Always Gotta Be Different

>> Saturday, January 29, 2011

With anything other than motor skills (acronyms and the names of business associates), I tend to be a quick study, the kind that usually does better learning in her own way. Self-study and self-taught has been my way in general because I tend to know best how I learn. That even applied, to some extent, in singing.

I had a couple of books on how to draw manga that I'd bought for my more artistic daughter and husband in the hopes they could be the artist, but they never pursued it. I looked through them, but, again, I just can't see going that way. I have no interest in drawing people as series of ellipses and then filling in over that.

As I was planning to do this, but still finishing my latest novel, I spent a lot of time trying to decide how I wanted to start. The challenge, I figured, was coming up with a face for a character I was satisfied with, then practicing drawing that character with (a) different expressions and (b) in different poses. Drawing the same character consistently, that I figured would be challenging. When I had one character down, I'd design and do the same with then next key character and do that until I had all the main characters laid out. By then, I could start thinking about what else I needed to work on.

So, last week I started. I'm using the worlds cheapest mechanical pencil (0.7 mm unrefillable papermate you can buy by the jillions from Sams), a vunderbar white eraser (Pentel Tri-Eraser) I would recommend for ANYONE who likes to draw or draft (if you're going to spend money, that's where I'd spend it), and a $2.35 sketchpad I bought from Walmart. The tri-eraser has it all over my beloved click eraser I use at work because it has three sharp points for doing detailed erasing.

I don't do rough drafts, largely because I'm too perfectionist. I'd get frustrated and stop. I know nothing about using models. I found a pair of eyes in manga I wanted to use for my main character in manga because I thought they were so expressive.

The next two days, I worked on this picture of Tander, hoping to make a reference Tander I can use for learning and drawing the character in different expressions, poses and clothing. I drew them the first day I worked on this, using features from manga I liked (different faces) and then putting them together or adapting them until I had what I wanted. Only the eyes are really stolen. It is not retouched.

You can see I have some work to improve my symmetry and you can clearly see the eraser earned it's keep. I may also, as I work on other aspects, expressions, whatnot, want to change a few things.

However, as a starting place, I'm actually pretty pleased. I was able to do something more easily than I expected. Manga is pretty low on requiring too much detail. I also discovered as I redrew eyes multiple times, that I drew them faster and consistently (even as I varied them in position and size) the more I drew. I thought that boded well.

Some of you might have been uninterested in my little experiment. If you were, sorry. And sorry for those of you looking at this and shaking your head at my obvious lack of training/ability. I expect it to be a slow learning process.

Even so, I'm pleasantly surprised at my progress. I thought some of you all might be, too.

Update: Note to self. It does not increase my confidence to see my clumsy sketch, then scroll down and see the panels from Shinobi Life. I do have a long road ahead.

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A Little Perspective

>> Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Just goes to show that one should follow one's own advice. So, I read my new book to my normal collaborator (who wasn't on this one because, hey, it's a YA romance) and, surprise, he hated it because it's not his thing.

So I started hating it even though I LOVED it. I did two things. I addressed a repetition/pacing issue by mixing up perspectives in the novel (complete rework) and I told a friend of mine about the characters. And, she completely got it.

Which argues, at least some of the time, matching audience to novel matters. I feel better (though I'm not touching it again for at least a month). She got a kick out of a chance to read it. And I'm on a more even keel.

So, I'm going to tell you what I'm going to try to tackle next, in the non-noveling category. I've mentioned before that, when it comes to drawing, I lack talent. My sister, Shakespeare hogged not only all her artistic talent but the stuff that should have gone to me. That's my position and I'm sticking with it. Instead, I have tried to express much of the same thing with words.

Well, my obsession with manga has made me realize that just isn't good enough. Take a look at that four beautiful panels from the wonderful manga Shinobi Life by Konami Shouko (which is absolutely worth reading over and over again). Note that I am an advocate for purchasing the manga and I'll have the next three of this one as soon as they come out. [I took these images from the manga site MangaFox]:
Admittedly, this will mean more to me since I read the 31 chapters that came before this.

My point is, I had got a wealth of subtle information from these page, despite the minimal dialog. Subtleties in character and emotion that would have taken me far longer to express far less effectively in words.

And that is driving me crazy, so, I'm going to do something most likely fraught with failure. I'm going to try to draw some manga, notably turning my first novel into one. It will take a long time. I may never show you the end result because, hey, I'm a perfectionist. But I'm going to try and use that pursuit as something to fill in my in-between novel times so my subconscious has time to cook up something good.

Wish me luck. I'll need it.

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Mixed Blessings

>> Thursday, January 20, 2011

Well, I'm back. I finished Saving Tessa which I really loved writing. Too bad it sucks. I hate that.

I know it sucks, even know why it sucks. Not sure if it's fixable. It bothered me so much I tried to rework it instead of doing the smart thing and just setting it aside until I had perspective.

So, in six/eight weeks, when I HAVE perspective (I hope), I'll read it and the five chapters I reworked (separate file) and see if there's anything to be salvaged.

When I first had the idea I thought it might turn into one of those ideas that would never be marketable, never suit anyone but myself. It wasn't a complete waste of time, if only because I DID love writing it and have characters that, if the opportunity presents itself, I can put in a story with a bit more meat on it maybe.

I don't know. I did mention I don't have perspective at the moment. I've got something else I've been meaning to play with. Next time, maybe I'll tell you what it is.

Wishing you joy in your endeavors.

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Writer Beware

>> Saturday, January 15, 2011

Janet Reid has a warning on her blog about a contest that not only bilks unsuspecting writers of all rights to their own work, but money as well with no assurance a prize would even be awarded (as it depends on the "number of entries").

The best defense for those of us who dream of someday becoming published is education and information. If you missed her warning, you can find it here. Check it out. See for yourself and note the warning phrases any writer should look for when seeing an offer that looks "too good to be true."

It always amazes me when the people behind these nefarious plans step forward to defend themselves.

Be aware.

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Tessa Miller Because We Like To Be Fair

>> Monday, January 3, 2011

I've told you I appreciate Dylan Chroz, really identify with him, but I can't have him partnered with someone who doesn't carry her own weight. Part of the fun of working on my current novel is the contrast between the way Dylan thinks and the way she thinks, though they often agree and are so devoted to one another. The way the see the world and attack problems is utterly different

And doesn't that make it more interesting? Or maybe that's just me.

Chapter 11

She needed him, not because he took care of her, but because he was the best part of her life. She looked forward to challenging herself by challenging him, talking to him, playing with him, touching him. And these bastards were planning to use her to hurt him. Well, they made one major miscalculation on that one. No one was using her to hurt Dylan Chroz, not for long, or she wasn't Tessa Miller. Dylan might have bested her in a number of subjects, but no one else was bloody well going to do it. And no one else was going to pay for her mistake.
Chapter 12
"Actually, our intelligence tells us Dylan Chroz is unnaturally attached to you and notoriously protective." [kidnapper]

"I haven't been much impressed with your intelligence. Maybe he's just a nice guy." [Tessa]

"You'd best hope you're wrong, If he has no interest in you, then the only value you have at that point is what I can sell you for overseas. Fortunately for me, that's a considerable sum. Your youth and obvious innocence hold more value than culture and class to those markets. Even the spirit you have can demand a premium for those that like to destroy such things."

She had never been so frightened in her life. Damned if she'd let him know. "Nice to know someone still buys American. I was starting to wonder."
"I am. How do I know you still have her, that she's still alive?" [Dylan]

"Tessa, do be kind enough to set Mr. Chroz' mind at ease," the Shadow Man said.

Tessa said nothing, even when the grip on her shoulder threatened to separate it.

"Well?" Dylan asked. "Or are you just yanking my chain?" "Yanking my chain," was one of Tessa's pet phrases. She was surprised to hear Dylan use it since he rarely used anything like slang.

"Tessa, I've warned you not to try to cross me. Guido, take out a finger." [Guido is not Italian - long story]

Guido started with the left hand. Tessa was double-jointed, particularly in her hands. Dislocation was a frequent problem, so she knew what was coming and exactly how painful it would be. She managed to keep herself to a grunt. Pinkies where the worst, but were least useful.

She glared at the Shadow Man.

"Guido, she's being difficult. Go for the thumb. And, if that doesn't work, an elbow. If we keep moving up the body, we will eventually come across some bone that will break Ms. Miller."

"No, wait!" Dylan said from the phone. "Tessa, please, please, just say something. Don't make me listen to them break you to pieces."

"Damn it, Dylan, will you stop protecting me!"

She heard his sigh over the phone. "Tessa," he whispered. "Thank God."

"Dylan, you idiot, you're agnostic."
Chapter 13

Sometimes, even the best plans go awry. Tessa wasn't saying it had been a good plan—it wasn't—but it had had the merit of being simple.
At first, it looked like it worked. A little earnest pot stirring—moving around in a suspicious way—got no reaction, so she had quickly gone to town on the hinges with the nail file. The nail file didn't survive the procedure—a dislocated finger was a bit of handicap—but its death was not in vain. A little quiet wiggling and the door was free.
The outer door was dead-bolted as well, though she'd really hoped it wouldn't be. She'd hoped so not only because she was all out of nail files, but also because the hinges were not accessible on this door. Oh, well, Plan B was to break the door down, but it was a heavy metal door in a metal door frame. Not impossible, but more work than she liked, time consuming and noisy. As she tapped a foot, thinking, she noticed a dent in the wall and that gave her the idea for Plan C. She tapped her fist along the wall. Imagine that! This substandard building had studs almost four feet apart. Who knew she'd be grateful for slipshod building codes? She tapped on either side of the dent, made she sure knew where the nearest studs were, warned Susie to stand back and punched right through the wall. They used just quarter inch sheetrock on either side. A few kicks and she had a hole big enough to dive through. "Wait here!" she told Susie. And dove through.

As she brushed off the gypsum dust, she counted herself grateful she'd gone with plan C. The door had a bar across it and a few other locks. In fact, it would have been quite the deterrent if the walls hadn't been just one step up from cardboard. Well, no sense worrying about how her plans might have gone wrong. The room she was in was much larger, still with the plain concrete floor. At a guess, she bet it was once wall to wall cubicles, but now it had a couple of sleeping bags on air mattresses and two bean bag chairs in front of a large flat screen TV with video game consoles and a cable box. Given the mounds of discarded chip bags and beer bottles, she suspected her captors spent most of their time in here. She'd also bet this was just from today and that the relative tidiness of the room meant they'd cleaned up before the boss showed up. Or right after.

Fortunately, it was deserted, the television left on in the midst of play for what looked like "Borderlands." She unlocked everything on the door, but told Susie to hold tight while she scouted the way out. She didn't foresee any problems because there was no lock on this door and she presumed it was a straight shot (though perhaps not straight route) to freedom . . . except Guido and Spic, now short their bandanas, came in at that moment, carrying a new supply of greasy snacks and beer. So, Plan C (sneak quietly out with no one the wiser excepting one insignificant hole in the wall) turned into Plan D, (kick the butts of two half-drunk rednecks).

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