NEWSBLAST: December 2023

This is a free sample of the update posts I’ll now be uploading to my Patreon monthly. Check it out!!

Blog WIPs: Christmas Movies…Scary Movies?

My compositional companion Bea has challenged people the world over to watch a ton of Christmas movies this winter (and you can join it too, via Letterboxd). Did I accept? Yes. Or, um, partially.

Twenty-five movies or more!? I don’t have that kind of time! Or, rather, I almost sort of did, but I also had a stack of way too many library books I wanted to address. By the time I turned those in, a family emergency popped up that I’m still managing.

But the Christmas movie show will go on. I have drafts of posts about three films I’ve watched so far, and that’s officially enough to make it a blog post miniseries. We will call it the…uh…the Three-Or-More Films of Christmas?

Not to give it all away, but:

Literally the first Christmas film I found on the library shelf. (Don’t worry, I also got a better one)

Next on my list is The Polar Express, because with the power of high-tech DVR technology, I was able to snag a televised recording. If you have any other movie recommendations, there’s still time. Incidentally, Bea’s challenge also includes slots for non-Christmas winter holiday films, so we’ve got quite a few options here!

Also, I drafted a post about kid’s shows and movies. I watched a scary kid’s film and thought, “Hm…don’t see scary kid’s films like that anymore.” Then I remembered a disgusting kid’s show I used to watch and thought, “Hm…don’t see gross kid’s shows like that anymore.” And I also thought, “Furries? Hm…don’t see animal heads on anatomically correct human bodies in kid’s programming anymore.” This combined into a post I was very excited about at the time, but one that might be jumbled. Maybe I need to sleep on it a bit more? TBD.

Lastly, I started following my dreams and playing some of the gamebooks I could find for free online: Robin of Sherwood book 2, Sword of the Templar (it was the first one I found and it got slightly higher reviews, don’t sue me) and that one Fighting Fantasy book about robots and dinosaurs (it’s the first one whose concept got me hyped, don’t sue me). I would like to blog about these…once I finish them, that is. Just one “perfect round” of Robin…

Robin Giblet

Media Breakdown: What I’m Watching, Reading, Hearing

Besides the ONSLAUGHT of Christmas movies, here are things I watched that I don’t expect to blog about. Unless you love them and you want them.

  • An episode of The Honeymooners. As someone who drew ALFs every day for a whole October and painted a fractious, kaleidoscopic Edith Bunker in high school art class, it’s a damn shame that I don’t actually know too-too much about sitcoms and sitcom history. (Don’t guess how few episodes of ALF I’ve actually seen; I may cry.) So with, again, the magical powers of DVR, I recorded an episode of this crusty old chestnut. Wow! They really do hate their wives, and their jokes with and about their wives are so classic that now, in this year of 2023, I can see them coming a mile away. But the acting, comic timing, and the inherent comedy/pathos of Ralph’s character are still very compelling, and funny. (This was the episode where Ralph and Norton tried to sell kitchen gadgets via a commercial. Snip snip)
  • BattleBots is still airing new seasons, apparently. I magically obtained access to recordings of the last few matches of this year’s Golden Bolt tournament. No, they didn’t replace that old Golden Nut in some bid to attract people beyond a young male demographic…they just put a higher rung on the ladder. I’m glad to report that the announcers are less “frat boy” than early on. Proof: for some reason I watched all of BattleBots season one a few months ago. I can also certify that the current announcer is amazing, there are few or no canned sound effects, and one of the veteran contestants made a slushie machine on the premises. My father would be proud, if he watched anything but Adult Swim and MeTV.
  • Super Ball Girls. I can neither explain nor justify this. My valued ally Whodaheck is reading this, and I decided to read three chapters. It’s a manga about a shiftless young man who finds a Super Ball (y’know, a very bouncy ball) that sprouts eyes and then transforms into a hot lady. Then there’s three of them. They also have goop for brains. Also this is drawn by the Prison School guy. Also this is drawn by the Me and the Devil Blues guy! That should give you a vague idea of how wild and wacky this shit is.
  • Magical Heroines?! I read a chunk of this webcomic every several months because it’s easier to retain info that way, maybe because I have goop for brains. Anyway, this is really more of an off-the-wall shonen action-satire with a lot to say about cycles of abuse. I’m still not totally caught up, but I did reach the beginning of the story’s “classic period” (so sayeth the author) which is “lit” (so sayeth the kids). My current personal MVP is Shaolong. Please don’t make her a shitlord like the rest. Don’t ruin this for me.
  • An old 50s illustrated guide to rocks and minerals. Did you know that sardonyx is a combination of sard…and onyx? That’s just one of the info-nuggets you’ll find in this compact tome which Amazon refers to as Rocks and Minerals – A Guide to Minerals, Gems, and Rocks (Golden Nature Guides).
  • The Wolves of Paris by Daniel P. Mannix. Did you know that a pack of wolves once besieged medieval Paris!? Some of the writing is stiff, but the concept is fascinating and the execution is engrossing. Rather than being a day-by-day account of the siege, it’s more about the wolf pack’s life and how they may have interacted and hunted. Fans of Call of the Wild and White Fang obviously want to read it, and I do have a growing soft spot for xenofiction and hunting narratives. Which is kind of weird because nobody in my life hunts and I have zero knowledge about hunting ethics. I-I…I just think nature is cool…
  • Like twenty library books. Just kidding! After dragging my feet for so long, I finally turned 80% of them in. Now I just have…six more books lying unfinished in my room!? Darnit. It’ll get done. Either that, or these books too will go back home. There is just too much neat stuff to learn and experience!
  • Oh, and…music! It’s only hit me recently how rarely I go out and listen to stuff nowadays. Like with sitcoms, those musicals genres I strongly associated myself with are…things I’m not as familiar with as even I had assumed. But I don’t always have “the right listening conditions” for hearing these albums, meaning I never get around to them because “urgh, the time’s not right!” But I will call that bullshit just because it keeps me from experiencing anything at all! Some of the artists/groups I have listened to in the latter half of this month: De La Soul (the album I picked was very dense, need to hear it again on another day), Marillion (this might be too slick and 80s for me), Robin Gibb (Robin Giblet). Also, random orchestral music. That helps me write some mornings.

Story Update

Catgirl System’s first draft is tantalizingly close to the end, but I know I’m gonna need some massive overhauling after I finish this draft. Only that can take this ending from “uh, decent?” to legit good.

There’s a persistent theory that there are two types of authors. Some call them “plotters” and “pantsers,” terms I hate because I am convinced that a much larger proportion of authors wears pants than that. In some book I read recently called Artistic Capital (which you can actually find on right now! neat idea but I warn you, it’s kinda dry) these categories are called “conceptual” and “experimental” …terms I dislike because I keep mixing them up. Anyway, conceptual authors prefer to thoroughly outline their novel and write fairly systematically. They may be more interested in bending genre norms, in the mechanics of prose, and in taking inspiration from the artistic flourishes of authors before them.

Experimental authors, though, sound more like me. They tend to write from life, but can’t plot for shit. Like Charles Dickens!

I have long resonated with the E. L. Doctorow quote that writing is “like driving a car at night: you never see further than your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.” And as I write Catgirl System, I constantly struggle with knowing how to outline and what parts and when. Because if I plan nothing, the tension might end up like a popped souffle. At the same time, this story has had, honestly, the tightest plan I’ve ever had for my writing!

That “outline” was more like the broad strokes of dramatic arcs. You know… “As Taipha spends time in another world, she gets more comfortable in it.” “At first Taipha dislikes the cabin and the people who live there, but after she’s forced to interact with them, she begins to like them.” “These characters go from X relationship to Y relationship after a dramatic fallout happens somewhere Book 2 or 3.” Things I really don’t need to jot down because they’re so simple they almost go without saying. I’ve relied a lot on the interplay between the characters and the action they seem to naturally get into with the outside world to craft the story.

So yeah, my strategy has definitely been to let the characters “speak,” and that has been both a blessing and a curse. A blessing because a lot of that sparkling banter comes easily to me (and I hope you’ll enjoy it too!). A curse because some of these character dynamics have turned out different than I was hoping…which will require some remolding of dramatic arcs to make it as impactful as I want it to be. If two characters who “should be friends” don’t actually bounce off of each other that way, for instance, someone’s backstory’s got to change.

It’s possible that I’ll write a post about various writing styles and how to incorporate the best of both worlds in the future, but my thinking about the subject is not quite there yet (and I’m still working it out myself!). Moreover, I’m curious about the other book by the Artistic Capital author about the subject and I’m sure there are many other potential sources that I may wanna read/watch/hear first. If you know anyone with interesting things to say about this “artistic divide,” please please let me know!

Recent Draws

I try to share new Catgirl System art every two weeks, and the next fateful Sunday is fast approaching. You can already see the leanin’ lavender Taipha in my Patreon banner, but here is the rough draft of some art you’re soon to see:

Why does she step on her? It’s because as I was sketching them both out with no idea how to pose them so as to make them slightly dynamic or interactive, and fearing that maybe I should start over, a friend jokingly replied that one should stand on the other.

They didn’t mean it. I thought they did.

So now this is the world we’re stuck with.

Have a Festive December!

Thank you for reading! As ever, I enjoy getting thoughts on the digital page and just bantering with anyone who’s as invested in stories and storytelling as I am.

As noted before, this is a free sample of the monthly posts I’ll be making on my Patreon. There’s one tier…one chance to make your dreams come true. And a chance for me to spend just a bit less time worrying about bills. It’s optional, but appreciated. More art WIPs, early-access chapters of Catgirl System, and maybe more (at your request) are in the pipeline.

Again, this is a tip jar, not a full-blog paywall. Thank you even just for reading!

If you’d like to graze in the garden that is this open-access blog, might I interest you in this short guide to drawing comics (even when you can’t actually draw), my extended look at the Harry Potter series, some thoughts on playing video games in the ‘burbs, or even a…Spaceballs?

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