Druids, Magic, Demons, and Little Girls

It’s been quite a busy week! It hasn’t been as productive in terms of story or art as I might have preferred, but every step forward is one step closer to being done.

ZBrush and 3ds Max Class Post Mortem

In addition to attending E3 last week, I also finished off my 3ds Max course from Gnomon. I would have liked to get a bit more out of it, but that’s how it goes. I feel as if my final project for my zBrush course a few months ago was

much

stronger: 

"ZBrush Night Elf Druid Fan Art" - Completed on April 1, 2013

For those who are unfamiliar with the creature: in Warcraft, Night Elf Druids can shapeshift into elfy-looking cats. This particular one is running a flag from Warsong Gulch (a sort of "capture the flag"-style PvP Battleground). She’s personal fan art that was modeled and polypainted from scratch, and the background/setting is a very, very modified screenshot from World of Warcraft.

My 3ds Max project, by comparison, was a fine learning experience:

"3Ds Max Island" - Completed on June 15, 2013

It really doesn't feel as if it has much personal “flavor” to it, but that's what you get for trying to learn a new program with limited time available to you. ;) This is a sort of “beauty” shot of the island, plants, and rocks I made from scratch, but let’s just say I’m much more excited by the prospect of starting anew in 3ds Max, learning more about it, and really taking it out for a test drive. As it is I feel like I got a basic overview of what the programs is capable of, but I really want to dig in and make something that has a bit more personality to it.

Progress on “The Apprentice of Rook” (Working Short Story Title)

My work on the story this week was slow and steady. I managed some solid editing time and came upon another mini-arc I’d like to insert in there, so I’m trying to find the best way to do that. I’m really hoping that this weekend I can really get cracking on it.

Story Art

I found an old thumbnail that wasn't very developed (and whose characters weren't interacting, nor had any real story implied), and so I took a couple hours while watching some Netflix and tried to change it into something.

"Campfire" - Thumbnail from ~2006

It's still a WIP, but it's neat putting all five of these characters together to share stories in front of a campfire (there's due to be magic involved with that smoke, too).

This is a type of scene that would been in Book 1 or later. While there are often places to be, people to meet, and challenges to complete, there's also a fair bit of downtime during travel. In terms of getting to know each other, you learn a lot from sharing stories, and I think having magic to illustrate and accent one's tales could be quite an experience.

(I still haven't figured out what tale the two on the left are telling, but the smoke will help relay that once I figure out that particular detail.)

"Campfire" Redo - June 16, 2013

I’ve always loved the idea of using magic for the purpose of storytelling, and for the character of Sashah, that’s definitely a niche she enjoys. Below are two illustrations by the incredibly talented Emma Lazauski showing this facet of the character. I love them to

bits

.

"Sashah's Spell" by Emma Lazauski - January 11, 2012

The Big, Wide Internet and Story Themes

Another thing that’s been on my mind this week are wider story themes. Now granted, some of my characters have been around in one way or another for over a dozen years, so they’ve had some understandable maturing to do along the way, but there are also newer characters and side characters that have only come about in the passing years as I tried to rework and deepen the main books, short stories, and world as a whole.

One of the thoughts that came out of this was that some topics I am privately very passionate about were often not addressed in the world of my story, and that… well it REALLY bothered me.

Now here’s the thing: this is the big, wide, internet, and it’s full of all sorts of personalities. There are people that are passionate, some that are even bold to the point of being intentionally offensive. There are people who lurk, who have barely no internet footprint at all. There are some who secure themselves behind aliases in order to express themselves, and some that let themselves me out there for all the world to see. There are all of these, and everything in between, and very early on I decided that in terms of my online presence, well, I wanted it to be positive. Not only is it smart from an employment perspective, but I also really wanted to be a force for “good,” and to be someone that people could point to online as never trying to be demeaning or cruel to others. That’s just not me, and I never wanted to be represented that way online.

Along these lines, I tend by and large to avoid critical-speak online. I’ll say what movies or products I like, but I generally try to avoid calling out those I don’t. That’s not to say I don’t have opinions, of course (trust me, I most certainly do, ESPECIALLY in terms of entertainment – I went to film school for a reason ;) ), but I’d rather leave most critical talk to offline. After all, not only do you never know who is reading your stuff, but you never know how it might come back to haunt you or flavor other’s perceptions of you. It’s a risk you take when you put anything up online, but generally I believe it to be a good idea to spread positive vibes rather than sneering ones.

And in some round-about way, those thoughts are part of what made me realize in recent months that I was sort of “copping out” in my own personal work if I outright avoided sensitive topics.

There is a lot of bad in our world. Really bad. To the extent that I don’t even pretend to comprehend how deep the rabbit hole goes on some topics, but the more I thought about them, the more I thought that if I simply avoided them in my own personal work, I was doing myself and my audience a disservice. 

Some of them are big, sweeping issues that are probably best served in other stories or frameworks, but that doesn’t mean I should feel intimidated to shuffle them away and ignore them entirely just because someone out there may not share the same opinions as I do.

These issues can range from anything from racial bigotry and gender issues through to gay rights and the sexual abuse. That doesn’t mean necessarily that I feel a need to stand on a podium about them (nor do I feel that I would be the best equipped to do so), but I think it’s fair to acknowledge that those undercurrents are

there

, even if the world itself is fiction. Why? Because the world is diverse, just as our own is, and I think there is something to be said for allowing your work to bring up topics, even sensitive ones, so that readers can walk along with your characters and consider the relevancy of these issues in the world of the story as well as perhaps their own lives.

The Alchemist and Friend Story Art

That brings me to this piece.  This piece has not one drop to do with the short story I’m currently working on, but I realized this week that I was sort of copping out by not giving it some context. And oddly enough, I was prompted by a song that my mother sent along to me. It’s not the usual genre of music I listen to, but I heard the song, and the whole time, I couldn’t help thinking of this character I’d created some years ago.

"Alchemist and Friend Sketch" - Completed on September 15, 2011

“Blown Away”

Audio Here

"Dry lightning cracks across the skies

Those storm clouds gather in her eyes

Her daddy was a mean old mister

Mama was an angel in the ground

The weather man called for a twister

She prayed blow it down

There's not enough rain in Oklahoma

To wash the sins out of that house

There's not enough wind in Oklahoma

To rip the nails out of the past

[Chorus:]

Shatter every window 'til it's all blown away,

Every brick, every board, every slamming door blown away

'Til there's nothing left standing, nothing left of yesterday

Every tear-soaked whiskey memory blown away,

Blown away

She heard those sirens screaming out

Her daddy laid there passed out on the couch

She locked herself in the cellar

Listened to the screaming of the wind

Some people call it taking shelter

She called it sweet revenge[...]"

Trying to go into the different types of magic that exist in my world and everything about them would be some long diatribe starting with a spoiler tag, but suffice to say, one of the types involves bargaining with demons. 

The girl had... really bad childhood. Really. Bad. There was physical abuse and sexual abuse leading up to when she basically made a pact with a demon in order to get away from her abusive father.

The thing is, once said pact was completed, the demon had found that it actually grew quite fond of her, and she of it. So in a way, you have this situation where this little girl (who has her own story) has an "imaginary friend" who is pretty much her best friend and saving grace.  

So is the demon evil? Is she evil? Neither? Both? It’s a really grey area, but one that I think bears consideration. What is justice? Who deserves it? Who decides who deserves it? And what happens to those left in its crosshairs or aftermath? While this character might have made it out of the proverbial fire, many children (and families) aren’t as fortunate.

Regardless of the questions, there is something almost comforting to me about the idea of the unlikely demon being there for the young girl in her time of need, and how the events changed its perspective and purpose. You can bet at some point that I’ll try my hand at illustrating these two again, and they are definitely a pair whose wider story might make for a good short (they’re also recurring characters within the main books).

What themes are important to

you

that you wish were nodded to more in traditional media?