Friday, January 30, 2009

Eastern Dragon

© 2009 Richard H. Fay

All these years that I've been drawing dragons, this may actually be the first time I've drawn an Eastern dragon as opposed to a Western one. Still, dragons is dragons, and I can just about draw dragons in my sleep!

I think I did a pretty good job of capturing the less-malevolent nature of the Oriental breed of dragon, if I do say so myself. It seems to possess a kindly, but still potentially dangerous, look to it.

And just like the other example of divider/clip art I completed and coloured recently, this image (sans background) will be available on merchandise in the Abandoned Towers Zazzle Store.

Sea Serpent

© 2009 Richard H. Fay

And here is yet another piece I created for use as divider/clip art. This time, I adapted a sea serpent by William Blake, as depicted in Dragon: A Book of Designs by Marty Noble. I stretched the serpent out, reduced the coils from two to just one, and made the tail visible. I kept the segmented look with the "wave" patterns.

Celtic Birds

© 2009 Richard H. Fay

Here's another image I did for divider art. Again, I drew my inspiration, pretty directly this time, from a design in Eva Wilson's Early Medieval Designs from Britain for Artists and Craftspeople. These birds are based on a border illumination from the Lindisfarne Gospels. Perhaps that would make them "in Hiberno-Saxon style" rather than a strictly Celtic one, but I'm calling them Celtic anyway.

Boar Hunt

© 2009 Richard H. Fay

I've been a busy doodler lately, composing various illustrations for Crystalwizard of Cyberwizard Productions for use as divider art and clip art. One of the designs I came up with, "Boar Hunt", was inspired by a medieval patterned floor tile depicting a hound bounding past an oak tree, as depicted in Eva Wilson's Early Medieval Designs from Britain for Artists and Craftspeople.

Well, the tile design just cried out "hound on the hunt". At first I wanted to add a stag from another tile design, but I soon realised that the stag would be too tall to work alongside the hound. So, I added a boar instead. I actually managed to create a boar that matched the hound, stylistically-speaking.

Once I had a coloured drawing, I decided it just needed a parchment background. I scanned a piece of parchment paper, antiqued it in the rather simple photoshop I have, and voila! I had a medieval-looking parchment background for my medieval illustration.

I truly think I channeled a medieval scribe with this one! It definitely looks "period" to me.

By the way, this and some of the other pieces I coloured today (minus the background colour) will be featured on merchandise in the Abandoned Towers Zazzle Store.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Thoughts on Trolls

Here are my thoughts on internet trolls (and trolls in general), shaded by my past experience playing Dungeons & Dragons, as well as my fondness for classic fantasy literature and traditional folklore:

Net-trolls are everywhere. Lurking. Waiting. Seething. Slathering. Always hungry. Always hankering for a fight. Ready to pounce. Ready to attack. Ready to rip unsuspecting victims to shreds. It's the nature of the on-line beast. It's the law of the internet jungle.

The only sure way to avoid trolls altogether is to stay out of the hills, woods, caves, blogs, forums, and other troll-infested habitats. Stay safe, or you may be sorry. And when you do journey into their world, venture prepared. Expect attack. Travel armed in troll-proof plate with an appropriate troll-slaying weapon, or face bloody consequences.

In one vital aspect, net-trolls differ greatly from their Dungeons & Dragons kin. While fire may be an effective weapon against the rubbery wretches of role-playing game fame, net-trolls seem to thrive in flames. They stir up flame-wars whenever and wherever they can, reveling in the conflagrations sparked by their own vicious "trollness". So be warned, unlike the loathsome creatures familiar to gamers worldwide, flaming attacks only make net-trolls stronger. Avoid flames at all cost, or face the full fury of the net-troll!

Thus ends this particular public service announcement. Now back to your regularly scheduled programming.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Happy New Moon on Monday!

I may just light my torch and wave it, for it's a new moon on Monday! Happy new moon on Monday to all you Duran Duran fans out there.

Wandering Ole Willow in Bewildering Stories 322

My poem "Wandering Ole Willow" is now on-line at Bewildering Stories. This particular piece was inspired by the lore surrounding the willow tree, and its apparent propensity for wandering about at night, muttering and following travellers. This very same bit of folklore probably inspired Tolkien's Old Man Willow. It's amazing, really, how many of my poems are about trees or involve trees in some way.

"Wandering Ole Willow" also happens to be one of those examples of an alright work made much better after receiving an editor's helpful advice. The original draft struggled until it was accepted at Bewildering Stories, but the managing editor there suggested I add more substance to the thin gruel of the poem. Mixing in a little motivation and background did put meat on its bones, fleshing out its previously scrawny frame.

Sometimes, all you need is a nudge in the right direction.

Check it out!

Sunday, January 25, 2009

This Blog's Readability

blog readability test

Movie Reviews

According to this little test, it requires a genius level of education (?) to read my blog. So much for writing simply, eh?

Saturday, January 24, 2009

First Poetry Sale of the Year!

Well, things were off to a slightly slow start this year as compared to last, until now. Last year I received my first poetry acceptance on News Year's Day. This time around I waited until the 24th of January, but today I finally received something other than a rejection for one of my recent poetry submissions. Most of what I've submitted lately seems to be the old story of "fine stuff, just not what we're looking for".

My poem "Winter Crows", inspired by the large flocks of crows found in the Capital District, will be appearing in Every Day Poets. I actually tried again to meld my dark-poet imagery with a mainstream piece, and I think it worked pretty well. Plus, I was able to use the term "murder" for a group of crows, something that always gives me a thrill!

I don't have a publication date yet. I'll certainly post a link when it's on-line.

Of course, I must admit, one of the reasons I haven't had many poetry acceptances recently is because I haven't submitted a lot of poetry recently. I've been doing a lot of illustrating lately. This week I worked on four more images for the Cyberwizard Productions/Abandoned Towers divider art. Crystalwizard seemed happy enough with what I've done so far. I had better work on more before I tackle anything else.

Go with the flow, and the flow at the moment seems to be directed more towards my art.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Poem Used in a Story

An interesting thing happened to me recently. An author who was made familiar with my work due to the fact that I illustrated one of his stories asked if he could use the first stanza of "Holiday on Phreetum Prime" in one of his most recent works of fiction. Since he credits me as creator of the poem right in the text, and I'm rather flattered by the whole idea, I agreed to the use of the excerpt.

There is no guarantee that the story containing the excerpt will actually see publication, but it's a neat gesture nevertheless. It's proof that my work has touched at least one writer's heart and mind. My words have connected with another person's soul.

Isn't that what many of us "writerly- types" hope for?

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Fine Speech, Mr. President

I'm not easily or often impressed by what a politician says, but I was quite impressed with President Obama's inaugural address (given just a few minutes ago). He said exactly what needed to be said, addressed exactly what needed to be addressed, and seemed to show an understanding of exactly what needs to be done to turn this country around and reclaim the ideals lost over the last eight years. A great speech doesn't necessarily translate into great actions, but I must admit, it does give me hope that the worst ills of the last administration will be cured, that the filth of the stinking quagmire we found ourselves in will finally be washed away. And it makes me think he will actually abide by his oath, unlike his predecessor.

And then there was poetry...

Monday, January 19, 2009

Warring Ants and the Maginot Line

Two of my illustrations are now up at the on-line version of Abandoned Towers. "Warring Ants" and "Maginot Line Fortification Cross-Section" accompany Doug Hilton's story "The Maginot Line", found in the General Fiction section of the site. To access the story, just click on the General Fiction link, click on the book, then click on the story title.

Check 'em out!

When Crystalwizard asked me to illustrate the story, the first image that popped into my head was ants in army helmets fighting atop and around an earthen rampart and pebble tower. The idea came like a flash, but making that idea a reality took a few days' work. And afterward, I told Crystalwizard I may never want to draw another ant again!

Since Doug inserted an expositional interlude about the historic Maginot Line, I figured I must also draw a diagram of a Maginot Line fort. A cross-sectional view of one of those elaborate underground fortifications does look a wee bit like the cross section of an ant colony. I tried to create some visual parallels between the pebble-earth-and-twig design created by the ants and France's expensive defensive folly.

I guess my biology degree and past bio lab experience, as well as my interest in World War II, actually came in handy. This certainly isn't the first time I've drawn somewhat realistic invertebrates, and I had a cross-sectional view of a Maginot Line fort in one of my various history books to use as a guide for the diagram. I just simplified it and rendered it in my own style.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Awesome and Chilling

Even though I already posted about my art appearing on the Horror Bound Magazine web site, I just found out that they have introduced my work as their front page feature. And they say some really wonderful things in their brief introduction, calling my artwork "awesome and chilling".

I'm always in awe when my art receives such praise. My "artorexia" prohibits me from viewing my art objectively, so I rarely see the quality others claim is inherent in my work. With few exceptions, it always seems flawed somehow. Although, I will admit that my self-confidence has grown ever so slowly with each and every publication and encouraging word.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Art on Horror Bound Site

Some of my darker illustrations now appear in the on-line Horror Art Gallery at Horror Bound Magazine.

The pieces include: "Tom Tit Tot" (aka "Tom at the Spinning Wheel"), "The Unseelie Court", "Demons of the Dark Nebula", "Forest of the Damned", "Wander the Ether" (aka "Ethereal Journey"), "Gothic Window", and "Things in the Swamp".

Feel free to leave comments on the Horror Bound site.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Busy Being Artistic

Lately, I've been spending quite a bit of time on illustration projects. Today, I finished colouring a drawing for use in the on-line version of Abandoned Towers. It's meant to be an accompaniment to Doug Hilton's story "The Maginot Line". Now I have to draw a cut-away diagram of a Maginot Line fort. Then I wait and see if Mr. Hilton likes both the illustration and diagram (the editor of the 'zine has already approved my illustration).

After I finish the diagram, I want to work on more divider art for Cyberwizard Productions/Abandoned Towers (the dragon design I posted earlier was only the first in a series). I already have a few things in mind. When I mentioned one of my ideas, a sea serpent/sea dragon design based on a work by William Blake, to Crystalwizard, she suggested that I do the cover-art for Abandoned Towers Issue 3.

I'm going to do a cover! How cool is that?

Of course, the insecure side of me wonders if I'm up to the task. I even worried that my computer might not be up to the task of colouring a cover-sized drawing (I colour my drawings digitally), but my work today proved that I can indeed colour a large drawing without probelms (as long as I use my lap top). So I had better get started on the cover-art after I finish the diagram.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Bubba the Bigfoot

Some may think me crazy for saying this, but I know Bigfoot exists. Furthermore, you don't even have to be in the Pacific Northwest to have an encounter. As a matter of fact, you may just even meet one on a city street. Well, you might if that city is bordered by wooded areas and is about sixty miles south of an alleged Bigfoot hot spot.

One cold afternoon in January 2003, my daughter and I were in the yard. I was walking our dog and my daughter was playing in the snow. We began to hear this loud, low howl coming from the direction of the woods adjacent to the nearby cemetery. I decided that it was time to go in as it seemed to get closer, and closer, and closer.

A few days prior to this, we all heard howling in the distance. At the time, we thought it could have been feral dogs or coyotes. My wife felt the howls sounded most like wolves, although there aren't supposed to be any wolves in New York State. There certainly shouldn't have been any wolves in Troy!

This howling continued through a good part of the night. We could hear it inside, with all the windows shut (it was winter, after all), over the television. At no point did we actually see the source of the howling. I actually went out on the back porch to listen for a while, and it made the hair on the back of my neck stand on end.

Listening to the power of that mournful call, hearing the subtleties of tone, I realised that it would have to be a three-hundred pound dog to produce such a noise. The rottweiler that lived two doors down wasn't that loud when he barked and bayed, and he was a big dog. My own dog, a shepherd/chow mix, also couldn't match the deep tone or volume of our mystery howler. I started to suspect that the mystery beast may be something else entirely, but I had no further evidence to back up my suspicions.

Animal control came the next day and made a cursory check of the area, but apparently found nothing. It seemed that the whole neighbourhood heard the howling, and assumed that it was a dog of some sort. Then the real weirdness began...

Something began to get into the garbage in the neighbourhood. Now, that's not unusual in and of itself, but this something actually opened the bags neatly, as if untying them, and rifled through the garbage, looking for trash from McDonalds (our one set of neighbours ate a lot of stuff from McDonalds). The McDonalds wrappers would be stacked in a neat pile. Strangely enough, Bigfoot are known to stack rocks in neat piles when hunting for rodents. However, the garbage prowler may have been a bum of the ordinary variety, but then there were the noises...

We started to hear some strange noises, usually during the hours after sunset. My wife heard a sound like "parrots" (that's how she described it), and we all heard various shrieks and howls. There was one time I was repairing the roof on our garage during the spring or summer of 2003, and something seemed to beat out a reply to my hammering. It wasn't an echo, because the pattern wasn't identical to the pattern of my hammering. It was more like something reacted to the hammering as if it were some sort of communication. Ever heard of the supposed habit of Bigfoot tree knocking, shared by other primates?

And if the sounds weren't strange enough, we would get occasional weird odours wafting through the neighbourhood. Again, these odours would be noticed mostly at night. Mostly it smelled like wet dog and fish. Again, Bigfoot are known for their stench, perhaps a defense mechanism. And this is another trait they share with other primates; gorillas can release a pretty bad stink when riled.

Okay, I was willing to believe the possibility that a Bigfoot had moved into the neighbourhood, as crazy as it seemed, but I was still a bit skeptical. Part of me was excited by the prospect, but the "rational" part of me thought it might be nuts. But then, about two years after the initial howling, my wife saw him...

On February 3, 2005, my wife was driving home from work when she saw an incredible sight crossing the street a couple blocks ahead of her. A very tall, fairly heavily built humanoid figure crossed in two or three steps. My wife noted that the five foot gate of the business behind this figure seemed to come up to his chest. Even taking perspective into account, this would make the creature much taller than a normal human being. Of uniform colour, the figure displayed no differentiation at all between head, hands, torso, and legs. It was a dark deep brown all over. The way my wife described the build of the beast was as if Shaquile O'Neal walked across the street wearing a brown muscle suit. He was that big!

This wasn't out last possible run-in with the Bigfoot we affectionately named "Bubba", but it was the one and only time any of us actually saw him. However, I came quite close one night.

On a hot and humid summer night in 2005, we were all camping out in our yard. My wife, my daughter, my dog, and myself all crawled into our rather large dome tent for an urban camping adventure. None of us slept very well, and at some time during the wee hours of the morning, when it was still dark, our dog let our a soft, low growl. Then the neighbours motion-detector light went off, and at the same time we heard what sounded like barefoot running down the alley. There was also the sound of a stick banging against the pavement. A bum, a kid up to some mischief at two or three in the morning, or something else?

Anyway, I do think we had a resident Bigfoot. Strangely enough, when the local McDonalds closed, "Bubba" seemed to come around less and less. Apparently, he had developed a taste for fast food, and was disappointed when his supply dried up. After 2005, we would only hear an occasional howl in the distance, as if he had moved on to greener pastures.

And in case you think my story is beyond belief, let me just point out that our location at the time was in-between a couple of alleged Bigfoot hot-spots in New York State. Whitehall, about sixty or seventy miles north of us, has had an interesting history of Bigfoot sightings, including a rather famous sighting by law-enforcement officers. Kinderhook, another place with a history of Bigfoot sightings, is only about twenty-five miles south. And my mother-in-law, who now lives in the Adirondacks, knows of several people who have had encounters with large hairy bipeds. Apparently, one particular road up that way is notorious for Bigfoot sightings. And there have been recorded sightings in Albany County as well as Poestenkill, respectively just west and east of our former location.

Does Bigfoot exist? I have to say yes. Otherwise, I would have to call my wife a liar. She is neither a habitual liar nor prone to hallucinations. In other words, if she says she saw what she saw, she saw what she saw when she saw it.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Haiku in Every Day Poets

My haiku "moaning hemlock tree" now appears on-line at Every Day Poets. This time around, I was inspired by my observations of a neighbour's hemlock tree swaying and moaning in a bitter wind. It's a very wintry piece, quite appropriate for the current conditions here in the Great Northeast. (I'm more than ready for spring now. I've had enough of winter.)

Check it out! If you do, please rate it as well. You can even leave comments on the Every Day Poets site. Or, if you prefer, comment here instead.


Saturday, January 10, 2009

Forthcoming Publications

Finding out last night that one of my reprint poems accepted for publication a while ago will be appearing in the March 2009 print issue of Abandoned Towers, I began musing about all my forthcoming publications. While I don't like to count my chickens before they hatch due to past problems with acceptances not necessarily translating into publications, I figured I would still go ahead and mention what I already have scheduled for publication in 2009.

Right now, if all goes according to plan, my monthly publication roll will roll right on into March without any further work on my part. I still have at least two more publications due out this month; my haiku "moaning hemlock tree" is scheduled for publication in Every Day Poets on January 12th, and my poem "Wandering Ole Willow" is scheduled for publication on the 26th in Issue 322 of Bewildering Stories. February in particular seems to be a big month for me, with a scifaiku scheduled to be published in the February issue of Scifaikuest, my speculative cinquain "Two-Dimensional Visitors" scheduled for publication in the February issue of Aphelion, and my poems "When Hunger Takes Me" and "Serpent of Storms" scheduled for publication in the February issue of The Monsters Next Door. And then there is the reprint of "Book of Dimensions" scheduled to appear in Abandoned Towers Issue 2 in March.

And that's not all! "When Wizards Dream at Night" is scheduled to appear in the Spring 2009 issue of Tales of the Talisman. My cinquain chain "Amongst Faerie Oaks" is scheduled to appear in print in the November 2009 issue of Abandoned Towers. Plus, "Something in the Yew" is due to appear in a future issue of Doorways, a scifaiku is due out in a future issue (perhaps the next one) of The Shantytown Anomaly, and "Explorers" is due to appear in the forthcoming Sam's Dot anthology Wondrous Web Worlds Volume 8.

So, with all of that already on my forthcoming publications list, I'm not too worried that I only have three or four poems currently in submission limbo. I think I have time to refill my submission pool.

Of course, it would be nice to extend my roll into April, but I won't be too worried if I skip a month or two.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Dragon Design

© 2009 Richard H. Fay

Crystalwizard of Cyberwizard Productions, managing editor of Abandoned Towers, has asked me to compose some illustrations to be used as divider art in her publications. She sent me a special request recently asking for at least one piece to be used in Abandoned Towers Issue 2. Since we had already discussed dragons as one possibility, and since I've been drawing dragons as long as I can remember, I decided upon a design based loosely on a twelfth century French manuscript illumination.

After I scanned in my completed line drawing, I just knew I had to give it some colour. I sent the line drawing and a black and white version of the coloured dragon to Crystawizard, and decided to post the full-colour version here. I'll probably add it to my web site as well.

I hope Crystalwizard likes the dragon enough to use it. I happen to like dragons an awful lot.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

What Makes a Writer?

Entries and comments elsewhere have gotten me thinking once again about the question "what makes a writer?". After having been told by one or two fellow writers that publication, or even payment, must somehow be involved in deciding who may be graced with the title writer, I began to wonder about certain people's definitions of the term. Their perceptions of the definition certainly do not match my own.

In my opinion, some folk are confusing writer (at its most basic meaning) with career writer or professional writer. The terms aren't necessarily interchangeable. A writer can be amateur or professional, aspiring or established, struggling or best-selling, and even good or bad (which is often a matter of opinion).

What is a writer? A writer is one who writes, who puts pen to paper or fingers to keyboard and creates a work of writing. Simply put, the act of writing makes one a writer. Being a writer is not necessarily dependent upon traditional publication. Nor is it necessarily dependent upon payment. These things might make you a published writer or a paid writer or even a career writer, but I 'm sure there are plenty of hobbyists out there that are just as sincere about their work as the professionals. Success and sales have nothing whatsoever to do with the act itself, they are merely a hoped-for reward for all that hard work.

At this moment in time, I'm mostly a poet who also dabbles in non-fiction. I consider myself to be a writer. This might ruffle a few feathers (at least of those that consider novelists to be the only real writers) , but I don't care. I don't profess to be a career writer or even a professional one (I have not yet made enough professional sales to be called a professional by the standard writers' organizations), but I am still a writer. I still create written works.

Some may argue that you cannot justify yourself as a writer without publication, or even that you really shouldn't call yourself a writer if you don't make a living off your writing. Poppycock! This often becomes an example of expanding the definition of writer far beyond the most basic definition simply to stroke egos by belittling others. Writers should be above such childish nonsense. Unfortunately, this isn't always the case.

And don't even get me going about the attitude that you cannot be considered an author of a work until after publication! What? (Straight from the dictionary: author - the writer of a literary work, or one who creates.)

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Speculative Poetry Article Published!

My non-fiction article "Speculative Poetry: Past, Present, and Future" has been published in the on-line version of Abandoned Towers. To access the article, click on "Non-Fiction" on the Abandoned Towers front page. Then click on the stack of books, which takes you to the non-fiction table of contents. Click on the title of my article and read away!

In an effort to show how speculative poetry can be seen as a historically valid genre, I took a broad view of that particular type of verse. I include all past fantastic poetry, including some of Shakespeare's dramatic verse, in the family tree of speculative poetry.

This article took quite a bit of research to complete, but I think the results were worth it. I was pleasantly surprised by some of the things I discovered while putting this piece together.

Check it out!

Monday, January 5, 2009

Niteblade Art Blog: Cerberus Inc

In the latest installment of the Niteblade Art Blog, Cerberus, Inc, I feature three examples of art by the very prolific artist Dan Skinner. Dan's work has appeared just about everywhere, on many a magazine and book cover. Not only is Dan prolific, but he's versatile, too!

By the way, I'm looking for art submissions for future installments of the art blog. So, if you're an aspiring fantasy or horror artist looking for a little exposure (payment is in exposure only), please consider submitting some examples of your work here:

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Call For Nominations - 2009 Rhysling Awards

Boy, the beginning of the year seems to be the time for nominations, doesn't it? Not only is the Preditors & Editors poll going on until the 14th of January, but the SFPA has put out the call for its members to make their 2009 Rhysling Awards Nominations.

To all of my friends currently in the SFPA , most of the poems on my 2008 List of Publications, barring one or two mainstream pieces, should be eligible for Rhysling nominations. However, I believe that the poems in the 2008 Issue of Champagne Shivers actually came out in late 2007, which might mean they are ineligible. Still, that leaves a lot that are eligible.

Additional information for individual publications can certainly be provided upon request.

The Professor Speaks

© 2008 Richard H. Fay

More art! The above illustration, "The Professor Speaks", appeared in Issue 1 of the print version of Abandoned Towers. It accompanied Aaron French's story "The Mentor and the Apprentice". It is also listed in the Preditors & Editors Artwork Published in 2008 Poll.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

rabid howling gust

rabid howling gust
driven ice strikes window panes
warm cat purrs in lap

© 2009 Richard H. Fay

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Preditors and Editors

Time to vote for all your favourite 2008 publications in the Preditors & Editors Poll. Please go to the poll page, go through all the categories, and vote for those works, authors, artists, poets, editors, and publications you feel deserving of a bit of extra recognition. And if there is something you feel should be added to the list, you can easily nominate in any category by entering your own pick.

Of course, I hope at least a few of my friends will vote for some of my own works. My poem "Corpse-Candles" (published in the June 2008 issue of Niteblade) appears in the "Poems Published in 2008" poll, my illustration "The Professor Speaks" (published in Issue 1 of the print version of Abandoned Towers) appears in the "Artwork Published in 2008" poll, and my article "Vampiric UFOs" (published in the All Souls' Night 2008 issue of Hungur) appears in the "Nonfiction Article Published in 2008" poll. I also appear in the "Poets Published in 2008" and "Artists Published in 2008" polls.

You could always add other choices off my 2008 List of Publications if you prefer. Or not. It's up to you.