Sketch trade

A rough sketch of the sketch trade I’m doing with Dora Mouse. She wanted me to draw her jabberwock dragony guy, so I took a crack at it this evening. He’s this far-out looking dragon with a vest, suitcoat and glasses.

I added a bowtie, because as the Doctor has told us, bowties are cool.

If this meets Dora’s approval, I’ll refine it and finish it up. 🙂

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Book review: Fablehaven

Fablehaven, by Brandon Mull

Kendra and Seth have to spend the summer with grandparents they hardly know. Their grandparents warn them not to wander off into the woods and don’t give a good reason why. But a series of little tips and riddles around the house and grounds finally clue them in: Fablehaven is a reserve for magical creatures, good and evil alike. And even the good ones will kill you if you cross them. When rules get broken and everyone’s lives are at risk, Seth and Kendra have to save the day themselves.

I keep hearing good things about this series, and it’s slated for a movie adapt here in the near future. So I got in line at the library and finally managed to get my mitts on the first couple of books.

Kendra and Seth are like kids you’d like to hang out with. Seth wants to take stuff apart, or blow stuff up, and gets into trouble when he manages to catch a fairy in a jar. Kendra, his older sister, is more cautious and reserved. By the end of the story, the only person who hasn’t broken one of the (myriads) of fairy rules is Kendra, which keeps the magical creatures from hurting her.

I think fairies must be coming back into popularity, because I’m running across them more and more. Fablehaven features fairies prominently. (The second book focuses on other critters.) There’s also naiads, imps, a golem, and an eeeeevil witch. The book would be a fun read-aloud, actually. The kids say some hilarious stuff.

My main gripe is that the adults all sound the same. Mostly, they talk without contractions, which makes them sound like a legal document. But that’s a small gripe! I was entertained the entire way through, and was even surprised by some of the plot twists.

The nice thing is, a few things that went unresolved in book 1 got fixed in book 2, which in turn leaves a few things unresolved. It seems to be a tightly-meshed series that builds on itself the further you go. I can’t wait to dig into book 3.

Robot angel

Did a bit of figure sketching tonight. The model was wearing angel wings, for some reason, so I added those, too. And her arm just sort of became robotic. Something about the way the sketch looked.

Still writing and editing like fury. I did research on eldritch abominations today. Creepy stuff. I think Lovecraft must have been clinically depressed to think of all that. Also, he didn’t like ocean creatures like octopi or crustaceans very much, because all his monsters look like that.

Ever notice that people take the things they’re afraid of and make them monstrous so everybody else is afraid of them? Look at that bug scene in King Kong. That was Peter Jackson’s bug phobia expanded so it became everybody’s phobia.

Story skeletons

I stumbled upon Jim Butcher’s livejournal yesterday, where he provides some very good writing advice. (Read through it from bottom to top because the latest entry is always at the top.)

I checked back through my current draft using his Scenes/Sequels formula, and finally discovered why my story’s such a drag. The whole thing is out of focus.

So I’m starting at the beginning with a story skeleton. Here’s what that is, excerpted from his article:

The story skeleton is a description of the main plot of your book, broken down into its simplest elements. It’s two sentences long. Neither sentence is particularly long. Your plot needs to fit into that framework, or it’s going to be too complicated for the average newbie writer to handle well.

“Impossible,” I said to myself when Debbie told us that in class. “There’s no way you can break down a story as epic as mine into two sentences. You can’t possibly do that.” As it turned out, I could. If I hadn’t been able to do it, it would have been way too much story for me.

The story skeleton (also called a story question) consists of a simple format:

*WHEN SOMETHING HAPPENS*, *YOUR PROTAGONIST* *PURSUES A GOAL*. But will he succeed when *ANTAGONIST PROVIDES OPPOSITION*?

For instance, look at Storm Front. (Yes, I’ll use my own books as examples, because I’m just that way. 😉 Also, I’m more familiar with them than I am with almost any other writer.) Storm Front’s story question:

****************************
When a series of grisly supernatural murders tears through Chicago, wizard Harry Dresden sets out to find the killer. But will he succeed when he finds himself pitted against a dark wizard, a Warden of the White Council, a vicious gang war, and the Chicago Police Department?
****************************

See! It’s oh-so-simple! Almost to the point of looking ridiculous–and I have no doubt that some of the people reading this article will think that it *is* ridiculous. They’re wrong. 🙂 This is a fundamental description of the core conflict in your tale–and stories are all about conflict.

So I’m trying to write that for Spacetime and having the hardest time in the world, because I didn’t have a good story plan. The sad thing is, I could jot those down for my fanfics without blinking an eye.

Shadows of Chaos: When a mysterious black hedgehog appears and the moon is blown out of the sky, Sonic hunts down his old enemy, Robotnik, for some answers (and a good pummeling). But will he succeed against Shadow, the Ultimate Lifeform, and all the powers of chaos?

Mercury Inferno Rising: When Sonic is kidnapped during a diplomatic mission, his friends must work together to rescue him and defeat Shadow and his gang. But will he succeed when the Metal Overlord, who is pulling all the strings, descends upon the colonies with his devastating air raid?

Worthless: When Metal Sonic despairs of life, Shadow turns to Sonic, Knuckles and Tails for help and even gifts Metal Sonic a chao. But can Shadow succeed when a pair of thieves’ attempt to steal the Master Emerald teleports all of them into an inhospitable desert with Robo Knux hunting them?

See what I mean? Spacetime is much harder. Maybe that means it will be better?

Flying dragons

Another pic I’m toying with as a potential cover submission. Three dragons flying, each getting progressively farther away. I’m figuring out their anatomy here. I’d like to give them tail fins, like Toothless from How to Train Your Dragon, only with fins all the way up to their bodies.

I remember having fights with my art teacher about pics like this. He maintained that since all the creatures were facing the same direction, they caused the viewer’s eye to fly off the left side or the right side of the painting. Because of eyepaths.

Then James Gurney started writing about what happens with Eye Tracking, which completely blows the traditional idea of eyepaths out the window. The eye is attracted to areas of high contrast, faces, and signs. The eye doesn’t follow an imaginary path through the painting at all.

So I’ll be daring and keep the eye in the painting with contrast and interesting shapes, and hang the eyepath.

Dragon and girl color rough

The editor of that fantasy ezine got back to me about which sketch he preferred. So I colored roughed it.

This looks like a pretty decent cover. I think I need to make the corners darker. This is the roughest of roughs with the values blocked in and an idea of the background. The castle is a photo that I’m smearing paint over to make it look like I drew it. It’s a bit detailed for a background image, so I might scrap it and go with a different castle. Good thing there’s so many stock castles!

Here’s the detail of the girl.

She’s so tiny that I’m almost painting her pixel by pixel. She just has to read well from a distance.

Dragon sketches

I volunteered to donate a dragon cover art pic to an online fantasy magazine, and they agreed to let me draw a dragon for them.

So I’ve been doodling concept ideas. Here’s what I have so far.

Dragon crawling down a rock. Might be okay, depending on the dragon’s coolness.

Dragon flying over pretty background. Eh.

Dragon and companion, probably a girl. For a more friendly dragon. With, like a castle in the background.

Three dragons flying formation, dragon head in the foreground. I think they’d need riders for this to be interesting enough.

Pointy dragon breathing fire. Eh. I don’t like dragons with their heads down.

I went and looked up DnD dragons for this one. Majestic, off-balance pose, mantling wings, and FIRE. Also the Jurassic Park soundtrack, which is very dragony.

Anyway, I think I’m on the right track, but I haven’t struck The One yet. You know, the book cover I’m going to draw the dragon and every single one of its scales.

Edit: Drew a bit more.

I like this one, but I’ll keep it for myself because those are my characters. I don’t want my characters getting all tangled up in copyright.

I think I’d like to make this one into a book cover. A mean, crocodile-like mama dragon with an egg. In a nest made of treasure. Wouldn’t that look neat, all kind of dark with light coming out of her snarly mouth?