Wednesday, June 30, 2010

"Tree-Climbing Crimbolain" in BEYOND CENTAURI

My sci-fi illustration "Tree-Climbing Crimbolain" has been published in Issue 29 of Beyond Centauri, the Sam's Dot Publishing magazine of fantasy, science fiction, and ewww-gross for younger readers. Having had so many dark works published over the past three years, it's always nice when I have something lighter published. This particular drawing, of a three-eyed alien critter climbing a weird tree, is actually on the cute side. The crimbolain almost looks like something you wouldn't mind having as a pet, if you don't mind scaly pets. Personally, I prefer pets of the furry persuasion.

Dwarf Stars Submisison Time

I've heard a rumour that it's once again time to send submissions to the SFPA's Dwarf Stars anthology. They are looking for both a poet's own speculative poems of ten lines or less published in 2009, and recommendations people may have for other eligible poems they think deserving of inclusion in the anthology. Details can be found on the SFPA forum here:
Dwarf Stars 2010.

I didn't send anything in last year, and I didn't get anything in the anthology. If poems published in "4 the luv" venues like Aphelion are eligible (the works still go through an editorial review, even if I don't get paid for them), then I have plenty of works I can send in for consideration this time around. They say no limit, so I might as well send everything I have that may be eligible, every speculative poem of mine of ten lines or less published in 2009. You never know 'til you try, and I think I had better make a better effort this year than I did last year.

Of course, this submission might take a while to put together.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Robin Hood Merchandise in Azure Lion Productions Zazzle Store

Merchandise featuring my drawing of Robin Hood is now available in the Azure Lion Productions Zazzle Store. Some items feature the whole piece "Robin in Sherwood", which depicts Robin Hood shooting his longbow from the stout limb of a Sherwood Forest oak while Friar Tuck and Little John look on. Other items feature a cropped version concentrating on just Robin Hood.

This might sound merely like a means of trying to cash in on the recent Robin Hood movie. Actually, my "Robin in Sherwood" appeared as a colouring page in the November 2009 issue of Abandoned Towers. However, this is the first time a colour version has appeared anywhere. I figured I had better get a colour version made up and slapped on some merchandise while the Robin Hood movie was in theaters.

I also have some sword ties in the store, and I'm hoping to get more made up later.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Zazzle's "Today's Best"

My "Viking Wielding Hand-Axe" mousepad earned a Zazzle "Today's Best" award for Wednesday, June 23rd. I don't know if it really means much. At least it means just a little bit more exposure and promotion of my stuff. Now if I could just sell something...

Monday, June 21, 2010

"Glimmering Embers" in APHELION

My horrorku "glimmering embers", originally published September 2008 in Issue Four of The Monsters Next Door, has been published in the June 2010 issue of the web-zine Aphelion. Check it out!

I just realised, it's getting about time to send more poems to Aphelion. I have one more reprint horrorku slated to be published in their July issue, and that's it. I had better take another look at my back catalog and see what I might be able to send their way.

Azure Lion Productions Merchandise in Zazzle Store

I opened an Azure Lion Productions Zazzle Store. Currently, I have a handful of images ("Viking", "Anglo-Saxon", "Robert the Bruce", "Some Viking Hilts", "Sailing Ship") on various types of merchandise (mugs, steins, t-shirts, sweatshirts, hoodies, keychains, stickers, magnets, mouse pads, prints, posters, postcards). The merchandise can be viewed by going here:
Azure Lion Productions Zazzle Store.

Obviously, I'm looking for sales, but I'm also looking for a little feedback. I would love to hear what people think of the merchandise I've created so far. I want to make sure everything looks fine. I'm also looking for suggestions regarding what other designs and other types of merchandise people might want to see in the store. I already created some postage stamps; hopefully they will be approved and will appear in the store in the not-too-distant future. And I'm going to work on having at least one dragon design. Any thoughts from the blogosphere on what else I should feature in the store?

Saturday, June 19, 2010

The Unreliability of the Publication Industry

The way I see it, based on my own personal experiences, one of the worst parts about being an artist/writer/poet working as a freelancer in the realm of publication is the unreliability of the publication industry. No, I'm not talking about the lack of steady work or the gamble of sending off unsolicited submission. Those issues are just a part of the game. I'm talking about the unreliability of promises and the unreliability of getting paid in a timely fashion, if at all. These can make the game almost unbearable to play.

Anyone who has followed this blog already knows about my poetry collection woes, how two publishers have pulled out of publishing my illustrated dark speculative poetry collection, even though contracts were signed. I understand the reasons in both cases, and I try to accept the truth, but that doesn't mean I have to like it. Promises made in the publication realm, even supposedly legally-binding ones, apparently don't always mean much. At least, that's the message I'm receiving. Unfortunately, contracts in the publication realm are particularly one-sided. It can be easy for publishers to screw authors. In some instances, it would be a waste of time and money to fight the breaking of such contracts, and sometimes publishers leave themselves an out anyway.

More recently, I've run across yet another example of the unreliability of the publication industry, this time in regard to timely payments. I was told at the beginning of this week that I would get paid for several art sales. Now I'm being told that the money is not there, and I won't be paid for another two weeks. At least I should get paid eventually, which is a step or two above not getting paid at all. I've seen payments evaporate into nothing a couple of times now. Again, in these instances, contracts are apparently meaningless, especially when the money amounts are small. That's if you ever even see a contract; I currently have at least one art submission in contractual limbo. And, yes, I know all about querying, but if my queries go unanswered, there isn't a lot I can do. Query again? Yeah, that does a lot of good! (There have been times, in regard to submitted works, that second queries have gone unanswered. Sorry if I don't think it's worth sending query number three.)

Maybe my problems stem from the fact that I'm still wading in the kiddie pool of the publication industry, but somehow, I doubt it. A little voice inside my head tells me that the industry as a whole can be pretty unreliable, that these problems aren't necessarily restricted to the smaller presses (although, their small size may make these problems more prevalent).

I'm angry and frustrated, and I may have to start rethinking the future direction of my art and writing career. Frankly, I'm sick of being screwed.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Zero Tolerance Sometimes Equals Zero Sense

I ran across a news article about a school being ridiculously rigid about their "zero tolerance" no weapons policy:
Toy Soldiers Run Afoul of School's Weapons Ban

I'm all for having zero tolerance regarding actual weapons in school - children should have a relatively safe environment when attending school. Kids can be violent enough toward other kids without throwing weapons into the mix. The school administrators should certainly have a zero tolerance policy towards kids possessing actual weapons in their school, but toy soldiers? This is absurd, especially when it involves a hat that was made to honour those currently fighting in America's two ongoing wars.

Here's a news flash for the principal and other educational professionals in that school, that whole bunch of idiots that created this latest absurdity - soldiers carry weapons. Soldiers use a variety of weapons. Soldiers kill; that's their job. Soldiers in war are supposed to kill the enemy before the enemy kills them. That's what war is all about. That's the reality of war, even our modern, "sanitized" version of it.

Let's bring a little bit of reason and sense into this pathetic story, shall we? How dangerous are little plastic toy soldiers anyway? Can they really be used effectively as weapons, anymore than things already readily available in the classroom? Will plastic toy soldiers, by their mere presence, incite violence? Will children maim or kill children because this kid wears a hat with plastic toy soldiers on the visor? Are toy soldiers that much a threat to the peace of the playground and classroom? If that's the case, maybe the toy soldiers aren't the problem, maybe modern American society is. Maybe schools should start addressing the real issues, instead of making yet another stink over nothing. Yes, this is a stink over nothing, another example of how school administrators and educational professionals lack any sort of sense or reason when it comes to implementing their zero tolerance policies.

My mother was something of a hippie-wannabe that didn't believe in her son possessing toy guns. Although I loved toy guns, I rarely owned any. I usually resorted to using conveniently-shaped sticks when I wanted to play something that involved pretend shooting. Back when I was young, boys did things like that, and they did things like that without the ridiculous potential repercussions boys face today. Heck, even with my mother's "almost zero tolerance" policy regarding my possession of toy weapons, I still had a few of those plastic toy soldiers. They were a very common boy's toy of years past. Actually, the act of playing with toy soldiers predate the founding of the United States by quite a few centuries. The tomb of one Egyptian prince of the 11th dynasty contained, among other artifacts, miniature spearmen and archers. Military modeling happens to be a major pastime of some adults today. When I had the time to spend on such things, I used to build plastic models of tanks and other armoured fighting vehicles.

Perhaps this is less about adhering rigidly to their no tolerance policy and more about attempting to protest this nation's two concurrent wars. If that's the case, it's a very clumsy attempt at best. Anyway, whether you like these wars or not, the soldiers themselves are not to blame - they're just doing their jobs. Blame the politicians - they're the ones sending the troops overseas to kill or be killed. As for "not allowing images" of weapons - images of weapons don't kill, people carrying actual weapons do. Being an artist who often draws depictions of armed medieval warriors, I take offense at the underlying suggestion that images containing depictions of weapons or armed soldiers will somehow lead to violence. Isn't that what the zero tolerance policy is supposed to be all about, ending violence in schools? Besides, if more Americans today new the true, deadly reality of war, perhaps the United States wouldn't be so quick to go to war, and wouldn't be so willing to stay at war.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

More Art Opportunities Coming my Way

It looks like I may see more art/illustration opportunities coming my way. I received word back from the managing editor at a certain publishing house that he likes the completed cover art I submitted for one of their forthcoming poetry collections. He also said he will be sending more stuff my way, and suggested that I could work on a cover for one of their magazines for younger readers, if I have something in mind. Yahoo, another cover opportunity!

Of course, I don't really have anything in mind at the moment. I guess I had better come up with something, if I can. I-think-I-can, I-think-I-can, I-think-I-can (to steal a famous line from The Little Engine that Could). Besides, like the Energizer Bunny, I keep going, and going, and going...
(I don't know how to stop).

My writing aspirations may have to be put on hold for the moment, but at this point in time, I would be foolish to pass up art opportunities sent my way to follow the greater gamble of seeking success in the writing arena. I try to do both, but art can be awfully time-consuming. When I've got a lot of art projects on my plate, I don't have much time for writing, especially since my art has been getting larger and more complex as of late. When I started submitting illustrations for publication, I typically created pieces sized around six by nine inches. Now my art is typically sized from eight by ten to nine by twelve inches (for instance, the colouring pages I do for Abandoned Towers are 8.5 X 10"). That doesn't seem like a huge difference, but it translates into even more space my lines need to fill. It also means I can add a little more detail, which means more work. I'm a slow, deliberate drawer.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Working on Knotwork

I've once again started work on a major project. I'm working on knotwork and fretwork bands and frames for a certain publisher/editor to use in a poetry collection (poems by other poets, not by me). Hopefully, I can get what needs to be done finished over the next week or two.

Knotwork takes an amazing amount of effort to draw, with a lot of planning and sketching. So I'll be spending most of my time drawing knotwork. After that, I should probably spend some time coming up with illustrations for a handful of drabbles I'm sending to the same publisher/editor. It would be nice to get a little prose fiction out there, even if it's only 100 word drabbles, but the publisher/editor wants illustrations to go along with the drabbles as a package deal. I won't have much time for blogging since, for me, it's often a matter of blogging versus doing. What time I spend blogging takes time away from other things, like drawing.

Of course, I did just blog right now.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Niteblade Art Blog: Junior Mclean

In the latest installment of the Niteblade Art Blog, I feature the digital designs of Junior Mclean. A self-taught graphic designer, Junior has worked on graphic design for various clubs and events. Working as a freelance digital artist, he creates and sells various 2D/3D print designs.

You can check out a few of his fantasy-inspired designs here: "Junior Mclean: Digital Artist".

Edward IV Article to be in ABANDONED TOWERS

It appears that my non-fiction article about Edward IV, along with its accompanying illustrations, will be published in Issue 7 of Abandoned Towers. I believe that is the November 2010 issue. I had better get those contracts sent off!

This will make two articles in a row in the print version of Abandoned Towers; my article about Robert the Bruce will be appearing in the July issue. The articles do share a family resemblance. Both concentrate on the military careers of their subjects. Both also talk about weapons dubiously attributed to those subjects. Not to mention, both will be accompanied by my illustrations of the men and their attributed weapons (two different two-handed swords in the case of Robert the Bruce, an elaborately decorated poleaxe in the case of Edward IV).

I wonder if I could convince the editor to make this a regular feature within the pages of Abandoned Towers? I could certainly do a whole series of articles like this about different medieval warriors. After all, I am something of a medievalist and amateur medieval military historian. Hm...

More than likely, I would be asked "can you do an article covering someone from another time period, not medieval?". As I sit here typing this entry, I glance to my right and see bookcases filled with books about medieval history, medieval warfare, and medieval arms and armour. I have a medieval history resource library literally within arm's reach. In this instance, I'm a strong proponent of "write what you know". Variety may be the spice of life, but sometimes you have to go with your strengths. In regard to historical figures, my strength definitely lies in the medieval period.

Oh well, enough conjecture. Time to get those contracts filled for the article and art just accepted, and let the future bring what it may.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Genre Categories: The Never-Ending Discussion

Once again, I've run across a discussion of "science fiction or fantasy?", a discussion over what elements make a genre work science fiction instead of fantasy, and vice-versa. This is not the first time I've encountered this very same discussion, or at least versions of it. While I think the question is perfectly valid, I believe that some people get too hung up on the whole concept of genre classifications and labels (some to ridiculous extents, like taking offense at their science fiction being called sci-fi), and this is why...

Like with many things in this world, humans seem to have an innate drive to classify their literature. They like to try to place works of genre literature into nice, tidy categories and sub-categories. Unfortunately, just as with many other things in the real world, the lines between categories and sub-categories often blur. The best one can truly hope for is a generalization, that "science fiction" revolves more around scientific concepts, and "fantasy" revolves more around fantastical concepts. However, the two categories are not always mutually exclusive. Overlap can happen, especially depending on individual definitions. Plus, the two main branches of the speculative literature family tree are often found lumped together in bookstores and the like, which tells me there is a definite familial resemblance between the two. Science fiction and fantasy purists may argue against this point 'til Doomsday, but both science fiction and fantasy are speculative in nature, are they not? Don't both often seek to evoke a sense of wonder or awe through a writer's imaginings, whether those imaginings be scientific or fantastical in nature?

Then you have horror, which is defined more by emotion than elements, although certain works of horror clearly contain speculative elements. You can have a horror work with science fiction or fantasy elements, but if the overall purpose of the work is to create a sense of terror or horror, then the work is often classified as horror. The darker works of Lovecraft and other writers of "weird tales" often contain fantasy or science fiction elements, but it can be argued that the main emotional goal of each of these tales is to create a sense of horror or terror, as opposed to evoking sense of wonder or awe. Still, one could make the suggestion that horror works containing clear science fiction or fantasy elements may be just as much science fiction or fantasy as they are horror. See what I mean by a blurring of the lines?

Being a writer of genre verse that often crosses genre lines, I've taken to using the more general term of speculative poetry when describing my works. Unfortunately, the publication world doesn't always see it that way, and I often find myself restricted to the horror category, since a lot of my works are dark in nature. Still, I consider some of my darker works to be just as much science fiction or science fantasy pieces as they are works of horror. The only thing my supernatural horror pieces share with my dark sci-fi pieces is the dark emotion and a speculative slant. They don't really share that many elements.

Of course, this debate, in various permutations, keeps popping up every so often within the genre writing community. There seems to me to be a lot of shoving works in particular boxes in a community that, in my opinion, should do more thinking outside of those boxes. Categories have their uses, but I don't think anyone should worry over them too terribly much.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Better Start Inking

I received word that a certain speculative poet likes my sketch of the proposed cover art for his poetry collection in the works at a certain publishing house. The managing editor of that publishing house basically said to proceed with the drawing. So, I had better get started inking. (Actually, I did a little work on it today.)

This story is yet another example of how one thing can lead to another in the world of publishing. The managing editor of this particular publishing house wondered if I would be interested in working on a couple of poetry collection covers after he accepted some of my art for a couple of the magazines they publish. The opportunity to do the cover art for these two collections fell into my lap because I worked at getting my art out there, worked at getting it published by various venues, worked at making those sales and building a name for myself as an artist. This is not the first time publications of my art have led to other art jobs. As a matter of fact, I also have to continue working on a fairly major knotwork project I'm doing for another editor/publisher, an editor/publisher that first became interested in my art because I had mentioned that one of my illustrations had been published in The Willows. One thing led to another, the editor/publisher sent some illustration work my way because she liked my style, and now she has me working on stuff on a fairly regular basis.

Things are getting a bit busy around here. It' s better than being bored.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Drawing Weapons, and Knights, and Stuff

Yesterday, I completed an illustration of an elaborately decorated poelaxe attributed to Edward IV of England. It was, by far, the most complex weapon I've drawn to-date. I think I captured the look pretty well, although I know my drawing isn't an exact representation. Thank goodness for digital manipulation; the head I drew was too large for the haft. It made the haft look spindly. So, after I scanned and coloured the image, I was able to reduce the size of the head to make it a better fit for the haft. Doing stuff like that feels like cheating to me, but as long as the final product looks right, what's it really matter?

Today, I'll be working on an illustration of Edward IV in full armour. I'm thinking of showing him with a poleaxe in his hands, and three suns in splendour behind him. The suns are meant to represent the strange sight of three rising suns seen on the morn of the battle of Mortimer's Cross, a phenomenon that Edward quickly claimed was proof that the Holy Trinity was on his side. After his victory at Mortimer's Cross, Edward adopted a sun in splendour on his banner and badge. This badge even played a major role in one battle, when on the misty field outside Barnet Lancastrian forces mistook the Earl of Oxford's star with streams for Edward's sun with streams. Lancastrian archers loosed volleys into the ranks of their own allies. Oxford's men cried "treason" and left the field. The Lancastrian line broke, and Edward emerged the victor.

Why might I be drawing Edward IV and his possible poleaxe? Because I have an article about Edward IV ready to be sent to Abandoned Towers as soon as I complete a couple of accompanying illustrations. The editor already expressed interest in the article (I believe for on-line this time). Of course, she wants illustrations as well.

Ah, the hardship of being multi-talented. Being a writer/illustrator can be hard work. Oftentimes, I end up doing twice the work of a mere writer. Writing is only half of it.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Poem and Illustration in ILLUMEN

Today, I received my contributor's copy of the Spring 2010 issue of the speculative poetry journal Illumen. It contains my poem "At the Wheel" (as in spinning wheel, not steering wheel) and my illustration "Tom Tit Tot". Unlike many of my poem/illustration combinations, this time around the illustration inspired the poem. I had originally created the illustration of Tom Tit Tot, an English version of Rumpelstiltskin, as part of the "Fairies and Dragons Series" published alongside Lisa Agnew's article "The Era of Fairies and Dragons" in the Flashing Swords Special Edition, Summer 2008. An editor friend of mine suggested that the illustration would make a good basis for a poem, and while "At the Wheel" didn't work for that particular publication, it worked for Illumen. So, another one of my poems inspired by folklore is now in print. Hurrah!