Sunday, November 27, 2011

A Frog Supporting Tapirs Reaches a Major Milestone

Well, it finally happened. My etsy shop, which just happens to have the same name as this blog, had its 500th sale. The magic item was a nudibranch cat toy which I am happy to report went to a very good home. Those 500 handmade goodies have also allowed me to donate almost $700 to the Tapir Preservation Fund thus far, with 20% of every sale contributing to tapir conservation.

What does this mean to you? Well, how about free stuff? Yes, I'm talking giveaway time!

Here's what you could win:

A tiny tapir!
And a of course a frog:

and I'll throw in a nudibranch, just so they don't get lonely:
These guys are usually cat toys, but I know that not everyone has feline companions. Besides, some felines don't even like cat toys... So, you get to choose. If you win you can have them stuffed with organic catnip OR lavender.

How to enter? Just leave a comment with either "Lavender" or "Catnip". And a way to contact you, please. If you want to read some of my writing (links are on the sidebar) and tell me how great I am, feel free. If you want to browse my etsy shop and make a purchase, by all means do so. But none of that is necessary since I'll be using a random number generator to pick a winner next Sunday (that's Sunday, December 5th, 2011). Good luck!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

What I've Learned From 6 Months of Freelance Work

This is exactly what freelance anxiety feels like.
Or it might be a photo of a baby seriema from a German newspaper.

It doesn't seem possible, but I've been working as a freelance writer for six months now. That's half a year, folks! Back in May, when I quit my day job, it felt like I was jumping into an abyss. What would the future hold? Could I find enough work? Well, so far so good. Which doesn't mean that working without the relative safety of a steady paycheck isn't continually terrifying. But it does mean that I've learned a couple of things. Maybe you're contemplating jumping into the abyss too? If so, here are some things to consider:

1. Fear is the mind-killer.
Yeah, I know. A quote from Dune. How unoriginal. But here's the thing: in this case it's true. There are ups and downs in any job. Some days you feel like a genius for solving some problem, sometimes you feel like an idiot for screwing up something simple. And some mistakes are epic. But no matter what, chances are you're used to working with people, getting daily feedback from your boss and coworkers, and knowing that you couldn't have screwed up too badly if you come to work in the morning and still have a job. When you work from home none of that's true. Oh, you may get feedback from your editor or your cowriter, but nothing like the feedback loop you find at any "normal" job. It's easy to go through a rough patch, become convinced that you're a horrible fraud, and stop working. Don't let that happen. Instead, let the fear pass over you and through you. When it is gone only you (and the work you cranked out) will remain. And if you start with a Dune quote, you damn well better end with one.

2. Remember to invoice.
It's possible that this only applies to me. In fact, it's probable. But when I finish a project I often feel like it's done. Wrong! Getting paid is really, really important if you want to pay the rent. Don't expect your editor to chase you down and remind you either, because chances are the department that signs the checks is completely separate from the one that tells you how wonderful your final draft is. Plus, many places only pay once a month so missing the invoice cutoff might leave you living off of savings for longer than you'd like.

3. Tell the truth, but don't break their hearts.
When you agree to take on a job part of the deal is doing the work by the deadline. That's a given. But sometimes bad stuff happens and you know for a fact that you're going to miss it. Personally, I hate to miss deadlines. Doing so makes me feel like the photo above. It also leads to the feedback loop mentioned in #1. So, what to do? The best policy is honesty. Tell your editor, and give them a date that they can expect the work by. Talk to them about how to mitigate the damage. But don't give them a long, sad excuse. Even if the excuse is true and really, really sad. 

Here's how it should work: you say "I'm sorry, but it doesn't look like I'll be done on Friday. I can have everything to you on Tuesday though, if that's alright". They say: "That's cutting it close, but we can make it work. Although getting it in Monday would be better". You say: "Okay". Or work out what will work. But don't make them feel guilty. You're providing a service and it's up to you to get everything done. Editors are busy people. Don't make them too sad to do their jobs. And don't flood them with extraneous details.

4. Leave the house occasionally
This one's all about balance. Now that my husband and I both work from home it's very tempting to  simply never go out into the world. There are people out there, and traffic, and other things that interfere with getting a lot of work done. If you find that you're counting days instead of hours since you've gone farther than your driveway, you may want to schedule in some free time for yourself.

5. Learn how to say no, or at least how to say "when my schedule opens up"
There are countless ways to fill up your time doing favors for other people. Many of these people are well-meaning, they just don't understand that "work from home" doesn't mean "unemployed and looking for something to do". It's okay to tell them that you can't do a project, meet them for lunch, pick up their dry cleaning, whatever the case may be. Why? Because you're working. Even if you aren't on deadline, even if you are working on a creator owned property, you're still working. If you let other people forget that you run the risk of forgetting it yourself. 

So there you have it, my five top tips, culled from a whopping six months of experience. Now, back to work!

Monday, November 14, 2011

E is for Equus Bipes - Alphabeast!

Every Monday I am fascinated by the creatures being drawn for Alpahbeasts, a weekly roundup of fictional critters from A to Z. This week is "E", so I decided to jump in and draw equus bipes, the "horse of two feet". This creature was said to be half horse, half fish... But was probably just a walrus, sea lion, or other marine mammal half-glimpsed by some tired ancient Greek sailor. 

Anyway, the rules explicitly state that "no one cares weather you 'can't draw' or you're Gustave Dore". So I suppose drawing like a preteen girl is okay. As a bonus, everyone reading this now knows why I stick to writing and needlecraft.

But seriously, check out the rest of the Alphabeasts. After seeing mine the cool beasties there will look even better.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Happy Origami Day!

Supposedly today is National Origami Day. So, I give you origami insects! 
One disclosure: I know almost nothing about the craft of origami, so some of these may be kirigami. 

Unlike origami, the practice of kirigami allows for some small cuts to me made in the sheets of paper. 
All of these are from a site called Fun Time, by an artist named Taketori. Enjoy!
I'd include instructions on folding your own insect out of a sheet of paper but I've always been hopeless at making so much as a crane. Happy Origami Day to those of you who are more skilled than I!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

A Very Late NYCC Wrap-Up

Kevin Church makes us look good
Yeah, it seems like ages ago now, but we really were at New York Comicon last month. And let me say, that show is crazy. Completely, totally, unbelievably nuts.

At least that was my impression based on the tiny bit I was able to see. Gabriel and I held down our corner of Artists Alley for all four days and rarely ventured away from it. When we did, we were met by CROWDS. And those crowds were BIG. And INTENSE. So we took the path of least resistance and waited until the surging sea of humanity washed people up at our table instead.

Museum done right
For once we planned ahead and were able to spend almost the whole week in the city. We did a whirlwind tour of the Met (still odd for me to visit since I used to work there), MOMA (where we were happy to find a fabulous de Kooning show - thanks for the tip, Linda!) and the AMNH (one of my favorite spots in the known universe). We also walked and walked and walked, as the sky threatened rain and I basked in the humidity. We even rented an apartment in Chelsea for the week so it was almost like living there again. Except for the fact that all the places that we used to fear to tread even during the day now host Whole Foods and Starbucks every few blocks.

Giant kitty!
The show itself was a lot bigger than it was the last time I attended, two years ago. Gabriel went last year by himself, and I honestly don't know how he did it. He was busy doing sketches the entire time, virtually without pause. Happily, we still managed to see tons of our favorite people over the course of the weekend. We had a lovely time at the iFanboy party (held in a dungeon bar in Alphabet City, yet another place we might have hesitated to go back in the day) despite the fact that jet lag led us to believe that it was only a bit after midnight when we left... At 3:30 am. But what's a con without a bit of sleep deprivation? Tons of people stopped by our table to talk about Betrayal of the Planet of the Apes, and more than a few to talk about The Liar. All in all it was a terrific end to our con schedule for the year. So much so that I think it's taken me this long to recover!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Wordless Wednesday featuring Cooper Momentarily Interested in a Comic

Betrayal of the Planet of the Apes is Here!

I don't know where October went, but November is here and that means issue one of our four issue miniseries Betrayal of the Planet of the Apes is on sale at your local comic book shop!

iFanboy calls it "science fiction at its smartest"and gives it 5 out of 5 stars. Needless to say, we've been thrilled and humbled by the positive reviews so far. Spending the last several months immersed in Apes has been a bit of a dream come true for both Gabriel and me. And now we get to unleash it on the world!

Want to see for yourself? November 2nd from BOOM! Comics:


Not sure where your closest comic book retailer is? You can use this handy locator to find out. 

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Spooky Reading... Digitally!

Halloween almost snuck up on me this year. Between the hot weather, a trip to NYC, a busy writing schedule... October seems like it just started...

But fear not, horror aficionados! Our skeletons are hung in the back yard, a row of pumpkins leads to our front door, and a full roster of recently published short stories are available for your reading pleasure.

I'm really proud to have Sky Full of Fire in this month's Lovecraft eZine, a free journal of lovecraftian horror. It's about a woman who loses everything: her home, her family, even her sense of reality. All she has left is her car, and that won't run. So what is she going to do about the monsters?

Last month saw the publication of my short graphic story The Carpetbaggers, with gorgeous black and white art by Kyle Latino. It's available in Horror Double Feature #2, as a download along with another horror short for $0.99. You can get it as a PDF or as an innovative app for your iPad. If you read it on your iPad you can peel back layers and see the process art as well as commentary from the creators, including me! Read it and learn what a guilt ridden war veteran is willing to sacrifice to defeat an ancient evil.

Want something a little shorter if not sweeter? My very-very-short story Solemn Bird was published in Eschatology earlier this year. All I will say about it is this: what is that thing in the river?

Speaking of things, my horror graphic novel Heathentown, created with the incomparable Gabriel Hardman, is now available digitally from Comixology. You can download the entire thing, all 98 pages, for just $3.99. It's a frightening steal!

Still in the Halloween spirit? I've been loving Eldritch!, a six issue digital comic by Aaron Alexovich and Drew Rausch. The first three issues are available for just $0.99 each. It's crazy and funny and scary and I promise you will not be bored for a second. Science and horror colide in almost every panel, a ratio that would make Lovecraft proud.

And with that, I'm off to do some reading. And maybe to contemplate why this giant shrimp has no heart. Happy Halloween!

Monday, October 10, 2011

Where We'll Be in NYC

I can't believe that the New York Comic-Con is just a few short days away. I missed last year due to a scheduling conflict, but this year I'm excited to be there all four days, holding down Artist Alley table N12 with my husband and co-creater Gabriel Hardman. Gabriel will be doing sketches every day. Curious about prices? Here's a breakdown:

9x12 Inked Single Character Full Figure Sketch: $100

9x12 Inked Two Character Full Figure Sketch: $200

9x12 Inked Head Sketch: $50

You can also pick up a copy of our OGN Heathentown or get a sneak peek at original pages from our upcoming miniseries Betrayal of the Planet of the Apes, coming in November from BOOM! Comics.

See you soon, NYC!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

All About "The Fishes"

Why yes, I do write prose! And not just here, on this blog. Most people know me as a zoo keeper, or as a comic book writer. And I am those things. Well, I'm not currently a zoo keeper, except at heart. I quit my job working at a small private zoo back in May to concentrate on my writing career. It was a big leap, and a rather scary one, but so far it's going well. I'm working on a Planet of the Apes miniseries for BOOM! Comics right now, called Betrayal of the Planet of the Apes. But back in May, before I had a firm writing job lined up, I wrote several short stories that are now seeing the light of day.

One of them, called THE FISHES, was published last week in the Absent Willow Review. It's a science fiction story involving a girl living in a remote farming community on a planet where the dividing line between night and day is perpetual. It's about curiosity and above all the need to connect with other living things.  Oh, and there's a bit of scary sailing of alien seas involved too.

It's tough work, flipping back and forth between comic book scripting and prose writing, but it's rather freeing too. So much of what goes into a comic book relies on the artist to tell the story. The storytelling really works or fails depending on the skills of the artist in most cases. But when you're writing prose there's no one to hide behind. No one is going to elevate your work past what it is. And there is no one to blame for your boneheaded ideas.

That said, I hope you like The Fishes if you decide to give it a read. You can see more of my work by clicking on the sidebar to the right too, if you're so inclined. And keep your eye out for two more stories appearing next month, a horror short called "Sky Full of Fire" and another science fiction story called "Oceans of Darkness". Happy reading!

Sunday, September 18, 2011

What We Found Under the House

No, not a body. Something much better! An ancient Matchbox station wagon:
It's a Mercury, to be exact:

But there's a bit of a mystery: apparently this type of Matchbox car was made only between 1955 and 1968. Our house was built in '78. Hmmm.
Anyway, it was manufactured in England, and has seen some pretty rough times by the looks of it. I think it's fabulous, all the way from its faded lime green body to its little molded plastic passengers: two happy canines peeking out the back. 
It already had a bath via the garden hose, but after a sounder scrubbing it's going strait into a display case. I dare you to prove that you found anything cooler under your house today.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Bug Walk

At long last the weather has turned cool enough to go for a walk at lunch time. A lot of wildlife seems to feel the same way. Today, there were insects everywhere! We found this gal walking down the middle of the road:
She's a member of Stagmomantis californica if I'm not mistaken (someone please tell me if I am) and one of the loveliest I've seen. 
We didn't want her to get squished so we scooped her up. She immediately started walking up my arm. Perhaps she wanted to try on my hat? She's so big it almost would have fit her. 
We gently deposited her on a bush before she got to the hat though. Poor mantis. Maybe another day. Then we found this guy:
Sadly, he (or she) hadn't been plucked from the road in time. I think this is a black witch moth (Ascalapha odorata), which usually lives in Mexico but apparently migrates around this time of year. This guy was huge! Here's my foot for comparison.
Although it should probably be noted that I only wear a size 6 shoe. Still, rather impressive! I hope there are others around. I'd love to see one flying. Apparently some are so big that they're mistaken for bats.

So there you have it. A genuine insect safari, right outside the front door.

Friday, September 16, 2011

The Horror, the Horror!

Fall is almost here, the nights are getting longer... It must be time to read some horror stories! Of course, you may believe (like me) that there is never a bad time to read a horror story. Only better times, and best times.

So, let me invite you to read The Carpetbaggers, an eight page creep fest written by me, with art by the talented Kyle Latino. It's available from Double Feature Comics as a PDF or as an innovative app for the iPad. Double Feature allows you to see not just the finished product but process art too, as well as commentary, all with the tap of a finger. And in case the name didn't tip you off, you get two stories for just $0.99. The Carpetbaggers was lucky enough to share this issue with Tim Seelley's newest Jack Kraken story. Now that's some bang for less than a buck!

Thanks in advance to anyone who decides to check out The Carpetbaggers. Now, I'm off to feed my black cat and pull down a few cobwebs. Those spiders seem to be getting uppity.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

If You're Working Labor Day and Making Overtime Pay...

It's true, dogs like windows.

A three day weekend... What's that? Now that I'm working freelance from home there is just no such thing as a holiday.

But that doesn't mean that I don't miss overtime pay. True, it always had somewhere to go, like towards the mortgage, but maybe I should have put some aside for the pets. I mean, just look at this brilliant idea: a little window, installed in your fence at dog-head level, so that your canine can see what's going on across the street. It's called a Pet Peek, and to be honest I would buy one of these in a minute if it didn't mean that we'd have to also build a fence to use it. I imagine the downside would be cleaning all the nose prints from inside the plexiglass bubble.

This is pretty cool too. A cat tree house. The leaves are fake, I gather, but I imagine my cats would chew on them anyway. It would take a bit more out of one's paycheck though, at $999.

Then there's this "Bowhaus" for a bit less, at $599. It's really sauve, but I'm picturing quite the disaster when that cute pup sees a toy, takes off running, flips the martini onto the white sofa, and spills his water dish all over the bamboo floor. Or perhaps I've just said too much about how my pup behaves?

Anyway, happy Labor Day, everyone. I hope you don't have to work too hard tomorrow!

Sunday, August 28, 2011

What the Fountain of Youth Means to a Jellyfish

Photo from National Geographic
Immortality is the stuff of legend, right? Not for this hydrozoan, the only known animal that can potentially live forever. There's a big catch though: to do so it must repeatedly revert back to an earlier stage through a process known as transdifferentiation. What happens is this: the adult medusa stage of Turritopsis nutricula actually becomes a polyp, kind of like an adult human becoming an embryo. Every cell in its body is changed. In essence it can age backwards and forwards over and over again. No laboratory evidence exists yet to show that this can go on forever, but so far there has been no evidence found that puts an upper limit on the number of times it can happen either.

Illustration from DevBio
Most of the time, of course, they reproduce like any other jellyfish: through the meeting of free floating sperm and egg. But when times are tough the weirdness takes over. Whole colonies can grow from just one backwards-aging medusa.

Times have been tough a lot lately it seems. These oddballs of the deep have been reported from across the world's oceans, far removed from their native Caribbean home. Numbers are spiking worldwide. Don't expect to go to the beach and see rafts of them though. Even a huge Turritopsis is no bigger than a human pinky nail.  And don't confuse immortality with indestructibility. These critters are just as susceptible to death from predation, disease, and bad luck as the next metazoan. They just won't die of old age. Which is, truth be told, very different from the next metazoan.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Betrayal of the Planet of the Apes!

Now it can be told! The big project Gabriel Hardman and I have been working on, the one that had me constantly battling my spell checker over "gorilla soldier" vs "guerilla soldier", has been announced! We couldn't be more excited to be working on a Planet of the Apes miniseries for BOOM! Comics. Coming to a retailer near you in November:


Gabriel and I are co-writing it, with art by Gabriel and colors by the lovely and talented Jordie Bellaire.

Want to read more? There's a sneak peak at one of our main characters over at iFanboy. And you can check out Comic Book Resource's interview with Gabriel and me too. Everyone involved is a huge fan of all things Planet of the Apes, and we hope it shows. We also hope you'll ask your LCS (that's local comic shop, for the uninitiated) to order Betrayal this week. Do it now, then bask in the glow of Apes action in November!

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