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My Favorite Teacher

Posted by | Art | 5 Comments

So Scholastic approached me awhile back to do an illustration for their “My Favorite Teacher” campaign, and this is what I came up with.

scholasticdragoncolor

 

Even though I am basically as busy as a human can possibly be without dying, I forewent sleep for this one. Partly because of Ms. Faunce, my high school freshman English teacher, who told me I could be a wordsmith, and partly because it was so cool that a big publisher wanted my art. (I mean, obviously Penguin and Random House have both wanted my art in the past, but they’ve always wanted it with my words attached. I love writing, but the illustrator in me was very flattered that somebody in New York thought I could do art that stood on its own in august company without having my words along to do the heavy lifting, if that makes any sense at all.) (Also, they paid quite well.)

Since it’s not out in the wild yet, they asked me to put this paragraph with it when I post it:

Created as part of Scholastic Reading Club’s year-long celebration of teachers. Teachers change the lives of their students every day. Sometimes a small moment has a huge impact on a child’s future. Other times it’s the year-long influence in a classroom that can change the course of a student’s entire life. Scholastic Reading Club is celebrating favorite teachers this year and will be interviewing students, parents, authors, illustrators, and celebrities about teachers who impacted their lives. If you’d like to share your own memories, you can email them to: judy.newman (at) scholastic.com

(E-mail altered so as to save the poor person on the other end from spambots)

Anyway, I thought that was pretty neat. And now, back to drawing ALL THE HAMSTERS FOREVER…

I wrote a thing at Bull Spec!

Posted by | Uncategorized | No Comments

…which is a local SF magazine. But this thing is on-line. They wanted an article for their column “The Hardest Part” about the tough part of any given project, so here’s T. Kingfisher talking about the hard part of assembling Toad Words.

The Hardest Part

If you have an itching to purchase Toad Words or did not know it was available and want to know what I’m talking about, all relevant links and info are here, on the new T. Kingfisher website, which TOTALLY DOES NOT WORK THAT WELL YET and many things may change and some of the links aren’t linking but I’m working on it very hard right at the moment and hope to have all the links connecting to stuff within a day or two. Hopefully.

But that particular page should work great. I hope.

The Only Harry Potter Fanfic I Will Ever Write (Probably)

Posted by | Uncategorized | 5 Comments

(There was a call to make an LJ post today, so since I was thinking about how Hufflepuff gets absolutely no love the other day, you get my sorry attempts at fic.)

“Help!” cried the very junior wizard, falling down on the doorstep of the medium-sized cottage that would someday be Hogwarts. “Help!  The giants are invading!”
“Giants?” asked Godric Gryffindor, sticking his head out of the window. “I thought we beat those last week.”
“These are different giants,” said the junior wizard. “Also wolves. And basilisks.”
“Wolves and basilisks?”
“The wolves are riding the basilisks,” said the wizard. “Look, it’s a bit of a mess, all right?” He rubbed his forehead.
“Are they werewolves?” called Helga Hufflepuff, from inside the cottage. “I firmly believe that werewolves should be judged by their actions as individuals. This anti-lycanthropic discrimination has got to stop.”
“They’re riding basilisks,” said Godric. “They’re probably not upstanding members of the werewolf community.”
“Wouldn’t they have turned to stone?” asked Rowena Ravenclaw, who was sitting in an armchair with a book. She turned a page.
“Smoked goggles,” said the junior wizard shortly. “Incidentally, I’m bleeding rather a lot.”
“Oh, you poor dear,” said Helga, wiping her hands on her apron. “Come in and we’ll get you fixed up.”
The junior wizard sat at the dining room table and was given cookies and a very large brandy, while the four great wizards planned their next move.
Unfortunately, they were still not very good at working together. Godric wanted a straight charge up the middle, death-or-glory style. Rowena wanted an elaborate battle plan involving perfect timing and the movement of a great many troops they didn’t actually have. Salazar suggested they just seed the enemy’s supplies with botulism and canine distemper.
“Cowardly!” cried Godric. But Rowena looked thoughtful. Helga tapped a fingernail on her teeth.
In the end, it was agreed that they would simply all meet on the field of battle tomorrow, ready to fight, and see what the future held.

In the morning, three wizards gathered on the field of battle. It was a broad, grassy bowl, bordered by hills. Giants and basilisks and werewolves wearing glasses lurked on the far side, although the werewolves were looking a little strung out by the lack of moonlight.
Rowena was surrounded by a swirling cloud of ravens. They flapped and shrieked in harsh voices.
“Nice,” said Salazar. “Bit goth, though.”
“Says a man wearing a giant snake as a bandolier.”
“That’s not goth, that’s metal. It’s different.”
Godric was riding a griffin and was a bit annoyed that no one had mentioned how cool it was.
“You know that thing’ll go to sleep if somebody throws a coat over its head,” said Salazar nastily.
“Shut up,” said Godric. “You can’t ride your snake.”
“A snake big enough to ride would need a redesigned nervous system,” said Rowena absently. “You couldn’t get the messages to the tail fast enough. Not sure the circulatory system would hold up, either, to be honest—“
“I notice somebody hasn’t shown up,” said Salazar.
“I’m sure Helga will be here in a minute,” said Rowena.
“What’s she going to do, bake cookies at them?”
“She can be the healer,” said Godric. “Healers are important.”
Salazar rolled his eyes.
They waited. The griffin crapped and everybody had to move upwind.
“We should never have invited her,” said Salazar. “She can’t found a wizarding school. Her greatest ambition is to get the garden weeded before company comes over.”
“I’ve seen some pretty lethal plant wizards,” said Godric loyally. “With…um…you know, big thorn hedge things…” He made hand gestures. Salazar looked at him like he was an idiot.
The ravens were getting bored. They ceased swirling and landed on the grass, grumbling to each other. “Ark. Ark Ark? Ark.”
Godric ran a hand through his hair. “Okay,” he admitted. “Maybe this isn’t really playing to Helga’s strengths. We could…errr…”
The ground rumbled.
The ravens took flight. The griffin squawked. Salazar’s snake constricted in a panic, and Rowena had to help him get it unwound from around his neck.
The grassy hillside split open.
Claws as long as a man’s thigh emerged from the earth. Clods of dirt flew as a gigantic beast emerged, shaking its head. A cloud of wet air belched over the three wizards, smelling of worms and turned earth.
“Sorry!” called a voice from inside the cloud. “Sorry! Monty, you came up too close! You’ll trample the wrong people!””
“Oh dear god, it’s a badger,” said Godric.
“Dire badger, I believe,” said Rowena. “Meles dirus. I thought they were extinct…
Salazar put a hand over his eyes.
It was the size of a house. Helga’s saddle was halfway up the creature’s back, nearly lost on that vast curve of spine. She was still wearing her apron and her gardening gloves.
The badger shook itself again, spattering them all with dirt. The black and white stripes were visible now, along with tiny reins that ran to the base of the creature’s whiskers. It was wearing goggles that appeared to have been cobbled together from ship’s portholes.
“Good badger!” said Helga. “Who’s a good boy, then?”
“She named the badger Monty,” said Salazar to no one in particular.
“Sorry I’m late,” said Helga. “It was hard to get the goggles on him. But he’s such a good badger! Does a good badger want to stomp the mean giants for Mommy?”
The dire badger gave another belching roar and waved its claws.
“Kill me,” said Salazar to Rowena.
“Godric would love to.”
“I don’t want to give him the satisfaction.”
“All right,” said Godric, feeling that his authority was somewhat diminished by the fact that his very cool griffin was only about a tenth the size of Helga’s badger. “All right. Um. It’s not the size of the—“
“Keep telling yourself that, Godric,” said Rowena.
Monty began lumbering toward the enemy.
“Would it be okay if we charged now?” called Helga. “I hope it’s okay! Monty’s not very good at waiting…”
The dire badger broke into a waddling run.
Godric spurred the griffin, because there was absolutely no glory in being left behind by a badger.
Rowena and Salazar walked, rather more sedately, toward the enemy.
“So, about letting her help found the school…” said Rowena.
“I can admit when I’m wrong,” said Salazar, once Godric was out of earshot.
“Yes, but you never do.”
“This is me admitting that I am possibly wrong.” He adjusted his snake. “But you have to admit, you didn’t see the badger coming either.”
“No,” said Rowena Ravenclaw, “no, the giant badger was a surprise.” She considered. “Hard work and loyalty aren’t bad principles.”
“They’re a lot better when you’ve got a giant goddamn war-badger to back them up.”
And none of the other founders ever questioned Helga Hufflepuff’s right to found a wizarding house ever again.

THE END

I can’t actually draw the scene in the fic, but since my head-canon is now that Hufflepuffs are all given a warbadger upon graduation, here’s Portrait Of The Artist With Her Badger Mister Digglesworth.

warbadger

Am Cicada

Posted by | Art | 2 Comments

First doodles with new version of Painter. I wish a new user interface only emerged every seventeen years…

 

amcicada

Antlered Does

Posted by | Uncategorized | No Comments

So based on some of the comments over at LJ on yesterday’s painting, it occurs to me that some of you may not be familiar with the phenomenon of antlered does!

Eeee! You get to be among today’s lucky 10,000! This is so COOL!

So it turns out that antlered does are actually not that uncommon in whitetail deer. My guess–and this is only a guess–is that they’re probably found in a lot of species where the males have antlers and the females mostly don’t,* we’re just particularly aware of it in whitetails because they’re a super-common game animal in the US AND hunters in most areas are only supposed to take bucks,** so you get a good amount of reporting on the subject when a hunter drags in a deer and says “Look, I saw antlers, but this is NOT a buck!” (So far as I know the DNR does not yell at anyone about accidentally taking a doe when it’s obviously got a rack of antlers on it–it’s the definition of an honest mistake.) The DNR says that it also happens in mule deer and blacktail deer, anyhow.

You find variable numbers on this, but based on the deer herd culls and the hunting records, the Minnesota DNR think you get about one antlered doe per 1,000-6,000 whitetail does. Apparently there was a study in Alberta, Canada, that had a population throwing an antlered doe at a rate of about 1 per 64 does, which is much higher than anyone expected, but I don’t know any of the details.

Most of the time, these aren’t very impressive antlers–they’re just spikes, like you get in young bucks–and they’re caused by a biologically female deer having a testosterone spike, for all the various reasons that can happen, which are as varied in deer as they are in humans. One source claimed that in a biologically female deer, the antlers generally won’t go out of velvet (apparently that requires a second hormone spike) but here we are getting beyond the limits of what I can say authoritatively about deer biology. Either way, most of those does don’t have very big racks, and the ones that do tend to have very weird racks–they’ll be asymmetric and they’ll keep growing in weird shapes or whatever, so you can get thirty-point does because they never get the hormone surge that shuts off growth.

(Weird antlers happen in biologically male deer too, of course–any time you get a process that complicated, things occasionally go haywire.)

Some deer, however–another source estimated 1 in 20,000 does–are either true hermaphrodites or “pseudo-hermaphrodites,” in this case having female external genitalia and male internal organs, and these deer will grow a full-on rack of polished antlers that lose velvet and everything and which are often not distinguishable from a standard whitetail rack.

As with anything involving sex organs, there does seem to be an enormous range–I’ve always found antlered does fascinating and have been reading about them for years, so I’ve read cases where you’ll get does that have a rack and fawns at the same time, does with antlers that mount other does and even keep and defend harems. There’s some minor sexual dimorphism in whitetails around the head and neck, and you get antlered does on both sides of that spectrum. There is a LOT of variation.

At any rate, other than the minor inconvenience of having to burn calcium growing antlers, none of this seems particularly detrimental to the does. Hunters usually describe them as being perfectly healthy when taken, and in the majority, they’re still breeding successfully, so it’s just one of those nifty things that happens in nature sometimes.

Anyway, that’s antlered does! Isn’t that cool?

(Someday I will do something with the antlered doe character I had kicking around in my head for years, but I’m still not sure how her story should go…)

*Actually, I suspect this sort of thing happens with most species, it’s just that when you’ve got a really clear marker like antlers, AND in a species that has a major economic impact, people actually notice and study it.

**I have Very Strong Feelings about this from an environmental perspective, but that’s another topic and today we’re talking about a REALLY COOL THING! so we won’t spoil it.

Article where most of those figures came from

Writing Poems For Wolves (NSFW)

Posted by | Art | One Comment

 

wolfpoems

I have been wandering around feeling itchy, like I need to do something to prove that I can still move pixels around a page into a shape more complicated than hamsters. (This is probably the single worst frame of mind to create good art, but the only way to get through it is to make SOMETHING.)

Of the dozen sketches I started, this one was the least preternaturally awful. It seems to mean something very sincerely–whatever that may be, I’ll leave as an exercise to the reader.

Achievement Unlocked: London & Berlin

Posted by | Conventions | 6 Comments

We are back from the wilds of Europe!

…wow. That was pretty awesome.

So much happened that I feel like I have no chance of talking about all of it. It was Kevin’s first trip out of North America, so it was awesome to be able to take him there, and it was only my second as an adult. Loncon was actually fantastic, and there is just no comparison to the Worldcon in San Antonio. And Eurofurence was amazing and I had so much fun. They took very good care of us.

Since I have absolutely no way of breaking down everything, here is a partial list of interesting things I did or discovered or saw or thought or whatever.

1. It is super weird to take the Tube in London and see all the station names and know that they are attached to places that you’ve read about. I never disbelieved in Hyde Park or the Tower of London, you understand, but it existed in my head in bookspace rather than realspace and thus on some level was lumped with Narnia and Pern and New York and other questionably existent places.

2. The ravens at the Tower of London are enormous.

3. I got to meet Terri Windling and talk to her for awhile and tell her that the Wood Wife is one of my great comfort reads and that was really wonderful. Also Ellen Kushner and Delia Sherman and Amal El-motar and Terese Nielsen Hayden and SO MANY OTHER AWESOME PEOPLE. And a bunch of them knew I existed! What’s up with that? How did they know that? These are real people with names on books! I draw honey badgers on the internet! How is this my life, again?

4. Aardvarks are much bigger than I thought they were. They’re like the size of pigs. Holy mackerel.

5. I still vaguely regret not buying the T-shirt with the Underground logo that said “Mind The Gap” on it.

6. Crosswalk signs in Berlin are very strange.

7. The British Museum goes on forever. Every single Brit I spoke to about it uttered some variation on “Oh, yeah, that’s where we keep all the stuff we stole!”

7a. We spent about two hours at the British Museum and it pretty much destroyed our sense of age. You walk in and look at paintings painted when our country hadn’t been founded yet, you think “Old.” Then you go down and there’s the Rosetta Stone and statuary from 1500 BC and you go “Really old.” And then you wander into the room where they’ve got ancient Chinese jade and there are pieces from 5000 BC and you go “These were really old when they were carving those statues downstairs.” And then you go through another room and another room and hey, look, it’s artifacts from Jericho. And those were ancient when the jade pieces were carved.

Kevin sort of gave up at that point and started clutching his head and heading for the gift shop. Unfortunately for us, on the far side of the gift shop was a library with stuffed hoopoes. Great! And also hand axes, which were dated at something like 400,000 BC, and at that point you are standing on a fractional sliver of the vast sweep of human history and you realize that if civilization were pounded into dust tomorrow, it would be the eradication of an exceedingly brief anomaly.

And then you go buy a hot dog stuffed into a hollowed-out baguette, because really, what else can you do?

8. Hot dogs stuffed into hollowed-out baguettes are awesome.

9. Both hotels, in London and Berlin, did these massive breakfasts like they expected we were preparing for a nine-day siege.

10. The Brandenburg Gate is amazing and I am a terrible person because all I could think for a minute on seeing it was “Hey! I built that in Civ 5!”

11. It is very surreal to walk through Berlin and keep seeing this meandering double line of bricks. It’s where the wall was. Every now and again that realization would kind of grab me by the throat. That happened in my lifetime. I watched that wall come down on TV as a kid. And here I am, many thousands of miles and over two decades away from being that kid and I am actually standing here staring at the place where the wall was and a whole city that has basically put itself together in the aftermath and things grind in my head between real and unreal.

12. I just don’t get currywurst.

13. The European way of living with WWII is a lot different than the American one. A very nice German woman in London gave me directions to an old Templar church, which she said was the best in London. “Of course, we blew out all the stained glass in the Blitz,” she said cheerfully. “Pity we didn’t get [German train station],” muttered her (British) friend. “Yeah,” said the German woman, “if you had, we could have built something that actually worked.”

There is no possible response an American can make to any of this, beyond smiling and nodding. This is a far greater culture shock than little things like lack of public restrooms.

14. There is a near-total lack of public restrooms.

15. German coffee is mediocre. British cream is amazing. I am told that German beer is basically the greatest thing ever.

16. The British version of Indian cuisine lives up to all the hype and is incredible.

17. You can sell alcohol at a dealer’s table in Berlin. We were seated next to the schnapps dealer. One of them spoke very good English and helped me navigate a phone tree to figure out where my laptop had gone to (answer: left on plane flying into Berlin) and the other spoke virtually no English. He and Kevin, with a mutual vocabulary of perhaps ten words, managed to have several lengthy discussions of techno music. Apparently “oontz” is universal.

18. Losing my laptop was very stressful, but I tried to make the best of it. “We will go in early on Monday,” I said, “and check with lost & found. I am sure the airport is run with typical German efficiency!”

“….No,” said one of our German hosts sadly.

Despite this, after a lengthy wait in a line full of increasingly angry people, I got into the Lost & Found and said “I left my messenger bag on this flight, it had a laptop–”

“Brown leather, Macbook Air. Wait here.” Two minutes later, I was reunited with my laptop. So that was nice.

19. There is this moment where you are standing in an electronica dance party full of furries and somebody hands you a straw and you are drinking Cuba Libres out of a gallon bucket with a group of fursuiters and you think “How is this my life, again?”

20. When the con sends a limo to pick you up that is made out of five Trabbis welded together and the limo driver is explaining that these cars are made primarily out of pressed wool and incidentally, that’s the Reichstaag over there and you think “How is this my life, again?”

21. I would love to go back.

MythCon & Other Awesomeness

Posted by | Conventions, publishing | 4 Comments

Back from Mythcon! Which was fantastic!

Seriously, if you told me I’d enjoy an academic conference that much, I…well, I am generally too polite to call anyone a liar to their face, but I would have been deeply skeptical. But it was awesome! (Collaborative Beowulf readings. Who knew?* Also there is something deeply surreal about being in a room where everybody else can recite the opening to the Canterbury Tales in Middle English.)

It was a great honor to be able to present the Mythopoeic Award (“The Golem and the Jinni” won) and I’m trying to get the text of my speech edited to post here–it’s the usual thing where you write the speech and then you spend the hours beforehand scribbling margin notes and cutting bits, so what I wrote is not exactly what I said. Will try and badger it a little closer and then will put it up here. (I mean, it’s mostly about the revelation about Aslan being Jesus, and some of you have heard variations on it before, but there’s also a lot about how I wanted to be Smaug when I grew up. Anyway, everybody laughed–a lot–which is what I ask for in a speech and they did not repo my Aslan statue, so it’s all good.)

Also, while I was gone, we cracked 500 copies sold of Toad Words! (We’re actually closing in on 600, at the time of this writing!) And how cool izzat?

And my ARCs of Castle Hangnail arrived and oh my god, it’s finally a real book. That one seemed to take forever–it’s the witch book–although it was actually a pretty fast turnaround as these things go.

castlehangnailarcs

(I’ll try to do a giveaway or something–AFTER I get back!)

Now I get basically two and a half days to prep for London. Madness! Bunnies!

*The organizer laid out the Anglo Saxon version and the translation and asked people to come up and read if they were moved to do so. Kevin said “Oh my god, it’s English major altar call!” And it totally was. And it was pretty darn awesome. The con-chair is apparently an authority on the subject, judging by the young man who read in the original language, then collapsed in his chair behind us, panting “I read for Drout and he didn’t throw me out of the room!” as if he’d just won a gold medal. It was pretty delightful.

Toad Words Launch Day!

Posted by | publishing, Writing | 9 Comments

And we are live, gang!

toadcoverblog
(I’m including the cover again so we all remember what I’m talking about…)

Smashwords

An ePub version only is available via Smashwords.

Amazon Kindle

It’s Kindley!

Kobo

Impressively fast turnaround from Draft2Digital for this one. (If anybody grabs this one, please let me know if the formatting transferred okay–I checked the D2D draft, but it’s not quite the same as having an e-reader of that type!)

Barnes&Noble/Nook

One day turnaround for Draft2Digital here–still impressed!

iTunes

Okay, Draft2Digital is getting a tentative mega-thumbs-up from me. We’ll see how they do on the payouts, but so far…holy mackerel.

PDF version

If you can only read PDFs, don’t despair! I will happily sell you one directly for 3.99 via Paypal! E-mail me at ursulav (at) gmail.com or use the contact form on the site and we will make it happen!

Review Copies

If you’re a book reviewer and would like a free copy of Toad Words, shoot me an e-mail at ursulav (at) gmail.com with a link to your site and the format you’d prefer, and I am delighted to send one out!

But Where Do You Get The Most Money?

I love you guys. I get the most money via Smashwords, at the moment, followed by Amazon, though Amazon pays it out a LOT faster. However, we’re talking a matter of a couple cents and I really want you to get it in the format that is most convenient to you. If you’d like to support me, the best thing you can do is leave an honest review (and by that I actually really mean “honest” because I don’t read my reviews, so you can say anything you want and my feelings won’t be hurt) on whatever platform you like to read on. Reviews may lead other people to buy the book, and that’s worth way more than the nickel or so between various platforms.

I Found A Problem

Thank you for letting me know! Comment here and let’s see if it’s something I can fix. (Formatting between devices is occasionally wonky and not always within my control, but I will do my best!)

Will There Be A Print Volume?

Not at the moment. If somebody in the small-press world wanted to make me an offer, I’m totally willing to entertain the option, but it’s not something I’m currently set up to do myself, and I’d rather not do it than do it badly (and oh, but the internet has made it easy for someone like me to do it very, very badly!) I could (and may be forced to!) learn the pre-press ropes to do a POD version, but I suspect it would cost a lot more than 3.99.

Questions? Check out the FAQ! GO