Comic Series

Lucky unlucky four

I kid. Updates are liable to be even more calendrical heresy thanks to Book Deadlines of Damocles, but everyone needs a hobby. (My agent and editors are aware; I got hit by life + health stuff.)

I have to share with you the most hilarious pose reference ever re: #0 p. 7. My daughter agreed to help me out by posing first as Evil Kel then Miresh since I was having issues with arms (ugh, why do humans have bodies? we would be easier to draw if we were all squares) in exchange for my microwaving her a meal. (My daughter is a college student. Rest assured, she knows how to use a microwave.)

I mean. Is she not the MOST CHEERFUL CHILLAXED Evil Kel and/or Terrified Protester Victim?!

My latest timesink is making boxes because I find it relaxing to work with my hands when I’m able to. I keep attempting to slim down my travel art toolkit, and once you realize a basic box is just a bunch of rectangles, measurements, addition, and dealing with tolerances and hand-eye coordination, it’s hard to resist making THE PERFECT BOX for your specific tools. I am no Fields Medalist but I am extremely not afraid of a bunch of rectangles, and I enjoy this sort of very simple design work. The previous thing I made was a cockamamie watercolor box for a friend. (You can see where I screwed up the tolerances because I didn’t make enough allowance for the thickness of decorative paper + glue. Literally three more millimeters and I’d have been able to fit in another full watercolor pan as originally intended! My friend was amused, fortunately.)

Ditto leatherworking, where the barrier is the cost of tools and dear sweet Shinjo the cost of leather. (The recommendation seems to be to hang out with more experienced leatherworkers and ask for off-cuts to practice small pieces.) My current leatherworking WIP is a leather folio that will involve gussets. Rectangular gussets look straightforward, but are probably annoying to sew. We’ll find out!

Updates may continue to be calendrical heresy: I have been accepted into a part-time/distance-learning M.A. in film/TV/game scoring, which starts mid-September. I’m very excited for this! I picked part-time to accommodate pending writing obligations. I should have more or less wrapped up delivery drafts of the two pending books by then (Moonstorm trilogy #3: Crownworld, and Code & Codex, which is a standalone), but there will be edits.

Why comic, why now?

You know, I first wanted to do Ninefox comic nonsense around 2012, which was when I was writing Ninefox and Suicide Hawk, which is what would become Ninefox Gambit after the seventh draft. I did some terribad cartooning exercises and doodles. But I sucked at drawing. I told myself I couldn’t do this until I learned to draw.

It’s ten-plus years later, and I started the comic. I do draw (I hope) a little better than I did in 2012. Most of what I drew last year makes me cringe, although one hopes for slow incremental progress.

Why now, after so much procrastinating? It really was procrastinating. You would think a published writer would know that the beautiful vision in my head would never live up to the fumbling learning-curve efforts, but without the fumbling learning-curve efforts, there’s nothing to share at all (if sharing is something one cares about, which I do). You would think! And yet I was too afraid to start.

Partly it’s that my health cratered; I spent two years barely able to walk, among other things. It’s a really bad sign when you go to see the doctor and she sends you for an emergency CT scan and FIVE MINUTES LATER you’re being prepped and afterward you’re told not to eat or drink until she clears you, in case emergency surgery is necessary, because ironically, it’s a really bad sign when the US medical system is that efficient. Emergency surgery was not necessary, but my health is still not great. (Not interested in discussing further medical details, thanks!) It’s always true that one might die in the next five minutes, but there’s nothing like having one’s health crash to make one realize that, hey, no time like the present.

Partly it’s that I finally realized that the only way to learn how to do something is to do it. There are probably areas of endeavor, and types of people, who can learn how to do a thing by reading about it. I’m rarely able to get more than five pages into an instructional text going straight through on my own, as opposed to referencing interesting bits at need.

Partly it’s that I kept listening to people telling me about “ideal” or “efficient” methods for doing a comic. Most of them had to do with digital art. I don’t hate digital art, but I love traditional media. I love the feel of them. I tried for AGES to get a watercolor look in digital painting because I love watercolor. Even when the results were prettier than anything I could paint with actual watercolors, I hated how they FELT.

Everyone told me not to do watercolor for a comic, how inefficient, what a pain, DON’T DO IT. They were honestly trying to help! And yet.

One of the most insightful things I ever read re: creating a project of your own was in Matt Hackett’s How to Make a Video Game by Yourself: 10 Steps, Just You and a Computer. There’s zero about programming languages or IDEs or polygon counts or garbage collection or whatever; it’s about high-level stuff like accountability and design and project management.

But the other thing it talks about is game engines, not in the sense of recommending a specific one, but this: use the game engine that feels good to you. You’re not an AAA studio if you’re a DIY indie. You’re you. If you hate the way the game engine feels to use, you won’t keep using it. This was in fact why I kept stalling out; for whatever reason, I just couldn’t vibe with Unity despite multiple attempts. It turned out that I loved GameMaker Studio 2.

I finally realized that the “ideal, efficient” digital inking/coloring process that I hated so much that I literally set the comic aside for SIX MONTHS at a time was not ideal or efficient for me. The process you hate so much you can’t make yourself use it is not efficient if you’re DIY! I mean, look. I’m not a professional comic artist. I don’t have to deliver to the Marvels and DCs of the world. This is a personal project. It’s the project of my heart. It’s a vanity project.

You know what I love, even though it’s non-ideal and inefficient? Ink (dip pen or fountain pen) and watercolor. So fine. We’ll do ink and wash comics.

(That said – I’m not a complete masochist. Lettering I do in Clip Studio EX because I’m lazy and my handwriting is shit.)

Finally, on a storytelling front, it’s a reboot (AU from the books) because…the books already exist, why the hell rehash them? I run on weaponized boredom. I want to do something different, and in a vanity personal project of my heart, what I want to do is what matters.

Plus, I spent YEARS grappling with “Why is Cheris a gaping black hole of nothingness in my head?” Some people liked book!Cheris, and that’s great! But unfortunately, if I don’t understand her, I can’t write her. At the end of Ninefox Gambit, I hit the limit of my understanding of what made her tick.

I had to throw out multiple scenes/chapters in the first draft of Revenant Gun because I kept trying to go to Cheris’s POV to show what the hell she was up to, and something was not clicking, and then we were flooded out (2016) and I had bigger fish to fry LIKE FAMILY SURVIVAL than solving the characterization problem, so I cut those scenes in favor of adding Hemiola and turned in the manuscript after the original deadline. (Solaris was very understanding and gave me an extension due to NATURAL DISASTER!) But the black hole of nothingness problem kept bothering me.

I had all sorts of hypotheses, most of which were not right or not entirely right. Female POV? But I’ve never had that problem with any other female POV I’ve written. I loved writing Min in Dragon Pearl, plus a bunch of female characters in short stories or juvenilia. Was it that Cheris is my personality anti-particle? She’s dutiful, logical, systematic, responsible. I am none of these things. (Sorry.) Also I have a B.A. in math but I am grudgingly competent in math, not a genius in anything except, possibly, losing my smartphone. (Ask my husband.) Yet I’ve written other characters who had anti-particle traits to mine and enjoyed them.

I found the answer to the question in a completely unexpected place, a screenwriting workshop by Jen Grisanti. And the answer was family. Cheris’s family was a giant gaping black hole that I kept avoiding. It shows up peripherally at best in Raven Stratagem and then I punted. It turns out that once you give Cheris family backstory problems and/or feelings of her own, I understand what motivates her well enough to write her in more depth! So changing that in the comic nonsense is fun in that I finally see the solution to a problem that has bothered me for over a decade, and have fun DRAWING it as well.

Also I have plans for backstory revisions to Jedao and Kujen, and plot changes going forward. :3 I’m so excited!

Sure. If I’d started Ninefox comic nonsense in 2012, it would have sucked. I know what kind of art I was producing in 2012. It sucked. But you know what? It’s 2024 now, and if I’d kept at it, I would be twelve years better at comics/art.

I can’t travel in time, but I can start now and see how far I get, even if the art is janky. I can do the project of my heart that makes me happy. I realize this has an audience of about six people and four of them are members of my family, but it’s okitty!

If I last another twelve years, maybe in 2036 I’ll be twelve years better at this, and I’ll have twelve years of calendrical heresy extremely intermittent comic to show for it. Who knows?

Alex de Campi said something to me once in a different context: “Sooner or later, you just gotta do the thing.” And I should have listened then. Thank you, Alex. (Her comics are terrific – my daughter made off with the copy of Alex’s Parasocial, with artist Erica Henderson, that Alex so generously sent me, OH NOES I guess I will just have to buy my own. 😀 )

Sooner or later, you just gotta do the thing.

So here I am, however slowly, doing the thing.

Meanwhile, for lagniappe, I’ve settled on Art Toolkit‘s Demi Palette for my current needs!

a small Art Toolkit watercolor palette and some paint color and mixture swatches

And of course, have a friendly catten, who “helps” by stepping on my wet paints and threatening to chew on my watercolor paper when she’s not thoughtfully gnawing on ME because I’m not feeding her promptly enough. :3

a cat crouches on top of a sketchbook next to an art instruction book

Merch is here!

Updated with #0 Prelude: Cheris p. 5, including an updated transcript!

Also added Merch (goes to Right now, it’s stickers, notebooks, and mugs. If you have requests for other items, please drop me a line – I can’t guarantee anything but I am deffo listening.

The per-item cost is spendy (and shipping is slower) because they make items to order, but they handle fulfillment. This prevents me from getting stuck with 1,000 notebooks in my garage (my husband vetoes this) and, frankly, between health/work, I can’t take on fulfillment as a regular thing right now. :] Digital downloads are possible and probably easier for me to set up; they do let you list physical items you fulfill yourself, theoretically possible down the road if my health improves.

(I am seriously considering Ninefox Gambit “affirmation” cards. Because troll.)

You may be wondering why I’m embarking on this comic, other than random amusement and stress relief. I finally realized that if I waited until I was “ready” or “learned how to draw,” I would die without ever doing this. Might as well give it a try.

Also, you know what’s a great way to learn how to draw? Drawing a lot. :looks at establishing shot full of people lolsob:

Besides…I wanted to do something for myself for once, to make myself happy. That’s all. 🙂

In the meantime, I have line edits to do lol. I am under deadline for 2.5 books:

  • line edits on Starstrike (Moonstorm #2, YA mecha space opera trilogy), that’s the 0.5 book
  • Code & Codex, adult linguistics sci fantasy/space opera – mostly drafted
  • Crownworld (Moonstorm #3, YA mecha space opera trilogy) – awaiting approval on synopsis from the editor

So as you may have figured out, updates on the comic are going to happen in between writing, because writing pays for art supplies. :3 Also calendrically uncertain updates seems on-brand anyway?!

Yours in calendrical heresy,


Fox-waxing has included, besides completing and uploading #0 p. 4 and updating its transcript plus other resources and inspirations, for the curious:

  • rearranging my watercolors
  • working on creating my own prototype watercolor box in a form factor that makes me happy – it’s of cardboard, but it will have space for watercolors in a single row plus a compartment for a few brushes; the watercolor row has been done up with ferrous vinyl so that magnetized watercolor pans will stick.
  • working on bookbinding for my daughter and researching board cutters because the one thing I hate about bookbinding and box-making is using an X-acto knife to cut Davey board. ;_; On the other hand, a Kutrimmer or Jacques board shear (assuming any are still available for sale) would be an…investment I’m not sure is warranted by my hobbies.
  • rearranging my study (again)
  • resuming hobbyist kiddie-pool perfumery, including a prototype Jedao parfum; I’ll be sending a tester to Arkady Martine, who has VERY GENEROUSLY agreed to beta the blend. XD Needless to say, I work in tiny batches, and as someone who has not taken HIGH SCHOOL CHEMISTRY, I’m not ready to work with professional aromachemicals, vs. pre-blended accords and so on.
  • going to Red Stick Spice in Baton Rouge (where I live) for TRUFFLE SALT and mission creep resulting in pear jelly and stuff! Joe declined the ghost pepper salt for some reason. 🙂 I absolutely recommend them – just walking in the door smelling all the spices and teas I knew it was going to be great. 😀
  • applying to a fully remote, part-time (two years, 15 hours/week) M.A. in professional media composition. Who knows if I will get in! But worst case, they bounce me this year, I revamp my portfolio and try again next year.

Also, I apologize for typos, especially repeated keys; I’m having issues with this keyboard. Also I am the GENIUS who realized my keyboard launcher couldn’t find Clip Studio EX because I had somehow accidentally deleted it. :facepalm:

Special shout-outs to Chuck and Nikita at the art hangout where I spent an amount of time I refuse to disclose penciling the first panel of p. 4, ditto my husband with all the inking and painting. Also, I had to foreshadow the series’ resident Asshole Goose. 🙂 Incidentally, I’m not sure why Cheris/Kujen isn’t the white-hot favored hatesex pairing. imagine all the math trolling. I envision them math-trolling hate-flirting over Brouwer fixed points, knot equivalency algorithms, P-NP, and that hilarious math-trolling paper by Doron Zeilberger, “‘Real’ Analysis Is a Degenerate Case of Discrete Analysis.” I laughed so hard. XD And meanwhile poor Jedao mopily eats popcorn and does /salmon ladders/ push-ups because he’s bored out of his skull and wishes they could play the latest hottest FPS instead.

Yours in calendrical heresy,

still here?

Updated #0 Prelude: Cheris with p. 3, including an updated transcript for same. In general, the About page will have the status/latest updated page. 🙂

I’m also working on a cockamamie animated music video trailer thing. I reckon it’ll take me the rest of the year, but I’m having fun with it?! This is a project I started, on and off, a couple years ago. Debating whether to grit my teeth and pay for a couple lines of professional voiceover (15 + 15 words, lolsob) or punt and use motion graphics nonsense. Two seconds of low-hanging-fruit first-pass animation so far…wish me luck. 🙂

Yours in calendrical heresy, YHL

An actual update

Howdy! Finally decided to get moving on the grounds that life is short. This is currently age-locked at 18 and over due to the adult nature of the themes. I will probably update page by page as I complete them, but only send out newsletter announcements when an “issue” (~22 pages) is done. As it stands, I only have cover art for #0 (prologue regarding Cheris’s backstory) and one page, but a journey of a thousand mopey foxmoths starts with a single threshold winnower. Enjoy! – YHL