Sunday, January 26, 2014

Disney Fanart & Names

Okay, can I just gush about this lovely, lovely artwork? If you haven't seen these amazing drawings of Disney princesses in accurate period dress, then you're missing out. Whether or not you're a fan of Disney, these images are gorgeous. There' something to be said about a mono-color background with the focus entirely on the subject of the picture.

I have to say that my favorite...well, how could I choose? I'm a Belle fan by nature. I grew up loving the fact that she read, wasn't afraid of adventure, and could see past the fearful nature of the man who captured her. Yes, there are arguments of how she fell for an abusive man and how this movie reinforces that you can "change" someone who's abusive, but that's not what this blog is about. I agree that Disney films have flaws, but so do all films. I'd love to hear of a perfect movie, especially a cartoon geared toward children. ;)

I have to say the image that captures me the most out of all of these is the one of Meg. Something about her pose, her face, her arm wrapped so casually around a Grecian helm... It just gives me shivers. Maybe it's because my boyfriend and I have already picked out a name for a little girl (if we have one), and it's Greek in nature. Now, my boyfriend jokes around a lot and tosses out weird names that he knows I won't like whenever we get into a discussion about naming our future kids (can anyone say, "Ariel"? It's a pretty name, but it definitely makes me think of Disney...and that's not what I want...weird, huh, since this blog is about amazing Disney-based pictures?).

The name he tossed at me (again, for a girl) that actually has me obsessed is "Ares". Right? Ares, the god of war in Grecian mythology! And I LOVE that name for a little girl. In fact, I love it enough that I told his mother we had decided on a name. She wrinkled her nose at it, but that's fine. I figure we can give our daughter a more feminine middle name once we have her. We're still torn on boy names. I love Marik, but my beau is not sold on that one so much. Oh well! We'll think of something.

Anyway, now you know why the Meg picture resonated with me so strongly today. I think all of the images are lovely (the Jasmine one took my breath away the first time I saw it). I guess this blog is my way of shouting out a grand, "THANK YOU!" to fantastic artists who make my world go round. Can't deny that gorgeous art inspires writing!

Until next time, write on!

Friday, January 17, 2014

Resin Model Part One & Some Exciting News!

Hey, all! Well, let me start with the exciting news! Harper Voyager (yes, this Harper Voyager) has offered to include me in their Harper Voyagers (US) (for those who don't know, the Harper Voyagers is a group of readers who are being sent books over the span of six months to read, review, and help spread the word about)! I entered their raffle in hopes of being involved, and I am honored that I was chosen. That said, please expect quite a few blogs in the coming months revolving around the great books I will be reading! I cannot wait to share them with you!

Now, onto the next part of my post. As promised, this will be a blog about the early stages of designing the master model for my resin Eti for the Denver Comic Con. First, just so you know which clay I'm using (surprisingly few people actually posted what they used when creating masters for resin molds...hmmm!), I chose Sculptex, which is supposedly the best replacement for Klean Klay. Seeing as I've never even attempted something this massive before (or anything like it, period), I went by the best suggestions and reviews, and went with Sculptex.

One thing I really like about this clay (which you can get here) is that it never dries out. It does get firmer if left out, but when you knead it, the clay becomes mailable again rather quickly. I chose the medium hardness, because, well, I know nothing about this and figured I'd rather not go too soft or too hard. As it turns out, the medium hardness was perfect. I could mold very well, it kept shape pretty easily, and mistakes were easy to fix.

The first part of Eti I wanted to mold was the head, since it is the most complex body part. If I couldn't get the head right, there would be no point in pursuing the project further (NOTE: I purchased three 1lb blocks, but only used about half a pound for Eti...this is good because now I have enough clay to do a master of Clae and Marik if I choose to down the line; I just wanted to mention this, because a little of this stuff goes a long way).

About two hours in, this was my result for Eti's head:

Note that the computer his head is on is a netbook, so his head is fairly small (maybe an inch square). The nose was way too big, but I was happy enough that I didn't mess with that at this point. He had no hair here, either, nor any other details (ears and his facial wounds are missing).

This is Eti as I designed him a few years ago. His nose no longer looks like that, and the tattoos will be different on the final model, but this at least gives you an idea of what I wanted for the final product. Of course, this won't be his final pose. I'm aiming for something a little more fluid...this is far too rigid. He needs to be fairly tall (Eti is about seven feet tall), and his ribs needed to be in proportion to the rest of his figure.

Which brings me to the second body part I tried to do...his torso! If the face was hard due to size, then the torso was hard because of sheer lack of practice. It took me three tries to get right, and then I trashed it and started over because it was too small. Talk about a pain in the patooty!

Here's a picture of the first round of the ribs:

Not only are the ribs too small, but they're uneven, and the torso just looks, well, bad. I tried to keep this one, because it took me about three hours to build, but in the end, I trashed it. The first time I built it, I made the ribs open, but when I talked with my friend, who has done resin modeling before, he mentioned the mold would tear if I tried that (since the mold would flow between the ribs and the resin wouldn't come out of the form).

In this picture, you can see that I gave the ribs a solid background. This will be painted black to give the ribs a free-floating sense. I also didn't like how the arms fit on this set of ribs. The arms were in proportion to the head, but they seemed oafish on this rib set.

Here's a picture of the arms on the old ribs. This is before the hands were sculpted... I left the hands and feet until the end, because those proved to be the most difficult for me.

And from the side:

The head looked okay, but it still seemed...big, and the arms? HA! Yeah, I was VERY glad I decided to trash that rib set. Anyway, after the ribs, I moved on to finishing the ears and getting more done on the head. In the above pictures, you can see that I had already finished the ears and added the wounds on his face. That's because I took the pictures afterward! HA!

The head was looking pretty great by this point. I'll admit, I worked on the lips and eyes for the majority of the time. Luckily, I have a very supportive and understanding boyfriend, and while I did the ears, we watched "Dragonheart." Who can say, "Longest time-taking ears ever?" Yes, those ears (and some minor work on the face) took me the ENTIRE movie. I missed a lot of the Sean Connery goodness and yummy, yummy Dennis Quiad on screen, but I got to listen to an epic movie nonetheless!

(Psst, my favorite part is when Draco and Bowen first meet, and they're all sarcastic toward one another. You can actually see some similarities between Eti and Clae early in Soulbound. But I digress.)

With the head and (older) torso done, I moved on to the arms and legs. Unfortunately, I forgot to take pictures of these as I worked on them, but I have one of a leg at the end. Actually, it's probably a good thing, considering the first set of legs were too short, too thin, and fell over like limp noodles. The arms had to be shaved down a lot, and took more time than I'd like to admit (close to five hours) to finish.

After the arms and legs were finally done, I put the whole thing together (using toothpicks to hold the parts in place), but the clay was so soft that it kept falling apart. I, personally, didn't actually see it, because I was busy holding it together so my boyfriend could tell me what he thought. Thanks to him, I redid the torso and legs, because he insisted it looked "off".

So, crotchety ol' me started the torso over again (but didn't scrap the original, for fear the second one would be worse), and after a good four hours, this was what came out:

Holy shit, right? I try not to curse on this blog, but after seeing the final ribs (with chains and wounds included), I was just way too impressed and pleased with the result NOT to giggle like a little child and curse for joy. The back looked even BETTER (and be glad I don't have photos of the old back...I think the old spine suffered from scoliosis).

After the new ribs were done, I adjusted the legs and the arms a bit, and finished off the feet. The only thing that was missing by this point was Eti's hair, which I moaned and groaned over for HOURS, because I wasn't sure how to do it properly, and how to keep from destroying the wonderful head I'd finished. I even shaved his nose down in an attempt to keep from having to work on his hair. In the end, though, I relented.

The hair was done by rolling out about five or six semi-thin strands of clay and weaving them together. I wanted to keep it chunky, and added the lines of hair later with a pointed clay working tool. The underside of the hair has a solid piece of clay against it to keep the mold from seeping through and potentially destroying the resin models/clay model.

I added a thin band around a pinched part of the hair, and smoothed it onto his head. To keep him from having an alien-shaped skull, I had to shave off a good part of the back of his head. This part scared me a lot, because I was really worried I'd ruin his face. Thanks to the fact that Sculptex gets semi-hard, everything was fine and held its form very well.

The very last thing I did was roll out a dozen or so blood-mite arms. These will be jumping out of his arms and from his ribs and back, and will give the illusion that he's practicing the ekra martial art vretbah. Those were easy, and I might add some details down the line, but for now, they're done. Here's a picture of all of the parts I made for my Eti resin model:

Last night I ordered 2 gallons of white resin and high tensile-strength molding plastic. They should be here in a week or so, and hopefully next weekend, the molding process will begin. I cannot wait to share that experience with you all! It should be crazy, fun, and there might just be a few daiquiris involved to make the process a little easier. Before then, though, expect some posts on the animated trailer and the comics I plan to have at Denver Comic Con! Much love to you all, and write on!

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Animation: Take Two!

Hey, all! As promised, here's another blog about the process of animating my trailer for Soulbound. Not much has changed since last time, except I am getting much faster, which is a relief. I'm understanding some of the shortcuts that I wish I had known in the past, and will blog about those next time.

I've also made a lot more progress on this trailer than I've made before on others. I've animated about a minute of key frames, and have only about 37 seconds of key frames left to do. The good thing is that the last section of frames will be a bunch of small scenes flashing in and out to create a sense of drama. The bad thing, however, is that the first minute or so had text (not a lot, mind you, only about 10 slides of text lasting a total of maybe 20 seconds), and the last 37 seconds has almost NO text at all. This means that there will be more animation in the second part than the first, which I think is good, personally. It will just take longer to finish.

Now, something came up while I was working on this, and I was thinking it through as I sketched out some key frames for a scene today. I thought, If I don't do this right, it will look too much like anime, and I will lose a lot of readers. For some reason (and I understand that reason--bad fanfiction, primarily), anime has gotten a bad rap. I'm really hoping that my trailer, while animated, will be far enough from the anime genre that it won't look like a bad fanfiction. 'Cause, you know, it's not.

Ignoring the fact that there's no shading, this is the style I've decided to go with (and this is a clip from one of the shorter scenes). I can see how this style might pose a problem, but again, I'm hoping that the shading and the style of the rest of the film will keep from losing interest. Soulbound is a hardcore Epic Fantasy, and to be honest, I don't see much of the anime genre in it. The problem is that my art skills emerged mainly during my obsession with Sailor Moon, Digimon, Pokemon, Gundam Wing, and other shows of the 90s and early 2000s. This means my style is heavily influenced by what I watched as a child, and what I practiced drawing most.

In the end, I suppose only time will tell what happens as far as the trailer goes. I want to prove that Soulbound can make it with the best of the Epic Fantasy genre, and I'm not willing to give up until I do.

Here's another example of some of my animation:

Keep in mind that this is the first stage--a lot of detail is missing, and I haven't added color yet. My "early" key frames are even worse, and I'm too embarrassed to show you what they look like. Just know that scribbly circles and some random, uneven lines are involved. Sometimes eyes and mouths make it in, if that's the focal point of the scene. Overall, though, I am making some great progress and cannot wait to show you more!

In addition to the animation, I'm planning to attend (or at least try) and host a table at the Denver Comic Con. My goal is to have copies of Soulbound, my Middle Grade novel, Frendyl Krune and the Blood of the Sun, two short comic books (that will likely be put into a single volume for printing reasons), the trailer, and 15-20 hand-painted limited edition Eti resin statues. For those who don't know, this is Eti:

He's an ekra, a species of necromancers that live alongside the amuli in the Soulbound world. He's pretty neat, and I think he'd make a bad-ass statue. Depending on interest, I might make more of him to sell online via special order, but the first 20 or so models (numbered, signed, and painted by yours truly) will only be available at the Denver Comic Con. I'll keep you updated about that project, too. In the meantime, write on!

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Animation: Take One!

You might recall me mentioning in my last post that I have started animating the trailer for my book, Soulbound, and I hope (sincerely) that it's done by Feb 10th so that it's ready for the ARC blog tour. Of course, trying to animate a minute-forty-second trailer in less than a month....weeeeell, since I have no prior animation experience, I'm finding it to be a delightful challenge.

As promised, this blog is the first of many detailing my adventure in teaching myself animation and going through the trials and tribulations of creating a smoothly animated trailer. First lesson:


The first time I tried making an animation some three years ago, I got the key frames done and was making some massive progress, but I stopped when my computer crashed. A few months later, I began again, but there seemed to be less organization and less fire, and the project eventually vanished from the back burner altogether. What was missing? I asked myself as I began this newest trailer. What had I missed out on last time, and why couldn't I seem to get things right?

Then a friend of mine, Mallory Rock of Mallory Rock Art, suggested I check out this Website called Audiojungle. And as I skimmed their collections, pulling up a few random songs that piqued my interest, I began to connect a little more with the idea of choosing the music first. Then, I found the song. The moment it started, I could see what I wanted to animate, how I wanted to time it, and how the music would impact the story I wanted to tell through my trailer.

This is it, I realized. This is the song I've been waiting for, and this is what I need to start my journey and finish it. So, I bought the song. Now, some of you know that I am pretty damn poor. Broke, actually, but I decided that if I didn't have this song, the trailer would never come into being. Since I'm putting forth hours a day to make my dream a reality, I figured $19 was worth it--especially since I couldn't afford to hire anyone to animate for me!

"Well, yes," you might say, "of course music had to be involved. But c'mon. That's not what I'm reading this blog for. What else did you discover?"


Once I had my music, I imported it into Windows Movie Maker (told you I'm poor) and snipped it down. The original track was 2:15, and that's way too long for a trailer. The song itself is amazing, so I had a hard time pulling out bits of the soundtrack to make it shorter, but I managed to make it smooth enough that no one should notice.

After clipping my music to 1:37 (far more reasonable), I began the task of breaking the track up into three blocks: Animation segments, black segments (for drama), and text segments. To do this, I created slides in CS4 (thank goodness I still have this program from high school days! It has saved my arse so many times!). One says, "ANIMATION" on a white background, another says, "TEXT," and the last one is just a black slide.

My next task was to listen to the music in bits over and over, dropping in my new slides until they were timed right. I hit dramatic pauses, strong notes, bursts, and all sorts of lovely segments until I had a great flow and could listen to the entire song without changing a thing. This took me quite some time to accomplish (about three and a half hours), so if this is your first time ever making a trailer, don't expect it to go super fast!

"That's pretty boring," you might say. "When does the action begin? I thought you were animating this thing!"

Well, I am. But we're not there yet. Almost--I promise, but there's one more thing yet to do before we start animating!


Ah, the text slides. The fade-in, fade-out glory of shadowed-and-highlighted movie text on a black background. Text is quite important, because it's what draws the viewer along. Sure, you can have fantastic animation and breathtaking music, but none of that matters if your viewers and potential readers can't tell who is who, what's at stake for each character, and why they should bother buying your book.

I spent a goodly amount of time working through what I wanted to say, where to say it (more adjusting timing, fades, and working with those slides I used earlier to chunk out what goes when), and tweaking the text itself over and over until it was smooth and made sense. My boyfriend helped me here a few times, which was great. NEVER underestimate the helpfulness of someone nearby, because if they haven't read your work, they'll let you know when something needs changing.

The text slides I have right now look pretty awesome, but they're not quite there yet. Why? Watch any professional book trailer (especially ones for A Monster Calls and The School for Good and Evil) and take note of what you see. The text has animation around it, right? At least it does in the really good ones. This is something that might seem insignificant, but actually has an enormous impact on your audience. You want to show them that the text is engaging, and it's up to YOU to make it so!

"Great, so that means you'll tell us about animation now, right?"



The next step is creating key animation slides. For those who don't know, key animation slides are the slides that show major motion changes in the animated segment. Before I even put pencil to paper to draw, though, I jotted down the time frames I had to work with (since I had already chunked out my timeline, this turned out the be fairly fast and easy). Next, I noted what text I had where, and tried to decide which scenes I wanted in which parts.

Keep in mind that one of the largest complaints about book trailers is that they don't follow the book's pacing; I tried to keep this in mind as I worked. Since Soulbound is Epic Fantasy, it has some slower parts, especially in the beginning. I tried to match that pace by having fewer animations up front. As the story ramps up, though, there's tons of action, and I followed that rise not only in my choice of music, but with the scenes I chose. I decided to follow the plot as closely as I could by drawing scenes directly from the book.

For the key animations, first I drew them on paper (really fast sketches to give me an idea of where to go and how to make everything flow), then I got onto my computer, grabbed my trusty mouse (even though I have a new tablet, I'm not well-versed in it enough to try a project of this magnitude using it...I've drawn on the computer with a mouse since I was 9, so it's natural for me; to be honest, the whole trailer is likely going to be done by mouse), and redrew my crappy hand sketches. I say "crappy" here, because this is NOT the final product.

"Why on Earth wouldn't you do a good job on the animation right from the start?" you might demand.

When I began putting the animation together, I could see how smoothly it flowed--and in come cases, how chunky it felt. Because of that, I ended up removing quite a few key frames from the scenes I'd finished. If I had taken the time to color and finish all of those frames, only to find out I'd trash ten and keep four, I would have been really, really mad. This is why I do quick sketches in key frames, so that when I time it out, I can see which frames I want to keep and which ones will never get used. This makes finalizing the product more streamlined and keeps me from wasting valuable time.

Well, now you're all caught up! I'm still in the midst of making key frames, and seeing as how I've spent about ten hours doing just that and only have about ten seconds animated, well... You can imagine how long this process takes. In fact, my next blog (which I PROMISE will have more pictures) will take you through the key frame animation process step-by-step. Until then, write on! Thanks for listening!

Friday, January 10, 2014

Soulbound Release Date!

Hey, all! Sorry it's been so long. Between moving to somewhere an hour from my old place, the holidays, and some unfortunate family deaths, I haven't had much time to blog or do much else. Not to mention school on top of all of that. Things have let up, though, and I have some exciting news!

After working on my novel for 12 hour shifts over the span of two days, it's done. Done-done, too, not just a little done. This is the first time that I can put it away and say, "It's the way I want it," in, oh, about seven years. And considering this has been such a long project, I am happy to announce that Soulbound will be available for purchase on April 25, 2014.

You heard right. April 25, 2014 is when it will be released! Between now than then, though, YOU have the opportunity to be involved in the ARC blog tour! Just send me an e-mail at: mcfaddenkira(at)gmail(dot)com, and I'll put your name on the list. The only thing I ask in return for this FREE ARC copy is that you write a blog about Soulbound and your thoughts on the book. If you don't have a blog, e-mail me a review, and I'll post it on mine for the blog tour!

While a lot of this is still a while away (the ARC copies won't be ready until February 15), I am still getting my groove on. I started the massive undertaking of creating a completely animated trailer for Soulbound today. Yes, animated. No, not slide-show. Animated. As in animation. Which is something I've never attempted before, but it's looking pretty darn tootin', if I do say so myself. As I go through the (tedious) process of creating this essential part of my upcoming release, I'll blog about it and post updates. Seeing as today was only the beginning, I'll wait until tomorrow before I post anything, since I doubt there would be much for me to say tonight.

I'm also hoping to have the first book of my Middle Grade series ready for the Soulbound release so that I can reveal them at the same time, but we'll see. Somehow, I think that might be too much for me to handle, even if Frendyl Krune and the Blood of the Sun is halfway done.

Do you have any projects your working on? I'm always happy to share here on my blog about something you might be doing, whether it's a book release, an art project or anything else that's rockin' the world. Take care, stay tuned, and let me know!