The folks at Bleeding Cool were kind enough to share my article "The Measure of Success" with their readers. To mark the occasion, we’re holding a weekend challenge! If the LeyLines Volume Three Kickstarter reaches 33% funded by the end of Monday (11/25) I will share a new myth from the LeyLines world about one of the eight gods, as chosen by backer-only poll. The myth will be released as a PDF to all backers at all levels.
Running a Kickstarter is a very rough process for me. It sets off a lot of thought processes that go nasty places quickly. It doesn't help that I have no yard stick to evaluate the progress against. Is it doing well, or poorly? Is 12% in the first week a good sign, or are we in trouble? I just don't know. And so my mind starts to whisper that it's doomed to failure, because I'm not good enough, and if I knew the right things to do, it would be better. I realized today that it's a protective mechanism. In theory, if I know something is going to fail, then won't it hurt less when it does?
The most dangerous part of that kind of thinking is it encourages behavior that can turn a possible success into a guaranteed failure. Self-fulfilling prophecies aren't just reserved for stories. We live and die by them every day.
What is success? It looks so different from one person to another. The kids I now work with look at me and marvel at my drawings. To them, my ability to draw a passable Yoda encouraging them to "Do or do not" makes my success unquestioned. To the substitute teacher that sees I've self-published a few books, I'm automatically a success just by virtue of the fact that I am doing anything at all. To my peers, I'm struggling and scraping to get some traction, just like they are. To the people I consider inspirations, already making a living off of their work, I don't exist at all. And no perspective is really an accurate measure of my success, or lack thereof.
The depression brain wants to put me in a box where I'm a failure no matter which way I look at it. Either I wasted nearly a decade pursuing the engineering career which I despised, or I've committed the ultimate sin by abandoning the career that gave me financial stability. The teachers have been kind enough to let me share fliers about my Kickstarter with their kids, and I feel simultaneously hungry and ashamed to even ask. As though their parents will look at me and think, "Huh, what did she expect? She wants to be an artist, when she could have been an Engineer? Serves her right." But I've never really understood the idea of a world where people would look upon me with kindness. It's not what I grew up with. I'm supposed to be kind to everyone else, but nobody is supposed to be kind to me. They're certainly not supposed to hope I succeed. So why should I?
During a low last week, I asked Cory, "Who do I think I'm trying to be? What am I doing with my life?"
He replied, "You're making a difference in people's lives, and you're telling a great story."
Shortly thereafter, I received several comments and letters from readers out of the blue, sharing their struggles and personal stories. That they felt less alone, in some cases that they were still here, because of my work. And I was just...humbled. Amazed. Blown away. Thankful. Baffled. Honored. Terrified. Glad. So glad that they could reach out. That I made a difference to someone. That we could make a difference to each other.
Joss Whedon once said, “I'd rather make a show 100 people need to see, than a show that 1000 people want to see.” I've often felt that way about my own writing. I know that my work is not going to be a mainstream appeal kind of tale. That's okay. I'm not writing to people that have their needs met by what already exists out there. I'm writing to the people that need what I have to share. So we can both know we're not alone. So we can make a difference.
Maybe that won't ever result in a monetary success. I don't know. I can't see the future, as much as the depression voice would like to convince me that it can. I keep pursuing the business side of things in the hope that the depression voice is untrue. To defy the fate it would dictate for me. What I do know is that right now, in this moment, I have made something that mattered to someone else. That has improved their life. And I try to hold on to that. I try to remember it. What other measuring stick really matters, when all is said and done?
Money will last a lifetime. The differences we make in the lives of others will cast ripples through history long after we are gone and forgotten.
To those individuals that have contacted me -- Thank you. You've given me a very precious gift.
TODAY WE LAUNCH!
We need to raise $8,000 in the next 30 days to make Volume Three into a reality. So much rides on this Kickstarter this year, and I would very much appreciate your support!!
While the High Sage does maintain many of the powers associated with a King, the majority of the day-to-day governance in Itsuri is actually managed by the Council of Elders. The Council is made up of Stewards from each Province. Today we'll be diving into a little bit of their backgrounds. Some of them you've already met, some of them you may never meet, but all of them contribute to the tapestry of differing needs and desires that shape the LeyLines world. At least, the Itsuri portion of it.
Zezar va Kizhimo, Steward of Kizhimo
Zezar descends from a long line of kings, all hailed for their cleverness. The original Kizhimo King was known as "The Clever," and was the first leader to join va Naza's force by peaceful alliance, not bloodshed. He also arranged a marriage between va Naza and his daughter, making the High Sage family line distantly related to the Kizhimo Kings.
Zezar knows that he does not match up to the craftiness of his ancestors. In fact, he's well aware that he's not particularly clever at all. Zezar is simply a good, straightforward man, that often is assumed to be trickier than he actually is, simply because people are expecting him to have a long term game. He doesn't. He is simply a man of his word, that values his friends and trusts people to be honest because he is in turn. While not so naive as to miss the schemes and machinations of his fellow Stewards, Zezar has found that often a frank word in public has more power than months of plotting in darkened rooms. He makes strong allegiances with people, and trusts them to guard his back in times of crisis. A friend of Zezar is a friend for life. At the moment, his closest associate is Koa va Momoru, who is arguably much more "of Kizhimo" than Zezar himself.
Vekken va Kapo, Steward of Kuzopa province
Vekken is the Steward of the Kuzopa Province, grandson of Lepai va Kapo. Born decades after unification with Itsuri, he has never known a time when Kuzopa was not part of the Empire. However, the loyalty of his Province is frequently questioned, particularly by the older Itsuri families. Their history has branded them untrustworthy mercenaries, and they are often treated accordingly, despite nearly a century of loyal service to the Crown.
The Ulvaima make a point to oppose any suggestion made by Vekken, often seemingly without reason other than to be antagonistic. The Momuru will trade with Kuzopa and share economic deals and unofficial friendships, but publicly can't risk being too familiar with them. They are on friendly terms with Kizhimo, but also in a position of competition. The Zhumuwelo are more concerned with profit and preserving their cultural status quo, and the Vilazozhu are more absorbed with local improvements than external allies. As a result, the Kizhimo often find themselves unsupported and alone in the Capitol, at least publicly. Most Provinces are only willing to deal with them in a discrete matter, fearing political fallout by public association. The resulting resentment and isolation has ironically only propagated their individualistic and mercenary tendencies.
Vekken is a staunch supporter of the Crown, and views the va Naza family as slowly bridging the gap between traditional Visionary attitudes and modern secular ones. Unfortunately, in Vekken's opinion, this move isn't happening fast enough, but he'll take what he can get. Vekken is the youngest member of the Council of Elders, and as a result does not get much respect. His family is known for their impatience and outlandish (but occasionally brilliant) ideas, such as the strange notion of the railway. Most expect his line to be shrewd businessmen, eccentric inventors, and hot-headed individualists. To be fair, most of Vekken's family fits fairly well into that mold. However, Vekken was chosen by his father over his older brothers for his solid and soft-spoken approach. Vekken is a passionate man, just like the rest of his family, but he also knows when to hold his tongue and how to keep his temper under control. Vekken is a quick thinker, witty, and polite. Compared to the rest of the Council, he can still be a little hasty, but his ability to stand firm under pressure and ridicule is slowly earning him favors.
His greatest frustration, more so than even the Ulvaima, is his own family. Vekken is trying to change the reputation of the Kuzopa Province, but his elder brother Noren, the Governor, is more than willing to encourage black-market dealings and turn a blind eye to activities that scrape dangerously close to treason. Noren believes that if the other Provinces are going to treat them like thieves and bandits, they may as well act the part. Vekken could remove Noren from office, but fears the familial politics that would result. For now, he has distanced himself from the family and set a watch on Noren, something his brother tolerates with bemused annoyance. Eventually, their differences are going to come to a head. Until then, Vekken is willing to wait.
Koa va Momuru, Seward of Momuru Province
Koa is the jolly patriarch of the Momuru family. His favorite pastimes are enjoying a good meal with his many children and grandchildren, sipping coffee in a quiet garden, or enjoying a therapeutic soak in the famous Momuru hot springs. Koa makes a point to enjoy life, and doesn't let things ruffle him easily. He's typically content to observe events and let them unfold naturally, with perhaps only a gentle nudge here or there to influence the outcome.
Koa is not the wittiest man in Itsuri, but he is a keen observer of patterns and behavior. He makes up for his rather ponderous approach by knowing his opponents better than they know themselves and anticipating their actions. If caught flat-footed, Koa will find a way to stall until he's had the proper time to assess the situation from every angle before suggesting a solution. He wants the best for his clan, but doesn't believe that aggressive action will advance anything but a person's ambition. Koa has very little ambition in life other than to enjoy the company of good friends and maintain the dignity and integrity of the Momuru family.
The Momuru are known for being a stable and solid group, not prone to hasty or immoral action. Koa exemplifies these qualities, knowing how to wait and listen for the proper moments to act. He is often discreet in his friendships, preferring to remain underestimated in political circles. Koa prefers to project an image of inactivity to the world, while cultivating relationships on a one-to-one basis privately. He is unlikely to speak up for anything in the Council of Elders, but approach the wronged party secretly afterwards to arrange compromises and broker deals. Many factories, merchants, and inventors owe their success to advances made by Momuru investors.
Momuru are also famed for the banks they operate, well known for their conservative and wise investments, as well as their unquestioned integrity. Their loans may be more difficult to obtain than an Ulvaima advance, but there are no hidden strings in a Momuru deal.
Koa's current project is the young Vekken va Kapo. He sees a great deal of promise in the young man and often invites him to share an evening dinner and discuss matters of state, family, values, and favorite brandies. Koa learned of Vekken's issues with his elder brother, Noren, and counseled patience and observance. Under Koa's direction, Noren is currently under discrete surveillance by a number of informants in the Kuzopa capitol. They've recently discovered some troubling information, which Koa shared with Vekken during the train trip to Momuru for the burial of Lady va Naza.
Kulta va Rakapomo, Steward of Rakapmo Province
Kulta is an obsequious, greedy, and somewhat desperate man serving one of the most impoverished and powerless provinces in the empire. He is constantly scrabbling for whatever advantage he can get, from whomever he can get it from. With little political or economic clout, the Rakapomo province and its Stewards have long been a bit of a joke to the rest of the world. Perhaps this is why their Stewards have such a reputation for being toadies and yes-men to the far more powerful provinces and Stewards. Traditionally, Rakapomo has allied itself with Ulvaima, perhaps out of habitual deference to their conquerors. However, recently Rakapomo discovered that its seemingly worthless land did contain a newly valuable resource: Coal. Thanks to Kuzopa's technological contributions, coal is becoming an increasingly important resource. As new funds breathe new life into this weak and ineffectual province, it is finding itself with something unheard of in its history. Power. Whether or not Kulta is able to leverage this into something more is yet to be seen. However, most of the current council consider this to be…unlikely.
Luzhu va Ulvaima, Steward of Ulvaima Province
Luzhu is the eldest member of the Council of Elders, and very set in his ways. He is distrustful of the Outer Crescent, as they had hardly been a part of the empire when he was growing up, and he still hasn't let go of that initial impression. He is devoutly Visionary, and believes the Itsuri is failing their god. In his lifetime, he has seen the worship of Vision become corrupted by Kizhimo's loose interpretation and the questionable morals of newcomers. His formerly powerful family has steadily weaken, an aching parallel to his own aging body. His health has been failing him, his hearing, sight, and strength fading, leaving his sharp mind imprisoned in a husk of wheezing, quivering flesh. He must rely more and more on his children and aides, which is a constant source of concern. Luzhu doesn't trust anyone but himself, and he doesn't have confidence that the younger generation understands the importance of their history and devotion. They've grown up marveling at the wizardry of Kuzopa charlatans and their engines and electricity. Their industry has been slowly bled of vitality by the two-faced Momuru, whom he once regarded as faithful allies and servants.
Everyone of note in Luzhu's life has betrayed him. The Momuru were given over to a vile betrayer, Koa, an unworthy successor to the previous Steward, a hedonist with little care for Visionary values. The heir to the va Naza line ceased the quest begun by Vision himself to cleanse and unify the world. His wife was unfaithful to him, his children distanced themselves to study in Kizhimo or Kuzopa Universities rather than the respectable institution at Tamapa'o, sponsored by interfering uncles and aunts when Luzhu refused to fund their wasteful studies. His trust has been broken too many times, and Luzhu has become ruthless and manipulative in the wake of bitterness and hurt. His family legacy is one of in-fighting and long-standing rivalries. The only thing worthwhile that has emerged from his line was his nephew, current Head Priest, even if he doesn't trust him.
Otta va Polai, Steward of Vilazozhu Province
Otta is the Steward of the Vilazozhu Province, but he is better known by his nick name, Ulan (Professor). Otta has a power of focus that borders on obsession once a topic has caught his attention. He is notoriously stubborn, something many in his family have been known for, but never quite to the extreme Otta demonstrates.
Otta is a man who likes to be in constant motion, physical and mental, and if forced to sit still he will often mutter to himself and scribble away on bits of loose paper, only giving the barest degree of attention to what's going on around him. This includes most meetings held by the Council of Elders.
Otta's Province is one still recovering from decades of war and destruction. When his family inherited it, there was little more than empty land for them to work with. Otta has dedicated his life to improving the quality of life in his province, pouring resources into innovations, incentives, and infrastructure. He was a strong supporter of the Kuzopa railway construction, and established the Vilazozhu University at one of the rail-station hubs. There, he spends most of his time away from the Council on experiments in agriculture, irrigation, and animal husbandry. He recently suggested a unique theory on how traits are propagated from parent to offspring that has several Ulan from Kizhimo University interested. He has passed on much of his research to a joint Kizhimo/Vilazozhu research team to pursue during the months when he must live in the Capitol.
Otta thinks on a level that few can follow. His mind is remarkably sharp, but it is rare for it to focus on anything not directly connected to Otta's interests. He abstains from most Council votes, when he pays attention to policy at all. Most find his presence tiresome, but he prefers to keep to himself anyway, uninterested in what "smaller minds" concern themselves with. He comes across most of the time as gruff and self-absorbed, but will come alive when able to work with people of similar intellect and interest.
Renar va Zhimaki, Steward of Zakalola province
Renar is the eldest brother of Warren va Zhimaki, the Captain of the Guard for the High Sage. Renar is known for being both charming and ruthless in manner. Prior to becoming the Zakalola Seward, he served as a Sun Sage Warrior for a decade, distinguishing himself as an impressive federal agent during some of the worst unrest in the Zhumowelo and Vilazozhu provinces. Renar is widely known as a tactful diplomat who always gets the best side of the deal by cleverness and an unyielding force of will. Although not particularly trusted, his word is never in question, just the terms of his promises. In politics, he always seems to be one step ahead of his opponents, with an uncanny instinct for coming events. Rumors suggest that he may even be clairvoyant, gifted by Vision himself with unusual insight. The truth is just that he keeps himself well informed.
Renar is the youngest son from his father's original marriage. His elder brothers are all members of the Itusri military, and served during the war with Pwama. A great deal of Zhimaki blood was spilled on the wall, and in honor of their valiant service and unwavering loyalty, they were awarded the Zakalola province at the end of the war. They continue to guard and patrol the border, ever wary of renewed hostilities with their neighbors.
Lady Abellin Rozan, Steward of Zhumuwelo
Unlike the other Provinces in the Itsuri Empire, Zhumuwelo was never conquered. No battles were fought on its fertile plains. Instead, Lady Tilma Rozan, Abellin's grandmother, preempted the impending invasion of Itsuri forces by offering the terms of her surrender. All her land would become part of the empire, taxes paid to Itsuri coffers, and peasantry to serve in Itsuri armies. In return, her family would continue to govern over their people and maintain their way of life and traditions. The Rozan family would be appointed Stewards for their own province, and no damage would be done to their land, property, or people. The Itsuri forces had spent the better part of the previous few decades battling north through hotly contested Vilazozhu lands, which were largely destroyed in the process. They had the Pirate Nation of Kuzopa to the West to contend with, and the appeal of an easy, bloodless victory to the East was very attractive. A deal was struck, and Zhumuwelo became one of the more unorthodox provinces of the empire.
Lady Abellin Rozan has lived a very isolated life in an extremely different culture than the rest of Itsuri proper, and she finds much of her work as a Steward wearying and tedious. The way of life in Zhumuwelo is still very similar to its Pwama origins, with vastly different values and perspectives than all the other provinces. They've never had slavery. They worship the Rainbow Goddess over the goddess' brother, Vision. The Rozan royal line can be traced back centuries, rooted in a unique and rich culture based on agriculture, rather than the more nomadic, tribal traditions of most of Itsuri's clans. And most scandalous of all, to the Itsuri council, is that Zhumuwelo is ruled by women. As a result, Abellin finds many of the behaviors of her peers to be baffling, short-sided, and ridiculous. Sometimes downright uncouth or barbaric. This isn't helped by the fact that she is considered by many of the council unfit to serve as Steward, on account of her gender. Many of the Stewards, particularly those from the Ulvaima province, have lobbied for years to replace the female Zhumuwelo Stewards with someone more suited – ie, more a man – to the position.Abellin was raised on romanticized stories of noble Pwama Ladies and Lords, and secretly wonders if, now that the war is over, perhaps her family could return to the nation that her grandmother abandoned all those years ago.</p>
Some of the most common questions I get are in regards to printing. So I figured, perhaps it's time to collect the answers in one spot for easy reference. If you're curious about my advice on printing books, I hope you find this article useful!
Question: How do I pick between P.O.D. or Large-run?
The first step is to determine exactly what you want, why, and what you can handle. Ask yourself:
1. For what purpose do I want to print these books?
2. How much capital and storage space do I have to put towards printing?
3. What is my top priority: quality, speed, unit profit, total cost?
For What Purpose? For many people, they don't really want to make their book into a business. I've known people that wanted to print their book for personal reasons, and others that wanted to use it as a sample to send to large publishers. For others, they don't have the storage space or cash required to do a large-run printing of a book. In that case, consider Print-On-Demand services. There are lots of articles on who to consider for this task. Here are two:
How much capital and storage space? In this age of crowd funding gaining capital is not as insurmountable a task as it was in the past, but that doesn't make it easy. Running a Kickstarter or Indiegogo campaign is not a guarantee that you will have the cash needed to make your book. Most large-run printers require a minimum of 1000 books. Most quotes I've seen ranged from $4,000-$8,000 for a run that small. Yes, that's right, SMALL. 1000 is not much in the printing world. Even if it does fill up a large portion of your basement. If you're curious about the amount of space you might need, take a look some time at my book-move-in video. That's how much space 3,000 books take. That's two volumes of LeyLines. I think we can find room for one more run, and then we're going to have to start thinking about renting storage space. Are you ready for that kind of cost? Think carefully!
What are your priorities? How you define your priorities will have a large impact what type of printing you'll want to do. I'd break down quality, speed, and unit profit between P.O.D. and large-runs this way, although there's some variation from one company to another:
Unit profit: *
Total cost: *
Unit profit: **
Total cost: ***
P.O.D. printers are fast, in many cases, less than a month turn-around. If you find a good operation the quality can be decent, but you will have little control in the look and feel of the outcome. In almost every case it will cost you a lot PER BOOK (although not in total), which means either having a tiny profit on each book or charging a prohibitive cost. Large-run printers, on the other hand, you have a lot more control over the look and feel of your book, which means you can get a high quality product. Since you're printing in bulk, the costs are often low per unit, but high over-all. And the speed…well, in most cases you are looking at months and months of time before your book makes it to you. Especially if you're working with a Chinese Printer…but we'll get to that later.
Question: I want to do a large run. Who do I choose?
There are lots of options and lots of research ahead of you! I'd start by considering all of them, but here's some things to consider as you look into different companies (and different countries):
Chinese printers typically have high quality and low costs. Particularly for a full color book, they're hard to beat. You do need to factor in 4-6 weeks for shipping, and if your total costs are over $2,000 you'll need to hire a custom's broker ($250-$500) to get the books into the country. Depending on WHEN you print, you'll also need to factor in a month delay if you're ordering around Chinese New Year (late Jan/early Feb). I would give yourself a MINIMUM of 6 months to get a book printed. All the printers listed below have a US presence, and will act as the liaison between you and the printers in China. However, that doesn't mean you'll escape translation problems and culture clashes, which can take a lot of time to get sorted out. Still, if you have the time and patience to figure everything out, the rewards can be considerable. Here's a few to get you started, but this is hardly an exhaustive list. Research!
If you're located in the US and wish to stay state-side, you'll have to pay a higher price for the same quality. However, you cut out the middle-man translation problems that crop up working with a Chinese printer, and have very little shipping challenges because you can avoid dealing with customs. One US printer I've heard good things about is:
The big name for many years in printing for graphic novels was TransContinental. While they weren't competitive for my full-color books, if you're looking for a black and white story, they might be a great third option to research.
How do I vet their quality for myself?
Best way I've found is to buy books that used their services, and ask other creators who they chose. Here's some books to look at to start with. The bonus is that all of these books are pretty dang great, and you'll be supporting an independent creator AND getting valuable information. Hard to beat that combo, right?
Lackadaisy Volume 1 (Active Media)
The Phoenix Requiem (Active Media)
LeyLines, Vol 1 & 2 (Active Media)
Daisy Kutter (CrossBlue)
Spacetrawler Book TWO, but not book one…but get book one anyway because it Spacetrawler is DA BEST (Bookmasters, Inc)
Question: Augh! I am overwhelmed! Where do I start?
If this is your first time interacting with a printer, I'd start by contacting each of them and asking for paper samples. Almost all of them will provide this to you for free, or at least direct you to a book that they think is a good example of their work. Ask if they have any house paper, as sometimes this is cheaper than a specialty paper. This is helpful not only as a way to figure out what their quality is, but also to start getting you used to the industry's lingo. You'll learn about paper weights, finish, cover and text papers, etc. The way they respond to your requests will also give you a taste of how they are to work with. How do they treat you as a customer? Remember, you'll be interacting with these people for probably 6 months while you work out all the kinks in printing your book. Building a rapport is key.
Question: Okay, I have paper samples…now what?
Figure out exactly what you want your book to be like. Number of books? Size? Bleed? Determine where the trim, safe zone, margins are. What paper weight? Type? Finish? Interior, exterior? Color? How many pages is it? Some companies need it to be a multiple of 4, others of 8, others of 16. If you're not sure about something, just ask them. Don't be ashamed to admit you're a little new, and would like their advice. Hence why rapport is always going to be key between you and them. Once you have all that info figured out, get a quote. That will help you figure out how much funding you need.
There's a lot of discussion about Kickstarter and other forms of funding out there. Here's a video I made to get you started. And another. And a podcast. That is just the tip of the ice berg. There are LOTS of resources on this subject right now.
Question: What else can I expect?
Once you have picked a printer, gotten a quote, and secured funding, you'll need to put together the book into a PDF. Most companies use InDesign for this process. Dawn of the WA has made a very handy set of tutorials on this subject. Check them out here:
InDesign 101 – Part 1
InDesign 101 – Part 2
Once you've got your files sent off, I highly recommend getting a proof. Some companies will give you one automatically (Active Media does this) while others will charge you for it. Be sure to check the fine print and ask questions about this during the quote phase!! Getting a proof is KEY. You will be shocked at the things you can miss until you have a proof copy in your hands. Don't wait until you have 1,000+ in your basement to realize something in your files or your order was horribly, horribly wrong.
There is no right or wrong way to publish — find a method and a company that works best for you and what you need. Just be clear and firm. It's a frustrating business, but there are few things more satisfying than holding a book in your hands.If there's anything I haven't covered here, please feel free to drop me a line and I'll update this accordingly. I'm not an expert. I've only made 2 books, going on 3, but I'm getting better each time around and I've already learned a lot. Mostly by making many, many mistakes. Hopefully I can help you avoid some of the slip-ups I've made.
Today we're going to go through some of the developmental sketches that went into designing the Dream Eater temple grounds. The sketch above is for the Tower of the Dead. You'll notice it's somewhat different than the Central Temple, shown below:
For one, the Tower of the dead is octagonal, whereas the Central Temple is square in its base. There's a reason for this. One that we'll actually, for once, touch on in a future chapter. (I know – world exposition…my nemesis. Even I cannot refuse it forever.) So I'm not going to go into it here, but for those of you that like how architecture reflects history, I hope you look forward to that little connection.
Next up is a map of the main grounds. This doesn't include the infirmary, orchard, farming fields, Tower of the Dead, or guest house, but it does cover the majority of the installations. This was one of the later revisions, (I made several maps) and it is (mostly) unchanged relative to the final version, although the Central Temple is the wrong shape and some of the placement for the Dojo is different. Not that it would be called a Dojo in this world. In part because they have no "d" or "j" sounds. "Tozho" would probably be the closest equivalent, if I was to do a phonetic conversion…and that IS tempting, just to be lazy. (As a side note, I went through an entire process of combining words from my Pamaru lexicon to develop a word for "teacher" so I wouldn't use "Sifu" as was my knee-jerk desire, having attended a Tai Chi & Kung Fu school for a couple years…and ended up with "Viku" which sounds a heck of a lot like "Sifu" anyway. BUT IT'S BASED ON REAL FAKE WORD COMBINATIONS, GOSH DARN IT!)
Torii gates I've always found absolutely fascinating and beautiful, so I knew I wanted to incorporate a lot of that same design feel. The Fushimi Inari Shrine that I visited in Japan had a particularly strong impact on me. Especially since we went to it on a misty and spooky day, and it had this incredible feeling about it, as though you were passing through these tunnels of gates into another world. Hence the front gate at the entrance to the temple:
I also wanted to incorporate Rakaros in much the same fashion as Asia-continent dragons and fu dogs were in many temples that I visited. Statues at gates, fountains, and incorporated into columns and roof-tops. We'll be seeing more of those close-up elements later on, but for now, here's some of the concept art:
Hope you've enjoyed this tour of the Dream Eater temple! See you all on Monday!
Until three weeks ago, I did not know it was possible to enjoy work. I've had six jobs in my life. I've hated each and every one of them, usually focusing on the one "redeeming aspect" (usually a single friendly co-worker) so I could overlook how deeply unhappy I was. So, I never had the context required to fully understand what that was doing to my mind and my self worth. On how damaging "just doing it for the money" a job can be. How it can trick you into thinking you're walking closer to the mountain, but in reality may just be holding you back from it.
Now, what is "the mountain"? I've started using this as a symbol of my goal, my ideal creative future. What I ultimately want to do with my life. The term was introduced to me in Neil Gaiman's 2012 Keynote Address at the University of Arts. He said:
"Something that worked for me was imagining that where I wanted to be – an author, primarily of fiction, making good books, making good comics and supporting myself through my words – was a mountain. A distant mountain. My goal.
And I knew that as long as I kept walking towards the mountain I would be all right. And when I truly was not sure what to do, I could stop, and think about whether it was taking me towards or away from the mountain. I said no to editorial jobs on magazines, proper jobs that would have paid proper money because I knew that, attractive though they were, for me they would have been walking away from the mountain. And if those job offers had come along earlier I might have taken them, because they still would have been closer to the mountain than I was at the time."
I didn't fully understand how this felt until the events of this week. You see, I chose the paraprofessional job in large part because it gets me closer to my mountain. Teaching helps me learn how to communicate more effectively. It makes me a better storyteller. It connects me with organizations and groups that are interested in my work and supporting it. And it gives me time to work on my own projects more, while taking less energy and stress. If anything, it often inspires and invigorates. That's why I chose it, despite the huuuuuuge pay-cut it represented. When Sunday night rolls around, I think to myself, "Work is tomorrow…that's awesome!"
Earlier this week, the main office sent out a plea: Any para-professional interested in picking up extra hours could help as a secretary, as HR has bungled the hiring process (again) and the person they've hired is having trouble being cleared quickly through the system. So I, feeling guilty for having chosen this job and turned my back on a financially stable job, immediately jumped on the opportunity. "Just for the money," you see.
And you know what happened? I awakened the next day, and suddenly it was like I was back at my old job. The dread. The despair. The self-loathing. It was horrible. Having tasted a brief joy, I had somehow banished myself once more to the underworld of employment.
I realized that by taking that extra job "just for the money" I had sent myself a very bad set of messages. For one, I had defined my value by my earning power, not by my actions. When I'm just working with the kids, I define my self worth by seeing them engage. By witnessing a reticent writer be exhilarated by an idea, or helping a child discover something about themself, or simply noticing a kid that has before now always been overlooked. I am valued by others, because I value them, and in turn I value myself. However, when I stripped out who I am and what I was doing, and made the purpose of work "just for the money" I destroyed all of the aspects that I actually valued. Even worse, I had subconsciously said, "my small business, my creative dreams, my mountain is worth less to me than $9.50 an hour."
When I was making $37 an hour, I told myself that it was okay to do it "just for the money" because it was enabling me to financially support my eventual journey to the mountain. And in some ways that was true, but it was also a trap. Because that mindset had a cost, and now for the first time I am able to appreciate the true price of that toil. Of how deeply it cut into the core of who I was, to prioritize my mountain as something less important than cash.
I haven't just had more energy these past few weeks. I've had less mental anguish, less nightmares, less insomnia, less migraines, less muscle seizures. My physical health has improved almost overnight. My ability to process information is remarkably better. My mind feels far clearer. Even my depressive lows have seemed more self-aware and less long-lasting. Because by leaving the old job I wasn't just abandoning an old way of living. I embraced a new way of life that includes valuing myself, my dreams, and my mountain.
Sometimes our idealistic goals do clash with the hard reality of finances, and it's important to be practical and pay one's bills, but it doesn't have to be an either-or proposition. With prudence and grace, we can navigate this great material continuum to fulfill both the needs of our bank accounts and our heart's desires. And it starts by not taking jobs "just for the money," but also because of the value of the work itself.
Does it get you closer to the mountain? And if not, at what cost?
We'll be heading to the courthouse today. I've been wracking my brain to write a super insightful blog post about ART and STORYTELLING and LITERATURE but honestly my mind is in other places at the moment, and I think it's best that I just admit it. We scheduled a time with the judge and will spend the afternoon picking up paperwork and shuffling it from one government building to another. As far as ceremonies go, I don't expect there will be one, unless the judge has a flair for the dramatic. Cory's folks and grandma are coming…I think they have greater expectations for the event than we do.
To steal a phrase from one of my LeyLians, Bruce, with whom I was recently chatting about this very subject, Cory and I "want a marriage, not a wedding," and that's what we're looking forward to. I'm very excited to grow old with this wonderful man that brings me so much joy. To continue creating, storytelling, growing, and challenging each other to ever better horizons. With plenty of absolutely horrible puns, purposefully garbled car-radio renditions of catchy songs, and the serious biznez of dancing mixed in along the way.
Weddings have always seemed to me a concentration of the couple they are for. We've been to flamboyant weddings, comfortable weddings, extravagant weddings, and off-beat weddings. Ours will simply be a practical wedding, followed by a great meal at our favorite restaurant. Because, when you really come down to it, what Cory and I enjoy the most is good food, good company, and good stories. All of which we've been lucky enough to find in each other.
What was your favorite wedding you've attended or been a participant in?
Sometimes a character lets you know something is wrong…and other times you have to break the terrible news to them that they're not quite measuring up. Nearly two years ago, which is when I made the silly little comic you see above, I realized that although Tama had a strong personality, his visuals didn't back up his character. I can look at Zhiro, Pakku, and Kali and immediately get a sense of what they're about. Their mannerisms, their abilities, all are reflected in their visuals. They have distinctive outlines that are different from the rest of the cast. But Tama and Mizha were another story. Mizha took it well, (she's usually happy to work with her creator) but Tama was…well…he took the news a little harder, as you can see.
Once he got used to the idea, it was actually pretty easy to figure out which way I was going to go with the redesign. At first I just messed slightly with the clothing. Took off the sleeves and messed with cropping his pants a bit. While it gave him a bit more of a rough-and-tumble, almost street-rat look, it still wasn't much of an accurate reflection. What I needed was to dive into Tama's core. How he views himself. What we settled on was "Adventurer." At his heart, Tama wants to wander. To explore, see new things, get in trouble, get out of trouble, all on the skin of his teeth. To me, as a person growing up in the U.S. Wild West, that translated to a very particular look. I still wonder if, when I casually mentioned to my color blockers that "I'm making Tama a cowboy," they thought I was joking.
The design is heavily influenced by Clint Eastwood's outfit in "The Good, The Bad and the Ugly." Even the color, which was apparently red before the filming treatment of the time turned it more of a greenish hue. Of course, just settling on a design isn't enough. I couldn't just swap it out magically. So I started planting the seeds of the costume change. The first step was to take off those sleeves, which is part of why Tama uses them as bandages for Zhiro on the train. Next was to plant both hat and poncho in Ravazhi's possession. You can see the hat hung on the wall of his home, and the poncho is the table-cloth on his table. (Although, looking back at that page, it looks like I forgot to include the hole in the center…doh! Alas, not perfect. I remembered it in other pages! Just not, you know, the really obvious one.) So when Ravazhi handed over his wanderer clothes, you can imagine how relieved I was to FINALLY get him into his new duds.
I'm not quite done with Tama's wardrobe changes. As you can see in the notes in the final image above, he may still make a few…acquisitions…in the future. And hopefully Kali can teach him how to use them properly before he blows one of this toes off.I've also got plans for changing Mizha's design a little, but we'll get to her later. Soon…so soon…comparatively, at least!
Running through a Myers Briggs test is something I typically do both early on in the character creation process, and after years of writing characters, once I have a stronger feel for each of them. Sometimes they'll change on me! I do this using a handy online quick version of the test (vs anything official) answering the questions as if I was the character.
I decided to re-run the tests because of a recent Extra Credits video (they're one of my favorite sources for storytelling insights – video games or comic books, their advice applies across the board).
They do a good job of summarizing the traits and the benefits of going through this exercise. If you can't watch the video, this graphic does a decent job of summarizing the differences between I/E, S/N, T/F, and J/P:
As they mention, this isn't something that you can apply with 100% accuracy, but it's a great tool. (Although the theories are based on Jung's work, he specifically said that a test should never be developed to identify these traits, as it could be used in misleading or inaccurate ways…which, when I was in high school, is exactly what happened when I first took the Myers Briggs test…BUT I DIGRESS.) Myers Briggs is actually a fairly complex system, and those 4 letters indicate more than just your general traits, but also indicate what your central functions are for taking information in, and for processing it. Furthermore, they also indicate what your tertiary and inferior functions are – ie, traits that are probably the least developed, meaning that you will struggle the most to make use of them. And, when you are forced to rely on them (usually under stress) the results will often be you at your worst. (This is also often linked to the "what we hate in others we see in ourselves" idea. Frequently, we react the strongest to people that act primarily using the function that we're inferior at.)
What it IS good for is a quick Check-in with your character when you're not sure what their next decision might be. Taken farther, it can also be used to figure out what their path needs to be. I've applied the test results to a book I have called "Four Spiritualities: Expressions of Self, Expression of Spirit". This book theorizes that different aspects of the world's religions will appeal to different people based on their typology. It discusses not only the general behaviors and developmental patterns of each type combination, but explores what will be important for them on a spiritual level.
Below, I've included a summary of the test results and a summary of the sections from the book that apply to them for Zhiro, Tama, and Mizha. I tried Kali, but I realized her traits are a little too suppressed right now. (This is actually what happened to me as a kid. In very dominating environments, children may sometimes exhibit the typology of their household, rather than their actual personality. I trained a lot of skills in areas that are opposite my own natural inclinations as a survival mechanism. In high school, I tested as an ENTJ, just like my father. As an adult, and free of that influence, I now test very strongly as an INFJ.)
I – S – T – J
Strongly introverted (89%) but with little-to-no preference of sensing or intuition. Moderate preference for thinking over feeling, and judging over perceiving. This means his dominant function is Sensing, which, since he is an introvert, is how he interprets input. How he interacts with the world is thinking. His least-practiced trait is intuition.
(J or P will determine which function is dominant. If it's J, T or F is dominant. If it's P, N or S is dominant. "Dominant" = the "home base" function that's most comfortable. HOWEVER if you're I instead of E, this will flip which is dominant…Told you it was complicated!)
S-Ts are focused on cause and effect, with an interest and attachment to inanimate things and how they work. Task-oriented, as children they tend to be conscientious of chores and tidying up. They prefer to learn in detail-oriented, tangible ways. Add in the J and they become "the responsible ones" that enjoy organized activities with serious results and measurable outcomes. They will actively maintain well-defined institutions. Realists, they focus on facts in unbiased, accurate, objective, and impersonal ways, relying on linear reasoning. Responsible, objective, efficient, and detached, they can be skilled negotiators. With a constant attention to living productive lives, they use work as the means to dignity, respect, and well-being, preferably if the work is direct and experienced based. Once a goal is established, they are eager to implement it, and will follow the "right" course without question. Confusion of beliefs is intolerable, and generally questioning something only happens when the outcomes of their course prove to be unpractical or unfair in direct conflict with their principals.
There are 8 components to S-T spirituality:
1. Foundation of Law
2. Strong sense of right/righteousness
3. Responsibilitiy and stewardship
4. Clear-cut identity as part of spiritual life (often by following authority)
5. Work itself as a life aim and source of fulfillment
6. Realist orientation to faith
7. Proclivity to administration in behalf of the faith/living correctly
8. Often tragic sense of justification. The belief that patience and perseverance will overcome injustice. That inner dignity and nobility can be preserved through dedication, even in the face of hopelessness.
E – S – F – J
Moderate preference of extroversion to introversion. Strong preference for sensing and feeling, but little preference for J or P. Since she is J and E, her dominant function is feeling, which she uses to interact with the world. Her inferior function is thinking. She processes her experiences using the sensing function.
S-Fs like to please, avoid conflict, and create harmony with a deep need to be loved. They prefer to have clear expectations, as they tend to learn in a step-by-step manner. Devoted to serving others in a direct, tangible, and personal way. They focus on the immediate present and are not particularly concerned with the future. They place value on their surroundings and the appearance of things matters to them in the kind of environment it creates. They are sociable, interpersonal, and desire to share appreciation and be appreciated in return. Reciprocity is key to them. Add in the J component, and you have a tendency towards martyrdom, where they will over-give and feel betrayed if they do not perceive they are given back to in equal measure. SFJs also require structured settings and tend to flounder in chaotic environments. They anchor themselves on traditional values in concrete and cooperative ways, becoming the bearers of culture with continuity and propriety. They're the ones most likely to greet everyone with a smile, relating by anecdotes, stories, and tangible references. They respond to people in the Now, and express themselves by their actions more accurately than by their words.
There are 6 keys to SF spirituality:
1. Importance of Pilgrimage – powerful experiences combined with confirmation of their beliefs or dedication help them to overcome feelings of victimization by their circumstances.
2. Attraction of Heroes – SFJs tend to center on heroes that are devoted in the face of all odds, unyielding no matter what they must suffer.
3. Agency of Stories – Stories and storytelling are useful tools to add sensory details and personal meanings to experiences.
4. A Direct Approach – the experiences are personal and directly experienced. Typically they also will have a teacher or guide to help chart the course of their journey.
5. Importance of Simple Things – When one's household, job, or personal connections are in order, this creates a sense of peace.
6. Direct Service – Piety leads to service, service to devotion. Love in action is service to others, and to god.
E – S – F – P
Highly extraverted, sligh preference for sensing, moderate preference for feeling, and a strong preference for perceiving. With the E and P, his dominant function is sensing, which is also how he interacts with the world, whereas he processes emotions through the feeling function. Intuition is his inferior function.
An S-F like his sister, he has many similarities in character to her, including a step-by-step learning style, a preference to serving others in direct and tangible ways, and an emphasis on the here and now. However, with a P instead of a J, Tama does have some distinct differences. Unlike Mizha, he likes to interact with others in a fast-paced way, with lots of laughs and humor. As for structure, where Mizha needs structure to feel comfortable, Tama only uses it as a reference point for spontaneous action. He prefers to loosen things up, rather than follow tradition.
Here again, the key elements are the same, but that P makes for different applications. The SFP journey is far more colorful than the SFJ, filled with bombastic adventure and roller-coaster ups and downs. The journey is not a compact test of dedication, but an evolving and long exploration. The trappings of the journey are important – the outfit, totems, and objects collected create a meaningful context. This form of the SF spirituality excells in a whirlwhid of activity surrounded by people, where the SFP can dive into their caring nature and utilize their powerful perceptions. Novelty and variety are highly appealing in their spiritual quest, and they're actively open to the world and others.
I find typology fascinating, and a useful tool for keeping a character consistent. It gives me a great guide on what aspects I need to emphasize for each personality, and insight on how they might zig or zag in a particular situation. I also find it really interesting that so far most of my main cast is predominantly opposite me in most areas. Maybe, in the course of exploring those aspects in them, I am better explore those aspects in myself.
What typology do your characters fit under, and how does that impact the way you write them?
WE MADE IT TO THE FINALS!!
Thanks to your votes, we made it to the final 4, which is a battle-royal style finish. Can we win this?? That's up to you!
(If the link above isn't working...as DA journals seems set on thwarting me...go to:
Rilke once wrote, "beauty is nothing but the beginning of terror, which we still are just able to endure," but I think comedy is even closer than that.
We laugh at the incongruous, often because if we stopped to think about that which inspired our mirth, we'd be horrified. The violent abuse in slap-stick. The severe social problems highlighted by satire. Even puns expose the limitations of our language, and its inability to communicate with clarity. So it should come as no surprise that both humor and horror rely on the same rhythms. Expectation and subversion. Normal and abnormal. The delivery and larger context is usually what tells the audience whether to laugh or cower.
Few dare to suggest that the audience do both.
Welcome to Night Vale is the exception.
A serialized podcast I've seen described as Prairie Home Companion meets Lovecraft, these 20 minute shorts are released on a bi-weekly basis chronicling the various happenings in the lovely town of Night Vale. Night Vale is a charming desert community with a brand new water-front marketplace, mysterious lights that you are encouraged to match speed with on the highway, an ever-watchful Sheriff's Secret Police to keep you safe from the World Government, and angels that are not actually real and should not be listened to because they always tell lies. All of which is sonorously conveyed to us by the captivating Cecil, voice of the Night Vale public radio station.
The Pilot hooked me in the first 60 seconds, the moment I heard this:
Hello listeners. To start things off, I've been asked to read this brief notice:
The City Council announces the opening of a new Dog Park at the corner of Earl and Summerset near the Ralph's.
They would like to remind everyone that dogs are not allowed in the Dark Park.
People are not allowed in the Dog Park.
It is possible you will see hooded figures in the Dog Park. Do not approach them.
Do not approach the Dog Park.
The fence is electrified and highly dangerous.
Try not to look at the Dog Park, and especially do not look for any period of time at the hooded figures.
The Dog Park will not harm you.
Not just because it's funny. Or intriguing. Or a little unsettling. More so than all of those things, I could not help but bask in how well constructed it was. At how perfectly they played with the juxtaposition of mundane and frightening. The result is a very complex product with a very simple presentation. While Welcome to Night Vale is predominantly humorous, the constant dalliance with contrasting elements creates a building and subtle sense of unease. Particularly as you start to get attached to the people Cecil describes, not to mention Cecil himself. Part of you becomes invested in Cecil's safety and happiness, while simultaneously questioning if Cecil is the kind of person you should be concerned FOR, or concerned ABOUT.
Jokes are often described as "the subversion of expectation."
In order for a joke to work, you must have the context of the world the joke exists in. This is why the set-up is important. Is the joke what the muffin says, or the fact that the muffin talks? The first act, as Brian McDonald discusses in Ink Spots, is key to creating the context within which the joke functions. We could jump straight to the "good stuff" of the punchline, but without the set-up, the joke cannot function properly.
Brian's books come highly recommended – especially Invisible Ink!
What's brilliant about the introduction in Welcome to Night Vale?
The Dog Park sets up our expectations for the world, immediately subverts it, and then re-establishes it (albeit, a little crooked) in a few simple sentences. When I first heard Cecil mention the Dog Park, my reaction was, "Oh no, how boring is this going to be? We're talking about a dog park? Really?" I was already forming a preconceived notion about what I was going to experience next. When the second line hit, my brain stuttered to a stop and had to catch up. "Wait – what was that? No dogs in th–and no people either??" Then it starts to get more ominous. More disturbing. The hooded figures are introduced with no indication of motives, role, or intention, only warnings. We are faced with our first taste of fear of the unknown. This is followed up by physical threats to the body – namely electrocution. Finally, the implication of societal or possibly psychological harm for even thinking about this forbidden place. Clearly there is much to fear! Except, we are assured, this Dog Park will not harm us. Despite all we were told seconds before.
My expectation is set for the mundane at the beginning. It is subverted as the danger mounts. And then subverted a second time by the final sentence. We might chuckle, but at the same time our mind is whirring: "Just what kind of place IS Night Vale?" Our expectation is now to expect the unexpected. And even that will be subverted, time and again, throughout every episode by the interjection of the mundane. Night Vale has its own normal, and it's quite similar to our own. Except when it isn't. And you can never be sure what they're going to find strange or not.
Capitalizing on Contrasts
We discussed contrasts on a visual basis in an earlier Musing. Welcome to Night Vale demonstrates a similar concept in a tonal fashion, and it does so on a grand scale. Every single aspect of the show plays with contrasts to blur the humor/horror line. Even the weather and final proverbs are designed to set us up for one thing and give us another.
Take for instance the narrator, Cecil. Kind, generous, lovely Cecil, who is mild in his views and compassionate in his discussions, with hardly an angry word for anyone, and quite a few complementary phrases for some. (Oh, Carlos. Perfect, beautiful Carlos…). When Cecil breaks into a tirade, it can often come as a shock. From the treacherous barber Telly, to the racist so-called Indian Tracker, to that lay-about Steve, Cecil is not afraid to lecture these miscreants and dismiss anything they have to say. Which, purely coincidentally, I'm sure, often is critical of the City Council, or the Sheriff's Secret Police. While Cecil frequently expresses modest counter-points to those venerated institutions, demonstrating his free will, his targeting and public shaming of various undesirable elements in the community suggests that his mind may not fully be his own. Or that he, and the rest of the town, has been so thoroughly brainwashed that they only believe in free will, without actually experiencing it. Even their rivals, the Desert Bluffs, are described as so awful and nefarious that it sometimes seems that Desert Bluffs does not exist at all, but is merely an imaginary foe invented by a shadowy governing agency to keep the populace in a restless, us-or-them mentality fed by paranoid propaganda. Then again, perhaps that's just what Desert Bluffs WANTS us to think. Ugh. Desert Bluffs. They really are the worst.
Source: Sarah Melville
If the audience was allowed to get comfortable with the strange, that would take the menace out of it. Clearly, the citizens of Night Vale are inured to these odd, and often deadly, occurrences, right? If they feel no fear, why should we fear for them? It would be easy to adjust to the idea that "deadly and bizarre" is this world's "normal," but Welcome to Night Vale doesn't make it that easy. Episodes like "Station Management" expose a side of our narrator, and thus our window to the world, that is clearly NOT comfortable with everything this community has to offer. Cecil's normally even tones are interrupted by gasps, breaks, and quivers of terror so great, at times you wonder if the man is going to come to tears. It is clear that there are many things that are NOT normal here, much that IS considered dangerous, and suddenly all the strange happenings, sudden deaths, and disappearances that seemed amusing take on a more sinister and sorrowful undertone.
You worry for Cecil. You worry for Night Vale. You just don't know WHEN you should worry for them. Which means that you can never prepare yourself for the worst.
When it comes upon you, it will probably be when you least expect it.
Welcome to Night Vale is written by Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor, of Commonplace Books, and you can find more information on the show here. As a fun challenge, go through the archives and document how often they present the mundane, pull it back to reveal the strange, make the strange into something mundane, and then undo that as well. You'll be amazed how many times the cycle will repeat, and on how many levels, in just 20 minutes!
We crave contrast because it is necessary for our survival. Telling safe from unsafe, normal from abnormal…delicious tea from deadly poison. Our ability to quickly pick out things that are different or out of place could be the difference between life and death, even in this civilized age. We may not be determining the Good Berries from the bad, or looking for the jungle cat in the trees, but we are still wary of cars that might wobble in a suspicious way on the road, or an argument at the next table over that's too heated, or the differences in an alleyway that's a great short-cut to home, or to the hospital.
As human beings, we are intimately and instinctively familiar with contrast, and highly attuned to its nuances. As storytellers, we must take advantage of this sensitivity. Today I want to talk about VISUAL contrasts.
Visual contrast makes an audience sit up and notice, even if that notice is only on a subconscious level. Our minds are picking things out and categorizing them, often assigning values to each category. Storytellers can use this to instill a sense of awe, or fear, or intrigue, but only if they let other things act as neutral points of reference. We need a control group, a base-line, in order to understand when something is special.
In an interview with Edgar Delgado on the PaperWings podcast, Edgar commented on how visual contrast in texture and color had been used in films such as Ghostbusters and the original Star Wars trilogy, but this crucial element had been forgotten in later follow-ups. He pointed out that in Ghostbusters' New York, there was no sun. It was a world of the dim, drab, and subdued. That is, until those proton packs came out, and the color and light of those streams lit up the screen! Without being told, the audience was immediately notified of how special, how magical, how powerful these objects were. And when we were told that crossing those streams would be "bad" – we believed it!!
The same was true to the original Star Wars trilogy. The world was plainer, whether on dusty Tatooine or murky Dagobah. When those light-sabers came out, in their bright red and blue, you knew that there was something otherworldly there. On a subconscious level, it made this pseudo-mystical Force more believable than any hand-waving babble about Midi-chlorians. (We could also talk about the contrasts between the organic rebel locations and the stark Empire's locations, but that's a whole other discussion!) Edgar pointed out that this contrast was NOT observed in the newer films. "I remember the first time I saw the Naboo ships and they were all yellow…I thought 'They're making a really big mistake here'…they stand out so much and they're not important…When I saw the trailer that was my first concern…Everybody says that the prequels don't look like Star Wars…the design of the lightning and color is too bright. The other movies were more earthy, brown and gray tones, to contrast with all the colors of the cool stuff."
By removing contrast, the newer films bombard our contrast-sensitive minds with signals that tell us EVERYTHING is important, even when it's complete inconsequential. Much like a film comprised of nothing but explosions (I'm looking at you, Michael Bay) or a sentence filled a!t random! with !exc!amation point!s!! the meaning of those visual cues is lost. To make sense of what we're seeing, we start to filter these cues out, draining them of their power and emotionally distancing ourselves from the story in the process. It becomes a sea of noise and spectacle. A passing distraction, but not an meaningful or engaging experience.
There are other films that use contrast to achieve different kinds of emotional responses. Star Wars and Ghostbusters both used contrasts to create a sense of awe, but other films have utilized contrast for entirely different purposes. Pixar's Monsters Inc. and Monsters University use contrast to make our world, a place that SHOULD be comfortably familiar, into something threatening. The monster's world is bright, vibrant, and sunny. It feels incredibly alive and welcoming. The human world, by contrast, is dim. Shadows are deep and looming. Leeched of color. Obscured in dust and mist. You understand why, from the monster's point of view, humans are considered toxic and dangerous.
A story doesn't have to be obvious about its visual contrast to have an impact, either. The Sixth Sense is famous for its use of red to indicate a connection with the supernatural. Here again, the world is fairly pale and shadowed. So slip in a red church door, a balloon, a carpet, a sweater, a tent, a door-knob, a dress, a shawl. All mundane items, given an otherworldly, and often somewhat sinister or threatening, connection. These are items touched by the dead. Although your conscious mind may not notice it the first time through, unconsciously you may find yourself paying attention to that color when it appears on the screen with a little shiver up your spine.
A LACK of visual contrast can also be a tool in the storyteller's hands, when used deliberately and with forethought. Satoshi Kon's animated film Paprika has several scenes of dreams-gone-wrong. It is a massive bombardment of bright colors and motion. Confetti streams down from the sky, red torii gates tromp next to frogs and refrigerators. Piles of garishly colored dolls form a lumbering throne. The color combination, combined with the frenetic soundtrack, create a sensation of overwhelming chaos and unease. Here, unlike in the Star Wars prequels, the this-is-special contrast filter is purposefully overloaded, and the result is downright disturbing. Just as it was intended.
The film Inception goes the opposite direction, making the real world feel very much like the dream world. Cob runs from shadowy, generic foes through claustrophobic spaces, his waking world just as intimidating and desperate as the designed dreams he walks in. His children are sun-lit and distant figures when he enters his home, just as they'd been in his dreams, so when the image cuts just as the top begins to wobble, the audience has an immediate (and often furious, in the case of the theater I was in) reaction. Because there is just enough doubt there to make us wonder what is real. Doubt that exists, because of a lack of contrast. (As a side note, I find it interesting that the two best examples I can think of for purposeful contrast removal are from movies that focus heavily on dreams. Coincidence…? A thought for further pondering…)
In LeyLines, I've worked to introduce contrast between the normal world and the Dreaming pockets Mizha creates. Anything from the real world is drawn in ink, but all the Dreaming elements are drawn and shaded in pencil alone. Even when both real and Dreaming characters are present on the page, this subtle difference lets you know what belongs there, and what does not.
Visual contrast can push the information and mood that an audience experiences to a much more intense level. You are drawing them into the story you're telling by using their natural sensitivity to contrast to highlight important elements, develop moods, and convey information without the use of words. This lets the audience come to your story on their own terms, and they'll be more engaged for it!
What are your favorite examples of visual contrast? How is it used to convey information or mood?
If you don't feel like reading everything below, you can learn everything you need to in this video here: www.youtube.com/watch?feature=…
Greetings, LeyLians! Some very big changes are happening in my life, and I wanted to include you in everything is going on, especially as it will impact LeyLines. The near future will include a New Job, a New Name, and a New Life.
As some of you know, I don't work full time on LeyLines. I have a day job, where I work as an engineer. While this has given me the financial stability that made a lot of what we've done so far possible, I'm increasingly frustrated with engineering. It only utilizes a tiny fraction of my strengths, and plays instead to most of my weaknesses. So I have decided to look for not only a new employer, but a new career. I don't yet know what I'll be doing. The exciting part is there are many options. The terrifying part is that there are many options! Right now I'm looking into everything I can. I've set up a LinkedIn profile, and if you'd like to join my network, or have suggestions on what I might look into, it would be very much appreciated. You can find the link to that below!
Cory and I have been together for almost a decade, and we've been intending to get married for a while, but never could seem to find the time. Neither of us is much for ceremonies, and the idea of planning a big wedding that we didn't want was not nearly as exciting as planning conventions, publishing books, and writing new stories. So we've decided that if ceremonies aren't for us, why not just skip that part? So there will be no exchange of rings or vows, just some paperwork at the courthouse, but in the future you'll see the name on the covers change from Dempsey to Childs. I'm very much ready to leave that name behind me.
My entire life, I've gone the path of MOST resistance. I've always played to my weaknesses, not my strengths. In my professional life, I tried to walk a linear and miserable path dictated by my upbringing, rather than my own desires and abilities. And despite all that, I've always been very good at what I do, because I've just worked harder to make up the difference. So I'm intrigued to find out what happens when I work smarter, instead of harder. What I'm really capable of when I'm working on things I care about, and with skills that I'm naturally GOOD at.
Making these changes represents more than just a change of working environment, but a change in how I view myself and my future. As you might imagine, it's very difficult emotionally and psychologically to challenge the patterns I've governed so much of my life by. However, I'm certain the outcome will be a happier and healthier life. I appreciate your patience as I go through this transition.
There will be some immediate, if temporary, impacts. With job searching, interviewing, and soul-searching going on, I don't have as much time or energy to devote to LeyLines. So we will be scaling back the schedule to two pages a week until things stabilize again. I'd prefer not to have to do this, but I figure two pages a week that you can count on is better than not knowing when there will, or will not, be content. So Monday and Wednesday will be comic days. I'm thinking of making Friday more of a blog day, where I can share WIP sketches, character interviews, and answer reader questions. If that sounds interesting to you, let me know in the comments below!
As always, thank you so much for your support. I am continually amazed at how incredibly kind LeyLians are. Your encouragement is a huge source of strength for me. I hope that I will have good news to report soon!
The comic is on break for a while, but that doesn't mean there isn't a lot of amazing new content going up on the LeyLinesComic.com site!
On the normal Monday-Wednesday-Friday schedule I will be posting an incredibly beautiful and touching 6-page comic sent in as a surprise by one of my hardworking color-blockers. It is lovely, and I hope you'll enjoy it!
On the days in between the comic pages (ie - Saturday, Sunday, Tuesday, Thursday) we'll be posting the fantastic fan-art pieces so many people kindly sent in!! Thank you!
So there will be LOTS to see during the break! I hope you enjoy it! Chapter Nine will start up on July 26th.
This weekend I'll be at Comic Fest in Denver, part of Star Fest! I'll have a booth and be part of two panels!
Other conventions I'll be attending this year are:
Denver Comic Con, May 31 to June 2.
Intervention in Maryland August 23-25
Intervention will be my first ever out-of-state convention, but I hope to be attending lots of conventions around the US in 2014! Emerald City and C2E2 are high on my list, but we'll see if I can get in first!
Trying to "take a break" and "relax" (what are these things, I have heard of them, but what are they??) so I have a little time for a journal meme. I was tagged by
[x] You have a dark sense of humor.
[x] People often tell you you're 'crazy', 'weird', 'a freak' and other words to that effect.
[x] You like wearing bright colors even if they clash.
[x] You don't tend to make a lot of sense.
[x] You are self-obsessed. If by "self-obsessed" you mean "paranoid that everything I do is wrong" then yes.
[ ] You will do anything for a laugh.
[ ] You can't laugh at yourself very easily.
[ ] You're smiling a lot of the time.
[x] You are intelligent.
[ ] You like to be the center of attention.
[ ] You enjoy the work of the Marx Brothers.
[ ] You are a Gemini.
[x] You seem to have two sides to you that different people see Only two? Where's 20-face when you need him?
[x] You have taken revenge on a bully.
[x] You have/had a burn or scar or something similar visible for over two months.
[ ] You believe in chance and fate.
[x] You tend to be paranoid.
[/] You consider yourself unattractive. Work in practice to feel attractive. I've managed to accept "cute" and sometimes "pretty" but the default is "ugly"
[ ] You feel no one can truly like/love you for who you are. Used to believe this. Fortunately, no longer do
[ ] You have trouble making decisions by yourself.
[ ] Blackmail is a completely acceptable method to use in getting what you want.
[ ] You love birds.
[ ] You consider yourself a complete gentleman/lady.
[ ] You have/had an overprotective mother.
[ ] You always keep an umbrella in your bag just in case.
[ ] You are always dressed smartly.
[x] You were/are bullied in your youth.
[ ] You consider yourself obese.
[ ] You have a lot of connections.
[ ] You want to work with animals in some way.
[ ] You want to run your own nightclub.
[/] You like to scare people. Used to. Feel progressively more guilty about it as I get older.
[x] You have a reclusive nature.
[x] Your life is ruled by research/work. Ha.Hahaha. HAHAHAHAHA this meme thinks I have a life.
[ ] You are scared of birds.
[/] You are tall and skinny. Tall-ish and skinny-ish
[/] You take/have taken psychology at school/university/college. I've taken local courses run by the Jung institute
[/] You feel your parents were loveless towards you. I think they did in their own way, but we have very different opinions on what "love" means.
[ ] You were born out of wedlock.
[ ] You used to pick on animals as a child by hurting them or scaring them.
[ ] You have/had religious fanatics in your family.
[ ] You love puzzles and riddles.
[ ] You have red/ginger hair.
[ ] You have OCD.
[x] You are quirky. Uh. Yes. "Odd Duck" is my personal favorite phrase for this.
[ ] You consider yourself a 'smooth talker'. AHAHAHAHA oh, oh most def-pfffaaahAHHAHAHAHAHA
[x] You are an intellectual.
[x] You get high marks on your texts/exams.
[ ] Most of your body is covered in tattoos.
[ ] You seldom win in physical fights.
[ ] You complete computer games with ease.
[x] You prefer cold weather.
[ ] You want to be cryogenically frozen.
[ ] You have lost a loved one to a terminal illness.
[ ] You go/have gone to boarding school.
[x] You are a loner.
[ ] You go all out to hurt someone who hurt you.
[x] You would do anything for the one you love.
[x] Winter is your favorite season.
[x] You have poor blood circulation. You have no idea. How bad. It is practically a super power.
Ra's Al Ghul
[/] You are manipulative. Used to be very manipulative. Now in environment where that's not useful for survival, and I much prefer NOT manipulating. Much happier without it.
[ ] You would love to get rid of everything and start the world again from scratch.
[ ] You want perfect environmental balance.
[/] Science is/was your favourite subject. All subjects are pretty much my favorite subjects, if taught well.
[x] You consider yourself a spiritual person.
[x] You consider your age to not be an issue.
[ ] You want a son.
[ ] You keep yourself fit
[ ] You want to live forever. No, but I want my work to.
[/] You see the world as decadent and corrupt. Yes, but also wonderful and marvelous. It's not a one-dimensional world. It's a sphere.
[ ] You consider yourself as physically strong.
[ ] You go the gym a lot.
[ ] You have an addictive personality.
[ ] You have been to prison.
[x] When you were younger, you had a teddybear that you took everywhere.
[ ] You had a classical education.
[ ] You have/had nightmares involving bats.
[ ] You are violent.
[ ] You do not explain your actions.
[ ] You have a Mexican heritage.
[ ] You like B-Movies.
[ ] You want to be an actor/actress.
[/] You are a good liar. I am a terrible liar, but good at using half-truths to let people make their own false conclusions. See manipulation above. Hate, hate, HATE lying. Blech.
[ ] You make sculptures.
[ ] You enjoy the work of Boris Karloff.
[ ] You have had plastic surgery.
[ ] You have been in a car accident.
[x] You hate remakes.
[ ] You can't swim.
[ ] You reference films all the time
[ ] You were born with a medical condition that affects your body on the outside.
[ ] You were/are raised by a member of your family that wasn't/isn't your parents.
[x] You enjoy your own company.
[ ] You have quick reflexes.
[ ] You enjoy wrestling.
[ ] You are a good swimmer.
[ ] You can run very fast.
[ ] You grew up without your mother.
[ ] You enjoy circus sideshows.
[ ] You are muscular.
[/] You come from a well-off/wealthy family. Upper middle class? Enough to set aside money for college. But I also chose practically, which made college affordable with minimal loans.
[ ] You had an accident/serious injury as a child.
[x] You hate hypocrisy above all things.
[ ] Someone has broken up with you in public.
[x] You are accident-prone.
[/] You consider yourself as unlucky. I think luck has more to do with the people you surround yourself with, and the effort you put into your work. When I was around sabotaging people, I believed very strongly I was unlucky. Not so now.
[x] You are determined. Some (me) might say stubborn, but yes.
[ ] You enjoy films like Turistas, Wolf Creek, SAW and Hostel.
[/] You like to intimidate people. I hate intimidating people, but I've been told by multiple people that I am unintentionally intimidating. :/
[/] You want to be the top dog. I want to be the best at what I do, and be respected as such, which is kinda like being a top dog. I at least want to be near the head of the pack
[ ] You are meek and mild.
[ ] You want to be a ventriloquist/have a dummy.
[ ] Your favorite film is Scarface.
[ ] You like gangster-related media and/or clothing.
[ ] If you could live in any time, it would have the 1920's.
[ ] You tend to verbally abuse people.
[ ] You have a speech impediment.
[ ] You let other people take the blame rather than yourself. I usually volunteer for blame. I feel like I'm at fault for everything.
[ ] You call your nearest and dearest 'Sugar'
[ ] You have an Italian heritage.
[/] You are shy. Depends on the crowd. Put me in a comic convention behind a booth, I'm everybody's friend.
[x] You have/had feelings for someone who didn't feel the same.
[ ] Alice In Wonderland is your favorite book/Disney film. Hate. HAAAATE.
[XXXXXXXX] You love tea. Can this count for more than one? Can I count it as a bjillion?
[X] You have a lot of hats. Hats are the best! Especially goofy ones. I've even made a few.
[x ] You have been called delusional. I want to be a webcartoonist full-time. Of course people think I'm delusional.
[/] You are immature. I'm mature enough to know that in a year I'll look back at myself at this time and know how immature I was. And will be. I think people are immature forever. They just get better at knowing they are as they keep working on themselves.
[ ] You identify more with children than adults.
[ ] You sometimes have trouble separating reality from dreams or your imagination.
[x] You like to rhyme. Especially if it's also a pun
[ ] You love bats.
[ ] You are deaf or have hearing problems.
[ ] You want to be a scientist.
[/] You tend to think illogically. Depends on the situation.
[ ] You feel comfortable in the dark.
[ ] You are instinctive.
[ ] You love fruit.
[x] You wish you could fly. Who, given the choice between having the ability to fly, or not, chooses "not"?
[ ] You have a strong family life.
[/] You are married. Practically