Category: writing

Strategies for Combating the Deadline Beast

Lately, I’ve come down to the wire on a project of mine. I’ve got a week to get 6 more pages of illustrations done, a tutorial, and a painting for said tutorial. The Dr. Pepper is running freely in double doses and I long for Starbucks, which was almost single-handedly responsible for helping me survive a horrendous final quarter of grad school full of exams, portfolio reviews, and work, work, work. Now, it seems when I’m down to the wire, I always turn to that luscious brown fluid and its delicious boost of energy.

Random FYI: Did you know that Starbucks coffee contains twice the amount of caffeine of normal coffee?

But, really, is that the best strategy for making sure you beat your deadlines? I have always wondered this. Time management is, of course, a given, but even then, sometimes you’re just left without enough hours in the day to finish that chapter, that painting, or that report by the time your deadline rolls around. Coffee has been the old mainstay, but drinking too many caffeinated drinks can cause headaches, crankiness, and nervousness, which are not always conducive to getting work done.

So here are a few strategies that might work which DON’T involve ingesting enough caffeine to kill an elephant:

  • Keep your blood sugar steady by eating high protein or sugary food. Natural sugars like apples and fruits are healthier, but candy is definitely quicker.
  • Take a 15-20 minute catnap, depending on your preference, is just long enough to give you a little boost without tempting you to stay asleep. Personally, I have to take hour catnaps as it takes me 30 minutes to get to sleep. Da Vinci is reputed to have taken power naps in lieu of a full night’s sleep, but let’s admit it, the man was superhuman if that’s true!
  • Sit and meditate for 10 minutes. Take deep breaths and clear your mind. I normally do this by sitting out in the grass of my front yard under the sun and just enjoying the tickle of grass against my bare feet and the warmth of the light. It’s more refreshing than you might think!
  • If you start to nod off, make yourself get up and dance or take a 10 minute walk to get your blood flowing again. Jog up and down the stairs a few times, if there’s nowhere you can take a walk at.
  • Find something to laugh about each hour. I find that YouTube is great for this and I’ve created a whole list of favorites of stupid things that make me LOL. It keeps the mind stimulated and if you’d rather do something productive for a laugh break, try watching some of the awesome art tutorials that are on YouTube. Watching tutorials not only stimulates the mind but may inspire you to get working again.
  • Plan a reward for when you pass a milestone in a project or finish it. The thought of a light at the end of the tunnel, such as a nice relaxing lunch or dinner, a yummy dessert, or your favorite movie, can be a good way to motivate yourself.
  • Play loud music. Bush, Disturbed, Nickelback, A Perfect Circle, Three Days Grace, Finger Eleven, Nightwish, and Nine Inch Nails have been known to serenade me through the wee hours of the night when it begins to get too hard to keep my eyes open (or when I’m trying to work off of too few hours of sleep the next day).
Those are just a few of mine. What are your strategies for beating back the pesky sandman?

Introducing the Muses – Ramah Sirhaan

In weeks past, you’ve been introduced to the dark Hunter angst pot, Melakim Fahre, and his kooky womanizing thief pal, Ry Phirunaden. Today, I’d like you to meet his majesty, Ramah Sirhaan, the werewolf Prince and wayward soul…and probably the closest thing I have to a benevolent hero in my stable of rogues and miscreants.

(For all of you waiting on Aurora, she will be the next and last character for this series. Look for her introduction and the end of this series next Wednesday!)

Ramah’s Artistic Evolution:

The Short Bio: Prince to a desert land founded by gods, Ramah lived in the lap of luxury, spending his days in battle for his country, or indulging in the mindless delights of the palace. He was a wild youth until witnessing the public execution of an innocent man made him realize the state of things in his very own kingdom. He began to become more sympathetic to the common folk and grew into a just man at the influence of his betrothed, a free willed noblewoman named Syvillia.

However, when a cry for assistance against a beast that was slaying the populace in the poor quarters rose up, Ramah was the only one of his class who saw fit to take action. When he could garner no support in the matter from the others, he rode out personally to slay the beast, thinking it no more than an animal of some sort. He could not be more wrong after a tussle with the beast left him bitten and infected with one of the world’s oldest curses.

It was the first change into the Wolf in which he slaughtered his caretakers that caused him to flee his beloved country. For, not only had he murdered kinsmen, all werewolves were viewed as anathema in their culture and seen as spiritually corrupt. How could he serve as the future ruler of his country being the monster he had become?

Now, he wanders the countryside, a Free Knight of the Untamed Land, aiding others where he would and seeking to make amends for a life he views as unclean.

The Long Bio: Available Here
Written Stories: Mark of Cahim (Character Sketch) 

What Inspired this Character?

To reveal a dirty secret of mine, he was inspired by taking a fan character of mine from Dragonball Z and dumping him into a fantasy setting. The Saiyan ability to morph became lycanthrope and the debauched vizier to King Vegeta became the debauched prince of a desert kingdom. (Yes I know I’m a COMPLETE dork for liking Dragonball Z in high school…)

Soon enough, however, I found that Ramah evolved from his roots in my mad social experimenting into a character who had a most charismatic presence about him. By all seeming, he was a charming and sensitive fellow who chose his fights carefully, who was calm and understanding, and who could possibly rip your head off with his bare teeth if you knew what triggers to press.

The concept of battling an inner Beast that threatens to sap one of their own humanity and soul was one I found fascination with ever since I was introduced to it in the Vampire: The Masquerade, of which I was an avid player up till my high school years. Even more, it’s fascinating to see how a man put in Ramah’s position adjusts to life anew, whether by succumbing to his base primal urges or the soothing presence and possibility of hope that a very special lady might bring. It’s a paranormal romance waiting to happen and one of these days I may indulge that urge with this character.

In the end, Ramah is destined to succumb to the Wolf entirely as the years pass, but it is not this curse that will define him, but rather how he lives the rest of his years as a man. That is why his name, Ramah Sirhaan, roughly translates to Sublime Wolf from Hebrew and Arabic.

How do you get inspired for this character?

Movies and music, my eternal muse supplements. In particular, Kingdom of Heaven with its vistas of Jerusalem, haunting music, and tale of a morally conflicted character seeking redemption is one of the few that get me in the Ramah mood.

Ramah’s Playlist: Available Here

Until the next Muse, what character do you love who battles with an ‘Inner Beast’? Why do they inspire you? How do you prepare yourself to write or draw for your own creations?

Introducing the Muses – Ry Phirunaden

Last week, you were introduced to my dark Hunter, Melakim Fahre, this week, I have the pleasure of introducing the gentleman thief, coinessuer of the female form in all its variations, and sometimes cross-dresser, Ry Phirunaden.

That ONE cross-dressing incident only happened because he needed a creative way to avoid the Law, honest!

Ry’s Artistic Evolution:

The Short Bio: Ry likes to play up being the mystery man by pretending his past is more complicated than it really is. He will often lie to sensationalize it, but what can be told of the truth is that he was a child of a destitute noble family. His family saw more potential in their heir, his sister Ciela, and so put his needs second to hers to the point of neglecting him utterly. He ran amok as a form of getting attention, womanizing and getting into fights around town until he was finally enlisted in the Elvish military by his parents as a way to somehow bring honor to the family. It was their hope also that he might be killed at the front lines as a way to be rid of him for good.

In the army, he found a family amongst the other misplaced grunts and descended into a world of drugs, women, and atrocities, returning home as a war criminal instead of a hero. He and his other comrades earned the name Wing Cutters from their habit of taking the dismembered wings of faeries as trophies. Each bares a tribal tattoo that marks them as a Cutter.

The Cutters were put on trial for their crimes, made scapegoats by their government, and Ry completely disowned by his family. Instead of dying at the gallows, however, he was offered a position by an up and coming duke as a secret mercenary for the Elvish government. Ry opted to live, though someone was sent to die in his place. There is not even a grave marker placed for him at his family tomb.

Now when not in the covert service of the government, he spends the long years of his Elvish lifespan in boredom doing whatever odd jobs come his way and whatever sparks his waning interest in life.

The Long Bio: Available Here

What Inspired This Character?

Ry started out as one of those background characters invented purely as a foil to the main character, who was in this case, Melakim. He was to be the thorn in Melakim’s side, his stalker, his rival as a fellow Hunter, and the culprit for getting poor naive Mae addicted to smoking weed. Since those days, however, he’s found a place in my heart as one of my all-time favorite characters to write for and has far surpassed status as merely ‘supporting cast’. Ry comes easily to me and I never have to think when he is on scene, which is perhaps a bit disturbing when I think about it overly much.

Ry is one of those characters that I can toss into a scene anywhere and something fun or unexpected will happen. In one story line, he returns to his home and slaughters his entire family, with the exception of his sister. While in another completely different storyline, he falls for a lovely lady strong enough to kick his butt who then inspires him to reform his ways (if only for a little while). Anything can and will happen when a character has the moral flexibility to be good or evil.

Again, I think he emerged as a reaction against all the wholesome characters I invented in the past and evolved into yet another hero with a skewed sense of morality, for as much as he enjoys playing the villain. A villain is never a villain without something in his past that made him want to kick the dog. Perhaps he was attacked by a dog and scarred as a child? That’s how I like my characters and what interests me in any story…finding out the why.

Unfortunately for Ry,the endless years of his near-immortal life have caused him to take on jobs solely out of boredom. He’s been a circus performer, a waiter, a deck hand, a bodyguard, and oft-times, a Hunter. His stories are endless, but there will always be that hint of his unspectacular past that haunts him and reminds him that his life isn’t really worth much at the end of the day, and he knows it.

Which is why I named him Phirunaden, an amalgamation of a name which means those who walk the rainy path with Ry being a spin on the Gypsy name Rye, meaning Gentleman. Ry is yet another character awaiting novelization.

How do you get inspired for this character?

For Ry, Afro Celt Sound System rings in my head channeling the Celtic feel Elves in my stories have. Not to mention that the lead singer sounds a lot like how I imagine him to sound. Anything with a smart, slippery gentleman thief in it (mainly fantasy novels and games like Thief) gets my gears going for him.

Ry’s Playlist: Available Here

Until the next Muse, who are your personal favorite characters of your own creation? Why do they inspire you? How do you prepare yourself to write or draw for them?

Introducing the Muses – Melakim Fahre

It occurred to me recently that there are a repeating set of figures in my art that most of you may recognize, but only a handful really know. As a storyteller and an artist, my art is driven most strongly by character-centric work, particularly characters which I have been writing about for years, yet have never really shared with the general populace. I wanted to shed some light on some of these characters that have been featured in my art and who continue to inspire me to this day. More than merely sinking into the background, these characters have endured themselves to my imagination, tempting me to distraction when my mind should be occupied elsewhere.

Without further ado, I present one of my most recent muses: Melakim Fahre, the Shadow Hunter (or ‘Mae’ for short).

Melakim’s Artistic Evolution:

The Short Bio: The nihilistic bounty hunter with a distrust of people. As an infant, he was found birthed from the body of a dead woman, an inauspicious omen to the clerics who took him in, as well as his strange, seemingly blind right eye. He lived life as a servant before their fear of him drove them to extreme measures and a botched exorcism. He escaped and lived life on the rough streets of the city before being taken in by a rich patroness, Siin Fomori, who has since raised him as an assassin for her organization, Blood Meridian. He spends most of his time as far away from the organization as possible, much rather preferring the simple life of a woodsman hunter.

The Long Bio: Available Here

What inspired this character?

This particular character started with the simple flash of inspiration that began with the eyes. Even before I had a concept, I knew I wanted him to be devoid of an eye. In earlier versions of the character, he was burned by an angel who took his right eye in battle. I created him as a character to be roleplayed in a past online roleplaying game with nothing more than a wish to portray a character that was not likeable, and therefore a break from my general leanings towards charismatic, moralistic characters which were merely reflections of myself in the world of Dungeons and Dragons (which I played in high school and college). Melakim started out mean, tired of the world, and more apt to stop and help someone only if they offered him money. The one simple exception to this auger was that he could never resist that annoying urge to help a child in need, which is the origin of his namesake, Melakim, the guardian angel of children’s safety.

Melakim is and has always been one who lacks general faith in humanity, and yet at the same time, has a burning need to be accepted. He teeters on the edge of falling in to that darker side, while being tempted by the hope that perhaps everything is not as he has perceived it in his experience, a fact which has made him most intriguing for me. Perhaps he is a reflection of my own past? Moving around with my family for the military left me with many days by myself pondering if it was worth getting involved in emotional connections with people at all. It hurt so much to say goodbye, it hurt to have issues with others, and yet, oftentimes it is only by interacting with others that we learn just how beautiful the world really is.

Melakim also presents a way for me to examine the psychology of the half-breed, or one between worlds. In his early incarnations, he was half angel and half mortal, yet never quite accepted by both, a stigma I can empathize with, being half Puerto Rican and Caucasian. In his latest incarnation, he is plagued by being always half tuned in to the spirit world, and the feeling of never quite being part of the living or the dead, especially with the way he is ostracized by superstitious individuals who view his white eye and and extra-sensory perception as evil. Melakim in all incarnations often felt lost and confused with no place or people to call home.

Despite his moral lack of faith in people, he still has compassion buried deep down, though it is a question of how long this compassion will remain. Roleplaying games have come and gone since his inception and now he exists in my imagination, beckoning me with the thought of novelization.

How do you get inspired to create art and writing for this character?

Music is a large part of my artistic process. Certain chords and lyrics strike a certain vivid image in my mind’s eye which helps me when I’m in the mood to create. I listen to a lot of music by VAST, Jon Crosby’s dulcet, soulful tones being as close to how I imagine Melakim sounding than anyone I’ve ever heard.

EDIT: Now that Melakim has undergone a gender switch for novel purposes, I’ve been drawn to different vocalists, including Florence+The Machine and Ellie Goulding. Funny how that works!

I must also admit an affinity for other long haired hunters, such as the Vampire Hunter D and Yasha, the demon slayer from RG Veda. Watching these anime flicks always get my juices flowing for Melakim.

Playlist for Melakim: Available here

Until the next Muse, who are your muses? Why do they inspire you? How do you prepare yourself to write or draw for them?

Balancing the Creative Muses

Well it seems I’ve been gearing up for ages here to really sit down and work on my writing projects, but I’ve just been too caught up in working on my current slate of commissions to really sit down and give my stories the attention they crave.  “Feed me!” My darling writing muse says as she rattles her chains and is shut back in her cage in the basement of my mind.

It occurs to me that eventually I will need to find a balance.  I’m hoping to be a writer, to illustrate said writings, to be a self-represented artist as well as a self-marketed author…and somehow amid all this still maintain a sort of life that involves socializing with friends and family.  How the heck do I balance doing all of that?  So far, I’ve found it easier to focus if I take on one project at a time, but then I find it hard to sleep at night thinking about that big project on the horizon and how it’s not been accomplished yet.  My friends call it my ‘endless project fairy’ who grows a set of wings whenever I think of something new for myself to do.  I have a mental image in my head of this poor fairy dragging herself and her hundreds of wings along with a ‘kill me’ expression on her face.
Along the same lines, I’m curiuos about any of you who may be a slave to both writing and art muses.  Just what are you inspired by first?  This is probably a ‘chicken or egg’ argument, but I’m really curious to know what muse dominates you.  Is your art inspired by your personal story first, or do you make your stories based on a nameless image that pops to mind?   If you’re ruled by both, how do you balance them equally?  Or is there no winning the battle against muse and time management?
More often than not, I find myself inspired by stories first.  I need a character I can sink my teeth into before I can get the inspiration that gives me the drawing itch.  Occasionally I’ll think up a cool look and make up a story inspired by thing that was too cool to resist making a story out of, but that is rare for me.  I am never more inspired to draw than I am when I’m writing or reading a good book.  How about yourselves?
In the end, I offer no solutions here.  My best guess being that any solution will differ for each individual.  For me, I think a swift kick in the butt will do.
Work it, Angela, work it!