a powerful secret and some Fae-level emotional issues.
  • The Inventor is Molly's father, whose face is never seen and whose name is unknown.
  • Di is an Unseelie Fae with her own reasons for mucking about with these folks.

How do you prepare to write? (Outline, research, stocking up on chocolate, howling, etc.?)

I brainstorm ideas for what might happen. I often talk through plot points and character development with writer friends and bounce ideas off non-writer friends to see if the idea catches them the way it catches me. I sometimes compile a musical playlist. Then I just dive in.

What are you most looking forward to about this novel?

Getting to write an actual love story? I don't usually put much romance in my stories, but this one is all about the love story, so that's going to be a new challenge.

List 3 things about your novel’s setting.

Modern city
Fae underworld

What’s your character’s goal and who (or what) stands in the way?

Beast wants to win Molly's heart and free himself from the curse. Molly's curse and her refusal to forgive stand in his way.

How does your protagonist change by the end of the novel?

Let's just say that at the beginning of the story, Beast is unable to keep himself tied down to anything for more than a year, and by the end of it, he'll have to be more consistent than that.

What are your book’s themes? How do you want readers to feel when the story is over?

Love, forgiveness, and perseverance come to mind. Masks and why we wear them.

I want readers to come away with a feeling of understanding and hope by the end of the story.

Are you doing NaNoWriMo or working on a novel right now? Join the link-up at Paper Fury or Further Up and Further In.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Watercolor Wednesday: October Edition

This month's Watercolor Wednesday is much more packed than I thought it would be. I apparently did a lot more painting after last month's post than I remembered.

First up, another sign for Samwise's birthday later this month. The Man in the Moon sketch here is one I played with a few times this month, and a couple of other sketches of him were in Monday's sketch dump. (I also used this painting as a chance to play with transparency. It worked so well I'm not sure the picture actually captures all the color that's on the page.)

These two bookmarks were an experiment brought on by two factors. First, I ran out of my 5" x 7" (ish) watercolor paper, so I set to cutting up some of my larger sheets. Second, I cannot cut a straight line, so I broke out the paper trimmer, and the sheets were too wide for that even after I'd cut them in half, so I had to cut smaller strips off, resulting in these bookmark-sized pieces. The bookmark on the left is a classic quote from The Last Battle and the right bookmark is my first attempt at a floral painting.

Tow'rs music inspired some of my first watercolors, and I finally set down to try capturing their song "Circles" in a painting. I wound up with these paired pieces.

This is a haunted house postcard I'll be sending out later this week to a friend who really gets into the Halloween spirit. I'm pleased with how the colors turned out, and it's encouraged me to try mixing my colors more when I paint.

Like I said, the Man in the Moon has been a theme lately. Here's a smaller painting of him.

And a postcard for a friend.

This was an attempt to come back to my (first?) watercolor "Night and Moon," inspired by the Tow'rs song "The Kitchen." I LOVE the way the lady on the left turned out, but the background is much less fluid and nebulous than I'd like.

This is an attempt to repaint "Freckles in the Sun" with more fluid colors. I'm not as pleased with the facial features on this one, but I did get some more transparent colors in the hair.

This was another moonscape where I tried to mix my colors on the page and work in some more texture with the trees. I definitely want to come back to the firs and try to do better with them.

That's all for now. Come back next month for more painting, and be on the lookout for another Inktober sketch dump sometime next week!

Monday, October 9, 2017

Monday Musings: Keeping Your Creative Bucket Full

Last week, I went to my local writing group and, since the person who introduced me to Inktober was there, I shared my first few Inktober drawings with the group. One of the other writers asked how doing a challenge like Inktober affected our creativity.

For me, having a creative outlet that differs from what I might think of as my "main" art form (i.e. writing novels) actually fuels my creativity as a whole. It's why I picked up watercolors this year -- to give myself a place for art to spill over when I didn't have the time/drive/energy to sit down at a keyboard.

This was the short version of the answer I gave in group.

But as I thought about it, I realized that the deeper topic was actually not how does pursuing one art form affect another, but how do I keep from draining my creative well/bucket dry?

So here are some of the ways I do that.

Consume Other Art

This is one of the most common pieces of advice for artists struggling with keeping their inspiration going, but it's common because it is true and helpful. Read a book, watch a movie, flip through other artist's work. Whatever your medium, you can't make art if you don't consume it.

Try Something New

This is what Inktober is for me this year (more Inktober drawings below). I've been drawing and sketching more this year, but doing an intentional, month-long challenge like this is something I've only done with NaNoWriMo before (about which more later). Trying something new -- whether it's within your typical art form or a new one -- is a good way to stretch your creative muscles and stir the waters in your creative bucket.

Try Something Old

You can find the pattern for this hat on Ravelry
Revisit an old story, an old art style, or just a favorite topic that you haven't revisited in a while. This is more personal, and probably more likely to be more "for you" versus something you put out in the world (neither this nor the "something new" has to be for you or for others unless it's a challenge like Inktober where the point is to share it; use your own judgment). For me, I picked up an old novel that needed an ending and knitting/crocheting, which I haven't done in over a year. I've crocheted myself a wizard's hat for Halloween (standing on its own above, modeled by yours truly below) and I'm knitting a new pair of socks. (I'll try to get pictures of these posted once they're done; I'm only about halfway through sock 1.)

Sometimes you need to dip your toe in other waters to get yourself fired up for your preferred art form, and sometimes you need to come back to the aspect of your art that you love the most.

Here are the rest of my first 8 Inktober drawings, along with some bonus sketches that I'm placing here because Watercolor Wednesday is already going to be overloaded. (September was a good painting month for me, it seems.)

A comic about my friend Stuti, who uses puns the way others use memes.

Panel 1: "So how would you deal with a gym-goer caught w/marijuana?
Panel 2: I guess I'd . . .
Panel 3: Weed them out.
Panel 5: This is Stuti. Stuti uses puns in job interviews. Be like Stuti. Spread light and laughter.

One last thing to say. I (finally) finished my NaNo novel from 2 years ago, There's No Place Like Home? It's a cyberpunk-ish retelling of The Wizard of Oz and I'm so glad that it's complete after wallowing in the mires of my to-be-done files while I finished edits for Albion Academy and wrote Albion Apparent. It's going to need some work to be *done* but draft 1 is step 1. On to other things (in this case, finishing "Paper and (T)horns"). I won't be doing NaNo this year, mostly because I have found it does not help me as much as it should in my goal of finishing manuscripts and it tends to pop up when I should be working on other things (which is why TNPLH? wallowed for almost 2 years). However, I know many people who love NaNo and I am ready to cheer them on!

So, how do you keep your creative bucket full? Are you doing Inktober or another drawing challenge? What's the most useful thing you've found to keep your drive strong?

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Top 10 Tuesday: Scary Characters

Before we dive into this month's Top 10, I want to share a couple pieces of fan art created one of my betas for the Albion books. I'm very excited to share them with you because who doesn't love seeing characters they've written inspire others to create something?

Robin from Albion Academy (Source)

Merlin and Robin in Albion Apparent (Source)
You can check out more of Meltintalle's art on her Tumblr.

Okay, back to the subject at hand.

I know that "scary" is a subjective word, so let me clarify: these are characters that have, at one time or another, frightened me. Most of them were just frightening when I was a child (in some cases, specific incidents when I was a child), but all of them still have something unsettling about them even now.

The Headless Horseman


I'm thinking in particular of the version from Disney's animated adaptation of "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" (which was first released as part of the package film The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad, but which I knew as its own movie thanks to VHS). The sequence at the end where Ichabod flees a demonic-seeming rider with a sword and a flaming jack-o'-lantern head was one of the scariest things I'd seen when I was young; still, that didn't stop me from watching it several times a year.


The Nothing's agent in The Neverending Story is a werewolf named Gmork. Although given a bit more significance in the book, the film's version had the added creepiness factors of glowing green eyes and animatronics that looked almost like claymation. This guy, along with the wolves from Beauty and the Beast and the werewolf from Dr. Terror's House of Horrors, gave me a healthy aversion for all things lupine for many years.


Yeah, that's a bit nightmare-ish (Source)

Asmodeus is an adder who slithers through Mossflower in the first Redwall book, repeating his name and calling his victims to him with a hypnotic voice. I have to blame the animated TV show that adapted Redwall for this one (see below). Though the animation leaves something to be desired nowadays, the voice acting is still creepy as heck. When I read the book, I could only hear that voice (David Hemblen, who voiced Magneto in the '90s X-Men show).

Not so scary to look at (Source)



By the time I actually saw a film version of Dracula (much less read the book), the whole "I vant to zuck your blooood!" joke had taken away any significance for the idea of a vampire. At least, you would think it would have. But the story of a man who can so completely deceive society about his true nature still kept me glued to the screen and the page.


Art by Henry-Jekyll on DeviantArt (Source)

I talked about this guy a little while back when I shared a watercolor I painted of him. He's cruel, cunning, and vindictive as the devil. He has no qualms about killing people and sacrificing whole kingdoms in his quest for knowledge and power. Avoid him if you can (which, if you're in Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn, is unlikely).

Mr. Dark

Mr. Dark is the leader of the evil carnival in Ray Bradbury's Something Wicked This Way Comes and he is chilling in his malice and his pursuit of Will and Jim. The scene that stands out most when I think of Mr. Dark is when he is questioning Will's father on the street, while the boys hide in the storm drain beneath their feet. As Dark grows more impatient with Mr. Halloway's question-dodging, Dark digs his fingernails into his palms--which are tattooed with Will's and Jim's faces. It's a harrowing scene that will not leave the mind, and Jonathan Pryce brought it fully to life in the 1980s film adaptation (which Bradbury himself wrote the screenplay for).


"I didn't make it all the way through third grade for nothing."

In other words, kids, STAY IN SCHOOL.

One of the lesser-known Disney villains, McLeach is one of the few to actually show up in my nightmares. Though I never put it into words as a child, I think he was scarier than the likes of Maleficent or Scar or Ursula for the simple fact that he was fully human, and his only goal was to make more money by killing endangered animals. He didn't want power or fame or the kingdom. And he was willing to kill a child to keep his operation secret from the authorities. His cheerful singing of "Home on the Range" as he carts Cody back to his lair and "You Get a Line, I'll Get a Pole" as he taunts the crocodiles with a bound Cody are still unsettling.


The spirit of destruction and pollution from FernGully: The Last Rainforest, Hexxus is on the list for the simple fact that at the start of his introductory song (thanks for the singalong nightmares, Tim Curry) Hexxus appears as a skeleton climbing out of the sludge. Some people talk about Curry's Pennywise from IT scarring them for life, but really Hexxus is as creepy a villain you could ask for in animation.


Gollum isn't typically considered a scary character. Pitiable, perhaps creepy, but not that scary.

Tell that to the preteen version of me who decided watching the animated version of The Hobbit in a dark bedroom. Gollum is now the scariest thing on the planet. Goodbye. Thanks for playing. (This impression did not improve when The Fellowship of the Ring came out, because they kept Gollum in the dark except for his eyes. Thanks, Peter Jackson.)

The Old Man from "The Tell-Tale Heart"


Two things to clarify: This is my favorite short story ever and I know the old man is the victim. However, there is an animated version of the story from 1953, narrated by James Mason, that is quite eerie. The literature textbook that first introduced me to this story featured screenshots from that film, including the one above, and that image would not get out of my head for years afterward.

If you're interested in seeing the short film in totality, here it is:

So who are some of the scariest characters you've encountered?