Two After Atlantis comic issues finished!

The whole time I’ve been writing my After Atlantis superhero books, I kept saying, “I wish these were graphic novels, they’d work so much better that way.” Finally, after hanging around the extremely encouraging authors of the Legends of Amora comic, I decided to take a crack at drawing it myself.

I decided to start at about the midpoint of Waygate. Waygate is a short novella that comes right after book 5. It’s a nice, self-contained story, and it has some cool fight scenes I wanted to draw. I had no idea that I’d get hooked on drawing these characters and their struggles. I’ve just finished two issues and concluded Waygate, and I’m thinking of what to draw next. The logical thought is to go back and draw Bloodbound, but it’s a whole book, not a novella. Kind of like trying to drink the ocean with a straw. But I think if I take it a couple of chapters at a time and turn them into comic issues, it shouldn’t be too bad.

Issue 1 and issue 2

How about some character sheets?

I need to do some character sheets for the characters in Bloodbound, especially the villain, Omniscient. He wears a fox mask and a suit and ought to be really fun to design. πŸ˜€

Rest painting finally available as a print

Over the years, I’ve had a lot of people asking for this little painting as a print. Unfortunately, I painted it about 3 computers ago in art software I no longer have. So I sat down and repainted it.

waterfall, robin, nest, birch, tree, rest, peace, netraptor

“Two painters were once asked to paint a picture illustrating his own idea of rest. The first chose for his scene a quiet, lonely lake, nestled among mountains far away. The second, using swift, broad strokes on his canvas, painted a thundering waterfall. Beneath the falls grew a fragile birch tree, bending over the foam. On its branches, nearly wet with the spray from the falls, sat a robin on its nest.

The first painting was simply a picture of stagnation and inactivity. The second, however, depicted rest.” –Henry Drummond

Print finally available here!

Using AI to make art

AI making art has been incredibly controversial. And I mean raging, frothing, screaming masses. I’ve been doing some reading and investigating, myself. Especially since deviantArt introduced an AI function (and trained it on DA’s library of 5 billion artworks without the permission of the artists). Oh, they’ve added an opt-out checkbox NOW, but yeah, they already scraped everybody’s art, whoops.

What these AI do is look at a ton of artworks, usually on Google image search. They ‘learn’ from those artworks and spit out something that looks like them. Similar, but different. It’s not just an aggregate of various artists, as so many artists claim. You use them to make art by typing in keywords, the more specific the better, and the AI tries to make something out of those keywords.

Now, in past versions of, say, Stable Diffusion, they did allow people to type in “in the style of [artist]”. This means that, like it or not, the AI really was studying these artists and making ripoffs of their work. But the developers smelled litigation in the wind and took out the option to target artists. The artists’ work is still in the AI library, it’s just harder to get at. (I’ve noticed you can still tell it “in the style of [cartoon, TV show, comic, etc.]” and it will work.)

Artists are threatened by this. “If a computer can make any art in any style, what’s the point of me spending thousands of hours developing my artistic skills?”

Well, they said Photoshop would replace physical painting, too. Instead, it became another tool that people use to communicate. That’s what art is. Communication. If you combine your refined art skills with AI, you can go interesting places.

My husband recently installed Stable Diffusion on his PC and downloaded some AIs for it that had been trained on various anime libraries. If you want to do the same thing, the files and instructions are here. But only my husband’s brick of a gaming PC could run it. My little laptop choked and died of memory errors.

Anyway, I started playing around with it. I wanted to make some character costume concepts that weren’t ripped directly from a videogame somewhere. Here’s a few concepts. I had used the prompts “handsome man, overcoat, black coat, spiky hair, armor, character sheet”.

These are some of the nicer ones that didn’t have any obvious AI glitches, like screwed up faces or too many legs. And wow, can it get hands wrong. But I just wanted some costume designs, and it delivered some pretty nice ones.

Then I decided I wanted to generate a landscape and paint over it. So I input the keywords, “Forest, red leaves, Greek ruins, steps, pillars”.

Ahah, that last one had the composition I was looking for. I like the second to last one, too, it’s a bit more moody. I might do something with that later.

Anyway, I just drew my own characters into the scene and repainted about 90% of the image.

Suddenly I have a new tool in my arsenal. I can make concept art of my books and locations. (Concept art is traditionally rough and cobbled-together anyway, just something to capture a concept or a mood.) So I’m going to keep playing with this new toy, and learning it, and I’m going to produce new stuff with it. Oh, and have a cute Jayesh my husband made for me.

The great social media implosion

You know, years ago, Kristen Lamb wrote this little book called Rise of the Machines: Human authors in a digital world. It’s all about how to control your content as a content creator, and building your platform on your terms. She points out that social media is transient and always on the way out, holding up MySpace as an example. (Who remembers MySpace, anyway?). She says to have a website or blog where you post your stuff and talk to people, and use social media to point back to it.

Well! Kristen Lamb is being proved right once again. I hopped on Twitter this morning, and my feed is full of people trying to move their art and books off Twitter, but they’re going to Instagram. Instagram is an algorithm-driven black hole where you can’t even see stuff from the accounts you follow.

Facebook is also an algorithm-driven black hole where you can’t see stuff from the accounts you follow, no matter how many times you click ‘like’. Zuckerburg is so hellbent on turning the VR Metaverse into the Matrix that he’s just letting the other social media sites languish, and their userbases along with them.

So people go to Tumblr, which hasn’t fundamentally changed since, what, the late 2000s? You can see posts chronologically, but good luck finding any content older than a month or two, unless some kind soul reblogs something.

And then the great Deviantart exodus began. Oh man, Deviantart, where do I begin? The devs have been implementing a fix to keep AI from scraping art from the site and using it in those AI art programs. But the devs phrased it as they have 5 billion artworks that they sold to an AI company. I’m still not exactly sure where the truth of this actually falls, because they SAID it. Anyway, folks are leaving DA by the truckload over it.

But what’s happening is this giant swirl of people who can’t escape the stuff they’re trying to flee. There’s nowhere else to post art or talk about stuff. Artstation is designed exclusively for the hyper professionals in game and movie design. Artfol is still tiny and app-based. Gab is too conservative. The other social media platforms are too small and don’t have any communities on them, and they’re just as algorithm-driven as the big guys. Twitter is being changed by Elon Musk into something approaching usefulness and therefore is driving away all the smut producers (imagine that, he’s actually going to obey the law, haha).

So unless all these people actually go carve out their own shingle on the internet and start using it, they’re just going to circulate around as social media continues its implosion. I’m sitting over here on this blog I’ve had for years and years and chuckling. It’s still here, guys. No social media has wiped it away. Why don’t you consider picking up Kristen Lamb’s book and taking control of your online life?

Also, have a pretty black and white Destiny fanart.

Pretty After Atlantis artwork

I’ve been doing art for my After Atlantis series lately. I feel like my skill has finally gotten to where I can do justice to the way my characters look in my head. So here we go:

Jayesh Khatri of After Atlantis

First off is Jayesh, one of my favorite characters. He’s the team healer, but is granted fire powers that were supposed to kill him. Instead, he conquered them and learned to use them without quite blowing up everything around him. Well, maybe one gas station. You know how it goes. πŸ˜€ His story begins with Bloodbound.

Gladiolus of After Atlantis

Next up is Gladiolus from the Guardian’s Awakening books. She’s half-Atlantean and has wind powers that she’s never been allowed to use. She’s also under the effects of a curse and is dying of the super vision in her left eye … unless the curse can be broken. Unfortunately, the only way to break a blood curse on a woman is for her to marry out of the cursed line. And the only one left of the uncursed bloodline is Tane, Guardian of Mercury Island. Cue the sparks and conflict!

Zero and Max of After Atlantis

Max is a teenager with a broken ice power. Zero is an Atlantean superweapon. Together, they make an unstoppable team. I’m still writing this book, but it will be called Oceanloft, and chronicle what happens when Max joins the team from Islesworn.

This series is hard to explain. On one hand, it’s framed as superheroes fighting all kinds of crazy villains. On the other hand, it’s solidly fantasy, with Atlantis and the Lost Isles. There are three Lost Isles: the Mercurion, Sanctuary, and the Lighthouse. The last two are still being built in their pocket dimensions (which is what Islesworn and Bloodbound/Sanctuary are about), but the Mercurion has already been deployed and is out in the world, where bad guys are constantly trying to hijack it.

On the other hand, you have all the drama with supers working on their HeroTube channels and being courted by networks and advertisers. You have the awful witch hunt in Bloodbound, when the HeroTubers have decided that the wrong man is the villain and do their best to kill him.

So, the nearest thing I can compare the series to is urban fantasy, or contemporary fantasy. All kind of fantastic things happening in our world, if our world had been given magic when Atlantis fell.

After Atlantis: Sanctuary releases today!

I just love book launch days, they’re so exciting. Sanctuary goes live today, after two years of writing and revisions! This is superhero fantasy aimed more or less at adults, because there’s romance, but there’s nothing dirty, so kids could read it, too. I just think they’d be bored by the first half.

It’s not easy being Bloodbound.
Jayesh’s magic and life force are mingled with that of the magic island, Sanctuary, and he is desperately lonely. The girl of his dreams, Kari, has been his friend for months, but she is still grieving her dead boyfriend. When Jayesh kisses her for the first time, Kari has a vision of his magic, and she runs from him. Jayesh is crushed, and his wounded feelings begin to slowly destroy Sanctuary.
Meanwhile, in Atlantis, an outbreak of strange cobra-like centipedes attack Bygone Island. The only one who can heal their bites is Jayesh, and his friends need him at full strength. But his damaged relationship with Kari disrupts his judgment and leads him down a path toward self-sacrifice that none of his friends want.
Now Kari will have to make a choice. Her love for Jayesh must overcome her fear of him and his binding, for to love the Bloodbound is to become Bloodbound, too.

Sanctuary can be read as a standalone, but the two books before it are Bloodbound and Waygate

Currently only on Amazon, but I will update links as the other retailers go live over the next few days.

I’m going to keep doing art to promote this book for a while. Besides, it’s been fun to have an excuse to concept these characters out. πŸ™‚

This is Cirrus Markone, (pronounced Mark One) the Shadow the Hedgehog of After Atlantis. If you’ve read the Guardian books of After Atlantis, you’ll know all about Cirrus. In Sanctuary, he becomes Jayesh’s unwilling mentor. Cirrus is a genetically-engineered wizard who looks down his nose at everybody around him and pretends not to care about anybody. His brand of mentorship is, “Suck it up, loser.” This winds up being good for Jayesh, who tends to dig himself into holes of self-pity. Also, Cirrus does not follow the Mentor Must Die trope. He’s a protagonist, himself, and has lots more awesome to do in the rest of the series.

Sanctuary artwork blitz

Sanctuary launches on the 11th, so I’m doing a ton of art to show off what the book is like. This past week, I focused on the main characters and some excitement they get into. Next week, supporting cast and some of their shenanigans!

Sanctuary is Jayesh’s book, more or less a direct sequel to Bloodbound. Jayesh is still coping with being magically bound to a magical island, even if it does rocket his healing magic through the roof. As it turns out, he’s the only person in the world who can heal manticore venom stings and bites. But all he wants is for his girlfriend to not run away from him anymore, and to not be so crushingly lonely. This is him and his tiny dragon Suntala.

This is Kari Winters, Jayesh’s longtime crush. She’s a lightning super, dealing with grief from the murder of her boyfriend, and she’s kind of using Jayesh as an emotional life raft. Not exactly the healthiest of relationships, but the events of Sanctuary force her to confront her feelings and actions, and make a choice regarding Jayesh and loving him–or not.

“I’m just going to use my powers on the quetzalcoatl,” Jayesh said to the others. “Maybe diminish his pain.”

“If it attacks you, I’m zapping it dead,” said Kari, fists clenched at her sides. “I wish you wouldn’t do this, Jay. It’s a monster, just like the manticores.”

But it wasn’t like the manticores. Jayesh couldn’t explain the sense of grief and compassion inside him. He placed both hands on the silky feathers and drew on his healing shard.

He sensed the life in the great body, life mingled with magic. It reminded him of Suntala, but not quite. This creature was huge and blazing and alive, as if a shard had melted and run into its bloodstream. But that life was leaking from many wounds, both inside and outside. He found four hearts, one central one and three secondaries. A secondary heart had been shot through, and was draining the pressure of the rest. The creature’s entire magical being strained against the damage, trying to heal it.

Jayesh focused on that heart, first. “Come on, boy,” he whispered, drawing in the creature’s own magic. “Work with me.”

At first, the serpent’s magic blocked him out, like the tide running contrary to a swimmer’s path. But gradually, little by little, Jayesh’s healing magic soaked into the creature’s body and bone, redirecting its native magic. The damaged heart struggled, and the other hearts spasmed. Terror shot through the serpent and into Jayesh, potent as Kari’s lightning.

But Jayesh had enough empathy built into his healing shard to catch that fear and quiet it. “Shh,” he whispered, closing the holes in the wounded heart. “You’ll be all right. You won’t die, I don’t think. Come on, boy, you’re strong. Feel how the healing works? Work along with it.”

Rodion stepped up beside him and lifted the Mender’s Rod. Jayesh’s sense of the serpent’s wounds grew clearer, and it became easier to heal. “Thanks,” he said softly.

“No problem,” said Rodion, flicking his white hair out of his eyes.

After a moment, Kari joined them and laid her own hands on the feathery coil. All along the great body, wounds began to expel bullets and to close up. The serpent’s own magic surged in response to their assistance.

For the first time, the creature stirred, lifting its head out of hiding. For a moment it hung a few feet above the humans, watching them with its yellow eyes, the feathery crest standing upright, like a question mark. Then it relaxed and rested its chin on the coil they were touching. A third eyelid closed over the eyes like a gray film.

“I didn’t know he had eyelids,” Kari said. “Snakes don’t.”

“I notice that he only has the third,” Rodion said, “and not the first and second. Possibly because his flight ability demands it.”

Jayesh said nothing. He was in tune with the serpent’s magic, conducting their healing like a concert, and euphoria crept through him. His weariness, fear, and hunger fell away. All that remained was the ecstasy of healing, directing that energy, mending and regenerating. He was aware of his friends as beacons of light on either side of him, the serpent as an ocean of magic, and life, and potential. And nearest of all was Fith, watching, adding subtle hints to Jayesh’s magic, directing him in ways he wouldn’t have attempted.

He didn’t surface from that sea of bliss until the serpent slid its head forward and touched his forehead with its snout. “Little human,” it whispered, “stop before you die.”

Startled, Jayesh opened his eyes and gazed into the strange, narrow face of the serpent. The eyes were bright as jewels, the mouth turned down in a frown, then up in a smile. The tongue fluttered in and out through a hole in the lips. It brushed Jayesh’s forehead like the touch of an eyelash.

“My magic is overwhelming you, Bloodbound,” said the serpent. “Thank you for closing my wounds. I will manage the rest.” It turned its attention to Rodion and Kari. “I extend my thanks to you, as well. Because you showed me mercy, I lay no curse upon you, but a blessing. May Fith accept this offering.”

Sanctuary launches March 11th, preorder available here!

That moment when your mojo crashes

So, this week wasn’t supposed to be a nightmare week. It was supposed to be a nice week. I was going to catch up with the weeds in the yard, and it rained a bit, and it was nice.

Then on Tuesday one of the big girls landed on the 20 month old on the trampoline and broke the baby’s ankle.

Nice week instantly shot. I’ve gone back and forth to the ER, bounced around appointments for the orthopedic surgeon, etc. etc. all week long. The baby now has a massive cast that she uses to club people with. (Her ankle is already well enough to do that, which I find amazing.)

In the midst of this, I tried drawing a golden age of scifi book cover for a friend.

Me: Hee hee, this is fun.

Her: Wait, the girl is supposed to be black.

Me: mojo crashes and burns because that means the whole pic has to be redone

So now it’s Saturday and my poor hubby has to work. Next week, 3:30 wakeups, which turn both of us into zombies. I just can’t catch the mojo again.

This morning, I scraped out a quick drawing, just to keep in practice:

So that’s been my week. I’ve been so tired and stressed that when I sit down at my computer, I’d rather stare at the wall than create anything. But maybe things will calm down now? Maybe?

A couple of artworks

Been working on a commission to start the year, and it’s been nice to be back in the saddle again. I’ve been studying a bunch of different art techniques, and I’ve been quite happy with the results.

This is the cover art for Power Burn (title under consideration) by H.L. Burke. It’s part of a series, so look her up for the others. I had a lot of fun painting this one, and I think it’ll be a great cover once it gets the text on it.

Final Fantasy white mage

I did this artwork as an entry into deviantart’s Final Fantasy 14 Endwalker contest. Competition was stiff, but it was fun to participate. I haven’t actually done a lot of art for FFXIV, despite enjoying the heck out of it. Certain plot points in the Heavensward expansion made me ugly cry. I played World of Warcraft for years and never got kicked in the feels the way FFXIV does.

Anyway, I’ve been over here writing fairytales in space. I just finished a little novella that is Beauty and the Beast in space, and I’m currently working on Cinderella in space. I have no idea who will want to read this nonsense, but I’m currently in love with my alien spaceships. Hoping to do Snow White in space and make it a little trilogy. πŸ˜€