Monday, October 25, 2021

Roadmap Revision

 I hope you've been enjoying OcTOONber! I've been having a blast experimenting with all sorts of different art styles! The month is coming to a close, which means this year's daily drawing challenge is almost over, and November is right around the corner. With no further beating around the bush, let's talk about NaNoWriMo…

My plan had been to complete a 30 page rough draft of a brand new graphic novel during the month of November, 2021. I have decided however to postpone it until next year. As much as I was looking forward to completing both Inktober and NaNoWriMo, I realized this morning that I'm already having a challenging time keeping up with my drawings. That in turn has meant less time to prepare for next month. I could still make an attempt, but I fear it might result in burnout, frustration, less time for my family, and a sub-optimal experience overall. So instead, I'm going to reduce my workload to help ensure we finish the year on a high note.

I feel good about this decision. I'm only sorry if I have disappointed anybody who was looking forward to seeing the story I come up with, or who may even have been planning on participating along with me. But I will commit to you now that I will participate next year, for NaNoWriMo 2022! To make sure I give myself plenty of time and energy for it, I will participate in Inktober next year in a much more limited capacity; I'll take a few pen and ink commissions and maybe do a few other drawings that tickle my fancy. But for the most part, I will be preparing for NaNoWriMo. Then, my plan is to alternate year to year: one year I will fully participate in Inktober and make a goal to complete one drawing for each day (possibly following a daily prompt), and the next year I will do NaNoWriMo instead, and focus on completing a sizeable writing goal.

With all that said, I'll still be keeping busy during the month of November. The current chapter of Aww, Feathers! is just wrapping up. So my goal is that for the rest of 2021, I will have a comic to share with you every week, whether that be related to Aww, Feathers! or something else fun! In fact, that's a goal I would like to meet for all of next year as well, so this should be good practice!

That's all for now. Thanks for reading! And thanks for understanding. I don't look at this as a failure, but rather an adjustment. The only true failure is the failure to learn.

Friday, October 1, 2021

Roadmap for Q4 2021

Hey there! I've been looking at what's coming up for the rest of 2021 and even into the next year and decided it would be good to share an update on what's coming.

Aww, Feathers!

The latest chapter of Aww, Feathers! is well underway. I hope you're enjoying it! This one will be relatively short compared to other chapters though, so it will be finished by the end of the year. There will be another gap between the end of this chapter and the start of the next one. As of this writing, I don't have a reliable estimate of when the next chapter will begin, as I have quite a bit of family-related business to take care of over the coming months (don't worry, it's nothing bad; we're all doing quite well). While I plan to work on the next chapter a little each day so as to keep the wheels turning, it will probably not be ready until the first quarter of next year.

This will in all likelihood be the pattern moving forward: I will work on a chapter of Aww, Feathers! and only start posting it after the whole chapter is complete. Then while that chapter is being published one page per week, I will take a small break and then begin work on the next chapter. This means there won't be any more unexpected breaks in the middle of chapters, but it does mean there will usually be at least some delay between chapters. I'll be sure to let you all know when it looks like each chapter will be finished.

It would be super if I could release every week--maybe even more than once per week--without any gap between chapters. I hope to get to that point some day, but there are just so many other life responsibilities that need to be prioritized. The good news is, I will still have content to share each week.

I have some bonus comics planned to help fill the gap between chapters that will take much less time to complete, but still be a fun interlude. Some will involve characters from Aww, Feathers! and some will feature my own family. I also plan to reformat some older comics from the archive to make them more mobile-friendly and share them to social media. (To long-time readers of the comic, don't worry; I won't do more than one old chapter at a time between new chapters.) In addition, I hope to have a few guest comics to share. Which brings me to...

Guest Comics

I've hosted a number of Aww, Feathers! guest comic events over the years, and every time I'm always blown away by the creativity shown for each one. Now, we're going to do it again! If you're interested in creating a comic that takes place in the world of Aww, Feathers! featuring one or more of the characters from the comic, I'd love to see what you can do! Please take a look at the submission guidelines, and then plan to have your guest comic finished by the beginning of the new year. The soft deadline for submission is currently January 1, 2022. So you've got a few months to work on your creations! And if you need a little bit of practice or inspiration, I may have just the thing...

OcTOONber

Yes, that's right! I'm once again participating in the Inktober daily drawing challenge, although like last year, I've put my own twist on it:

For a number of years, I've been fascinated by the simple and streamlined yet fun and endearing styles of various comics, TV shows, and games. I'd love to try a few of those styles myself, and then see what new techniques I could incorporate into my own art. If something like that tickles your fancy, feel free to join along! I didn't assign any specific cartoon style to specific days, but I did provide a list of ideas. Pick one from the list or choose from your own favorites, look up some artwork from that style, determine what makes that style unique, and then create your own drawing based on that style!

I think this will be a fun experiment! Still, I don't think I'm quite busy enough. What else can I do to kill some time...

NaNoWriMo

Well, twist my arm, I guess I'll write a novel!

Joking aside, National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) has been on my radar for years now. I love telling stories, and I've loved using Aww, Feathers! as one outlet for telling those stories. And not to worry, it's not going anywhere; I still have plenty more stories to tell in that universe! But, there are also stories I want to tell that don't fit with the comic. So this year I've decided to participate in NaNoWriMo to bring one of those stories to life. I've already written about my plans for NaNoWriMo in a previous news post, but the highlights are that my plan is to write the rough draft for a 30 page graphic novel that contains a complete story, start to finish. I'll share the finished draft when it's complete, but I will also be sharing the writing and creation process with my patrons, so if you'd like to follow along that journey with me and also gain access to other patron-exclusive benefits, join my Patreon at the Awwthusiast level or above!

That's all folks! Mostly...

Phew! After all that, I will finally be taking a bit of a break just in time for the holidays! I won't be completely inactive; by that time I plan to be making incremental progress on the next chapter of Aww, Feathers! and also doing a few art commissions. Mostly though, I will be taking what I'm sure will be a well-deserved rest, spending time with family, and getting myself pumped up for a new year!

That's what I've got planned for the rest of the year. I'm sure it will be a challenge, but I'm excited to experiment with some new things, push myself, and share my creations with you all!

Monday, September 13, 2021

NaNoWriMo 2021!

I'm excited to formally announce my participation in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) this year! NaNoWriMo is a yearly challenge for writers to complete a first draft of their novel in one month. Traditionally, it takes place during the month of November, and the goal is to aim for around 50,000 words. However, the most important thing is to motivate yourself to (1) form a regular writing habit, and (2) complete a story from start to finish.

As for myself, I've done a significant amount of writing for Aww, Feathers! However, my own writing habits could definitely be improved. In addition, while I've certainly written multiple chapters for the comic, many of which could be considered self-contained mini-stories, Aww, Feathers! itself does not currently have a planned ending (spoiler alert). So while I will definitely be continuing Aww, Feathers!, I would also like to try my hand at writing other things, including something that has a definite beginning and end.

While there is still time to change what I'll be working on, my plan for now is to be a little out-of-the-box and write a graphic novel during the month of November. So instead of 50,000 words, I will be aiming for a rough draft of 30 pages (or more). That includes text, panels, and rough sketches, but not necessarily finished line-work or colors. Also, the story itself could potentially be revised or changed significantly after that point. But the important thing is, it will be a complete story!

I am excited to participate in NaNoWriMo this year, and I'm also excited to share that journey with you! I plan to share the story I write once it is complete. However, I will also be sharing each step of the process on Patreon! Everyone at the Awwthusiast level or higher will get to see my progress, including weekly exercises leading up to the month of November, notes about the story and where it's headed, and best of all, access to each page as it comes out! So if you'd like to watch as this brand new story takes shape, make sure to join to get your exclusive access to this, as well as other patron benefits!

Thursday, August 26, 2021

Helping those in Afghanistan

I’ll keep this brief and as neutral as I can, as I feel this transcends politics and is something anyone can get behind.

My heart is aching for those fleeing the Taliban in Afghanistan. I don’t understand why the deadline was set for August 31st. Every news source I’ve listened to, conservative or liberal, reports that there are still many who need to be evacuated, and that there is no indication that we will have enough time. I’m asking everyone to please contact your representatives and ask them to urge President Biden to push back the deadline for leaving the country at least long enough to bring to safety all of our troops, United States citizens, Afghani citizens who aided us during the war and their families, and those fleeing the country for fear of violence or loss of freedom from Taliban rule. Ask them to make this a priority, and to set aside all other issues for the time being until this gets done. After all, there is less than a week remaining before the deadline.

It may seem like a small thing. But every voice matters, and it can be done in an afternoon.

Find and contact your House Representative:
https://www.house.gov/representatives/find-your-representative

Find and contact your Senators:
https://www.cop.senate.gov/senators/senators-contact.htm

Contact the President/Vice President:
https://www.whitehouse.gov/contact/

Contact the Speaker of the House:
https://www.speaker.gov/contact/

Contact Senate Majority Leader, Chuck Schumer:
https://www.schumer.senate.gov/contact/email-chuck

Contact Senate Minority Leader, Mitch McConnell:
https://www.mcconnell.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/contact

Call the White House:
202-456-1111
(This is the comment line. When I called, I didn’t get a voicemail, but rather spoke with a live operator. So keep your comments brief and respectful. I’m not totally sure their hours, but they opened today at noon eastern time, so I assume that’s the norm for weekdays.)

If you’re not sure what to say, you’re welcome to use this as a starting point, though I encourage you to phrase it in your own words, and feel free to add, remove, or change anything you like:

Dear [Representative/Senator Name],

My name is [your name], and I’m a resident of [city, state]. I’m worried about those fleeing the Taliban in Afghanistan. I’m asking you to please urge President Biden to push back the August 31st deadline in order to give us ample time to bring to safety all U.S. troops and citizens, Afghani citizens who aided us during the war and their families, and those fleeing the country for fear of violence or loss of freedom from Taliban rule. I ask you to make this a priority.

I know there are many important issues that need to be addressed. But please, set those aside for the time being and focus on bringing those people to safety. Use all your resources and influence until this gets done. There will be time to talk about infrastructure, immigration, taxes, and even the pandemic. But there is less than a week remaining until August 31, so I believe this issue to be the most urgent and that it should take precedent.

I welcome a response, but only if you have the time. Thank you for the important work you’re doing, and thank you for taking the time to read.

Sincerely,
[your name]

If nothing else, please pray for the safety of those in Afghanistan, that they might have peace, and that our world leaders will be able to make wise decisions.

Thanks for reading. Times may be dark, but I don't want to wallow in that darkness. I want to do whatever I possibly can to help, and then try to brighten the day. To that end, I'll see you again on Tuesday with the next Aww, Feathers! update.

-Lark

Monday, February 10, 2020

Three Website Layout Tools

As I've been redesigning the website for Aww, Feathers! I've run into what can be one of the most intimidating and finicky parts of coding a website: layout. It seems like it should be simple, but it rarely is. Somehow, some graphic or text container always seems to be out of place or misaligned.

Fortunately, this go around I had a few extra tools in my webdev toolbelt. I'm sharing them with you in case you or someone you know ever has need of them.

W3.CSS is a CSS library created by the online web dev education site, W3 Schools. It's free to use and specifically purposed for quickly putting together websites that are responsive and consistent across different devices. As the name implies the library is pure CSS and the different effects are achieved simply by applying one or more of the provided CSS classes to a web element. You can learn more about it at w3schools.com/w3css.

If you want a little more control over how multiple elements are aligned and positioned in relation to one another, you may try using the layout scheme called Flexbox. It allows you to position elements without having to resort to floating elements or absolute positioning. One downside is that there are a lot of settings and options to know and memorize, some of which are very similar and easy to confuse one with another. Fortunately, one excellent resource for learning all the in's and out's of Flexbox is available for free online. Even better, it's formatted like a game that makes it fun to learn and easy to conceptualize. It's called Flexbox Zombies, and you can take the course at FlexboxZombies.com.

An alternative to Flexbox is CSS Grid. While Flexbox treats web elements like  a line of items, CSS Grid treats them like items in a grid. The two can accomplish very similar results: both are able to control the direction, spacing, and alignment of a collection of elements. However, once mastered, CSS Grid seems to be the best way to control the overall layout of a site, especially one with a lot of content to arrange just right. It's also simpler and more intuitive. There is also a learning game for mastering CSS Grid made by the same developer who did Flexbox Zombies. This one isn't free, but if you enjoy the former, I consider this one to be well worth it! You can find it at GridCritters.com.

Friday, January 31, 2020

The Story You Most Have to Tell

Years ago I attended the Salt Lake City Comic Coventionn. One of the panels I went to had a number of hosts who had worked in young adult fantasy novels. One of them said something that I remember more than anything else that was said that night, and it's stuck with me ever since. Unfortunately I don't remember exactly who it was who said it, but if memory serves he was the illustrator for either the 13th Reality or the Leven Thumps series.

He said, "Tell the story you most need to tell."

It was simple, and not very specific. But it just made me think about the intentionality of the storytelling process. Any one of us could tell any number of stories for any number of reasons. We might tell one story because we think it sounds fun, another because we think it will be popular, and another because we think it will sell a lot of copies and make a lot of money. But which is the story we most need to tell?

At the time, I was already in the early stages of writing Aww, Feathers! A handful of the earliest pages had already been released. The story so far was based on a few my own experiences going to college. But asking myself what was the story I most needed to tell broadened my idea of what the comic could be.

Five years and two books later, Aww, Feathers! still draws from my personal experience, but it's also evolved into something more. My vision is for it to explore diversity. Not just diversity of appearance, but also a more nuanced look at diversity of experience and background, and how all these things come together to influence who we are.

I have every intention of keeping the heart and humor that readers of Aww, Feathers! have come to love. But I'm glad I took the time to develop a more deliberate approach to storytelling.

Tuesday, January 7, 2020

Ditch Resolutions. Set Habits.

The new year often brings hope and excitement. But it also brings one thing that many dread...

New Year's Resolutions.

What is it about these lofty goals for the coming year that has caused them to become such a parody of themselves? Any conversation about them is inevitably followed by some quip about how they'll all be broken by February. Goal setting is good, but the data suggests these resolutions rarely help us accomplish our goals.

The trouble with New Year's resolutions is they're too distant, too vague, too rigid, and too intractable. That's why I finally decided to not set any resolutions this year.

I know, I know. I'll give you a moment to peel yourself off the ceiling.

Instead of resolutions, I've chosen some daily habits to work on. They're actionable, meaning they're directly within my control to accomplish each day. They're specific so I know for sure whether or not I've accomplished them each day. They're flexible; if I decide I've mastered one habit or that a different one would serve me better, I can change it. And they're renewable. I know I'm not going to be perfect, but if I miss a day that doesn't mean I've failed. I can try again the very next day (instead of counting the entire year as a loss).

Each person's daily habits should reflect the change they'd most like to see in themselves. But if you're curious, I'm happy to share the five daily habits I've chosen to start the year with:


  • Draw every day for at least ten minutes, but more when possible.

  • Write every day, again for at least ten minutes.
  • Organize or cleanup for ten minutes per day. That could mean my home, my office, or my digital life (email, etc.).
  • Limit added sugars to 24 grams or fewer per day. I have a serious sweet tooth, but I know I feel better when I eat better. (I will allow myself one free day per week though. Let's not get too crazy!)
  • Write in my journal every day and reflect on what went well, what wasn't so good, and what I'm grateful for.


  • There are dozens of other things I'd like to work on, but for now I'm sticking with just a few. As these habits become automatic, I'll swap them out for something else. Some of them may seem really small or easy, but that's by design. It means I have no excuse! And the funny thing about baby steps is once you take one step, it's easier to take another.

    The important thing is that these small habits serve a much larger purpose, one of which is to deliver high quality content to my audience. I invite you to follow along with me and join the community where you can an exclusive, up close look at my own journey as well as the stories I produce along the way.

    I'd encourage anyone to adopt a similar practice of picking a handful of daily habits they'd like to work on. Once you do, tell someone and track your progress. Don't stress if you don't do as well as you hope at first. You'll get better the more you keep at it!

    Your buddy Lark believes in you!