Fanart 1: Serenity, Kaylee/Simon

September 29, 2010

Fanart series index.

One of the less ‘literary’ creative pursuits I enjoy trying my hand at sometimes is making fanarts.

I don’t think that I’m a visually artistic person in the usual way, not a born painter and I’ve never been able to (or never taught myself to) sketch a straight line. But putting together pictures and text to convey a moment from a favorite program or advertise a storyline is something that I can manage if I put my mind to it.

The picture below is one of the first collages that I ever made to actually share with other fans, as opposed to for my private enjoyment. It was also created to commemorate my journey to the 2008 ‘Can’t stop the Serenity’ screening, which was in its own little way, my first step into the world of fandom gatherings.

The first step in making any fanart is gathering the component images. Sometimes these come from the internet, but as often as possible, I use my own library of DVDs and the ‘Cyberlink PowerDVD’ program, which makes generating a screen capture from a running DVD as easy as pressing the ‘C’ key.

Blogisode Two

September 25, 2010

“I’m afraid I don’t know the extent of the, erm, decay,” Ismay said as Vasser examined the sausage. “Just that the amount of unhealthy material is too much for my blessing to have made it vanish entirely, which would only be about this much.” He held two fingers up indicating a size about as long as one of his knuckles.

“Well, I’m much obliged anyway, Father.” Vasser took a large knife and chopped a piece off the end, then started to examine that bit critically, both visually and by sniffing it.

“Happy to help.” Ismay tapped a few fingers on the counter that separated them. “I hate to interrupt you in that, but I don’t have much time to procure my meal.”

“Oh, right, sorry Father. Fair’s fair and all that.” Soon Vasser had handed over a shallow bowl made of tough bread, and filled with a small pile full of stewed vegetables and small chunks of meat, covered by a layer of savory gravy. Ismay thanked Ismay again and walked slowly away through the market, eating the pieces of stew one by one with his fingers.

He was waved over by the banker’s wife, who had a question about the last week’s sermon, and on his way back to the church after that, Ismay heard a dog’s bark and turned around. He wished that he hadn’t looked in time to see Ismay gleefully tossing a length of sausage to the butcher’s two dogs. Yes, perhaps it was fitting in the eyes of the saints that the butcher’s own negligence should become his own mess to clean up, literally, but there was no need to take such pleasure in making innocent animals the brunt of such revenge.

A tall man in shiny chain armor was waiting outside the chapel door when Ismay finally returned. Ismay didn’t recognize him, and the surprise of that made him stutter as he greeted the man. “The blessings of Lady Birgit upon you,” he muttered, conscious of the difference between such a sentence, which was really only a wish and a pleasantry, and a genuine blessing such as he had used on Vasser’s behalf. “Might I ask what brings you to my chapel door?” The stranger was evidently a knight or a trained man-at-arms but Ismay thought he knew all of Lord Sland’s usual retinue.

“Certainly, but first, the introductions. My name is Clast Songger, and I am a wandering errant, owing no loyalties but those I swear to those in need of my aid that I discover as I travel. Be you the priest that they speak of in this town, by the name of Ismay?”

“Yes, that is the name I took when I made my first vows in the service of Saint Birgit,” Ismay agreed, wondering just what a Knight-errant might have heard about him.

Clast told him. “They say that the virtue of your patron Saint is strong within you.”

“Birgit has blessed my life very much, and I try very hard to live out my days as her faithful servant.”

The errant nodded with some satisfaction at his response. “Have you heard that the Millers are missing?”

“Of course, they’re members of my congregation. I helped to find foster parents for their sons. May Birgit and all the saints bring them home safe, and soon.”

“Sometimes the Lord God and the saints call on men to do the good work for them,” Clast said meaningfully.

“What, me?” Ismay asked. “Maybe you’d better come inside and explain a bit more.”

“As you please,” Clast declined to take a seat once he was inside the small room that Ismay used to council visitors, but leaned against a wall as Ismay sat in his usual chair. “I have tracked a small pack of hobgoblins to a small thicket in the woods northeast of town, and they have human prisoners. I don’t have long to free them before the Hobs prepare a bonfire feast, but neither can I challenge them all alone. I need help, and the righteous arm of Saint Birgit would ensure the success of this undertaking.”

“What? Why would the Hobgoblins have left the Millers alive, or whoever the prisoners are?”

“Hobs love to keep humans alive for a few days,” Clast told him darkly. “They have a special mix that they use on our kind to make us tender and pleasant.”


Taking serious criticism is a tough gig.

September 24, 2010

Possibly one of the hardest stages in any kind of artistic endeavour is having to open your work up to criticism.

I was invited, along with everybody else who was at the local Hamilton Writers meeting four weeks ago, to a new Hamilton Artists’ Writers Workshop. I was excited about giving it a try, and missed the first session owing to a confusion about the dates, but I was also nervous from the start about bringing something of my own to get critiqued by a group of unfamiliar writers.

I ended up bringing copies of a short story that I very much like, ‘The case of the Wizard’s Vice,’ a sort of Agatha Christie meets Harry Potter caper. Because there wasn’t an abundance of time, I only got to read the introduction and the denoument, skipping over the interviews in the middle, but the responses I got definitely had me thinking about the piece in a very different way, and had my head spinning for a little bit.

Significantly, most of the gathering seemed to agree that the choices I’d made to tell almost the entire story in dialog, and to avoid characterizing the Inspector/narrator more than absolutely necessary, were keeping them from relating to the characters or getting emotionally involved in the story. “Dialog fills in the plot,” somebody said. “Narration grounds you in the characters, and you have almost no narration here.”

There were a lot more notes, not all of which I’m going to review here, but… I think I’m not going to be able to start a fresh draft of the story immediately, which is probably good, I can give myself time to let it settle and ask a few writer friends what they think of the notes before immediately changing things. Still, I’m glad that I went and took a chance – it’s better to hear this sort of thing now than to keep thinking that the story is beautiful and flawless, and maybe start pushing hard to sell it without thinking of the ways that it could be made accessible to a different audience.

In other news, I have awarded the Versatile Blogger award to Merinda Brayfield, who’s also a long-time friend of mine from the #nanowrimo chat room. It’s nothing personal that I didn’t also give her the One Lovely Blog, but I felt that it didn’t entirely make sense to keep the two awards together the whole time, so unless I particularly want to award both of them to the same people, I’ll be picking just one or the other.

Monthly projects lists

September 23, 2010

I’ve been keeping a monthly projects list for about a year and a half now – it’s another Stringing Words thing, that started pretty much as soon as the forum restarted on its own domain in March 2009. Different members post their to-do items in the same monthly thread, and cheer each other along a little, like we do with the word count threads. I can’t remember if the same thing happened on the ‘old’ Stringing words, and all the content there was lost so I can’t check – probably that doesn’t matter.

The funny thing is, nearly from the first I guess my projects have seemed to fall along a spectrum from ‘creative’ to ‘not’ – Stringing Words is a site about creative endeavours, after all, mostly literary ones, and a lot of the projects fit with that focus – finishing stories, starting story ideas, posting critiques, proofing, revising, stretching your writing skills and so on.

And then, there are the ‘real life’ sort of goals – finding scholarships, tidying up, decorating, finishing academic classes in good standing. I post those kind of projects more often than many other Stringers, I think, and it’s probably good for me – that I’ve found somewhere to put things like cleaning, insurance, medical tests, and driving lessons on a checklist where I can get that sense of accomplishment from crossing each one off when they’re done, and also feel some vague sense of accountability to people that I know if I don’t manage to complete them in time.

Tomorrow, if all goes well, I should get two more real life projects done!

Beat Sheet Analysis: The Simpsons Movie

September 19, 2010

Based on Blake Snyder’s Beat Sheet Structure

Numbers are minutes, based on the Showcase canada airing of the movie last weekend, after I trimmed the commercials out.

Opening image: Green Day playing on their barge in Lake Springfield. I’m dismissing everything before this as throaway gags that have no bearing on the theme or the plot of the movie, and thus can’t feel that they qualify. (3)

Theme stated: This is tough. The closest I can figure from before the catalyst is just sneaking in under the wire… (15)
Homer: Hey, what’s with you?
Bart: You really wanna know?
Homer: Of course I do. What kind of father wouldn’t care about… (gets distracted by the pig.)

Set-up: The church scene, Homer doing chores, and Lisa meeting Colin. Grandpa’s experience at the church is a foreshadowing of the catalyst, but it doesn’t catalyze anything itself. (4-15)

Catalyst: Homer takes the pig home from Krusty burger, and Marge recognizes the twisted tail from Grandpa Simpson’s ravings. (16-17)

Debate: All the general town hubbub about pollution in Lake Springfield would seem to fit here. More relevantly, when Marge finds out about the pig silo, and warns Homer that he has to dispose of it properly, this is a clear debate and lead-in to act two. Of course, if Homer does it right, there wouldn’t be a movie, would there? (20-23)

Break into two: But there are free donuts at stake, so Homer can’t wait in line at the waste processing factory – he drives through the no dumping signs around the lake and tosses the silo in. Things start to go bad. (24-25)

B story: Here, I’d say that the B story has to do with Homer’s relationship with his family, and particularly Bart’s disillusions and friendship with Flanders. This starts quite early, at (18) and eventually pays off at (72)

Fun and games: President Ahnold, the Dome, Russ Cargill, Trappucino, Maggie in the sinkhole. Even the mob of ‘peasants’ coming after them seems to fit under ‘the promise of the premise,’ and the Simpsons on the run. (26-41)

Midpoint: The simpsons starting over in Alaska, a false peak (42-50)

Bad guys close in: Operation Blow up Springfield, Marge and the other Simpsons want to go to stop them. Homer refuses. (51-54)

All is lost: Homer finds out that his family has left to go back to Springfield, and Marge has lost all faith in him. (55-58)

Dark night of the soul: This is the Inuit Boob lady part, and Homer’s vision. (59-60)

Break into three: Homer’s epiphany, about other people being more important to him than himself. (61)

Finale: Marge, Bart, and Lisa are captured by Russ Cargill and thrown back into Springfield, along with the bomb. Homer refuses to give up in the snow, climbs his way up the dome, and spoils the rest of the town’s escape plan by accident. He gives up again, but is shown the way by the ‘epipha-tree’… and stops by the church to reach out to Bart. They manage to throw the bomb out of the dome and shatter it, and Russ Cargill tries to take revenge for his scheme being foiled. (62-66)

Final image: All of Springfield is cheering for Homer, and rebuilding his house. With Lisa and Colin working off-screen to clean up the lake, after they get ice cream. (67-68)

Blogisode One.

September 18, 2010

This is something new that I’m trying… a Kelworth Files exclusive!


Father Ismay smiled as he walked down the street towards the crowded Market Square of Oaksford.

The people who he passed always smiled and nodded when they recognized him in his deep black homespun robe and the somewhat spotted white v-shaped sash that hung from his neck. He nodded back, and greeted some of them, especially the ones who he recognized. Many of the ones he knew were part of his congregation, but not all of them. There were four churches in town, most of them on fairly good terms with each other, though nearly everybody else looked down on the Chapel of the Beneficent Daemon Umbriel.

Shaking his head slightly, Ismay continued on into the market and considered his options. He didn’t have long before he needed to be back at his own vocation, and the crowds were particularly thick today. Settling on a tolerable choice, he pressed forward between the other shoppers, took a left turn into a narrow aisle full of stalls, and made his way down to a particularly rickety booth. There were only a few other patrons in line before him, and they were served quickly and moved away. “Father!” the bearded man in the badly stained apron exclaimed. “I’m glad to see you today!”

“Always happy to drop by, but I’m afraid I’m in a bit of a hurry,” Ismay said, bringing out a small silver billon coin out of a pocket inside his robe. “Can I get the usual?”

“Happy to serve you, as always, Father, but it’s not the world’s coin that I’ll need from you,” Vasser said, hurrying close. “You know my usual as well – it’s no problem, right? Anything you want in exchange, but the inspector’s somewhere about.”

“Not again?” Ismay said, with a resigned sigh. Vasser shrugged. “You know, I’m happy to help out, but not when all it amounts to is a crutch that keeps you from standing on your own.”

“No crutch, seriously,” Vasser insisted, his voice almost pleading. “I’m just short-handed this week, and as soon as Debri gets back from tending to her mother, we’ll get the whole place clean as a whistle, you’ll see.”

Ismay leaned into the booth. He couldn’t really imagine it being ‘clean as a whistle,’ but he did believe the cook wanted to do a better job. He tended to believe the best in people, no matter what, but anyway… “Very well, I do have one handy, so…”

He took a deep breath, closed his eyes, and took a moment to connect with something that was hovering at the back of his mind all the time, like a minstrel’s tune that he’d heard a few hours ago, or some errand that he needed to remember to run, and yet slightly different. This was something more than just a thought that had come from his own mind.

“In the name of the Holy Abbess, Saint Birgit,” he muttered, reciting the words that had come to him while praying, “I grant the blessing of health and cleanliness into this place, that the food prepared herein should be nourishing and beneficial to all those who partake thereof, and that none should fall ill from it. May pests and the unclean vermin remain no longer, and may the prosperity of the Lord God shine upon us all, Amen.”

The force of the blessing coming loose into the world staggered Ismay slightly, as it always did when he was the vessel of Saint Birgit’s grace. All of the tiny insects buzzing about inside the stall were struck dead by the power of it, and two families of mice immediately scattered underneath the cracks in the wooden wall and vanished into other parts of the market far away. There was also a general impression of cleanliness that had nothing to do with whatever washing of his stall Vasser had managed to do today. But as he looked around, Vasser obviously still seemed to sense that something was wrong, and with a wince Ismay had to agree with him.

“There’s… there’s some kind of meat on a high shelf, to your right,” he muttered. “It… it hasn’t been preserved right, I think, and is already putrid. There was nothing that a low-level blessing could to do save it, except to let me know that it was going bad.”

“Oh.” Vasser took a few minutes to find the item in question, a long fresh sausage. “Is the entire thing beyond use?”


Feedback Swap update

September 16, 2010

Well, I’ve finally gotten myself in a better position with my critiquing swaps by now – I’ve finished the first Nano manuscript, ‘Duty’, and one screenplay. I’ve also half finished reading another Nanowrimo novel.

It’s strange, but it does seem that with a work of this size, how much I can bring on contribute to critiquing tends to depend on how well I can relate to it. ‘Duty’ was a sort of a medieval historical romance that I really liked, and once I got into it I was giving the author all kinds of scribbled comments in the margin of the Word document. I also made a point of going back and reviewing the chapters once I’d finished the first pass, grouping the chapters in terms of the major arcs of the story as I understood them, suggesting what she was doing well, what elements I thought weren’t working well, and how to improve the things that I could see she was trying to do, but that weren’t quite working yet.

The screenplay was a romantic comedy about wrestling fans, which isn’t something I immediately identify with, but the characters and the setup was charming, and I got into the spirit of it by the end, making notes on which jokes I liked and which bits didn’t seem so funny, and what I thought of the character arcs. I also took a stab at guessing what the theme was.

The second novel, though it has promise, also has a few issues in terms of the point of view and the voice, and in the actual layout and format with the way the author has chosen to work with dialog. (Here’s a hint, there aren’t conventional quote marks.) Though I’m doing my best to follow along, a long of my marginal notes so far are either fairly incidental nitpicks, or pointing out bits that I do particularly like. I guess I’m hoping that by the time I’m finished, I’ll be able to put together some notes that will address the deeper issues I see in this draft, more than just ‘you really need to rewrite this to make it easier to tell when somebody’s talking versus something is being described.’)

That’s pretty much all for tonight, except…

I’ve contacted my first winner for the OLB and VB awards – AP Roberts! Big surprise, hehe, as AP’s livejournal has been the only entry in my blogroll for months now.

I’m going to be changing a few things about this blog in the upcoming weeks, and hopefully updating a bit more frequently, so watch this space.

Award acceptance speech.

September 13, 2010

First off, once again I’d like to thank Brittany for giving me these two awards!

The Versatile Blogger Award: Link back to the person who gave you the award (already did), share seven things about yourself, pass the award to up to fifteen bloggers who you think deserve it, and contact the people you’ve picked.

One Lovely Blog Award: Accept the award, post it on your blog with a link to the person who gave it to you with a link to them, pass it to up to fifteen other bloggers who are new to you, contact the people you’ve picked.

However, I have to say that I wasn’t quite sure how I felt about passing them along at first… not that I don’t want other bloggers to feel valued and appreciated, but that the whole deal seemed a bit like a benign version of chain letters or something, and I’ve never been a big fan of spreading chain letters.

Having spent a little while mulling over the question, I’ve decided that it’s not really the same thing. For one thing, these awards seem to be pretty honest as to what they’re about, while chain letters always tend to have the ridiculous claims about what has happened to various people around the world when they got the chain, which presumably can’t have been true when the chain started, and couldn’t have been added in later unless someone took liberties with copying the letter exactly as they received it. But never mind that.

Also, these awards don’t seem to be as bully-ish about chain letters about passing them on. And this is the sort of thing that Blogosphere networking is made of, isn’t it? So – I accept the awards, and I will be passing them along, but not just yet. For one thing, I’m not sure who to award yet, so I’ll take my time and hand them out one by one. 😉

And, for my seven things to share as a condition of Versatile Blogger:

  1. I love listening to country music.
  2. I have many stuffed animal friends.
  3. I collect PDAs and other electronic devices.
  4. I’ve lost over 100 pounds in the past three and a half years.
  5. I recently got a beginner driver’s licence for the second time.
  6. I go to the Toronto Buffy/Angel fan meetups when I can.
  7. I love Larry Niven’s Known Space/Ringworld books.

Rewriting a story in four days.

September 10, 2010

I’ve been wanting to get back to talking about writing here on the blog, so here’s a good bit to blather on about, I think. Rewriting an incomplete story idea from scratch.

I’ve had the idea for this ‘alien landing’ story for going on a year now, I think – I did a starting paragraph for it based on a challenge at Stringing Words in October of 2009, (wow, didn’t realize it was that long until I looked it up,) and I started my first draft in May of this year. It was going pretty well – four scenes, 3200 words, and then it just kind of ran into the ground at the point that the alien attacked the human soldiers.

The basic premise, by the way, is that an alien ship lands on Earth, damaged from a battle with other aliens – they need help to fix the ship, but they’ve still got powerful weapons that can hold their own against anything the Army throws against them, so both sides are forced to bargain in the end.

I asked other writers for feedback on what I had so far – I read it for the Hamilton Writers’ group on June 1st, I think, and got some interesting perspectives, including how soldiers should talk in a much grittier and fouler fashion, and some encouragement, but I still wasn’t sure how to continue, and put it aside to focus on other things, like the CreateSpace draft of ‘The Long Way Home’, JulNoWrimo… and starting my blog.

In August, I submitted the two longer scenes in CritMo, and the crits that I got managed to perfectly clarify what I needed to go. Over and over again, they kept repeating, ‘I like Doctor Juddman, I like the alien, I like the language stuff, I don’t care about the two army commanders butting heads.’

So I did a page one rewrite, telling the entire story in Doctor Juddman’s point of view, how he was whisked out of his office at UBC to go talk to an alien, and what happened after the alien attacked him and held him captive for nearly 24 hours in his spaceship.

It’s still a rough draft at this point, 5400 words, but it’s a complete first draft, and I’m happy about it. Thinking about taking this one to Hamilton Writers this week, to see what they think of the difference.

Do any of you readers have a story to share about rewriting stories quickly?

And thank you very much for the awards, Brittany. I’ll talk more about those soon – hopefully Saturday.

Fan Expo Diary – Part Three

September 5, 2010

Okay, Sunday at Fan Expo, this’ll be shorter than the others, but it was a good day.

Woke up, actually had a chance to unwind a little in the morning, got a bit of writing done on the Roswell/Pern crossover fanfic, my first new words since Thursday on the bus, and went over to Dunn’s deli for a pancake breakfast, yum.

Packed up my bags at the hotel, reshuffling everything because of the heavy swag I bought on Friday, and moving some dirty clothes and power cables into the garment bag with the blueprints as overflow. Headed down to the Convention center nearly an hour before the doors opened, wondering how many other people with orange bracelets had the same idea.

Enough to put me back under the railway bridge on lower simcoe again, sigh, though closer to the front street side of the bridge. It was a long wait for the line to start moving. The guy in front of me had a T-shirt with an ‘eye chart’ made up out of fandom abbreviations and leetspeak, that kind of thing. I asked him if I could take a picture of it, and he didn’t mind but thought that was funny, since the day before he’d been in a much more elaborate costume, and figured that nobody would ask to photograph him if he was just wearing a novelty t-shirt.

The line did move pretty quickly once the doors opened, and I was inside around eleven twenty or so. Thought about going up the escalators and trying my luck with the signature lines, but then thought about all the people who were in line ahead of me outside, and how many of them were probably waiting in the slower autograph lines. So I checked on my Summer Glau photo, not ready yet, and showed up at the RPG game room for my Serenity session. The woman who was running the game was happy to meet me, and generously looked over my personalized character before telling me that I should pick one of the generic ones that she’s drawn up for the campaign. It was a little while before we actually got the game going – I checked on the pictures again, and tried going up the escalators for some food that wasn’t too far away, gave up on it.

The game session was fun, though much shorter than I’d expected. We started around quarter after noon, and were wrapped up by two PM. I played the first mate of a Firefly transport, an ex-Browncoat guerilla, very devoted to the captain, who was also a Browncoat during the war, and also a computer expert. We had a pilot and a ‘heavy thug’, and NPCs for mechanic and doctor. Our crew took a bunch of passengers from Hera to Greenleaf, and one of them, an old noble gentleman who’d been an Alliance commander in the war, turned up dead. One thing that I remember was that the captain was always telling me to deal with the passengers, but my character was light on personal skills, so I was often failing my roles and letting things get worse – including freaking out a bit and exciting the civilians during a near miss encounter witha Reaver raiding party.

But between us, we managed to figure out who the killer was, though we couldn’t prove it, and the Alliance would have kept the reward anyway. But we got paid on Greenleaf, so that sounds like a good day to me, keeps us flying. And once the game session was over, I picked up the Summer Glau picture, and got to the bus platform in time for the 2:30 bus home.

A few interesting things about that bus trip. One was that a girl in a wheelchair came up just at the driver was about to pull out. It did take a little while before he could get everything set. I’d never seen the wheelchair-accessibility functions in use for a GO transit bus, and I got a good view because I was right behind the wheelchair spot. First off, the driver needed to shift some of the seats forward, close enough together that nobody could actually sit on the seats behind, but clearing enough space for the wheelchair. Then a panel of the bus wall actually slid aside and the wheelchair was lifted up to the same level as the rest of the bus seating, since there was no way to get it up the narrow stairs that everybody else uses. It was interesting to see, and I guess I’m glad that they have a workable system for the disabled. I started to wonder if the girl in the wheelchair paid the same fare as the rest of us, and whether it would be fair or not for her to, considering how many seats she was effectively taking up.

The bus also went off onto the 407 toll highway from oakville to burlington, for no reason we could see – leaving me wondering whether the driver had heard of a slowdown on the Queen Elizabeth Way somewhere ahead of us, or was just curious about how long that detour would take.

But I got home around four-thirty on Sunday afternoon, early enough to go to the store, stock up on some provisions, and make a beef and pasta soup to take into work for lunch.

And that was Fan Expo.

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