Wednesday, January 21, 2009

A Brief Bout Of Sanity

What do you see in this inkblot? I see a river with a landscape reflected in it. Over the next few days I'll be using various Photoshop tricks to pull that image out and color it.

A Conversation:

The Oaf: Well, I was thinking about the plans I had for the semester when I realized that I was bug-fuck insane.

The Missus: ... uh ... YOU'RE ALWAYS BUG-FUCK INSANE!

The Oaf: Yeah, but figuring it out before I screw up my entire life is a brand-new phenomenon.

The Missus: Heh, heh, heh.

The Oaf: I realized that adding a major creative project to my schedule is just another self-sabotage technique.

The Missus: Well, when the creative impulse hits, you gotta run with it.

The Oaf: True enough.

So the CAPTCHA novel is going back into the compost pile to age and swap juices with the other ideas waiting their turn for execution. Yeah, I'm going nuts waiting to get back to work on The Ghost Rockers (I've found the agent I want to sent it to first so I'm shifting impatiently from one foot to the other -- it's like I've gotta pee.) but I need to channel that energy into my art projects. For the curious, I'll post the unedited totally raw first chapter in the comments.

We've almost got the stories together for the next issue of Swill. It's gonna be a good one -- our first professional writer, one of my two best pieces of fiction so far, some great noir and gritty lit -- and I need to get cracking on the illustrations.

Since the illustrations for the last two issues have been turned into prints, I'm flipping the process this time -- I'm executing them as prints first, then turning them into black-and-white illustrations. You keep hearing me say that good coloring works when you change it to black-and-white? Time to put my money where my mouth is.

And I need to get moving on my Anomalocaris, and then on to the next one in that series. And so on. And so forth.

I just need to keep myself on track. Focus, oafboy, focus.


Sean Craven said...



Flograt parked Coccho in a plaza just off the Cloaca. This time of night it was empty except for the carts and barrows of the workers living in the upper stories of the surrounding buildings. These were gathered in clusters, wheels both wooden and iron-shod bumping softly over the cobblestones, voices hushed as they traded the day’s gossip with one another. Flograt patted Coccho on the neck that supported the coach’s carved wooden head and whispered into one wooden ear.

“One word to them and I’ll take your wheels and have you made into a boat.”

Coccho nodded, the stiffness of his action communicating the emotion that couldn’t touch his unmoving features. “I only ever speak out of courtesy,” the coach said. “Did Fashu not say that the noble mind provides its own best company?”

Flograt pulled a stick from inside Coccho. “Fashu was emasculated when he was four, or so I’ve been told. In my experience his wisdom is best suited for those in similar fettle.”

Coccho bowed his head and shook it slowly. “You have an irreverent mind,” he said. “Go, then, and take your crass parts with you. At least you leave me in a fine spot to contemplate the vanities of existence.”

Flograt raised his stick, cracked Coccho smartly across his carved muzzle and strode into the Cloaca, the maze of service alleys used by the ancient mansions of Ovento’s West Quarter. The darkness was made even deeper by the hints of light caught by the spires and rooftops overhead and any light he carried would attract worse things than insects. So Flograt stepped quickly, sweeping the stick in front of him as he went, until he came to the back door of Letelie’s house. A stiff piece of leather kept rain out of the alcove that held the bell pull; Flograt reached in and tugged at it, one ring, pause, two quick rings, the signal Letelie had told him to use.

Flograt turned his back to the door as he waited, listening to the sounds of the alley around him, the gnawing of mislin, the inquisitive yelps of the zolypins that stalked them, a distant cry of warning from an upper window and the splatter of a chamber pot being emptied.

Then the latch of the door was pulled and the door opened. Patorti stepped back from the entry and gestured with the lamp she held, glass eyes in her pretty porcelain face moving to track Flograt as he came through. Two feet tall with a body stuffed with bran and sawdust, her infant’s dress stained with an alchemist’s hodgepodge of chemicals and bodily fluids, Flograt had never known whether he wanted to steal the poppet away and give her to his nieces or cast her into a fire.

“Please, sir, if you could wipe your feet,” Patorti said, her voice a chime that made one’s teeth grit.

He smiled and nodded, then scrubbed his boots against the mat. It would not do to track mire into a client’s house. Especially a client such as Letelie.

Patorti led him up the stairs. Flograt had been this way often enough not to be surprised by the tall step eight from the bottom; a common trick in these old buildings, intended to transform housebreakers into neckbreakers. Patorti went slowly, having to set the lamp down on each stair as she climbed.

When dealing with the aristocracy patience is an absolute necessity.

Once they’d gained the first floor Patorti blew out the light and hung the lamp on a hook by the door to the stairs; the halls with their frescos and parquet floors were lit by arc lamps whose harsh glare made Flograt blink and shield his eyes with his hands until they’d adjusted. Up another narrow stair, the trick step the tenth one this time, and down a hall with plain plaster walls stained in the manner of Patorti’s dress. This led to the heavy door of Letelie’s laboratory. Patorti entered first to announce Flograt, then held the door as he went in.

The smell of acids and sulfur, of spoiled meat and fresh blood, of ozone and a dizzying wisp of chloroform. A crackle from the spark dancing upwards between two curved copper tubes, the harsh glare of arc lamps and the hissing jets of burning gas. Three great tables, one topped with glassware, weights, and measures, one with wires and gears and armatures, and the third…

Letelie stood at the third table, her pretty face weary, eyes narrowed and mouth down at the corners. She was a Mismot from the South and like all those of her country she was purple, skin a pearly lavender like the bloom of a fruit, hair the dark clear shade you find in the sky just over a sunset and eyes like the sun seen through wine.

On the table in front of her was a patchwork man, his body like a map of Captcha. His left leg was purple like a Mismot, as was the soft jumble of what Coccho would have called his crass parts. His right was as yellow as Flograt himself, while his chest and arms were blue like a Munchkin and his head was Gilliken green. Each joining was lined by neat black stitches like the boundaries on a map. The body was long and wide and heavy, a giant of a figure, a pillar of cold meat.

The sight reminded Flograt of the way you’d cobble together a servant out of bits and pieces, of wheels and axles and old dolls, out of heads carved in wood or fired in porcelain, and then have them brought to life. If Letelie thought she could do that with anything that still had even a trace of vitality left in it…

That was a shock but there was a worse shock still; Flograt didn’t recognize one part of this man. Coccho hadn’t carried the bodies he’d been made from; Flograt hadn’t drug them from their graves or up the narrow stairs.

“His heart is red, the ruby red of our city Ovento, and it is still,” Letelie said.

“Madam,” Flograt said.

“Flograt, I’ve decided to give you a gift,” Letelie said and stepped back from the table and preened absentmindedly at her hair. Her smock hid the outlines of her figure but could not hide her grace. Flograt knew the women of Letelie’s family were always beautiful and frequently mad; Letelie was something special. Her family paid her good money to stay in Ovento. She waved her hand at the body. “Please. It’s yours, as a token of my appreciation for your services.”

This was something he was not prepared for. He couldn’t fit Coccho into the narrow alleys and the body was too big to carry – he always used an assistant on his deliveries. Perhaps if he bundled it up in a piece of cloth he could drag it down the stairs…

But what would he do with it then? This was the evidence of a crime that was monstrous even by Flograt’s standards – if he was caught with it execution would be the least of his concerns.

Something tugged at the leg of his pants; it was Patorti. “Don’t forget to say thank you,” she said.

Flograt bowed to Letelie. “Thank you very much, Ma’am,” he said. “You’re very generous.”

Letelie cast her eyes slowly down the length of the body. “Yes,” she said, “I know.” She took a deep breath, then let it out sharply. “This has been a very disappointing evening,” she said, and then made a whisking motion with one hand. “Now. Get this out of my house.”

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