On Sabbaticals and Making My Own Art

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My planned September sabbatical is almost at an end, sadly. I say “sadly”, because I very much enjoyed not being online this time around or, rather, online in closed circles. The first thing I did, after wrangling my list of paying gigs, was to do some adult coloring courtesy of Sarah Bigwood. And then? Decompression. This campaign has been absolutely ridiculously awful in the sense that there are so many arguments happening online. It’s challenging to get a squee every now and again for something that isn’t so spectacular it takes everyone’s breath away, regardless of whether or not I’m said creator of said piece for squeeing, and that gets to me. When I hear nothing but a single note at a singular volume, fortissimo, with a heavy pedal, it becomes noise and it loses its value.

It did take about two weeks to let the emotional angst flow right out of me, and then another two to right my head and get back in the What I Need To Be DoingTM headspace. Not to be confused, of course, with the What I Think I Should Be DoingTM headspace. Two, very different things–especially for writers. A few thoughts coming out of the past few weeks has reinforced that a) we’re all just making this shit up as we go along b) many (if not 95%) of us are doing the best we can and c) what you know or how you’re regarded means f-all with respect to what you do. As an addendum to that, plus an obligatory footnote(1), worrying about everything else is far too complicated and gets in the way of making art.

I’m sure some of my angst is coming from a charged election, but as I live in a charged state a decompression this time around was sorely needed. Of course, being offline doesn’t necessarily help me get down words faster on the page, but mitigating the words and headlines I consume has had an overall positive impact on my psyche. And, it has allowed me to get back to center and focus on what really matters. The in between spaces, the five and ten minutes here and there when I’m waiting on an e-mail, I definitely want to make better use of those.

What’s ahead? I’m planning on participating in Inktober, but I won’t be following the prompts. I have something specific planned, to add to my growing list of beadtastic-ness, but I’m pretty excited about it. I’m all about interstitial art that connects to the worlds I’m creating, to feel that visceral experience of my imagination brought to life–even in a small way! And yes, I feel like a “fake” artist, because none of the creative stuff I do (outside of words or art direction) is attached to my core business. I don’t know if it will be, either. Art has always been my religion, because it’s a testament to what’s inside. I just know I am totally and wholly miserable without it, and have to fall down this particular rabbit hole with or without the $ attached or the fear that I’m wasting my time.

That’s really been the crux of making my own stuff, and has for a while. We talk about making money as artists all the time, and how hard it is. I would write and make art with or without the money, but thinking about ways to earn it based off of what I already do isn’t evil. It’s counter-intuitive to what a lot of other people thinking about making your own stuff. Suffer on in obscurity, selling 20 copies, or have a book made into a movie. Only, there’s 1,000 different business models in between here and there and everywhere, and it’s maddening to try to control the outcome because it cannot be controlled. It can’t. You can have a background in business, which I do, but that doesn’t translate to how readers or players respond to the work or how many copies are sold. The only thing that can be controlled is how I spend my days, and right now? That means adding my own stuff. Just adding it back in, without the fear or anxiety or worry it won’t matter.

So what’s changed for me? I think the illustration at the bottom of today’s post perfectly sums up my thoughts but, for those of you who cannot see the honey badger, what has changed is that I stopped caring to remove another obstacle that gets in the way of being creative. Anything that gets in the way has gotta go. Stagnation for me, not writing or not designing or what have you, that’s the true death. That’s the beginning and end of the darkness that surrounds me, and I fight back by making art.

I don’t know if I’ll post links to my works or not, but if I do it won’t be every day. There is something very soothing about putting pen to paper, something that can’t be replaced with a mouse and a keyboard. I encourage you to participate if you think it’s a cool idea, even if you’re just lettering or watching what other artists are doing. More art = better for all in my book!

(1) Yes, games are in the category of art. Why wouldn’t they be?

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[Sharing Book Love] Free Copy of Genrenauts

genrenauts-cover-imageIn the category of “How cool is that?”, Michael R. Underwood is offering a free copy of Genrenauts: The Cupid Reconciliation for a limited time if you sign up for his newsletter.

I’ll see what I can do about sharing more tidbits as they come my way in the future, too. Free books plus supporting authors I’ve worked with equals lots of love from me!

Curious to hear more about Genrenauts: The Cupid Reconciliation? Here’s a snapshot about what this novella is about:

Wounded Genrenaut Mallery York returns to active duty just in time for the team to be deployed to the Rom-Com region of the Romance world. There, everyone is beautiful, office workers can afford palatial midtown apartments, and hearts are won and broken on every corner. But before they can fix the broken love story, they have to find it. Mallery takes the lead, bringing her expertise to bear and leading Leah to wonder whether there’s a space for her on the team now that Mallery is back. SOURCE: author website

If you’re interested, head on over to this link to sign up for Underwood’s readers’ list. Huzzah!

[Guest Post] Melanie R. Meadors on Playing In Someone Else’s Sandbox

When Marc Tassin invited me to write a story for the anthology he and John Helfers were editing, Champions of Aetaltis, I was over the moon. I had always wanted to work on an RPG tie-in project, and since this had a sword and sorcery type setting, it seemed right up my alley. Some of the first fantasy novels I read as a teen were Dungeons and Dragons tie-ins, and I’ve enjoyed the Pathfinder Tales books from Paizo as well. It didn’t take me much thought at all to agree to work on this project with two editors I admired.

When I got the setting guide to the world of Aetaltis, where the stories of the anthology were to be set, I started reading it with glee. I couldn’t wait to get started, and I was sure inspiration for a story would hit me as I pored over the pages. There were two hundred pages, to be precise, with details about races and classes of characters, facts and maps about the settings, and everything I ever wanted to know about the history and gods of the world. But when it came time to actually write the story, aside from having a little struggle coming up with the proper “champion” (and you can read more about my struggle with that here) I became really worried. There was so much stuff in the world guide, so much of it was already estab-lished. What if I completely screwed something up?

Thankfully, I’m not a shy person and went straight to Marc with my fears. Not that I asked him to hold my hand or anything, but I pitched my story idea to him as specifically as I could, and asked him to please verify that the world stuff that was involved with my story seemed accurate. I told him straight out, “Hey, I’m new at this shared world stuff. I just need your OK that I’m going in the right direction.” Sure enough, I was fine. I wrote the story and submitted it to him by the deadline.

Then things started to get really cool.

I hadn’t thought much beyond needing to get my story written and then taking care of edits when they arrived. To me, my characters existed in Aetaltis, and there were creatures and mention of other places in the story, but that was it. It was self-contained in my mind. But of course, to the world developer, this one story was a piece to a much bigger puzzle. My story’s characters and the events in it would become the stuff of leg-end in Aetlatis. And possibly most awesome of all was finding connections between stories in the anthology, things that were completely unplanned but just coincided. Two stories, for example, that had a staff in them. When Marc emailed me one day and asked if I could fiddle with the description of a device in my story to make it match one in another story, which would actually be a legendary weapon, I realized for the first time just how cool writing in a shared world really was. My story was more than just a story, it would become a bit of the mythos of the world. People could read my story and create a game out of it, just like the Aetaltis role playing game world was the basis for my fiction story.

The same goes for pretty much any tie-in. When you write a story based in the world of a video game, RPG, or movie franchise, your story becomes part of that world’s cultural literacy. Something small in the world might have inspired your story, but something small in your story might inspire someone to write another story, or game, or even movie. Your work becomes part of something bigger than it would have been if it was just a stand-alone tale.

A simple story becomes legend.

The World of Aetaltis, a new classic heroic fantasy RPG setting for use with Fifth Edition, is now on Kickstarter. Books, accessories, maps, & more for your 5E roleplaying game!

About the Author

Melanie R. Meadors is the author of fantasy and science fiction stories where heroes don’t always carry swords and knights in shining armor often lose to nerds who study their weaknesses. She’s been known to befriend wandering garden gnomes, do battle with metal-eating squirrels, and has been called a superhero on more than one occasion. Her work has been published in Circle Magazine, The Wheel, and Prick of the Spindle, and she was a finalist in the 2014 Jim Baen Memorial Science Fiction Contest. Melanie is also a freelance author publicist and publicity/marketing coordinator for both Ragnarok Publications and Mechanical Muse. She blogs regularly for GeekMom and The Once and Future Podcast. Her short story “A Whole-Hearted Halfling” is in the anthology Champions of Aetaltis, available on Amazon.

[New Release] Drawing Destiny eBook Now Available

Drawing Destiny Cover

THE TAROT HAS AWAKENED…
…And nothing will ever be the same again.

The Tarot, a mystical divination deck of cards, has appeared in the Sixth World as a powerful artifact. It works its will on anyone who finds one of its magical cards, from runners surviving on the street to corp executives battling in the boardroom. And not just people’s lives will be changed, for the Awakened Tarot deck is more than just a formidable magic item, it has an agenda all its own, and will seek to use those it comes in contact with to set its plans in motion…

Drawing Destiny is the latest original Shadowrun anthology, featuring twenty-three original stories about this brand-new artifact introduced into the game universe. Featuring stories from Michael A. Stackpole, Jennifer Brozek, Chris A. Jackson, Lucy A. Snyder, Aaron Rosenberg, R.L. King, Russell Zimmerman, Monica Valentinelli, Josh Vogt, and Jason M. Hardy, and 14 more authors, these stories reveal how the Awakened Tarot will impact the Sixth World for better, and sometimes, for much worse… The cover was designed by Echo Chernik, who also designed the Sixth World tarot deck.

In addition to the tarot theme, the collection highlights different characters and their place in the Sixth World, and includes the Italian Federation which I used as the basis for “My Enemy, Mi Amici”. You can read my design notes on the Catalyst Game Labs Tumblr account, and you can now pick up a copy of the eBook on DriveThruFiction.com or Amazon. I hope you enjoy the collection!

Munny, Magnets, and Painting [Pictures]

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Took the time to decompress and find my head space again, and wound up doing some smaller beading projects(1) before I picked up a paintbrush. Captain Whinypants is hilariously addicted to all kinds of brushes, makeup or otherwise, so to satisfy the little monster I gave him his own brush to play with. He killed it dead. Deader than dead. Sad, little brush… *sniffles*

Anyway, I have a few projects pending(2) but it’s been an age since I’ve done anything art-related. Given the fact that my con schedule is much lighter now, I’m looking forward to taking the time to work on the art projects that are eating a hole in my brain.

Sometimes, though, to prep for the GINORMOUS VISION I do smaller bits to test brush sizes, paint consistency, techniques, etc. It’s also calming, since writing requires a different head space than drowning in paint. At some point, finger painting may need to happen.

Behold the fruits of my decidedly not gothish labors! Flat magnets stylized in the form of Lord Lardbottom and Captain Whinypants.

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And here’s the Munny I painted. He wanted to be in spaaaaaacccceeeeee.

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(1) I have a LOT of beads, and a LOT of detailed projects to do. Oy.
(2) I really, really want to make the door knockers from Labyrinth, but sadly that requires the use of sculpey and it scares me. Will I blow up the oven? Will I light my Pocky on fire? Will my caffeine consumption triple? Inquiring minds want to know.



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Monica Valentinelli > 2016 > September

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