November 2005

Yesterday, it felt like I got a lot done.

Today, not so much. I did get a metric crapload of art mailed, and finished a Digger, so it wasn’t a totally unproductive day, it just didn’t have the sense of exhausted accomplishment that I managed yesterday. It suffers by comparison more than in reality.

Tomorrow, book cover! I want to at least finish the background tomorrow, and then I’ll start the figures, one of which will hopefully be a joy to paint and the other one of which will probably make me cry like a lowly worm and curl in fetal position and snivel. But it’ll be okay.

And then there’s…The Item.

The Item was delivered to me at some point during my vacation, and I pulled it from the mailbox, and brought it inside, and turned it over, and saw The Word emblazoned across it, and I dropped The Item as if it were a live mantis shrimp, and did that thing that there isn’t really a word for, where you stick your lower lip out and sigh heavily, so air jets up the sides of your nose and ruffles your bangs if you have any. We need a word for that.

The Word was “Spectrum” and The Item is, of course, the promotional poster for the Spectrum Annual, my own annual futility quest, a compendium of speculative fiction illustration, which I haven’t yet gotten into. Each year, I have the brief internal wrangle–“Would it be better to just let this go and not torture yourself?” and every year I say “Bugger that!” and submit art anyway. Every year, it is rejected. At first, I took this as a challenge to do better, as one is supposed to do, but one can only do that for so long. My well-adjusted artistic-drive-to-improve, to be the best I can be, etc, etc, platitude platitude, ran out a coupla years ago, and we’re frankly down to pure cussedness.

And that’s okay. I was never terribly well-adjusted to begin with, but lord, I can be stubborn. Stubborn is an old friend. I’m not dumb enough to trust to well-adjusted sanity–only crazy people do that!–but stubborn will be there to the bitter end, and occasionally somewhat beyond. (If I am completely wrong in all things, and there is in fact a hell in the conventional sense, I will be the person standing atop the brimstone with my arms folded, as demons gnaw my nether regions, and saying “Regardless, I still think I was right.” I expect to see a number of you there, too.)

And so I grimly unfold the little form and xerox it, and know, without a shadow of doubt, that my art won’t get in again this year–too weird, too furry, too unknown, and yes, damnit, probably not good enough–and yet I do it anyway. Because failure is only failure, but not doing it smacks of defeat.

It ain’t pretty, but that’s art for you.

Scaling Mt. Email

Nearly thirty print orders sitting in my in-box. This is a GOOD THING from a sales point of view–yippee! Money! Woo!–but a somewhat exhausting thing because somebody’s gotta fill all those orders in a timely fashion, and all signs point to me.

There were also a good thousand spam of all descriptions that needed to be painstakingly deleted. I haven’t even trudged out to the physical mailbox yet, since it’s pouring rain, but I daresay there’ll be a wad of stuff there too. I am not particularly bothered by the rain today, since it’s pleasantly warm in here (my parents live in a lovely renovated church which, alas, is a bearcat to heat and thus is somewhat chilly) and I have plentiful coffee, and feel generally snuggy and comfortable, except that I am whipping the printer like a dying racehorse in hopes of staggering across the finish line in time to get everybody stuff before Christmas. So snuggy and comfortable, with one foot in quicksand. That’s about where we’re at.

And there’s Diggers to be done, and a book cover to hammer out, and Gearworld to write and another column for EMG to contemplate (by the way, I’m writing a monthly column for EMG’s e-zine) and paintings lurking in my sketchbook, the sort of thing that makes you clutch your head and wonder why anybody ever goes on vacation at all.

But it’s all good! We shall overcome! Once more into the breach…!

We return from the wilds of Pennsylvania!

Over the Thanksgiving holiday, I painted part of a church, got a very nice haircut, ate rather a lot of pie, dyed my remaining hair blonde in a fit of experimentation, bought a rusted iron pig head, and was subjected to a diet so free of preservatives and artificial flavors that I am left with an uncontrollable urge to mainline Red Dye #4 until my body is restored to its normal equilibrium.

I also didn’t check my e-mail once, and don’t think I’m not dreading it.

More updates to follow, when I haven’t just driven for eight solid hours, through fog.

Bookstore Encounters

So I was chatting with my Mom t’other day, and learned that they do not have the complete Narnia chronicles for my brother. They have The Lion, The Witch and the Ugly,* but not the rest of the series. Lacking any used bookstores in the particular ass-end of nowhere area they reside, they had no opportunity to pick ’em up, and hadn’t got around to ordering them used on Amazon (where the shipping would vastly exceed the cost of the books anyway.)

I vowed that this could not stand. No child should be deprived of the opportunity to be furiously disillusioned by the hidden agenda of C.S. Lewis! And that aside, c’mon, they were fabulous books, they had Talking Beasts, they influenced me heavily (and indeed, I wouldn’t have been nearly so pissed at Lewis if I hadn’t felt that Narnia and fantasy and Talking Beasts were so incredibly IMPORTANT, and that he had cheapened this wonderful thing by trying to pull a fast one on me. But we’ve been over that already, god knows. Regardless, nobody should grow up without Narnia, for good and ill.) I own a few of them–every now and then I get the urge to re-read ’em–but when I was out at the used bookstore, selling some books to buy books for the trip, I thought “Hmm, should look for the others.”

I strolled into the back, to the children’s section, spotted the familiar white bindings and bold font, and was actually lifting my hand as I approached when a portly gentleman swept in front of me and grabbed the lot of ’em off the shelf. We’ll give him the benefit of the doubt–I was approaching from the side, and he came straight on down the perpendicular aisle, so perhaps he didn’t see me. I cursed silently. Damn! WHY did I stop to read the back of the Chanur Saga omnibus? I already knew what it was about! The series had been out for what, decades? What was I thinking?

However, I had been fairly beaten, and so I was checking idily for any stray books in the series, when the gentlemen began to throw a fit.

Seems that the series was incomplete. It was missing TLTWTW, Voyage of the Dawn Treader, and the Magician’s Nephew. He stomped through the children’s section, looking for the strays, then accosted the nice young man at the front, with whom I’d been commiserating about House of Leaves a few minutes prior, demanding the whereabouts of the missing volumes. He was told that obviously, it was a used bookstore, they had fairly limited control over the inventory, and if it wasn’t on the shelf, they weren’t hiding it, it probably just wasn’t there. He fumed. He stomped back and continued scouring. He muttered furiously to himself–“Where are they? These are four! Four! One, two…” He kept counting them, as if expecting the missing books to materialize, like that trick where you count your fingers backwards and they add up to eleven. More muttering. Fuming. Muttering. I slunk out towards the front, and was calculating my total vs. store credit when he swept past me, still in a rage, and out the door, carrying no books.

Like an owl on a mouse carcass flung off the deck at 2 AM, like Blackadder upon the hapless Baldrick, I descended. He’d shoved them back in completely the wrong place (yet another sin!) but I found them and bore them to the front, where for a mere six dollars, they became mine. I took them home, where they joined, ironically enough, a copy of TLTWTW, Voyage of the Dawn Treader, and the Magician’s Nephew that some artist I may know in passing had an itch to read some months ago and had picked up at a local used bookstore of her acquaintence.

“If he comes back, you didn’t see me,” I told the nice young man at the counter, as I paid for the books.

“You were never here,” he assured me. “I don’t know where these books could have gone to.”

Funny how these things work out…

*A rich, sweeping novel which culminates in a gruesome scene where a poncho-clad Lion with No Name makes Eustace balance on a stone faun with a noose around his neck, then rides off, centaur-back, with the loot, pausing only to shoot the rope at the last minute. Also, there is an excellent musical score.

Morning Report

The unsettlingly happy squirrel is out on the deck, grooming himself with great gusto, and still a little happier than one wants a male squirrel to be. Unless one’s a female squirrel, presumably.

His happiness is untroubled by either the frosty temperatures or his gaping head wound, a small bald and bloody patch behind his left ear. Something may have bitten him–it’s small and oddly located for a botfly hole. It doesn’t seem to be crampin’ his style, though. I don’t know if I’d be in that kind of mood if I had a gaping head wound, but then, I’m not a male squirrel.

Last night, in a five hour spasm of insanity, I finished the giant naked mole rat piece, which will require photography to upload, which won’t happen until after Thanksgiving. I’m not sure why I was so driven to get it done last night–I would have had a good four days upon our return to work on it–but it was very late and I was exhausted, and it just hit that kind of mental critical mass where it becomes easier to prop myself up against the easel and keep flailing than try to stop.

Today, more trip prep. Woo.

Today was one of those days when I got so much done, I feel like Superwoman.

This happens virtually never, so it’s notable. Today I ran off prints, mailed ten sets of prints, ran off more prints, hand-delivered three more sets of prints (all at Mr. Toad’s, so it’s only the one trip, but still) scoured toy stores for specific Harry Potter Legos for Max, bought organic candy and a Spiders of the World poster(also for Max) scanned and uploaded a sketch, sold said sketch, sold the Mouse Dryad (okay, that required only answering an e-mail, but still, das’ a good feeling) answered a bunch of e-mail, set up more print orders, did the fourth Digger in a week, picked up prescriptions, vaccuumed the house, got various routing numbers from the bank, paid bills, and slapped down some more paint on a huge 24 x 36 painting of a naked mole rat that, in a fit of total psychosis that I cannot even recall the justification for, I blithely promised the owner of the Toad that I would have done in time for her grand opening Nov. 2nd.

So it was a productive day. Also, I can’t feel my brain.

So last night, James and I were disrobing for bed. James was down to a T-shirt and boxers, and I was struggling with the age-old question of whether or not to wear socks to bed, since my feet were cold.

James had just sent his boxers southward when he froze, and made a terrible “AWWWWWWwwwwwwhhhh…” of dismay.

Now, when someone removes their underwear and then breaks into a moan of despair, I automatically assume something has prolapsed, or collapsed, or whatever maladies afflict all the squishy little non-user-serviceable parts of the male anatomy. I froze with a sock in my hand. “What? WHAT?!”

James reapplied his underwear and let out another “Owwwwhhhhh…” And sighed, heavily.

I leapt to my single-sock-clad feet and came over, anticipating a trip to the emergency room or a hernia or something. However, to my mingled relief and mild dismay, James was fine. He was, however, gazing at a dead mouse (hence the dismay.)

“AWWWWWwwwwwhhh…” I said.

Athena had apparently dispatched the furry invader at some point while we were oblivious. We praised her for being a ferocious Mousebane. However, we still had to deal with the body. James wanted to flush it. I refused on the grounds that One Does Not Flush Mice. “You flush FISH!” he said. “Mice aren’t fish!” “Some fish are bigger than mice…you flush them…well, maybe not something the size of a carp…” “You don’t flush MICE!”

I suggested we just wing it off the deck into the darkness of the woods and let nature take its course. (I was still wandering around in a lone sock, and pretty much just wanted to get to bed.) James was aghast at this notion. One does not fling corpses willy-nilly off the deck! At least, not in a well-organized household! My arguments that A) it’s 40-degrees out and the mouse would keep for awhile, and B) maybe an owl would eat it and C) had he perhaps noted that I was wearing one sock and was tired, damnit? fell on deaf ears.

At last we compromised, as one might expect, with Burial At Can, wherein the rodent hero was sent off to his rodent Valhalla in a double-bagg’d wrap as white as the wing of a swan, emblazoned with the ancient runes of Hefty, and laid to rest in a forest green plastic cairn, there to dwell until the Valkyries of Public Service come and escort him to the Promised Land. I said a few words. The words were “Well, at least she left it on the floor, not the pillow,” but it’s the thought that counts.

Name That Artist!

This is makin’ me crazy.

Long long ago, I was looking for some artist or other, and I tripped over one of those endless Gallery of Stuff sites, where there’s art by the score and nonexistant documentation. And here the real toll of such things come out, because some of the art had a really cool style, with no name, and I have been completely unable to find who the artist was, and I want to see more, damnit!

So! Does anybody recognize this person’s stuff? The name “Clarke” shows up in the file names, but various google searches for clarke and art and illustration and myth and everything I could possibly think of turned up nothin’. I’d really like to find out who this is, because they’ve got a really interesting style. The site these were on is long gone, of course, so I can’t even track it down there.

Anybody recognize it?

I am starting to get into the Christmas spirit.

God help us all.

I am not by nature Christmasy. Actually, by nature I most resemble Squidward from Spongebob Squarepants, a resemblance that my mother occasionally calls me up to mention. Assuming that Squidward was allowed to quit retail and pursue his art career, and was much happier for it, it’d be a dead ringer. I’ve even got the nose and the nasal voice. (This was on my mind because there’s a certain time of day on Saturday when, if you’ve already seen the crappy Sci-Fi movie of the day, Spongebob is the only thing on.)

But anyway Christmas. I am feelin’ it. It might be that the air is the perfect temperature for Christmas–cold enough to have a bit of a bite, but warm enough to be completely negated by a coat. It might be this gingerbread tea I got, the taste of which I am ambivalent on, but the smell of which is divine.* It might be that I’m preparing to go up to the parents’ place for Thanksgiving. It may be that the slate-sided juncoes are bopping around on the roof, looking too picturesque for words, and requiring only tiny santa hats to plunge over the edge into the sort of adorable that makes you slit your wrists with a sharpened candy cane. It may be that I had a slice of pumpkin pie at the coffee shop the other day.

Regardless, I feel it. Like a snarky salmon who has been bitterly avoiding that whole swimming upstream thing for years, and mocking the other salmon, I am somewhat horrified to feel the twinge. It’s a subdued twinge. I will not get a tree. I will not wear holly in my hair. But I could see getting a tasteful wreath for the door, and even that is like leaping screaming into the abyss. Taped Christmas carols cannot be far behind. And then it’ll be a full-scale Christmas infestation, and there’ll be nothing for it but nailing up the doors and setting fire to the house.

Remember me fondly.

*This is also how I feel about chai. Taste doesn’t really work for me, but I love the smell.

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