30 June 2004

Which Firefly Character are You?

Weird. I'm Jayne (though only 61%). Who are you?

27 June 2004

Makes Me Laugh

From Neil Gaiman:
I'm at the age where they start to give you lifetime achievement awards, and you rather wish they wouldn't, because it may be some kind of a hint that it's time for you to sit down and shut up.

26 June 2004

More Fey

Slowly, I get the hang of PhotoShop. I'm still not quite satisfied with the text (the look of the words, that is), but it's getting better. And I was more clever when I scanned in the pieces, so you can't even tell where I spliced the page back together. Hah! So here is page 6. And you finally get to meet the other main character. (Is it me, or do I have a lot of female characters whose names begin with "m"?)

24 June 2004

Yey, Hey, More of Fey

I just put up the cover for "Drawing Borders" part one. And I just noticed I forgot to make the middle of the "e" transparent. Oops. I'll fix it later. Right now I need to go feed my dog and myself before Cardcaptors comes on, followed by an invasion of small relatives to watch Shrek and Shrek 3-D, which Selena got for her birthday (yesterday).

More of the 50 Sequential Art Books

Yup, more words with pictures (or pictures with words) (or pictures without words).

  1. Reinventing Comics by Scott McCloud. This is the book that really got me thinking about how Fey isn't really a webcomic (and doesn't want to be, either). Like Understanding Comics, this one slips in lots of subtle challenges to comics creators to be better than ever, to push the boundaries of the medium, and so on. It didn't get me quite as excited about making comics as McCloud's first book did, but it was excellently done.
  2. The Four Immigrants Manga by Henry (Yoshitaka) Kiyama, trans. and ed. by Frederik L. Schodt. This is a really interesting book. It was originally written in both Japanese and English (with the odd bit of Chinese), by a Japanese immigrant to San Francisco in the early 1900s (it mostly takes place in the 1920s). It's laregly biographical and autobiographical, and shows what it was like to be Japanese in America at the time. Interestingly, the art is very much in the style of North American cartoons, rather than like the comics that developed in Japan (manga). The editor points out, though, that like later manga, this book depicts its Japanese characters as looking very European rather than Asian. That was something I'd wondered about, when feeding my manga habit.

Time to get some more comics to read, looks like. I'll probably pick up the next volume or two of InuYasha in the next week or so, plus I think the book that's waiting for me to pick it up at the library is more manga. Now if I could only find some more good North American or European comics at the library. I'm going to have to break down and buy that volume three of Preacher. Plus some Hellblazer. It's just they're so much more expensive than manga. Sigh.

More Than 50 Books

I think I may very soon divide this list into fiction and non. Just not right this minute.

  1. The Neptune File by Tom Standage. I think one of the cover blurbs called this "science writing at its best." It is, too. Standage manages to evoke the character of each of the people involved, explain things astronomical in a way that non-astronomers can understand without being overly simplistic, and make science seem really cool, all at the same time. Fascinating book, fascinating historical personages, fascinating science.
  2. I Was a Rat by Philip Pullman. What if the rat who became Cinderella's page boy got lost in the castle and didn't make it back in time to be turned back into a rat? The wonderful Philip Pullman takes that as the starting point of a story about humanity, love, and silly politics. My favourite of his is still Clockwork, but this one is very good, too. Oh yeah, it's YA/kid's fiction.
  3. The Mermaid's Three Wisdoms by Jane Yolen. Jane Yolen always writes lovely books. I don't think I've ever read anything of hers that was both beautiful and written in a deceptively simple style. This one isn't one of her best, but it's still better than a whole lot of other fiction, YA or adult (this one's YA).
  4. Hob and the Goblins by William Mayne. I like books about fairies (you may have noticed). This one was very true to its folkloric origins, written in lovely prose, and full of engaging characters. The final scene where everyone is rescued by an errant double-decker bus (actually a gremlin driving an errant double-decker bus) didn't seem to really fit--perhaps because it was too random, and didn't give the heroes a chance to save themselves. It did make sense given the book's opening, though. (Yes, more YA.)
  5. Elfsong by Ann Turner. You may have noticed a theme running through these last books. I was browsing the YA/kid's shelves at the library and kept finding intriguing books with fairies in. So I signed a bunch out. They're all wonderful, Elfsong included. The elf society was convincing. Lovely book. (Do I use that word too much?)

Phew. I may need to divide my fiction list (once I separate it from the non-fiction list) into adult and YA/children's lists. I read a lot of kid's books. They're fun, and a lot of them are very well written. For example, while I still adore Anne McCaffrey's books written for a YA audience (I'm think specifically about the Pern Harper Hall trilogy and Black Horses for the King, but there are others), but her books for adults don't seem nearly as good as I thought they were when I first read them (to be fair, though, I haven't finished re-reading them all yet). Her writing is much more focussed and elegant in her kid's books.

22 June 2004

More on Fey and Image Quality

So I went back and re-did the other pages and they do look very, very much better. I need to play with the .jpg compression a bit more to see if I can get the file saizes down, but I'm much happier. Yay! I tried one page at the lowest quality, and it still looked pretty good (but that version's not online). I don't notice any difference between the best low-quality image (page one) and the worst medium-quality one (page two)--I'll see where I start to notice the difference, and change them all accordingly. But not right now. Darwin is pacing and just came in to breathe hot dog breath on me to remind me that it's pee time. And I want a bath.

New Fey (not a webcomic)

So here's Fey page 5. And I think I've found the secret to non-jaggedy art (or a secret, anyway): don't use the "save for web" function on PhotoShop, even though other webcomics artisits seem to do it. This time I just saved it regularly, and as a .jpg instead of a .gif. The file's bigger, of course, but it looks sooooo much better (if you can ignore the shadowy bit where I joined the two scans--this one's got greys, so I couldn't rely on a b&w scan to get rid of shadows). Time to find a web provider with much cheap webspace, methinks. Anyway, I'll be fixing the previous pages asap.

So there are two new things about this page, besides the nicer look. One is that it's the first time you meet the main character (one of two, actually). I think I broke some kind of sacred rule of fiction by waiting so long to show a main character. Just think of the first four pages as a prologue, if it bothers you (I don't because generally prologues are a poor attempt to fill the reader in with info that should have been worked into the body of the story). New thing number two is grey tones in the art. And they're not cg.

Which leads me to the bracketed part of the title. I just read Scott MCCloud's Reinventing Comics (which I will blather about more when I post about my latest reading), and it got me thinking about what webcomics are, and how Fey really doesn't exploit the electronic format much at all. And I realized that it's because Fey is only a webcomic in the sense that it's a comic published on the web. What it is is a print comic that I can't afford to self publish and haven't got enough of to submit to publishers, so I'm putting it online.

It doesn't bother me at all that my comic's not really a webcomic, but I do want to explore the idea of making webcomics--real webcomics--some more. And I want to learn to draw manga style (partly in the hopes that it'll make my drawing style a little more spare, less hatching-heavy). So I thought, hey, I should try them both at the same time. So what I'm going to do is play around with PhotoShop and make a webcomic that explores whatever I feel like exploring at the time. And I'll put it online whenever I happen to finish a page. It's going to be called Into the Woods. Why? Partly because I really liked Alberto Manguel's book of essays about books called Into to Looking-Glass Wood, and partly because when you say someone is "out of the woods" it means they're out of danger. I figure this'll be new territory, and maybe dangerous in a sense. Plus, I like trees.

Attack of the Cutes

I think I'm having an attack of the cutes. I now have two sickly-cute NeoPets on top of my monitor (both given to my by my niece when I said I thought they were cool). And we were out shopping to spend Selena's (said niece) birthday money and I actually liked the t-shirts with cute things on that she was trying on. I mentioned this to my sister. "It must be all that anime," she said, wisely.

15 June 2004

And . . .

I just noticed I neglected to remove a few extra lines around the edges when I re-did those pages of Fey. Urgh. I'll fix them later. Right now I need to take my dog out to pee.

Fey News

Well, I worked on Fey today, and it looks better. Definitely not perfect, but better. The next things will be to do the panel borders in PhotoShop with the line tool, so they look neater. And maybe I'll try adding the text after reducing the size. That might help. But it looks a little better.

Understanding Manga

Or my thoughts about it, anyway. As you may know, if you've been following along, I just read Scott McCloud's Understanding Comics. And you may remember be blathering about manga and why I didn't read much of it in the past (that post is here if you want it). Well, I was reading McCloud's book, and he was discussing the different kinds of between-panel transitions in comics. The most common transitions in western comics are "action-to-action" (sequences showing the progression of actions), followed by "subject-to-subject" (switching between subjects in a single scene or action), and "scene-to-scene" (shanges in time or place). In eastern comics, though, transitions between subjects in a scene/action are nearly as important as action sequences. What is more interesting, though, and what really caught my attention, is the presence of "moment-to-moment" transitions (those that show small changes in a single subject), and the relatively strong presence of "aspect-to-aspect" transitions (those that show different aspects of a single place, idea or mood, ignoring time alltogether). Yeah, pretty technical, but sometimes technical is good. Anyway, McCloud says of these aspect-to-aspect transitions:
Most often used to establish a mood or a sense of place, time often seems to stand still in these quiet, contemplative combinations . . . . Rather than acting as a bridge between separate moments, the reader here must assemble a single moment using scattered fragments.

Now what was that I said about more (or less) bang for your buck (ick, I really dislike that particular cliché)? McCloud speculates that one reason for this difference is that eastern comics (or Japanese comics, anyway) tend to be first published in huge anthologies, and then collected in multi-volume sets (InuYasha is up to 17 volumes, each nearly 200 pages--at least, the comic shop had 17; there could be more).
As such, dozens of panels can be devoted to portraying slow cinematic movement or to setting a mood.

But, he says, there seems to be something more fundamental than just length. Whereas western culture is very goal-oriented, in our literature as in anything else, in the east there is "a rich tradition of cyclical and labyrinthine works of art," comics included. I like that: cyclical and labyrinthine. Beautiful words for a beautiful idea.

Anyway, I don't know if I like manga more now because I'm older and things don't seem so urgent anymore, or if it's just that I've grown more contemplative (though I've always been rather laid back and contemplative; maybe I should've given manga another chance back then. Or maybe it was the quality or subject matter of the work published at the time?) Anyway, I no longer think of those mood-setting aspect-to-aspect transitions as nothing happening. Instead, they're a chance to deepen the moment. Like anything else, though, deepening the moment should not be overdone. Does this make sense? I am fumbling my way through things I don't understand very well yet. Yet. I plan to dig much, much deeper into this.

More Fey, and Some Difficulties

The newest page of Fey is up: part 1, page 4. Still jaggedy as I haven't had a lot of time to play with PhotoShop lately. I'll be making time tomorrow, I hope, as I'm now having even worse problems with the readability of the text. I expect the words in the word balloons are entirely unreadable. I can only read them because I already know what they say. Time to do some more investigating on the web to see what I'm doing wrong. It may meaning starting all over again with fresh scans (or at least from the part where I stick the two halves of the scan together--as I draw too big to fit the pages on the scanner). I may have to resort to drawing future pages actual size. Eh. Don't want to do that. So for now, apologies for the crappy look of the pages. They will be fixed. And I just noticed they look even worse on my laptop. Bleah.

50 Graphic Novels, er, Seqential Art Books

I'm going to have to change the title of this list, since one of the books I've just added (and another coming up) is non-fiction. Come to think of it, at least one of the books already on this list is non-fiction. So what to call it instead of "Graphic Novels"? "Graphic Books" doesn't sound right. "Sequential Art Books"? Better.

  1. InuYasha volume 2 by Rumiko Takahashi. Did I mention that InuYasha reappeared on TeleToon? Yay. And I just discovered that, in a poorly-lit display case at the back of the store, our local comic shop has InuYasha DVDs. They ain't cheap, mind you, but it's nice to know they're there. Anyway, volume two picks up where volume one left off, oddly enough, and continues the rollicking adventures. This series really appeals to me. I think it's the guy trying to be tough who's really a nice guy inside. Which isn't to say he isn't actually tough, too. Er . . . I think maybe I'll just stop now.
  2. Aria volume 1 by Kozue Amano. I picked this up on a whim because it had a pretty cover. Also because I noticed that the characters visit an Inari shrine part way through, and buy some Inarizushi to eat. Inarizushi is next on my list of types of sushi to learn how to make. The book turned out to be a gentle story, full of introspection and lovely scenery. There isn't a whole lot of tension, so it's not exactly a riveting story, but I really, really enjoyed it. I'll be looking for the next volume.
  3. Understanding Comics by Scott McCloud. I've been meaning to read this since it first came out, and now I finally have. The library copy (which I had to request from another branch) is so well-used that the cover is disintegrating. And I can see why; it's a fabulous book. Even if you don't read comics, I highly recommend this book. It's an education, and very, very interesting. I've also got Reinventing Comics by the same author (also requested from another branch of the library)--it'll show up on this list soon. More gushing about how great this book is can be found in my review. And some interesting things I learned while reading it will be the topic of a near-future blog entry.

I discovered, while trying to locate volume 3 of Preacher (I have vols 1, 2, 4, and 5), that the library hasn't got quite as good a selection of graphic novels as I originally thought. I was fooled by the complete series of Sandman, Elfquest, InuYasha and Ranma 1/2 (most of which are not at my local branch). Sigh. At least they have some comics.

08 June 2004

Still More 50 Books

Oh how I love to read,
I like few things better.
Like a burning, itching need,
Only writing is better.

Well, we all know I'm a lousy poet, no?

  1. Dracula by Bram Stoker. Yes, I finally finished Dracula. I love this book. The structure, the way it's made up of excerpts from journals and telegrams and such always made it seem much more contemporary (postmodern, almost?). It's easy to see why it's an enduring classic. Interestingly, I wasn't as impressed by the faithfulness of the movie Bram Stoker's Dracula (the one with Gary Oldman as the main bloodsucker) as I was last time. When I first watched the moive, I thought Keanu Reeves did a really, really bad job of portraying Jonathan Harker. But then I read the book and thought, "Hunh, Jonathan Harker really is a weenie." But I didn't think so this time (in the book, I mean). He seemed much more like the gentle and sensitive, yet strong, soul that Mina described in her parts of the book. I wonder why I didn't see that last time? Anyway, I also noticed quite a few plot differences between book and movie, though most of them make sense (or could be argued to make sense) in terms of translation from one medium to another. Did you know that in the book, Mina and Dracula don't even meet until near the end, after Jonathan has returned? Interesting.
  2. The Death of an Ardent Bibliophile by Bartholomew Gill. This is one that my sister, Sue, signed out of the library and I decided to read because of the title. I couldn't put the damn thing down. The writing wasn't perfect (but it was good), but the characters were engaging and the setting (Dublin) interesting. And it had rare books in. I read it nearly in one (very long) sitting.
  3. Thirteenth Night by Alan Gordon. Another one Sue is responsible for. I was waiting for her in the car one day, and picked up a book she was returing to the library and started to read the first paragraph. I was hooked immediately, but it was the second book about the character. So I pried myself away and got Thirteenth Night from the library. The main character is the fool Feste from Shakespeare's Twelfth Night (which I had to dig out and read concurrently), who returns to town to solve a murder. Imagine all the fools and jesters of old belonging to a secret society.
  4. The Gathering Dark by Christopher Golden. Chistopher Golden co-created the Ghosts of Albion videos along with Amber Benson (of Buffy the Vampire Slayer). I really liked Ghosts of Albion, so I picked this up tp see what his writing is like. It's very good, but for some reason it took me a long time to get into this. I think it may have partly been because the structure is pretty much the same as any other third-person-multiple-viewpoint genre novel. Show one character doing something for a while, then skip to another character, and so on. Then show things going wrong in the lives of those characters, then finally bring all the characters together. Anyway, the writing was good enough that it did finally pull me in, and kept pulling me back, so I read this rather thick book quite quickly.

So I'm still working through the pile of fiction I got from the library, but I think I may go back to some more cool science once I'm done. For a little while. And then it'll be time to get back to my League of Extraordinay Reading. Either Poe or Verne, probably. Or possibly Wells.

Fey Page 3

Finally, page 3 of Fey is up. Still jaggedy (grrr), but I'm working on it. It looks much better big. Sigh.

Er . . . A Little Late

So the next page of Fey will be slightly late. It's done in hardcopy, and half of it is scanned. The other half was scanned, but I need to redo it as I managed to cut off one edge (and that after scanning it twice!). I'm just too sleepy to do it again now. Wanna go curl up in bed with my book, I do. But it'll be the first thing I do tomorrow. There isn't much text to add so it shouldn't take too long. I hope.

01 June 2004

The Beginning of Three Sisters

Here it is:
"Once there was a king who had three daughters," said Jinty, sitting up very straight and looking at each of her sisters to be sure they were paying attention. They were. They always did, though they had told each other this story countless times.

"This king was very rich, and liked nothing better than to spend the day among the emissaries from foreign countries, gambling. The king believed he was good at gambling, but he lost more than he won, and soon the kingdom's coffers were getting bare. Each time he began to run out of money, he'd sell off another estate, or raise the taxes."

Jinty smoothed the pages of the book in her lap. It was a copy of Grimm's fairy tales that had been her mother's. It was open to a story called "The Three Sisters," but Jinty didn't read the words or even look at the pages as she told the story. She didn't need to. Between them, she, Kyrie and Fern knew the story so well they had made it their own.

Now back to work.

I Am

A cywydd llosgyrnog; I'm one.
"A what?" Well, quite. There'd be no fun
In being understood; I
Thrive upon obliquity.
Don't comprehend or follow me,
For mystery's my ally.
What Poetry Form Are You?

Books, Books, Books

I promise I'll write about something other than books soon. Really I will.

  1. Seals and Sea-Lions of the World by Nigel Bonner. This was pretty much your standard "X of the World" sort of book. What I mean is, it had blurbs about all the different kinds of seals and sea-lions, chapters on reproduction and social organization, conficts with fisheries and all suchlike, and it was written in a fairly dry information-imparting style. Which isn't to say it was boring. There was enough fascinating detail that I could ignore the dry writing (actually it wasn't as bad as many of this sort of book I've read). I got it from the library in the hopes that it would inspire me to write the second half of "Daughters of the Sea King" the way that reading about sharks got me eager to write the first half (though that was also helped out by a documentary on Great White Sharks that made me stare at the screen and think such intelligent thoughts as "that's one big fucking fish.") It's helped, but I don't quite have the same excitement. I need a good seal documentary, perhaps. Or maybe I need to re-read The People of the Sea. Hmmm. Yes, that might work. At least I now know that the seal-shape of the Seal Folk is Grey Seal. I was also looking for useful information about Steller's Sea-Lions that I could use for Three Sisters. There was some, though not as much as I'd hoped. The author seemed much more familiar with Antarctic seals and those found near England. Lots of good photos, though.

I am drawing ever nearer to 50 books, and the year isn't even quite half over yet. Weird. Dracula is coming along, finally. I'll finish it today, and then start on some of those mysteries from the library. And maybe some YA fiction--I got Garth Nix's Grim Tuesday ages ago and haven't hardly glanced at it yet.

Now I think I'll actually try to get some writing done. I did so much work on work in the past couple of days that I need a bit of a break. I was going to wait to slack off until tomorrow, seeing as it is my birthday, but what the hell.

The Meaning in Names?


Name / Username:

Name Acronym Generator
From Go-Quiz.com

And here's me in comic creator mode:


Name / Username:

Name Acronym Generator
From Go-Quiz.com
I'm organic, apparently, whatever disguise I'm in. (Link via Pen-Elayne.)

More Fey: Page 2

I just put up Fey, part 1, page 2. Still jaggedy, but I'll fix that if it kills me. I'm aiming to get new pages up every Friday, rather than Monday, as Monday is my big day for CW for Teens. Eventually, I'll get ahead by a few weeks and stop doing this at the last minute. Eventually, I'll have a real web page for Fey. Eventually.