Enjoy a few pictures of my trip.
I was pretty surprised to see Liquid Television in one of the booths. I haven't seen that stuff in decades.
Art, books, and other shenanigans!
I'm just going to share some of the awesome things I saw at the comic con that I just went to. This place was filled with talented artists and writers, and I went to a few workshops to learn from them. My writing will be transformed forever!
Enjoy a few pictures of my trip.
I was pretty surprised to see Liquid Television in one of the booths. I haven't seen that stuff in decades.
I didn’t mention the 2nd thing I intended to do with my time while I query authors for Salamander and the Unscarred Mind.
I’ve been exploring Celtic knots. I’m an amateur with them, but I believe this style is worth pursuing because this is an important part of my heritage. I want to preserve this form of art. It’s also marketable in its own way, which I’ll explore. The style also helps me sidestep some of the weaknesses in my own ability.
And about those. I have bizarre obsessions and they lead me to neglect things. Among my obsessions are textures and decorative patterns in architecture and clothes. As a result, all my energy has gone into those things. After having this trend pointed out to me several times, I’ve been made aware that my characters and their clothes are weak. I’ve been made to see the error in my ways, especially since the complaint has been repeated several times. So I’m returning to my illustrations and giving the characters the love and attention they deserve. Forgive my lateness in doing so. I’ve been obsessed with all the other parts of the art.
For instance, I’ll be traveling to Las Vegas this summer to collect architectural decorative detail references. The architecture there is amazing!
While I query my novel to agents, I'm still making art. With about 40 illustrations, I feel it's safe to move on to illustrating something new. This means that my work is branching off in two new directions.
I am now the official colorist of the web comic Fight the Good Fight! I will be turning the comic from monochrome blue to full-color. You can visit the comic here. http://ftgfblog.com/ Starting January 4th, my colors will fill the pages.
Fight the Good Fight is a sci-fi comic about some rough and tough thieves who steal for the poor. Tables get flipped, stuff blows up, and maybe the world gets saved. If you want to help the artist out, you can always do that and see some extras at his Patreon. https://www.patreon.com/FTGF/
If you want to help me, the colorist of this project, you can always visit my Patreon page and subscribe there. https://www.patreon.com/RoanCarter
People will wonder why I have chosen to write this story the way that I have.
“Do you speak German? What experience do you have with Austria that motivated you to write this book?” Fair questions, I suppose. But without me explaining, they might think the purpose of the book is to explore Austria and its history with compelling characters.
While those things do happen in Salamander and the Unscarred Mind, the important thing that happens is that I force readers to ask why people believe the things that they believe. What is Austria in the first half of the 20th century? It’s a place where various stripes of fascists, socialists, and Nazis are competing for power. It’s a place where traditional nobility is eroding and where Catholicism is a power structure and culture that holds great sway over the minds of people. This is a time and place that is rich with beliefs of all kinds. I saw that and knew that Austria was the perfect place for this story to unfold.
We have an antagonist who is struggling with the things his Nazi ideology compels him to do. A holy man who guarantees life after death. A child looking at his own mortality and desperately hoping that afterlife is real. A Czech veteran who struggles with the glorified image of the soldier versus the reality of what he and his men have done. Our protagonist Rose, a devoted Catholic, uncovers the discouraging utility of falsehoods as she seeks and argues with Salamander himself.
The time and place of 20th century Austria, Vienna especially, is a ripe location for these arguments to take place. It’s a place where it matters a great deal what you believe and why. Wars are fought and millions of lives are at stake. (Conveniently, it’s just far away enough in time and space to feel fantastic and real at the same time. I have researched deeply, and consulted with several translators and a professor at great length to make the work as authentic as possible.)
This might sound academic, but it’s personal to me. The way people treated me and the way I’ve treated others has always depended upon the political and religious ideologies I believed. I have seen good people tormented for beliefs that are purely fictitious. Our beliefs motivate our actions and spur every interaction from dinner table small talk, to our votes, and even who we kill.
I’m not here to tell you what to believe. I’m here to tell you that there’s nothing more important than believing what is true. The people of Salamander and the Unscarred Mind have beliefs that range from a firm basis in reality to a psychopathic head trip—and there are consequences.
People believe they have a sacred privilege to believe whatever they choose, and selfishly pick whatever ideas appeal to them. The mind is a garden that needs grooming and pruning. Without accepting that responsibility, a person’s philosophical/ideological eccentricities manifest a fractal catastrophe in their daily lives. Politics are the highest expression of that. It’s everyone’s responsibility to dismantle and remove bad ideas from their own minds.
That’s why I write.
Salamander and the Unscarred Mind is going through (what I intend to be) its last revision. I'll make a final valiant effort to find the right agent to support this novel soon after. The work of writing is almost never done.
I have learned a few things from this experience of writing, editing, and attempting to get this novel published. The social politics of the publishing world are so heavy in the air you can cut them with a knife. There are certain editing dog whistles used by literary perfectionists that weed out people who are outside the current idea of literary perfection. And a long list of other lessons came my way, but no one wants to read them.
I am sometimes tempted to do nothing but Celtic, Nordic, and Anglo-Saxon art until the day I die. It would be easier to market. Many people would relate to it at first glance; no story writing would be necessary. And of course I’d be doing my heritage a service. I’m not going to have children; this is one way I can spread the historical aesthetics of western civilization that I appreciate. Learning to make this kind of art can take years. There’s a lot of subtle grace to be acquired, and imposters stick out painfully.
Btw, I created some fan art of Final Fantasy VII recently. A lot of caffeine went into its creation. My patrons get to see it in super high resolution.
What if that fabeled “Yes!” never comes? I have sent queries to so many agents and had my novel rejected and declined countless times.
I really don’t know what to say or do about it if none of them ever want to pick up Salamander and the Unscarred Mind. I’ve spent a lot of time reflecting on why they’re not interested yet. This has caused me to contemplate a career change that might allow me to have a broader platform for advertising my work.
A project of love like this is such a risky endeavor. The number of hours I’ve spent illustrating, writing, and editing this book may well reach 1,000 or more. It’s been the consistent labor of every free moment I could steal for about 19 months now. Of course I learned a lot, but that’s not enough. I don’t want to work that hard on something I KNOW is amazing just to shelve it. I’ve done that before. It feels wasteful and stupid.
In 2015 I wrote and illustrated a novel called Bleeding Mountain about a noblewoman traveling the world in search of a cure for a plague. I formatted it properly with the illustrations. I tucked it away on my hard drive because the experience of self-publishing has been so lackluster. The next two personal projects I worked on went unwritten, only illustrated, because this whole publishing/sales business vexed and discouraged me so much.
I have to do better.
It is possible to self-publish Salamander and the Unscarred Mind and share it with people that way. With this method, sales are abysmal and the print quality isn’t high enough to make the art shine as it should.
Let me emphasize the part about abysmal sales. Globally speaking, no one would know the book exists. The few people who would buy it are friends who may not even read it. I’ve waded in the kiddy pool enough. Self-publishing an illustrated book takes a lot of time and editing, and a self-published book is a consolation prize. I’m certain those are harsh words and I’ve offended someone.
I want the best for this project. Writing these agents just gets tiresome and sometimes I have moments of dread and doubt.
Only time will tell what happens.
I created this image for The Arty Owl Show, a show where artist Arthur Owsley talks with artists from the Phoenix area.
The art was first a drawing I made in pencil, then I rendered it using Dreamscopeapp, and finally I adjusted it in Photoshop. Hard to believe it started as a pencil drawing, eh?
Give Arthur some attention and love at his youtube page:
I don't think people really appreciate how much labor goes into editing the books they read. What makes good writing is how easily you digest it and how well it communicates its intended meaning. Passive voice is evil. Fancy words are to be used sparingly. Things that people do in colloquial speech have to be transformed into proper English. Many books go through several editors and rewrites. Salamander and the Unscarred Mind is one such book. I have a lot of personal projects on my hard drive, and none of them have reached this level of polish. I'm doing this because I believe in it! I've hired two editors to read the entire work, and asked two other friends to help me spot check particular chapters. I've been blessed with the help of knowledgeable people. I'll share a picture from my list of things to do, at the top of which is my progress bar for editing the chapters of this book before I'll resume querying agents with it:
So that's where I'm at.
It seems that my drive to solve all my problems goes into over gear right about the time I’m supposed to be sleeping.
Now that I’ve finally slept some, let me tell you what I’m talking about.
I really need for my art to be shared to a wider audience than it currently is. Much wider. So I’m looking at my current situation and wondering several things:
1.) My art might not be good enough. I might not have the necessary skills. The weaknesses in my art have been pointed out numerous times. I’ve tried to grow and change over the years, but I fear that working freelance instead of with a company of likeminded artists may have caused my bad habits to get set in concrete. I’d like to grow and develop more. I need to be working side-by-side with superior artists to achieve this.
2.) Publishers want to know how you’re going to make the book sell. As an art teacher by day and an illustrator by night, I have not accrued the audience necessary to propel my work to the moon like I want. I know a few people that would be interested in my work, but working as a concept artist for movies/video games would give me a much wider audience of people. Los Angeles is right next door to me, where so many studios are. The ugly truth is that I have a brilliant manuscript that’s lavishly illustrated, and no one cares at all except for my closest circle of coworkers, friends, and family. While I am eternally thankful for their help and encouragement, I need a biiiiiiiiiiig audience to get where I’m going. Salamander and the Unscarred Mind has been queried to countless agents now, without success.
One of my coworkers where I teach saw my art and said, “Well what the hell are you doing here?” I gotta be honest, that burned a little.
I love my job where I teach, and I love the lifestyle it has afforded me. My independence and comfort in my home is the greatest. But I feel shame for not having done more with my art, and I know it’d be wasteful to plateau my art career here forever. It’s a strange feeling to have the best job that I’ve ever had, and at the same time feel an intense obligation and responsibility to become something far greater.
Understand that some number of months ago I felt like I was dying in a nasty trip to the ER. I was rescued by an amazing coworker and her husband who took me there when I texted them. The whole time I was thinking, “Not yet. I have things I need to do.” And afterward, all I could do was fear that I’d never get those things done before dying. It’s hard to look Death in the face, survive, and then come home to look at my half-finished projects. I’m not okay with that feeling.
To quote my awesome sister: “Okay, I get it. You can make art. Now what?”
I’ve illustrated most of the best scenes in Salamander and the Unscarred Mind. I have made 38 illustrations for this 68,000 word novel. It’s becoming difficult to select more scenes to illustrate. I’ve decided to be married to this book until I see it thrive and succeed the way it deserves. The rejection letters keep coming in. I am faced with some hard questions about how I’ve decided to do things.
A digital artist spends a great deal of time with a drawing tablet. I've been married to my Wacom Intuos 3 for years. I can't measure how many hours I've spent with it. Did I buy it in 2011? I'm really not sure. When it finally died, I played a sad bagpipe mp3 and laid it to rest...but not before popping it open to see what was inside. Since we spend so much time with these things, it's only natural that we should learn something about their insides. In the following pictures, you can see some kind of rust that was eating away at my tablet on the inside. There are distinct panels for the buttons on the side. There are numerous layers inside, including one made of foam that probably insulates against shock and pads the delicate mechanisms against impact damage. This is all conjecture, I don't really know the mechanics of it all. This is what it looks like:
This tablet was extraordinarily large and had a film on it that you could slip real drawings underneath for tracing purposes. I made these drawings in ink back in 2011, when I was working on Fractal Fiction and making concept art for future reference. You can see armor, dresses, tunics, and a little pazoot on the far right.
I opened it and all the layers became visible. That metal layer sounded like lightning when I wiggled it.
This might be rust. I'm not entirely sure what was going on there.
Front and back side of something I can't identify.
This picture shows the board that connects to the side buttons and a touch sensitive strip that acted as a scroll bar. That scroll bar caused me more accidents than anything, honestly.
The foam layer and the rust (?) that came off on it.
That's all I have to show for now. Don't worry about me though; I have a Wacom 5 tablet in storage for a rainy day like this. It'll become my main drawing tablet now. I've always trusted Wacom. Their products last far longer than any other tablets I've tried. Let's have a moment of silence as my Intuos 3 goes off into oblivion after doing more than its fair share.