Friday, January 27, 2012

A Very Skyrim Valentine

It's fast becoming that time of year when I fill in those gaps left from Hallmark/whoever makes those disturbing gigantism of the eyes in kittens and puppies images.

The first comes courtesy of Bethsda's open world you're probably still trudging through every dungeon even though it was released in November, aren't you?

As always feel free to click, save, print and share with your dragon slaying love or someone you married so you could have a shop in your house.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Another Wacky Idea?

I'm vaguely kicking around the idea of offering up my map making services for anyone else trapped in "Oh crap I wrote a story about some place all in my brain and now people want to be able to see it!"

I personally like a bit of color in my maps, and then aging, as you can see from the two I finished.

But I can just as easily (actually it'd be a lot easier - colors don't come cheap) go for a sepia tone, crisp and clean like a newly stretched pit of vellum. The Indiana Jones animated plane lines are extra.

Okay so I mostly want an excuse to play again. Come on people, if I don't feed the monster it'll grow 40 feet and take down Cedar Rapids!

Surely someone has an old doodle they want to see in vivid poster form? I'm starting to get the shakes!

Just one more project, I swear.

Monday, January 23, 2012

I can't decide!

I need to learn when bored I shouldn't mess around with various cover makers because I always walk away with a million new ideas which leaves me with a new problem, I have no idea which design I want to use.

So I'm asking you which do you prefer for a book cover about something that I haven't bothered to summarize yet because I hate it so much!

Number 1. My first attempt and an excuse to use that map.

Number 2: I'd get a staff on one side and sword on the other but then I'd actually have to come up with an author bio.
Please please tell me which you prefer, there are things I like and don't like about both of them.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Free Blood

It should probably come as no big surprise that I have a lot of fake blood in my house in various forms.

This came in handy when I needed to make a blood layer for my book. With a paint brush, my bottle o' blood and a flicking reminiscent of Dexter I made some splatter that can be laid over just about anything.

Why today I used a small section to help make this:
And because I was rather impressed with it, and I like to share, here is a png of the blood splatter in full glorious red with shades of more red free for use to anyone who needs it.
So go on, take it.

I swear, you shall in no was be indebted to me by taking my free blood.

He he he he he *cough cough* sorry, sweettart got stuck.

I promise.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Birth of an Imaginary Nation

It's that time again, where I pull a few straggling thoughts on geography, decor, and random squiggles to fill empty space from my brain and set out to create a fantasy map.

I like maps, they're an odd comfort in a world where your phone could march you to your death off a cliff and none would be the wiser. Which is, perhaps, why it feels so strange when I doodle out my own.

Being cursed to only be able to take things seriously about 27% of the time (whatever you do, don't steal a gypsie's trombone, they're very protective of their horn section) I can only get in a few story related landmarks before I'm adding inside, outside and inside-out jokes.

But to the meat of the matter at hand, this was the drawing I began with. Black, white, lots of scribbles.

The next step was color and lots of it. This took only around 35 or so layers, I'm doing a lot better than last time when I suspect photoshop had dreams of strangling me with its lasso tool.
Once I'd decided upon fonts and finding the absolute worst places to stick them it was time for the words, which make a map moderately more helpful than an interpretation of an aerial picture.
And for the coup de map, I added a border because borders make everything fancy.
There's still lots of tinkering I'm sure I'll do, and making it sparkle in black and white for when I finally get to proof printing time in the book stage, but here is my wacky land of the elves. Make of it what you will. I suggest a hat.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Essie Thug

After being surprisingly well behaved at the dog park I decided Essie could be rewarded with a trip to the Pet Store where she got a new sweater and a toy she could disembowel.

This was later followed by a bath because I don't want her to think life is all sunshine and tennis balls.

But the sweater is made up to look like a hoodie which means when she refuses to give up the ball I get to mess with her.

This is probably why the dog refuses to let me take her picture, she knows I share the worst with everyone on the net.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Arty Stuff for Books

The nice thing about stumbling into round two of putting words onto a computer screen and then pushing a few of the right buttons so it goes up for sale is that all of my half groping for what in the hell I was going the first time magically turns into my style come round two.

Last time I needed something to spice up the pages where chapters began and scenes turned into other scenes with something other than large blank space and ***. So I sat and thunk and thunk and thunk, had some honey, and then doodled.

I could say I was going for something primitive, a design indicative of early William the Bastard (or Conqueror if one is so inclined to giving credence to such things) art, all lines and no shading.

Or I was lazy.

Take your pick.

So, here I am poking with a large stick at Book Two and drumming up ideas for it. I still wish for the design to be hand drawn so it looks hand drawn so the book looks old can still be cool, yes?

Putting away my mountains and other various land marks that need doodling and life I sketched, shaded and shrunk two designs.

The first is supposed to be sort of vague as it's a spoiler but one no one would get until the very end (Bruce Willis was actually a toaster the whole time).

And, in keeping with my previous book's theme of "hey I can draw swords, I like swords" for the scene change I went with a weapon more heavily involved in this tale:
It's the little things that can turn a book into something magical; a good cover, special fonts, over-sizing the first letter in a chapter, also hiding a shit ton of fairy dust in between the corners but I have to wait for the spring thaw before I can start laying my traps.

I like to think of it as one more tiny step forward to putting all those wacky words I have into something legible.

The maps give me a giant pain in the lower back region but I love making the little chapter/scene art pieces. Now back to mountains, I guess.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Book Cover Sausage

Hello my fellow, er, fellows.

I am elbow deep into my second attempt to take a wacky idea in my head, superglue it to some paper, put on a shiny bow and then share it with the world.

It's going slightly better this round, mostly because I know that I've already done it once before so the second round can't be that much worse. Right? Right?

Already the tale of two toasters that find love across a junkyard (or something about swords, I forget now) held up to the first test; I read through it all for the first major edit and I didn't hate the story. I even kind of liked it and laughed at some of my own jokes (it's also why I take a daily dose of six pills now).

So now it's off to my super secret advanced reader to see what she (or he or maybe it, right Radioactive Engineered Advanced Device Enjoying Reading?) thinks of it, if it makes any bleeding sense or if I should give up now and use what I've gathered to line chinchilla cages.

Normally my next step would be to fret, put the writing away to never look at it for a few months and forget I ever even entertained the idea that I should try to put down over 90,000 words on a single subject.

But I had a wacky idea and eve though winter decided to tumble down the chimney and pound on our kneecaps for a while I took two of my favorite props in the house for a little photoshoot to start work on a possible cover idea.

This is the picture I began with:
Plain, jane, train, vein. So it needed some obvious help with Mr. Photosop. The first was the addition of some texture for the background, books love texture, it helps with teething.

I also found an excuse to pull out my bottle o' blood and used a paintbrush to go all Dexter on a blank sheet of paper. Perfect overlay of gore and violence and other reminders that it isn't Pat The Sword On The Wall.
A little texture is nice, but how about some more? More I say! Give 'er all she can take! Oh and slap a title on for a visualization. That part's still all up for debate (hours and hours of font choice, colors, sizes, placement, passports, insurance, yada yada yada).
 For a touch of realisim I tried adding some bark back to the staff but I'm not wild about how it turned out. I might leave some, play around, just lots more work for me and my poor groaning software.

And here's the final play so far, that went from quick shot frozen picture of sword overtop staff to this:
Much like my words, the cover needs a lot of nitpicking but I'm rather proud of what I have so far.

Now to finish the map (I HATE MOUNTAINS!) finish some internal book art and try to remind myself every other day that I can do this and maybe someone will even think of reading it.

Ah creativity, that harsh mistress who'll dangle the carrot of promise and then whack you in the head when you go for it. This is why I break into tears anywhere near carrots.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

A Tale Of Two Soups

Winter, that season that encourages warmth and home because you'll find no such welcoming embrace from the wind howling frozen icy death upon your windows.

Or so it would be if this were a normal year and not some kind of weather abomination.

So normally one would want hearty soups/stews/slops to keep the extremities warm once the total shut down begins. I was able to make and sample two soups that, while not suffering through any Regine of Terror or Lack of Scone Terror, were different enough I went with a pun title. I hope you can forgive me.

The First is a Couscous Paella Soup.

Onto the list of things I love for near insane reasons, right under paprika, you can add couscous. It's like pasta but not.

The soup uses Chorizo (which I still have no idea how I was supposed to dice it, perhaps it was supposed to have been cooked first, then re-cooked to be diced.) for a good dash of most of the spice mix.

There's also some chicken but it could have really used some shrimp to bring home that "Take whatever you have and boil it in water from Spain," feel.

Alas, the couscous adds almost nothing to it. One could add rice or orzo and it would probably work better. It seemed the couscous simple vanished into the velvety folds of chicken broth and floating globules of protein.

The Next is a Chicken Stout Stew done up in the slow cooker.

Where the first was spicy this is hearty, where the first was a bit sour this was umami, where the first was runny okay this was rather runny for a stew as well which made me happy because I Don't Like Stews.

This calls for boneless/skinless chicken thighs and because I'm cheap I bought some with both and removed it myself. I decided to cook them with the bone in and remove it prior to serving, which worked rather well if not slightly hot work. The bone will give a bit more chicken flavor (not that it really needed it) and after spending the day in the crock pot slipped easily off with a gentle nudge.

I'm not wild about the bacon, I feel the flavors are lost amongst the strong pull of the stout and after 8 hours in liquid what was once nice tasty bacon becomes impotent tasteless slop.

If you don't care for the taste of stout at all this is not the recipe for you, it isn't like drinking back a Guinness but it's pretty damn close.

And that's my tale of two soups, stews, whatever. Both have their good and bad sides but regardless they could both find purpose in my husband's stomach as he greedily gobbled them both up.

Monday, January 9, 2012

The Cake

January eighth has come and passed and dedicated blog followers/stalkers know this can only mean one thing: It is time for the big Husband's Birthday Cake reveal.

But we must begin this journey by taking a trip through the past, reveling in past and paster mistakes.

As some, or probably none of you know, each year on the most Holy of David Bowie days I attempt to make my husband a banana cake from scratch because you don't find a lot of boxed banana cakes. There's an entire gaping banana industry crying out for cake and brownie mixes and Big Baking refuses to collect the charges.

So sad.

Anyway, this madness, this odd tradition of my wallowing in incompetence began years ago with this cake:
Truly it is a modern expression in the play of black against blue then held down and forced to swallow yellow play-dough. Oh and then a few sprinkles for funsies. She is the cake we must never forget or it'll break into your house and steal your furniture.

This is such a bad cake it was put on the no fly list - twice.

The next year, despite all common sense I actually tried with piping bags and everything:
Adorable baby sea turtle sprinkles covers all shame. I wish I could explain the ectoplasm ringing the sides but I assume I had to fight a giant swedish portrait that was looking for babies and had to run.

Last year I went avant garde, post-modern, and other fancy sounding terms that means I meant for it to look like that and you can't prove I didn't.
Why is the cake a teal color? Who knows. Why does it seem to be constantly oozing over the side? Because I want it to. Why does it...? That's enough questions now Mr. Nosey, nosey pants.

And that brings us to this year. I went ambitious on the cake aspect and less so on the covering in frosting approximating something like decorations.

I broke from the typical banana cake mold (which I'd only spice up on occasion) to make one of Celebration Generation's Banana's Foster cake. I did a few things differently.

1. I added a banana back to the batter along with a bit of creme de banana for that super yellow fruit kick.

2. I completely forgot to add the pudding until I had the batter sitting in the pans waiting for the oven. This then lead to a lot of cursing, repouring into the bowl, remixing, repouring into the pans and a good 10 minutes into baking when I remembered "Oh shit, I didn't re-grease the pans."

So, naturally, the cake was less than forgiving about exiting from said pans and while one layer only had a crack here and there the other was condemned after an 8.9 earthquake crumbled its foundation.

The sides held in tact only through willpower and a heavy dose of duct tape while the middle bottomed out. Once it finished cooling over night I, with the help of an excavation team, moved that crumbling mess to the cake stand and swore it would never move again.

Then came the filling, that was done mostly the same, but due to structural problems (as within there was none) I didn't torte anything in favor of digging a bit into the cake and then dumping in all of the banana and brown sugar into the middle and sealing its banana tomb with the second cake.

Frosting, oh yes frosting. This was luckily my second attempt at making my own buttercream frosting, and despite the fact I own neither double boiler or stand mixer I manage to make some nice tasting spackle. Is it supposed to be that consistency? I have no idea but its edible and it clings to things, it's doing far better than most previous attempts.

Here she is, my husband's Birthday Banana's Foster Cake:
You'll note the dedication to piling all of the frosting on with a spoon and then swiping at it as a bear does intruding camera crews. A swipe here, a swipe there, eh I'm tired, let's go see what's at the dump.

Here are the guts of the cake, you'll note the single banana layer tucked away waiting patiently for the signal to kill.
As they always say the most important thing is what it tastes like but those people lie because none of you people will be eating it.

So come and laugh at my horrific decoration inabilities for, much like Halloween is for embracing the dead and March 18th is for Leprechauns to try AA again, today is the day I celebrate my awkward, one armed, half blind, totally deaf approach to frosting a cake.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Fresh painting for sale

After twiddling my thumbs for a bit, waiting for that perfect day to arrive, it amazingly did yesterday as temperatures in early January crested around 65.

Ha, suck it frozen losers.

Oh the point, right. Let me check quick, as here it is buried in my back. I took pictures of my paintings so now they're all listed for sale if anyone is interested in any of them.

I call this one Shattered Twilight - because I am bloody awful at this naming thing - and it's going for $40 painted on a 12X12.

This one is expertly called Blue Tree 12X24, because it's a tree on blue that's 12"X24" -- creative, no? It's going for $55.
The final one is colloquially known as Gloomy Forest but that didn't pop, didn't sing so I went with the more marketable Forbidden Forest, also on a 12X12 and also $40.
I made up some blathering about there being a secret or something but the biggest secret is probably how much I covered myself in black paint making it (I'll never tell).

It may be Etsy's "way" but sweet lord I hate coming up with stupid "stories" for my paintings. It's a painting, it was painted with some kind of paint. BUY IT!

This is why I'll never make it in marketing and will have to keep that clown washing job instead.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

It Was A Homemade Christmas

I think enough time has past, presents have been opened and tolerated, that I can share with you what also kept me busy throughout December.

This year my husband and I wound up going with a lot of that most dreaded of gifts, the homemade look what I did with my own two little hands. It isn't that we're cheap (well okay, that's not true) it's simply that there seemed to be nothing but crap on top of more crap with some crap thrown in for texture.

Plus I wanted to see if I could help bring down the economy myself in preparation of the Mayan Apocalypse this year. It's a slow fall to 40 foot tall serpent gods devouring us whole.

My first attempt at a homemade gift was a coloring book, but not just any coloring book. This one I used photoshop to create inky color lines of the kids who would be coloring it.

Then I stuck it all in a binder for what was supposed to be easy access until the little bottom clip broke. Eh, tearing works as well.

For another I fell back on those much belabored and forgotten painting skills I will occasionally claim to have.
And for the last, for my mother, my husband with only a small bit of prodding on my part sculpted a lab sleeping (something her dog is a certified professional) which I then painted.
But it felt like he needed a little something so using some old scraps of fabric from the cave of dragon my husband made a little bed for the puppy:
Oh and I once again painted some of my Christmas cards (but didn't take pictures of them all because I have no idea why).

And that was my lazy ass Christmas giving.

Monday, January 2, 2012

New Year New Painting

This past week was an interesting one for me as my body decided to rebel against me leading to an entire night up wishing I could sleep, a rather hot shower to relax and then a very hard smash into the bathroom floor as I tried out that whole fainting thing.

It's a bit overrated.

I'm fine, no need to worry, I have this thing about overheating that never does good things for me.

I did get one hell of a monster bruise on my left hand, my main hand because I like being sinister, which means I've been sucking in air through gritted teeth anytime a small breeze bashes into it.

So I've been laying low this New Years etc etc, drinking lots of water and trying to get back into sleeping.

Oh and painting, it's a low impact sport that anyone in the family can enjoy.
This one was from a few weeks (months? years?) back but I just put it up to cover the grim reaper busting through the walls. There are a lot of paintings that hang up to hide Halloween decorations.
If you're gonna pass out aim for some padding, in not a bed, I suggest a living room over the tile in a bathroom.