Saturday, August 10, 2013

Webcomic Review - The Dreamland Chronicles

I spent my whole afternoon reading this webcomic called The Dreamland Chronicles.  I don't know what about it caught me this time around, since I've had people point me at it before and didn't pay attention to it, but somehow after reading the first fifty pages yesterday it managed to invade my dreams (which is unusual).  At the moment it holds the rank of #7 on Top Web Comics, and it deserves that position.

It's the story of a guy who travels to Dreamland whenever he sleeps and how he gets caught up in saving it while trying to help his friends and lady love.

Dreamland Chronicles has been updating on a regular, every weekday basis since 2006 and is done with 3D computer animation technology, which is a ton of work.  It has a grand scale of plot and action with good characters.  Over the years the art has gone from pretty good but stiff CG to having panels that look like they came out of a legit Dreamworks or Pixar movie.

The beginning is a bit rough for the first 2-3 chapters, but that tends to be the case with a lot of webcomics when they're starting out.  Some of the character interaction didn't make sense, but once the rough patch was over the characters stayed truthful to themselves and made a lot more sense.

Go check it out!  It's got romance, adventure, beautiful hard work, and fantasy all rolled into one story.  It also manages to stay pretty clean and family-friendly as well!  I give it four stars out of five.

Serpent Shenanigans - Animal Adventures with Andrea

About two months ago one of our neighbors got a snake in her garage.  She flipped out about it and my mom called me for help.  Being fifty minutes away and needing to attend a writing meeting before heading home, I was unavailable to come help catch it.  Then they wanted me to identify it long-distance.

My mom: "It's tan with brown spots.  Could it be a rattle snake?"
Me:  "Um, maybe?  Does it have a rattle on it's tail?"
Mom:  "We can't tell."
Me:  "Then I can't tell either!  I'll need a picture."

They managed to take a couple pictures and I felt pretty pleased with myself that I could identify it as a bull snake (turns out I was slightly wrong) from the little picture on the phone.  I told them it was safe, but not to get bitten just in case I was wrong.  After much panic, a drywall bucket, and a child's butterfly net, the snake was contained and they kept it around so I could take a look at it when I got home.

It was a pretty, pretty little boy gopher snake about eighteen inches long.  Easy to misidentify as a bull snake from a tiny picture since bull snakes are a sub-species of gopher snake.  These are my favorite snakes on the planet.  Dragon snakes are awesome too, but bull snakes are so much fun.  They have reticulated scales like a venomous snake, which are so cool to touch, and an attractive pattern with a beautiful tail.  I love their colors and dangerous-snake attitude.  They're big pushovers, though, unless they're super cranky.  They pretend they're a rattle snake and threaten to bite until they think they can get away.  Then they just run, and once you get them in your hands they stop bluffing and either settle down or try to get away.

My mom got scared when I put my hand in the bucket with him, since he postured, hissed really loud, and rattled his tail against the ground, but within moments I was holding him and he slithered around in my arms.  We kept him for a couple days so we could show him to some kids and my co-workers, and then I let him go near my work.  By the last day he was fed up with everything and bit me every time my hand got near him.  I learned how to tell the difference between his bluffing and his actual "I am so killing you right now" behavior.  It was interesting.  When he bluffed he was posed to strike, but kept lower and pulled back when my hand got near.  When he was going to bite he lifted higher and tracked my hand, following it and getting closer until he struck.

I'd been wondering what it felt like to get bitten by a snake, and now I know.  To my surprise, I found getting bitten by a spider hurts a lot worse.  When he bit me, it felt like that moment when you realized your skin split and bled due to dryness, but is done and just stings the slightest bit, except on in a microscopic area and the pain is gone instantaneously.  I thought it was pretty cool, but I'm weird.

Here, have some pictures!

For size reference.  He wasn't too big.  Bull snakes can get up to eight feet long, depending on the snake.  I'm not sure about gopher snakes, but they'd be similar.

Check out the narrow oval-ish/thin triangle silhouette of his head!  Rattle and some other venomous snakes like vipers have heads more shaped like an equilateral triangle that's fat at the base since their venom glands take up lots of space.  That's probably the key difference to telling a gopher/bull snake apart from a rattler since they try to imitate them so well.

He's so cute!  I love the blushing on his scales.

We only had him around for three days, but he managed to cause a ton of drama from his box.  A stupid ton.  I wish I had gotten more and better pictures.  It's hard to hold a snake and get pictures of it at the same time.  No one else was willing to handle him.

And that is one animal adventure story!  I've got some more coming up for you, but only a couple of them have pictures.

Friday, August 9, 2013

What to Do with Creative Block (writing, art, etc.)

So, have you ever found yourself lacking or stuck on your stories, art, or anything else creative?  That dreaded creative block or faithless muse seems stop a lot of people from moving forward and can be super frustrating.  I know I struggle with it at times.  When it hits it sometimes seems like it will never go away.  However, creative block is a challenge to vanquish, not to surrender to.

Here are some suggestions on ways to fight creative block:

  • Take a little break from your story/art.  Just a little one.  Maybe a day or two at most.  Go for some walks, listen to good music, experience something new.
  • Learn about something you don't know much about.
  • Do some writing/art exercises.  Find a prompt and write something with your characters that doesn't have to do with your story, or make up some new characters and have fun with that.  Or, for art, follow some tutorials and practice different techniques.  Some good books for that are: The Writer's Block and The Creative Block.  (These work great for both writing and art)  There are loads of books and websites with prompts, ideas and exercises to try.  I also own The 3 A.M. Epiphany, but have yet to crack it open and see what it offers.  It looks really cool, though.  I'll have to try it and let you know how it goes.
  • Write on a different part of your story.  Do some different art.
  • When writing, ask yourself what you think would be fun to see happen with your characters, then write that.  When arting, ask yourself what would be fun, ridiculous, or risky to try, then do it.
  • Talk to friends about your story/art.  They might ask good questions to get you thinking, or talking might spark ideas.
  • Go take care of things that have been piling up.  Clean the house.  Organize.  Write letters.  Catch up on the non-creative stuff you keep meaning to do.  Getting something done should help you feel better since you were productive, and it will also ease your mind and free it up so it can start having fun again.
  • Just slog through it.  I know this option stinks, but sometimes it's the only way.

Ultimately, though, once you do those things the most important part is to GET BACK TO WORK.  You have to push through creative block.  Write some crappy junk.  Make a mess on that "canvas," whatever it may be.  You can edit and fix it later.  You can even start over.  Just don't let it stop you.  SHOW your muse who's BOSS!

After all, good creative products are 10% inspiration and 90% hard work.  You are awesome, and you can do it.