I originally had this thought in my head to post the best images I’ve done for 2012 to sort of chronicle the growth I’ve had over the course of the year…and then I thought…what would be better than that?? You know what could be better?? How about…
~~**Illumistration’s End of Year Art Print Giveaway!!!!**~~
That’s right!! All of these images above (plus maybe one or two more thrown in for good measure) will be given away to a lucky winner! But that’s not all…I’ll be giving away a runner up prize as well (consisting of 5 of the prints listed above). So, I know what you’re thinking: “What do I have to do to enter this and be able to win??” Well, let me tell ya…all you have to do is reblog this post (sorry, likes are cool but they don’t count). You can only reblog this post once for an entry. Want to increase your chances?? Just “like” my page on Facebook and that will be counted as another entry! That means if you reblog and like my page, thats twice the entries!!
And PLEASE, don’t be THAT GUY and erase the source information from this post.
This contest will end next Monday (December 17) so hopefully I’ll be able to ship this stuff out and it will get to you before the holidays. And if you somehow win and don’t really want the prints, just let me know in advance so that I can choose another winner. Its like people DON’T WANT my FREE prints…
Good Luck everyone!!
Okay internet. You’ve got me again.
(I don’t know why I so often start out on projects that I insist on boldly advertising and then failing halfway through. Someday I’ll look back on these days fondly and laugh. I hope.)
The story-a-day project is fruitless. I might be able to make stories in a twenty-four hour period, but I don’t really want to. In the past I would have felt that that was insufficient reason and tried to forge ahead anyway. But now I am older and just a little bit wiser, and I realize that any given craftsmanship project I attempt for its own sake must be something I am consistently eager to do. If I don’t want to write a new “realistic fiction” story each day, then I won’t do it. If I do it, I won’t be enticed to make it good, etc.
So, why did I chose to be a writer? I have always been attracted to speculative fiction (fantasy, science fiction, horror) over and above “realistic” fiction, and I have often looked at why that probably is. My argument for starting off in the speculative fiction world to begin with, then, runs along these lines: I enjoy reading about the magical. Not the ordinary magic of relationships or family or sunsets, but about the magical as arcane, magic as metaphor.
Frankly, I enjoy systems and design, and I want to see what other people have done with the premise of an entirely foreign world that (because it is fiction) must also contain recognizably human characters. I get bored with the world I inhabit because of its ordinariness. What I crave are well-designed other-worlds that I can lose myself in intellectually and (if the artist in question is good enough) emotionally.
Does this mean I am poorly suited to writing realistic fiction? Not necessarily, no. But it does mean that some foreign regimen of writing a realistic story every day will not only fail to draw me in to become a better worker (as it is supposed to do), but will make me actively hate the work itself, since I largely avoid reading realistic fiction in the first place.
Solution? To re-purpose this within the realm of my passion/forte: world-building. Two observations though:
1) A day is hardly enough time to write a story. I knew this, going into the project, but I felt that because my writing style is mostly iterational I could simply iterate over and over again to make the best story I could before time ran out. This is a fallacy, though, because stories require a kind of psychic space to develop in, if they are to survive, and the kinds of elaborate stories I imagine (in order to get the maximum plausibility and also because my stories tend to favor a lot of plot points) cannot come to fruition if I am constricting their development to a twenty-four hour period.
2) What gets me going is world-building, as I mentioned above. When I started this tumblr, I imagined it as a simple writing exercise to loosen my creativity for the day. (Perhaps in that respect it is most effective; maybe I will return to this model later.) But soon I planned out a whole course for my thing-a-day career to take. First: one-day stories. Second: two-day stories. Then: three-day stories (surprise!) until I realized that submission deadlines for the Clarion writers workshops were at the end of that month, and then I reskinned it all. But: importantly I had discovered a future plan that got me really excited, and I think I’m going to implement it starting now instead.
THE IMPORTANT PART:
I am beginning a long-form project. I acknowledge that as an apprentice, my output is not of great artistic merit, and that the most important thing for me to do right now is to practice, without expectation of monetary compensation. Therefore, I will enter into this long-form project as an attempt to see what I can do with regards to my twin passions of world-building and fantasy writing.
Starting today, I am going to begin a massive world-building project. Following the table on pages 44 and 45 of the Dungeon Master’s Guide, edition 3.5, which has 100 “adventure hooks” for planning D&D campaigns, I will weave a new story thread through my world each week, starting with d% 01 on the table and working up from there.
The object is to write up to a hundred “independent” stories that all take place in the same world, albeit at slightly different times. In the effort to bend each new plot hook into the world I am making, I will require periodic redesigns, both of the world and of the story threads running through it. For example: I am averse to thea priorinature of “monsters” within fantasy worlds. Either: I allow for monsters to have developed naturally, establish a “fictional” mode for my world, or do something else to reconcile things.
I have a pretty distinct idea of what I want my world to look like; I have been designing a universal framework for my worlds for almost a decade now. The fun comes in when I have to reconcile the nature of the Dungeons and Dragons world against the tendencies evident in my own approach. (For example: I am also fairly averse to fantasy races.)
I reserve the right to exclude the world I create using these guidelines from causal continuity within the realms of the Exile (my major story framework). I will likely find a place for it within my larger world-building project, and might even morph parts of it into existing Worlds. But in order for this project to work, I must free myself from existing claims on continuity that will stifle creativity and set the project back even before it has begun.
If I am able to survive one iteration of this project (one week), then I will persevere for a minimum of four weeks before deciding to cancel the project. At any time after that I reserve the right to cancel this project for any reason whatsoever. (I feel it is important to state the possibility of changing one’s mind upfront, both to allow for that possibility and to have a graceful out for when the time comes.) Additionally, the project’s success hinges on the overlapping nature of the different story threads. I should not be allowed to back out until I have witnessed it all working together properly.
The object of this lengthy assignment is to create a sort of Masterwork of world-building. I have been imagining worlds and indulging in world-building for a very long time. I would now like to see if I am capable of making a functional world that can support a large number of concurrent stories. (Most worlds only have to serve the central story they are called into being to present).
This is going to be a learning experience. I know that may sound obvious, but I want us all to be aware that I will be making mistakes and correcting errors throughout this project. The goal is to make something worth looking at at the end of the period, not at the beginning. Also, as noted above, earlier stories will probably change to conform to later additions to the canon. This is why I’m treating the project as cumulative rather than in installments or (necessarily) iterative. That is to say, I am adding story threads to my workload as time progresses, not moving on to new ones (and leaving the older ones behind).
I will not be bound to post any kind of thing to demonstrate my progress on this task. I have had bad experiences with mandatory update schedules, and I feel that a regular posting requirement of some kind will only exacerbate those tendencies in me. Additionally, what I’m doing here is non-linear. Although I will probably have some quantity of short-story-like prose to contribute as time goes on, prose stories are not the end goal of this project. I will be creating maps and genealogies and metaphysical treatises (among other things) as part of this project. Those items are at least as important to the design of the world as any story I could tell. That said, I will probably be excited to share my progress with the internet, and will likely post pictures and excerpts of things I am working on throughout the duration of the task. But don’t necessarily expect to find them.
I think that this is going to be a wonderful exercise in creativity. I would like to believe that I will immediately take to the project and that things will be smooth sailing from here on out, but in reality I have no idea if I will like what I’m going to do. If I’m lucky, I will love and hate the task in equal measure, and that will drive me to excel at it.
~~~Jonathan T. Miles
So how will we know if you’re actually doing what you say you’re going to do?
A little trust, yes? I also have a habit of telling people when my ambitious projects don’t work out, so if I’m fatally slacking, expect to see me post evidence of it here.
What about that novel you’ve been working on?
I have learned that I am not ready to write a novel yet. This is probably entirely due to my desire to set long stories in complex, multidimensional worlds and not due to some inherent trickiness of the novel form. Therefore I am learning about making complex worlds with overlapping stories in them. Another problem is that to write a novel requires a kind of enduring attention that I haven’t yet cultivated, a desire to return to the same project day after day. I hope that I will learn some of that during this project and can transfer it over. Besides, this project won’t consume 100% of my productive hours during the week; maybe I can come back to my novel before the project is done.
Two years seems like a long time to dedicate to a project. Why not try for something shorter?
A couple of reasons for this. One, I am currently in a place where I am well-supported financially. If conditions don’t change for me (but of course they will), then I can afford to spend the next two years working on a project that is worthwhile from a developmental standpoint but useless commercially. Two, no skill ever worth learning took a short time to master, and I would like to become competent in something while I am still young.
You placed a lot of emphasis in your description of this project on world-building and little on writing. Yet you say you want to be a fiction writer. Why?
I have questioned my motives for being a creative recently, and I have discovered that I am more interested in design than in prose writing. I have tried, off and on, to interest myself in prose writing (especially of fantasy stories) during this past year and to no avail. Something about the process of moving around elements of a story in order to make it believable doesn’t interest me nearly as much as figuring out how exactly that magical artifact came into existence and what its powers are. So: upshot is, perhaps I will realize that I’m really interested in design and find myself a career path there.
Concerning being a writer: The worlds I want to create are heavily influenced by the books that I have read. I can see the correlation most clearly between prose and well-designed fantasy worlds. Writing is also a solitary pursuit, and I am in favor of that mode of creative endeavor. In the end, though, I’m really good at moving around elements to make a cohesive whole, even in stories. So, as long as I find the story I’m telling to be of sufficient interest, I can write it and optimize it well.
Tonight you get to have this crap. I asked for an exception for tonight. Just this once I walked away form a story even though I had more time to put towards it. This will never happen again, or I will fall upon my sword. As you can tell, there isn’t even the shape of a story in this blob. I did not want to extemporize “intervention” even though this is the point of the exercise.
I am sorry. Tomorrow is afresh day, with all the extra time that I could want. I will never again let myself down this badly.
Jose was a consummate gambler. He spent all his time away from his carpentry business playing slots on the other side of town. Not that it got him anything. It didn’t please the missus much either.
Kelly had called him one night when he was staying out at the slots and told him that that night was their last together. She couldn’t stand him being away any more than he had to. Jose told him he had to keep playing, but he would come home that night. And he did.
But that was when all the trouble happened. Apparently, soon after he left, everyone in the joint started making bank on the slots. It was all over the papers the next day. Jose couldn’t believe it. What world did he live in that as soon as his life started tugging him back in, he was actively penalized for leaving the other life behind.
The incident only drove Jose back to the slots even more. Soon Kelly moved out, leaving him to his “precious slots” and moving back in with her parents. After this, Jose started sleeping with one of the barkeeps at the casino. IT wasn’t much, but it helped him keep his mind of losing at slots.
The world was a vicious cycle. Jose worked to earn wages during the day, spent those wages on the slots to forget the hard hours he had to put in to his job, and slept with the bartender to ease the pain of losing everything at the slots.
One day, Kelly came back into Jose’s life. She claimed to have his best interests at heart and brought in an intervention team.
The team set
Three times as long as day one. I think I’m just going to abandon all pretense at writing “flash-like” fiction here. If this trend continues I might just get my wordpress back up and post the full versions there and an excerpt here, directing traffic back and forth. Just sayin’.
** In adding the tags to this post, I realized I totally left out the cherished toy. :( Maybe next time.
a play in three acts.
The stargazer returns from the store. “I just made a wonderful connection today!” she said to her cat, Mimo. “Wouldn’t it be just right if Brad were to see that Julia isn’t right for him and started dating that dreamy Claudia instead?” She flipped her scarf playfully at Mimo, after setting her groceries on the counter.
Mimo yawned and stretched out toward her but didn’t get up from his perch. He had hollowed out a comfy spot on the back of the recliner in the adjacent sitting room.
The stargazer frowned at this assessment of Mimo’s. “But you know I only want the best for Brad. He has the worst choices in women.” She began taking groceries out of sacks and laying them out on the counter.
A frame to one side contains two smiling women, one of whom is the stargazer. The pose they are in suggests a long-practiced intimacy, and in fact, they are lovers. Claire is at work just then; she runs a successful consulting business where she is partner. Adelaide works from home, making things and selling them on her online store. Mimo specializes in in photosynthesis.
After all the groceries are put away, Adelaide, the stargazer, looks around at the spic-and-span countertop. Something about its emptiness triggers a warning inside Adelaide. She is like this: a dread, where she has forgotten something very important, sometimes steals upon her after she has spent time cleaning things up. What can it be this time?
In the past, Adelaide has forgotten many kinds of things. She has forgotten to mail things. She has forgotten to buy things. She has forgotten to pack things. She has forgotten to water the plants. She has forgotten to feed Mimo.
A glance at his food and water station reveals that she is still okay.
But what could be the source of this dread? Adelaide reflects on the course the day has taken so far. In the morning she woke up and sent Claire off to work with a peck on the cheek. Then she made some hot chocolate (it was the cold of December) and settled in to watch her lineup of soaps.
First came My Life with Mindy, a comedy more than a soap really, but Adelaide had fallen in love with Mindy’s younger sister Candy (full name Candace Rivers) and tried to watch it as often as she could. It was also a good buffer show, one that she wanted to see but didn’t mind skipping if there were other important things to do.
Then came Peeps and Bold, a show Adelaide didn’t really care for most of the time. But she had watched the show back in its heyday and knew all the character’s backstories. When they had axed Julian so the actor could launch a new career on another soap, she knew things were taking a turn for the worse. But still she watched on, in the vain hope that its characters would get their lives back on track and make the show tolerable to watch again. This, even though she still watched it five days a week.
By this point she had finished her hot chocolate, and she was thankful for it when she started waving her arms about to indicate directions to the onscreen characters in Tragic at Thirty, her latest buzz, and had clean forgotten to set the mug down before doing so. At other times she had had to clean the surfaces of the entire room of her exuberant fluids.
Echocardiogram was a new show running in a canceled spot on channel 33 that Adelaide had never really taken to. Its whole premise was that it was ditching the tried and true methods of bitter family strife and office tension for medical drama tripe “for a new generation of soap opera fans.” Adelaide didn’t actually know anyone who watched it within the soap watcher community in the ‘burbs. According to the latest Nielsen polls, it was going downhill like a steamroller. Adelaide didn’t expect it to be on much longer.
Adelaide was thankful for this spot to be open, though, since it allowed her to watch another soap she had recorded on her DVR during Tragic at Thirty. This was the show that she ‘shipped with her friends and online.
Inkblot was the freshest show to ever take the soap opera world by storm. It had begun five years ago with a bang and kept on delivering. While she was out, Adelaide had had to defend her ‘ship against her friends, who generally approved that snobby bitch Julia’s tactics at securing a place in Brad’s pants overnight.
The memory filled Adelaide with disgust. Obviously Claudia was a better life partner for Brad, even if she never got around to cozying up to anyone. Why didn’t her friends see that? Adelaide walked over to Mimo and rubbed him up and down.
Several minutes later Adelaide remembered she was trying to remember something.
The door to the house opened and Claire walked in. Adelaide stopped in the middle of her knitting. Claire didn’t normally get home from work this early. Obviously something was up.
“Did you get everything together for the birthday party?” Claire asked.
Damn, Adelaide thought. Damn, damn. I’m just like that foolish girl Mindy. Always forgetting things.
Before she could reply, Claire said, “I knew you’d forget. That’s why I bought these on the way home.” She tipped the cardboard box she was carrying to let Adelaide see into its depths. Paper goods enough to serve a whole house-full of kids.
“It’s Johnny’s birthday today,” Adelaide said anyway.
Claire smiled and nodded. “Get ready so we can go.”
The world is full of strange coincidences. Johnny is Claire’s biological child. He was born and put up for adoption before Claire and Adelaide became serious about their relationship, but Claire never failed to help his adoptive parents celebrate the happy day.
Paper pates and cups in a festive theme littered the lawn. The children, mostly Johnny’s classmates, left to go home when the sun set, but Claire and Adelaide were still there. Claire was always given an hour with her son each year, and Adelaide let them have it so she could watch the stars.
Star-gazing had been Adelaide’s pastime when she was very small. She used to make up names for the configurations of stars she could make out and imagine stories for them to explain why they were in the same place every night. Sometimes she would tinker with the stellar constellations ever so slightly to see if she could improve them at all. Sometimes yes, and sometimes no. In the latter case, her constellations would revert to their earlier forms for a while until she felt safe experimenting again.
Once she decided to connect all the stars at once. When she thought of the image now, she imagined a child swinging an oversized bubble wand and making a huge bubble tube that stretched and stretched and stretched without breaking. The super-constellation wouldn’t fit in her mind all at once. When she returned to a segment she had previously connected she saw it as broken and tried to link the stars back up again. But she didn’t remember how she had done it before.
She soldiered on, though, and managed to lasso all the stars in the galaxy into one big formation. She thought her star-friends would all be happy then, and she imagined them coexisting peacefully. But then the interior constellations would say, “no,” and try to maneuver out of position and the whole universe would dissolve.
Just thinking of it now sent tears to her eyes. Why did the universe have to be such a broken place?
Claire entered Adelaide’s field of vision. She was frighteningly tall to someone laid out on the grass.
“Hey,” she said.
Adelaide smiled. “Hey,” she replied.
Claire could see that Adelaide had been crying. She didn’t comment, but extended her hand toward Adelaide to help her up.
Adelaide took it.
Twice as long as yesterday’s. I may not be into this whole “flash” thing. Nonetheless, here is the fiction that today’s cards inspired. I am seriously contemplating turning this into a longer piece.
Kristie walked into the store. It was an old cinderblock in a strip mall and had almost nothing endearing about it; nonetheless, it was always full of customers. Kristie had had to endure endless endorsements of the shop from her friends and now that they were having a clearance sale, she figured she would have to go and see what was up.
The air was dusty inside. Kristie felt as though time stood still as she looked out over the rows of wares. There were many other patrons here as well but somehow they did not give the air any more of a “living” quality, nor convinced Kristie’s senses that she was in a normal time stream.
Kristie walked down the aisles, careful to avoid any other customers. She figured that the best way to avoid surprises when she was inside was to stay away from as many people as she could. Given the geometry of the store, Kristie found herself in a back corner.
The store was clearly bigger than it had looked on the outside. Kristie wondered whether that was some sort of fancy trick or if it had consumed the nearby shops at opportune times through the years. A triangular table in the corner caught Kristie’s attention.
“Gloves half-price, one day only,” a sign said in white characters on red. There was only one pair of gloves on the table: they were a pale ivory color and made out of some kind of silk.
Kristie had never purchased gloves before. She stretched out her hand over their limp form on the table. Her fleshy fingers matched the length of the fingers of the glove. She looked around her, unsure of whether she could try them on without violating a core principle of the universe. She saw no one, and picked up the gloves with her left hand.
“I’m surprised you’re here,” said a voice in Kristie’s ear. “Welcome back.”
It was too late for Kristie. At the first whisper, the ground had come riding up through her legs and into her shoulders. When it passed the base of her spine, she hit the floor.
Kristie woke up to a room whose flavor matched the one she had left. It reeked of timelessness and of human-less motion. She pushed herself up in her chair.
Across from Kristie sat an older woman with black hair and a widow’s peak. She regarded Kristie’s progress as she unconsciously slid away from the woman.
“Welcome back to Taverna’s Emporium,” she said. “We take all kinds.” The woman indicated the gloves still clutched in Kristie’s let hand. “I knew you’d return. We’ve been holding them back for you.”
Kristie looked down at the gloves and then up at the woman. “What are you talking about? I’ve never been her before in my life!” She reached up to toss the gloves at the woman. “And you can have your gloves back and let me go.” She performed the motion for throwing the gloves back, but they didn’t leave her hand. Kristie looked down at them numbly. “Why aren’t they letting go?”
The woman with the widow’s peak smiled. “Because you made them for us. I think this pair recognizes its maker. They want to be with you. The last out of the batch and the only ones to find the craftswoman.”
Kristie didn’t trust this woman, or this store, but in the meantime, she had no choice. Plus, the gloves were warming up in her hand. This seemed more like an invitation to Kristie than a warning. She carefully slipped them on, the burgundy threads offsetting the ivory silk. She thought, “This is a color combination I would use,” as the first glove slid into place over her right hand. When she went to pull the left glove on, her right hand moved across and around her hand as though the hand inside it had been putting on gloves forever and a day. When the left glove fit snugly against her hand, her body disappeared. She became invisible.
Kristie slumped forward in her chair and slid headfirst onto the dull carpeted floor.
The other woman sighed. “I wonder why that kink never got worked out in this model.” She walked over to the space where Kristie had hit the floor and pulled her up from the ground, roughly, and balanced her on her feet.
“Kristina,” she said. “Awake.”
Kristie opened her eyes, still shielded by the invisibility her gloves provided. The woman with the widow’s peak was clearly visible to her and stood at arm’s length. She was a woman Kristie did not recognize. “Who are you?” she asked.
The woman smiled to herself. Hopefully her consciousness has returned to us intact. “I am Taverna’s assistant, Amora. You are standing in Taverna’s Emporium.”
Like a dolphin cresting above the waves to breathe in blessed oxygen, Kristie’s form became visible in the back room. Her brow was furrowed, her right arm pulled back to her torso, its hand curled into a fist. The ivory cloth sparkled in the harsh florescent lights.
The words evaporated off of Kristie’s tongue as cold as dry ice.
“And where is Taverna?”
One of my aspirations is to competently explore the medium of sequential art-based storytelling (comics). To do that, though, I need to practice my drawing techniques.
Surprise! I will be using this tumblr for that purpose. Expect a page of sketches a day.
Format: A5 sketchbook (close to 5” x 8”). I am working toward a manga style, and am replicating images and techniques found in Christopher Hart’s Manga for the Beginner.
The dice told me sixteen sentences. But I forgot about that and wrote a satisfying short short story instead. Check the tags for the cards I drew.
The phone rang incessantly. Frank squirmed around in bed, but that did not dim the sound. If Lucille had been lying in bed next to him, she would have lashed him for letting the phone ring on and on; it was always about his geology consulting business. Frank used to tell her that rocks knew no time zones, but that didn’t stop their eventual separation. Just the memory of those overnight phone calls filled him with anger, and Frank knew he couldn’t just go back to sleep after that. Reluctantly the older man reached over to pick up the call. A raspy voice answered his gruff “hello.”
“Meet me at the Lazybones Diner in half an hour. Your work’s on the line.”
The diner was within walking distance and probably wasn’t open at 3 a.m., but Frank saw no reason to quibble. “Yeah,” he said. The line went silent.
When Frank approached the diner he had no idea what was going to happen to him. His clothes seemed half-remembered; if he had a mind to check he would find his belt was missing. The trusty notebook he carried in his pocket weighed down his pants, though, and the man smiled grimly. At least the caller would find him prepared for whatever nefarious exchange he had in mind.
A man wearing a heavy jacket sat at the only occupied table in the Lazybones Diner and so far as the geologist could tell, he embodied the voice Frank had heard on the phone. Aside from him, the diner appeared empty. When Frank approached, the man reflexively touched a bulge in his jacket before recognizing the aging specialist.
“I’ve got good news,” the man said, as soon as Frank sat down. “Those geodes you looked at for me I can pass off as diamonds to the contractors. They aren’t even testing the machines before they send them off, the poor bastards. Heh, ‘savings’ all around.”
The man was probably from the firm that sold gems to an electronics manufacture place at a sizable discount. Frank savored the irony that it was Lucille who had helped land this gig with his failing business; what would she have to say about his business now?
Instead of asking who the man really was or why he had Frank’s home number, he stifled a yawn. “What do you need me for at this ungodly hour?”
The other man looked aghast. “You have to provide me more places where I can find these geodes. We’re making a killing here.”
For a brief moment, Frank tried to consider what would happen to him if he simply said no. A jumble of half-formed thoughts involving mortgage payments, business credentials, and mid-life crisis flashed through his mind.
But in the end, all Frank could think about was the way the man had patted that bulge in his pocket when Frank sat down.
“I’ve got some locations for you to try,” he said, and pulled the notebook out of his pants pocket.
A while back, a store near me had a sale. That store was relocating, and they were trying to move as much stock beforehand as possible. From that sale I scored a device called The Storymatic. The Storymatic is a box that contains cards with character attributes and cards with situations/objects for you to combine to get fresh writing prompts for your stories. The Storymatic itself comes with several rule variants for combining the cards to make stories. For the work I’m going to post here, I will try the Flash variety.
The Flash version of the Storymatic involves rolling two dice and multiplying the resulting numbers together to determine how many sentences the writer has available to tell his or her story. It does not specify the number or quality of cards to draw, however, so I will resort to the Classic version and draw two gold cards (characters) and two copper cards (events or items). Then I will post my best effort at a Flash story here.
Finally: if I am stumped for how to set the story, I will use a table of plot hooks from the Dungeons & Dragons 3.5 Edition Dungeon Master’s Guide. There are one hundred possibilities there, so I shouldn’t run out of them too soon.
Each flash story will include the terms that inspired it and the numbers that delimit it.