Design 7307

The Kings of Swing [CD]

by on Feb.07, 2011, under Art, Illustration

Last year my father asked if I could help him produce the Album art for the latest CD from The Kings of Swing, a big band jazz group that he has been operating the last few years.

I know he wasn”t expecting much, some simple text and images, but I decided I would do it right and focus on producing a more appropriate image for the ablum cover, something that would represent the band appropriately and represent my artistic styles.

The Kings of Swing CD Cover
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Death By Recourse – Chapter One

by on Nov.17, 2009, under Writing

Finally, I’ve put to rest and connected enough text to post an additional chapter. This was from a spurt of energy on Sunday that netted some progress that I am happy with. Technically the Introduction and Chapter One are one and the same, but for the sake of posting this here, they will be separate.

#NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month has been considerably harder to manage than expected. There are various reasons for this, Family visiting for a weekend, long days/overtime at work, and the always present procrastination. At the tail of the opening weekend, my progress dropped off to a slow crawl of sentences and small paragraphs at a time, I was reinvigorated though by the support of the core group of 5 (which recently expanded to six) of fellow #NaNoWriMo writers at work. We all decided to pass each others’ stories around and give some feedback/critique, and generally BS about where we want our stories to go, problems we are having and other experiences related to each of our individual efforts. After the first session of passing the stories around I was completely out of congealed content to pass to my reader for the session. This forced requirement of a Reader pushed me to the edge, and netted me 4000 words in a night. Most of it was that motivation that I had to produce something, anything, for someone else to read. The group also had an interesting discussion about writing for your audience, the one person who’s going to read the book, that you are writing for. Without that person it can be hard to determine direction, and for me, build motivation. So in the future I’m going to make sure I’ve assigned a “reader”,  and have regular discussions with them to keep me rolling.

So for the evening I give you.

Death By Recourse – Chapter One

Christie and the Orphanage

Miss Christie stepped out of the carriage and onto the cobbled street below. The heels of her boots clapped roughly along the stone, scuffling away the white flurries attracted to the black leather. By most standards, Miss Christie would be considered an old maid, childless and husbandless, she had no family to speak of. She was tall and slender, covered from head to toe in black sharply tailored fabric. Her mostly gray hair, classically primp bent, chiseled out the deep protruding features of her hollowed face. It wasn’t unusual for a crowd of people to separate as she approached. It was well known among the townspeople of Lenore that Miss Christie would destroy anything that got in her way of going about her business. She lived on the outskirts of town, in a lavish mansion along the riverside, and rarely came into town. On the rare occasion when she graced the streets with her ornery presence, the people made sure to make themselves scarce. It was no different today. Outside of those attempting to operate their businesses, the cobblestones were silent of unnecessary feet.

With a slap of the door, and a whistle, Christie called away the carriage and began the ascent up the steps of the decaying structure in front of her. Despite the money she invested into the building, the Orphanage remained in a constant state of collapse. It wasn’t that her money was being spent recklessly, she made sure of that. But by the nature of this town, a central hub of chaos for the surrounding cities, the Orphanage saw an unusual number of tenants, turning over up to a dozen children a month. With the constant beating of feet, throwing of food against walls, and ever present slamming of doors, the brick and wooden clasped walls could only bare so much, its bruised exterior stained with the blood and tears from decades worth of bastards.

She approached the brass handled door and pulled. It loosened slightly and tweaked along its hinges, but quickly sucked back into place. On the other side of the door Miss Christie could hear the scuffling of feet and straining grunts of someone exerting far more effort than their body was capable of sustaining. She reached deep into her coat pocket and extracted a thinly wrapped carmel covered sugar cane stick. Bending down slightly she slipped the sweetness into and through the keyhole, threading the sugar cane like a thief picking the lock. She swirled it around, tipped it and jiggled until she heard the struggling from the other side relax. The light emitting from the keyhole vanished, as did the caramel stick. A soft drag and thump from the other side of the door indicated that the poor waif had taken it. She soon began to hear the crinkling of the wrapper and creaking of wood as the child rest their back against the frame of the door.
Christie stood then and grasped the brass handle tightly. With a jerk she yanked on the metal pulling the bowing mass of cherry wood towards her. The child, now without a back rest tumbled backwards onto the step. Miss Christie released the door and swiftly grabbed the collar of the boy’s sweater tossing him into the front hallway of the orphanage, the caramel candy skidding to a halt next the steps leading upstairs. The boy attempt to get to his feet, but a swift clamp of Christie’s heeled boots in his back kept the child down.

“Name.” She rasped. “Now.”

The boy struggled in earnest writhing under the sharp thick leathered anvil holding him down. Christie squeezed and twisted her heel in harder, “Ugh.. Get off me you old hag!”

In a flash the boy was on his back and starring into the gray needled eyes of Miss Christie. “Name.” She whispered into his nostrils, an acrid, sickening sweet smell of caramel and cherries invaded his nose. He coughed and gagged at the smell. “Now.” She insisted again, digging her long skeleton fingers into his shoulders.

He cried out in pain and screamed. “Stop it! Your hurting me,” he managed to blurt out before Christie’s cold leathered and bony hand came up against his cheek and squeezed. “Arr…ferr! My name is Arr..fer.” He finally gave, as Miss Christie collapsed his cheeks together between fingers and thumb. She released the boy’s face immediately upon answer, though the redness in his cheeks wouldn’t be going anywhere soon.

“That wasn’t so hard now, was it, Arthur.” She spat out while reaching down for the piece of caramel resting against the stairs. She unwrapped the candy and rolled the sugared mass into a spiral and dropped it into her mouth. “Go fetch Mrs. Maple for me.”

The boy glanced skeptically at the scarecrow in front of him, considered kicking her in the shins, but decided against it as a scowl crossed her cud chewing face. Arthur rolled over to get away from Miss Christie and daftly bounced onto his feet, heading toward the back room. Soon Arthur was out of site and Christie could take in the front room. It wasn’t anything spectacular, though there was a Imperial Grand Piano, crested entirely in a matte black finish, resting in the far corner away from the windows. It hadn’t been here long, perhaps a year by Christie’s count. Irene Popov from across the street had taken an unhealthy interest in the orphans, insisting they be given the gift of music. Miss Christie thought it a vile thing, the off-tune, ear-bleeding, violent cacophony that the orphans spewed from their mouths and with their fingers when they plucked at the ivories. Still, it did provide a distraction from their otherwise miserable existence, and for that Christie was grateful to Mrs. Popov. The rest of the room was dwarfed by the piano. A set of arm chairs rested against the walls on either side and a massive rug lay between them. A small table was pushed up next to the stairs and was adorned with a pathetic knit mass. The mass used to be a beautiful runner covering the length of the table, but after years of abuse, was no more than a snot rag.

Upstairs Miss Christie could make out the sounds of a handful of children fighting over some toy, or a blanket, or access to the commode. It had been six months since her last visit, the chances of her knowing any of these children was unlikely, still she thought it worth checking just in case. Arthur’s face was certainly new to her, and his behavior was proof they had never met, though she was certain he wouldn’t be putting up a fight the next time.

Christie began to walk to the back room where she could hear the stifled cries of Arthur, and the reassuring coos from Mrs. Maple. Maple was a generous woman to be sure, but far too soft on these knock-a-bouts. She pressed open the door and walk into the musty room. The back room served as both Mrs. Maple’s office and her bedroom, leaving the room tightly packed full of books, magazines, knick-knacks, clothing of all shapes and sizes, and stacks upon stacks of papers and files outlining each and every orphan that had come and gone from this room.

“Ah, Miss Christie, I was expecting you.” Mrs. Maple spoke, gently chiding Arthur off of her lap. “Arthur, could you please make sure the rest of the children upstairs are ready for the daily inspection. I’ll be up in a moment once I’m done with Miss Christie.”

Arthur scowled at Christie and tried to squeeze past her. She stepped aside as he made an attempt to push between her woolen coat and the door frame, causing Arthur to lose balance and stagger through the doorway like a drunken swine. He recovered just before his balance was nearly lost, and turned to head upstairs.

“Sit down, please.” Maple chimed, her glowing cheeks lighting the otherwise ashen colored room.

Miss Christie stared at the seat opposite Mrs. Maple. The chair was covered in filth from the hundreds of orphans who had sat there, surely it was covered in snot and salted drippings, and was not fit for anyone to rest on. Ignoring Maple, Christie began, “You wrote to me a little over a week ago.”

“I did.” Replied Maple. She began sorting through some papers on her desk, methodically filtering out each sheet until her thumb rested on the one she was looking for. “I did indeed, I have been having trouble keeping track of all of the younglings that come and go.” She began as she pulled the paper loose from the stack. After glancing over the document briefly she handed the paper over to Miss Christie. “I believe this is the one you were looking for. A young girl, around 2 years of age. She has curly blonde hair and the sharpest green eye’s I’ve ever seen.”

“I see, and you think…”

“I do, at least she resembles the pictures you’ve provided.” Maple responded eagerly, not giving Miss Christie the chance to finish.

“Where is this girl now?” Christie asked.

“Upstairs with the other’s I imagine, She’s just like the ones from before.” Maple responded in earnest. “It’s been years since we’ve had one come in like her, so I had just assumed that we may never be able to complete your request. But there she was, brought in by an elderly woman last week. She hasn’t spoken more than few words to me.”

“I’d like to see her for myself, if you will Clarissa.” Miss Christie folded the document in half and placed it into her coat pocket. Maple made a vain attempt in arranging the documents in front of her before standing up and walking towards the door to the front room.

On the stairs Clarissa Maple took lead and clamored up the hardwood steps. The fuming stench of the cedar lined closet under the stairs drifted up, a sharp bitter bite that attacked the senses. Miss Christie ignored the scent, and hurried behind Maple. As they reached the top of the stairs Mrs. Maple called out. “Inspections in three,” she began to count down. They walked down the hallway toward the large room along the left of the house.

“Two!” She hollered as they neared the entry way. Maple paused momentarily, adjusting her bodice, and pulling at the light brown curled locks framing her face. “Are you ready to meet the latest orphans, Miss Christie?”

“If you will, please.” Christie replied. She too adjusted herself, releasing white fabrics from underneath the black woolen coat as she unclasped the top three notches of her thick outer layer. She was wearing a rich silk tunic underneath. In the dim light of the hallway it appeared as a pair of doves surrounded by complete darkness. From around her neck she pulled up and out a silver chained neckless. A series of intricate knots and angles, encrusted with emeralds and diamonds led toward the center piece, a brilliant winged beetle, with ruby eyes.

“One!” Maple shouted as they stepped through the threshold leading into the massive bedroom. The room was enormous, lined front to back, and ceiling to floor with beds. The room was designed to hold a platoon of orphans. The unfortunate orphans who found themselves here more permanently were given a smaller, more private room along the corridor outside, but this week, all of the orphans were present in the main hall.  There were only a dozen or so children, from as young as two up to about fourteen. Miss Christie quickly scanned the lot of them. The children were standing in front of their beds, some were upright and attentive, others fidgeted with the hem of their shirts, or pulled their tousled hair. While Mrs. Maple began making her rounds to each of the children, Christie stayed back, working her way mentally through the room and to each of the children, until her eyes caught site of the golden locked girl.

The girl, barely two years old, was sitting on the chest at the foot of her bed. In her hands was a wooden block with a thick rope pulled through the center, at each end of the rope were knots preventing the block from sliding off the rope and onto the floor. The block was smooth and worn down from constant use. What it was exactly, Miss Christie didn’t know, but the girl was certainly fond of it. She spun the block and slid it back and forth along the length of the rope. The block climbed and scurried along the line locked in its infinite charade until it hit the knot and begun traveling in the opposite direction. Miss Christie glided across the floor toward the girl. Not to dismiss the rest of the children, Christie reached into her deep pockets and pulled out a handful of the sugar sticks. As she passed each aisle, she stopped, stared down the child for a moment, then placed a stick in their hand. When she reached Arthur and his bunk mate, a slick haired, doe-eyed deviant, she paused for a moment and whistled to herself. Arthur glared at her intently, attempting to loosen her composure, but she was granite. The boy’s courage paid off as Miss Christie’s fingers released a roll of carmel into each boys’ hand.

“Thanks Mum,” Arthur murmured and turned toward Mrs. Maple gleaming. As cold hearted as Miss Christie was, she wasn’t one to dismiss the fortitude and resilience of a child. Sure he’d been a nuisance only moments before, but his lesson learned, she was sure he wouldn’t be repeating is actions, at least not in front of her.

Miss Christie turned her attention to the blonde youth at the end of Arthur’s row. The object of her current objectives, the girl did indeed appear exactly as Mrs. Maple had described. The morning light made the girl’s hair sparkle immensely. Christie knelt down next to the girl, one hand resting on the chest, the other on the girl’s dress.

“What’s your name, young one?” she asked. The girl tilted her head slightly, but otherwise made no indication that she understood the question. She continued to spin her block along the rope. Her features were rounder than the rest of the kids in the room, less defined, as if God had let his apprentice create this child. Her eyes large in the socket, glassy and absent, momentarily locked with Christie’s before returning to the cube.

Miss Maple came up behind Christie and chimed in, “Her name is Margaret, at least that’s what the elderly woman said when she was dropped off. It’s all on her paperwork.”

Christie brushed a curl away from the girl’s face, “My name is Mary. I would very much like to take you with me.” Her slender hand adjusted the collar of the girl’s dress. “I’ll be back in a week’s time to pick you up.” Christie turned to Mrs Maple. “Be sure to have her ready Clarissa, I won’t accept a delay like last time.”

“Of course, Miss Christie, she’s ready to go today…”

“Today is no good, I have other business to attend to here in town, plus the arrangements are not in place to take her in just yet, next week will be fine, I can’t be bothered to attend to this child just yet.” Christie, already moving on with the rest of her tasks for the day, stood and straightened her coat. “Margaret, I’ll be seeing you soon.”

Christie began to walk back down the rows of children now savoring their caramel delights, except for Arthur whom had slipped it into his pocket for later consumption. A thumping noise sounded from behind her. She ignored it at first, thinking it was Margaret tapping her stocking covered feet against the chest she sat on. The thump was followed by a muffled cough. Margaret shifted her weight and giggled.

“Clarissa, are all of your children accounted for?” she asked, now slightly annoyed by the interruption to the rest of her day.

“Yes Miss Christie, we currently have thirteen orphans in this house, a far cry from last year with twenty eight at this same time, but I assure you they are all here and accounted for.” Miss Maple responded politely, but shrunk back towards one of the bunks.

“And, outside of this girl, no one new has arrive?” Christie with long strides slides back towards Margaret, towards the origin of the thumping and coughing.

The wardrobe chest jumped slightly and Margaret tumbled onto the floor in a tussle. She giggled again as she stood up and ran towards the windows on the other side of the room, lost in her own little world. Christie, with a dignified kick of the heel, popped open the chest. Inside, among the assortment of stuffed dolls and animals, jumble of clothes and other odds and ends, was a raven locked child. A girl. Miss Christie yanked her from the box and tossed her onto the bed.
“Who is this Miss Maple? Are you sure all of your orphans are accounted for? Because by my count, this makes fourteen.” Christie spat out, infuriated. “And what was she doing in the box?”
“Honestly Mary… I hadn’t a clue that she was in there.”

“It’s Miss Christie to you, Clarissa.” She snarled. “Now tell me who is this girl?” Christie grabbed the black eyed, black haired girl by her long stringy hair and dragged her toward Miss Maple.

“She’s nobody, she comes and she goes, she’s no orphan, at least not an orphan in this house.” Clarissa sighed, “ I have no control over her, she finds her way in and talks with the children. By the time I notice an extra head, she’s already out the door.”

“What’s her name, Clarissa?” Miss Christie screamed loudly. The orphans all clamored out of the room, except for Margaret who was starring out the window, and the raven haired girl now resting at the feet of Miss Christie, not making a sound.

“For heaven’s sake, I don’t know, ask the children they are the ones who deal with her, not me. She’s just a nuisance to me, do what you will with her, she’s not my child to care for.”

Miss Christie picked up the child again, dragging her by the wrist out into the hallway. The girl did not resist, and did not fight, instead remaining completely limp. Only Arthur remained in the hallway, the rest of the orphans had made themselves scarce, so as to not face the wrath of Miss Christie.

“Who is this girl, Arthur?” She glared intently into the boy’s eyes.

“Tabatha.” The boy announced. The girl scowled at Arthur for giving her name up so easily. He was no longer in control of himself though, and couldn’t help but respond to the sharp stare of Miss Christie. “She stops by and talks to us sometimes, and teaches us games to play.”

“Thank you, Arthur.” Christie said, as she whipped the girl around and, with a swing of her arm, released her down the flight of stairs. It was only a dozen stairs, but for a girl as small as Tabatha it was a long fall. Tabatha braced her fall with her shoulder which promptly cracked as she slid into the cherry wood door. She struggled to her feet and reached for the door’s brass handle, but the gray haired demon was already behind her grasping her by the hair again.

Miss Christie swung open the door, which came to an abrupt halt against the plaster wall opposite the door. “If I ever catch you in my orphanage ever again, I will feed you to the boars down at the butcher shop, you miserable child!” Tabatha tried to break free of her boney grasp, but her shoulder was lax, unable to build up the necessary force. With a push of a leathered anvil heel in the small of Tabatha’s back, the girl lost her balance and begin her descent down the stairs. As the slack began to give between Miss Christie’s hand and Tabatha’s hair, the sharp talons yanked hard stripping and ripping a chunk of the girl’s scalp from her head. Tabatha tumbled forward, then sideways out into the now bustling street before falling flat onto her chest. Blood flowed freely from the open wound on her head, but Tabatha did not notice. Her vision became blurred from the stuff. She struggled onto her feet and turned back toward the Orphanage, who’s red stained door slammed shut as she attempted to make eye contact one last time with Miss Mary Christie.  Tabatha stepped back slightly and grasped her head, blood seeped between her fingers and matted the black locks down.

As Tabatha turned to head home, she glanced up one last time at the Orphanage, where, in the window on the second floor Tabatha could make out the golden sparkled light shimmering off Margaret’s hair. She couldn’t be sure, but it looked as if Miss Christie was there too, with her arm around the young girl.

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Death By Recourse – Intro

by on Nov.04, 2009, under Writing

I’ll admit, I’m not writing at nearly the speed I was expecting to, but I’ve finally put this intro to bed, at 1277 words or so. From here on out I’m going to do everything I can to prevent myself from going backwards to wordsmith already authored material as that will put this novel for #NaNoWriMo to bed well before it reaches 50,000 words. But, by completing this intro I’ve actually had a discovery on where I’m going next so it was a necessary evil. Eventually the intro will meet up with what I’ve been writing over the last few days, and when that happens i’tll be posted here as well. I am also constantly motivated by Dustin Hansen’s progress over at and Ryan’s massive breadth over at But for now, Here is the Introduction to Death By Recourse.

The room appeared as it always had, that is to say, full of pomp and class. It’s scarlet curtains pulled back by course, flame licked and blackened ties the breadth of an infant’s arm. The tall crystalline windows with a criss-cross of iron rod, breathed in the darkness; the dust danced between moon-lit streams of light that billowed through the iron rod, a raucous affair between millions of tormented sprites disturbed by the exhale of a resting bovine. In the corner a casted sharp shadow of an instrument used to entertain a room full of guests, and often played by the owner’ students; a mismatch of poorly dressed and inadequately educated orphans from across the street. The ivories caught the moon-light and sparkled a silent tune as the reflected light waltzed along the ceiling and through the prism chandelier, companions to the tormented dust sprites.

In the center of the room lay a series of over-stuffed, tapestry covered sofas, who’s fabric bit back with earnest  to anyone that misread it’s pillowed, gluttonous appearance for comfort. It was here the room lost its composure. Where normally rested a mahogany tea table, ensconced with elaborately stitched and crocheted doilies alighted with porcelain saucers and cups, now rested (though resting is too calm a term) a portly woman. In the moonlight her body seemed to stretch into the shadows filling the expanse from her position as a footstool to the sofa, toward the double-wide doors leading to the foyer. The table which belonged where she now lay, was in ruin. Chunky shards of hardwood spread throughout the room with a sprinkle of china particles for good measure. And everything around the woman of considerable size, was shimmering, which was unusual given the woolen rugs that usually adorned the floor. In the darkness it appeared as black water, reflecting the moonlight that managed to crest the floor. The wetness covered everything for meters, soaking into and seeping through anything that would give, slowly expanding its mass by the minute.

The coagulating liquid stretched beneath the sofa and beaded up along the torso of another figure, this one of considerably less girth and substance. Tendrils of black, stringy hair collected the wetness, locking it tightly to the woolen carpet beneath. While the moonlight cast chiseled shadows across the whole of the entire room, the figure behind the couch, barely taller than a meter, was softly outlined and clearly did not belong. The now crimson tipped dress lay loosely on her frame, a series of gray and white pin-striped threads riding vertically to her neck, her chest rose and fell to the rhythm of the silent tune of reflected light and meandering particles. The dust sprites danced around the young girl’s nose, moving in and out with the tide of her breath, enveloped by the warmth of a living creature.

The girl breathed in a heavy sigh, inhaling the tormented dust sprites. With a cough and hack, she jerked upright, her matted hair coming loose from the woolen fibers of the floor with a loud tear, some of the curls remained behind in the congealed wetness where her head had rested. She regretted the sudden movement immediately as her skull began to coalesce a throbbing solid pain from behind the left eye straight down the collar of her dress. She screamed lightly as she grasped the side of her head feeling the area where hair should have been. Awake now and disoriented the girl felt around in the darkness to find something familiar, anything to remind her of where she was at. The hardened floor was certainly not the comforting down bed which she remembered falling asleep in, and the stickiness which she now felt on her thighs, between her fingers, and along her back was something she had never felt before, a gooey pungent mass of ick. She paused for a moment to let her eyes adjust to the moonlight, and took in the immediate area around her. She had never been here before, she was sure of that. Next to her left hand rested a knotted lamp, the bulb shattered and lamp shade missing, the cord coiled around the slim wooden frame. She lay with her back to the tall pillowed sofas, facing the iron rod windows, in a pool of liquid which stretched from where she now sat, to the far wall where the moonlight’s cold tendrils seeped in. The pool of liquid wasn’t deep, merely a thin slimy coating over everything, her clothes were stiff from the drying stuff.

Her first instinct was to cry, confused and disoriented she did nearly that. After a few pathetic whimpers she choked it off, and began investigating in earnest. She tried to stand up, but was unable to build the necessary friction with her feet, and instead slipped onto her belly, coating herself even more with the dreaded wetness. Reverting to instincts she began to crawl, slogging across the floor away from the safety of the moonlight to the other side of the couch, enveloping herself with the remains that now seeped into ever fiber of her clothing.

As she rounded the corner of the couch she didn’t immediately see the massive form of the other woman whom had it’s own horizon. It wasn’t until her hand slammed into a wall of flesh that she was able to identify the shadow as human. The woman, still surrounded by debris, wasn’t breathing. The girl reached for the old cow’s wrist and rolled it over to feel for any sign of life. The hand was cold, fingers locked in a rigid grip around a thin silver chain. There was nothing pulsing in the lifeless form laying in front of the girl.

A stream of light flickered on, casting the corpse’s right side in light. The buzz and hum of the electrical fixture could be heard faintly in the distance. The golden light, now seeping from under the foyer double-wide doors, cast a glow along the corpse’s face. The girl gasped as she caught a glimpse of the massive woman, immediately understanding who she was, and where she was.

Soft padded claps and thumps began to sound from outside the room’s double-wide doors, faint at first, then gradually growing in intensity. The sound reverberated from below traveling its way through the marble and wood veneered spiral staircase, through the pictured walls covered with portraits of the town’s nobility and well-to-dos, around a corner and under the double-wide doors of the music room directly into the soul of the little girl. Like a metronome, the pace of the devil’s footsteps was constant and relentless. With each tip and fall of the pendulum, the girl’s soul slowly lost it’s grasp with the body, gluing the youngling tightly to the slippery wetness below her. The footfalls were traveling closer, getting nearer by the beat, the piano began to resonate in unison with the insistent, plodding, companioned feet, the strings vibrating to the tune of the girl’s impending doom.

“I have to get out.” She thought to herself. She had to get out now, and not leave a trace that she had been here. She didn’t know what was going on or why she was in this room next to this corpse. But if she was found here, next to the old heifer, she would loose everything. And if she left a trace of her presence, they would find her and take everything from her.

While her body was still locked to the floor in terror, her mind began plotting her escape.

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The first 500 Words

by on Nov.01, 2009, under Writing

The first 2 hours of National Novel Writing Month, and I’m 500 words into my story (okay, only 441), and I’m stalling the introduction of my main character. Some say the first sentence is the hardest to pen, and while I struggled a bit with that, the desire to bring forward the main character is something I can’t bring myself to do, which is why I was happy to see my battery nearly dead on my laptop.

I need a break. It looks like about 2 hours is my optimal work time, so two more sessions of that today and I should be good way through the first chapter, and my poor main character with be faced with their first conflict. So I better relish their time asleep for as long as I can.

Dustin over at just posted the first chapter of his #NaNoWriMo project. Having heard a bit of the story before hand, I was still gripped by the opening 1000 words, of course a Cliff Hanger first chapter will do that to you! It’ll be entertaining to see the other 5 EA Developer’s books form over the next month, and to experience what I can only imagine will be a very broad spectrum of writing styles.

For today, I go back to some food for thought, and will listen to this week’s PRI Selected Shorts Podcast.

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Halloween Pumpkin Carving

by on Oct.30, 2009, under Photography

scary pumpkin

Pumpkin Carving is Fun. This is one of the many pumpkins I have carved in the last decade. I enjoy making carvings that contain heavy relief and lots of depth within its light scheme. This pumpkin was set of 3 that I worked on in an afternoon. Unfortunately I no longer of photo evidence of the other 2.

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Adding a Voice to your text

by on Oct.28, 2009, under Writing

When I’m preparing for a road trip, have a long commute or otherwise will be occupied for a long period of time doing something monotonous I like to download a couple of episodes of some of my favorite podcasts. Even though I usually grab Wait Wait… Don’t Tell Me (Paula Poundstone and Mo Rocca together are comedy genius,  Peter Sagal’s no slouch either,) and start the trip off with it, I inevitably end up switching to the Selected Shorts at Symphony Space podcast.

Selected Shorts brings together the pinnacle of the worlds best short stories, read by famous actors and authors like John Lithgow,  B.D Wong, William Hurt, and a plethora of other amazing actors. The reverence which these actors hold to the written word is clearly visible as they bring to life the many amazing literary works they are tasked with performing. Its an amazing thing to sit and listen to a story you’ve read a dozen times before, and to get something entirely new from it because of that actor’s performance.

The short story is one of my favorite mediums for prose, but prior to finding Selected Shorts, I had never really considered the performance aspect of the material. When you write you have an internal cadence and style that often works brilliantly on the page. What happens when it is then spoken? Is your punctuation, sentence and paragraph structure such that when an actor picks up and reads your story aloud it maintains that same cadence and style you had within your head?

It is an interesting thing to consider, the performance of your work, you’ll start to notice very quickly that painstakingly crafted phrases have an entirely different meaning when set to voice. And these new interpretations of your work will inevitably shed new light and direction to your story that you never intended. Writing isn’t just something that happens within the hollows of the page, it’s something that exists in all mediums and all arts.

As you start writing this November 1st, take a moment every few days to read through your pages aloud. Record yourself. Record your wives and husbands and children. Listen to it again and again. The pure act of performing your new works aloud will give you insight into the plot, characters and life of the world you are crafting and will help you push the story from being more than just words on a page.

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5 things I’ll waste my time on before Nov 1.

by on Oct.27, 2009, under Writing

In response to Dustin Hansen blog post 10 things to waste your time before Nov 1.

In no uncertain terms I am dreading the upcoming month of November (Thanks NaNoWriMo!) With that in mind, I’m spending the remainder of the week doing the following things to build motivation/anticipation for the annual Novel Marathon.

1.) Create a cover for your Novel. Take pencil to paper, pull out the camera, and get your family members involved with concepting and constructing the cover for your Novel. Even better if you don’t have a clue what the book is going to be about; It’ll be like those often seen novels in the New Fiction section of the book store with a photo of a girl resting on a grassy field with a picturesque sky, the title of the book? Despair.

2.) Explore 20 ways to kill off your Protagonist. When you’re at the beginning of week three, after a painful soul crushing week two, you’ll be ready to Murder any character in your book just to get things moving again. Drown the pour bastard in a pool of Snapple. Mrs Protagonist has a nasty encounter with the weekly coupon flyer, Death by Discount. A pack of wild boar pushes Mr. Protagonist into a fire ant hill, eliciting a terrifying soul boiling scream, followed soundly by the tearing of fabric on tusk.

3.) Program your DVR and erase all the garbage you’ll never watch. Glee might have been a great pilot, but seriously, are you ever going to watch the half dozen episodes stored on your DVR? trash that crap and make room for other quality shows like Californication and Bored to Death (it’s okay to keep Dancing with the Stars, we all you know you like to re-watch Donny’s performance every morning.)

4.) Stock up on Halloween Candy now, when its discount 50%-75% off (or sneak the best stuff for yourself as soon as your kids return from a night of haunting.) And if candy isn’t your drug of choice, your dead to me.

5.) Play a game of Questions – Recalling my favorite passage from Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead by Tom Stoppard, Challenge a family member to a game of questions.

R: We could play at questions.
G: What good would that do?
R: Practice!
G: Statement! One – love.
R: Cheating!
G: How?
R: I hadn’t started yet.
G: Statement. Two – love.
R: Are you counting that?
G: What?
R: Are you counting that?
G: Foul! No repetitions. Three – love. First game to…

And what will you do before Nov 1st?

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by on Oct.25, 2009, under Writing

nano_09_blk_participant_120x240.pngI used to write a lot. I used to read a lot. It is easy to get sidetracked by the daily monotony of life and to fall back to doing nothing when you have spare time. You think, “Well, if I just relax for a while I’ll be recharged.” This is never the case, at least not for me. After a day of doing nothing I usually feel far worse than I did the day before.

Because of this, I’ve decided to force myself into a writing competition to keep myself active in those moments when I feel like ‘doing nothing’. This is not a normal competition. I don’t win anything if I finish. Compare it to a marathon, 26.2 miles of pure torture on your body, the NaNoWriMo competition is 26.2 miles of exacting torture on your mind; the goal is to compete and finish, not to get first place. As a writing competition, I feel lacking, as you can well tell by both my sentence structure and my horrible use of punctuation. If an author like Terry Goodkind can write and succeed, surely I can produce at least one literary work.

Partially inspired by a coworkers entry into the competition, and partially because I’ve been ruminating a story in my mind for the last month, the National Novel Writing Month competition is the perfect excuse to begin writing again. Up until now, my longest, complete story was about 10 pages; a short story about a waif whom peddles his services for food. I’ve started and stopped writing 2 separate novels, unable to make it beyond the 10th chapter for either. I am most prolific as either a technical writer, constructing tutorials for software, or as a poet, writing pointless drivel about absolutely nothing.

So here’s to the upcoming National Novel Writing Month (November). Support your local authors by trolling twitter for #NaNoWriMo all next month.

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Ghosts of the Graveyard – Indianapolis, Indiana.

by on Feb.24, 2009, under Photography

graveyard ghosts

I took this photo back when I was still living in Indianapolis, IN. This photo was taking in Crown Hill Cemetery at the highest elevation point in all of Indianapolis. I’ve always had a fascination with really old cemeteries, and this one proved to be one of the best. It was so long ago I’ve forgotten the name of the cemetery, too bad I didn’t have a camera that could geotag back in 2002 [updated! Ana says it was Crown Hill Cemetery!]. Anyways, my friend Ana and I were there wandering around, snapping photos of gravestones for texture reference. We got to this point in the cemetery and she wanted a photo taken (at James Whitcomb Riley’s tomb) Afterwards when I was looking at the photo on my computer I noticed that her hands were burried in the depths of her massive coat which gave the impression that she had no hands, so I took it one step further and removed all semblance of flesh from the image leaving this empty shell of a person standing in what, at the time was an empty shell of a graveyard. The freshly fallen snow proved to be a perfect noise dampener, outside of footprints in the snow, not a sound could be heard from the surrounding highway and neighborhoods. This hollow emptiness of the graveyard itself inspired the creation of this photo, an empty shell of a body standing on its own at the center of this tranquil graveyard.

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The Lich Temple

by on Feb.23, 2009, under Art, Illustration

As an concept art and arena design test for Sunstorm Interactive I was asked to develop two different arena concepts for a 3d fighting game (ala tekken) with a small writeup on what was entailed for each arena, mainly one was winter themed and one was, desert them (or for them ice and fire elements). The first image is a colored illustration of one of the frames that was produced during the concept design stages of the statue and the rune pillars. [link to concept design post here] The second image was the cloud skybox developed for a quick 3d prototype of this environment.

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