I Aten’t Dead

Art, everyday, Writing

In fact, I just hit 50K words on my nosferatu novel!

And I submitted a fantasy story to the DuoLingo call for stories! That money sure would help me out in buying ISBNs! Or, you know…gas.Various characters and critters (and even a car!) done in ink and marker, made of random shapes

I’ve been using Habitica to help me take vitamins and do art and stuff more consistently. You know it’s an effective program because within a week of joining, I cleaned my desk. (My desk hadn’t been cleaned for MONNNNNTHS and was just buried in papers.) I’ll try to use it to help me update my blog more consistently sheesh!

I’m enjoying Aggretsuko on Netflix (Japanese only please, they added too many swears to the English dub!) and the Great Big Story channel on YouTube.

I’ve been feeling pretty blah this year, but things are turning around now, thank goodness!

More Creative Energy Considerations: is it procrastination, or gestating?

Thoughts on Entertainment, Writing

Another great post from Seth Godin:

Low & Slow (vs. fear)

My sourdough rye bread failed. For the first time since I’ve been baking from this starter, this weekend’s batch didn’t work.

I know why.

I rushed it.

I didn’t let the dough ferment long enough.

And then I made the oven hotter, in an effort to get the loaves finished so I could leave to meet someone.

That’s not how great bread works. It’s ready when it’s ready, not when you need it to be.

Of course, the analogy is obvious. Much of the work we do as creators, as leaders, as people seeking to make change–it needs to ferment, to create character and tension and impact. And if we rush it, we get nothing worth very much.

There’s a flipside.

Sometimes, we mistakenly believe that we’re building something that takes time, but what we’re actually doing is hiding. We stall and digress and cause distractions, not because the work needs us to, but because we’re afraid to ship.

Impatience can be a virtue if it causes us to leap through the fear that holds us back.

This is something I am often conflicted about. On the one hand, I do believe the creative well can be overfished, and some stories need time in the unconscious to develop (or gestate, as the book Movies in the Mind calls it)…but I also believe if you just sit down, the story shows up–and I’ve had the latter happen to me a bunch of times, even during times of great stress!

But I feel the temptation towards for procrastination when a novel or story leaves the first section (introducing the character in a setting with a problem). I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT COMES NEXT but usually the solution is to sit down and just have fun with whatever shows up next. Beat the fear by being willing to try.

But sometimes I’m genuinely tired and need a break, time to rest up and watch Star Trek and doodle aimlessly.

You have to show up. But also…

Animated Toy Story 2 GIF: YOU CAN'T RUSH ART says Geri the toy repairer.I’m just not sure which I believe more strongly! What do you think?

(From a comment over at CoverCritics.com)

“I think this cover would not pass my test of imagining it with a title in an unfamiliar language. If you were to do that, would you still be able to tell anything at all about the nature, themes or even genre of the book?”

That’s a great idea. If everything about your book cover was the same (pics, typefaces) but the words were foreign/lorem ipsum, what assumptions would your viewer make?

Cool book cover design tip!

Indie Publishing Friends, Writing

Armello Fanfic THE STONE SEEKERS now available to read online!

Writing

For those of you who prefer reading your fanfic online instead of downloading files, I’m happy to announce that my unofficial Armello short story (starring Amber and a Very Special Guest) is now available to read here on Pixelvania Studios–no downloading needed!

Click the cover to get started!

Stone Seekers cover: glowing Spirit Stone in a pointy purple cavern

The followup novella, The Heroes of Houndsmouth is also available to read online.

The Stone Seekers: An Unofficial Armello Short Story: Chapter One

Writing

The last of the stubborn soil crumbled away beneath the rabbit’s paws. Faint blue light shone through the hole. Amber sighed in relief.

Finally!

She had the hole enlarged in a wink. A gust of new air puffed into her face, carrying with it the faint scent of spirit stones and ancient dirt.

On second whiff, the spirit-stone scent in the new cavern was fainter than it should have been given the intensity of blue glow. Frowning, she slipped off her digging gloves and bent to the hole, peering through.

Empty. Even without a torch, she could tell that. She wiggled her way through the hole until she could stand up.

Blue moss gleamed on the roof of the cavern, looking like a turquoise river of stars. But it was just moss. Not what she was seeking.

But it’s Wyld-touched. Nothing glows that color without the Wyld. I’m getting close!

The cavern had three exits. Amber studied all three, trying to see if any one tunnel held more moss than the others. No luck; they all looked to have the same amount on their ceilings.

Her long ears angled left, right, straight ahead, listening for water. Where there’s Wyld, there’s water.

But there was only silence. She raised up on her toes, nose twitching. Maybe the scent would make a better lead. Instead, her nose caught something else in the air. Cold fear shot through her.

The Rot. Her paw went to her sword. She sniffed again. No, not Rot, but something rotting…

A sound echoed from the middle tunnel. Her ears turned towards it: something scrabbling, barely audible.

The rotting smell was coming from that tunnel, too. It mingled with the scent of the Wyld.

Is someone down here with me? Maybe someone had found the spirit stone before her. Maybe she could trade for it. Or maybe not—a single stone could cure the beginnings of Rot, but if the King were as bad off as the rumor said he was, it would take more than one stone to excise the soul-poison from him.

If this fellow had just contracted the Rot, it’s likely he wouldn’t part with it—and Amber wasn’t in any shape to fight, nor did she have much on-paw to trade. After five days underground, her supplies were running low.

She stepped forward anyway. She had to try.

The Stone Seekers: An Unofficial Armello Short Story: Chapter Two

Writing

The soil grew rockier the further in she went.

Treacherous, her cousin Elyssia would have said. I’d rather build on carrot custard.

Amber was loath to agree with her, but she had almost turned her ankle twice in twenty minutes.

And a lame rabbit is a dead rabbit.

She put on her gloves and went to all fours. She bobbed ahead slowly. The rocking motion of her gait turned into a trance. Her mind wandered as she continued forward. Then the scent hit her: a fully-formed spirit stone.

That’s it! She broke into a wild run, zig-zagging towards it.

The treacherous soil turned sandy beneath her feet.

She scrabbled, but it was too late. The bad ground pulled her down a steep slope, then she was falling through the air. She landed with a thud.

She groaned. Then:

Toes? She wiggled them. Okay. Ankles? She circled them. No pain. That’s good. Legs?

After a full tail-to-ears check, she pushed herself upright.

She stood in a steep pit with walls too sheer to climb. The spirit stone scent floated tantalizingly above her, but down here, the rotting smell was overpowering.

Rasp-scrabble.

She froze at the sound, eyes searching the dark. She could only make out a silhouette—but she could tell it was close.

Amber pulled her sword out of its scabbard and held her steel parasol-shield before her.

“You’ll find no easy prey with me!” she shouted into the darkness.

The shadow froze. Then, the first voice she’d heard in a week:

“You wouldn’t hurt an old rat, would you?”

The Stone Seekers: An Unofficial Armello Short Story: Chapter Three

Writing

Rat? He doesn’t smell like a rat!

Maybe he was infected—come down here to get a stone, heal himself—until he fell into the pit.

She lowered her sword—a little.

“No,” she said. “I wouldn’t hurt an old rat. Not unless he gave me a reason to.”

“Rest assured, my dear, I bear you no ill will.”

Her hackles rose. Strange—the charm oozing out of him wasn’t anything she hadn’t encountered in a rat-run inn.

“I’d say, ‘rat’s honor,’ ” the voice continued, “but I’ve seen that doesn’t hold any weight with you.”

“Who are you, and what are you doing down here?”

“Sargon the Veil Gazer at your service. As to what I’m doing here…you don’t happen to have a rope, do you?”

“I do. But there’s nothing up there for it catch on, even if it were long enough to land up there.”

“Ah. Well then, do you have the makings of a torch?”

Amber sniffed. “Of course.”

“That will be useful for our protection, but it won’t help us escape. Hmm…I didn’t see quite that far back…”

“Protection? From what?”

“We’re not alone down here. Every day for the past four days a multi-legged…something has been trying to make a meal of me, heh!

“I’ve been fending it off with my torches, but I used up the last of my fuel…let’s call it yesterday. You came just in time, Amber.”

Amber bristled.

“How did you know my name?”

“Oh,” said the rat. “That’s right. You didn’t introduce yourself yet. I’m afraid I get a little confused…”

“Confused about what? How do you know—”

A distant scratching turned Amber’s ear. The scratching turned into a hiss like rain. Whatever it was, it was big, and approaching quickly.

“Would you be a dear and light a torch now, please?”

Amber dumped her pack and felt for a stave. Using her teeth, she snipped a length of cloth from its roll and began unscrewing the lid to her fuel.

The scrabbling was getting louder. It sounded like the movement of an army.

“I know you’re going to hurry, but I can’t help but ask that you hurry a bit more.”

“Working, here!”

The lid popped off her fuel, spun away into the dark. She ran the cloth through the fuel, coating it in the flammable jelly. She wrapped the cloth around the stave, dashed her paws against the floor to get the jelly off, then grabbed her flint and steel from her pockets. She struck them together. Orange sparks popped in the air, died on the ground.

The chittering filled her ears. It was in there now, with them. The rotting smell was suffocating.

She smashed the steel again. The torch caught fire. The instant it did, the rat swept it up. Amber followed the motion of the light, saw the horror towering over them.

It was a giant centipede, big enough to fill a warren tunnel. Its segments were spirit-stone blue, and venom dripped from its giant pincer-mouth, hissing when it hit the ground.

Its mandibles clattered and it recoiled from the light of the torch. But Amber wasn’t quite within the circle of light.

The creature lunged for her. She threw herself out of reach and ran. The clicking of its hundreds of legs sounded like daggers hitting the ground. At least the torchlight kept her from running into the side of the pit. She rebounded off the walls instead and went into a tight turn. The monster ran up the wall, its legs chipping off bits of stone.

“Over here!” The rat waved his arms. The torchlight stretched his shadow crazily. “You’re too far from the light!”

The beast had formed a circle around her. Its head—or at least, she thought it was its head—was making its approach. Amber rushed towards it, then gave a mighty leap. She touched a paw down on the top of its hard carapace. Before the creature could change direction, she had vaulted over it and was next to the rat, in the firelight.

“You’ll be wanting your sword,” said the rat, tapping his foot where she had thrown it down to make the torch. As she took it up, the centipede made another circle around them.

Behind them: legs. To either side, legs. In front of them: the armored head of the monster.

“Hm,” said the rat. “I did not foresee this part. Before you arrived, I was keeping my back to the wall.”

She lifted her sword and steel parasol. Where she could strike was not clear: when she had vaulted it, the carapace had felt as hard as a crab’s shell.

“Don’t you have a weapon?” she asked. “A dagger, a stick—anything?”

“Well, they do say forewarned is forearmed…”

The centipede reared up, revealing its pale yellow underbelly.

A smile lit the rat’s face. “Ah! This, I foresaw!” He grabbed Amber’s arm. The rabbit jolted. Her fur began to glow blue. A heartening warmth spread up her arms, down her chest and through her legs. Suddenly, Amber felt like she could dig a thousand tunnels with one paw tied behind her back. The rat let her go.

“Run. And keep your sword up. It will work.”

“Got it!”

Sword raised, Amber charged under the beast.

Its legs closed in on her. She parried them with her shield, left-right-left. The legs’ sharp tips slid off the metal curve of her parasol easily, clang-tssp, clang tssp!

She ran the length of the creature, the tip of her sword splitting the creature from below. As she ran, fewer legs were attacking her.

“Yes!” The rat clenched his fist. “Glorious!”

The legs stopped moving. Amber dashed out from beneath it. The creature teetered, then collapsed on its side and was still.

Amber rejoined the rat in the circle of torchlight. She wasn’t even winded.

The Stone Seekers: An Unofficial Armello Short Story: Chapter Four

Writing

They pushed the monster’s remains to the nearest wall and used it to climb back up onto the main level. They both began walking towards the scent of the spirit stones.

Amber carried the torch. Its wavering light let her study her rat companion in detail: he wore a red mask and robe. But unlike all the members of rat clan she’d met in her travels, he had no fur. Dark spots blotched his pallid shining hide.

She sniffed, trying to make out the disease which had caused this, only to realize that he had no scent. The awful stench that had caught her nose earlier had belonged to the monster.

It wasn’t just eerie for him to have no scent; it was wrong. Her fur prickled. She was glad he was leading the way. No way she wanted him behind her.

“You still haven’t told me how you knew my name,” said Amber.

The rat halted so suddenly that she almost ran into him.

“Master Rat?”

He didn’t reply.

“Sir? Sargon?”

More silence. Then he shook himself.

“My apologies. What was it you were asking?”

She repeated her question.

“Ah, yes. I know your name because I can see the future.”

Amber wrinkled her nose. Liar.

“I saw myself talking to you. I spoke your name in vision…Therefore, I knew it when I saw you. Déjà vu!” He laughed, sounding delighted. Then he stopped again, turning towards her.

“You don’t believe me, of course. But I invite you to examine me closely. Do you notice anything different about me?”

It wouldn’t be polite to speak of his lack of scent—and Amber wouldn’t have mentioned his skin disease for all the gold in the mountains.

“You have me at a disadvantage, my good rat.”

“Don’t be shy! Go on. Have a good look.”

He’s crazier than a moon-bitten hare. Better humor him. She glanced around his face—then gasped.

“What happened to your eyes?!”

They hadn’t been gouged out; rather, there was only white where she expected a beady gaze.

Her paw flew to her mouth. Blurting something like that out! Amber, you have no idea what will set him off! “Oh—please, good rat, I beg your pardon!”

But the rat smiled and waved her off. “No need for that, my dear. I only wanted to show you the price I paid to see through the veil.”

Amber didn’t speak until she was certain her voice wouldn’t waver. “What veil?”

“The veil of time—which is neither Wyld nor Rot. Anybody can do it, if they’re willing to pay.”

“But…if you’re blind, how are you walking around down here?”

“I get by on my nose.” He wiggled his snout. “And my ears.” He clenched his teeth, making his ears wiggle.

Amber wanted to be sick. Instead, she smiled. “How…fortunate for you.”

“You have no idea.” He turned away and began walking again.

“They used to be brown, you know.”

Amber’s paw had gone to her sword again. “What did?”

“My eyes. You were going to ask that, weren’t you?”

A breath of laughter escaped her. She hoped he couldn’t detect the nerves in it.