29 December 2012

Keeping busy. Here's an update!

(c) iStock
Well, first things first: I had to withdraw my panels for Ohayocon. I'm pretty bummed about this, but at the same time, I'm somewhat relieved. Let me explain: I had a negative experience at the doctor's office early this morning, and after much discussion we pretty much determined that I need to pull back from several things and take care of myself...which hasn't happened for a few months.

Once school started up for me in August, I stopped paying attention to myself as well as my health, because I've been so busy with everything (and majorly stressed out). So it was decided I withdraw from a few things.

I hadn't heard anything from programming on my panels yet (neither rejection or denials), so I didn't think my request to pull my panels from the submission process would be too inconvenient, but who knows, honestly. Ohayocon programming had over 400 panels submitted, and if they were on the verge of notifying me of an acceptance, I'll feel kind of bad. But the relief comes from not having to worry about the panels anymore...or spending the large amount of money needed to create a lot of the things I would need in order to present them (which required a lot of audience participation and activities). It looked like there was a genuine interest in the panels (based on the forums), so I feel a little guilty for dropping out, but I have to pull back and take care of myself more. Unfortunately I prepaid for everything for the convention, and it's non-refundable...so I'll probably still try to go, if I'm able to. That would be a lot of money spent for nothing, yikes.

I got some lovely things for Christmas, and I already started preparing for the new semester by ordering the books I'll need for my Readings in the Genre classes. As for the progress on the novel, I've surpassed 80,000 words a while ago, but I have a bit of a block right now. I wrote eight pages the other day, except it was rewrites of the first chapter. Nothing new seems to have come into my brain, and that isn't good. My personal goal was to finish the book by January 18th, but once again, I don't think I can make my deadline. So...this semester will be really crazy.

I hope you guys had a good holiday! For the time being, I'm trying to update this website (my sub-pages haven't been touched in forever) and clear out my inboxes. Then it's back to the drawing-board with my book.

24 December 2012

Happy Holidays!

(pd) by Jorge Barrios
Yesterday my family from out-of-state arrived; today we went to the movie theater to watch The Hobbit, and now I have the Misty Mountains song stuck in my head. Huzzah!

This is silly, but my sister and I were really into theater when we were younger, and we were both in a musical version of The Hobbit (and it was my first stage musical ever!). She was cast as one of the spiders as well as one of the trolls, and I was a last-minute fill-in for a cast member who had quit. I never tried out for the show, but my sister worked her magic with the director and nabbed me the part of Oin the dwarf (here's the movie equivalent), which ended up being a huge role (lots of songs, fighting, and stage time!).

So watching The Hobbit with family was not only a nostalgia-trip for when Lord of the Rings was in theaters (last decade!) but a "remember when" moment for when we performed in the stage version...seventeen years ago. Holy crap, the time flies.

Anyway, family will be here for a few days, and I'm still busy with projects and impatiently waiting to hear news regarding my panels (the convention is less than a month away)... in the meantime:

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, everyone!

15 December 2012

I need to keep this blog exciting! Gahhh!

(c) iStock
...But with what, pray tell? I'm kinda crazy busy and then when school starts up I'll be freakishly kinda crazy busy.

So I guess this'll be another art post to tide you over until I write a criticism of something, or an end-of-the-year-new year-goals blog listing.

Ta-dah! I make digital drawings when the stress of everything makes me want to go kaboom. Since I've been exploding so much lately, I honestly think it's done me some good in the art department. I think I'm getting better with drawing and coloring. I still have room for improvement but I was pleasantly surprised with my art once I finished with it.

Anyway, this is a character not of my creation, but by DA artist Rento-X-Akatsuki. The character's name is Zen Xin Luan Caolt and he possesses a magical ability to transform into a fire serpent. And that's all I know about this character. I found about him because Rento and I agreed to do a Christmas card exchange in the mail. I thought it'd just be cards but she mentioned actually making something ...so I was like, "Crap, I have to draw something real quick!" And I scrambled a couple days ago to make this. She doesn't know about this art yet, but I feel safe posting the image here because I'm pretty sure she doesn't read this blog. Anyway, I mailed her card today with a special art print of the image below. When I know she's received the card, I'll formally upload this image to dA and hopefully my watchers will like it.

Zen Xin Luan Caolt--The Fire Serpent by Kristina Elyse Butke
(c) 2012. All rights reserved. Usage of this artwork is restricted.
And in other news, I received another pretty awesome piece of Lily and Andresh artwork, so here it is:

(c) 2012 By Lego Vasavouchi. All rights reserved. Usage of this image is restricted.
2012 Christmas Tree! Sugar Plum, la la la!
This artist is completely committed to exquisite detailing. She put alchemy symbols all over Andresh's jacket, for example, which is just freaking awesome of her and a great surprise. You can read more about her design choices here. What's extra awesome is that I won a free commission from her, so my next art from Lego will be of Demon-Shadow Andresh. Woohoo! How many times can I use the word "awesome" in a single post?

Last but not least, I put up the Christmas tree again this year. I like my tree, but I got sick of using the same Christmas ornaments three years in a row, so I braved Mom's garage and climbed the ladder to the storage area, and whipped out 20-year old Christmas decorations we've held onto all this time. Here's the tree, in a moment of zen.

And finally, finally...I wish everybody joy and peace. I am so sick of hearing awful news and terrible tragedies, and knowing that people are scared and suffering out there. God bless everyone! My heart goes out to you.

05 December 2012

1, 2, 3, 4! Lily & Andresh? Have some more!

They just keep coming! More and more! Ever since I figured out that point commissions trumped dollar commissions, I've been having an easier time securing custom artwork from Deviant Art. When strangers wander over to my profile page, they leave comments about how they've enjoyed looking at my Character Gallery, which makes me grin from ear to ear. It has been fun seeing what everyone comes up with, and I'm happy to share their work with you! Oddly enough, a lot of this art I requested several months ago and now it seems everyone is finishing them up at the same time...

As for artwork to look forward to, any new commissions I've requested are now going to feature something quite different--Andresh's demon/beast form, which should be exciting (first artist up to try it is Maruka, who made me this lovely gem). I also have a Lily and Andresh piece coming from this person who is quite a talented artist, but also just so happens to have voiced this character, among many others. That's kind of mind-blowing in and of itself. Woo!

(c) 2012 by Cinnamon Ring
(c) 2012 by AngelG93
Andresh and Lily (Stealing the Spotlight) by BunbunJens
(c) 2012 by BunbunJens
(c) 2012 by DevinArtDevil
(c) 2012 by Sugar Bear Kitty

For more Lily and Andresh pieces, check out the Deviant Art gallery for it--there's even more new artwork you haven't seen yet!

19 November 2012

My Life is One Big Laundry List Right Now

 (c) iStock 
Phew and a whew! Once Halloween has passed, usually the Crazy Busy Holiday Season begins and takes over my life.

This year will be no exception. Normally I curl up in a ball and cry from November to January (yay seasonal mood crap!) but I'm going to have to work through that because I have SO MUCH TO DO in so little time.

The good news is, most of my holiday shopping is done. I started Christmas shopping in September because I know me, and I know how bad I am with money. Being unable to find work, and with graduate school consuming my life, I've had to live off of school refund checks in order to pay bills. Around this time last year I had completely run out of money and felt really crappy for not doing birthday and Christmas presents for a lot of people. So while I could still afford to, I bought presents early (they're already gift-wrapped and sitting in my closet!). I also booked my hotel for Ohayocon and paid for my admission in September as well.  And, since my life seems to be nothing but patterns lately, I am once again out of money, but now I know at least I have something to give for the holiday season.
Image (c) 2012 by Ohayocon,
via their official Tumblr

Speaking of Ohayocon, NOVEMBER 30th IS THE DEADLINE TO SUBMIT PANELS (so far they've received over 220!) The good news is I've submitted all three panels back in September. I had hoped to hear something from programming, but at the same time, I feel like I probably won't hear anything 'til mid or the end of December whether or not I've been accepted. In the meantime, I need to create the three panel presentations and redo my writing tool-kits.  I want to do this early so I can feel more than ready for the con in January...but at the same time, I have other things on my plate. Now I don't know if I should wait until I'm a confirmed panelist to do the presentations or still proceed with making them now. The thing is, I have to consider my school obligations.

Dealing with school schedules and financial aid has been kind of a nightmare. I found out on registration day that not only do I not qualify for aid this term, but I won't next term also. So I've had to register for even more classes than I'm required to take just so I can keep my loans. I also found out that a required module will be occurring at the January residency--the same residency I was told not to come to because my final residency is the one in which I graduate. I feel like I've blown up everyone's inboxes trying to deal with all this stuff. But at last I've figured out my schedule and financial aid. Here's what's coming up:

(January-April):
--Readings in the Genre
--Readings in the Genre
--Writing About Popular Fiction
--BOOK DUE IN FULL IN APRIL

(June-November):
--Capstone Writing Project
--Final Residency and Graduation
--Readings in the Genre (post-graduation)

If you've followed this website since its inception, I've done quite a bit of book reviews and essays for school here. That has leveled off because this term, I only took a term writing project so I could concentrate on the book. And that explains why the content on the site's been a bit anemic, with almost no reviews and mostly me posting artwork or rambling incoherently about anime. Well, come January, it's going to change and I'll be posting a ridiculous amount of reviews because I'm overloaded with Readings in the Genre courses until I graduate. Whoa!

What sucks is that I hoped to have completed my book before the start of the term. The plan was, because I thought I was only taking two classes, that I would aggressively look for work full time during this term. I worked full-time the first year of graduate school, and it was tough, but I handled it well when it was just Readings in the Genre classes. But now that I'm up to three classes again, and two of them require constant reading, that puts a huge damper on things. I thought that since the book was now due in April that I could take my time on it again, but I can't do the book + three classes + look for full-time work.

So I HAVE to finish the book before the next term starts. I'm pretty sure if I don't, the stress will kill me. I don't think I can handle devoting time to the novel when I'll be reading and writing essays every waking second of my life. And because my course load is so heavy, I don't think I can look for a job like I wished to. Which means I'll have to figure out how to stretch my loans out again. Fun.

Do you see my dilemma now? This is what I have to do before January 18th:

--Finish the book
--Revise the book
--Polish the book
--The Alchemy of FMA presentation
--Give Good Spec! (revised) presentation
--Fanfic into Fiction presentation
-- Writers Toolkits (2)
--Transmutation Circle Kits

On top of that, I don't know what I was thinking with my involvement with Deviant Art. Well, wait a minute. I kind of do.
Banner by Gaeamil

The thing is, this term was rough for me and the novel. I produced a lot of pages that I'll just have to cut. And I'm so tired of the book that I think I actually hate it...which is not the best place to be in if I want to write more of it.

When things have gotten stressful and shitty, I've hopped over to Deviant Art. Not just for the purpose of getting Lily & Andresh artwork. I've actually started to relearn what it's like to do social media (I deleted my Facebook and Myspace in 2007 and haven't been back. Good riddance). Which also means in a weird way I've been social again with complete strangers. And I love dA for that, because it cheers me up when I want to throw my manuscript into the fire.

On top of that, completing a drawing provides so much more gratification for me, because it doesn't take me too long, and I get a more instantaneous sense of accomplishment. I just don't feel the same way about writing this book, so that's another reason why I've probably spent all this time making pictures. I've spent over two years on the book and it's not done; but I can spend a few hours on a drawing and it'll be up later that day. Even though writing a book is in fact a bigger accomplishment to me, I hope you can understand why I find artwork so appealing.
This is just some of the stuff in my gallery...
All artwork (c) KEB
I got myself into some projects on dA that will also need to be finished ASAP. I'm trying to work through them now while I rewrite the beginning of the novel for the 500th time. I've made a lot of art for other people, as well as done art trades and gift exchanges, and participated in (and even won) some contests. It's been a great experience, and I'm getting better at drawing every day (coloring and inking not so much), but I need to wrap things up fast so I can do all of those other projects before January 18th.

At this point, I think all I can say is, please wish me luck. I've got so much to do in so little time! And I hope you'll be excited when my website suddenly starts pumping out articles regularly again.

Thanks everyone for your support!

07 November 2012

Why Disney Creeps Me Out: A story of love & hate.

No matter what you feel about Disney and Lucasfilms,
You can't deny that this is an adorable pic.
Photo (c) 2010 Marcio Disney Blog*
I heart Disney. I just want to say that first and foremost. I grew up on Disney cartoons during its epic Renaissance period. I know the words to many of the songs from the films (at one point I owned all the soundtracks), and like many a girl in the world, I wanted to be a Disney princess in one way or the other. (My favorite princess was Aurora followed by Jasmine; the princess I actually wanted to be was a non-Princess...Esmeralda. She's pretty sexy and badass!) Half of my Barbie dolls were Disney dolls. And I remember watching the Lion King in the movie theatre five times with my brother and sister. And my senior year in high school, I was lucky enough to travel to Disneyland with the marching band (my first and only time to go there). 

Although Disney's shaped my childhood, it still has an active presence in my adult life as well. For crying out loud, my artwork can't stop looking somewhat like a Disney cartoon. Some of my favorite TV shows are on ABC. And because Disney's purchased so many things, I also have to admit that some of the movies I've enjoyed lately have been a Disney film.

With that said, I've been wanting to write something about my feelings for Disney for quite some time, ever since I started watching Once Upon a Time on ABC last year. But I didn't know how to segway into it.

Well, Star Wars has helped me out with this, so here I go on a rant as to why Disney has really started to bother me. The company just plain gives me the skeeves.  

...This isn't really news anymore: George Lucas sold Lucasfilms, and therefore the Star Wars franchise to Disney for $4 billion dollars, most of which he will reportedly donate to charity. The bigger news: Star Wars Episode VII comes out in 2015. BAM! 

I've never been a Star Wars uber-fan. Well...maybe at one point in my life, but it was so long ago I've forgotten what it feels like.

We were late bloomers when it came to Star Wars in my household. We didn't watch the films (A New Hope, The Empire Strikes Back, Return of the Jedi) until we were like 12 or 13. I distinctly remember someone in school staring at me like I kicked Jesus in the face when I asked him, "What is Star Wars?" Well, my brother and I soon dove right into it, courtesy of USA network (back in the day, they'd freaking marathon those movies. We recorded them off the TV--what's a VCR you ask?--and then we'd watch the tapes OVER AND OVER). After seeing all three movies, we got really into it. I know at one point I actually knew how to play the Star Wars card game; my brother read all of the licensed tie-in novels so through him I knew stuff like Han Solo and Princess Leia's twins (Jaina and Jacen) and other bits of trivia.  

We bought the Vanity Fair magazine when they premiered photos from The Phantom Menace well before the movie was released. And then my friends and I, the day the movie came out, wore our hair in Princess Leia buns to school that day. It also happened to be picture day (for clubs and choir) so if you can get your hands on a Mansfield Senior yearbook you can see my weird hair in a couple photos. And I don't remember where in the chronology this happened, but my brother and I did see the "remastered" versions of Episodes IV-VI when Lucas released them.  I also at one point played Star Wars video games like Rogue Squadron. Remember that one, anybody?

This was so fun to play, back in the day.
Rogue Squadron game cover
(c) 1998 LucasArts.*
Ok, I guess at one point I actually was a mega-fan. But like many people (and probably with the help of Episodes I-III) Star Wars stopped being one thing and became another--to me, a joke. 

Even before Lucas and Disney made their huge announcement I cringed whenever I heard anything about the franchise. The thing is, I don't care what Disney does to it. It just doesn't matter to me anymore.

So what matters to me? The idea behind the purchase of the franchise. 

Spencer Kornhaber of The Atlantic wrote an excellent article about Disney's acquisition of the franchise. He specifically addresses the reactions many fans are having, but assures us that "Star Wars Will Survive Whatever Horrible Thing Disney Does to It." I agree!

Comic by Endless Origami
(cc) via Nerd Approved
Yet I can't help but feel like Disney is a cultural hijacker, and that's what freaks me out.

 Kornhaber wrote this in the article, and it touched a nerve with me big-time (emphasis in the article my own):

"[...] Disney's acquisition of Star Wars confirms something that's been true about the series for a while now. It's left the realm of specific-to-its-time pop-culture product and become something bigger and, yes, better: a folk tale. Joseph Campbell's The Hero With a Thousand Faces led Lucas to write a story that was inherently mythical, and the way that story has spread and endured proves just how well he succeeded. [...] 'Folklore' by typical definition refers to a story that belongs to everyone and no one; seemingly authorless, it's passed from person to person until it suffuses a culture's very fabric. When adults screen Return of the Jedi in their living room for their nieces and nephews who then doodle Ewoks on their homework, that's the old idea of folk transmission at work. But Disney has made its fortune in large part from actually owning folk culture, from the kind it created in-house—Mickey and Minnie—to the kind its acquired through purchase, like the Marvel superheroes. The other big part of its business has come from profiting off folklore it doesn't actually own, like the Grimms' tales, by updating it for modern times and marketing it in modern ways." 
--(c) October 30,2012 TheAtlantic.com

Here's the thing though: Disney doesn't seem to be happy with the idea of not owning folklore. 

The end of the Kornhaber quote of course refers to almost all of Disney's animated films--the source material either comes from folklore, fairy tales, or the occasional classic novel. 

As a writer of dark fantasy, who absolutely adores folklore and fairy tales, I'm torn with my feelings for Disney because of what they've done to these stories. Fairy tales were always dark and scary, once upon a time. Disney took that away from them...ask horror writers and fantasy writers and they'll roll their eyes (justifiably so) and say Disney "bowdlerized" the stories (I agree). And although I still like these Disney products, you can't say that Sleeping Beauty and Disney's Sleeping Beauty is the same story. Not by a longshot.

This show isn't about fairy tales. It's about Disney Tales.
Once Upon a Time Logo (c) ABC Studios 2011-2012*
Oh, wait! My mistake. Disney wants you to know that there is only one Sleeping Beauty. Just one. If you need a reminder, tune in every Sunday to ABC and check out the series Once Upon a Time.

That show, although enjoyable and even dark at times (I watch it mostly for Lana Parilla and Robert Carlyle), pisses me off in nearly every episode because I can't go ten minutes into it without feeling like the show is propaganda. 

Here's the official premise which I've taken directly from the official website for the show:

"This is Fairy Tale Land. It's filled with magic, monsters and all of the characters we all know from stories growing up. It's real, and so are the people in it. But unlike the 'happily ever after' you may have heard about, their stories continued, and The Evil Queen cast a Dark Curse over the land....

This is Storybrooke. It's a quiet, little, New England town filled with people who go about their everyday lives with no idea who they really are. The Queen's Curse has trapped them here and placed her in near-complete control. They have no real memories and no real hope.


Once Upon A Time is, at its core, a story about hope."

--2011-2012 ABC.com

Once Upon a Time is a story about how the Disney company hopes the only fairy tales and folklore you remember are the ones they've hijacked, repurposed, and resold.  To them, folklore can only be something that Disney owns, and nothing else.

Fairy Tale Land isn't the actual land of fairy tales. The description of the show is a blatant lie. Because in fairy tale land, places like "a far-off kingdom" exists, but not places like Agrabah, which is referenced in the first season of Once Upon a Time

Agrabah is from Disney's Aladdin, by the way. 

Fairy tale land can have an evil witch place a sleeping curse on a young princess, but if that witch is named Maleficent (who appeared in the first season), you've walked out of a fairy tale and into a freaking cartoon. 

The Seven Dwarves in this series have names. Guess which ones? They even whistle "Hi Ho" in one of the episodes!! 

And JIMINY CRICKET is a character. WTF!! Carlo Collodi may have had a talking cricket in Pinocchio,  but Jiminy Cricket is a 100% Disney creation. 

There's no getting around this.

If Disney produced a version of a fairy tale in any way, shape or form, the Disney version automatically replaces the original in the series. Other fairy tales have popped up over the seasons, like King Midas and Hansel and Gretel...those characters bear a closer resemblance to the originals just because Disney hadn't worked them into a feature film or product of some kind yet.

But it's a free-for all at this point. First season mentioned the Lady of the Lake. Then Lancelot showed up this season. WHAT? Lancelot came from a combination of legend, a tiny piece of reality, medieval histories, and epic poems that celebrated courtly love. King Arthur isn't exactly a fairy tale. Why are Arthurian characters popping up here?  

Peter Pan's Captain Hook has appeared on the show. As well as Alice in Wonderland's Mad Hatter. For Halloween, they introduced Victor Frankenstein. As in,  Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley.  Really?

The episode that introduced Mulan in the second season understandably ruffled feathers because she's not a fairy tale character. Hua Mulan is an important cultural figure to China; she may be the stuff of legends, but as I pointed out with King Arthur, legends are partially based off of truth and history. By having Mulan serve as a military escort for Prince Phillip and Princess Aurora from Sleeping Beauty, you've taken a mythical heroine and reduced her value to a fairy tale escort (which just sounds wrong). 

Basically, Once Upon A Time is saying that the only characters who exist in Fairy Tale Land are, in fact, Disney characters. We all know that Disney movies have been adaptations of fairy tales, and Disney actually still referred to these as "retellings" or "reimaginings." Which means there's some acknowledgement, however tiny, of something that came before.

But through Once Upon a Time, Disney is actually coming right out and saying, "The only real Fairy tales are our fairy tales. We are the keepers of Fairy Tale Land. Not history or culture or society. Our way, and no other way." It makes my blood boil.

And when non-fairy tale characters enter the fray, it just signals to me that anything is up for grabs and Disney wants to grab it. If these characters end up in Once Upon A Time's Fairy Tale Land, which is to say, Disney Land, then it's not a long shot to say Disney will seamlessly work in any fairy tale, folklore, or literary classic to solidify its position as a cultural superpower. 

So first: fairy tales. Next: literary classics. Then: legends, myths, and heroes. Disney owns Pixar, the Muppets, Marvel Comics, and now Lucasfilm (and apparently Hasbro is up next), and although they don't own Studio Ghibli, they release the films in the US and use their own stupid actors and celebrities to voice the characters. How long will it be before these franchises and cultural phenomena get the Once Upon a Time treatment?  How long will it be before Disney decides that the only version that exists is the Disney version--will they try to make us forget what came before?

Whyyyyyyyyyyyyy????

I know this is a pretty extreme reaction to have. It's not extreme enough for me to boycott Disney, because Disney owns a lot of the things I love, and I can't deny that they also make great things that I love dearly.

If my books ever become successful enough in the future, and Disney calls me up and says, "We'd like to make The Name and the Key into a feature film," it would be very hard for me to tell them no, but I would. Because if Disney continues to send a message that the only cultural and folk experience is the  Disney experience, then we have a huge problem. 

Personal reactions aside, I have to ask, What do you guys think about Disney purchasing Lucasfilm? How do you feel about Disney's treatment of folklore and fairy tales? What do you think we'll see from Disney in the future? 


~*~
May 13, 2013:  Disney has done it again with cultural hijacking! Disney actually tried to register Dia de los Muertos as a trademark. You know, an important religious and spiritual Mexican holiday. Luckily, thanks to a BUNCH of public outcry and a completely awesome Change.org petition, Disney realized that it wasn't a good idea. Really?

As far as Star Wars news goes, yes, they closed LucasArts, yes, they are having EA Games do all the Star Wars games now, yes, the Expanded Universe is in trouble and the Clone Wars is cancelled, and they're going to release one Star Wars movie every year. EVERY YEAR?!?! That's just...gross. 

20 October 2012

Sexy Andresh and a Taste of Romance!

It's time for some more awesome artwork from Deviant Art, now officially one of my favorite places on the internets! (Yes, it's getting to the point where it's starting to become addictive. And this is one of many reasons why I don't have Facebook, kids...I HAVE NO SELF CONTROL...)

(c) 2012 by Chrecand
Holy freaking whoa! Look at him!!! LOOK AT HIM! 

Andresh has a tendency to come across as yummy in a lot of the works by Deviant Artists. He's the kind of character that has many different attractive qualities, and it's been great seeing how the artists bring him to life.

It's also been great (and kind of ego-boosting) to hear how many people do, in fact, find him attractive. Let me get a little braggy here--sorry:  A romance author in the program (Monica Schryver) called him a dark, romantic hero, based on a little excerpt of the book she critiqued. (Actually, a few of the romance genre students are taken with him). My mentor Scott digs him big time--at our last in-person meeting he flat-out said, "I really want to know what happens to Andresh!"  That character's a page-turner for him. Here's some feedback from Deviant Artists:
  • "Andresh is so cute! [...] He is really fine. Lily is so lucky! I'd love to have a conversation with him [...] He seems like an interesting guy to sit down and have a cup of coffee with or something."
  • "Btw. Andresh is so handsome. ;c I'm sure you get that a lot." 
  • "He is really fun to draw!" 
I've gotten more feedback about him; these are just some gems I'd like to share with you. ANYWAY...

Back to Chrecand. This artwork makes me so happy because she nailed it. (She did an excellent Lily, too!) Everything that makes Andresh attractive is conveyed in this piece.

 I don't just mean his physical appearance, either (although I have to say, when I opened my note with the link to her work, my first thought was "Hottie!"). Andresh is confident. He's the type of person who'd say something like, "Bring it! I'm ready. You don't know what I've been through--I can take on ANYTHING!" And the thing is, Andresh's experiences give him the right to say that, and have it be true (for the most part). The look on Andresh's face, his posture--I see confidence, and a slight hint of mischief, too. I'm super-pleased with this work!

For more of Chrecand's work, visit her Deviant Art page! If you like what you see, commission the artist!

(c) 2012 by Crispygray
Oh, gosh. (Tears and a sigh!). I've never really been a romantic person, but I'd be lying if I said that it doesn't affect me in any way when I see or read something that's very endearing. So when I saw this my heart got all fluttery at how sweet (and ROMANTIC!) Lily and Andresh look in this artwork. 

I love everything about it. I mentioned in an earlier post somewhere (I think this one--scroll down to the photo of Tamaki and Haruhi) that it's very difficult to illustrate THE LOOK...but Crispy Gray did it! See how Lily and Andresh are looking at each other? 

OhmygoshImeltintoapileofgoolovelovelove.... 

And that background is fantastic. Very pretty designs; and I LOVE (and am jealous) of how Crispy Gray can play with light and shadow. If you want me to get snooty art history about it then I'd say something like, "What a fascinating use of chiaroscuro!" The whole image, and every effect in it, works well together to portray Lily and Andresh's relationship.

For more of CrispyGray's work, visit her Deviant Art page! If you like what you see, commission the artist!

01 October 2012

Ohayocon Panel Subs & Anime Watch Update!

Ohayocon 2013: ZOMBIES!!
Image (c) 2012 by Ohayocon, via their official Tumblr
Hi all...

So, I finally submitted my third panel to Ohayocon for their consideration. 

Three hours of panels = comp badge, hooray! 

And now all I have to do is wait to hear from programming, which will understandably take a good while...panel submissions close November 30th, but they are also capping submissions at 200. Still, I don't expect to hear anything about my panels until late December/early January, so I'll be mum on it for a while.

In the meantime, check this out:

OHAYOCON 2013 IS JANUARY 18-20! The convention will be hosted by the Hyatt Regency and the Greater Columbus Convention Center in fantabulous Columbus, Ohio, the city I know and love. The convention is counted as one of the largest of its kind in the nation (hence it spreading from one building and into another). If I remember correctly, I think somewhere between 20,000-30,000 people were at last year's Ohayocon, which I attended.

IF YOU WANT TO BE AN OHAYOCON PANELIST: 
  1. Read about the convention here, here, and here
  2. Register for the convention here
  3. Read the panel submission rules here
  4. Submit your panel here
  5. Join the forums here
AND MY OFFICIAL OHAYOCON 2013 PANEL SUBS ARE....
  1. Fanfic Into Fiction. A writing panel that examines the phenomenon that is fan fiction, and how to take the best from your fanfic work and channel that into writing popular, publishable fiction. Read my Ohayocon panel description here!
  2. The Alchemy of FMA. This is a mega fan panel (I'm an FMA Otaku!!) but it's also educational, in that while we idolize Hirmou Arakawa's magnum opus (heh) we'll also learn about historical alchemy and how it gives the series a deeper meaning than some may realize. Read my Ohayocon panel description here!
  3. Give Good Spec! Yes, I realize this completely contradicts my earlier post, but I also had a hard time coming up with a third panel topic. Also, after some correspondence back and forth between myself and another awesome panelist, my Fanfic into Fiction panel counts as overlapping content (at least topically. Jennifer and I both compared our fanfic panel submissions and they are very, very different from each other. But still...). Duplicate content can be denied. With that in mind, I still wanted to represent creative writing at Ohayocon, so I submitted Give Good Spec! to them today. BUT NOT WITHOUT A MAJOR OVERHAUL. Read my Ohayocon panel description here!
So that's that. In the meantime, let me throw in some ANIME news...

The DVD cover.*
I finished watching Soul Eater. This is the only anime series, besides FMA and FMABthat I've been able to finish. It is wickedly entertaining and it had my complete interest throughout each episode (minus the Excalibur scenes. I like Troy Baker and the whole FOOL! thing, but I had to fast forward through the Excalibur episodes after a while. Ugh). As awesome as this show is, there's some stuff that just made no sense to me (in terms of characterization and logic), and I'm sorry to say this, but the ending sucked and left me totally unfulfilled.  Arrrgh, that's beyond frustrating. That said, there's a lot to like in this anime if I overlook a few things, and the series' strength is its characters. So...at the moment, Soul Eater is in my top three. 

I'm happy to say now that after watching the series, I recognize a lot more cosplays from Ohayocon and Colossal Con 2012. In fact, I took a sweet photo at Colossal Con with a Maka Albarn  (I've never been able to find the photo online though, sigh)...the only thing is, I didn't know who she was at the time. I just described her as "cute girl with plaid skirt and ginormous scythe" in my con review. And she was so complimentary of my cosplay, and I never spoke about hers because I am a doof. But now I know who you are, and your cosplay was awesome--especially your Scythe! Happy Belated Compliments Day, everyone!

After Soul Eater I checked out Black Butler, because I was still in the mood to watch some dark, twisted stuff. I'd seen some awesome Black Butler cosplays, and was very intrigued (I heard mostly positive things about it, although I heard the plot was good and the ending sucked. Oy). Anyway, this is what I can say about Black Butler:

I quit after the second episode. 

...And I feel kind of shitty for giving up on it. 

The series looks wonderful--it has a great visual, gothic sensibility--and Sebastian Michaelis is indeed one hell of a butler (mrow). I loved the devious, twisted stuff that happened in the first two episodes, and the premise of the story is totally amazing.  So what made me stop? 

THEIR VOICES!

Just.....uggggghhhhhhhhh....

I've never been a part of the dub vs. sub debate when it comes to anime. I don't have a language preference usually. I've watched the same films with English and Japanese language tracks, and thought both performances have their merits and nuances that enrich viewership. Very rarely do I find one superior to the other. 

The DVD cover.*
But I tend to watch almost all anime in English. Why? Because that's the predominant language available. I stream almost all anime because to be honest, as popular as it is in the USA, it's still kind of hard to come by. When I stream anime, it's all dubbed. There is no Japanese language option. When I check out the Anime Network on Demand (the only channel in my cable lineup that shows anime), a lot of the series are automatically broadcast in English. The only time I've ever seen a Japanese language option is for DVDs. That's it.  And DVDs can get expensive, especially when you try to get your hands an entire series. 

So...when I streamed Black Butler via Netflix, I could only hear those terrible British accents. 

I mean damned near every character I saw got on my nerves. Including the leads. Sebastian's voice was ok for the most part, but for some reason Ciel Phantomhive's voice just grated on me, every time I heard that character speak. And I know the actress who plays Ciel does good work, so I don't know why the voice bothers me so much. It's pretty much an irrational hatred--there's no good reason to dislike it; I just do.

My hatred for the other characters makes a little more sense (hopefully). Like the servants: yeccch. 

EWWO! OYM FWUM GWAITE BWITAIN. OY FINK MOY VOYCE HIS AWSSSUM!

I've heard better accents in Hetalia. And they're all supposed to be walking stereotypes! 

Bleeehhhh...anyway, this is an instance where I'm 900% positive I will like the Japanese language track better than the English language track. Because I think the only way I can give Black Butler another shot is if I watch it subtitled.  

Which will be potentially hard for me to do--although recently some writer friends told me Hulu is starting to stream anime in English and Japanese, so there's hope. 

But the thing is....if I have to jump through hoops to get my hands on a Japanese language version, is Black Butler worth the effort? Hmmm...

So, yes. After two full episodes of Black Butler I switched to Hetalia.  Which is completely different from everything I'm normally into when it comes to anime. 

Hetalia caught my eye because I've seen cosplays from it everywhere. It has a pretty huge fandom and there's always a large Hetalia presence at conventions. So that caught my interest...

And then there's this video from Anime Vice that sealed the deal. I love that website, but I love even more the video series The Vice Pit, where the gang talks all things anime. I've seen several of their videos, but then I watched the "Worst Anime Ever" video they made. They saved Hetalia for the end (I recommend watching the whole video because they have really awesome insight into storytelling... but if you want to skip, Hetalia pops up at 8:54).


SO...Hot Damn! Hetalia sounded super crazy. And so I started watching it. I'm nowhere near done with it yet, but here's what I can say so far:
  • It's made me laugh out loud at times. So far the only other anime to make me laugh like that was Ouran High School Host Club...but I find Hetalia funnier.
  • I really hope, as Tom from the Vice Pit suggests, high school students don't substitute this for a world history class. BUT!!! If Hetalia sparks interest in world history, that's another thing. Go and search for the truth, kids!!!
  • It is really bizarre to see certain issues downplayed. Because honestly, WWII was terrible for everyone, and all sides (Axis or Allied) did really shitty things during the war.
  • That said...this series hardly seems about WWII so far. More like....everything dating from the fall of the Roman empire up to the early 20th century. With random, completely modern commentary thrown in.
  • I'm trying to find clear references...I'm looking for the Holocaust jokes Tom alluded to in the video; haven't found them yet. I also keep looking for references to stuff like Manzanar  and D-Day...haven't found that yet either. But the series doesn't completely depart from history...they touch on the Hundred Years' War, the Revolutionary War, stuff like the Austria-Hungarian monarchy, the UN Security council, and a butt-ton of other treaties, agreements, and alliances...but the hard-hitting WWII stuff hasn't happened yet. Unless I missed it completely and it totally went over my head. Which is possible. Everything moves pretty quickly in this show.
  • The biting narration is pretty funny.
  • The DVD cover!*
  • The anime makes Italy look pretty stupid and Germany...*sigh*...I'm German, and I'm proud to have German relatives in the US and overseas, so I feel, in a way, that I should be glad that Hetalia doesn't make Germany into the complete personification of evil. On the other hand...didn't expect Germany to be so varm und fuzzy, ja know? (Germany indeed talks like that in the anime).
So I have to say that Anime Vice's review brings up some good points with Hetalia, but I've not seen everything they've discussed yet...so I can't decide if it's the worse anime series yet or not. It hasn't reached the level of "F***ing disgusting," but I can see why the series can be problematic. It's supposed to be funny, and it supposed to be satire (points on both counts!!) but at the same time...it's like revisionist history. It's leaving out the troubling parts. Which I guess needs to happen if the show wants to be comedic and cartoony, but then again, it seems like certain things from the past just shouldn't (and can't) be overlooked.

That's it on my anime update. I've not gone too much further into watching because of the book and school and Deviant Art stuff (I took requests because I'm insane!!)...but slowly and steadily I'm getting through the List.
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*Copyright and Intellectual Property Statement:  Every image in this post is subject to copyright. Their inclusion in this post falls under terms of Fair Use because they reference the work in question in a critical analysis (the DVD covers for each anime) or for illustration and clarification (the Ohayocon 2013 logo).
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26 September 2012

It's Getting So Close!

The Name and the Key.
(c) 2012 by Spikie.
All rights reserved.
Just submitted another batch of my novel to my mentor and email critique partners.

Normally I like to submit a full, coherent chapter of about 20 pages or so, but this time I pulled a half-and-half: the first half of one of the Highgate scenes, and then the sort-of-beginning of one of the Mottledell scenes.  It's probably one of my weirdest submissions yet just because it's so all over the place.

Since I'm writing the book completely out of order now, it's easier for me to refer to the scenes geographically. Highgate refers to the wealthy part of Mariner, the seaside city in which Lily and her family live.

The Mottledell is a little area of nature outside of Mariner. It's a good little hike from town, and it's one of Lily's secret places. Whenever she needs to get away from the bustle of the city (or even take a break from her sister and grandmother), Lily escapes to the Mottledell for some peace of mind.

The Mottledell also makes an excellent training ground for learning magic. BOO-YAH!

Did I ever mention how hard it is to come up with a magic system? It's also difficult to wade through hundreds of years of philosophy and esoteric thought, along with the mysteries of alchemy, and try to find a way to work them into my magic system without making it sound overly complicated, highly self-conscious, and unexciting.

Coming up with a magic system is one of the trickiest parts of writing fantasy. There's the expectation that your magic has to have some rules or logic to it to help suspend disbelief; and yet at the same time, I kind of want to stand up and shout with N. K. Jemisin: "But, But But--WHY does magic have to make sense?"

So yeah. September was a very hard submission month.

Especially since I mentally departed for about half of September after I found out the book wasn't due today.

Ok, on that note, let's end the whining with something awesome. Here's my word count after today's sub:

75,714 out of 80,000!

24 September 2012

Shout-out, Mr. Dixon!

Fellow author, SHUmate, and Troublemaker John Dixon has some pretty exciting stuff happening. Click the logo for the Deadline Hollywood article: CBS Buys High-Concept Drama from Writer Michael Seitzman.

CBS classic logo from 1966. Booyah! (Wikmedia Commons)
That's right. John's book Dissident is the source for the future CBS series Intelligence. To paraphrase TV Tropes, John's book just leveled up. And you can only go up from here--I know you're book's unpublished now, but it won't be for long. I've got a good feeling. :)

To quote the Lost Boys, "You're doing it, Peter! You're really doing it!"* 

For more about John Dixon, check out his blog, The Dark Flibbertigibbet. And be sure to read his stuff!
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*Yes, that was from Hook. Because I can still bangarang. And yes, I'm aware that John's name is not Peter. Just go with me on this one.
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17 September 2012

Lily and Andresh, by Juhaihai... And more!

(c) 2012 by Juhaihai. Restricted Image.
I've been meaning to post this but got side-tracked. The awesome Juhaihai did separate commissions of my lead characters from The Name and the Key...and then she surprised me by reuniting them in a third, bonus artwork. Lily and Andresh looked marvelous on their own, but in this single image, there's a whole new layer of context and meaning. There's a clear interaction here, and I love it. LOVE IT!

For more of Juhaihai's art, visit her Deviant Art Page, her tumblr, and be sure to support her web comic, Oresama no Kanojo.

In other news...

(c) Black Chicken Studios
My friend Sami is a writer and editor for the gaming company Black Chicken Studios. And a new RPG/visual novel she's been working on has officially released! It's called 1931: Scheherazade at the Library of Pergamum and you can get a copy of the game here.

Be sure to watch the awesome game trailer. And anime fans, check out the amazing artwork! This is a coincidence, but I can see a Tamaki and Kyoya in the cast of characters. Tee hee.

If you like RPGS, visual novels, character-driven stories, adventure and romance, then this game is for you!

***

(c) Ohayocon.org
When I found out I had more free time due to the novel deadline being postponed, I scrambled to put together my next big project: submitting panels for Ohayocon 2013. Panel submissions opened September 1st, and since Ohayocon is an ENORMOUS convention, it's first-come first served, and panel slots close at 200.

Give Good Spec! was a successful panel at ColossalCon, but I didn't want to resubmit it, and it's not just because I wanted things to be new for Ohayocon...it's also because I've tweaked that presentation to better fit the audience. Give Good Spec! worked when I talked about the basics of writing specifically...not so much the speculative fiction genre. So, I wanted to do a more craft-focused writing panel...and came up with Fanfic into Fiction. This panel uses fan fiction as a stepping stone for breaking into publishing. I'm actually very proud of my submission of this panel--it was really detailed and thorough and full of good ideas (toot toot my horn!). I hope it gets selected, and if not...well, I'll just try it again with another con.

Speaking of trying again, I submitted my panel The Alchemy of FMA to Ohayocon today. This is a tweaked version of a panel I submitted to ColossalCon that didn't make the cut (it's OK, though. Panel heads Codi and Cori Durbin liked the topic and content--there was just an issue with scheduling and events and it couldn't fit). In my submission to Ohayocon, I elaborated on a lot of the subject matter and panel topics, trimmed the time from 2 hrs to 1 hr, clarified the art project, and added Xingese Alkahestry to the presentation. Again, I hope this gets selected, but if not...we'll just keep trying! 

One thing I did do differently this time...I posted on the Ohayocon forums right after I submitted the panels. I think this will help me, actually. I posted on Colossal Con's forums for Give Good Spec!, but not until the panel was approved, so the public could only view the description for about a month before the con. By posting about these Ohayocon panels suuuuper early, I hope that it drums up some views, and helps Programming choose it if the post can demonstrate that people are interested in the topic. 

To get a comp badge, I need to come up with a third hour of programming. Ohayocon's 2013 theme is Zombies, which is going to be FANTASTIC (imagine what people will be doing to their cosplays!), and I actually want my third panel to be on zombies, but I'm having a hard time narrowing down my topic. If I can't come up with something soon, though, I'll probably give up on the comp badge. The other two panels I submitted already require extensive preparation on my part...maybe 3 panels is overdoing it. I'll let you know.

And I guess this needs to be addressed--why am I going to Ohayocon again? My first Ohayocon was just last year. And it was my first anime/fandom convention ever. My extensive review of the con probably came across like I hated the thing, but to be honest, it was both an extreme hatred and extreme love, and a lot of that can be attributed to things beyond the Convention's control. The event was overwhelming, and I think I judged it harshly because I had never been to one before. Now that I've been to various conventions and conferences, a lot of the stuff I nitpicked on is really par for the course. And after being to various other events, I can appreciate what Ohayocon has to offer by comparison.  I've already bought my ticket, booked my hotel, and am good to go. To be a panelist at Ohayocon would be amazing, but if not, I'll be going to Ohayocon all the same. And I hope to see you there!

04 September 2012

Fullmetal Alchemist-1940s style



I created this piece with time I didn't have, and I did it all yesterday. But I wouldn't share it here if I wasn't proud of it...this is my official entry for this contest, held by the Deviant Art Risembool Rangers. I thought it would be cute to do the artwork as a vintage postcard, and this turned out waaaay better than I expected it to. I think I'm actually getting better at drawing in Manga Studio... and I've started to learn Photoshop. Anyway, I hope you guys like this!

02 September 2012

Work. Words. Contests. Anime. Book.

Today was an off day. It would be insanity to completely take an entire day off from writing the book but that's what I had to do.

Why?

Had a lot of house work today. Including installing new beds, mattresses, bedding, etc for three rooms in the house. This took waaay longer than it needed to. So most of the day went to this.

Today is also the day Ohayocon accepts panel submissions. So I budgeted out a significant chunk of my day for writing outlines for my panels. Ran out of time tonight, so I'll have to type my subs tomorrow as soon as I wake up.

I'm also working on a contest submission with the DA Risembool Rangers. Trying to get that done by late tonight/tomorrow...

And speaking of contests, I won one for writing! Deviant Art celebrated its 12th birthday by holding all sorts of contests and fun activities for its members. Now, this writing contest was a Mad Libs inspired competition, so it's not like these stories had to make any sense or be particularly brilliant...but my Mad Lib was one of fifty chosen as a winner. This is the CONTEST ...This was MY STORY... and this is MY PRIZE. Wahoo! I'm still in a state of shock about it.
The DVD cover

In other news: as for the anime watchlist, I gave up completely watching xxxHolic. Left off at episode 19, and just couldn't sit through any more. It's not an awful series, but it didn't hold my interest. At its best, parts of it reminded me of the Real Ghostbusters cartoon series from the late 80s and early 90s, with some neat, dark paranormal moments and interesting philosophy embedded in the story. But what got on my nerves was the repetition: Watanuki freaks out about Himawari. Watanuki hits his ballistic button around Domiki. Yuko gives a long, explanatory monologue about inevitability, intention, and blah blah blah blah. I remembered the name of this show because a speaker at an Ohayocon panel waxed euphoric over it and made it sound mind-blowingly phenomenal. I can't feel how she did about this show, but I do wonder if I familiarized myself with all of CLAMP's works (their universes tend to overlap), if xxxHolic would be better experience for me because of those connections.

The DVD cover
I'm on the third season of Soul Eater right now. This show is all sorts of weirdness, but I think that's part of the charm. It's definitely a fast-paced, badass series with cool, often frenetic music and its own special aesthetic. Sometimes the animation and artwork reminds me of  Gorillaz, LoZ: Majora's Mask, and FMA Brotherhood...as it turns out, Bones, the animation studio that did both FMA and FMAB, is also responsible for Soul Eater. CONNECTIONS! Anyway, I'm much more emotionally involved with the characters in this show; the plot's pretty solid; and it's nice to hear some of the voice actors that I always hear using their voices a little differently for this series. And Crona, oh man, that character has a spot in my heart for some reason. The character is supercreepy but endearing, and the animation style, the character's dialogue, and Maxey Whitehead's performance is a major part of why I don't hate this character (but I totally understand if other people do). This show has my complete interest and will probably be one of the few anime series I will actually be able to watch from start to finish.

Lastly-- I am simultaneously rewriting three chapters of The Name and the Key at the same time as of yesterday. So I don't know what my word count is anymore at the moment. I have been going back and adding a little bit more romance to the story, and try and make the main conflict come together sooner so readers don't stab themselves to death from impatience. I did get a revelation about my book's magic system yesterday. So that was a plus, and should help make writing magic-related chapters go faster (hopefully).

I want to have the manuscript completed by September 20th so I can proof the thing for the last few days, as I am the Queen of Typos and Stupid Mistakes. So...I have a tremendous amount of work to do in a short amount of time. Don't know how I'm gonna pull this off...