Tuesday, April 30, 2013

She named the bunny Vorpal.

That sheepish expression? It's highly improper for him to be asking after a girl that he hasn't been formally introduced to, and he knows it.

I picked up a copy of Journeys of a German in England in 1782. I haven't got very far, but I'm finding it far more readable than Boswell.

The Viking Festival was like the Ohio Renaissance Festival in miniature, but more reasonably priced. The costuming was excellent, I recognized many of the people there from ORen. The food and the vendors were first-rate. There was even a longboat. One of the Vikings had a rabbit in a wooden cage. Seeing that piece of ingenuity really made my day.

Bonus: I was laying out some pages for chapter 5 and listening to random music on youtube, when up came the song Aimo from Macross Frontier. I don't speak Japanese, so I googled the lyrics to see what they meant. Bizarrely enough, the chorus goes:

Luray lureia
The skylarks that dance in the sky are tears
Luray lureia
You’re a kind and green child

That's pretty awesome, don't you think?

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Otzi the Iceman and Cold Iron swords

He's doing pretty well! Hostility to bafflement is an improvement, yes?

The Georgian-era half of this story is more-or-less easy to research, as there is a goodly amount of documentation. (Though certain questions are hard to answer- for example I can find diagrams of the dinner table, but how is it set at breakfast?)

But I had an imaginary half to create, and I didn't want to go with yet-another-Native-American-imitation. While there are inevitable similarities between non-metal-working, forest-dwelling peoples, I have drawn as much as possible from medieval and primitive European sources for clothing, weaponry, customs, etc. There's a lot more to living primitively than you'd think- here is a video of someone recreating Otzi the Iceman's gear. All that for an arrow??

For culture, I incorporated a good amount of Irish fairy lore, with a bit of Greek and Scandinavian influence. Plus a goodly amount of totally-made-up-shit. It's fantasy, after all.

One more problem I have with modern fantasy is that Elves are exactly like humans, but prettier, and live forever. I can deal with that now and again, but it's almost universal. So I threw in some serious physical differences. The color change from child (green) to adolescent (brown) to adult (fair) is really just the tip of the iceberg. I won't go into more detail at this point, but keep your eyes peeled.
One more question I'm pondering: Is Cold Iron being deadly to fairies a modern concept, or not? In Irish lore, fairies are thwarted by iron, but I don't know if it was just any iron. While there is such a thing as cold iron, it can't be used for swords or daggers; those items must be forged.

I attended a fantastic Viking festival yesterday, but that will have to be a future post. I'm out of time.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Feathers and teacups

If you look over the last few pages and happen to notice feathers, blood, and a hastily extinguished fire, you're more observant than he is.

Usually I am pretty good at identifying what something is. When knowledge fails, my google-fu is strong. I ID'd a woman from the 20's once with just an old photograph (but that's another story). Today I have a mystery cup and saucer on my desk and I cannot identify the maker. Which of course bugs me to pieces.

It's about 100 years old, give or take 20 years, black transferware piece, no makers mark. It's shaped more like a coffee cup than a teacup, and it's patterned all over with feathers (maybe leaves?). Feathers are vertical, point downward, in several rows,  and connected by loop-de-loops. There's also some black geometric hatchwork going on. The effect looks like Native American art crossed with Art Deco. It's very distinctive and kind of mesmerizing. I feel like I've seen something like it before, and I can't remember where....

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Victorian Cookbooks and Pirate Coats

Today's big find at work was a rare Confectioners Cookbook from the 1800s. One recipe started with "First scald the milk over the fire..."  How times have changed! For $100, some lucky customer will get to take it home. Less expensive but still notable were an oversize 1905 World Atlas, a koto from Japan, and a drop spindle made in New Zealand. But enough about work!

I am finally getting around to a sewing project that's been waiting for a couple months now. My sister's sewing circle got together and decided to all work on the same project: pirate coats. Then they wanted to get all dressed up and go out for tea, like a teetotaling Red Hats Society for 30-somethings. Only dressed like pirates, because- Just because. If you need to ask why-

I started with a McCall's George Washington pattern, men's size M. (Hey, it was $1.) Being a total shorty, I had to shorten the pattern by 3" overall and the sleeves by 4". I will probably have to take some tucks at the waist. I'm using a vintage blue velvet and it's shaping up rather nicely. It doesn't have cuffs (McCall's patterns are simplified to the point of uselessness) but I may add some. Let me first get past the challenge of attaching sleeves to coat....

Sunday, April 21, 2013

This is not the fae you are looking for.

A few hours early doesn't matter, does it?
I have too much else to get done today. It's nice to be able to scratch one thing off my list.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

There is too much lousy fantasy out there. Make yours good.

I was reading a book the other day that is a fine example of the importance of matching culture to plot. It was a novel about Native Americans set in the 1800s (I feel no need to name names). I got through three-quarters of it without seeing much amiss. The writer had done her research even if the plot was somewhat standard.

Then, our main character runs away from her adopted tribe to try to find the tribe she was born to. On the way, she is taken captive by another tribe that intends to make her a virgin sacrifice to their evil god. Only her beloved, who is desperately following her, can possibly save her now.

At that point, I just closed the book. Because that kind of plot belongs to B-movies and bad science fiction. It reeks of ignorance and prejudice and is just NOT what I signed up for when I picked up that book. I was hoping for something more authentic, not this.... drek.

It is this widespread cultural ignorance that makes me roll my eyes when someone tells me they based their fantasy race on Native Americans. Usually it's a idealised New Age-y idea of a people that never existed in reality. Though you do get those Noble Savages from time to time. Neither one worth a damn in any literary sense.

People, you can do better than that. I know you can. Either get creative and make something up instead of lifting it from popular culture, or get real with your research.
Pick a tribe. Read and learn. What we lump together as "Native American" are several hundred separate cultures that just happen to share a continent. How much can the Seminole of the Florida swamps and the Inuit of Alaska have in common, after all? The Algonquian tribes of the East Coast and the Pueblo of New Mexico had very different climates to contend with. How did that shape their societies? Their myths? Their clothing, housing, what they ate?

Most of all, if you are going to write Native American historical fiction, find out what themes run though their literature and mythology, and adapt it to your needs. Don't borrow plot from spaghetti westerns and dime novels. If you write fantasy, use your knowledge to create yourself a well-rounded society and stop falling into the stereotype trap.

There is too much bad fiction and fantasy out there. Make yours good.


Tuesday, April 16, 2013

He's no Sherlock Holmes

Sketching out the beginning of chapter 5.

I've given up on brushes. Ink pens it is.

Sunday, April 14, 2013


People ask me sometimes why I didn't set the story in a different country, like America or Ireland. Setting is so integral to a story, that if I set it elsewhere, it would not be the same story.

I thought about Ireland, but a. I don't read Gaelic, so finding period sources would be difficult. b. I don't think I could write in brogue, certainly not well. c. They didn't have forests either.

America had forests in spades, and I have the advantage of living here. However, if finding source material on Ireland is hard, 18th century Native American sources are just about impossible, and would be of limited use. And what's an English gent doing over here anyway? I concluded that the setting just wasn't going to work out with the plot, and that's that.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

More on uranium glass and other illogical things

So last post I wrote a little about my job and the kinds of strange things I deal with. Perhaps 99% of it is everyday collectibles... but it's that 1% that I live for.

There are some changes in the works, but as always, things are.... just.... strange. Sometimes my workplace is like a slightly alternate dimension that exists at right angles to logic. There are rumors about that we may soon be entering the 21st century. There are plans for a website, selling on Ebay, and even an electronic newsletter. I'm even supposed to have a (shared) office.

So, this office is one of those strange things I was mentioning. Don't think I'm complaining, mind.... but the door is kept locked, and I haven't been issued a key. Also, it's supposed to be a secured room to hold valuables, but it...doesn't actually... -how do I say this?- have a ceiling. Just a 10'x10' constructed room in a huge warehouse space, with the warehouse ceiling 30' above. Apparently if they put on a ceiling they'd have to run sprinklers and heat into the room, and that was too much work or expense or something.

On the good side, 
I'm a little more pleased than I should be that I now have a blacklight to use at work. I don't have anything else that I asked for- I expect my written requests have been filed in the circular file- but I have a blacklight. It's so I can tell what's uranium glass (aka vaseline glass) and what isn't. Turn off the lights, play it over the glass, and the good stuff glows green. It's like a magic trick. I could be amused for weeks on that alone.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

What I do for a living

You know, I'm not actually a historian. Or a comic book artist. I have an appreciation of history, and a degree in Fine Art with a concentration in painting. I work for a nonprofit, researching and appraising antiques and collectibles. Most of it is standard stuff, but I get some strange items now and again. Have you ever seen a gorilla-hair coat? With sparse, black hair, it looks disturbingly like human scalps. How about a pickled shark in a jar? Did you know than many antique pianos have keys made from elephant ivory, and innards made from gold? Don't get me started on the number of radioactive items...did you know, before they realized the long-term ill effects of radiation, radium water was a health cure and uranium was used to color glass and pottery?
Museum of Quackery has more on radium cures.

Google Red Fiestaware or Vaseline Glass for more about uranium glass and pottery. They are not radioactive enough to glow in the dark, but they will register on a Geiger counter, and have a telltale glow under ultraviolet light.

Things I have not seen that I hope to run across someday include a radium-water crock and a crown of feathers. Um, solar panels would be nice but I'm not asking for miracles.

Monday, April 8, 2013

The biggest fantasy of all~

Something I'm musing about today... the thing that requires the greatest suspension-of-disbelief isn't elves or faeries, it's that there was a forest of more than three trees left standing together in the 18th century that wasn't someone's carefully maintained private hunting preserve. England was pretty well denuded by the time the Black Death came around in the 14th century. In the 17th century England deforested Ireland to build ships. A sad story, that. When the trees were gone Ireland was used for food production for the Navy during England's imperialist expansion. So much food was exported that many of the Irish were starving, and that was before the potato famine.
More about Ireland, if you want to know.

Concerns about the environment, about sustainability, scarcity of resources, and economic exploitation aren't a new idea at all. They have existed throughout history. I'm not writing to preach about them, but they're definitely a underlying theme.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Deathly cute preview from Chapter 4

I varied the storytelling a bit this chapter. Don't worry, it isn't all text. We'll get back to the pretty pictures in a page or two.

I'm feeling a bit blue over some things that happened recently. When I finish writing this post I'm going to finish cleaning my bike and get it ready for sale. I've enjoyed it a lot; it's a Giant electric bike, an awesome bike that deserves to be ridden. But the 10 mile route to work is a narrow road without a shoulder, and I'm still working on medical bills from a couple months ago. But enough sad stuff.

Chapter 4, which I'm coloring now, is waaaay too cute. It's universal; children love playing with big shoes, and other things never intended as toys.

Ah, well. I can't keep putting this off. 'Til Tuesday, then.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Secretaries and pocketwatches, sans drama.

This was one of the first pages I drew. It was part of an intro that seemed to be serving no purpose, so I'm glad I could reuse it here. That kind of desk is called a secretary. They contain a bunch of cubbies for sorting mail and a variety of small drawers, but their main feature is that they close up. That board the book is laying on is hinged. It folds up to a 45' angle and often locks shut, to keep out snoops perhaps. An annotated version of Pride and Prejudice noted that letters were penned in the library rather than in private. I am not sure why that was the custom, but I doubt Mr. Darcy would not have put up with Miss Bingley's pestering and interference if he had the option.

I'm so proud of that watch.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Ooh, boy....

It's not just women in the Regency who had to deal with genteel poverty. Seems that being of gentle birth cut you off from almost anything involving working for a living. He could join the military, but unless someone's willing to shell out money for a rank, it's going to be a very miserable experience. Britain is militarily engaged with a half-dozen nations right now, so chances of living through the experience are decidedly below par. Other options are marrying money, and sponging off friends and relatives.

So my question for today is, is careless, manipulative, lazy Allan showing signs of a conscience, or has he just been drinking too much?