Tag Archives: art

Derp Dragon Says Hello

If you’re wondering where I’ve been lately, then please make something up.  I guarantee whatever excuse I end up with in your imagination will be more interesting than the truth.

What I wanted to do today was talk about my newest project, which is actually an old project.  I started writing a YA sci-fi book on this blog a while back and I stopped after a few chapters because I had no idea where I was going with it.  But you’ll see that I have linked to it because for a first draft it wasn’t totally terrible.  So you can check it out if you like.

The thing is, I still believe in that idea.  Also I need a new project or I’m going to go insane.  Since it had been so long since I’d written for this blog, I figured I’d get back into it.  What I want to do is create a proper outline and character bible before I start rewriting, and I thought there would be no better way to brainstorm and get my ideas in order than to put the character bible here.  I’ve decided to do a rundown of each of the main characters, one post at a time.  Complete with concept art probably!

I was going to get started today, but then I thought that procrastinating would be more fun.  So I drew a derpy dragon.

Derp-Dragon

Is that his tongue sticking out the side of his mouth or is he smiling real big?  The world may never know.

I will begin this character bible thing soon.  Promise.  This time we’re gonna do it the right way.  And if the project still doesn’t work out?  Oh well!  As they say – Nothing ventured, nothing potato.

Right?

Oh, I also finished my Elemental Chinchilla series, for those who were on the edges of their seats.  If you have no idea what I’m talking about, try clicking back through the past couple posts.  I think that explains them sort of.  Anyway here they are:

Ice Chinchilla

Fire Chinchilla

Air Chinchilla

Metal and Earth

That’s all for today!

Wait I lied.  I should probably give a brief plot summary for the new/old novel, huh?  Well, it’s a YA Sci-Fi, as I said, and it follows two main characters on a planet that was once used as a prison but is now kind of its own tyrannical dictatorship society.  It’s cut off from all the other planets in the galaxy – no communication, no ships in or out.  Think Space Australia, if Australia were a tyrannical dictatorship that was cut off in every way from the outside world.  So the main characters are trying to overthrow the mean government while dealing with personal issues and teenage angst and… yeah.  That seems like a good summary.

Okay bye!

Next time.  Character bible.  For sure.

Bye for real!

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Your Lyrics Will Be Graded

I’m not a stranger to song/singer analysis.  You’ll recall I had a particularly scathing post about John Mayer a while back, and my friend, Liz, analyzed the nuances (or lack thereof) of Taylor Swift’s character.

As some people know, I am currently studying to become a high school English teacher in Texas.  This involves a lot of repetitive reading about how we should probably focus more on engaging students in school, and less on lecturing at them.  Turns out they learn more if they’re emotionally invested.  Who knew?

Anyway, as a fun activity, I decided to grade a couple songs as if they were student essays.  Starting with Katy Perry’s “Firework.”  Click to enlarge!

Firework001

I didn’t bother doing the rest of the song because it’s just “Boom boom boom, even brighter than the moon, moon, moon” repeated a bunch of times.

So the thing is that – while that was fun – I haven’t graded any other lyrics.  I was going to do Taylor Swift’s “Shake It Off,” because no one who can easily shake off negative comments goes on to write an entire song about all the “mean” things that are said about them for the world to hear (Irony!).  But that seemed like low-hanging fruit.  Ol’ Tay-Tay’s already suffered our wrath, as you saw above.

This activity left the subject of education knocking around in my brain.  It feels important to get a few things written down, even if they’re obvious.  At the end, as a thank you for reading my wall of text, I have presented you with a drawing of an Ice Chinchilla, which was commissioned by my friend, Liz.

  1. If the goal of schooling is to increase student knowledge and understanding, then the current model is waaaaay off base.  A fifteen-year-old can memorize all the significant dates related to the American Revolution.  S/he can regurgitate facts onto a test and get a good grade, but that does not mean that s/he understands this conflict.  The student likely has no feelings about the American Revolution one way or the other.  Because s/he has learned that the goal of school is to get A’s, not to understand the content.  Along those lines…
  2. Our methods of assessing students are crap.  We live in a country where C is average, but only A’s mean anything.  That means we are pressuring our students to jump through as many hoops as necessary to get top letter marks.  As I said in point 1, this rarely requires genuine understanding.  Just look at the term “Standardized Test.”  It is literally a test that measures students’ abilities to fit into a mold.  At the beginning of the year, all students start with an A in their classes.  The best thing that can happen for them is for their grade to remain exactly the same.  Most likely what will happen is their grade will drop.  This is expected to motivate them.  All I see is a practice in futility, neatly packaged with buzzwords.  “If you don’t do well here, you won’t get into a good college.”  How about this?  How about every student starts with a zero.  Not an F, mind.  A zero.  As they do assignments, they get points.  At the end of the year, the number of points they have can be translated into a letter grade.  It’s not a perfect system, but you’ll notice with this design, the only direction students can go is up.  Instead of losing, they’ll be working to gain.  Every day, every semester, every class.
  3. It turns out that every person learns in a different way.  This means that a significant portion of “Special Ed” students might not need drugs or a psychological diagnosis.  Maybe all they need is someone to approach teaching in a different way.  It’s hard to cater your teaching methods to suit the needs of a fifty-student class, but we can start by abandoning the “Sit still, shut up, and listen” model.  From where I’m sitting, “Special Ed” is a lovely euphemism for “We’ve given up on you.”  That probably does wonders for kids’ self-esteem.
  4. You’ve heard this all before.  Studies that prove kids aren’t learning in school have been coming out for decades.  Kids aren’t learning.  Kids aren’t motivated.  Kids aren’t supposed to be put through test after standardized test.  It’s common knowledge at this point.  As far as I can tell, we as a country have gone, “Oh, look.  Schools are failing our children.  What a shame,” and then moved back to reading the morning paper or whatever.  Just shrug and move on, America.  Your education system is a mess.  Oh, well!  It happens.  Right?  No!  No, damn it!  I have read paper after paper from people saying we’re in the middle of a “paradigm shift” and “we need school reinvention, not school reform.”  (See writing by Ornstein and Hunkins for more details about school reinvention)  By “paradigm shift” do they mean that about 0.5% of the schools in this country have made changes to the way education is accomplished?  That’s not a shift.  That’s not even a blip on the radar.  So why aren’t we seeing real change?  Well, for one, politicians love using education to boost their numbers.  They throw out buzz words, cite the studies that I’ve been reading for my classes, and promise change.  Then they introduce new standardized tests or cut more music programs.  Meanwhile teachers are left floundering in a system that forces them to dish out education like it’s a punishment.
  5. No more complacence.  Educators need to band together.  Families need to support them.  We need a separation of school and state in a lot of ways, because educational policies are being instated by people who have never stood in a classroom full of bored sixth graders.  As an individual, all I can do is try to beat the system one classroom at a time.  And write ineffectual blog posts about it.  Hopefully one day I’ll be able to do more.  If enough individuals decide to make real changes, maybe it’ll have a ripple effect.

I don’t know.

Here’s a chinchilla.

Ice Chinchilla

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Title That Indicates I’m Going to be Talking About Romance Novels Again

I’ve been doing some research into romance novels.  This research has stemmed from a renewed attempt to figure out the genre, and how I can produce a work that fits the parameters of same.  In the interest of said research, I read one and a half new romance novels, bringing my total romance novel consumption to about twenty and a half, probably.  Maybe more.  I never stopped to count how many Sherrilyn Kenyon novels I’d read, because I wanted to maintain whatever shred of self respect I had left.

Anyway, at this point I believe I’ve come to some conclusions about a typical romance novel.  “Typical” in this case means “a straight man and a straight woman fall in love despite some obstacle or another.  And there are probably werewolves involved.”  I made notes in my phone.  Before we continue I am issuing a warning that there will be no graphic imagery but there will be sexual content in the writing that follows.  If the idea of this upsets you, stop reading.  I will forgive you!

Okay, here are the notes:

1. Each character must act like they’ve never before seen a member of the opposite sex that they were attracted to.

Match Made in Heaven

2. There must be a constant inner monologue from both characters’ perspectives about how attractive they find each other.  Remember to really beat that into the reader’s head.  In the case of my novel, Demon Heart, I diverged from this because I only narrated the book from the woman’s perspective.  Also, in the case of the long inner monologues, I wonder what one person is doing while the other is weighing out all the pros and cons of having sex with them.  All I can think of is a scenario that goes something like this:

Offer-of-Sex

3. Women must be saved from their emotions.

4. Men must curse their emotions (in that said emotions lead to relationships, which men either fear or believe they don’t deserve due to their dark and brooding past).

5. (This is exactly how I typed it into my phone last night) A man waiting for consent before doing a sex is super gentlemanly and attractive.  If he both asks for consent and is ridiculously hot, then it is ok to have sex with him within 24 hours of meeting him.  A lasting, loving relationship is sure to ensue.

Note on #5: I have read two novels so far that treat consent like a novel concept.  The first did it horribly wrong, where the male lead – the love interest! – was undeniably assaulting the female lead, but she decided it was okay because, hey, at least he’s hot and deep down inside she really did want this, didn’t she?  I was appalled.  The second got a pass because the female lead had been raised in an emotionally abusive environment with people who constantly belittled her, so she was truly learning that consent was a thing she could expect and ask for.  Still I mean… let’s just get past this, okay?  I think it’d be a great help if romance novels just took consent as a given, and didn’t tout it as some sort of proof of the man’s character.  “He didn’t rape me, so he must be a gentleman!” just doesn’t work.

6. Men are always upset (at least once per book) by the unfortunate combination of their stiff and/or tight jeans and their erections.  It’s super uncomfortable for them, and the reader definitely needs to know that.  It is crucial to the plot.  The sexy, sexy plot.

Manhood

7. No butt stuff.  Butt stuff is neither romantic nor a symbol of twue wuv.  Only oral and vaginal sex are loving forms of sexual expression.  Reading the previous statements may very well have made you uncomfortable, and therein lies the root of the problem.  Sex with a stigma attached to it is not sexy.  Therefore it is not mentioned, hinted at, or overtly used in any way.

8. Every eleven words, at least one character thinks about how much they want to have sex/pictures the love interest naked/is actively having sex with that love interest.

9. A real man knows it’s his duty to bring a woman to orgasm before he has his own climax.  That’s just common courtesy.  Conversely, the woman does not owe the man pleasure.  His orgasm is not brought on by her actions, but is rather his reward for seeing to her needs first.  And because she’s hot.  He gets to orgasm because she is very attractive, as his inner monologue should have pointed out several times already.

So there you have it.  The results of my study.  If you were thinking about writing a steamy romance of your own, now’s your chance.  You have a handy little guide right here.

And speaking of steamy romances, I have moved my novel Demon Heart to two other platforms.  You can still buy it on Gumroad for $1.00 if you want.  Go to this link and type in coupon code writeright.  OR, if purchasing a Word document isn’t your thing, you can buy it on Kindle for $2.00.  Or you can pay full price for an actual book to be shipped to you from Amazon, complete with front and back covers.  I actually wanted to charge $2.00 for the book as well, but Amazon had a minimum dollar amount I had to charge so they could make sure they made money.  So sorry about that.  But the Kindle and Gumroad options are still there.

I also have an Etsy shop where I do artwork.  You can check that out.  And I’ll be writing soon about my second rewrite of Grotesque!  Ta!

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A Curious Inkling

This post is mainly a shop announcement, with a special surprise at the end!  I want to talk about how editing Grotesque is going, but I’ll do that next time.

Yes, it’s that time of year again.  I’ve opened another Etsy shop.  This one does not sell jewelry however.  If you’ll recall from a couple posts ago, I started doing some art using calligraphy markers and water.  Well, I decided to try my hand at selling that art.  I don’t have a fancy camera to help me take pictures of it or anything like that, but I’m hoping the beauty of the work will shine through regardless.  I encourage custom orders.  I also do stationery and save the dates.  Below are some pictures.  Click on them for links to the shop!

A Curious Inkling

Rebecca and rose

Three-Cards004

Save-the-Date-2

Gwen and Linda

Sparrow

So yeah.  That’s what I’ve been up to.  And there’s other stuff to look at.  More stuff to come!

And now for the special surprise!

My book, Demon Heart, was rejected by Harlequin!  But it was a really nice rejection.  I don’t often say that.  The editor said, “While I found much to like about this project, I’m afraid that it is not suited to our current editorial needs. Aspects of the story are promising—but we’re going to have to pass on this one. However, I thought your writing was promising, and if you have any other projects for us to consider, I would be happy to take a look.”  So that’s pretty nice.  She probably says that to everyone she rejects, but I’d like to think she only says it to the people who truly show potential.

Anyway, the good news is that now I can sell the book for all of $2.00 on Gumroad.  But wait, there’s more!  I programmed in a promotional code.  Readers of my blog get a discount!  Use coupon code “writeright” (One word, no quotation marks) to get $1.00 off!  That’s right, ladies and gents!  You can buy my sultry romance novel, Demon Heart, for just one dollar!  Click on the image below to go buy it!  And don’t forget your coupon code! IF YOU ARE RELATED TO ME BY BLOOD OR BY MARRIAGE, PLEASE READ THE DISCLAIMER BENEATH THE LINK!!!!

Demon Heart001

HELLO, RELATIVES.  I AM TELLING YOU NOW, DO NOT BUY THIS BOOK.  I UNDERSTAND THAT YOU WANT TO SUPPORT ME, BUT I’D RATHER NOT SCAR BOTH OF US FOR LIFE.  THIS BOOK CONTAINS SCENES OF A GRAPHIC, SEXUAL NATURE.  I DO NOT WANT YOU READING THAT.  I’D MUCH RATHER HAVE OUR RELATIONSHIP REMAIN UNSULLIED FOR THE REST OF OUR DAYS.  YOU CAN TELL FRIENDS ABOUT IT, BUT REMEMBER THAT IT IS A ROMANCE NOVEL.  IT IS NOT FOR THE YOUNG OF HEART.  MORE IMPORTANTLY, IT IS NOT FOR THE YOUNG OF AGE.  THANK YOU, AND HAVE A VERY GOOD DAY.

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The Art of Criticism?

Since my last post, I think I figured out what inspired me to want to talk about criticism.  But I’m only 90% sure.  However, since the post has to do with a book that has “tiger” in the title, and I just so happen to have finished a tiger painting, I figured I might as well go for it.  It’s nice to get a cohesive theme going every once in a while.

If you are unfamiliar with my latest hobby, you can click back to the post before this one.  A couple people have suggested I open an Etsy shop, but I’m not sure yet.  My last Etsy shop didn’t go over so well, but maybe this time it’ll be different?  My father requested a tiger, so I did one up for him.  Here’s the progression of the tiger from start to finish:

Tiger 1 Tiger 2 Tiger 3 Tiger 4

And now the book I want to talk about

I will admit that the cover art was a big part of the reason why I bought this book.  Don't you go telling me that thing about judging books and covers.  Covers are meant to be judged.  That's the whole point of them.  You shouldn't judge people by their appearance, but books aren't going to get their feelings hurt.

I will admit that the cover art was a big part of the reason why I bought this book. Don’t you go telling me that thing about judging books and covers. Covers are meant to be judged. That’s the whole point of them. You shouldn’t judge people by their appearance, but books aren’t going to get their feelings hurt.

Tiger’s Curse by Colleen Houck.  This is an unusual review because I have to admit I only read the prologue and the first two chapters, so I’m not going to be talking about the book as a whole.  What I want to talk about (and what I think I wanted to talk about back when I started reading this book) is the importance of first impressions.

In my opinion, the first thing that a reader is going to ask when they start a book is something along the lines of “Why should I care?”  It’s been my experience as a reader that if I don’t have that question answered by the end of the first paragraph, I lose interest very quickly.  Now, that doesn’t mean that I instantly care about the characters of the books I do like, but the book offers me something in return.  It says, “You might not know why you should care yet, but I am going to give you a reason to keep reading.  I’m going to make you feel like you’re willing to find out why you should care.”  That’s why those first few paragraphs are so important.  They have to be compelling.  And Tiger’s Curse just didn’t compel me.  I was bored.

First of all, the book starts with the poem, The Tiger, by William Blake.  Not only is that ridiculously predictable, but this is not the only book that has used that poem in some way or another.  That poem is overused, in my opinion.  But that’s me nitpicking.  Let’s look at the opening paragraph, found in the prologue, which is titled “The Curse.”

The prisoner stood with his hands tied in front of him, tired, beaten, and filthy but with a proud back befitting his royal Indian heritage.  His captor, Lokesh, looked on haughtily from a lavishly carved, gilded throne.  Tall, white pillars stood like sentinels around the room.  Not a whisper of a jungle breeze moved across the sheer draperies.  All the prisoner could hear was the steady clinking of Lokesh’s jeweled rings against the side of the golden chair.  Lokesh looked down, eyes narrowed into contemptuous, triumphant slits.

So here’s my impression: I’m clearly supposed to care about the prisoner, but I don’t get his name.  Instead I get his captor’s name.  I don’t care about his captor’s name.  If the prisoner’s name is meant to be kept a mystery, that’s fine.  Don’t even give me the captor’s name then.  It’s not like that name means anything to me at this point in the story.

Second, look at all that excessive description!  I don’t care at all about the room they’re standing in.  I want to care about the prisoner, but I’m too distracted by the decor surrounding him to be able to.  The opening line alone is weighed down with globs of exposition that serve to inform, but not intrigue.  Don’t inform me about stuff until you’ve given me a reason to care about said stuff, okay?  There are way too many adjectives and adverbs.  Pillars tend to be tall.  You don’t have to point that out.  And I challenge you to narrow your eyes in a way that is both contemptuous and triumphant.  In my imagination, those two expressions are vastly different.  Plus we already know that he’s looking down “haughtily” so it makes “contemptuous” redundant.  And the fact that the throne is gold is mentioned twice!

Here’s how I would write it:

The prisoner stood with his hands tied in front of him, his stance proud despite his fatigue and the beatings he’d taken.  His captor looked on from a lavish, gilded throne, his eyes narrowed into contemptuous slits.  Immense pillars stood like sentinels around the room.  Not even a whisper of a jungle breeze interrupted the pervasive stillness.  All the prisoner could hear were his captor’s rings clinking steadily against the side of the throne.

So when do we find out the prisoner’s name?  That he has “royal Indian heritage”?  What his captor’s name is?  What his relationship to his captor is?  Well, this book is 403 pages long, so take your pick.  That information can come out anywhere, anytime.  In fact, the very next paragraph starts with “The prisoner was the prince of an Indian kingdom called Mujulaain.”  So why was it necessary for the first sentence to include any of that information?

In conclusion: What is the art of criticism?  Criticism should not be used to put someone down.  “Criticize” and “Insult” should not be used synonymously.  The former should be used for a purpose.  Critical analysis should lead to the betterment of the work.  And I guess I wanted to make that clear because I think a lot of people take and/or give criticism personally, myself included sometimes.  I’m not immune.

From as objective a standpoint as I can offer, this book starts out poorly.  And it is for that reason that I stopped after two chapters, and probably why I will not try to finish it.  It’s apparent that this book needed some more editing.  As you can see from this lengthy blog post, I’m not one to keep things brief.  But this is a more casual setting.  In novels every word must count, and you must make sure you do not overstuff your book with excess fluff.  Start out with “Why should my readers care?” and work your way out from there.

Books are meant to be about imagination.  It’s okay to use some description, but you shouldn’t be leading your reader around by the nose either.  “The pillow was small, soft, and pink, and it was hand-embroidered with an image of two koi fish by an elderly Japanese woman back in 1972.”  It’s too much!  Let your reader decide what a soft, hand-embroidered pillow would look like, okay?

I acknowledge that there are more factors that go into enticing and captivating a reader, but I think what I have just addressed is one of the biggest pieces of the puzzle.

That’s all for now!

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