A Moment of Love for The Originals

Vampire Avatar

Apologies for sporadic posts and MANW updates; I’ve been focused on getting stuff done and am back into a general routine. I plan on blogging more regularly next week; July may be a bit sporadic as well, if only because I have two conventions in July. The hustle is real! I really have to focus and shuffle more projects off into the ether, but I’ll be back soon.

Last week, I got caught up on The Originals; I’m now ready to start season 4. It can’t stream fast enough for me.

And now, a moment of love for Elijah.

Mood: You mean it isn’t August?
Caffeinated Beverages Consumed: I LOST COUNT ZOMG.
Work-Out Minutes Logged Yesterday: Hunting Pokemon
In My Ears: Cinna
Game Last Played: Pokemon Go
Book Last Read: Kim Stanley Robinson’s Aurora
Movie/TV Show Last Viewed: Hunger Games.
Latest Artistic Project: Make Art Not War 2017 Challenge and Rules
Latest Releases: In Volo’s Wake for Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition, Unknown Armies Books 1-3, and Kobold Guide to Gamemastering.
Current State of Projects: Read my latest project update. New project update coming when I get time.




Alternate Rules for Make Art Not War 2017 Challenge

June 2017 Make Art Not War Challenge

When I started this journey, I did so as a means of prioritizing my art over the things I can’t control. As it turns out, there’s a lot I don’t. I can’t control whether or not the U.S. goes to war. I can’t control the uptick in racist, xenophobic, and misogynistic acts. I can’t control so many “big picture” movements and shake-ups, blow-ups and gaffes. The only thing I can, is me–or so I thought. Sometimes, I do get overwhelmed and I’m finding that is very, very common because life doesn’t stop and start with a headline.

How to cope? There’s a prominent idea that, to be successful, you have to shut off all your emotions and be productive as if you were a robot. That has never been the case for me, and I feel dealing with emotional stress isn’t talked about a lot. This is supposed to be the fun job, the glamorous gig we’re lucky to have. Only, the expression of emotion is something fans do/have/expect in response to our work. Now, I am a fan-turned-creator making works for other fans to respond to, which is one of the reasons why I make art. Emotions are part of being human and they are natural after all. Sometimes, we feel things that are so compelling we have to make art and that vehicle, that physical manifestation of our emotions, is how the artist connects to the audience. Other times, we shut down completely due to a thousand tiny bites, those little cuts that chip away at our confidence. Or, in my case, harassment.

Emotions are important to making art. Forgiving yourself for getting sick, falling into a depression, needing a vacation, etc. is so important, because there are many myths about the suffering artist that are works of fiction for a reason. To suffer, to be happy, to be angry or sad…those emotions are part of who you are and they may not necessarily be reflected in your work. You don’t have to suffer to make good art, and anyone who tells you that probably doesn’t realize this mantra causes you harm. Pain can be a catalyst, but it is not the only emotion we draw upon as artists. The beauty of being human is that we deal with our emotions very differently, and that is something no “one-true-wayism” can ever address. However, feel too many emotions and you can get overwhelmed, shut down, and not make any art because you are reacting to your brain weasels. For artists, this is a danger because there are a lot of reasons not to make art in a culture that struggles to define its value.

The flip side to tapping into your emotions is to veer toward routine. Discipline, which was the foundation for my Make Art Not War 2017 Challenge, is important to making art. It matters because making art consistently is the only way to become successful as (or learn how to be) an artist. You cannot sell what you dream about making. You cannot paint a masterpiece if you’re still learning techniques. I know that can be a hard pill to swallow, but making art has to be our core competency and primary focus as artists. However, like emotions, there is a dark side to too much discipline. When you plot, plan, and form routines, you wind up punishing yourself when your actions don’t satisfy your intent. Maybe, you’re the type of writer who now knows you cannot write every day, for example. That’s okay. As I’ve said before, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that, because how you make art folds into figuring out your process. Your process doesn’t always impact the end result, provided you keep at it.

For these reasons, I am proposing alternate rules to help you customize this template for your needs. I want to reiterate that my challenge is here to help you feel empowered to make your own choices as an artist. I cannot stand over your shoulder and force you to write; I cannot overpower your personal brain weasels; I cannot give you the secret to making art or being successful as an artist. There is no secret other than to sit down and actually do it. Right now. Not five years ago, not three weeks from now, but today.

With that in mind, here’s the original pledge followed by a customization:

Original My Make Art Not War 2017 Challenge pledge:

  • I pledge to devote one hour a day to my original art.
  • If I don’t feel motivated, I pledge to write down the reasons why I wanted to take this challenge for fifteen minutes or one-to-three pages whichever comes first.
  • I pledge to mark down on the calendar whenever I complete a day’s efforts.
  • As the challenge creator, I pledge to create a weekly accountability post every Wednesday beginning on January 9th. Comments will be open. Hashtag #makeartnotwar2017 #manw2017
  • I pledge to check into social media twice a week for personal use, and once a month with my local community of artists and writers.

Alternate My Make Art Not War 2017 Challenge pledge:

  • I pledge to devote five hours a week to my original art.
  • If I don’t feel motivated, I pledge to explore what is blocking me from making art. I can do this by talking to a peer, writing one-to-three pages, or meditating.
  • I pledge to acknowledge and celebrate the projects I’ve completed for Make Art Not War 2017 Challenge.
  • I pledge to evaluate how I’m doing, by checking in bi-weekly. Hashtag #makeartnotwar2017 #manw2017
  • I pledge to review, refine, and reduce distractions, like my time on social media, that are affecting my ability to make art.

As you can see, the new rules shift the focus slightly to incorporate your feelings. There are other customizations as well, because not everyone has the same schedule or means to support the ability to make art. Sometimes, materials are expensive or the allotted time is shifted to account for a family emergency. That’s extraordinarily common, and often I think we forget that the opportunities we have aren’t what everyone else has, too. Further, customizations like this don’t significantly change the challenge goal, what they do is fine-tune the experience to your needs while avoiding extremes. I have total faith that you will customize these rules based on your lifestyle, to make room for making art when you can. Be kind and give yourself some credit!

Lastly, I want to point out that self-evaluation may yield interesting results for you. You might find out you’re suffering from a mild depression. You might recognize that a change in your job or activity levels are impacting your mental-or-physical health. You might notice that you are more isolated than you’ve been in the past, or the political atmosphere is so charged you don’t realize you’re being triggered by current events. I cannot stress the value of self-care enough, and should you find yourself in this position please do not punish yourself for not making art. Your health is so important, and while making art can be cathartic in many ways it is not a replacement for getting the medical help you need.

Be well, and I hope that you are figuring out the next steps on your journey as an artist.

Mood: Moody like the weather. It’s stormy, it’s sunny, it’s rainy in 20 minutes?
Caffeinated Beverages Consumed: A solid three.
Work-Out Minutes Logged Yesterday: Hunting Pokemon
In My Ears: Fish tank and Captain Whinypants snoring.
Game Last Played: Pokemon Go
Book Last Read: Kim Stanley Robinson’s Aurora
Movie/TV Show Last Viewed: The Originals Season 3.
Latest Artistic Project: Make Art Not War 2017 Challenge and Rules
Latest Releases: In Volo’s Wake for Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition, Unknown Armies Books 1-3, and Kobold Guide to Gamemastering.
Current State of Projects: Read my latest project update. New project update coming when I get time.




Enjoy One of My Horror Stories for Free!

“Prey” is one of the older pieces I wrote, and it will probably show up in a personal collection at some point. I tend to look back at my older stuff and wince, but this piece is one that I’m still proud of. “Prey” first won a contest quite a few years ago, then was picked up by Pseudopod.org and performed on their podcast. (If you prefer to listen to Flash: Prey read by Christina Ellis rather than read it, be sure to click through!)

Anyway, I wanted to offer “Prey” to you here on my website, as my way of saying “Thanks, for reading!” I hope you enjoy the story!

Prey

A musky scent drifts lazily on stale, moonlit air. Alara knows this scent—fear—it holds little meaning to her. Her hawk’s eyes narrow as she circles above the cemetery searching for her dinner. Focusing on a small, brown mouse huddled against a piece of stone, Alara dives to strike. The mouse sees her and freezes.

Something hot hisses and sparks, burning her dinner to a blackened crisp. Alara leaps to the night air, squawking in alarm. She lifts higher caught by the smell of pungent, moldy earth and burning candle fat. Faint sounds penetrate the smells; a harsh voice interrupts the monotonous droning. Alara knows the voice—it belongs to her master.

Circling above the voices, Alara’s winged form is thinly veiled by the moonlight’s smoke-filled mist. Syllables turn into well-formed sounds; she knows little of the language of men. Swooping again, her watchful eye catches white, wriggling worms breaking free from the ground before her master. Her body streams through the air, diving for her prey. Clamping down on the worm, she leaps to finish it off, but the thing won’t let go.

Alara spits wriggling flesh out of her beak. A human hand rises from the ground and creeps forward. Her master’s mouth turns foul; blackened sparks of menace fly from his skinny lips. The more he speaks, the faster the unnatural thing turns over well-shoveled earth. Alara looks from her master to the rising form and loudly complains. Nothing here is safe to eat.

Carefully placed candles burn brighter than a midday sun. Shaking her foggy head, she casts off a ravenous glare that bores into her feathers. A naked hand grabs for her wing and misses. Alara lifts gently above her attacker and dives, pecking at it. Fingers pry at her tail feathers, she screams out in pain and flings herself on her master. Instead of saving her, he throws bits of oily words at her, coating her wings. She knows her own scent now—fear. A face appears before her, her master’s face, holding something sharp that glints in the moonlight. Inhuman eyes glow as he pulls back his knife. Alara juts forward, pecking blindly at whatever is in front of her.

Howling in pain, her master stops the flow of menacing words. The candles’ light dims; Alara pecks her master again and again with wings outstretched. He swings the knife at her, his anger thick. Pushing herself off the ground, she attacks his eyes with her talons. Black ooze seeps along the deep grooves in his face. Her master drops the blade and Alara forces herself up to a low hover. She cannot move, or fly, or breathe.

Opening her beak, she gasps for precious air. Black ash swirls around her, stinging her eyes. Somehow, she finds the strength to peck hard, claw harder until she has no master left.

Too exhausted to lift her head, Alara crashes into a deep sleep, dreaming of mice and fish and morning’s light.

Friendly Friday: the Fairy Tale Princess Alethea Kontis

Trix and the Fairy Queen

Every once in a great while, I run into someone whose hand gestures are as wild (if not more so) than mine are. Enter Alethea Kontis, who has written stories for kids, young adults, and crotchety old farts like myself. (Okay, I’m not all that crotchety or crypt-keeperish, but definitely not a teenager anymore!)

Kontis’s versatility as an author is complemented by her efforts to generate and strengthen a sense of community between genre writers and artists. She is passionate in all she does, and that’s definitely something I can relate to! What I like about her work, is the fact that she’s the type of skilled writer who’s easy to root for. When she goes to a convention, she puts on a show; her costumes, infectious laughter and larger-than-life personality are part of her stories as well. Combined, Alethea is magical and drawn to the light she’s very much a part of.

When I think of Alethea, I consider someone who definitely has the “giant ball of knotted yarn” career path–a common journey for most of us. But, Kontis is also an example of someone who doesn’t give up; she’s the definition of persistence, and there’s no doubt in my mind that, one way or the other, she will continue to generate the success she works so hard for. Knowing her, I’m guessing when more blessings land on her glittering tiara–it’ll be when she least expects it. Won’t her happily-ever-after be fun to celebrate!

If you’re interested in her stories, check out Alethea Kontis on Patreon, her Twitter @aletheakontis, or visit the author’s website at www.aletheakontis.com. You can also see what books are available via Alethea Kontis on Amazon Author Central, too.

Mood: Deadlines will either eat me, or they already have and I didn’t realize they did.
Caffeinated Beverages Consumed: Uh… Four. No five!
Work-Out Minutes Logged Yesterday: Hunting Pokemon
In My Ears: Some whiny dude. Seriously, if this song gets any whinier about some topic I cannot make out, I’m going to start howling at the moon.
Game Last Played: Pokemon Go
Book Last Read: Kim Stanley Robinson’s Aurora
Movie/TV Show Last Viewed: La Belle et la Bete.
Latest Artistic Project: Make Art Not War 2017 Challenge and Rules
Latest Releases: In Volo’s Wake for Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition, Unknown Armies Books 1-3, and Kobold Guide to Gamemastering.
Current State of Projects: Read my latest project update. New project update coming when I get time.




MANW: May Recap and PERSISTENCE for June’s Theme!

MANW June 2017

This month was another weird one, and it wasn’t for a lack of concerted effort on my part to resume normality. I was sick for about two and a half weeks, and that put me even further behind than anticipated. I feel terrible about it, and though many things happened outside of my control I am focused like a shark with a laser beam on their head to get all the things done. What I did learn from yet another setback, however, was that every day is a new opportunity to move forward. In this climate, that can be very hard. So many friends and loved ones are anxious about the repeal of the ACA, net neutrality, civil rights protections, reproductive rights, the right to protest… Hell, I’m furious, but feeling All The Bad ThingsTM for an extended period of time is not good for me mentally or physically. Thank you, very much, Pokemon Go for adding a bit of fun to my walks every day for that reason.

As an aside, I cannot stress enough the importance of self-care right now. This is not a politics-as-usual presidency, and I am so, so sorry if you are either at risk or are being harmed right now. If you need permission, let me repeat that you are not selfish if you take care of yourself. That, when coupled with isolationist tactics, is how the assholes manipulate victims. Taking my own advice, for sure, but getting back up on the proverbial horse and celebrating small wins to keep at it. That, dear reader, is what artists do.

Here’s how I did in May:

My Make Art Not War 2017 Challenge pledge:

  • I pledge to devote one hour a day to my original art.
  • If I don’t feel motivated, I pledge to write down the reasons why I wanted to take this challenge for fifteen minutes or one-to-three pages whichever comes first.
  • I pledge to mark down on the calendar whenever I complete a day’s efforts.
  • As the challenge creator, I pledge to create a weekly accountability post every Wednesday beginning on January 9th. Comments will be open. Hashtag #makeartnotwar2017 #manw2017
  • I pledge to check into social media twice a week for personal use, and once a month with my local community of artists and writers.

May 2017 Challenge Recap

  • I had no capacity whatsoever to make art when I was sick. I did do some lettering this month, and revisited some original stories. But, I was preoccupied because I was falling behind on my obligations and paying gigs come first.
  • I didn’t have a problem with motivation, but I did get very frustrated when I couldn’t satisfy it.
  • Another month where tracking didn’t happen. This time, I didn’t track those efforts because guilt started to set in when I didn’t make art. This, dear reader, is why I feel that “making art every day” or “write every day” mantras can be harmful. It’s something I need to think about going forward.
  • Social media time was managed, and I opted to extend my social media sabbatical. I feel very strongly that silence is helping me recover faster, and retain my focus.

Could I control being sick? No, no I couldn’t. That doesn’t stop the brain weasels from taking over, and given the intensity of emotions I felt during this time I am chalking May up to a lesson learned. Maybe, my goal for this Make Art Not War 2017 Challenge has more to do with making art as a priority as opposed to making art every day.

This observation is interesting to me, because I don’t want to pull back so much on the idea that actually sitting down and doing the work isn’t the only way to move forward in your career. But, it’s giving me a dimension to think about, that making art is the goal and if, despite all your best efforts, you just can’t right then and there…that doesn’t mean you’re a failure. It just means that you need to keep at it. (Hence, this month’s theme!)

JOY and other Monthly Themes Recap

Now that we’re in June, I’d like to take a moment and share the monthly themes we’ve had so far. They are:

  • PLAY – January’s theme was designed to kick off a year of making art!
  • ORGANIZE – February was all about getting those art supplies and files in order, to make room for all the new stuff we’ll make.
  • PLANT – March was focused on small, manageable goals that will help seed a future of making art.
  • SPEED – In April, I proposed that speedy sketches, stitches, and quick writing exercises can help unblock your creativity. Fun!
  • JOY – May’s theme was simple, and I plotted this as a reminder that it’s important to have fun. If you don’t truly enjoy what you’re doing, then you’ll eventually stop making art.

May’s JOY theme was fun, and it reminded me what I love doing. Making art absolutely makes me happy, but I feel that needs to happen in a safe space. What and where that space is will be unique to you, but it’s definitely something to think about. With that in mind, I’m ready to share June’s theme!

New Theme for June! PERSISTENCE

Very simply, June’s theme is PERSISTENCE. Yes, I’ve fallen down a few times. I’m assuming you have, too. This is what it means to be a human making art, as opposed to a robot producing art on an assembly line. If you kinda sorta participated in January but abandoned it like your other New Year’s Resolutions, then I encourage you to think about joining in again. I am not asking you for anything other than to show up, put your butt in the chair, and start writing or knitting or painting, etc. for this month. You can do it!

Feeling defeated? I cannot stress this enough: shit happens. It especially happens to artists, and often we draw upon those emotions–joy, anger, fear–to make art. The fan will be hit, and that’s guaranteed. What matters is that you get back up after you fall down, and keep making art. I have faith that you will join me. That, more than anything, is the reason why I tell you about what I’m going through. If you’re experiencing a bump in the road, you are not alone!

Mood: Is hairball a mood? My cats are full of them.
Caffeinated Beverages Consumed: Three-ish.
Work-Out Minutes Logged Yesterday: Hunting Pokemon
In My Ears: Blissful silence.
Game Last Played: Pokemon Go
Book Last Read: Kim Stanley Robinson’s Aurora
Movie/TV Show Last Viewed: La Belle et la Bete.
Latest Artistic Project: Make Art Not War 2017 Challenge and Rules
Latest Releases: In Volo’s Wake for Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition, Unknown Armies Books 1-3, and Kobold Guide to Gamemastering.
Current State of Projects: Read my latest project update. New project update coming when I get time.




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