Friday, October 21, 2011

The Four-Points of Death

The Grim-Reaper type characters from The Static-Lands Saga.  From Ilkhan mythology, but not mythology believed by all.  These characters were breifly outlined in the story "The Last Dream" and the dog-character was featured in "Overridden."  This is thus-far. I am thinking of more stories featuring this particular mythology-of-death.  

The Hart of Gold - He takes souls to a favorable afterlife, to the cliff leading to a mysterious place called the Celestial Forest.  Acrylic and ink (with some glitter) over watecolor paper painted with a "tea" I made from dead maple leaves.

The Wandering Cat - She deals with ghosts / spirits caught in a wandering state.  Clients who didn't believe in the afterlife and are surprised to find themselves there are common charges of hers.  Very snarky. Based on the family cat.  Acrylic and ink over marble-print paper (that I had leftover from some papercraft project).

The Diamond-Eyed Dog - He deals with people who are destined to be reincarnated.  Suicides are common charges of his.  Acrylic and ink over watercolor paper stained with roobios/red-bush tea.

The Lady of Chains - She takes people to the bad place... not "hell" as we know it (and as another, extinct religion of the Static-Lands knew it), but the Barrens - an empty desert were cruel, petty souls are destined to wander, alone with their shame and their thoughts for eternity or until they change enough to find the direction out of that place - whatever comes first.  It may not be burning sulfur, but you still don't want to see the Lady when you die.  Also known as the Scavenger (and the horse is "Andreas" which is a very weird little reference I'll explain if you ask nicely), this character has actually been recycled from an earlier work - a fantasy novel I wrote some time ago but am no longer happy with.  I still liked the character, so I repurposed her.   Acrylic and ink over watercolor paper stained with soy sauce. 

I may make a print available at my Deviant Art space as soon as I reconfoobulate my print-sale information there.  Sorry about the small size here - my print-setup size is a nice, big 16 x20.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Our Magical World

 Our Magical World

This is something odd I got to thinking about last night when browsing some opinion on miracles, visions and whatnot. 

Many people seem to lament that we do not live in a world where we see visions, dream prophetic dreams and have miracles happen all the time – like in fantasy otherworlds, or in legendary times (or for some, like in Biblical times.  I read somewhere – can’t remember where, about some scholar saying “of course the Bible is full of miracles and special events, those were the things that got *written down* while the mundane stuff that happened all the time wasn’t of note”).  Whether or not dusty old books and legends are true in any sense is beside the point… if true, it would make sense, just because – think about it.  In a thousand years time, will people think that every day was a terrorist attack for us? The violence and revolutions and society-shaking things are what gets written down, not Shadsie and Bob go grocery shopping and do their laundry.

Though, considering the advent of blogs and Twitter, that may be changing.  (No, as yet, I don’t Tweet – I have neither a capable phone, nor the desire to). 

It seems to me, the more I think about fantasy worlds, the more it seems that our world is pretty magical, too.  I think we only see it as mundane because we are used to it and because we have explanations for it. 

Magic, in fiction, seems to be distinct from both “miracle” and “technology / science,” yet the differences between them all can be quite subtle.  Magic seems to be opposed to Miracle because Miracle is something that you implore of God/the Gods and hope for or is an unexpected gift from the Powers that Be, while Magic is something that people control, wield.  Technology is something that people control and wield, but unlike magic, is something explained, something that’s understood and doesn’t come from mystery, but from scientific knowledge. Then, of course there are magical creatures and artifacts.  These things can all meld together in fiction (so much that there’s the term “magitek” – magical technology ) but it seems that the distinction is mainly in “level of control” and “level of knowledge” combined. 

In our world we have technology where we used to have magic.  I don’t think this means that the “magic has gone away” merely that we have other terms and other ways of thinking about it.  In fact, in a way, I think our world is a world of “arch-mages.”  

I can speak to someone across the ocean in an instant via phone or via the Internet when a century ago, a letter sent from Pennsylvania to Great Britain would have taken weeks, and would it have even gotten to Singapore? If I get sick and someone for some misguided reason decided mine was a life worth saving, I could get a new kidney transplanted into me from the fresh corpse of some poor accident victim and go on living.  I’m going to go off to my rather old-fashioned job in a speedy wagon lacking beast-of-burden powered by the remains of the long dead.  (Or if you want me to get really fantasy-ish, “long dead dragons”). 

Yet, these things are mundane to us (and some of us are still whining “where’s my jet pack?” and “where’s my flying car?” or “why can’t I set you on fire with my mind?”), because to us they are very ordinary and (we think) we know how they work.  Honestly, I don’t know how exactly, this thing I’m typing on (computer) works, though my guy knows…

This is becoming something of a known trope in fantasy fiction wherein someone from our world goes into another world.  A favorite example for me is in the anime and light novel series “The Twelve Kingdoms” – a Wuxia (oriental fantasy/Chinese mythology based fantasy).  The first part of the saga deals with a teenager from 1990s Tokyo being transported to the world of the Twelve Kingdoms.  The Twelve Kingdoms are based on a great many spiritual laws – the kings and queens (“lady kings” in the books, to denote their authority) are chosen by Kirins (sacred animals born upon a sacred mountain), immortals walk among men and babies (all babies) grow on sacred trees.  The girl from Earth, Yoko, meets a half-rat person (Rakashun) who lives in this world she finds amazing, yet is open about his disbelief in the gods.  When Yoko starts telling her friend about her world, Rakashun, upon hearing about things like cars, highways, airplanes and elevators exclaims “Surely, yours is the Land of the Gods!” 

An example, (again, from anime, I watch too much of that stuff…) of “the extraordinary becoming ordinary” comes from a quirky half-comedy/half-melancholy series titled “NieA Under Seven” -  that line “the extraordinary has become ordinary” is spoken of in the first episode!  The series is the story about an impoverished student and a freeloading alien who squats in her apartment.  Most series’ where a person has a space alien in their closet would portray it as an amazing, spooky mystery. Not this series.  NieA is an annoyance / awkward friend and not much more because in the series’ story, aliens crash landed on Earth years ago, they’ve become integrated into Japanese society and it’s just not a big deal anymore.  (It’s a bit like a much less serious “Alien Nation,” … kinda.  NieA’s people weren’t slaves, just very oddball, though the series does deal with class-issues).     

In short, I think looking for miracles is overrated.  I do believe in them, but I don’t think they’d be special anymore if they were common. In fact, they would cease to be miracles by category.  Also, while we look for magic and enjoy the wonderful ways of magic fiction can afford, we shouldn’t find ourselves too put-out that we live in a “mundane” world. Change your perspective and realize the magic of where we do live.  Try to see some of the extraordinary in the ordinary. 

As much as we get bored with the day to day, if we met people from some of our favorite other worlds, they might see us all as arch-mages or gods and our world as quite exciting and extraordinary, indeed. 

I’ll leave you with this from “Futurama” – “Your BORING time?  Fry, didn’t you live when they cracked the human genome and boy bands roamed the earth?!” __ Prof. Farnsworth to his 20th century uncle.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Query Letter for "A World of Rusted Dreams"

On a whim, I've decided to post here the latest version of my genreal query letter for one of my novels.  A World of Rusted Dreams is completely unrelated to the Static-Lands Saga.  I have sent this letter out, but I still thought maybe readers at the blog can give me some insight, particuarly if anyone out there is familiar with literary query letters and their formatting.  I have read about how to do it in guides and on blogs.  I try to keep queries for all my works short and professional, but, thus far, it hasn't netted me any professional interest. 

A World of Rusted Dreams, by the way, seems to be the start, in force, of my whole spiritual ambiguity kick in my fantasy fiction.  For those of you who go to TV Tropes, the "Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane" trope is pretty much its entire premise. 

I also have a version of this letter I drew up to the tune/theme of the song Paperback Writer by the Beatles.  My lifemate, Bob, cautioned me against actually using that one, however, because of something about wet, fuzzy sponges.  (Don't ask).   May post the Paperback Writer version upon request.

The Letter:

Contact Information Goes Here.

To Literary Agent-Type Organism, (an agent's actual name goes here, of course)

A World of Rusted Dreams is a fantasy / young adult novel exploring the concept of faith, told through the lives of two young people on a journey across a broken land with their respective spiritual guardians.  Mira is a fourteen-year-old girl who lives in Rust, a town surviving on the remains of an ancient city.  Discontent to remain there without having at least one great adventure in her life, she summons a Guardian from the Heavens to protect her on a journey to her nation’s capitol, Resurrection.  Guardian creatures are commonality for the people of Rust, so, Lazarus - Mira’s new horned-lion with giant leathery wings - does not strike people there as strange at all.  This is not so in the outside world, where most people do not believe in Guardians and therefore do not see them. 

Mira’s best friend, Noel, tags along on her journey with his own Guardian, a little wildcat named Geronimo.  When the group reaches the capitol city, the two young people find themselves dealing with a populace that does not see their companions or other things that they are aware of and are hostile to the ways of their home.  Mira finds herself in an unlikely friendship with the ruler of her land while Noel becomes responsible for the capture of a serial murderer.  They learn about differing perceptions of existence and about the nature of hope and imagination as they guard and are guarded by their supernatural companions in a world that is dangerous to both. 

I have written other novel-length works but am keeping them on the back burner at this time.  A World of Rusted Dreams is best classed as a work of philosophical youth-fantasy that doesn’t fit the usual genre-fare.  I promise that it does not have a unicorn or a dragon in it.  If you happen to be interested in that, one of my back-burner novels features such things.  I am also an artist and have worked professionally in that field as a graphic designer, although I currently work as a stable hand at a horse farm.

I seek your kind permission to send you a synopsis or a manuscript upon request for review.

Shadsie (Real name appears on actual letter) 

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Looking for Meaning in the Land of Poo

At work tonight in the Land of Poo (I work at a horse farm as a stable-hand), I was thinking about how I wish I had a meaning to my life. 

I'm a little upset right now because my duties have been cut back.  I did my normal cleaning of the stalls work tonight, but my work has been cut back to doing stupid odd jobs around the farm for most days because someone else who works there, some new girl, needed more hours.  I don't even know what's going on - if this girl is a friend of a friend or something, but she apparently quit a waitressing job and now needs more barn work.  My significant other put it best talking with me when he came to pick me up: "What they don't seem to understand here is that you NEED this work because you can't work with people.* This girl obviously can."

I'll still be getting paid the same - I have a weird salary kind of thing worked out - it's just that the work I'll be doing is different, but I still cannot shake the feeling that I'm being humored, that I have the work that I have because I am pitied, or because of possible discrimination issues being feared.  Everyone at my job knows I have a mental illness. In fact, I got the job because a friend of the farm's owner worked with (and now runs) a job-service for disabled people that the people I get mental health services from referred me to.

And, no, no one at my place of work knows of this blog.  And I don't Facebook.  So, it's safe for me to work-rant here.

Even with the regular-work (which made me feel needed and useful), it was still... scooping horse poo. I like it better than any other job I've had (with the possible exception of graphic design for newspapers - if my bosses weren't dinguses, and that one job at a zoo - that was fun), but still, it's a low-pay, lowly job without hope of advancement and something that anybody (provided they're physically fit, aren't afraid of horses and don't mind a little dirt) can do. 

And I guess I just got to thinking about how meaningless my life is.  I just don't do anything important, or anything irreplacable.  And it's not like I think I can do better right now, either.  

It seems like the things that I am fairly good at - things that I think could help the world - are things that aren't paid that much attention to. 

I've never been able to make a living as an artist.  My childhood dream was "to become an artist."  It can be said that I live that dream, but the problem is, I've never been able to feed myself on it, or to get my art to be anything "known." The closest thing I've come is the sale of a couple of my painted animal skulls to someone who found me via Deviant Art and a friend.  It came at a critical time for me and my guy... we were being forced out of our rental house (at the Holidays, no less).  That once-in-a-blue-moon sale of my work paid just enough of our deposit for us to be able to keep our cat (pet deposit), so we didn't have to give her to a shelter or re-introduce her to her former feral life.  I also got a graphic design degree (associates) and have done some graphic design work, but it wasn't particularly meaningful.  All I ever did was lay up ads for skeevy real estate agents and Italian resturants. 

There is something I've noticed as an artist: Loads of people think of you as some kind of mystical creature of talent that owes them free art.  Seriously - people want you to draw this, do that and will get a bit angry with you if you ask for compensation for the luxury.  Sure, I'm willing to humor friends and cute children, but sometimes, one has to say that one deserves to eat and have gas, too. (Gas for the CAR)!  It's honestly got to be like what happens to "the guy who knows computers" (like my Bob) - once people know that, everyone asks for free computer repairs.  (He'll do so for friends, but I have reminded him of the taking-advantage).  

As people who read stories here know - I want to be a writer.  Herein also lies a problem.  It seems that the only people who ever get known and change the world in any way anymore with this stuff are already-famous people who happen to write a book on a whim (or have one ghostwritten), or people who "know someone"  (relatives and so forth) in the publishing industry. 

People tell me I'm good (at writing), but I never know if I'm "good enough."  I can say this, though - I'm SICK of people reviewing my FAN-FICTION (not on this site, I post at and various fandom-specific sites and boards) with glowing praise about how I "should write a novel with my own characters!" because I'm so good.  I DO THAT. ALREADY.  I even have this place and my Deviant Art account linked on my profile/signitures so people can easily click and see my original/non-fandom work, but I still get these reviews from apparently oblivious people). If someone wants to read original work from me, it's not like I make it difficult to find at all. 

Of course, I'm just not sure my work will ever get professionally published.  Not only do I lack the right connections, my work tends to be off-kilter.  It seems like every publisher/agency profile I read speaks of thier people wanting to find something unconventional, breakthrough, so on and so forth, yet, what do I see on the bookshelves and in online book promotions?  Seems like it's all more of the same, status quo.  My genre of interest is fantasy - what do people seem to want in that? The stuff that's popular and has always worked.  (Not that there's anything wrong with that - my very favorite videogame series is The Legend of Zelda and it's a fantasy cliche'-storm. It's what makes it work, in fact - every new game is a play-able fairy tale and the old games are like those old friends on your bookshelf you never get tired of).  

I've been told by a friend that he found my work to have a flavor like that of Madeleine L'Engle - "Quirky with spiritual undertones."  (We were talking about a specific work of mine not appearing on this blog, one of my novels).  Another friend told me that L'Engle took a very long time and a lot of rejection before A Wrinkle in Time was published.  I can see why - it's a very unconventional fantasy story - ahead of it's time, but I think something like it might have trouble getting published today. 

So, if my work is really like that in any way... Yeah... it's probably not going anywhere for a long time, if it goes anywhere at all. 

Then there are people who might see some of the "spiritual" my work and ask me why I don't try the Christian market.  The best explaination of why I'd want to avoid it might be best summed up by this blog post by Buzz Dixon.  "Porn to Christian Media: We're Not So Different" 

In short, I guess I can say that the stuff I'm good at, the stuff I really want to do, the stuff that I think really gives me value in this world is all just stuff that isn't getting known, getting me a living or even anything anyone's going to know after I'm dead unless something really interesting happens in my life.  Until then, I guess I'll be doing odd jobs in the Land of Poo, hoping to keep even that and hoping for a miracle or to find some kind of meaning.

And, no, I don't have kids and don't plan on having any... I'm sure I've mentioned somewhere on here before my being aesexual.  I also don't want to bring kids into the world to deal with a crazy mom. So, no I can't look for meaning in the "normal" places most seem to find it, either.


* Regarding my dealing with other homo sapiens...I can deal with human-type entities better online, slightly. Sometimes, even there I screw up. I know that a couple of people who've read me came over from Slacktivist.  My awkwardness is why I don't post commentary there anymore.  A little while ago, I said something stupid and got slammed (to the point that a few people seemed to have thought I was a troll).  I don't think admitting defeat and apologizing even mattered - I said something dumb I was wrong to say, got slammed by smart people and now I feel like I cannot comment there anymore.  I still read the blog, I've just opted to remain silent.  I wouldn't be surprised or even blame anyone who followed my blog from there if you've left/not wanted to read me anymore because of my stupidity that day.