So I’m reading P.C. Hodgell’s new book “To Ride a Rathorn.”

I love Hodgell. I love her work because it’s magic that’s actually magical, in the real, mystical, holy-crap-that’s-weird sense. It doesn’t turn into the dull stratified everybody-knows-their-abilities* kind of magic, it’s…hmm. If it wasn’t all so grim, you’d call it “whimsical.” Same kind of random, absurd, often really fun, but again, very dark. So I love her work.

I just wish it was easier to follow.

The first one, “God Stalk” is a classic to end all classics. But unfortunately, after that, this political fantasy element comes in, and I’m really bad at following those. The only writer who’s ever gotten me to follow politics with any success is Lois McMaster Bujold. I can, with a lot of pain and some glossing over, manage George R. Martin. But Hodgell’s politics are pretty rough.

It’s still worth it because such great stuff happens–she’s one of the few authors who is perfectly willing to have demented world changing things–but my eyes are twirling a bit.

*Except for the heroine who was abused as a child and now has unpredictable talents that surface under extreme stress and/or sex and cause her enemies to explode. (This is no particular book, this is about a dozen of ’em.)

Working on a painting with mushrooms. A lot of mushrooms.

This is undoubtedly inspired by the weekend’s yard work, which involved pulling out the shrooms on the lawn so James could mow. We had half a wheelbarrow full, all of ’em inedible and many of them in various stages of decomposition.

I have a stomach like cast iron under most circumstances–nothing short of actual food poisoning lays me low–but I tell ya, pullin’ up half-rotted mushrooms for an hour had a definite impact. (And then of course I do a pretty painting of pretty mushrooms. Typical.)

One interesting thing–while looking up mushroom species for the painting, I found out that the pretty little things I always thought were puffballs were actually oak leaf galls. Which isn’t a fungus–it’s a tissue reaction to mites or parasitic wasps–and so is not includeable.

Here’s one of the few good photos I could find of the kind I remember:

Hey, you learn something new every day…

My mother just called me, from the median strip of the Ohio turnpike.

They’re all okay, but their van got hit by a semi.

It apparently still runs.

I may write Dodge a letter tomorrow and tell them that their vans are amazing beasts.

I talked to my brother for a bit–I have a seven year old brother, go figure–and while I am generally very bad with children, I have a fairly consistent ability to crack him up, which is the only skill useful at such moments long-distance. I dunno if it helped. Mom claims so, but Mom, I suspect, is in that slightly glazed post-shock state where if I stated that moon was made of little green fairy marmots, she’d agree just so that she wouldn’t have to deal with it. Not that I can blame her.


I have nothing particularly useful to say about this. They don’t need a ride, they’re all okay, and I’m pretty much typing to avoid having to think about it. Which doesn’t make for particularly interesting reading for you guys, I imagine, but hey, you’ve read through thick and thin so far, so…err…yeah.


Our neighbor across the street is burning leaves.

With a flamethrower.

He’s a very likeable guy, and his wife watches our cat when we’re out of town. I get the impression he’s a kind of crazed do-it-yourselfer more than anything else.

Come to think of it, that may be a homemade flamethrower…

Elf vs. Orc, Part 7

I appreciate you guys not nagging me about posting more, unlike some of the people over at DA. *grin* I suspect the community over there is just too large for me to expect the word of the perversity of my particular muse to spread. Oh, well.

People really did use dried corncobs as toilet paper in more primitive times. Don’t ask me how that worked, but internet investigation turns up that apparently it works pretty well, if you’re sufficiently rural to have a stock of dried corncobs on hand.

Also, I have now finally achieved my life-long goal of writing fantasy where people actually go to the bathroom. I am proud. Our realism may fail on every other front, but by god, we’ve got a realistic outhouse!

Read more

Nurk News!

Not that anyone probably cares about the book until it gets published, but for those few interested in the arcana of publishing from my perspective, we’re on the contract phase.

I have next to nothing to do with this, because I couldn’t understand a contract if it danced on my head. My agent has a lawyer for this stuff, who vets it all. The great bit about having an agent is that they can and will fight for your royalty rates ‘n stuff, whereas I would just go “Okay, sure, sounds good!” even if they offered me a penny a crate.

The current plan for illustrations is to have me do black and white interior illos–one a chapter or thereabouts–probably the cover, and maybe a color frontispiece. However, adding illustrations also adds to the price, and since the goal with this book is an inexpensive little hardcover, the odds are good that some, and possibly all of it will get cut, depending on how much it costs to produce the book. It’s also possible that they’ll want a different artist for the cover, someone with a proven track record there.

This doesn’t actually bother me in the slightest. For the first time since starting the book process, I feel back on familiar ground–the vagaries of illustration, I understand!

It’s also sort of ironic that this is the way that my illustrations will get into major book stores, for a major publisher, which will be a major coup on my artistic resume. All those years of sending out samples, and my big-league art break comes from writing.

People occasionally ask me how to succeed in art (and lately, terrifyingly, in writing, as if one major sale meant that I had any idea what I was doing!) Once I stop gibbering at the notion that people consider me a success, I generally find myself spreading my hands and trying to explain that my experience is of no use to anyone. It’s the most amazing maze of tangled stupid luck. If I try to nail down one particular spot, the pebble that started the avalanche I wind up years ago, playing a online MUD, being nice to a particular low-level character. (I don’t even remember what I did. Perhaps I was just funny.) And this character’s owner, Kathy, and I became friends, and her husband invited me to be GoH at a local Con, and James broke a tooth and collared T Campbell in a pain-killer induced stupor, who asked me to submit Digger to GraphicSmash, and then it became popular and Sofawolf was kind enough to publish it and then there was an Eisner nomination and then I read a romance novel and then the author, a friend that Kathy had also introduced me to, was telling an agent about what a weirdo I was and then I had an agent and then I wrote a book and then the book sold and then I had to illustrate it, and the only possible moral that we can derive from this is that the secret of artistic success is to be nice to newbies in MMORPGs.

I don’t see myself writing a how-to book based on that any time soon, but hey, you gotta laugh.

Just as a quick note, an update on the T-shirt sale orders, from the lovely and overworked Ellen Million:

T-shirts are coming! The response was larger than expected, and it’s going
to take me some time to get through all the orders. Some have already been
sent, and more go out just about every day. Current estimate on delivery
is 2-8 weeks (changed from the 4-6 weeks originally estimated!). All
orders have been combined with calendar pre-orders where possible and any
overpaid shipping has been refunded to you.

If you have a rush or deadline (birthday present, complete lack of
alternate clothing), please let me know and I will move you to the top of the queue.
Otherwise, it depends on when your order came in, how much design work it
will take, whether or not I need to get the files from Ursula, and which
t-shirts are at the top of the boxes.

I will probably offer this special again – in about a year when I’ve
mostly forgotten how much work this is. 🙂

By “larger than expected” I think she may have meant “Holy crap on a stick…” I get the impression that response was rather more than anybody anticipated, and the poor woman has been run ragged trying to get these all out.

You guys are so cool. I am the luckiest artist around, I swear.

It is an absolutely spectacular fall morning. It’s temperate, breezy, a bit foggy. Orange and gold are creeping down the trees, and the breeze is sending single leaves fluttering. The air smells like leaf mold and (for some reason) crushed blackberries. (This is weird, because I’d swear there’s not a berry anywhere around.) It makes me want to dig around and find my favorite incense, Kyoto Autumn Leaves, the one James hates because it smells faintly of burning leaves and makes him think the house is on fire. It’d be the perfect grace note to the autumn smell.

But alas, I have work to do, and promises to keep, and comics to go before I sleep.

The Dress

Over the years, people have gone to truly extraordinary lengths in pursuit of fashion. A catalog of peculiar gowns would fill several volumes, even without getting into bizarre hats, wigs, gloves, codpieces, shoes, eyeglasses, and all manner of other demented accessories, and I will not so tax the reader except to mention a few highlights.

Dresses of strange materials are not uncommon. Among the oddest were the mycorrhiza gown of Milicent von Pratt, a wrap of finest fungal threads. This sensational outfit required almost two weeks to put on, requiring Lady von Pratt to paint herself with an agar and compost growth medium and lay prone in a fungal bed for most of that time. It was only worn once, and deteriorated significantly during the course of the evening, requiring her ladyship to retire quickly from the entertainments.

And then there was the finchbone dress worn by the Dowager Duchess of Eastmarch, made from the tiny skeletons of nearly a thousand finches, carefully wrapped and hung with silver and copper wire, and hemmed in small avian skulls. The Dowager Duchess later went mad under peculiar circumstances and had to be locked away, screaming about the cheeping, the dreadful cheeping, but scholars agree that this was probably a coincidence.

Arguably the oddest dress–and whether it was a dress or a form of performance art is open to debate–was worn as a form of protest against the fur trade by the elvish activist Meleleleleelele, (“Complains-to-Rocks”) and was made of six hundred and forty one live mice. Highly trained and carefully selected for strong grip and iron bladder control, the trained mice anchored themselves to Mel’s underwear at key points, gripped one another’s paws and tails, and formed a living garment, completely with lace cuffs made of cleverly entertwined tails.

Everyone agreed that Mel’s mouse dress was a fantastic and avant garde achievement, and doubtless it would have carried the day and sent new styles for decades, had not her old rival, Ekele-Mara (“Smells-Faintly-of-Cheese”) shown up wearing pants made of twenty-three live terriers, with unfortunate results for everyone involved. There were no casualties, but most of the mice had to retire due to shattered nerves, and the trend in clothing turned towards sequins and artifical snakeskin instead.

Okay…this is officially some of the coolest stuff EVER.


(Warning: If you dislike taxidermy or the use of animal bones for anything but holding up animals, this may be somewhat disturbing.)