Thursday, May 31, 2012

the rooms in my head

Drew some sketches today. This is the first floor of Miss Fairweather's house and a detail of the library, since so much of the action takes place there.

The library image is rotated 90º since I tend to see it that way in my mind--in most scenes they are standing near the fireplace or the round table in the middle.

I'll probably do the second and third floors at some point, and I definitely need to do the laboratory.

Monday, May 14, 2012

pushing dirt

It's amazing how many poisonous plants are used as common suburban ornamentals. It's a good thing most suburbanites have no concept of eating out of their yards these days or they'd all be poisoned.

I've been putting off buying plants because there was so much work yet to do in the yard, but I knew the spring was getting on past the point that I needed to get my herbs in the ground, and yesterday was Mother's Day, so my spouse wanted to go fetch a houseplant for his mother anyway, so I caved in at the nursery and bought a handful of items off my "witch's garden" list.

Hence the reference to poisonous plants. Yesterday I planted wormwood and wolfsbane. No foolin'. The wormwood is politely called "Artemisia" and has pretty, soft, featherduster arms in shades of silvery-blue-green. I recognize it from when my mom used to grow it; it fills up sunny beds rather nicely. The wolfsbane, a/k/a monkshood, a/k/a Aconitum, is tall and slightly spiky with a dark green-purplish cast. It should send up some lovely flowers later this summer if I don't manage to kill it.

In all honesty, me and plants have never been a sure bet. I wouldn't say I have black thumbs, but.... I'm not the most attentive and conscientious gardener out there. I do all right with herbs, probably because they're related to cooking, which is something I can be attentive about, and I seem able to keep hostas and ferns alive, although I'm still learning how much water they need outdoors in a hot Kansas summer.

I also want to get some foxglove (digitalis) and something called black snake which comes in pretty purple shades, but that will probably wait until next year. As far as herbs go, I bought two varieties of basil, now potted and positioned on the sunny west side of the house, where there's a gap in the trees for maybe a whole five hours of sunlight. Also took a chance on cilantro again; the last attempt was a dismal failure. I think it needs more shade, but that's part of the reason I put all the herbs in pots this year--so I can better control their water, sun, and bunny access.

The rosemary and lavender I did not pot. I want them to go in the ground, in the back yard where they can go crazy (and ideally keep the bugs away), but I'm not sure they'll have enough sun near the house.

Furthermore–and this is why I'd been putting off buying plants–I'm not yet sure what shape the back yard is going to take. The Sparring Partner and I agree we'd like to get rid of as much grass as possible. In a perfect world we'd just build a massive covered deck over the whole yard, but obviously that ain't gonna happen in the foreseeable future. In the meantime I'll settle for channelling the rain runoff and keeping the mosquitoes under control.

The ground is in terrible shape back there––a layer of clay laid over by acres of oak leaves that I keep pushing around. Couple of huge oak trees dropping acorns everywhere, and redbud trees on all sides. It's a constant battle to cut down/pull out all the tiny little volunteer trees each year. Furthermore the drainage is terrible for pretty much the whole block. It's terrifically flat, except for the shallow depressions in the back third of our yard that collect rainwater and mosquitos every summer.

Finally, despite the oak trees, there's a long bare patch of yard that gets hot, direct sunlight from about 3 p.m. to about 7 p.m. The ground gets baked, the grass don't grow, it isn't the most welcoming area. It doesn't get enough sun, for long enough, to let me put in a vegetable garden. Plus, we need to keep that part open for kung fu practice. Can't swing a seven-foot staff indoors, you know.

So the long-term plan is to make more of a Zen-garden arrangement.

The SP has been collecting brick and rock for years, and the accumulation accelerated after I got there. We got a fair amount of brick from my parents' old house, and he brings home pavers from house remodels, slabs of river rock, beautiful round rocks. Plus we have a large cairn of the limestone slabs that are common to the area.

I have plans to pave most of the 10x20 foot area nearest the house, and install some of the insect-repelling plants, especially the lavender and rosemary, since they are good companion plants and I love their scents. But it's a long stop-and-go job, since I have no money and I'm making it up as I go along.

I'm looking at ways to give the yard more vertical dimension: herb spirals, tree mounds, an elevated water feature/island, etc. We have a plastic tub for a small fish-pond, and I want to partially sink it into the ground and then build up a rock wall around it. I also want to create some gravel streambeds and possibly a gravel "pond," that will actually hold and channel water when we do get rain. Gravel is cheap, but digging the paths is going to be interesting, what with all the tree roots.

I spend about six hours yesterday digging out rose of sharon, cutting back creeper vines, and moving rocks around. Boy did I sleep good last night. I still need to go out there today and put the lavender and rosemary in the ground, and probably will dig out some more roots near the house. There's a long way to go, but I like the work.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Arkham City Catwoman costume

Finally finished this baby. It was a labor of love, let me tell you. This was a custom commission for a client, and lucky for me she was plenty flexible about when she needed it done, because like all great undertakings, it always needs more time than you have allotted for it. I should have kept better track of my hours, but knowing how much time I actually spent on it would probably just make me depressed. The goggles and the hood alone took a week.

Arkham City Catwoman costume bodysuit. Heavy matte spandex and snakeskin print spandex.

Arkham City Catwoman goggles and hood.

Gloves. Duh.
Extra details.
Soon I hope to have full-length cosplay shots from the client. She's planning a group photoshoot and I am desperately eager to see this on a person.

Some FAQ of interest:
1. Yes, I can make one for you, however my supply of snakeskin fabric is limited and I may substitute something else (equally cool!) in future. Price is $700 +shipping as of May, 2012. I need at least 6 weeks work time before your event. Do not email me and ask for a "simpler" or "cheaper" version--it makes me very cranky. The seriously interested can get the details in my Etsy shop.

2. I am not selling the pieces (hood, goggles, gloves) separately at this time.

3. I do not have a pattern available at this time.

4. I cannot and will not advise you on how to make your own costume or give tips on how I did it. Because I derive my income from making costumes, it is not in my best interest to give away the ideas and techniques that took me weeks of trial and error to establish. I do occasionally create tutorials which you can find on the sidebar to the right. Thanks for understanding.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

spiritual warfare

Trace spent much of the morning away from the house. It was easier to think that way, and he had a lot to ponder.
Miss Fairweather had handed over a lot of information last night, far more than she’d surrendered in the previous six months. He rather thought most of it was true, even. But with the exception of the detail about her niece, she hadn’t told him much more than he’d deduced for himself. And even if the bit about the niece was true, it didn’t account for certain other things he’d observed, like her strange bouts of illness, and her reluctance to venture out of her house. And he remembered something else from the trance—Trace had cut the line between Mereck and himself, but he had sensed a tether on Miss Fairweather, as well. Despite her protestations that she had no psychic powers, despite her verbal exclusion of herself as one of his protégés, despite the late Herr Kieler’s observation that she didn’t not bear the master’s “mark,” there was apparently something about her that Mereck deemed worth watching. There was clearly more she hadn’t yet told him. Which was typical of her.
Trace dropped in at Jameson’s and wrote a quick reply to Boz’s note—quick in the sense that it was short. He spent a good half-hour struggling with what he wanted to say and what he couldn’t. In the end he settled for the bare facts. “Back in St. Louis. Trip no trouble. Lots of book-learning ahead—likely to be quiet for a while—Trace.” Jameson, of course, was in a talkative mood and hastened to share all the latest town gossip, but Trace had lost his taste for who was working where, who was drunk, in jail, or keeping a ladybird.
He needed another source of information, he thought, listening to Jameson prattle on. Someone who knew something about Miss Fairweather’s past, or Mereck’s. He couldn’t imagine hunting down a phantom Russian, couldn’t even suppose Mereck was the man’s real name, given he seemed to spend much of his time in a travelling show. Miss Fairweather might be easier to track, but she was from England, which wasn’t exactly the next county over, and she’d already told him her nearest kin was dead. Even supposing she had any connections left, they were unlikely to know of her occultist actitivies, much less consent to discuss them with a stranger.
As for the people they had in common—Mereck’s victims—all those Trace had met were mad, dead, murderous, or some combination thereof. He remembered that dead whore down in Sikeston, poor mad Lisette, who had been much like Trace while she lived—a powerful medium, strong in her faith, and uneasy about reconciling the two. Mereck had played on her fears, set her beliefs against her desires until her mind gave way, and then abandoned her to commit the ultimate sin. Trace wondered if her entrapment in the spirit world was due to the tragic circumstances of her death, or a curious effect of her power, or a curse from God for taking her own life, or a final trap laid by Mereck—to keep her in servitude to him even after death. Her spirit had certainly been eager to whore itself to a new master; it had killed a man in an effort to show Trace what a good servant she could be.
Trace had come a long way away from his conviction that his power was a curse laid on him by God. He had stopped fearing it, for the most part; he no longer felt as if every spectral visitor was sent to torment him or tempt him into Hell. But he still shied from the idea of taking spirit familiars, especially the murdering kind.
And yet… Miss Fairweather had regular contact with the spirit world. She apparently had a house full of spirits who helped her—or helped him, at any rate. Some of them might be willing to spy for him, but he doubted the kitchen maid was privy to Miss Fairweather’s dark plans, far less a match for her sinister manservant.
He needed someone stronger. Someone… more like mad Lisette.
The thought was chilling… and intriguing. And slightly maddening, that he was thinking of enlisting the spirits of the dead in a war of espionage.

Friday, May 04, 2012

thank you mistress, may I have another?

Trying to write this morning. Very difficult finding Trace's mood/voice at the beginning of Curious Weather--one of the problems I always had with this story. He's back in Miss Fairweather's house, trying to learn from her, and of course she immediately cuts him off at the knees.

Learning is by nature a submissive process. I'm one of the worst people I know when it comes to submitting to authority and yet I yield to my Sifu every time. I'm more humble before him than anyone else in my life. And it's not because he requires it, it's because I know I won't learn if I don't.

But it feels tremendously tricky to pull off that same submissiveness of Trace before Miss Fairweather without completely emasculating him. Trace is the hero, a grown man and we've already seen him be quite the badass, so I'm worried about making him put up with this mean little woman's crap.

Further complications ensue from the point of view. Trace is by nature a watcher, a doer, and while this makes him a reliable narrator, in her presence, her personality is so dominating that his tends to get lost.

Maybe I'm overthinking it. There are plenty of fantasy stories that involve the hero learning his chops, but those are almost always a young person learning from an elder. How to keep the balance? How to let Trace assert his own power? Once I get the ghost action rolling, it should be easier, but right now I'm flailing. Ach, soggy writing muscles.