July 2006

Today is July 31st!

And that means tomorrow is August 1st, which means that, lord willing and the creek don’t rise, Digger 2 will be going on sale on-line.

As usual, there are a limited number of signed copies. I signed until my hand was limp, I really did, but I can only do so much, so order early if you want a signed copy!


Elder Porcupine


This is the one where the sky kicked my ass in real media, so I went digital. It’s a silly piece, but I liked it, since while I have painted many a hedgehog, I have largely neglected the noble porcupine, who is one of the most wonderfully textured creatures in all of creation.

I also discovered that there’s a lack of really good photo ref for porcupines. You’d think that people were afraid to get close up to the things for some unfathomable reason…

Today I’m burning a cd of files for the upcoming art book project from Ellen Million. This involves me digging through my computer’s innards trying to locate old art–I know more or less where everything is that I’ve done in the last coupla years, but some things from way back when are still trapped at the bottom of endless corridors of folders.

This had led me to believe that A) I am much, much, much too prolific, and B) Good lord, some of this stuff sucks! I have seen things unfit for mortal eyes. Every sin an artist can commit ‘pon the innocent page, in places, has been committed.

There’s a reason I stay out of those old folders.

But at the same time, I do occasionally get a flash of “Hey! Hello, old friend! I’d forgotten about you!” And that’s nice. Even paintings that are hopelessly and agonizingly flawed–sometimes there’s a moment or two in there. And there’s a few unfinished paintings that I will probably never finish now, but which I go “Hey! That coulda been cool!”

Some day, I will die, and Satan* will lead me, cringing, through that enormous art gallery in hell that contains every scrap and every doodle I have made, from the cradle to the grave. And like all artists, the gallery will not be big enough, or long enough, or good enough. There’s no getting around that bit.

But at least that bastard’s feet’ll ache by the time we get to the end of mine.

*Possibly I’ll have been good, and it’ll be Ganesh, at an enormous gallery gala with little rats roaming around in tuxedos, carrying plates of cocktail weenies and cheese. But now I’m muddling my pantheons badly, which is probably a sin, too…

So Nurk has started to garner its first rejection slips.

I actually feel good about this, and I’ll tell you why.

The first two things I heard back about Nurk were variations on “Love it, love it, lot of potential, really would like to publish it, is the author willing to do a re-write addressing the following points?” and one “Love it, but having a hard time getting it past marketing–if we can get a proposal on this other project, though, Ursula will then be one of Large Nameless Publisher’s stable of authors, and it’ll be a lot easier to get Nurk past ’em.” (Apparently this is one way publishing works. I found that interesting.)

Not being willing to jinx it, I’ll just say that one of the publishers is lookin’ promising, and if I don’t kill it with the rewrite,* I think it might actually sell to them. And they are a large name. I have heard of them and everything. But don’t get excited or congratulatory yet–nothing is certain until there is a contract in one’s hands.

Because I am a believer in worst case scenarios, I had sort of assumed that these were the positive ones in a sea of rejections, and my agent just wasn’t passing on the rejections. (Hey, I’m new to this stuff!) So when I got these two rejections, I realized, to my surprise, that she hadn’t been filtering the bad stuff–just hadn’t had any rejections come back yet. Which means we’re three positive and two negative, and frankly, I’m pretty sure that’s a great ratio. (After all, you only need ONE positive to sell the book…)

The other really funny thing is the disovery that it’s absolutely true–editors are wildly different. (Almost like real people in that regard! Good lord! Do other writers know about this?)

Every single response talked about the writing. Two of them were specifically enthusiastic about it and thought it was the strongest part of the book. The other two used phrases like “overdone” and “fell flat.” (They were in the main polite rejections, I hasten to add, I’m picking out the worst phrases. I have never had an editor be anything but desperately courteous to me.) It’s the same writing, and yet the range of responses is sort of amusing. I bear these editors no ill will. (Well, very little.) It’s just so…weird, somehow! Perhaps I’m just astonished by the sheer subjectivity of it all–and yet I shouldn’t be at all. But I still am, somehow. My own bias there amuses me.

So I guess it’s true–you really can’t quit after one rejection. Like many things I’ve heard about writing, it actually looks true now that I’m poking at it. And yet, I could see getting discouraged easily–back in the day, I stopped sending out “Black Dogs” after a pitifully small number of rejections, even though they were nice and included personalized and lengthy notes from the editor, which is apparently a helluva good sign, because I didn’t know what I was doing. (Of course, that cleared the way for Sofawolf later, so it all worked out in the end.) And honestly, if I hadn’t gotten the nice notes about Nurk first, I might be gnawing my fingernails down and making plans to change my entire writing style. And that would have been a mistake.

So, err–I don’t know if I have a point, but if anybody out there is working on stuff–really, honestly, don’t quit after the first coupla rejection slips, I guess.

I’ll keep a tally and see how many Nurk runs up before somebody actually decides to buy it. Keep your fingers crossed, gang…

*The points they wanted addressed were all quite plausible, and the sort I’d expect during editing anyway–my fear is more that I’ll bungle the handling than that they want bad things. My experience with “Black Dogs” was that that the editor is the person who keeps you from embarassing yourself in front of the readers, not a murderer of one’s precious prose, anyway. Not to mention performing a valuable comma-ectomy before the commas spread to important parts of the text.

I spent most of today working on the background for a painting–a plain, ordinary sky.

Hours passed, much like a kidney stone.

At around five pm I screamed “SCREW YOU, REAL MEDIA!” slammed the door my studio, stomped downstairs, and pulled up Photoshop, where the delicate graded effect I was after took about forty-five seconds.


I know pretty well what I can and can’t do in real and digital media, but I still have to try and push it regularly, just in case I surprise myself. Sometimes I get lucky…and sometimes I ruin a perfectly good piece of illo board.

So this will be a digital painting.

A plaintive, if disgusting request.

So Thursday I go in to the urologist for an exam. The exact nature of the complaint I shall spare the reader, save only to say that All Is Not Well In Bladdertown.

I asked my doctor if this exam would involve a catheter, and she make the noncommital noise while-not-meeting-my-eyes thing that indicates that it’s entirely likely I will spend part of Thursday with things inserted in that land where stuff was not meant to go. (She did the same thing when I asked if my nerve conduction test was going to hurt. In case anyone’s wondering, that hurts like death on a stick.)

This does not fill Ursula with glee.

I do not want to google about this sort of thing, because I am not keen on fifty million horror stories, plus photos, about how catheters are a conspiracy of holistic medicine, how the catheter killed and ate my cousin, how if anyone is catheterized, the terrorists have won, etc, etc. So I will throw myself ‘pon the mercy of my readership, who collectively appear to have had every medical procedure known to man short of autopsy, and I wouldn’t even rule that out.

Will this hurt? Is it more uncomfortable than a pap smear? I know it’s supposed to be much easier on females, having rather less distance to travel. Are we talking ten seconds of lying back and thinking of England, or twenty minutes of unbridled misery? What is the scoop? How nervous do I have to be?

Dream Theatre

Man, I just woke up from a helluva dream. There’s a thunderstorm going on, but it’s not raining, so the air is very hot and heavy and oppressive, which doesn’t help.

I dreamed I was living in this weird house, with tiny doors, full of Asian furniture, and for most of the dream, things were pretty normal–handymen would stop by to ask if I needed to buy a truck, or to get drainage ditches done. And one of the handymen started reciting poetry at me, this long, dramatic poem, which would probably be completely nonsensical, but which ended with the line from Shakespeare, “to give to airy nothing a local habitation and a name.”

Fine and good, fair enough.

Then stuff started to get really weird. The other people in the neighborhood were watching me, and little things were going wrong with the house. This strange little creature, like a fat black chibi cat thingy, was out to get me–it was mostly just a minor badness, but it kept leading these blue wind creatures with angular faces to find me, and they were definitely bad. I was getting more and more freaked out, and then somebody knocks on the door.
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A small and quick amusement–a really pudgy, stylized Ambulocetus. In a beret. Wearing glasses.


I suspect he recites one-line poetry during Open Mike Night.

Hey, neat! Was just out in the garden, and saw one of these on my lantana!


It’s a huge butterfly, nearly the size of my hand.

Edit: And a few minutes, later, on the same lantana, a tiger swallowtail, also enormous and…defective. A good chunk of his right side lower wing, including the swallowtail bit was missing. This did not seem to be slowing him up much–he took to the air several times, circling the yard, before returning to the lantana.

It would be wrong to be happy to see an injured butterfly, and yet, I can’t escape the feeling of normalcy that the sight of defective-but-functioning wildlife evokes in me.

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