Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Dwarves in Space 3 - Tacos Tacos Tacos

It's near the end of the month, but due to computer outages, visits, my brain going full Halloween, and switching horses midstream I'm maybe halfway done with my manuscript. But, it still seemed like a good time to share a small preview.

In this excerpt, Ferra -- my elven engineer -- is on a cruise ship with her husband, Orn. She runs into a new creature and they have a chat about the horrors of imprinting and mating. There are also tacos.

Dwarves in Space 3: Finding Naja

“Do you mind if I sit beside you?”

Ferra opened her eyes and sighed. She could claim it was for Orn, but he’d wandered off in search of whatever he needed for the pool. Floaties? She hadn’t been listening. But her sharp retort softened as she looked up and then up some more at the woman before her.

Grey fur, puffed and rounded from middle to later age, coated her body. She had a long snout and orc like eyes with ears some elves would die for. A stumpy tail swooshed out of her voluptuous end in red polkadot bottoms. The torso was covered in a bikini top, six of them in fact.

“It’s yours,” Ferra said. The Rugaru sat down, turning to the side so she didn’t trap that tail. Out of the shadows, Ferra could see aged white fur decorating her muzzle and around her eyes.

“It’s a lovely day,” she said, pulling a tube larger than Ferra’s drink out of her bag. “How hot do you think it is?”

“Since we’re not near a star, it’s probably −450 out. Cooler by the pool,” Ferra said, but her smugness didn’t seem to bother the Rugaru.

“Are you unaccompanied?” the Rugaru asked, wiping vast swaths of her ointment across the fur. It didn’t soak in though. It shimmered the air a few microns before hitting the fur.

“No, my husband is off somewhere doing something. Hopefully not breaking that something.”

“Oh. My soulmate is attending to the poolside buffet.”

Ferra choked a laugh at that idea. When you live for a millennia, the concept of a soulmate was like telling an elf that once a year a fat man dressed in scarlet scales down your lava port and drops his unused junk beneath a coniferous tree.

“Soulmate? Haven’t been married long, eh?”

“Fifty three years this Octun,” the Rugaru answered, shifting the unguent to her right side.

“Fifty three…and you still believe in soulmates?”

“There isn’t much to believe in, really. Rugarus are imprinters. Tacos.”

Ferra blinked at the sudden reference to the human snack, but ignored it. Her translator could be on the fritz and plantlings only knew how it’d handle the Rugaru language. “Imprinting? Like you both have matching tattoos?”

The Rugaru smiled, showing her canine teeth, “No. It is tradition that one finds their soulmate and imprints during the bonding process. We’re ‘inked’ for life.”

“So, fresh out of apprenticeship, you spot some hot guy across the room that just smashed a keg open with his foot and you’re trapped in insta-love forever?” Ferra asked, her mind drifting back to some of her early…romances isn’t the accurate term.

But the woman didn’t sense the abject terror in the elf’s words. She sighed wistfully and said, “Yes. Long nights together. Tacos. Knowing if you became separated for too long one would die of a broken heart. Tacos Tacos.”

“Sounds like a vindictive mage curse,” Ferra muttered. If she had to be chained to Orn for longer than a few days someone was going to die of a crushed heart, a pulverized liver, and a few shattered bones.

“You get used to it after a time. Tacos tacos tacos.”

Ferra rose from her seat and raised an eyebrow at the Rugaru. “What’s with all the tacos?”

“Oh,” she elegantly smoothed down some fur rising in the high humidity of the pool deck and said, “soulmates have a psychic bond. I can read my mate’s thoughts and he can share mine.”

“What? All the time? You have to be shitting me,” Ferra shook her head, terrified of the concept. Whoever ran the universe must really hate the wolf people with a particular vengeance.

“It isn’t so bad. It’s rather romantic…tacos tacos tacos,” the honey dripped off as 250 pounds of pure animalistic rage rose from the depths of the beast. The Rugaru flew off her chair and snarled, “WOULD YOU SHUT UP ABOUT THE TACOS!”

And, as if the wolf were hadn’t done anything out of the ordinary, she dropped back to her chair. Only the spittle building under her chin shattered the image of a prim retiree enjoying a day at the beach facade. She unfolded a towel from her bag and draped it across her furry legs. Ferra’s eyes kept glancing to the side, watching to see if the woman would snap again and curse about the tacos.

“Hey! Fer!” Orn’s voice sundered the din of happy swimmers as his sandaled feet clip clopped across the squishy concrete.

She didn’t respond, still watching as the Rugaru carefully pulled a small book from her oversized beach bag and began to thumb through a small book of quotations.

Orn stopped before her, a small line of orange dotting the growing fuzz on his chin, “You’ll never guess what they have at the buffet.”

Still watching the woman she said softly, “Is it tacos?”

“Yeah. How’d you know?” he stuck a hand on his hip, thumbing the weakening integrity of his trunk’s waistband.

“A lucky guess,” she said and slowly sank back into her chair.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Land Tentacle!

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a woman in possession of pool noodles will be in want of a tentacle.

For those unaware, I'm a bit of a Halloween nut. And by bit I mean when the basement recently flooded I had to move piles of skeletons, coffins, and ghosts to mop up the carpet. I'm also big into making my own stuff rather than buying whatever cheap plastic crap the stores spit out every October.

On top of the graveyard, dragon cave, spider pit, and scarecrow salon I wanted to add something a bit aquatic.

I swiped the idea from a tutorial here. The biggest thing I changed was putting the suckers in the proper formation instead of haphazardly chucking them everywhere. I'll also show how to make the twists and turns of my tentacles.

It takes:
  • Three pool noodles of varying sizes
  • 1/2" & 3/4" pipe insulation foam to chop up into the suckers
  • a wire hanger
  • a crap ton of duct tape (over 60 yards to make two tentacles)
  • grocery bags/filling
  • spray paint

Start with your three noodles arranged with one higher and than the others. There will be a gap at the bottom, but it's okay. We have a solution!

I find where the three pool noodles intersect and tape them together. Then, using my saw blade, I whittle down where each pool noddle meets so it's a much smoother flow. If it doesn't quite come out perfect, you can use the bags to help the transition:
Stuff the bags where there are gaps at the bottom to make up for the missing pool noddle section (or you could get an extra noodle to make up the difference. It's up to you). Tape all that up with the duct tape. Bags are not the easiest to work with and I've found bubblewrap goes much smoother, but it's not strictly necessary. Use whatever you have around.

To the tip, saw off the edges to make a point and add the wire hanger. This will in theory all you to make a bit of articulation. I say in theory because whenever I try, I pierce the foam with the hanger and have to jam it all back in.

Now to the curves. Make sure you leave a good bit at the bottom, at least a few feet. If you cut your tentacle too high up the weight won't be supported and it'll all fall down. With the saw blade, slice into the pool noodles almost all the way through. Stuff that section with plastic bags and then tape it back up.
Do that for every curve and twist you want in your tentacles. More bags means a stronger curve. Make sure to cover everything in duct tape. It's okay if it's not perfectly smooth. No one will notice.

The next step is suckers. Take the insulation and chop it into adorable calamari rings. Do that for about two hours while you lose all feeling in your back and stomach muscles.

I glued the suckers on with hot glue, but here's a funny thing about hot glue, it eats foam. Like "the cookie monster at a bakery" eats foam. There is a good chance some of your suckers will dissolve if you cut them too thin. You can try liquid nails, but I hate that shit. We don't get on.

I glued the 3/4" at the bottom and midway switched to the 1/2" of the pipe insulation foam. It helps the illusion of the winnowing of the tentacle as it tapers out.

Now to spray paint.

Big shock, you can't use regular ol' boring spray paint on duct tape. Duct tape not a big fan of it and will crack. I used our good friend Krylon plastic which will stick to anything. Use a gloss so it'll have that yanked out of water wet look:
 I went red but you could go green or grey or blue. It's full up to you!

After this it's time to go through your stash and beautify up the tentacle. I used antique white, orange, brown, and rusting red to give this tentacle all its pretty colors.

Now I just need some blue wave lights and the sound of a raging ocean storm to complete the scene. Don't mess with the dreaded land squid!

I also got a solar powered light up mason jar for cheap as they try to clear out the summer garden decor stuff. I tried to haunt it up like my witch lanterns but it still looked a bit blah. Then I got an idea.

Inking my trees across paper, I created a forest inside the jar. I'm thinking I might try painting the trees inside, but not for awhile and after a few test jars.
And that was my Halloween weekend.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Rusting the Cauldron

I've been using some classic Halloween home haunter techniques lately, and today I want to show the cheap and easy way to rust plastic.

Part of my scene is a guy getting boiled in the middle of the driveway. We have a cauldron to hold the skeleton; simple, cheap, plastic.
It's like every other cauldron out there on the market, pretty much.
But I wanted to age it up, to make it look more like the kind of cauldron a proper witch would use and had used to boil skeletons for decades.

Enter the oatmeal.

All you need to rust and age up a cauldron is:
  • oatmeal
  • sand
  • glue
  • spray paint
Mix the oatmeal and sand with the glue. I used more sand than oatmeal and wet down the glue with water at first. I don't think it did much one way or the other so if you want to stretch your elmers out, you can try it.

Glob it all over the cauldron in various points making a big mess of your hands, the floor, and a dog who thinks she wants to eat oatmeal sand glue.

Let that dry. It will look disgusting and weird, but it's okay. Now we bring out the paint. Black spray paint. I use the plastic adhering because it's what I had and to smooth over any color changes.
 It's not bad, it's got a lot more character now and appears like it's made of cast iron instead of plastic. You can stop here. I thought about it, but I have these orange and dull red spray paints that don't get used as much. So, time to get to rusting.

Orange is the best paint for it. I start at the bottom and spritz at a distance. It takes a few turns of the cauldron. I tried to mix some brown in, but then I ran out. So you can add spritzes of brown if you'd like to deepen the rust.

After that dried, I added flecks of the red. Not too much, it'll overpower if you don't stand way back and only twist with the wrist. If you go too far, you can always go over again with the black to bring her back.
Ta da, ancient rusted cauldron that only took a few things I had sitting around the house. The next plan is to make real looking coals/fire to sit under this guy but I have to wait until stores put out their Halloween lights.

Sigh, how long until labor day?

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Free 3D Spiders

While perusing the interwebs to get more Halloween ideas (then cracking out the sand, glue and oatmeal to age my cauldron) I came across something that I thought I could help along a bit.

Courtesy of Lowes (of all things) are some spider frames one can easily make and hang for Halloween. You know, if you're more into subtle halloween than someone who has a 6' reaper standing in her garage.
This is their example and their tutorial, but I got to thinking that what these spiders needed was a bit more life pumped into them. Some shadows would really amp up the scare factor.

So I created these for anyone to print off and scare people with.
Right click and save to print off to your little arachnophilia heart's command.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Scarin' all the crows

Scarecrows are one of two options for me. Either they're cutsey things you find splattered across the walls of birth control denying craft stores, (I get all my cool Halloween craft shit from Michaels, thankyouverymuch) or they're yank your soul out through their cracking eyes and twist inhumanly in the wind.

I decided to make the latter.
This isn't much of a tutorial because I didn't take a lot of step pictures. Sorry.

First off you need a head. I actually made one a few years back and then never got around to the body. I did a step by step process here.
Next up are hands. Again, I used bic pens, a wire hanger, and latex. Which I also documented how to do in my Reaper tutorial.
Okay, to the body. Use 10' of 1" PVC pipe, that was cut down to 5' and then sections for the arms. A few 45˚ joints gave it elbows, then I spray painted it all black to hide the shame of white pvc, and because the costume was actually a kid's one from years back and incredibly short.
After this I just have finished pictures. Sorry. Chicken wire filled the body. Because that's all I know how to do.

In 90˚ heat, curse your deity or force of choice while extra hot glue dribbles onto your fingers as you stuff raffia under the costume of your scarecrow. I did it in fanned out patters under his little burlap poncho I made, as well as the sleeves and under the skirt. The skirt was the absolute worst.

 I used a combo of brown, orange, and black spray paint to age the moss and raffia as well as the fresh burlap and costume. Orange is surprisingly good for rusting things if you're careful, then you add more brown if you're not.

And that's my new scarecrow. I have crazy plans to get some corn stalks and stuff them with lights to give the scarecrow something to guard.

Halloween's coming.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Meet my Meat (or main character)

I’ve been tagged in the Meet my Main Character blog tour by Tony Noland. I assume it's a blog tour because we're always touring other blogs trying to talk people into reading it. READ THE WORDS!
Here are the rules: The taggee must write a post answering the same seven questions about their MC (main character). Then the taggee becomes the tagger and chooses five other authors. 

 1. What is the name of your main character? Is she a fictional or a historical person?
Variel Tuffman, though that's not the name she was born with. Since she lives on a space ship in a universe filled with elves, dwarves, orcs, and various other mythical species, she is clearly a historical person.

2. When and where is the story set?
The when's a bit hard to nail down since it's an entirely different universe, the where is on a space ship. The Elation-Cru was once a cruise ship called the Constellation Cruise but that was one century and many owners ago. She's passed from hand to hand, until a nameless space debris bought her up and dragged the insane onboard computer back to life.

3. What should we know about her?
A deep scar from an orc blade covers her cheek and is about the only telling mark left from her previous life. After abandoning a post as a Knight in the human Crests, she took to life as a low grade mercenary. With a sugar addicted dwarf as a pilot, an elven engineer with anger issues that could scare the hulk, a silent djinn, a mad computer, and a couple high elves that are an assassin and bard, her life's certainly not boring.

I wrote a very short story about her and Orn if you want to read more. 

4. What is the main conflict? What messes up her life?
While on a routine run to drop off a bag of holding for a client her onboard assassin falls into a trap. Against all common sense, she trudges off to rescue him and finds he's run afoul of a fellow ex-Knight. This leads to a mad dash against the galaxy as she tries to piece back together her fractured false life before anyone important notices. When a Crest begins sniffing around asking about the Elation-Cru, the midden hits the exhaust port.

5. What is her personal goal? 
To stay alive. It's rather tricky all things considered.

6. Is there a working title for this novel and can we read more about it?
It's called Dwarves in Space despite there being only one dwarf on the ship. That's just how I roll. Currently it's off in querying hell, but I do have a website set up with more info about the crazy characters on the ship. 

7. When can we expect the book to be published?
 When the mountains wash away into the sea. Or, if querying goes as poorly as I suspect it will, sometime in early 2015.

I believe I shall tag:

  • Monica Marier - She of webcomic and real life word-in-book fame. She's the yang to my fire I just started on accident, I swear.
  • Sue London - Who's a spinner of entertaining and smile cracking historical romances involving haberdashers. They go to 11.
  • Joi - She crafts adorable My Little Pony dolls and writes realistic science fiction. 
  • Kris Silva - who I forced to beat read Dwaves in Space.
  • Mandaray, another twitter friend I forced to read and review my book. 

  • Go forth my minions and kill! Kill!

    Monday, July 14, 2014

    Witch Lanterns

    Need to light an old barn, scarecrow scene, or witch at work? Try this:

    All you need are
    • a mason jar
    • black paint
    • elmers glue
    I took one clear, fresh, crisply a year or so old jar and, with my sea sponge, dabbed black paint on the bottom and then on the inside. I did it in flecks so it'd mimic dirt.

    I also painted some of the black paint in the outside the jar, especially the lip for extra dirt.

    For the cloudy exterior, take elmers glue, dab it onto a paper towel, and rub that over the jar. That really makes the jars look like you dug them out of the back of a rusted and haunted farmhouse.

    Here are the jars with the candles in them prior to me adding the glue.

    Here are the jars after the glue.
    The barely flickering one in the back has an electric tealight in it while the others have real candles. The cheap ones do work, but the glow of course is nowhere near as powerful as an open flame.

    I think I'll string a few on wire and hang them up high while the others I'll put electric tealights in and use to light our steps for Halloween.

    Oh, and thanks to a few smashed fingers and some structural damage to the hair I am now the proud owner of a mannequin. It's insane that I could get a fully standing, human sized prop for $25. Yup.
    We have plans for her. Oh yes we do. Mwhahahahahahahaha!

    Tuesday, July 8, 2014

    Angela of Death

    There are a few tools in every home haunters toolbox. Hot glue used to make dribbly candles, latex and cotton to add flesh to a skeleton, and monster mud.

    Monster mud is 5 parts joint compound to 1 part latex paint. Mix that up, slap it onto cloth, and you have your own 6 foot tall statue:

    Ready for the step by step process? Hold onto your hat and various appendages.

    Monday, July 7, 2014

    Destiny - Short Story

    “I am sorry, Milord,” the parched voiced etched across the darkened hall. Verdant fire blazed beneath her hand as the crone turned another page in the unholy book. “The prophecy is certain, your firstborn will kill you.”

    The King swallowed the words, his eyes fixed upon the keystone his great-grandfather laid a century ago. His own throne was a scant three years old, the power in flux. Another regicide would return the land to civil war.

    Only two advisers flanked the crone, their hands resting upon hilts as she shuffled through her book for a loophole. The rest sat outside the Queen’s door for news, their shadows staining the wood.

    “Sire! Sire!” A squeaky voice echoed through the stones, trailing a page in passable livery. “Sire!” He paused before the darkened assembly, gathering spent breath. “The babe is born,” the page beamed, the smile stretching his cheeks to breaking. He kowtowed before his master and glanced up as if expecting a treat.

    “Bring it to me.”

    “Highness?” the page shifted upon his bended hose to the macabre tableau. Rotted fingers waved from the crone as her book flared. Another page turn damped down the fire and the advisers slipped back in their swords.

    “Retrieve the child and bring it here,” the King’s voice commanded. Without raising off bended knee, the page scattered from the room.

    Warmth bloomed through the castle halls as news of the heir’s birth traveled. Laughter and applause shook the impenetrable walls. But the joyous petals never penetrated the King’s room. He remained steadfast, a hand curled inside his finery, as his adviser asked, “What shall you do?”

    The page’s pale cheeks parted the shadows, one of the Queen’s ladies nipping at his heels insisting he return. Movement pulled the King’s eyes to the blanket wadded up in the boy’s arms. The page clutched it to his breast, his fingers shaking from fear of a slipping grip. Lips parted but not in a smile as the page held out his bundle.

    Royal fingers slid under the bottom as another hand cupped the head, sliding down the blanket tossed across the face. “It’s a girl,” the page said, his fingers not releasing as no emotion crossed his Lord’s face.

    A ringed pinkie circled around the blotted, scarlet face of his firstborn. Her mouth gaped as if she were about to cry in distress, but settled back as the King shuffled the fragile body into his arm’s crook.

    “What will you do to save your rule?” the adviser asked again.

    The King picked up the girl’s tiny fist, balled up as if ready for a fight. “There is only one course of action.”


    Ten Years Later

    A lithe hand tested the latch upon the door. It gave to her tiny form with almost no resistance. She swallowed down the shout of joy. It wasn’t proper to give ones location away before the deed was done. The books were very specific on that.

    Pulling the door back excruciatingly slow, she wiggled her slender body through the gap. Fire barely licked at the crumbling logs; the entire room slumbered in deference to the body slumped in the chair. Sonorous rumbling cracked the silent room. She smiled at the snoring and inched a foot inside. This was going to be easy.

    Metal glinted in her fingers as she rounded about the high backed chair. Only the salty hair of the King was visible to her, his head bobbing in a dream. Her feet paused as she rose onto naked tiptoes. A crack broke the rhythmic snoring as the logs tossed in their fitful dreams, but her target didn’t respond, his sleep too deep. This is perfect.

    She inched across the floor, her bare toes treading across threadbare carpet. One hand rested upon the oaken chair, the scent of horses and lavender floating up from the rocking head. She shifted about the metal bit, ready to strike.

    Fingers clamped onto her side!

    She gasped in terror at being caught, her hands shaking so her surprise almost dropped to the floor. Then the fingers started to thump against her sides and she could no longer contain it. The giggles collapsed to snorts as she failed to fight against the tickling onslaught. “Daddy! Stop!”

    The sleeping head rose straight. A solacing hand guided her around the chair and the King looked upon his daughter sill fighting through the giggles. He wiped at the tears bubbling from her joyful eyes and smiled himself.

    “You cheated!” she accused, her lip in full pout.

    “I did no such thing,” the King said, feigning such a dramatic shock that she dare defame his honor the laughter returned.

    “But I almost got you,” the Princess insisted, her hand on her hip.

    Her father smiled, nodding his head, “Aye, you almost did.”

    “I made you something,” she said as she held out the metal bit in her hand. Jagged edges had been sanded down meticulously until it was almost the shape of a heart. “It was from a broken sword,” she explained without him needing to ask, “I fixed it.” The metal heart dangled off a bit of twine.

    The King picked the string out of her fingers and placed it around his neck. As he held up the heart reflecting back his peppery beard he asked his daughter, “What did I do to deserve such a gift?”

    “It’s because I love you!” she shouted as she threw her arms around him, almost knocking the chair back.

    The King caught the force, his feet easily steadying the chair as he kissed the top of her head, “And I love you, always.”


    Another Ten Years

    Smoke and blood dribbled through the King’s eyes as he surveyed the battlefield. The tide turned in their favor as another tumble of thunder rattled their enemies’ nerves. He wiped the dead man’s blood off his brow and shouted to an adviser, “The day is ours!”

    “Aye, Sir!”

    He gestured to his men to raise the victory flag when he paused and spun about upon his horse, “Where is my daughter?”

    The adviser pointed towards a clump of fighting bodies, “The left flank was weakening; she went to secure it.”

    The King nodded, sound advice. But, while the rest of the enemy washed back to their camp, the knot surrounding the Princess remained. His white beard drooped as an unspoken terror filled his heart. Without calling to his generals, the King spurred his horse on. Both his men and enemies alike threw themselves out of the way of the aged man barreling down on his war steed. Weak fingers unsheathed the sword at his side as he rode closer to her.

    Her armor was bathed in blood, the helmet long lost. She rammed a shield into the face of one man and stuck in her sword. One of their own crawled away from her feet as she roared. She would not leave a man behind, no matter how many the enemy threw at her. Another fell to her reach, failing to parry her expert thrust. His daughter turned to take on the last, failing to see the man sneaking up behind.

    There was no time to call for reinforcements. The King jumped from his horse, his body plummeting onto the man. Aged bones creaked and cracked as they met with youth and armor. The battleground assassin rebounded from the drop and kicked at the mass on top of him. Rolling away, the King tried to stagger to feet, but his legs collapsed as pain seared through his marrow. A dagger rolled in the assassin’s hands. He stood over the broken man, about to finish it, when a blade burst through his chest. The dead man didn’t have time to inspect it before feminine hands yanked it out and shoved the body aside.

    “Father!” the Princess shouted as she dropped to him, her sword skittering away.

    Blood dribbled out of his mouth as he coughed, the pain nearly unbearable. She lifted his head and said, “It’ll be all right. You’ll be all right. I’ve got you.”

    He gripped onto her trembling arm with the same hand that circled that tiny red face twenty years past. She pulled him closer and he touched her cheek, his own blood smearing it. “Shh…it’s okay,” he said.

    “No, you’ll…you can’t die. You’re the King. Kings don’t die!” She shook her head at the illogic of her grief. Tears blended to anger. “If I hadn’t come, you wouldn’t be here. You’d be safe. It’s my fault,” she shouted, her words punctuated by thunderclaps.

    “I would have always come for you,” he said, sputtering through the blood welling inside his throat, “I love you.”

    “I love you, too,” the Princess wept, her forehead brushing against his.

    “We can’t escape destiny,” he whispered as her tears washed away his face, “but we can make it bearable. If the world came round again, I would not change a thing.”

    On the battlefield, with the sky weeping, his firstborn child killed the King.

    Tuesday, July 1, 2014


    Hola! It is that golden, dusty month of July when we're all supposed to blow up sections of America and then lay around waiting for summer to crash down. I shall be spending this month working on a manuscript for CampNaNo.

    But to the painting. I'd started this one a few weeks back, then got busy with all that Halloween stuff down below, but I came back and finished what I like to call "DEATH WAITS FOR A BUS"
    She's for sale over at Etsy in my shop, along with other paintings languishing in obscurity.

    I've also got two new book things. First up is a review courtesy of The Modest Verge.

    The next is an author interview from The Modest Verge as well. You can read about all the evil secrets rattling in my brain, but never how I make ice cream soup. That goes with me to the grave!
    And that's what's been going on behind the scenes lately. I do have another halloween project in the works, but he's just a skeleton right now.