Tuesday, December 23, 2014

God Jul, Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

Tomorrow's Christmas Eve. That's the day when we celebrate Yule in Sweden. This year will be a little different from usual, since my husband and I don't have as much money as we're used to. He's just lost his job and suffers from a depression (not solely because of the lost job, but partially), which makes Christmas more of a burdon than a holiday of cheer. It's supposed to be fun, so to make it fun when everybody is in a crappy mood isn't the easiest task.

We have a daughter, and of course you want to give your child an experience to remember; isn't that what every parent wants? Children should have nice holidays, but it's getting harder and harder when things aren't as they used to be. Hah, this is turning into the rant I wrote a couple of weeks ago, that was not my intent :D

What I was going to talk about was how I can give my daughter a winter holiday to remember without spending lots of money. It's all about reading the newspapers and finding out where you can go to get the most fun out of the least money spent. I know, I might sound like a spoilt brat - there are people that can't even sit by a computer and write this blogpost because they can't afford it. I know, I really can't whine about it when there's nothing to whine about. My daughter is a very clever girl too, she says that she don't need any Christmas gifts this year, as long as we have Christmas at all. And I know she's right, it's all about having a good Christmas experience.

We started out by buying second hand skates, SEK 80. Not far from here there's a huge store where they sell sports equipment. Outside, the store have a rink with ice - great, since it's not cold enough to skate on lakes even in Sweden. And the best part is that everyone can use the ice for free. My daughter Saga and I have been ice-skating every weekend for an entire month now and she's getting better and better at it.

Yesterday Saga and I went to Gothenburg. This city always have tons of things to offer, like free cinema on the outer wall of the museum of art. We sat there at the stairs to the theatre at Götaplatsen, watching the show while eating a meal that we had brought from home. We also went to Liseberg, an amusement park, where they have a Christmas Fair every year. Entry isn't that expensive, it's the tickets to the attractions that have a tendency to become too many, as well as the meals. Some of the attractions are for free, so we went to those. Santa's workshop, the carousel, the petting zoo. And Saga bought a Christmas gift to her dad.

My daughter Saga, as she was examining the artificial snow.

We have a membership in Nordens Ark, an animal park not far away from here, where we plan to go for a pic-nic one of the days. Since we're members, entry is for free.

So. The Christmas that my daughter wished for. After having paid all the bills, there isn't that much money left for anything, and I still have to buy food for the entire month when Christmas is over. I have a small ham, have some pickled herring, but you all know that a Swedish Christmas smorgasboard is supposed to be so full that the table is about to break all it's legs and crumble to the floor. We'll have to settle for the important things - ham, meatballs, herring and small sausages; I have the ingredients for that in my freezer ;)

In the end it's more important to remember what Christmas is all about. In my book it's about the experiences, the love and the fun. As long as one stays optimistic, everything will turn out just OK :D

Happy Holidays!

Sunday, December 14, 2014

The December Games 2014

Every year after NaNoWriMo I take a break from writing. No, that's not entirely true. It's my month of games. I do all kinds of writing challenges just for the fun of it, write short stories and so on. December is a great month for a break - to much other things around anyway to make it work.

So, this post is about The December Games 2014. Different challenges to practice writing while procrastinating.

  1. The Strange Word Challenge is all about finding a really weird word, write about it as if you know what it is and look it up afterwards.
  2. The Dialogue Challenge - Write a dialogue without using the word "say" or "said".
  3. The Adventure Challenge is where you have to come up with an adventure really fast.
  4. The Christmas Challenge - your answer to the question "What happens next?"
  5. The Christmas Fighting Scene - from a peaceful game of chess to writing gore.
I post and repost challenges I like at Tumblr for now, but my plan is to move them over here eventually.

And since it's Christmas soon, here's a set of Christmas Pictures. If you can get a story out of them, please post a link, I'd love to read what you've come up with :D

Larger pic here: http://fav.me/d83neyb

Larger pic here: http://fav.me/d89qbne

Happy Writing!

Saturday, December 6, 2014

5-point writing routine for full time working moms and A CHALLENGE!

You know, writers are ordinary people too. It would have been much easier if they just popped up from a pot of mud after a summer of sun and rain, started writing the second they had formed hands. That's not the fact though. They are hard working people, usually not making enough money from their writing to live solely from it. They have ordinary jobs, familys and everything when they start writing, and if they're lucky, someone will read what they've written. If they are really lucky, they might be read by enough people to actually be able to write full time. I'm not one of those people; I haven't even finished writing a last draft yet. There's not enough time to make that fast either, which is why my writing process have been the same for years:

  1. I get up at 05:00 in the morning, have my large, strong and black cup of coffee in bed with a book. I read for about half an hour before I return to the text I'm working on. The next half hour is all about reading what I wrote the days before, to get back to the right language while doing some editing on the way. I wish I had the same time as Hemingway though, he read his whole manuscript every day (thanks for the link, Cronin Detzz ). 
  2. At 06:00 I hardy have any time left for writing, which is why I usually plan what I'd like to write. I use five minutes for this, and these five minutes are golden. They make it easier to stay on the track during the day. After that it's time for a challenge before I wake my husband and daughter up. Usually I just do a five minute sprint, but if that doesn't work I really need a challenge. I've posted some of these challenges here, some of them on Twitter and Tumblr. I'm thinking of collecting all the challenges on a page here later.
  3. During the day I always carry pen and paper (or rather a pocket size journal to be honest). Since I know what I'd like to write, I have this in my head all day, trying to figure out how to work this out in the best of ways. If I have an idea I just write a quick note or a full set of sentences that I like.
  4. When I'm done with what I have to do at work it's time to write. Usually I write by hand first, I like the flow I get into and I've noticed that it's easier to be critical about what I write if I sit by the computer first.
  5. Later in the evening when my daughter is in bed, it's time for the actual writing. I have my scribbles in my journal and start from the top to rewrite it all on my lap top. My daily goal is 2000 words. If I haven't reached that goal, I read through what I've written once more to see if I can change something. Usually I notice that I can change entire paragraphs by Showing instead of Telling, and when that is done I've passed that 2000 word goal with a huge margin.

And now, to the Writing Challenge of the day!

You know by now that I love a good writing challenge - heck I can't say no to one; many of my pictures are submissions to different challenges too.

When I'm in need of one, I try to figure out what I have to practice the most at the moment. If I don't come up with anything good it's all about getting that speed I need to be able to write as much as possible in that little time I have between work and family life. Describing a scene without using more than five adjectives, writing a dialogue without using the word "said"; it's a great way to widen your language.

Today's challenge is all about writing. There are a few rules, but they are rather easy. You'll need a main character and your main character needs to use these things in one way or another:

  • A stapler
  • A review mirror
  • A shovel
  • A pair of socks
  • A cylinder hat
You have to keep this story really short, max 1000 words.

If you decide to try it out, please post it somewhere and link to it in a comment below, I'd love to read it!

Sunday, November 30, 2014

NaNoWriMo as a writing technique

"Punk Flutist", a work in progress.

This is the end, beautiful friend
This is the end, my only friend, the end
the Doors 

Yes, National Novel Writing Month is over once more, and I'm happy to say I managed to finish in time this year too. Not as euphoric about it as last year, but still rather pleased with the result. It's not as badly written as last year though, since I followed a few simple rules.

Firstly, NaNoWriMo can be rather hectic, if you don't see it for what it is: A way to learn how to turn that inner editor off while working on a first draft. I have a very strong editor myself, so I find it quite difficult. If you write frantically for a month you will most certainly not get a finished story out of NaNoWriMo, but you will at least have a good idea.

I know lots of people who write their novels during NaNoWriMo; not that strange really. You get that kick in the right direction that only a challenge can bring. I for one can't say no to a challenge, so I'm pretty pleased that I'm not a man living during the 1700's - I really suck at fencing with rapiers.

This is why I wanted to talk about NaNoWriMo as a writing technique. 

This is for us who only get to the other side of the road block if there's a challenge to it. If we're stuck somewhere in the middle and just can't get further without writing something extremely silly. Like a shaving scene that we probably don't need at all. Yes, I have one of those. I had no idea what to write, so I crammed it in there. Fur is shaving with a straight razor and not doing a very good job either. It was fun to write, but the entire scene is just as valuable as a hot dog with sauerkraut - a stomache filler - and it will be cut (even though I think it's actually quite good) in January.

The first challenge is therefore to write as fast as possible without editing. We've already done this, so now let's go deeper into the marshes of challenges. It's even better if you have a couple of friends with you on these, then you can't skip the challanges and keep on staring at an empty document. The forums at NaNoWriMo are full of ideas for a creative kick-start, and just to take a few:
  • Dares. I dare you to add a Corkscrew of Destiny, or even better: The Travelling Shovel of Death. The thing is, you'll have to make it sound right to work. This is a great way to jump over that road block you were about to crash into earlier.
  • Word Sprints. I do these every day, more or less. It's an easy way to get in shape if you're not there quite yet. Here's a way to make a Word Sprint, and here's my result on that challenge.
  • Word Wars. You need to have a writing buddy here, otherwise you won't really have anyone to fight. It's all about getting more words written than the opponent in the same amount of time.
  • Crawls. Write 2000 words in a day. Or similar. You'll get more time, but also a smaller goal for the day. I use crawls and write at least 2000 words a day. If I'm not procrastinating.

Just because November is over, there's no reason to stop writing. I still have at least 25 000 words to write before I reach the end of my story, and after that I'll return to editing the novel I started writing last year. And as usual, I'll start every writing session with a word sprint, then seal the deal for the day with a crawl.

Now, do as Fur says and get back to work.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Saturday Scenes

A snippet of text. It's a bit out of context, I know. This part was something I wrote yesterday during editing, since I noticed that the scene needed something more. Today I'm going to have another look at it and do some more work on the wordflow and stuff.

Fur again, and as always he's in a bit of trouble. He really has a tendency to walk right into it. If you want to know more about Fur, here's an interview with him, and most of my Sunday Scribbles are about him. An example from the scene I'm editing at the moment here.

And, as usual: sorry for the bad translation.

This is Fur. My scanner won't work, so I had to take a picture of my drawing. Sorry for bad resolution.

They stopped in front of a heavy door made of steel. It opened inwards and the whining from the handle echoed. The room on the other side of it was dim and smelled weird - metallic and slightly bitter - but there was at least one large window along the entire wall towards Gallows Glory. The window was reinforced with bars and Fur didn’t like the view. On the five legged mare, two men in uniform were working, crouching for the rain. One of them on a ladder and the other one on the ground, arranging a noose that Fur more than ever wanted to forget.
"By gods, give me strength," he whimpered through a hard bite. Again he felt how his forehead became shiny with sweat while the hairs on his arms stood up. The next second the cramps forced him to double over with his arms around his belly. Without slowing down the guards grabbed harder of his arms and lifted more than led him further into the room. The beat of their boots against the floor remained unchanged, apart from the scraping of Furs soles when his legs moved without him helping.
"Gods?" Fur heard the word repeated through the haze of pain at the same time as the door slammed behind him. A woman's voice. "There are no gods, honey."
Fur raised his head, panting. Avoided to look out through the rain towards the gallows in the square. Where did the voice come from? It was not until she moved that he noticed her, a tall wallflower dressed in grey from top to toe. The silk in her dress rustled against the floor when she moved.
"No, not for me," replied Fur without releasing the woman from his gaze. She could have been cute - In her youth - a straight nose and a pair of almond-shaped eyes. There was something though that made ​​him stiffen of discomfort. There was something though. Fur could not put his finger on what it was; not until he realized that she had the same look in her eyes as pickpockets in the streets. Both estranged and aware, almost like she was observing the world through a window. It did not match her ​​proud posture; just as little as the wrinkles in the corners of her mouth straining her face to a bitter mask. Of course, she could have been like that since childhood, but he doubted that. She moved just as tall as the young ladies Wilgor, but with her hands clasped so tightly against her bodice that her fingers seemed to want to strangle each other. Fur forgot to breathe for a second. Strangling. Why even think of that word? He looked away and tried to focus on something else. Nerthal in the sunset. The light from the sun as it sank below the smog and gave the underside of the smoke a beautiful orange glow. The reflections in the shattered window glass.
"No, not for you," the woman agreed, and Fur did what he could to avoid looking at her as she took hold of his chin and studied his face. "How old are you?"
Fur glanced sideways against a desk cluttered with papers. The wallpaper of leather had black rings after the ink bottle and the pen leaned against the rim of the can with the tip in ink. Dangerously close to the edge stood a tea mug. That despicable kind of mug with an ugly face on it - intended to be funny. It wore traces of coffee and had probably not been cleaned between refills. Oh, if it just could fall to the floor and crash into smithereens.
"I asked you a question."
"Thirty-two. I'm thirty-two." Fur continued to avoid her gaze. The other side of the room was furnished with a long sideboard; over that, glass cabinets. The cupboards were full of large brown sealed glass bottles, each one neatly parked with its adhesive label turned outwards. On the table beneath were more glass containers filled with liquids and over a small burner hung a round-bottomed flask from which a glass tube led a liquid to another container.
"Hm. I would have bet that he was younger, "murmured the woman, as if to herself. "He's too old."
Fur looked up and met her gaze. "Too old?" He stammered, but never uttered the rest of his question: too old for what? Hardly to die. She had brown eyes with yellow flecks. A pair of eyes that ought to laugh.
"In years maybe, but with his knowledge," replied the man with the lantern where he was standing just to the side of Fur.
"Knowledge?" The woman proceeded to examine him as if he were a piece of unfit meat at the butcher’s.
"Believe me, he is the right man."
The woman dropped Furs chin and turned around. "Well, if he's the best you can sift out."

Hope you didn't get a headache, have nice Saturday!

#saturdayscenes is a weekly event at G+. Please, tag along and try it out!

Thursday, November 27, 2014

The wrting challenge, part 2

I felt like I had to post my own result from this challenge , I would love to read yours! If you decide to do it, why not post a link to your blog or homepage here then I get a chance to see that too ;)

The five word sentence I got was I asked you a question, and the following story is just written from what I came to think of when I read that sentence out loud.

Here's my submission:

I asked you a question

The boot flew through the room and smacked me in the face with the force of a battle droid with newly oiled cogs. I spun around on my heels and fell backwards towards the hardwood floor, landed on my nose. The pain ran through my face, all of it in an instant. Total blackness, and in the distance millions of stars - through that a voice.
“I asked you a question.”
Her voice, but muffled; as if she was talking with a sock in her mouth. Why would she do that, the taste would be awful.
My face felt warm. I wasn’t sure if my eyes were open or not, but the stars were about to fade away. Everything tasted metal. How metal wasn’t that? Ouch.
“Yeah”, I murmured, “that’s a good question.” My hand against my face as I tried to sit up.
“Is that supposed to be an answer?” She was closer now, I could feel her breath just by my ear. The hairs in my neck saluted her in fear as the cold sweat ran down my spine. I shuddered. Too cold to just wear a T-shirt.
“No, of course not”, I answered hastily, “just give me time.”
“Time? You think time grows on trees?” She laughed. “You’ve had your share of time, stolen enough from me to make me wonder what I’ll have to do to get it back.” Her fingers buried themselves in the sides of my neck. The pain made me scream and her fingers made me think of scarecrows. Sticks. Even though I still only saw darkness, I still knew the facial expression to that voice, that skinless face with all those perfect pearly whites. The hood she wore would never hide that grin.
“I don’t have your time”, I sniffled, “I’m so sorry, please!”
“Please? You have no idea what you’ve lost.” She was furious, I could hear it. The only other time I heard her voice like this was when she lost a game of chess. The only time she did that too. “Time’s up, buddy.”

This is all I managed to write in five minutes ;)

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Writing Challenge!

NaNoWriMo is coming to an end and I am just about to validate my text. This year I had a rough time writing without editing. About half way through I realized something:

  • If you decide to edit, do that in another document than the one you're writing in. That way you won't feel as insecure about the crappy first draft you've managed to squeeze out of your poor brain. 
  • If you don't find the perfect word you want for a certain thing, descibe the word. With any luck, you know what word you were looking for when you edit later. On the plus side - you got some extra words for the NaNo-word count.
  • Don't change anything. If you realize that your scene would be much better off in another way, just write the new way too - more words and something to look at when you edit.
That half way mark gave me a nice boost, so I've actually managed to write my 50 k words in shorter time than ever.

So. To celebrate this, I decided it was time for a writing challenge!

Tag along, it'll be fun :D
You do it like this:

  • Turn your timer on, make it go off in 30 seconds. 
  • Start anywhere you like in your unedited first draft.
  • Scroll through your draft, make sure your marker follows you - or use a finger on the screen. When the alarm goes off, your marker - or finger - must stop. You now have a sentence, right?
  • The first five words of this sentence will be your title.
  • Use the timer again. Set the alarm to go off in five minutes. You have a title, so just start writing!
If you join in, post your result in your blog and link to it here, I'd love to see what you've coe up with!

Happy writing!

Sunday, November 16, 2014

About time and it's worth

Yes, this is a rant. Why? Because I'm working myself towards a depressive state, so I should just get this junk out of the system. Hopefully this rant will make me feel less depressed and I can go back to normal.

This week I really didn't have any time for writing. Work, eat, sleep, that's what my week has consisted of, and during the weekend I've been too tired to do anything. OK, I've been playing with my daughter, but I find that more important than writing, when I haven't had enough time for that either during the week.

So, the rant. About the worth of time. I value my time highly, which is why I've chosen to do a job that I find interesting and inspiring. I'm a teacher. There's nothing compared to that "Eureka!"-glint in a child's eyes when something is figured out. What I've come to realise is that more and more work has been added to the things I have to do during a day. Not just me, all of us I'd presume. Yes, the pay check is a little fatter now compared to what it was ten yers ago, but as I look at how our economy is sloping, I realise that I now get less paid a month for more work.

So, no my bitter half asks: Why is it so important to discuss how little women are paid compared to men, when we all are paid less for our work now than before? And to put some whipped cream on that with a cherry on top: I asume we all have gotten better at what we do for a living over the years, doesn't experience count either anymore?

Ah, that felt great. Thanks for listening.

And here's a white king for my chess board.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Structure and NaNoWriMo

I agree. Those words doesn't really seem to fit well together. The thing is, that structure is what has made NaNoWriMo (a link to my page over there btw) work quite well and without stress this year, at least for me. Eh, let's be honest. Structure is what I need to be able work at all, so why ot during NaNoWriMo? In the beginning of November I thought everything went so slow, but for some reason the pace was surprisingly high. I noticed that by coincidence when I updated my word count every day at NaNoWriMo. This made me think, of course. What have I done dfferently?

Every year I have a well worked out plan, or that is at least what I think. I know pretty much what I will write about, but on the way I find other routes that drive me staight into a huge road block. Usually. I make very detailed Character sheets, have built up a world that I not only know by heart but have so much written research on that only this could make a thrilogy. Of course you think this would be enough, but it wasn't. Last year was a fight to reach the 50 000 word goal. Last year was the first time I reached that far, and I'll tell you why soon.

This year, I learned from other writers about Dan Wells and his story structure. Here are five clips about his tecnique:

And this last one, part 5 of 5, that won't be embedded for some reason.

This way to work made me really think. I have several paralell stories, so of course this ment several plot points. For one of the characters I even had to go through the whole program twice. So, why did I have to think? I mean, I know my characters, know what I want to write and certainly know what will happen. Don't we all? Well, why I had to think was because this way of planning really makes you see every small part of your story, makes you look at it through a magnifying glass. You have a chance to make those miniature flaws right before you write them. believe me, I found a bunch of them.

And as I promised: What I learnt last year.

The thing I learnt last year was that I needed to be sure what I wanted to write during a session before I started writing. I got this tip from a writer who has been an aid at NaNoWriMo for several years: Rachel Aaron. She shares freely of what she knows in her blog, but has also written a book on the matter:

If you don't have the energy to read it all, haven't got the time to discover when you're most productive, there's a lite edition here below. This is a very easy tecnique to get started, easy to make sure you force yourself through that annoying road block.

  1. Put a timer on for five minutes. Start to write ABOUT what you'd like to write during your session. How characters are supposed to react to the situation you are writing about, how they might look and so on.
  2. Annnd your five minutes are up! Time to start writing that thing you wanted to write. Since you now know where you are going, this will be an easy path. If you get stuck, just take another five minutes to get back on track.
  3. If this doesn't work I usually turn to drawing. This last one is optional, but I find it easier to write about scenes when I see them in front of me.

Combining these two things worked out perfectly for me. I've even had time to play around with other things:

I think this might be what Fur would look like as a zombie *laughing hysterically*, I had to play with some textures in Photoshop. In this case I used bark.

Super heroes are always fun, this picture is a submission to a challenge I entered over at deviantArt.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

NaNoWriMo and the Hiccups

We could start with the hiccups. In retrospect, they are rather fun.

I decided to leave home for the weekend, you know, to get settled for NaNoWriMo, get some alone time and at the same time meet up with a friend. So I booked a flight to London, paid for the tickets and the nice hotel room, packed and got ready to leave.

The first hiccup was done at home, but I didn't notice that until I got to the airport. My passport. I had left it at home on the dining room table.

Oh, no worries, there was another flight just hours later, I rebooked the flght and went home for my passport. Why, you may ask, why didn't you just get a preliminary one? Well, I live in Sweden, but I was about to fly from Oslo in Norway and things like that takes time. It would be easier for me to just return home to get my passport and return - I live pretty much just on the other side of the border. 

So, got back home, packed the passport and returned to the airport just in time for my flight. And that's when I realised that I now had forgotten my wallet at the dining room table. Yeah, it turned out to be my lucky day. I hadn't prepaid the taxi from the airport to the hotel, so how would I manage this now? Costly business, since I was going for an hour ride.

Luckily, the friend that I was going to visit - I should mention that she and I had never met in person before - lent me the cash for the cab. I am so grateful for this and still a bit in chock - only a saint or an angel does that to a total stranger. Well, she is a total sweetheart, so no need to argue about that. She helped me with everything and planned a really nice weekend for me.

Anyway. While the battery on my cell phone was running low, my brother helped me out, finding a Western Unon where I could get money transfered from Sweden to England fast and easy the next day. The problem was, I needed to get from where my hotel was - Apsley - to London for that.

At the hotel, Holiday Inn in Hemel Hempstead/Apsley they helped me to find a Western Union a bit closer though. At a walking distance.

The next day, my friend showed up at eight and we headed out. I was a buffon to think this would be done in a jiffy, but very persistant that I wanted the money before breakfast so that I could repay her. It started out as a really nice walk. Hemel Hempstead is a nice town, old houses mixed with new ones, and in the middle of it all there's a canal with paths on both sides to stroll along, while looking at canal boats. One of the boats were named "The Plot", so of course I had to take a whole bunch of pictures of it.

Although we had an address and everything sorted out - we thought - there was no Western Union as far as the eye could see. The hours passed as we walked back and forth to find the place. 
But, awe and Wonder, we finally did! Fixed all the papers and stuff, and then I realised I had forgotten my passport - again! This time at the hotel room. My friend started to look rather annoyed by now, and I can imagine why. Having a visitor that promptly want to do weird stuff before breakfast would be irritating enough for me to start swearing - I think. She's stoic though, but calls for a cab this time. We return to the hotel and get the passport, then return to the Western Union office. Now you think nothing can go wrong. Riiight.

My dad lives in Gothenburg, it's not a large city, but large enough to have at least one (nah, there's a bunch) Forex office. He's my dad, so of course he helped me out, even though this would destroy his entireday, lending me the cash I had planned to bring with me. He sent it, but listen to this: The name on my passport didn't match the name on the transfer. Nobody told him that he needed all my middle names (I have two) on this stupid piece of paper. My dad had already gotten back home and had to return to the Forex office to get this sorted. OK, so by now I'm utterly restless and irritated, but trying not to show this to my friend. You know, you only have one chance for first impressions, and by now my impression was more or less sawn off by it's feet and tossed to the piranhas. So, trying something I'm utterly bad at usually, and definately not good at when I'm in this mood: polite chitchat. Sweating like h*** too, since it turns out to be a rather lovely day and I'm all dressed up in wool since I'm used to Swedish weather. Yeah, you would get nervous in that situation, wouldn't you? "Do I smell? What to say?", You know, all those normal questions that are asked inside your head when you're meeting someone for the first time.

Dad gets it sorted and I'm pleased, and then we have another problem. The clerk at Forex in Sweden had now spellt my dad's name wrong. All of them, really. SIGH! Another call back to Sweden to sort this out. Hastily, since I really don't want to hold on to that money any more, I toss the bills at my friend and we are off for breakfast. Finally. At eleven o' clock.

After this farse though, I've had a lovely couple of days, but I'm not going to write about that now, because this post was all about NaNoWriMo and Hiccups. 

National Novel Writing Month! Yay! Started today, because it's the first of November! I managed to get 4359 words written; the crappiest words ever, but anyway :D Started to edit some of it this evening, and even made a quick translate. Here's an excerpt, and as I said - QUICK translate:

       The fingers on his left hand curled the piece of paper in his pocket to a narrow tube and unfurled it again without him thinking about it. Fur had already gone through several emotional stages this day; fear, excitement, anxiety, and now bitter regret, so why would he be bothered with what his hands were doing?
       Nerthal at dusk. He'd sure miss her. Was there anything more beautiful? She was like a superannuated old whore; during the day nothing you looked at twice, but in the evening when the light was more in her favour, she was breathtakingly beautiful. Maybe it helped that Fur was slightly drunk. After having thrown up what little had been left in his stomach, he had found a small shady pub on the same square and negotiated with the barkeep to get two glasses of aquavit. It would probably not have been worth the coins; Fur could taste the hooch even though the vast amount of wormwood tried to hide it behind a bitter curtain. The searing heat that spread through his throat, into the stomach and then out through his body was just what he needed though. One glass for the heat, another one for courage. Sure, he promised to come back, on his honor as a gentleman. He would repay his debt as soon as he found his purse. The fact that he managed to convince the barkeep - despite the flattened hat, dirty coat and horrible stench - made Fur slightly impressed with himself.
       The one for the heat had helped. Courage was a bit more difficult. On shaky legs Fur headed home. He could already sense the taste of Mrs. Parsley’s strong tea and the smell of her freshly baked rolls with melting butter and cheese, feel the warmth of the fireplace in the parlor at Truscullus boulevard. Home. Fur sneaked between houses, through the gardens, climbed over them where he didn’t dare to walk. That small piece of paper. It burned through the fabric of his coat pocket and as many times as he'd read it, he knew by now every single word by heart:

Admiral Thur.
5 Captain’s Street at midnight.
Come alone.

Following the text, there was a symbol, something resembling an eye.
Fur shuddered. The history was back to bite him in the neck, and he had not yet noticed the irony of it all.

Oh, and I made a provisional book cover too, just for the fun of it. Wouldn't Fur as a chess piece fit kind of well in a story where he's pretty much played like a pawn? Yeah, it's an old picture, I know ;)

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Illustrating an atmosphere

As a parenthesis I'll start with this: I have been havig a nice long time doing nothing at all. Well, when you do nothing at all you actually do something, so that was a lie. For starters I've been working a lot lately, and when I get home I'm too tired to form a sentence. To collect myself I've been drawing instead, Both digitally and traditionally, and since my mind follow the same track all the time, I always illustrate characters or scenes from the world where my novel is based:

Sorry for the bad resolution, my scanner won't cooperate. Lager picture here.
This, for example, is Ury. He's a shipowner, but to stay solvent he has to be the captain of his own ships and do some dirty work on the side. This has made him a bit of a workaholic.

It isn't illustrations in the traditional way I'm going to talk about this time though, so let's get to the point.

We talked about postwork last time, and this would be a way to continue with that. Atmosphere. How to add it. I'm not a pro, not at all, but I'll gladly share what I've learnt this far. It's fairly easy, and I'm sure you'll get great results quickly.

Ok, so let's start with a render:

I started out with building the scene in DAZ 3D. I used Stonemason's Modular Ruins, but to make the walls to follow the stairs I had to bend them in D-Former and make morphs. You can learn how to do that here, if you haven't read about it before.
The character I use is a Genesis 2 Female. She's called Ginger, and I've bought this one because of the nice detail of the skin. She's great for extreme close ups, but to make her work, you need Stephanie 6. Hm. My husband and I are obviously shopaholics. To make it sound better, they have sales at DAZ-store too ;)

Anyway, as you can see, I've added some morphs of my own to this character, For starters, the girl in my picture is extremely petite, her face is more triangular and so on and so forth. I've made loads of changes, really, but still she looks a lot like Ginger.

The outfit she's wearing is called Ranger Outfit, it's very well done, but sadly that's the reason why too many artists are using it. You can see it in loads of pictures.

I've used Age of Armours Advanced lights, but any lights will work for this scene.

  1. Backlight. A spotlight placed just around the corner on the top of the stairs. This to iluminate the wall rather than the character. This light is strong, about 80%. Shadows at about 50% and shadow softness at 20%.
  2. Main light. In front of the character, in the direction she's looking this time. I don't point the light directly at her, I point it just beside her head on her left side. This to both meet up with the lights from upstairs and to avoid making a circle of light pointed at her. This light is very low, about 20%, no shadows at all.
  3. Fill light 1. Comes in from the left. I placed the spotlight by the wall and pointed it a bit infront of her. This light is set at about 30% and the shadow at 70%. Shadow softness at 20% again.
  4. Fill light 2. I couldn't meet the first fill properly, so I had to do ths differently. The spotlight is placed to the left of the camera I'm using, just a bit closer to the wall. The light is pointed just over her left arm. light is set at about 20%, no shadows.
  5. This last light is just something extra to get details pop. Works very well if you use the Age of Armour Advanced Spotlights, not as well with the built in spotlights. on the other hand, this light is not something you need. I placed this light in the middle between the left side fill light and the main light. Pointed it directly at her, right in the chest. Made sure the spread angle was fairly wide. Changed the ilumination to Specular only. Set the lights at about 5%, the shadows at about 10%.

So. We have our render. Time for some postwork to add effects. I only know how to do this in Photoshop, sorry.

the first thing I did was to build something that would resemble a beam of light . I did it like this:

The problem with this techique is, that I still needed that effect you get from dust in the light, you know when lights become stripes because of the things floating around in the air? Here's a clip on how to get that light effet.

After that there was a lot of erasing to do. In retrospect I realised I should have rendered the scene first, then the character, saved them both separately as .png files. That would have made the postwork much more effective, and I wouldn't have to erase all the light stuff from the character. As you can see in the picture below I've already started with the hair.

When that was done, I did the usual: Drawing hair. You have a tutorial on how to do that here.

In he close up you can see how I start by painting a base layer and then add the strands of hair. Since I don't have a pen and tablet, I draw with a mouse, and that's why I do everything in several layers.

After that it's time for highlights and adding of shadows. This was my final result.

If you want a better resolution, go here.

That's it for today, folks! Have a nice Sunday everyone!

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Tutorials? Again?

Yup, I finally thought it was time to talk about postwork. When you've made your render (and if your renders look as weird as mine does, you'll like this post), it's time to fix some stuff to make them pop.

When I render a scene in DAZ it often looks a bit like this:

Rather flat, don't you agree? I'm still learning about how to set the lights right, but whn you master lighting the pictures will look much better. Also, you can see that there are some poke-throughs in the suit Fur is wearing. Usually, this is something that easily can be fixed in DAZ, but I didn't notice them until the picture was already rendered and I really wanted to move on to Photoshop.

You've read about how to render every scene twice in this post, haven't you? I mention IamUman's tutorial there, on how to make photorealistic skin.

When you've done this, the fun begins. I learnt a lot of how to use Photoshop through this clip on photomanipulation.

This is also how I add highlights where the lights isn't strong enough and shadows where I want more of that. Of course I also paint over the poke-throughs and stuff.

As you can see from my render up there, Fur doesn't have any hair. I draw that on my own in photoshop. It's a bit difficult doing with a mouse, but it can be done. This is how I do it:

When I'm done with highlights and all details I'd like to add, there's a plugin called Topaz Adjust from Topaz Labs that I just love. Of course you have what you need in most drawing programs among the filters, I'm just sharing what I use. 

After playing with these things for a couple of hours (painting hair takes time) the picture looks like this:

Why I still think 3D-rendering is a good thing compared to draw all the illustrations by hand (or digitally), is that I only have to make the character once. It saves me a lot of time. After that it's just posing in a scene, taking a picture and - as with any photo model - airbrush.

Here's another example of what happens with the picture after some postwork:



Good luck with your pictures!

Friday, October 17, 2014

Time for some tutorials - again!

So, yeah. I'm still learning new stuff with DAZ, but the most challenging part is lights. there are thousands and thousands of ways to light a scene and if you think you have the perfect solution for one scene, the next second you realize you were all wrong. If you want things to look realistic, that's when you're in trouble.

You've already seen a post on how to set lights in a daylight scene, the next issue you'll be having is mking a night scene look all right. I've had some problems with that, especially since I have a tendency to making all my pictures too dark.

A friend of mine helped me out, doing this tutorial for me:

Edit: I'll have to ask my friend for this picture again, since it's been removed. Will be up ASAP.

You'll find a better resolution here. I think this is the best part with dA. You will always get help from those who know more.
I could rant on about lighting forever, but I still don't know enough to say I have all the answers. All I can say is play with it and see what you get. 

The next thing I'd like to talk about is morphs. You know, those things you change how your character looks like with. I just learned how to make my own, and this is something you'll need to learn to really make your characters look like your own.

There is a thing called D-Formers. It's standard in the program, and here are some tutorials on how to use them. Remember: If you don't save them as morphs, the changes you've made is saved on this character only. If you want to use them more than that, you'll have to save them as morphs.

This first one is a little older, but very informative. From this clip I learned that you can do almost anything with a D-Former. I had no idea it could be used on plains and stuff before I saw this.

This next one is very good too, Medhue tells you all you have to know about using the D-former tool on characters. This clip is old, but really worth a look.

This last one is more up to date, but you'll need to have seen the two others to get what Medhue is talking about. Here, he shows you how to make the D-Formers into morphs.  By following the link you'll find his channel for lots and lots of other things on DAZ 3D.

Gud luck!

Tuesday, October 14, 2014


This is a holiday that we really don't celebrate in Sweden, even though it's slowly crawled it's way into our calendar. I like all the orange, the ghosts and witches, and the fact that we really need something fun during these dark Autumn months to occupy our minds with. So far, we have All Saints Eve, when we light candles on all the graves, but nothing as interesting as ghosts.

The best part is all the costumes. I love them. As I find clowns kind of scary - Stephen King is only partly responsible for this - I'd probably shit my pants if a miniature clown came to my house to ask for candy. I wouldn't dare to not have any at home.

And since it isn't common place to walk around asking for candy during this night yet, and the kids seem to think you can do this every night through the whole holiday (we have a week long holiday around Halloween), this is still a bit confusing XD

Costume parties though, they are NOT confusing, and they are starting to become very common around here. Still haven't dressed up as anything as scary as a clown though.

So, here it is, the scary clown that MIGHT shop up on my porch in a couple of weeks:

You can see the drawing with better resolution here.

Since I will forget all about it when it's time, I'll say it now:

Happy Halloween to all of you!

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Getting ready for NaNoWriMo

National Novel Writing Month is getting closer every minute, and this year I already have a plan on what to do. I just sat down to write a short synopsis, and through that I got some new ideas. No sunday scribbles today, I have nothing translated, but at least you may have a look at what Fur will be doing during November. I've still not decided what to do with the spelling of Fur's name, but I have some ideas :D

This year's project (yeah, I even made a crappy banner that I won't use):

"When you have nothing to lose, it is too easy to clutch at the first straw - the tiniest chance to pull yourself up, to stay alive - but remember to ask yourself: is it worth it?"

Fur is cautious by nature, so of course he questions how he is still alive and for what purpose. He does not have friends in the right places, does not have enough money to be able to bend the rules himself, but most of all: he is not important. Fur does not even have any useful skills, except for being a fairly good engineer.

The moment he regained his life, Fur signed, without knowing it; a life long contract. The choices: to die or to obey. When he learns that the price he has to pay is much higher than his conscience can bear, he begins a hunt after what is hiding behind the scenes. Fur finds himself provoking dangers he never thought he would face. 
After all: when you have nothing more to lose, you also have nothing more to fear.

I'm already looking forward to start writing this! One thing at a time though, have those other chapters to work with first. A second past midnight November 1st though... Can't wait!

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Sunday Scribbles - another crude translation!

I guess it's time for another translate. This time I've been working on one of the chapters that were discarted from the novel, and as I've mentioned in this post, I'm working on a miniature prequel out of some of it. This part occurs some years before what you've read in A crude translation #2 and A Crude translation #3, and if you've read this interview, you know who Fur is by now.

The following text is a revised part of the first chapter, and even though I've worked a bit more on this translation than usually, it's probably not all that yet. Please comment if you see something that you find strange ;) Honesty may sound unpolite, but it's better than having the faults and not noticing them myself.

OK, here we go!

The usual lovely weather in Nerthal. Rain; this evening a fine drizzle that first presented itself as a veil on top of the clothes, small droplets resting on the fibres like microscopic diamonds. So far so good, but then they slowly and hardly noticeable sneaked into the fabric making everything invisibly humid. Fur couldn’t figure out which was worst - full metal pouring rain or this guerilla warfare of water. He opened the door to The Five Legged Mare and walked in.
"Mr Nidell!"
Fur hadn’t even entered through the door when the short man - yes, he was short even compared to Fur himself - flew up from his armchair by the fireplace. As he stood up, he grabbed his toddy glass from the side table, and Fur couldn’t help but being surprised that he didn’t spill it all out.
“Mr Nidell, I’m glad to see you, old boy”, the little man continued, “the evening wouldn’t be the same without you.”
"Of course, Mr. Tully, of course." Fur laughed dryly, "What would this evening be without my excellent company?" And what in the Mother’s name was going on? It appeared as if Mr. Tully had been waiting for him. Appeared, by the way. It was a bit too obvious.
Mr Tully laughed and sipped gently from the toddy glass while his eyes swept through the room as if he expected that someone would sneak up on him from one of the corners. An impossibility, since the room was almost empty.
"Well, what are you drinking? How many glasses am I behind?" Fur pulled off his dark blue coat and threw it over the hanger in the entrance while glancing at Mr Tully. The man’s combover was more carefully attended to than ever and the smile was rather stale. He was up to something, all right.
"Hot Toddy", said Tully, "In this weather you want nothing more than to have hot toddy. I'm on my first, but when it comes to Lords Wilgor, it’s been a while since I lost count.”
Ah, the Wilgor twins were here. In that case their fat cousin should be around too. Fur hung his hat by the coat and had a quick glance through the room.  By the fire sat two elderly men, reading today's newspaper. At a round table further in, four men were playing cards. Fur immediately recognized the two brothers, as well as their cousin, but he wasn’t familiar with the fourth player.
“You are absolutely right, Mr Tully”, Fur replied. “Toddy is exactly what I need.” Yes, in spite of a nice spring, early summer had been surprisingly cold and rainy. Down at Hofsted manor, he’d overheard the crofters complain by the forges; of crop failure and soaked fields. Unless the rain stopped and the warmth of summer came, it would be a hard winter. A toddy or two was just what Fur needed. He was tired, but satisfied with the day's work. The new spring he made ​​to Docener’s recent launch Trio proved to work better than expected. The little vehicle were both faster and could go further than any of the competing brands.
"You’ve lost count? Lords Wilgor may have planned a short night." Fur replied, stretched his back with a series of cracks, and sauntered off to the bar. "I'll have to hurry if I am to keep up." Fur unfurled her purse and took out two big notes. "Three toddy."
"You must excuse me, sir, I do not have enough change," the bartender wiped his hands on the towel that hung at his waist over the black apron, "You have nothing smaller?”
'"Keep the change." Fur waved away the man as if his words were a swarm of annoying flies on a hot day.
"Thank you, sir!" The well-starched man on the other side of the bar immediately wiped out three glasses.
Fur turned him his back and leaned against the bar's edge. "So Tully, what’s the news?"
"You have not read today's paper, Mr Nidell?" The little man with the narrow mustache seemed not the least bit concerned about the loss of the title. Or else he did not show. Probably the latter; what an oily slug. He must be out of money again.
"I've had more important things to do than reading the news." Fur attempted to quell a smile before it spread too far.
"The Queen and the Princess of Sakrinand are in transit, a ball is held in their honor at the City Hall Tonight" began Mr. Tully, but was quickly interrupted by Fur.
"Oh, that's why there are so many people everywhere."
"What?" Tully had already his next story on the tip of his tongue.
"Hotels are fully booked, even the inns are full to bursting - which you also could say about their guests." It was actually surprising that it was so empty at the club, when Fur came to think about it.
"Mr. Nidell, have you completely forgotten about the festival?”
Fur’s respond was dripping of snark. "Forgotten would give what you call the festival more honor than than it deserves. Repressed would be more suitable.”
"Oh, you can not mean that you do not appreciate the popular festivities!" Tully laughed.
"Mean? Absolutely not. I want to decisively authenticate how my most emphatical aversions against popular events is extremely cordial." Fur spoke calmly and smiled.
"I thought so," Tully laughed and raised his glass in a triumphant cheer. "Who can feel anything but cordiality towards something like that?"
Fur raised his glass too, still smiling. The Impulse stifled a guffaw, Fur hid it better. He emptied it and took the next in a light grip. "So, my good Mr. Tully, what do the evening have to offer? A game of Clubs? Or do you prefer something quieter, like Towers?”

Well, this is what I've finished so far, I could add that both Clubs and Towers are made up card games ;) Hope you enjoyed it, and if you didn't please comment why :D

And something I want to make clear: This is not a finished text just because it's posted here, It's a work in progress. I'm grateful for all kinds of critique ;)