Friday, September 13, 2019

Spirit Trees

Paul Cezanne told an admirer, "See that tree? Paint it the bluest blue that you can." Why not? It adds another dimension to an already riotous late fall scene, and just in time for Halloween. Barren trees cast stark shadows across grass wearing its pale winter colors. An explosion of yellow envelops surrounding canopies.

But what about the blue? Now we have a pair of twisted titans--one bent at the waist--reaching left as if to snare the unwary traveler. Lurid red light reflects from the nether realms. The only normal foliage, a clump of green brush at the right, seems to lean away from these aberrations. Brown shadow at lower right keeps the ground a warm hue. A touch of lavender at lower left contrasts with the sunlit yellow hillock. Dry blends predominate in keeping with the sere autumn weather. As with painting sky scenes, going all Cezanne isn't for the timid. Let those colors fly.

Thursday, September 12, 2019

Author Highlights

Edgar Alan Poe

What really happened to him?  He lived to a young age of 40 during the 1880s.  We all know there were not very good medical technologies back then.  I always thought of him as a dark fantasy writer in a way, drawing upon areas where alcohol took its toll on his brain amid other possible illnesses in America during that time.  

I mostly read up on his poems and short stories during my young adult days and working on my writing craft.  Poe was one of a kind.    He was an orphan as well, so he probably had a lot to deal with finding where he belonged in his own life.   By reading on his biography, it seems that the best schools for writing and art were overseas in Europe and England as America nearing the Civil War in next couple decades.  His foster parents did not treat him well but saw his talents.  He married twice in his life time while enlisted in the United States Army as he could not support himself.   

Quite an interesting life he had short as it was.  From all the experiences he had, drew upon it for his stories and poems as it seems he was rather lonely in his life.  His biological parents were David and Elizabeth Eliza Arnold Hopkins who were actors, so I am wondering if he was a descendant from Anthony Hopkins?  Anything is possible.  Was his death a mystery as he was a mystery writer himself?

1849 "Annie" daguerreotype of Poe

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

The Outrage Factor

The best plots are those that play on the emotions. Among the strongest stories are those that go up against our sense of right and wrong. It isn't necessarily about revenge, nor does outrage have to drive the main plot; it also strengthens subplots, such as where someone gets abused or taken advantage of. Regardless of genre, you can dial up the old outrage meter as much as desired, as we'll see from some traditional sources of inspiration.

Vidgame Hackery
In the game Summoner, farm boy Joseph returns to find his village burned (villains have a thing for that, don't they?). Yep, it's questin' time. In similar fashion is Venetica, set in a fantastical medieval Venice. If the designers noticed venetica is Latin for wizardress, kudos on them. At any rate, our gal takes down a (you guessed it) village raider with her garden rake. She's thereby obtained her first sword, and you know the rest. Basing a story on this is more about the adventure than any kind of cosmic enlightenment. Eh. 6/10 on the outrage meter.

Clive Cussler et al
In Dale Brown's military thriller The Kremlin Strike, those crazy Russians have hustled up a space station in record time. They have the effrontery to shoot up our satellites, and their president is a jivetime ponk in need of some hash settling. We're keen to see him get what-for, so file this one under Bullies Inc. 8/10.

Spuming Magical Destiny
Suppose a peasant longs to join the elite ranks, but faces jealousy in the ranks, with some pseudo-Inquisition types thrown in for good measure. It's the crab in the bucket syndrome: one tries to climb out, but the others can't be having that, and pull him back in. This plot fuels many a fantasy yarn. 9/10.

The One-Sided Equation
In 1995's The Killing Star, earth is hit out of the blue with kinetic weapons that destroy the planet. The aliens  hunt down every ship and outpost in the solar system. They explain to a pair of survivors (destined for a zoo) that mankind has emerged as a rival and must be quashed. A single ship escapes, and this screams sequel--you just know we'll be back to show these squid faces what calamari looks like. Only it never happens; the author has written it as a one-shot commentary. Now that's outrageous. 10/10.

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Art: Shirley's Woods

A photog could do a lot worse on a September afternoon. Just the other side of a sagging chicken wire fence lay this forgotten little recess on my aunt's property. The magical pool of light drew out my muse, but something was missing--the human touch. The addition of steps and a crumbling wall create a porch from which settlers once communed with the fairies. Sunlit saplings lend depth to the scene as they merge with shaded trunks closer in.

The camera's cold eye had the foreground a uniform dark green (translate boring). Stippling it with green, orange and blue lays down a random carpet of leaves and shrubs, which viewers will think took hours of careful planning. But nature shouldn't be planned, and besides, that's too much like work. Since the foreground is a supporting element, have fun and let nature fly.

This might be called a 'ground glass' method. You could slap it on with glitter-paint abandon, unless your muse nags you about cheating, or maybe cut fingers. But we can always simulate the thing. Unlike the careful precision of Pointilism, these touches vary widely in shape and size, though we have the same goal of juxtaposing light against dark. Wrap the trees in light by edging them in ultra thin white with the side of a palette knife. Start with a thin wash in the background, adding detail as you work toward the foreground. Haven't yet tried multiple colors on the brush? It's a good way to let unexpected things happen, filling in discrete areas out of which your guiding hand draws touches of realism.

Sunday, September 8, 2019


As defined by (paraphrased), a wordsmith is "One with the ability to effortlessly string together words, no matter the meaning, in such a way it brings a smile, laughter, or admiration for such skill." That word "effortless" is a little problematic. It does take some thought to be concise, poetic, witty, snarky, or whatever the tone is. Depending on the balance of ingredients, you can have a wiseguy Greg Gutfeld or a rapier wit like Rod Serling. Wordsmithing livens up book reviews, satire, blogs, and opinion pieces, but doesn't work for informative offerings like product reviews (just the facts, ma'am).

As to methods, we first become aware of a playful narrative through unusual word pairings like "quixotic quorum". Who knows--that might refer to a board of elderly gents at a condo association meeting. It's a poetic device which, like its namesake, crams a lot in a small space; it's the opposite of wordiness, which begs for cuts and editing. Taking such liberties means knowing your subject well enough that fans don't see you as an outsider poking fun. Besides tone, you can emulate your favorites, though that works best for fan fiction.

A Little Fan Fiction

Alfred Hitchcock Good evening. As time is limited, I shall endeavor to rein in my runaway enthusiasm for the subject at hand. [Draws breath]. Good night.

Rod Serling Portrait of a writer who is here yet  not here, a fictional persona masquerading as his betters. . .in the Twilight Zone. [Cut me some slack, Rod.]

Duke Nukem So I ain't no Emily Post. Don't shoot up my ride, Clyde!

Greg Gutfeld Me trying to channel Jane Austen is like Chuckles the clown teaching Shakespeare!

Four different voices will have different takes on the same subject. Your own interest shines through with lively, off the wall presentation, even if it comes with a slight tradeoff: the writer is very much on stage, as opposed to his usual place kibbitzing behind the curtain. Did we mention it's fun?