On Art and Writing

Painting and writing feel like they should go together well, but they really don't.

I really enjoy both. But they come from different impulses. The writing plays off my obsessive daydreaming, while the art comes from my love of shutting off my brain. Sometimes when I paint it's as refreshing as sleeping. (And that is an important consideration, with my current level of exhaustion.)

Art and writing take my free time and tear it into pieces between them in a catastrophic tug of war. And then my free time just ends up ripped in half with shreds missing, and either art nor writing is happy with the situation.

It's tough. I will need to begin much more aggressive time scheduling in the near future.

Accountability is also important. For the coming year I'm going to post a new piece of art a day to my blog. They don't necessarily have to be painted that day, but they often will be.

I also downloaded WriteOrDie in an effort to build accountability for fiction. I think it might work better for short stories than anything else. Maybe blog posts, too. (I do also like http://writtenkitten.net/ to get me through tough articles.)

Accountability, speed, and quantity will be my goals for 2012. Right now there is too much thinking, and not enough doing. Maybe I'll start wearing warpaint to face the blank piece of paper.


Eats, shoots, and leaves

True grit: cowboys have it embedded in the seams of their faces.
The cowboys had it right. They were free agents with nothing more to weigh them down than a gun and a (possibly stolen) horse. They weren't burdened with consumerist culture and the accumulations of years of acquisitive tendencies. None of this schizoid postmodern existence. Just the sun on their faces, potentially fatal dehydration, bullets every which way, and the quiet of nature.

Ignoring the deconstructive readings that problematize the lone gunman fantasy with criticisms of the marginalized and mistreated Native Americans, gender politics, general race relations, and the fallout of shootouts and casual mayhem -- the cowboys had it right.

It would be great to go west, where there are no rules. To discover the great untamed land. Walk out of the society that would rather have them working in a store for an honest living. It's an escapist fantasy for people droning in jobs they hate. I can relate. It's all Man vs. Society. Man eats, shoots, and leaves. 

But generations swing like pendulums. Once the tv channels were full of cowboys. Now they're full of cop shows, which tend towards the other side of law and order. But as long as cynicism and darkness are in (see the popularity of the super successful Batman reboot, the popularity of Dexter) the outsiders can do their thing, just in different clothes. Cowboys can't come back in a big way; too many cheesy shows and movies have come and gone.

After all, the wild west is gone. But unexplored territory isn't. 

Now it's time for the wild web?


Slice of Life

Not only is the Slice of Life the boat Dexter uses to dump bodies, but it's also a lame narrative and theatrical technique. It aims to be naturalistic, (anti-plot and in favor of almost randomized events from the characters' life).

Slice of my evening:
Read some of Neil Gaiman's Sandman series. Toasted almonds over a wood stove. Pet the cat. Tried to find a tutorial on how to make a Photoshop tutorial, but it must've been too meta. Hunted stink bugs with a flashlight and drowned them. Ate delicious tilapia soup.  Looked at some interesting illustration style doodles. Bought the domain katzantow.com for a dollar (don't bother checking it out until I say so because it is good and empty). Still excited over getting 3rd place in that fantasy short story contest (I'll post up links to the story whenever they get the pdf version up). Then I felt guilty over being behind schedule and sat down to write an article for the Canary Review. And then to an hour of working on the Shadowing sequel...



Fun fact: I like painting trees. 
Both of these were commissioned for the same friend who wants a collection of Yggdrasil. The first was supposed to be a tree of life. It may or may not look like a tree of death.
Whomever invented celtic knots must be a masochist.
The next time a tree was commissioned for her, it was requested with the wolf and ivy for secret symbolic reasons that you would never guess in a million years.

More tree!
Right now I want to paint trees all the time. It's autumn, and the leaves are almost all gone, so I miss the foliage. At the moment is a beautiful sliver of time for autumn yellows in late sunlight. And our Japanese Maple is a brilliant blood red for just a few days. I doubt I can paint the thing fast enough before it vanishes, but it may be time for another painting. 


Tiger Giveaway: We have a winner!


And the winner to this much anticipated art print & ebook giveaway results (drawn from The Hat (free program) and Rafflecopter (powered by Random) is...

Beep. Boop. Beep. Boop...


Congratulations to Naiya, whose walls will soon have a certain cache of rage and fury embodied in this lovely print, and whose eReader/laptop/phone will soon have a copy of Shadowing, the first book of Moonblind.


He Biltmore, and more, and more...

Technically, only 1% were protesting...
Flashback to last week: I failed to update anything because I was on vacation, exploring North and South Carolina. In the North we saw a monument to the One Percent of old. In the South, the streets were overrun with protesters.

Now, I'm going to go out on a limb and postulate that only members of the 99% are reading this blog. If you are in the top 1% and you're reading my blog for fun, you should probably consider becoming a patron of the arts. Artists with grants turn out work much faster.

But even if you are in the top 1%, you've got nothing on the old Robber barons. Namely Vanderbilt. This, The Biltmore, was his house:

Notice that the ants are actually people.
So we toured the Biltmore (located near Asheville, aka Beertown USA 2-3 years in a row). This tour was no small thing. In fact, the house is the largest private residence in the US. It's big. At 2,000,000 square feet, containing roughly 500 rooms, of which 43 are bathrooms (only one was visible on the tour). The banquet hall really should count as a multiple rooms, because it's seven stories high and could swallow certain presidential homes with room to spare.

This is the .00001%. Didn't see any protesters, though. But the house is so fancy that its influence spreads out into the places it touches in town. Even the neighboring McDonald's has vaulted ceilings and a grand piano. It was rumored to be Vanderbilt's favorite eating establishment. All in all it was enjoyable, and an insane display of wealth from another age. My biggest regret is that I didn't approach visiting the house with plans for a day of live-action clue.

They didn't have a waterfall, so they built one.
But further into the city, Asheville became more fun with its own unique flavor. It was full of hippies, headshops, beer, chocolate, and art galleries. The art galleries were fun, cocolate cookies delicious, and the Expresso Stout even lived up to the storeperson's claims of being "only the best thing ever." In one of the art places, I came very close to buying a tiny tophat, but I realized I need to make sure my fashion choices do not significantly overlap with Helena Bonham Carter.

Now back in the cold winter of Virginia, and frozen hands. Hobo gloves are going to be a fashion staple this month for NaNoWriMo.

But their boat house was pretty much just a waterfront gazebo.
Poor Vanderbilt, didn't even have the money to put in windows!


Update that maybe should have been posted yesterday

I am back from my long absence of a week. Excuses to commence below other points of interest:

  • Due to travel-time interference, the Tiger Print drawing will take place at the end of the day on the 5th of November. So remember to enter! If you  have not entered, there's still time to win a snarling wall-asset. Who wouldn't want a perma-snarl to wake up to?
  • In a stunning turn of events, I won 3rd place in the Fantasy Book Review/Swift Publishing Short Story Contest. Woot! The story was 'To Ashes," and though this blurb describes it as classic fantasy/sci fi, it's probably closer to paranormal. 
  • Today begins NaNoWrimo. I am joining this initiative, sorta. Mainly I'm going to write a collective 50,000 words, to finish a novella and a half. Why piggyback NaNoWrimo? You barely have to work to write - you just surf the cosmic energies and words pour onto the page. Like this blogpost. It was empty a moment ago. Where did those words come from? 

Last week.

Dear internet. Do please forgive me. It was an absence, but I had my reasons to totally fail at updating for a week. I went on a vacation with my parents, down Virginia, and through North and South Carolina. Through a confluence of events, we ended camping in a haunted, abandoned house which for some reason had no wifi.

No wifi? Aww man.

Stay tuned for an adventure tale of travel to be posted this Thursday!

Tiger drawing Saturday Evening!


Tea & Simplicity

If I did a 180, I could see this picture on the wall as I type.

Advice of the day: calm down. Make a pot of tea and relax.

There's too much of this rushing around. Though you may not feel it, there is a mental tax from multitasking. Focus on the present for once. Close the twelve hundred tabs you have crowding your browser. Close your eyes and sip a cup of tea. Maybe mint. But not if you hate mint. Try something herbal, light on the caffeine.

Imagine a plan to throw a tea party with crazy hats and cucumber sandwiches. Explain to a few confused guests that it isn't a political rally. Scratch the whole idea. Who wants to plan things when you're drinking tea? It's a drink of relaxation - unless it tastes of bitter almonds.


Fluffy Dresses vs. Moth Wings

Last time I walked around Barnes and Noble, the cover of every YA chic book had a character in a full ball gown. In many of the getups I saw, it would be awfully hard to break into a jog, let alone a sprint. I prefer my protagonists to take the novel sensibly attired in something that allows mobility. Then they can face the conflicts of the novel at a sprint, or at least a jog. And they can sneak. Every try to move stealthily in a full ball gown? They rustle. A lot. 

Of course, back in the day, I was guilty of drawing all sorts of equally useful fashion designs. These, and especially the central figure, introduce a whole new set of pitfalls in high fashion.
Clearly, I should have my own fashion line.
Forget ballgowns - if people like me ruled the fashion world, everyone and their dog would go around wearing things as useful as an enormous pair of Luna Moth wings. But! If giant moth wings became the fashion standard, it would have several obvious benefits to the economy:

  • Doorways would need to be widened for everyday convenience. This would reemploy carpenters and construction workers everywhere and solve the housing crisis. Just think of the industry! Statistics suggest that 99% of houses have doors.
  • We would have more manufacturing and tech jobs to allow a fully electrical wardrobe. This would be necessary to give the wearer full control of flapping and potential gliding. 
  • A powered wardrobe would necessitate more efficient portable power. This would lead to more efficient solar panels, with perks like ultraconvenient cell phone chargers in your shirt. What could be better?

This is not much better either.
At least she can move her legs.
Better, dare I say, may be something lighter, perhaps with your legs free. I distrust any book with really bulky dresses on the cover. It says to me that the character will be able to leisurely glide through all the problems of the novel. And that's not what I want in a story. You have to find the right outfit for the pace. Whatever she wears on the cover, I picture as she jumps over every obstacle, through every hoop. (Can she even fit through a hoop in those dresses?)

Rule of Hoops: If wearing a hoopskirt doesn't hamper your protagonist, you may need to pick up the pace of the narrative. 


Thrones are lame.

Moonblind Monday: well, sort of.
Oh man, it's Monday already? Lame. I spent all of last week adjusting to a new part-time job that somehow managed to give me a full-time percentage of souldeath and distraction from everything useful, like creating art. But on the plus side, I've been cleaning up my art desk, laughing at old artwork, and trying to clear some space so I'll have room to smack some art into those canvasses. 

So I wanted to take this opportunity to discuss my upcoming art plans for Moonblind. The plan is thus: pictures that are awesome. 

This is not moonblind art.
What is necessary for awesome pictures is avoiding boring things. Like thrones. They are inherently flat and lend themselves to crowded and flat compositions. Fortunately, the Moonblind characters are the people doing the grunt work. They are not caught in boring compositions; they are full of action and excitement. 

As you can see in Fig. 1 and Fig. 2, Royalty are pretty boring people. They spend all day sitting on thrones, which probably hurts their backs and sitting-pads, and leaves them in dull, static compositions. And as long as they're stuck sitting on a throne, they worry constantly about symmetry, looking impressive, lighting, and whether or not tigers will get hungry before feeding time. It is a dull, hard life, keeping up appearances. 

Also super old. Apparently her throne
is part octopus. Again, not quite Moonblind.
Lessons learned from old art: 
-Royalty is pretty boring. I'm sticking to action-oriented protagonists.
-Sitting is also boring.
- Bright colors are cheery no matter how many skulls you sneak in.
- Thrones are boring to draw.
- Depth is in a static, needlessly detailed picture.
- I wish I had a tiger foot-stool. I guess Comma will do for now.


The Slow Death of the Desk Drawer

Weekly Wordcount: Negligable. Done a little editing. 26,000 total.
This Week's Reads: Beloved. In progress: Embassytown, Assassins
To read: Villains by Necessity (It just arrived, and it is in super nice condition. I am excited.)

Desk Drawer Projects
Once upon a time, two summers ago, I wrote a novel for a school thing. This was an inherently bad idea, because I set upon the project from the lens of wondering what the school like to see - not what would I like to write. 

This story was not a fun romp. It was a turgid, pretentious piece of work, an uneasy mix of college lore, depression, and the ways in which people are pathetic. All is tainted with modernism. The biggest influences were Death of a Salesman, Long Day's Journey into Night, and the memory of a hurricane that left my house powerless for a week.

I have long wondered what to do with the thing. It sits there, in that metaphorical desk drawer (it's on my computer, in a folder somewhere). I take it out once in a while and see if enough time has passed, and has revealed to me how to fix the story. Every six months or so I think I am ready to renew the project, to finalize it once and for all, and turn it into an ebook. But I can't, because it doesn't quite work. 

Why not?

It lacks tension, stakes. The characters are bitchy. And what is the conflict? The characters are their own worst enemies. Who cares about hurricanes and fires? There is no connection between internal and external conflicts. Everyone fights themselves and mopes about the state of things around them. 

It's a day, a tense day. It might help the thing to deal with the consequences. My current pet theory is to interlace another day, or series of days, three weeks in the future.

And then everything is reveled to be zombies. Zombies are the cure for modernism. 


Banned Books: A Study in Shame on my old school district

Last month the Albemarle County school district, which sits all around Thomas Jefferson's Monticello, made international news for banning a book. What could have been a bit of local headshaking (though I missed any local coverage) was picked up in news articles from DC to LA to the UK. Everyone was bewildered and offended on behalf of the beloved series.

What salacious novel did they strike down?

Sherlock Holmes: A Study in Scarlet, by Arthur Conan Doyle.

Yes. Sherlock Holmes.

This lurid tale of murder, mystery, and machinations is no longer suitable for 6th graders.

Why was it banned? It presents Mormons in a negative light, and provides an incomplete view of their religion. I wonder if school districts could ban all books that present topics with a negative bias. I wonder what would be left to read.

Disclaimer that I found in the comments of the UK article: poster claims the tale of the book's banning has been blown slightly out of proportion, as it was not banned exactly, just stricken from the reading list due to an offended/concerned parent. Students can still find this book, as well as other Holmes tales in the library. So there's some hope for the avid reader.


The Vanished Villains by Necessity

So once upon a time, I scheduled this blog to be posted, and blogspot said nope. Or maybe lulz, you think I'm in your timezone?

Wednesday-Wednesday Weekly Wordcount: 5,500 added to Gloaming, of 26,000 total.
This Week's Reads: Marathon Man, some Embassytown.

Happy Banned Book week! I have an embarrassing banned book story that I'll tell you Friday. But today I'm going to cry about a book that was not banned. 

But it is gone. 

And its untimely absence leaves me sobbing into my pillow on dark lonely nights. 

I wish I had gotten a copy of Villains by Necessity by Eve Forward, when I had the chance.

Out of print on Amazon, vanished from my library, new copies running at over a hundred bucks a pop--it's out of reach. And it isn't on Kindle or Nook, which is pretty criminal if you ask me.

Back in middle school, this was my favorite book ever. It was new, it was different, it was a revelation that not all sf&f was confined to the transposed plots of The Black Cauldron and Lord of the Rings remixed a little and thrown on the page. It was a revelation that there could be fantasy outside of the hundred farmboys prophesied to save the world, the weak females, and the sickeningly lawful knights.

No, this was a tale of the villains, and they were much more fun. It combined humor and darkness. It quite possibly began my obsession with assassin-characters. It subverted cliches, without giving way to the chasm of postmodernism. It was filled with action and adventure. It did not regurgitate the narrow range of morals and divine right of kings everything else pushed.

It was, along with Vlad Taltos, the strongest influence on Shadowing.

It was the best book.

Of all time.

...or at least that's how I remember it, and that's how it'll stay in my mind, because it is quite firmly out of print. And it doesn't seem any amount of clicking Amazon's "I'd like to read this book on Kindle" has changed that.


Moonblind Monday and Fever Dreams!

As I get deeper into Moonblind book 2 (sequel to Shadowing), I am doing an art push. Expect dragons, Knights, Overlords, and almost demotivational style character sketches.

Art of the week: What is a Moon Dragon?

I would have posted this at some reasonable hour, but have a terrible cold with fever and chills, and I may or may not have woken up just before two o clock today from a vivid dream.

The dream was of a team-style version of The Hunger Games. I think it was freelancing army types with guns that were trying to kill us for the audience's entertainment. Rather than strangers, we were a close-knit team of seven kids that had been raised up in a cultish and hard-labor situation. I'm not sure if the games were going to change and go all Hunger on us to determine a winner. Probably would.

Comma was there, but she was a cute little robot-cat full of little robotic beads like huge nanoparticles. The sponsors briefly drained out her robot beads and left her as a 2d puppet until I complained enough that they refilled her back fully functioning. She continued to be ornery, but I dragged her along so she would not get blown up. Oh dreams. Always crazy.

...And without further tangent: Moonblind Art of the week!

Possible Omnibus Cover!
Get excited for next Moonblind Monday!


Art Update

Fig 1. Look to Moonblind Mondays for moar
dragons! Probably with more body mass.
You have have noticed some changes to the blog. Slick new..teal? Turquoise? Blue? (With three faces, two sheep, one dragon/squid - find them all!) Because clearly I need to clash with all the artwork I'm going to be posting. And I am going to be posting artwork. I'm officially making a commitment to...a thing a week. Moonblind Mondays for fantasy art!

Yep. Fall remodeling. As much as I loved staring at that cup-o-joe, it was a stock picture, and really, we can't have that. Dormant-artist-Kat has awoken from a long sleep, and she won't stand for any generic background. I finished two art commissions this week. Now I can fill my car with gas over nine times times! And more importantly, I am back to the hopeless addiction of creating art.

Back to the blog, and the background. I knew I needed a new one. I lazily thought "hey, I'll stick a boring gray rock up! I have one I photographed from the Henchman cover."

! Little did I know that blogspot only took 300k files. And that an 1800x1600 file saved to be 300k is impressively blocky. But this was all learned quickly enough. Thus I turned to tiling as my sole hope of regaining detail.

! Little did I know that I would lose about six hours staring at it, putting puzzle pieces together (amid flashbacks to tessellations in seventh grade geometry), slowly making the tile bigger and bigger, then drawing creepy faces out of the shapes (all in the name of of apophenia!)

By monday I'll have some Moonblind art.

Fig 1. This is my favorite bookmark that I made in the bad old days of my artistic strivings. And yet, like most people who read books, I end up using random scraps of paper instead. A metro card. A movie stub. A tag for some piece of clothing marked down to $9.

I was considering making some artistic new bookmarks. But then, for the moment I've only got an ebook. Does you ever use real paper bookmarks?


Allusions and Associations? You're boned.

New weekly feature: Wordcount & #Writetip Wednesday. Everything is alliterative.

Wednesday-Wednesday Weekly Wordcount: 6,300 added to Gloaming, of 20,456 total.
This Week's Reads: Hunger Games, Gamble of the Godless (review soon!), and three chapters of Embassytown.

Weekly Words: Allusions and Associations 

Biblical allusions are especially popular because the biblical stories are well-known among English-speaking readers. But there are other many-millions-selling stories you could make use of (note that LoTR and The Hobbit take second and third top selling; fantasy authors everywhere have already experienced the joy of alluding/plot-stealing from them). And yet, biblical allusions remain by far the most popular to jaw about. Whether you see these as anchors to the canon of western literature, a vise squeezing the view of literature, or just plain glorified fanfiction, they can make, break, and problematize everything you write. Allusions are a tool at your disposal to link a character or situation into an existing framework.

Eve of the snake.
Get it? Get it? Ugh....
According to DeviantArt, I
painted that 6 years ago. I've improved.
Love them or hate them, you can't get through high school English without writing an essay on some Christ-figure character (Simon, from Lord of the Flies?! Your teacher will be deeply impressed that you did your SparkNotes homework). Pause. About all those reaching high-school and college essays. Is this what the canonized writers wanted? Did they  all mean to lay a biblical read-down on their text?

Well, some probably did. But not all. Allusions can be nothing more than similar features or offhand comments that get blown out of proportion in the reader's mind. Even if you don't intend to allude to anything at all, apophenia being what it is (some people call it patternicity (and is apparently also a TED talk, and reminds me that most of psychology is renaming the same concepts over and over again). In any case, people will find the patterns they are encouraged to find, or want to find in whatever they're reading.  This can make symbols pop with undue significance and characters fall into two-dimensional stand-ins for someone else in another story.

Allusions, even if you mean to use them, can bite you two ways. If you allude to stories without researching the connotations, you may convey nuance you don't mean. And if you rely too much on the nuance, 90% of your readers will miss it. (I remember one creative writing workshop I was in had a new allusion-dependent story each week, and it was maddening. The author would always get so offended when people didn't get it.) Writing tip: don't assume that just because you loved The Waste Land, that people will take the time to read the myth of Philomel as referenced in your story (unless Bettermyths blogs about it). And if your fiction can only be explained by a hypertext interface (or two), you might want to consider adding at least a comprehensive superficial plot on which to hang your allusive genius.

In conclusion, 'ware the allusion. Associations will slip into your story one way or another, though they may not be the right ones. Chances are it will be reminiscent of other stories. (If it is utterly unique, it is most likely incomprehensible.) Associations are sneaky. Sneaky like a snake, and just as treacherous (or does that depend on point of view?). Do your research before you reference, because you don't want to make a huge deal then get it wrong.

Really, whatever you do, your readers will get a random selection of their own associations.
#Writetip: Don't stress it. Just don't make your story hinge on one absolute allusion. 


Hunger Games with Squirrels

Everyone has a different relationship with nature. I very much enjoyed The Hunger Games, which I picked up around 2AM yesterday and finished around 4PM today. It was a surprisingly addictive book, but it reminded me that I would be very bad at a hunter/gatherer lifestyle. 

Katniss shoots squirrels and trades them for bread. I give squirrels bread. I worry that this is backfiring, though. I was sitting around drinking coffee when I happened to look up and see this: 


This is what I get for sitting in front of windows. They know the food is inside, and they're starting to mobilize. I have seen single scouts scaling the door before, but this is the first time I've seen coordinated motion. In fact, I have never seen squirrels so close together without one chasing the other off. 

If there's going to be an invasion, I suppose I can take a few lessons on survival from The Hunger Games. Let's see, what did I learn from this book? 

  • Survival is easiest when nomming the flesh of cute things. 
  • Dying of thirst would suck. So would starving.
  • It would be stressful to play The Most Dangerous Game with high schoolers. 
  • I am incapable of reading the character with the accent the author uses for Katniss's narration.
  • I devoured the book in two days, but it didn't leave me hungry enough to get the sequel. 

  • Hm. 
    Conclusion: if it comes down to a battle royale of me vs. the squirrels, I'll throw my cat at them and run. 


    The cat, Comma.

    The last few weeks have been trying. Between a death in the neighborhood, experiencing that earthquake (not far from the epicenter) all alone in my house, and days of hurricane rain, the silver lining has been the new old cat, the eight pound Comma.

    It isn't a good day without a few condescending glares from the cat. 
    But truth be told, we've been friends for a long time. About ten years ago she walked up to my neighbor's house and got their attention. She and about five kittens had been abandoned somewhere. Carrying the kittens, one by one, she brought them through the woods, across the fields, hiding them under shrubs to keep them safe. When she determined the neighbors could be trusted, she trotted out the kittens. The neighbors called her Mom, and kept her, though the kittens ended up elsewhere.

    For years, she was a terror to rabbits and birds in the big field, but to me she was sweet and neighborly. Whenever I went for walks and found myself before the neighbor's house, this cat would trot down the driveway, and demand a pet. After much purring, she would start rolling around in the gravel, and I could make an escape to finish the walk.

    A few weeks ago, the neighbor passed away tragically and unexpectedly from apparent heart attack. The cat didn't really seem to notice, but all of a sudden her options were us or the ASPCA. So we adopted this Mom-cat, and she's taken the changes in stride. It turned out to be too confusing to call her Mom, because we already call the raccoon Mom. Thus, Comma is a near-anagram for mom-cat. And besides, a comma is also a little pause. She has four little paws. The connection should be evident. In further support of the name, a comma is the exact shape of a sleeping cat.

    Her hobbies include purring like a jackhammer and circling me while I'm sleeping, then headbutting my hands until I wake up and pay attention. If she hasn't ruined my sleep three times, then the night isn't over. In general, she is very interested in the feeding of squirrels, and was not in the least impressed by the earthquake.

    I know you may not care about cats. You may even be a dog person. I mention dear Comma merely because cats are vital to a writer's cred. The two are always paired; this is proven, definitively, by the esteemed blog, Writers and Kitties.


    The Trouble with Covers

    I just saw an advertisement for this new movie, Fright Night. It looks less than fully compelling, but I am gladdened any time I see a trailer in which the Vampire is not a glittered-down version of his former glory. And the trailer does have a cute line about ways to get around a lack of an invitation into a home.

    But my gripe with the film is not that the trailer is lacking non-screaming females. It is not that I am never very excited about remakes that were great the first time (I haven't seen it, but Prince Humperdinck plays the vampire, so it's gotta be good.)

    No, my gripe of the day is the movie poster.
    It's kind of cool. The lettering is cute and looks like vampire fangs. The red eyes are a nice calm color. I have no idea who's holding the axe. (Tangent: Because it's a guy in a checkered shirt holding a tool reminiscent of a shovel, it is giving me flashbacks to this excellent Cracked video.)

    Anyway, as I stared at this cover, I was struck a certain way by the gaze, the fadeout, the color gradation, and the low light source. I began to feel that the film must be worthy of four Oscars. That it must be gritty, convoluted, sad, psychopathic, greed-filled, all with a southwestern flavor.

    But Fright Night is not No Country for Old Men. The blurb, the trailer, and the actors involved all suggest a wildly different tone. Violence is the sole connection. And Fright looks cartoonized. Why then make the decision to channel No Country for Old Men? Fright Night may be no country for nosy teenagers, or no country for vampires, but the Fright cover mainly makes me want to watch something Coen brothers. Success in advertising? I think not. The only perk I see is cranky people like me writing cranky blog posts and increasing word of mouth.


    Success is like a White Tiger

    Success is like a white tiger: random, ferocious, and beautiful.
    Once upon a time I was a member of DeviantArt. I still am, come to think of it (anyone still use that site?) Most of those drawings date back to high school, because I was the sort of kid who liked posting artwork. It helped encourage me to draw more, and that was always a good thing. Being in high school, I was very small fries, and I was excited if a drawing got two hundred views. Most didn't.

    Then I drew this tiger(link to DA). I didn't do anything different than my usual routine of drawing a picture with an eye turned to some quality movie, like T2. I did nothing out of the ordinary, but the tiger turned into something special. Perhaps it was that people confused it with a photo when viewed as a thumbnail or perhaps because it made an attractively ferocious thumbnail, but it set itself off on a juggernaut run. It was an exception to the hundred-view rule. It was viewed over 67,000 times and had over 1000 favorites.

    This is how art and writing work. It's random as hell. You do your thing, and sometimes you feel lucky to get fifty people read it. Sometimes it just turns into some weird juggernaut, and everyone sees it. You will never know when when it will happen or why it will happen. But it can and does. When it does happen, you'll never quite know why.

    Success is like a white tiger: that snow-camouflage mutant of nature. You never know how it came to be or if it will maul you. But it is a beautiful, powerful, and ferocious thing. So keep drawing, keep writing. And sometimes the tiger comes.


    Top Three Things I Miss About Video Games

    Let's be real.
    What I miss most is chocobos.
    I used to play video games like an addict, and I think that may have shaped some of my literary tastes towards fast paced and full of action. Nonetheless I decided, a few years ago, to go cold turkey on games and get things done in life. Instead of gaining hours of free time, I gained an internet addiction. On the whole I am not sure it's an equal trade. The loading times are as bad or worse (especially with my internet tower dissolving). And there are some things that I really miss from video games that just don't translate well into written work: 
    • 1. Exaggerated physical abilities. 
    Especially as demonstrated by double jumping. In Devil May Cry, an excellent game, you have to unlock the skill, but once you do, you can jump, and then jump again in midair. In videogame land I jump everywhere.

    (Perhaps I was a rabbit in a past life?) I do get genuinely annoyed if I encounter a videogame that does not allow me to jump with abandon. When they let me jump only as a special and relevant action button, it's the worst. I feel so controlled.
    • 2. Even more exaggerated weapons. 
    Disregard the crap-art.
    Notice the impressive sword.
    The size of swords in Final Fantasy games is one of the best things. Be the sword six feet long or one foot wide, IRL the characters' greatest threats would be their arms falling off.

    (I assume this is what happens when you lift heavy things - I try to avoid testing the theory.) And yet these weapons are carried cheerily across the worldmap. Not to mention that the characters seem to have invisible packmules. Note: I think VII was the best soap opera, full of nonsense and betrayal and amnesia and tragedy.
    • 3. Voice acting.
    The voice acting was always. So. Good. 

    It really added another layer to the plot developments and character appreciation. And none could ever come close to the excellent voice acting in the Devil May Cry series. That game should have been, and was, the one to fill my dark soul with light.
      • But in writing...
      These are things I miss. And yet they are high on the ridiculous spectrum as it is, and would be worse in writing. I like badass characters, but you gotta reign them in a little. They need weaknesses and emotions. Don't tell me they can doublejump off the air, or I can't take their life problems seriously. They can't have invisible pack mules - you need to think about what your characters could actually carry on their adventures. (Problems are tripled if your character is a shapeshifter.) And if the character's sword is bigger than he is, you need to provide a reason. 

      Most importantly, any character monologuing should not bring tears of laughter to your readers' eyes. Because they probably won't be laughing with you.


      New and Improved Cover!

      Seriously? A second post on your cover, Kat?

      Well, I like the look and feel of the new background, so I would like to take the time to announce that the new and subtly improved cover is now a go!

      With a texture like that, it has to be good.

      Now, as you can see, I have added a very cute rock-texture in the background. You may wonder why I bothered poking at the drawing (note the previous post on full evolution). I was happy with the center, you see, but the dull boredom of the prior flat gray background always made me sad. I wanted a nifty texture, but I resisted using anything stock.

      Because I do not approve of using stock textures, my previous solution was to whine about it. But the other day something extraordinary happened; I walked outside. I tore myself away from my computer long enough to realize that there were some very big flat stones outside with some very nice moss/mold/lichen/growing things/texture. And thus this texture was easily added. 

      Also on the bright side, it should look decent on the grayscale of a Kindle. My first cover was pretty much black, so you could only see Shadowing and my name and kind of a face.  

      Anywho, this is a very cute fantasy story (who doesn't love antiheroes and violent elves?) Available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Smashwords. Most people buy Amazon. You can find reviews there.


      The Importance of Spectacle

      Lady Gaga, queen of spectacle.

      Genius of our generation, Lady Gaga, is truly the Queen of Spectacle.

      Say what you will about her music, she is a master of Spectacle. Writers could learn a thing or two about the incorporation of fashion and ridiculosity in her rise to fame. She is a provides great cues for entertainment: be crazy, be awesome, be shiny, and you will grow fans.

      While I still consider Bad Romance, (which is the second most viewed video on YouTube), to be her video with the best aesthetic achievement, she hasn't released a boring one. And due to the transitive property of actors' historicity, she's essentially vampire hunter in Paparazzi, in which she kills Eric Northman.


      Disambiguation: Why True Blood is Better than Twilight

      Twilight is weirdly popular, but the sparkling offends a lot of vampire fans. True Blood is full of sex and violence, but the vampires scare off some potential viewers because they are getting the show confused with Twilight. 

      A disambiguation is necessary. 

      How they are alike: 
      • Vampires. Sorta.
      • Prominant love triangle between two supernatural beings and one mostly human main character.
      • There is a character who is in love partly because they cannot hear the thoughts of the object of affection. In the case of Bella, they may just be lacking.

        What makes Twilight (almost) fun to watch: 
        • It is unintentionally hilarious. Mostly due to Pattinson's faces. 
        • It really brings the text to life. I avidly devoured the Twilight books through the Reasoning with Vampires blog. 
        • Shirts are against werewolf law.
        • A beautifully awkward scene in which Edward rejects Bella, modestly buttons up his shirt, and insists on abstinence until marriage. 
        • The Cullens possess the vampire superpowers that allow them to pose for half the movie.
        • Watching these reminds you how much better True Blood is. 

          What makes True Blood fun to watch: 
          • Vampires retain a sense of ferocity, and they do horrifying and immoral things from time to time, as vampires ought to do. You can't be sure that they won't flip out and drain a character.
          • There is a discussion of the socio-cultural implications of vampires. 
          • In this love triangle, Eric and Bill have a whole lot more chemistry and interpersonal feelings than Edward/Jacob. 
          • Sookie has some sass and mopes less than Bella. Downside: her name is Sookie.
          • The series is focused on the town, which gives it a much richer cast and story tapestry, whereas Twilight is a claustrophobic teen romance with some random Foreign interlopers. 
          • True Blood is Intentionally Hilarious, and incorporates more witticism.

          What could be better for both: 
          • They both suffer from overpowered male characters in love with a less interesting girl. 
          • Vampires are one thing, but these both use the PR technique of throwing in everything paranormal but the kitchen sink, which multiplies the difficulty of suspension of disbelief. 
          • Overall paucity of badass female characters. 


          Cover evolution

          This is the process of change that the Shadowing cover went through.

          Brainstorming phase:
          Last time I went to a bookstore, sword hilts seemed popular.
          I mentally combined that concept with a wolf door-knocker we have at my house.
          I decided this was a bad idea.
          There was another brainstorming picture, but it appears to have been so lame that I deleted it.

          First idea for a cover with a halfway-transformed henchman standing there, like a bro.
          Note that the wings are kind of like Devil May Cry swords.

          In this stage his wings turned into spider webs, and his face, due to difficulties working out the jaw, began to bear a striking resemblance to Raziel from SoulReaver. Also, note the pen name idea and inherent flaw

          In this stage his wings turned into umbrellas.
          You already know about the name issue

          And now it's just about perfect! Proper name, editors and publishing cited, series name finally mentioned, and the background is lightened up because it was brought to my attention that the last version looked like a lump of black on the Kindle. Still, there's something missing...
          Aha! Now we have a fancy background texture! Thank you rock outside my house.  And now the process is done.

          So there we have it: the very professional process through which I worked out the cover.


          Kat is not a Zant.

          Hello, my real name is Kat Zantow, and I am dissolving the lovely pen name of Evelyn Zant.

          Shadowing: A Henchman's Tale (Moonblind)I published Shadowing under the pen name of Evelyn Zant, and it has taken me just under one month to realize that it was a terrible mistake. Evelyn Zant is such a pretty name, old fashioned but edgy. It seemed like such a good idea, until I encountered Kimberly.

          I encourage every writer who has firmly decided to write under a pen name to consult this extremely important checklist. Let me walk you through my process:

          Pen Name Selection Checklist

          1. Google it. Does it return few search results?  -  Under 400. Good.
          2. Search Amazon. Is there already an author of that name?  -  Nope. Excellent.
          3. Is the twitter name free?  -  Yep. And now I'm all ready for social networking. 
          4. Search Amazon for just the surname. Many readers search this way when looking for an author. Are there other authors with this surname?   -  After I published the book I did this check. Hello there, prolific writer of erotica, Kimberly Zant. 

          Haunting Melody (Sexphiles)As much as I love the name Zant, which is less confusing than Zantow, I would prefer that a reader not have to scroll through three pages of entwined nude bodies, and find my book, on a good day, right next to The Howling: The SeXphiles. Tagline: the sex is out there. 

          So forgive me, dear readers, for my abrupt about-face of identity. I would stick with Evelyn, but I don't really want my books to have to climb up through an orgy to be found. So thank you Kimberly, for giving me the courage to use my real name. Look for a global change by the week's end.

          Now on Amazon: A Zantow! Hm. Amazon Associates still is stuck with the old Zant image. At least the picture with the obnoxious 'buy from amazon' link works. 


          Cupcake Fiction


          Cupcakes are in fashion right now in the world of food and deliciousness. They are bitesized and fun and different and glittery and delicious. I like to think that short novels are the cupcakes of the internet.

          In honor of this epiphany, the henchmuffin above is an interpretive artwork of what Shadowing would look like as a cupcake. Unfortunately it became strikingly reminiscent of a cupcake version of Vincent Valentine, although it has been topped with with some cute little frostwings.

          Full recipe:
          1 1/2 cups pack mentality and telepathy
          1 1/4 cups all-purpose cloak/wings
          2 sticks or daggers. Substitute: claws/fangs.
          4 large life-changing events, room temperature.
          1 cup blood of Shadows
          1 teaspoon softheartedness.

          Top with a whipped icing, flavored with the essence of wistful wyvern. 

          Recipe source: Food Network.

          Moved from http://fictician.blogspot.com/.


          Trump card? Batsign

          MS Paint on a netbook trackpad. I should illustrate a book with these skills.

          Is Donald Trump Batman?

          Because he's the hero the media deserves, but not the one it needs right now.

          There have been mixed reactions to Donald Trump's recent political speeches. Some have postulated that he is making noise to distract the public from serious Republican opposition. This makes him a liberal hero. He’s pretty much pulling a Batman. Sure, he didn't take on the infamy of a two-faced killing spree, allowing himself to become the target of both bullets and public fear. But the parallels are unavoidable. Bruce Wayne throws around a lot of money on buildings and womanizing. So does Trump. Coincidence? I think not.

          Tump has faced danger. He has been shot by the media's enthusiastic cameras. And he takes on the burden of hate and mockery from the very liberals for whom he so selflessly sacrifices his good name. There is a true hero hiding beneath that candyfloss hairpiece. The topping was inspired by a childhood trauma in a wig shop, and he wears the hair to become a symbol, and strike fear into the hearts of his enemies.

          And yet, as Sirius Gordon says, we don't need this hero right now. Sarah Palin has had it under control for quite some time. What can happen with these two heroes loose in the city? This election cycle can only turn into a dangerous game of one-upmanship between Batman and Batgirl. Guano is going to hit the fan.

          Watch out. This is bat country.

          Originally posted at http://fictician.blogspot.com/ 


          Missed Marketing Opportunities

          When you have complete a work of fiction, it is important to explore all marketing opportunities. Here is an example. This product should have been proposed and developed for Silence of the Lambs. With the language of the movie, the product would practically sell itself. There's no doubt how to use the lotion. [You] put the lotion on the skin. It could even be sold in a big bottle, as pictured above, just for the big girls! 


          Unpronounceable Names: Asp-Spider

          "What's in a name?" Shakespeare's Juliet asks. "That which we call a rose
          By any other name would smell as sweet."

          However, when Lisa Simpson raises this point to Bart, he counters: "Not if you call them Stench Blossoms."

          Bart wins with the more poignant point. This should not surprise, since the wisdom frequently touted as Shakespeare's actually comes from his angsty teenage character who voluntarily put herself in a deathlike coma and fillets herself when her equally angsty lover in too-tight tights follows suit. These are the starring lovers of cross-eyed wisdom.

          No matter what you're writing, the names do matter. This is Rule 18: Think hard, but not too hard about the names of people and places in your fiction.

          If you do not think much about your character names, you may end up with very generic names (Like Jeff, Jake, Anne, etc.), which imply very generic characters. If you try too hard to make the names unique, especially by adding y's, (a la Ravyn, Estrogyna, Satyra) then no matter what dialogue you give them, the reader will know that they are pale with too much eye liner and a secret wish to become vampires. Try to make the names cute, like Page Turner, or Sherry Creamer, then you're in danger of heading into parable or stripper territory.

          If you think too much about a system names, you may find yourself clever, but the reader may not catch on or care. For instance, if you name the characters in alphabetical order, alternating male and females, using only names on hurricane lists, well, that's all well and good. But really, does that add anything to anyone's experience?*

          Character names are not the only ones you must think about. If you write fantasy or horror, your invented creations must have names that are appropriately horrifying or fantastical. Unless you are writing a comedy or an epic poem, try to avoid alliteration and other dumb poetic devices.

          Also avoid giving creatures names that are hard to say. For instance, a creature that is a combination of snake and spider has a lot of scare potential. (See top of the post.) Many people have phobias of snakes, and many have phobias of spiders, as both are natural arch-nemeses in evolutionary history. By combining them, you hit twice as many phobics with night terrors in one fell swoop! Genius! However, if you give it a stupid name, the creature will be far less effective on that part of the population which lacks phobia. Let's say we call the creature an Asp-spider. This would be a poor choice of a name. Asp Spider. Say it ten times fast, I dare you. You will find yourself stuttering or whispering psst, like you and the critter are old friends who go way back, sharing secrets. You can't be afraid of it. You will end up thinking that the creature is silly and the writer is dumb.

          *If your book is targeted solely at meteorologists, then use all the hurricane names you want, just make sure you don't make a mistake, or they will have an 80% chance of catching errors.