Wednesday, January 26, 2022

Flash Fiction Commissions

I am looking for anyone who would be interested in taking a chance on a new, experimental form of commissions for me: flash fiction! What is "flash fiction" you ask? It's like a short story, but with even fewer constraints on length, ranging from just a few pages, to as short as even a few sentences. What I'm considering offering is about a 2,000 word story written by me that incorporates the characters, setting, and other elements that you choose, as well as a sketch that functions as the "cover art" for said story. You can specify as many or as few of the details as you want, and I'll work together with you to bring your idea to life!

To give you some idea, 2,000 words is roughly equivalent to a four-page, single spaced document written in 11 pt font, or enough to write a single, detailed scene. Because I've never done this style of commission before, the first few slots will be heavily discounted. I'm going to start with a maximum of four slots, and they will cost $50 each. If I offer these to the public in the future, I expect the cost to be significantly higher. This is an introductory price for those who are kind (and brave?) enough to give me a chance to explore this new commission format as a possibility. If this sounds intriguing to you, read on for more details about the process!

Step 1: Inquiry 

Before any payment is sent, message me with your idea. You can specify any or all of the following:

  • main characters
  • setting
  • conflict
  • major plot points
  • genre
  • etc.

If you already have a basic story outline in mind, that's great! If you'd like a story, but don't have any idea what kind you would like, that is also fine! Do you just want a story that involves your characters? Are you fine with whatever as long as there's a dragon in it? Itching for some science fiction but with no idea for the plot? Want to give me 100% artistic freedom?? All of that is totally fine!

Step 2: Payment

Once your idea has been approved, I will send you an invoice which, once paid, will reserve your slot! Please be patient; since these are so new to me, I'm giving myself about a month to complete each one. It may take less time than that of course, but I want to give myself plenty of room to figure out the process.

Step 3: Story Consult

When you're next in the queue, I'll review your story idea with you and go into greater detail, including developing a story outline that fits within the story length and the parameters you've provided. Once we have an outline that we're both excited about, then the writing process can begin!

Step 4: Writing and Revision

Now you get to sit back while I write the first draft. The draft will be at least 2,000 words in length, though it may be slightly over if needed to wrap up the story. Once the first draft is done, I will send it to you for feedback. After that I'll begin revising the story to polish and tighten up the prose. During the writing process, you may request up to five "story revisions", meaning changes to the plot, timeline, world building and character details, etc. These revisions are for details that are a matter of preference rather than errors. On the other hand, you are allowed an unlimited number of "technical edits", such as spelling or punctuation errors, or problems with continuity, consistency, etc. so don't hesitate to point out any that you happen to catch.

Note that it is common for prose to become shorter with each revision as extraneous words are removed. As such, the final draft may end up being slightly shorter than 2,000 words, but I will make sure it doesn't dip below 1,800 words without your approval.

Step 5: Cover Art

After the writing portion has been finalized, I'll whip up a sketch that will serve as the "cover art" for your story. At the base price, this includes a single character and a simple background. If you wish, you may upgrade to include color, more characters, props, or a detailed background for an additional fee.

Step 6: Delivering Files

Once the writing and artwork are completely finished, I'll export the final files, which includes the following:

  • a rich text document (.rtf) that contains just the text of your story,
  • an image file (.jpg) of the cover art for your story,
  • a PDF document containing your story and cover image in standard format, and
  • another PDF document containing your story and cover image optimized for mobile viewing.

At this point the project will be considered complete! If for whatever reason I am unable to finish your story, you will be fully refunded.

And that's basically it! All that remains is to mention a few ground rules, including what I will or won't write about, and how the end result may be used:

  • The story must be SFW; think towards the tamer side of PG-13. In particular, I'll avoid profanity, heavy gore, and sexual themes. Romance is okay as long as it isn't sexually explicit or overly indulgent.
  • The story must not be hurtful to any group based on race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, nationality, etc.
  • Certain other topics may be excluded based on my comfort level and ability to write said topics. Any such exclusions will be made clear during the initial inquiry phase, before payment is sent.
  • The story should have some semblance of story structure, such as a goal, conflict, and resolution, etc. So for example, it can't just be a highly descriptive transformation sequence. However, it could be a story that includes a transformation sequence! If there's something you'd like included, but you're not sure how to turn it into a cohesive story, talk to me about it and we can come up with some ideas.
  • I'm looking to write original stories featuring original characters. That means no fan-fiction. However, stories that are inspired by an existing property without directly copying it may be fair game. Feel free to ask!
  • You must have permission to use any characters to be included in the story. The rights to any characters included in the story will remain with their original owners.
  • You may share the resulting story freely, including any of the files delivered, as well as copy-and-pasting the text itself. However, you may not sell, alter, or repackage it in any way. The author's credit and contact info at the bottom of the last page must always be clearly visible.
  • I reserve reproduction and commercial rights to the resulting work, which may be included in future collections, anthologies, or other publications.

Example

Click this link to see an example of what the end result could look like. Not counting the title or author's credit, this example contains exactly 2,000 words to give you a basic idea of the length.

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.