Whittling Down To The Beautiful


C2 - Alchemy lab - After

My partner and I run a business together: buying & selling antiques, doing shows, Ebay, repairing old pieces, creating new designs from vintage/antique components. Part of this process is the old “Buy Low, Sell High” tactic. So we hit auctions, thrift stores, Craigslist, junk shops, and antique stores. We scoop up anything with potential, flip the ready-to-go pieces as quickly as possible, and slowly work on the pieces that need TLC or creative reworking.

The needy pieces are less expensive, of course, and we always have more plans than time. (Sound familiar?) So, the easy pieces sell quickly, and the time-suck ones tend to pile up.

About 2 months ago, we decided it was time for a purge. We wanted to move to another location, get a fresh start. Opportunities arose, and as daunting as the overwhelming task seemed, we lunged at them.

Now, this meant a few things:
– Downsizing from an 8,000 sq ft building with our loft, storefront, storage & workshop to an adorable 1000 sq ft house
– Decision-making on what to let go vs. what to keep
– Re-imagining our lives with these changes in mind

Our action plan, at its root, challenged us to decide what things were most valuable and to let the rest go. Sounds simple, right? But this wasn’t just about ~things~. It also included our hopes, dreams, emotions, attachments. The decision rippled through every aspect of our lives: relationships, family, friends, finances, location, business, etc, etc…

Some choices hurt. We mourned the potential of soon-to-be-lost things. But we knew to get to our end goal, we had to be merciless.

[Roll over each pic for a caption.]

So here we are, on the other side. Feels.so.damn.good.

Yes, this is a story specific to me, but not solely. ALL you readers are insanely intelligent. You’re boss at drawing analogies, reading words someone else wrote & drawing personal significance from them. I encourage you to do that.

Maybe for you, this post is about a change or move or purge you need to make in your own life. Maybe it applies to the fear of the draft looming in front of you or the scary-ass revisions staring you in the face. Maybe it’s a bit of inspiration for redesigning your life (or just your creative space) by sifting ALL THE THINGS down to the beautiful.

It’s tough. It hurts. It’s hard work.

It’s worth it.

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Feedback Leads To Lovers


IF FOUND, RETURN TO ASTROPOP - Fan art by Crystal Smalls Ord

IF FOUND, RETURN TO ASTROPOP – Fan art by Crystal Smalls Ord

Feedback comes in many forms.

From a “ZOMG! Take my money! I want to buy that right NOW!” spurred by a one-sentence pitch, to a meh or shrug or turned-up nose of disinterest, to a gushing Tweet, to comments from a CP saying, “Yeah, something’s totally broken in this section… What if you…” or “WHY ARE YOU MAKING ME CRY RIGHT NOW, LUCAS?!”. And a million shades in between.

Even silence is feedback.

Obviously, praise feels good. (Thanks, Cpt Obvious.) ((You’re welcome!)) Some readers heap it on. It’s who they are, in their nature. And thank the gods these readers swoop in to rub a little balm on the inevitable burns. Other readers are boss at finding tiny inconsistencies between something mentioned briefly on page 7 and then again in chapter 28. Some focus on big picture stuff, or characterization, or plot threads, or every.single.missing.comma, or dialogue, or a name that changes spelling partway through, or the lovey-dovey parts.

All of these amazingly varied types of feedback are helpful, needed, and appreciated.

Individually, they’re golden. Together, they help transform a manuscript into a book.

This feedback leads to lovers.

And, yes, sometimes, a feedback-giver doesn’t “get it”. Your voice, style, rhythm, a character. Your words are simply not their thang. Or they have a tough time divorcing their own style from yours and try to insert their personal quirks, voice, and preferences. And (Okay! Fine, I’ll take one for the team and say it out loud! Because a lot of times it’s something we feel like we shouldn’t say. Out of fear of sounding wounded, or thinking too highly of our own words, or because we’re big, fat, fearful chickens.) every now and then, there is the unmistakable taint of jealousy and/or bitterness.

That’s okay, too.

Because, in the end, the writer must weigh every bit of feedback. We make decisions. We place value on each suggestion. We pop them on the scale of our vision for our story and see which way it tips. “Shit, that hurts, like mad, but I need it” or “Okay, yeah, that’s not useful” or “Hmmm…interesting…good point” and the coveted “YES OMG PERFECT SUGGESTION THIS PERSON IS BASICALLY A GENIUS”.

As long as we’re not stubborn jerks, as long as we’re open to learn and bend and stretch, each suggestion (and our resulting decision) helps our story grow stronger.

That’s the ultimate point of feedback, right? Not to have people gush for gushing’s sake, but because the story resonates. Not to stroke our egos, but to kick us in the nearsighted ass and make us see things we’re myopic about.

If our end goal is for our words to make it into the great big world, that goal begins with an idea. That idea becomes a manuscript, which becomes a book. That can be an amazing book or a sorry-excuse for one. The difference, I believe, happens through the process of seeking, receiving, weighing, and incorporating feedback.

Think about how magical this is: We can actually transform the raw material of feedback into gold.

We’re like a team of alchemists and shit.
Feedback into gold.
Books into feelings.
Strangers into lovers.

Improvement. Solidity. Marketability. Beauty. Resonance.

Those are the things which will help our stories make it beyond behind-the-scenes-readers to the great big world. And that great big world contains the same mix of disinterest, haters, and passionate lovers.

Feedback is, I truly believe, the path that leads us to those future, passionate lovers.

 

Sometimes, in addition to feedback-in-words, there’s even feedback-in-images. (Ahhhh!)

The AMAZING illustration opening this post is fan art that If Found, Return To Astropop inspired in a reader. That reader, who is also a writer and illustrator, is the phenomenal Crystal Smalls Ord. I can’t really share much of Astro with you lovelies quite yet, but I’m thrilled to be able to share Smalls’s interpretation.

(She made sure I pointed out that the image only exists because Astro & Pip’s story inspired her that much. :: blushes profusely ::)

If you dig it, let Smalls know, check out her other work, and show her some love.
Twitter: @SmallsOrd
Tumblr: http://smallsord.tumblr.com/
Deviant Art: http://csmalls.daportfolio.com/

Teaching Skull Specimen


Reginald Crane

Reginald Crane says, “Hi.”

TEACHING SPECIMEN 
Late 19th-early 20th century.
Skull with cut away and hinged sections.
Original painted details.
In a glass and wood display case. 12.5″h. 9″w.

Isn’t Reginald rad? I just won him in an auction about 10 minutes ago. I know some folks think it’s weird/creepy/macabre to own, like, a human skull. But think about it: we all have one. And, once on display, skulls live on as art.

This specimen is hand-painted and was used to teach medical students. The cranial cap is completely removable. The lower half is bifurcated lengthwise and the halves split apart. There are other sweet cutaway sections held together with springs, hooks, pins, and hinges. Inside, there is more painting detailing the major arteries and veins.

This is the 5th skull I’ve temporarily owned long enough to sell. I’d gladly keep & display them all, but, believe it or not, they are highly sought after items. Reginald’s great condition, painting, movable parts, and display case means he’ll easily double my money (and possibly triple it.) Reginald is an investment.

He’ll go up Ebay this coming Monday or Tuesday.

So weird? Maybe.
But also cool as hell.
And ~cha-ching~ collectible.

Reginald Crane says, "Bye."

Reginald Crane says, “Bye.”

Phreak Show Ink – Mantis & Lil Diva


Lil Diva & Her BFF Mantis

Mantis the Giantess & Lil Diva the Human Puppet

Weezie Williams & Lily White - BFFs

Lily White & Weezie Williams

Mantis & Lily 3

OH NO! Not only has it been 500 years since I posted (actually only like 2 weeks), but I’m also out of tat appointments for awhile.

This is a tragedy.

Still remaining:
– The name banner for Mantis & Lil Diva
– Jules a.k.a Shim the Gender Enigma
– Aaron James a.k.a. Gemini the Two-Headed Boy
– Background aether
– Touch-ups

My artist is booked forever in advance, but we’re squeezing more ink in when he gets cancelled appointments.
Which happen to fall on Saturdays…
If I’m also available…

Hopefully the phreak-sleeve will be completed & healed by summer? We’ll see if the planets align to make that happen.

In the meantime, I’m in the thick of hot and heavy edits on the manuscript.
Challenging, fun, brain-juggly (totally a word).
At this point, the hard work feels totally worth it. But then there’s the variable of feedback once the edits are submitted.

Once again, doing my part, but I guess I have to leave the outcome to celestial alignment, literary luck fairies, and the like.

UPDATE on the feedback: !!!!!!!!!!!!!! 🙂 🙂 🙂 ALL CAPS !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 🙂 🙂 🙂

Phreak Show Ink – Douggie


Douggie as his show persona: Doug Doug the Dimwit

Douggie as his show persona: Doug Doug the Dimwit

Douglas Smalls

Douglas Smalls

Tattoo - Douggie 3

Douggie

Douggie! While a genius, Douggie has been labeled and mistreated simply because of his smarts. No worries, Douggie. I immortalized your Phreak Show persona for you.

You know how shallow some folks are. Now, they’ll never guess you’re intelligent as long as you keep quiet.

Phreak Show Ink – Twiggy


Twiggy

Twiggy the Blubber Girl

Twiggy - Wink, cupcake & all

Twiggy – Wink, cupcake & all

It took two weeks to get her image just right, but Twiggy [I feel] is gorgeous. I had a very strong concept in my mind. And, for some reason, I feel like I owe Twiggy a perfect execution of that vision. Don’t ask me why I feel so possessive of her. I just do, and can’t exactly explain it.

Right now, she and Jamie are battling for the top spot of Phavorite Phreak Tattoo.

Until now, the phreaks have been kind of scattered, spread in a pre-ordained layout to make room for them all. With the proximity of the images coming together, it’s actually starting to feel like the beginnings of a sleeve. Over the next couple weeks, the individuals will continue to interact with the ones who have come before them. The gaps will fill, the images will play off one another.

My experiments to either write or edit while getting inked? Both failed. Too much physical sensation to go to the mental place needed for those tasks. But I’ve found I can read easily enough [between conversations]. Last week, I just so happened to be reading a scene which talked about the three kinds of people who get tattoos. In my own words:
– One timers
– I have one and might get another
– The addicts

Wouldn’t say I’m an addict, but I’m definitely a fan of immortalizing ideas & images worth immortalizing.

Twiggy Excerpt

Twiggy was, as usual, sitting on her bed shoving food in her mouth. “How’d it go?” she asked.

I squeezed out my hair. “We damn near got struck by lightning.”

“I hate the thunder. And I eat when I’m scared. Want a chip?”

You eat all the time.

“I don’t think my stomach can handle food right now.”

I caught a whiff of pungent stank. Was it Twiggy’s rank chips? Oh gods. No. It was my skanky armpits, the oniony b.o. rejuvenated by the sweat and the rain. I really needed to slough off the week-old funk clinging to my crevices. I had my backpack, but my clothes and hygiene bag were still in my car. Miles away. Out of gas. But, damn, I needed to get clean. A saying I’d once heard—maybe at school, or online—flashed in my head. All things being equal, fat people use more soap.

“Do you have any soap?” I asked my hefty host.

She wrinkled her nose. “Well, yeah. Tons of it.”

“Can I borrow some?”

“For…?”

“The rain. I’m so in need of a shower. You don’t even want to know,” I said.

Twiggy pinched her nose closed. “Oh, I know,” she said with a smile. “We have showers, silly.” She brushed sour cream and onion crumbs off her boobs. “We may be phreaks, but we’re not slobs.”

Confession: I DO know why Twiggy’s image is even more important to me than the MC Tera’s or the love interest Niko’s. Many readers have identified with Twiggy’s struggle. I feel an obligation to them to get her right. Maybe obligation isn’t the right word. How about, I have the desire to do right by Twiggy and—by extension—to those who identify with her.