The joy of just making the story

I’ve started work on storyboarding a Wren book.

Which brings up a couple of thoughts. First is why am I making a Wren Valen book? How does that fit into my goals. Second is where I’m currently sitting with regard to kids’ books, comics, and vidya. We’ll start with the apologetic.

Why Wren?

It’s a bit of a strange thing, you know. I devised Wren (it feels like) a million years ago. In another world. In a world where I had no problem writing a fantasy of a short sorceress in an airship fighting pirates with her magic.

Now, a million problems arise. My Right Winger, primary audience is going to wonder why I’m telling stories about magic amazons. The world is full of writers who want to make stories about magic amazons. We need more stories like John Michael, of boys being allowed to be the hero again. And I agree.

But I feel like drawing and writing Wren. So I’m drawing and writing Wren.

My target audience may view Wren through a gimlet eye. But their natural foes, the Social Justice types, won’t like her either. She’s a flawed character, not a perfect Mary Sue. She understands that Force Equals Mass times Acceleration. She doesn’t pick fights with gorillas. No, the Left will call me a sexist for writing a human female, and the awesome Right will roll their eyes at Cartoon Rey.

I might pick up some sales among the Ben Shapiro, “I’m totally Right Wing, you can tell because I defend last year’s Left” crowd. People who think women in the military is a Right Wing triumph. But I have no interest in playing to that crowd at all.

Mind you, I don’t care if left, right, or center buys and enjoys my books. My enemies aren’t the commies or the not sees. My enemies are the devils. Any human I encounter is at worst a peon of forces who want to devour him. I say let him read and enjoy my books! It may be a lifeline for him. Or at worst, I will have supplied him a few bright moments in a dark life. And that is still a worthwhile thing.

But, you know, I’m trying to build a business. It’s a bit silly to build a business around books and stories that my own best customers are likely to dislike.

It doesn’t much matter to me for a few reasons.

  1. I’m taking a bit of a breather. I’ve spent four months on one project that I thought was sensible. Now I’m spending a month or two on a project because I feel like it. Got to recharge the batteries if I want to make the laudable stuff.
  2. I mistrust my motives. It is good to write stories that have good messages, good heroes and villains in them. It is good to write stories that will sell. But my vocation as a story teller is to tell stories that are good not because they are profitable or morally upright, but because they take your mind off your troubles for a few minutes. Working on a story, then, that militates against the profit and moralizing motives feels like something I can and even should do, to be true to my vocation.
  3. My wife will like it. And if I make a book that she likes, then the book was a success even if nobody buys it.
  4. There’s no rule that I have to produce this draft next. I’m currently planning to make several draft books in a row, and then pick one to produce as a final book. This Wren book is the first of those drafts. Maybe, after I draft a Hat Trick book and a John Michael Jones book and a Jump the Shark book, I’ll decide, “yeah, let’s go ahead and produce Wren first.” But maybe I won’t.

So that’s my apologetic for seeing this draft through.

Comics, Games, and Books for Children

This kids’ book format is a very compressed way to tell a story. Get in. Load a thousand words into each picture, and then maybe fifty or a hundred words along the side.

I love it. I’ve done novels, but I’m weak on them. I don’t spend enough time on the descriptions. The sights, the smells. I just dive straight into dialogue and action. Making picture books makes up for my weaknesses by leaning on my strengths.

Of course, comics are even moreso right? Right? Well. I’m not sure. It feels like it takes me forever to get through a story drawing it as a comic. I spend too much time and ink drawing the same picture over and over again.

Why not just make my “comics” as picture books, and let other, more patient men turn them into comics if they like? Seems a good plan to me.

But what will I do with Bunny Trail Junction, then? Shutter it?

Maybe. Or maybe I’ll post my storyboards there. Post them like they are a webcomic. Build an audience for each book before I even make the book.

Vidya, vidya, vidya. Vidya is prime, right? If I make a story in a game engine, I can record it as a video, post it as a comic, even make it as a kids’ book.

No. That’s the wrong approach. And here is why: the heart of my stories is the characters and plots. The heart of a game is the player and his choices. If I try to make my game dev a vehicle for my stories, I will gimp my gameplay and my stories. Better to make the stories as books, maybe post the storyboards in lieu of a webcomic, maybe read them on Youtube. Then, in my copious “spare time”, go ahead and tinker with game development. But as a hobby. If a game starts working out, then, sure, steal liberally from my books so that the books and games cross-promote.

Every now and then I think about Dr. Seuss as some sort of rival. Oh, I’m not trying to compete with his rhymes. And I doubt I’ll ever see hide nor hair of his fame. But there are some things I dislike about the man, and one of them is his pride. It took him forever to embrace making kids’ books. He later saw it as a true and worthy calling, but at first he intended to make serious art for serious people.

Trying to center my work on vidya is the same sort of hubris. I have a hundred fun stories in me. I should walk the shortest road between where I am, and where people can get at them. And I should have always been walking that path.

And are they children’s stories after all?

The Wren stories were not originally aimed at children. But they don’t have anything I wouldn’t give to a kid.

My cartoony style will be off-putting to serious men wanting serious stories. But at the end of the day, at least in the case of this Wren book, I’m making the books I want to make, and I hope some kids may like them and maybe even some adults may like them.

Faith and ADHD

There’s a guy in my circles on the interwebs, name of Jeff Hendricks. He’s got the ADHD. So do I. He’s got the religion. So do I. He’s got the article about it.

Well, now so do I.

My experience is almost completely different, so being as arrogant as anyone, I’m going to use him as a springboard to talk about myself. Perhaps between the two angles, you’ll find something of value.

Buckle in my friends. I am about to hold forth at length. And I suspect my fellow Chaos-monkeys are unlikely to make it all the way to the end.

Continue reading “Faith and ADHD”

Captain’s Log LB•11: the Primacy of Vidya

After several days of consideration and a day walking ’round in chilly weather with a cyborg eyepatch and a cockatiel, I have settled on some conclusions for Bunny Trail Junction and my various projects going forward. Chief of these is this:

Vidya is Prime

Vidya is my prime medium. Comics, children’s books, internet videos, and so forth are all fine ways to tell stories, and I should use them, especially when vidya is unsuited to a specific story. But most of my alternative media should be vidya first, and then derived from vidya.

LB1•11

Now, there are arguments against vidya being prime.

Vidya is Bad!

I’ve been listening to a podcast called A Brief History of Power, and it has been recommending that we disconnect as much as possible from screens in general. Your life will, it is argued, be more functional without TV, Facebook, and Mario. And I agree. I try to limit my kids’ screen time and advocate the whole family limit theirs.

But I do not believe the technology is intrinsically evil. I believe it is a usable tool that has been made into a glowing idol before which men bow and receive propaganda from their gods. Christians ought to be wary of the tool because that is its primary usage. But we can and should use it to our ends by our means.

In A Brief History of Power, especially BHOP 063, Rev Fisk and Dr. Koontz make a distinction between media intended to be integrated into life and most media, which is design to wholly absorb your attention and suck you into its world. This is regarded by Fisk and Koontz as an unhealthy thing, especially in excess.

I am a proponent of Tolkien’s Escapism.

Fantasy is escapist, and that is its glory. If a soldier is imprisoned by the enemy, don’t we consider it his duty to escape?. . .If we value the freedom of mind and soul, if we’re partisans of liberty, then it’s our plain duty to escape, and to take as many people with us as we can!
– J.R.R. Tolkien

That is, I agree that Escapism to the extent that you run away from the real world when you could be making it better is at some point a vice, and it is a vice that is clearly endorsed especially by the Pop Cult, one of the Secular Cults of my area and era.

The Pop Cult is devoted to movies, video games, and other franchises. It is the religion of Disney, Marvel, and other forms of mass media. Men escape their sad lives into fantasy worlds. The Pop Cult is offered up to the population by the Death Cult as a narcotic, and the media therein is intentionally laced with Death Cult propaganda. However, practitioners of the Pop Cult are not necessarily conscious Death Cult Members.

However, I believe that attention absorbing, escapist media is good, right, and salutary for two purposes, hinted at by Tolkien.

  1. For Christian Rest. That is, for escape from this world, this vale of tears, with all its woe, toil, struggle, and incessant Death Cult propaganda.
  2. For escape from cults. That is, Christian men should create media that permits refuge for their fellow believers, and a doorway to freedom from evil cults for the trapped cultists.

Consumption of non-Christian-made entertainment is not wholly contraindicated here. I’m not making a law saying “don’t watch TV”. Nor are Fisk and Koontz.

Fisk and Koontz, (and I) would recommend, rather, that you consider what the media you consume is doing to you, and consciously decide whether you want that to happen.

And what is indicated is the production of media by Christians.

Reasons FOR the Primacy of Vidya

  • can make it. While the barriers of entry are lower than they ever have been, and continue to plummet, not many men can.
  • It combines all the skills in my talent stack, making it both more valuable and harder to duplicate.
  • Distribution is solved. While I can (and want to) make physical copies, I can give away a game to Kickstarter backers for 25% of the final intended cost, or as a free add-on for subscribing to my mailing list. These things are not possible for paper children’s books.
  • It is easier to derive my other media forms from vidya than vidya from the forms. I have already solved the problem of making black and white print comics from pixel art. I have not yet made motion comics for YouTube, but I suspect a game->video pipeline is simpler than a video->game pipeline.
  • It is much more likely (IMO) that I will build a game business that puts out books and comics than that I will build a book business that puts out games.

Conclusion

My new plan is to finish out December in Bunny Trail Junction, then go on indefinite hiatus while I roll up a video game business. That game business should quickly start leaking into videos, comics, and books as well. I hope in time to end the hiatus in February with a bimonthly format that carries through 2022, so that the 2021 annual and the 2022 annual are roughly the same size, but the Vidya is Prime.

Captain’s Log L8·X2: Wrapping Up August, Looking at September…

My well oiled machine of Bunny Trail Junction has thrown a cog: I submitted the September monthly for publishing back on August 13th and…

Reasons it could be delayed include copyright disputes, and I quoted a single Bible Verse at the beginning of the book without giving the appropriate copyright notice, so I think that’s what’s going on. Unfortunately, I can’t do anything about it until Amazon takes it out of Limbo. After more than half a month, I begin to worry that it will never leave Limbo, and September will be the lost episode.

Of course, September is scheduled. And I have a new picture of my merch to put on the “Support Bunny Trail Junction” page:

It’s incomplete without the September Monthly, but I decided to add in all my kids books. Including Awesome Moments, even though it isn’t done and available for sale yet.

Which leads me to the question of what to do tomorrow.

Continue reading “Captain’s Log L8·X2: Wrapping Up August, Looking at September…”

Sticker Stars

So here’s basically all the characters I had as tests of the new pixel art style, plus Octoboy and Piranha. I decided to meet in the middle on the linework: Jump and me have thinner lines than our previous outing. Octoboy and Piranha haven’t been updated to have thicker lines yet, but I’ll let it be for now. It stands out like a sore thumb to me, but it’s decent art for all that, and you wouldn’t notice it didn’t match without me telling you.

I’m utterly uninspired to work on any game at the moment, and have just been fine-tuning the process of producing stickers, which is what I’m calling the HD sprites. I do intend to start jamming on a game, though at this point I think I might start on the dot in September instead of starting now. That rules out Halloween, which averts certain temptations for me.

Well, some elements of Bunny Trail Junction have not functioned gracefully. So I’m off to go fix those bits. I’ll probably use my stickers to make some basic merch as well.

Been thinking about HD graphics, IDK.

Using the Rainboy palette in an HD game would be unusual. But it would have the advantage of being a unique look. Doubtless, folk would accuse me of making a Hollow Knight rip off if I made, e.g., an HD platformer using Rainboy colors. But the charge wouldn’t easily stick. Between the ink look and the 8-color palette, the game would have too much of a clear identity.

If the comic’s conceit is it happens inside a video game, ala Wreck it Ralph, HD sprites over pixelart backgrounds work well, but that kind of mixing and matching in an HD game would be odd. On the other hand, I could mix it up in the comic and keep the art consistent in the game.

Drawing with real ink would certainly be a thing, but it would be a ton of work to have the animation be consistent. If I draw it on the tablet, I can modify one frame to create a similar frame. Drawing as a vector file would be the slowest, but not only do I get infinite scaling out of the deal, I can color everything in the Rainbow Rose palette, and then convert easily to the Rainboy palette if I so desire. Of course, I can reasonably turn a Rainboy Palette game into a more colorful game with shaders — that’s what I do in the Candy Raid platformer prototype. But it’s easy to make well behaved palette shaders for pixel art. Less easy for HD.

Yeah, I overuse this gif. そすみ.

I am leaning towards Bunny Trail Junction living in a Dragon Egg / Rainboy world. HD art with a distinctive look wrinkles my JRPG Vs Platformer internal debate because the chief issue with a pixel art game is it harshly limits the marketability. The JRPG overcomes that by finding an underserved audience, but HD art overcomes that another way.

Well. I need to ponder for a while, then pick a direction. I certainly need to stop making these self-indulgent, “brainstorming and testing ideas counts toward my quota” serieses. At the same time, the September Hat Trick bit has pages and pages of “these two characters have a conversation” exposition. Such things are needed in stories, even in comics, though one ought to avoid or mitigate them as much as possible. Premade art with lush backgrounds would ease the pain of making such a segment.

I’m not going to use it for Hat Trick. The art shift would be too jarring. It doesn’t feel right. But at the same time, it doesn’t feel wrong to use it as a device for telling other stories.

I certainly won’t be ashamed of using Vidya-style graphics to make comics, even if it’s not pixel art. Not so long as you can buy Dog Man comics at Walmart.

Edit

Couple of things. Here’s how the print test went. Turns out, Amazon prints lighter than I do. Which makes sense. But the palette works either way.

Second, I tried making and then converting sprites for Octoboy and Piranha.

But there’s a wrinkle. I scaled all the sprites up to the same size in inches… but different DPI. I initially tried to draw Jump and myself at 600 DPI, as that’s what I print at. One inch per 16 Pixel Art sprite pixels. But the lines were too fine. I wanted them to be meatier. So I went with 300 DPI.

(Presumably, I can get the same effect by going to 600 and doubling the brush side, but never mind that, this was just a test).

I was fairly content with that. But then, due to sleep deprivation, when drawing the supers, I went ahead and scaled them to 600 DPI per my original plan, and didn’t notice that I was drawing finer lines until I was done.

It looks nice. The finer linework fits the characters better. But I want all my HD sprites to be consistent. So I either need to fineline myself and Jump, or broadbrush Octoboy and Piranha. Or, worse still, pick a relative brush size halfway between the two (as though I were working at 450 DPI) and redo all four!

I’m completely out of capacity to make further progress today. So I’m going to leave the question aside for now, and we’ll pick a path tomorrow. But at least the test furnishes me with the data I’ll need.

Bunny Trail Junction is a Machine

Today, I got the finishing touches on the September Monthly done and sent away to Amazon. Because part of it was trying to make a preview image for the Inktober Monthly, I ended up “finishing” the cover for October as well.

I’m not content with it. Piranha, in the foreground, has a funny looking head, and not funny looking in a way that I prefer. Perhaps I will do a new version tomorrow, and fix or replace the cover. Nevertheless, it is work well done for all its faults, and I may just move on with my life. For such is the mantra of Bunny Trail Junction.

Made this bit of art for the interior, though, of which I feel justly proud:

I’d like to take a moment to go on about how much of a machine Bunny Trail Junction is.

Every weekend, I upload a week or two of comics to the site. August is set. September is halfway done. It’ll be completely done tomorrow or Monday.

The September monthly is done. I’m just waiting for KDP to decide if they want to pick nits. There is already merchandise available on Teespring based on the September art.

October is going to be Inktober, which means I’m going to be busting my butt trying to get it ready in time when the Inktober prompt list drops. But I have enough strips already to run November.

I don’t want to run November based on just the strips I have. I want to have a wider selection, so it can be higher quality. But if I had to, I could. And by the time September is done, I should be good for November and December, which means I should be good to create the first Annual.

I have created a monster. It’s amazing.

I mean, yeah, it doesn’t make money. Not yet, maybe not ever. And it is not for me to say my work will stand the test of time.

But in 12 months, I will have 12 monthlies. My stories can blossom and grow on this comic, some into good fruit, some into bad.

I do need to figure out how to make a living.

I’m not worrying about it too hard right now. I’ve worried about it hard for darn near 20 years, and that hasn’t solved it for me.

I’ll feed this machine I’ve created until next month, when I see a doctor about my chronic underachievement, and depending on how that goes, I guess we’ll see.

But you know, there is something about this machine.

It’s a machine that should work despite my flaws. And it’s bigger and better than I thought my flaws could ever allow. And that’s why I’m so self-impressed.

Pride goeth before the fall. So ask again in a year, I suppose.

Captain’s Log L8·B1: Squirrel

I have tried being employed, and swallowing my arguments with my employer rather than walking out.

I have tried being unemployed.

I have tried being employed, but feeling quite content to walk out when things don’t suit me.

I dislike all of these states. But the first feels dishonest, and the other two at least feel honest.

It is possible, just possible, that there is a job out there in which I can be content. It is also possible that I need to learn, by the Grace of God, to be content in a suboptimal job.

But I think I had ought rather to try being self employed.

Previously I have stated that I think I would rather have a day job than have to choose my artistic projects on their profit merit. Now that day jobs require obeisance to the State Religion, I am less content with that conclusion.

I talked it over with my best friend. My real plan is to tinker until mid-September, and hope that I can be drugged into being a productive citizen. But my ultimate goal is to create a little media company that covers my family’s needs, and there’s no reason I shouldn’t act on that goal. And following a pragmatic plan that I have considered and ignored because I doubt I can hold to it with my ADHD, on the basis of “Well, I might get treated a month from now, and that might enable me to carry it through,” is every bit as sensible as getting a retail job for a month, and hoping my treatment allows me to hold down a real job.

That was where I ended my thoughts the day before yesterday. Yesterday was a whirlwind tour of journaling in the form of comic-making.

I hope never to run these comics on Bunny Trail Junction. Navel gazing is self-indulgent and poor entertainment. But the rules are I draw whatever I feel like at the time and hope God gives me something good. And the whole point of this blog is to permit me to be self-indulgent.

Well, here’s the comics.

Continue reading “Captain’s Log L8·B1: Squirrel”

ADHD is fake though.

Been a lot of talk about ADHD in the social media lately. And the general consensus, especially on the Right, is that it is fake and/or gay.

Stuck a bee in my bonnet, and I got started making comics, but…

Too many words. Not funny. Not interesting.

This is a bad comic.

I feel like a series of comics springboarding from here would either be too preachy or too whiny. I want Bunny Trail Junction to be fun and entertaining.

But I feel the need to get this off my chest, and this is the blog of whatever I feel like, so…

Continue reading “ADHD is fake though.”