Aquatic Interlude

So I drew a mermaid.  And that is all this post is going to be about.

A little context:

1. Somewhat recently I drove from New York to North Dakota to Texas, so I had a lot of time to think.

2. One of the things I thought about was mermaids.  I don’t know why.  But I do know that I always struggled with the concept of the archetypal mermaid (think Disney’s version) because of, um…sex reasons.  Like…fish reproduce outside their bodies, but human beings don’t.  Mermaids have breasts and uteri (never thought I’d need the plural of that word), but no um…vaginas.  So…you know, how does giving birth work?

2.5 While we’re on the subject!  They have knees!  Like even though their lower halves are cartilaginous and fish have no knees, animators and artists always put mermaids in sitting positions where their fins are bent like there’s a knee in there.  As long as people do that, mermaids are always going to look like human women who put on half a fish costume and tried to pretend they were mythological beings.

3. Yes, this absolutely needed to be in list form.

4. No, I don’t expect a cartoon for children to explore mer-vaginas and how they work.  We can leave that to romance novels like this one, written by P. C. Cast.

4.5 Please don’t ask why I know about this book.  Please.

4.75 Cartoons for children can explore mer-knees if they really want to.

5. I started to try to come up with a concept that would work by merging fish and woman and also allowing for more mammalian reproduction.

5.5 Look, I’m not obsessed with mermaids or mermaid sex, okay?  I don’t even know why it bothered me so much.  Probably because it was a really freakin’ long road trip.

6. Obviously, I drew my concept.  I waited until I was settled in my new home.

7. What I came up with looks a little like Mystique from X-Men.  Whoops.

8. First, just a rough sketch on paper:

Mermaid

9. Then I filled in the blanks with Photoshop Elements.

Mermaid copy

10. That’s uh…that’s it.  The above mermaid can have sex and give birth.  And she has knees!

11. Wooo mermaid sex!

12. Sorry for the partial nudity.  NSFW maybe?

12.5 I probably should have done the whole NSFW warning earlier.

12.75 Too late for that now.  The list is set in stone.  It is unchangeable.

13. Okay, I’m done now.  I swear.

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The Storymatic

For my birthday I received a wonderful gift from my friend, Micah.  It’s called The Storymatic, and it’s essentially a card game/writing exercise generator.

storymatic

This game can be found at a place called Marbles The Brain Store, which may or may not have a location near you.  Click that link to go to the website and explore around.  Click on the picture of the Storymatic to get a link to its page so you can order one for yourself!

The rules of this game/exercise are simple!  And there are many variations in the rulebook so you can include other people, or just write a little story for yourself.  In this case, I went with the go-to method of story prompting.  The box contains a set of gold cards and a set of copper cards.  First you choose two gold cards.  Those two cards become your main character.  Then you draw two copper cards which set up the story you’re going to tell.  The two “rules” are that you can’t kill your character (because that’s too easy!) and you have to have your character change in some way from the beginning of the story to the end.  In other words, give him/her an arc.

So let’s begin!

My first gold card…

aging clown

And my second gold card…

pirate

Uhhh….okaaaaay….

Let’s uh…let’s see what the story prompts are.

First copper card…

fever

Second copper card…

hospital waiting room

So I have an aging clown who is also a pirate.  An Aging Clown Pirate.  And the story has something to do with a fever and hospital waiting room, which fortunately fit together a lot better than clowns and pirates do.  Jeez, they didn’t make this easy on me.

Okay.  Story time.

Gorkel the clown’s arthritis was acting up again.  It was compounded greatly by his omnipresent seasickness.  When he’d been kidnapped as a child from the island of Lorgane, he never thought his pirate captors would be so entertained by juggling.  It was this skill that had kept him alive, and yet now it was beginning to hurt more and more to toss swords and twirl batons.

“Gorkel!” the captain bellowed from within his quarters.

Gorkel winced and nearly dropped the apple he’d been doing tricks with.  His real name had been Gordon, but the captain didn’t think that sounded clownish enough.

“Yes, Cap’n?” Gorkel said.

The ship had changed hands twice since Gorkel had been kidnapped.  The original captain had retired to the Bahamas, and his successor had been killed by the current captain to whom Gorkel was now speaking.

“I’m thirsty,” the captain rasped.  “Fetch me some water.”

Gorkel obliged, gritting his teeth.  For years, decades even, he’d dreamed of escaping.  But he had always been too cowardly to try anything.  He ran to fetch a cup and dipped it into the water barrel.  Then he hesitated, staring at his watery reflection as it wavered beneath him, as surely as his confidence wavered whenever he thought of escaping his life of servitude.  There was a way he could…but no…he couldn’t…

Could he?

When he returned, the captain was visibly red in the face. 

“What took you so long?” he barked, snatching the water from Gorkel’s hand.

He tipped his head back and downed the drink in one gulp.  Then he slapped the cup back into Gorkel’s chest.

“I’m bored.  Go find something to juggle.”

Gorkel left with the cup and returned with his crate of juggling supplies.  The captain looked on with mild interest as various objects flew through the air.

“You know, I thought my predecessors were crazy for keeping you on board,” he mused, “but I have to say, I’m starting to see their reasoning.  Nothing like a loyal clown to liven up the…the…”

The captain’s words died as he swooned in his chair.  Gorkel let the batons he’d been juggling clatter to the floor.

“Cap’n?  Are you all right?”

He ran to the captain and steadied him.  Sweat was beading on his forehead, and when Gorkel tentatively touched a hand to his face, he drew back quickly.  His skin was burning.

“Set sail for a hospital!” Gorkel called out to the men.

It took them hours to reach a hospital, as ships were not the most expeditious modes of transportation. 

After explaining the captain’s condition to the nurses, the crew was forced to sit in the waiting room while the doctors did their work.

“I’m gonna go out for a pack of cigarettes,” Gorkel said after a few minutes.

“But you don’t smoke,” replied Briney Joe, one of the crewmen.

“Maybe the captain will want some when he gets better,” Gorkel said, knowing full well he wouldn’t.

He strode out of the hospital, took a breath of fresh air, and started walking.

By the time the doctors discovered the poison in the captain’s system, he’d be long gone.

The End

Well that was supposed to be a silly story, but it didn’t turn out that way did it?  Still a darned fun exercise.  I recommend the game to anyone who has a creative itch that needs scratching, or a way of entertaining a moderate number of house guests.

Cheers!

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The Elegance of the Hedgehog

About a hundred million years ago, my mother loaned me a book entitled The Elegance of the Hedgehog.  Written in the original French by Muriel Barbery, it was translated to English by Alison Anderson.

Hedgehog

Click for a link to the Amazon page

I started reading it a long time ago, but I stopped after a while.  Probably because I felt incredibly stupid.  This book has a way of addressing philosophy, culture, politics, and life in such a way as to make one feel very simple.  Not to mention that I am not so good with the French.  I will eschew all pretense of humbleness and say that I have quite the knack for languages.  Never French though.  It always eluded me.  The pronunciation, the conjugation, the extraneous letters.  Sometimes I even think they throw in extra accents on some words that are completely superfluous, their only purpose being to make sure the reader is still paying attention.

Anyway, I was unpacking in my new home in Texas (yes, I’m living in Texas right now if you can believe it) and I came across this book with my hologram bookmark still inside it, marking where I left off.

When you tilt it back and forth, the horses gallop in place.  Kinda cool actually.

When you tilt it back and forth, the horses gallop in place. Kinda cool actually.

I took this as a sign that I had done enough work for one day (read: no work at all) and sat down to give it another go.

That was a couple days ago.

Today I finished it, and I am sitting here now to recommend it to you.

This book follows two stories.  That of Renée, a middle-aged concierge and widow whose job it is to cater to the rich snobs who make a habit of looking down on her or right past her.  And that of Paloma, a twelve-year-old prodigy who is desperately trying to figure out the meaning of life and her place in it.

Despite how it might sound so far, the book manages to get away with a great deal of profundity and intelligent discourse without losing the reader because it is written completely without pretension.  The two main characters simply observe the world in their own particular capacity, and you, the reader, find yourself following along without feeling a sense of condescension from the author.

It’s brain food, to put it simply.  I find the book is best read the way a jacuzzi is enjoyed.  Immerse yourself as much as you feel comfortable, and just relax.  Sometimes as I was reading I found my mind glazing over, not really focusing too hard on the words.  And that was okay.  The great thing about this book is that something is bound to pique your interest, and if a particular section doesn’t, you can simply float through it.

For example, I was particularly taken by a passage on adolescent behavior, which I will quote below for you.

And secondly, a teenager who pretends to be an adult is still a teenager.  If you imagine that getting high at a party and sleeping around is going to propel you into a state of full adulthood, that’s like thinking that dressing up as an Indian is going to make you an Indian.  And thirdly, it’s a really weird way of looking at life to want to become an adult by imitating everything that is most catastrophic about adulthood…

The Elegance of the Hedgehog, pg. 192

This quote struck home for me because I grew up around kids who bragged about how drunk they got over the weekend, who threw parties in their parents’ empty mansions while mommy and daddy were away in Bermuda or whatever.  It was a cry for help and attention, and all the while they told themselves they weren’t just doing it to look cool or to rebel.  That they were doing it because they wanted to, because they just didn’t care, because they understood the consequences of their actions, when none of that was true.  I know I sound high and mighty, but I didn’t partake.  It frightened me how desperate my peers were for an escape.  Hell, in high school I wanted to escape too, but I coped by closing myself off from my family, lashing out at anyone who tried to help me, and burying myself in books and video games.

Hm….on second thought, maybe I should have tried the drugs.

But anyway, the writing is beautiful.  Barbery, through Anderson, has produced a piece of artwork with sentences like strings of pearls.  I could never produce anything like this.  For one, because I have not memorized the OED, and for two because if I attempted it I would just end up flailing through a piece that dripped with pretentiousness.

What really sealed the deal for me was the dry wit, the humor.  Leaving you chuckling, understanding the source of it, and wanting more.  It’s not overused either.  The book is perfectly seasoned with it.

So go down to the bookstore or the link above and give it a try.  It will be well worth it, and at the very least you might sound smart while talking about it, so you can lord your intelligence over those undereducated paupers you call friends and family.

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Out of Context Part 2

For those who don’t remember, I once dissected several weeks of Facebook instant message conversations between me and my best friend, Liz, in order to make poetry.  If you’re interested in seeing how that went, click here.  I promise it’s a really quick and very funny read.

Last night I was talking to Liz again (as I sometimes do) and I thought maybe it was time for round two.  So here’s a quick refresher on how this works: Each line is either part of a single IM or an entire IM.  No out of context quote will be continued beyond one line (which is why some are way longer than others) so each new line is most likely from an entirely different conversation.  Which is what makes it so fun!

I think that’s it.  Enjoy!

#1

What’s the opposite of a miracle?

It is fairly tragic

There are always hurdles

Sometimes known as life

That is pretty much everyone else’s story isn’t it?

No I just went with mistake

#2

Have you forgotten the plan already?

It wouldn’t work anyway

#3

I drank an entire bottle of champagne last night

It fills the pit of my stomach with awful

I figured you could just ignore the words that don’t make sense

#4

His life fascinates me

He seems to have childrens

Unless he buys lots of drugs which…yeah maybe

But to go back to three seconds ago

I am too harsh perhaps

#5

I’ve just accepted that I will never take the time to develop talents because laziness is what I live for

We all feel like bitches sometimes

Which I hate

It’s just like the gypsy woman said

It’s nice when we have justification for our hate, isn’t it?

#6

It seems he’s liking your services

You can call him Leather Damnation if you want

Weirdly, he doesn’t seem interested in civil discussion

That’s what my bladdy blah insert BDSM reference here

#7

It’s just like the gypsy woman said

She was blondish and always wore inappropriate clothing?

Is that not fucking ominous?

What’s really weird is that does make sense

Oookay this isn’t real. This cannot be real.

Yep. Now it’s an omen.

#8

I could just spend hours licking your face…

That’s a good attribute in a fake employer

#9

Is that what the Thanksgiving guilt trip was about?

She was blondish and always wore inappropriate clothing? So yes?

Jesus Christ what did we do???

It’s like a freaking soap opera

She’s never had sex with you

This woman is unacceptable. Like everything about her.

She doesn’t even know words

I hate it when people are so easy to figure out

Why can’t anyone be not the worst?

Just adding on in case you thought my reaction wasn’t furious enough

#10

Also that is a fake job that fake people make up for real money

And I’m not even a literal prostitute

That’s a good attribute in a fake employer

#11

You may want to add in some subtle details about our lesbian affair

You can leave out the shelf of rainbow colored dildos

And I’m not even a literal prostitute

#12

I’ll be sure to treat everyone I meet like scum

Thanks. Now I feel….better?

Southern hospitality is for the weak

#13

I know all those feels

I have lots of sympathy for people who have to write dissertations

I would’ve stolen them otherwise, I’ll be honest

#14

I MUST ALWAYS MAKE MY POINT AS HARD AS POSSIBLE

Subtlety is my middle name! Or is it Danger? I’ve forgotten my middle name!

RIGHTS, DAMNIT. You’re no Dr. Freedom.

Maybe it really is God’s country out there

Yeah, I mean if you don’t have a good point, at least make a big one

24 is the new 67!

You’re PASSING DEATH

Maybe making ghost noises while doing it

It’s better than feeling stagnant, that’s for sure

But just because I say something doesn’t mean it’s true

#15

Aw man is that murderer back?

That’s worse than regrettable tattoos!

Mmmm internet? Blame the internet somehow.

#16

I mean like…flowers have roots. Flowers are pretty! Bam. Done.

I saw one knock a doughnut right out of a kid’s hand

No lesson was learned

#17

Dear god that sticker is so fucking appropriate it’s almost creepy

It better have smelled like Queen Elizabeth’s left nipple for that price

#18

It’s hard to find for some reason

But it feels important!

I don’t know many details

IT’S SO PRETTY

And probably not coated in barnacles!

Thickly layered paint, lots of colors and surreal elements

For some reason it seemed much more permanent

#19

I needed to escape my life so many times

Like just staring at a single picture for way too long and then not being able to focus on lunch

I guess that means something happened. I don’t know what. Something wise or whatever.

Maybe that’s good for your creative process

Pointless because all the characters are awful

Even more interesting! Or something.

#20

I do not understand taxes

Just like…”Hey world! Buy drugs! #thuglife” or whatever

#21

Now you’ve redeemed yourself. To yourself. The only person who ever cared.

For shits and giggles

So that must’ve been fun

#22

Now you’ll be able to give me grandchildren!

Are you trying to make me explode with envy?

I am so sad because I am selfish fuck you

#23

I’d like to believe the brown was chocolate. Otherwise what’s the point of brown existing?

That wasn’t the point at all but man….peanut butter is important to me

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Free Sample

Welp, I finished editing Grotesque.  Before you go about congratulating me, I want to define “finished” for you:

Finished [ƒǝƞ-œŒ- ñÿď] adj – At a point where a book can be sent out for initial critique, where the book meets at least two of the following three criteria: 1. Is legible  2. Is in a language that all or most of the readers know  3. Obeys some rules of grammar

So yeah.  It’s not done.  Not by a long shot.  So I want you to keep in mind that the small sample I’m about to provide is completely unedited.  It will definitely change at least once before the month is out.  I can guarantee that.

But that’s okay!  Because all I really wanted to show you was some of the ways the book has already changed.  So I’m going to take a risk and compare the old and new introductory passages (which is only a risk because I am not sure at this point if my beta readers are going to like the new intro at all), as well as one other excerpt taken from the end of Chapter One.

For those who need a bit of a refresher on Grotesque, you can click here to go through my favorite post about it.  Or you can click here to go to the post in which I describe my inspiration for it (and then apparently provide the entirety of the first chapter, but you don’t have to read that).  Or you can go really crazy and click on both those links.

Okay, so here we go.  I’m going to put all passages in blockquotes so that they’re easy to differentiate from like…this writing I’m doing right here.

Pre-rewrite intro:

I awaken for the first time on the ledge of a tall building, the ground too far below for comfort. Above me is an inky black sky full of bright stars, a large moon, and a few wisps of gray cloud. The words for these things come easily to me, in a language that floods my mind, though I don’t know where it came from.

New intro:

Cold

Falling

Gasping

Breathing

In

Out

Flailing

Grabbing

Holding

Balance

Nerves tingling.

Heart pounding.

Stuttering breaths, in and out.

What am I doing?

A cold breeze dries the sweat on my forehead.

Where am I?

Sitting on a ledge, gripping onto something to keep myself steady, beneath an inky black sky dotted with stars. The moon is bright, illuminating a few wisps of gray cloud, and the ground beneath me which is too far away for comfort.

So why’d I change it?  Well, the first intro honestly wasn’t very captivating.  It also felt kind of forced and clunky to me.  With the new introduction, I wanted to try to encapsulate what it really would feel like to suddenly be alive for the very first time ever.  Once again, not sure if my readers (i.e. close friends and family) are going to like it.  It might change.  But this illustrates the direction I wanted to take it in pretty well.

Next we’ll look at a little further down in the same chapter.  This is from the old version:

“I brought life to you because I need some help.”

“Doing what?”

He shrugs.

“This and that. I have rather ambitious plans for my future, and I knew I wouldn’t be able to accomplish my goals without help. So I risked weakening my powers some in order to give you life.”

“What if I don’t want to help you?”

“Oh, you can’t refuse. You’re enslaved to my will. You will have to obey any and every command I issue to you.”

He is so matter-of-fact about it, but I find I am not nearly as calm. I feel anger and frustration rising in my gut as the meaning of his words sinks in.

“So you brought me to life just to use me as a slave?”

“Yes.”

“I think I’d prefer to be a statue…or free.”

The man snorts out a laugh.

“And what would you do with your freedom? Do you really think people would accept you into their homes? Into their lives? You’d be hunted down and slaughtered on sight.”

I feel my throat tighten, cutting off further words. He is right, of course. This had all been part of his plan to keep me under his control.

“Besides,” he continues. “You can’t be free. Not until I’m dead. And don’t get any ideas. You cannot disobey me.”

Well, this is a solution to one problem at least. I raise my hand and slash my claws across the man’s throat. His blood spills quickly, and he collapses to the floor. The bastard hadn’t ordered me not to kill him, so I wasn’t disobeying anything by doing so.

And this is that same scene from the new version:

He shrugs. “This and that. I have rather ambitious plans for my future, and I knew I wouldn’t be able to accomplish my goals without help. So I risked weakening my powers some in order to give you life.”

“Why should I help you?” I ask, genuinely curious.

“Because I’m going to tell you to,” is the reply. “You can’t refuse. You are bound by my will, and will continue to be until such time as I meet my inevitable, but unfortunate end.”

“So you created me to be your…slave?”

Slave. The word whispers itself in my ear, its significance bubbling in my mind. Bad. Not free. Trapped. Suffering.

I am pretty sure I don’t want to be a slave.

“Don’t look so concerned,” the man says, chuckling. “You will be happy to serve me. Your only purpose in life will be to please me. You will see that everything I do is for a greater cause.”

At first his words don’t seem all that reassuring, but suddenly I can see his point. What’s so wrong with being a slave? I’ve been promised security. And this man hasn’t given me reason to believe he has bad intentions. Surely this will be a good thing. I can’t wait for his next order so that I can show him how obedient I can be.

I smile.

Hopefully you can see how different this scene has become.  Thanks to my friend Micah’s suggestions, I added a new layer to Serrafiel’s character arc by forcing him to be happy with his position in life, rather than giving him a sense of morals right off the bat.  If he were truly new to life, he wouldn’t immediately know what was right or wrong.  He’d be like a two-year-old.  And that made his arc more interesting (in my humble opinion).  Because he has to grow up very, very fast.

Also, because I just realized that not everyone will read the name with the Spanish pronunciation, Serrafiel is not pronounced “Sarah-feel.”  It is pronounced “Seh-ra-fee-EL.”  That’s the best I can do for a pronunciation guide.  In case you didn’t notice when you were reading earlier, I’m not so good with the symbols and such.

And that’s it for now!  Hope you like the sneak peek at the changes I made.

Lots of words for you to read today, huh?  How about I reward you with…

A NEW COMIC!!

Writer's-Block-Strip-44

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Filed under books, Comic, Humor, writing