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Friday, November 17, 2017

Doubt Yourself. Doubt Your Experiences. Doubt Your Tastes. Doubt Your Love. Doubt Your Persistence. Most of All, Doubt Your Gifts.

This is the original illustration Kye drew for me for Sole Survivor: The Story of Kaza of Theseus. It's more than five years old.

Here is how it looks on the cover:

Neither she nor I are professional illustrators. That's perfectly okay with us. We're willing to take our drawing and illustrating talents, sparing as they may be, and apply them to the projects at hand.

I suppose we could pay a professional hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars, and I know indie authors who do just that. To each his own, I suppose. We don't have that kind of money, which, by the way, would be charged for each project. In this case I'm grateful for our poverty, because it forces us to take full control over our work. Besides, I know what I see in my head--in this case, Kaza's encounter with a battalion of killer demons in the Thesean capital he was desperately trying to escape from--and I know what I want. A professional illustrator, as talented as he or she may be, wouldn't care for the story nearly as much as I, and so wouldn't "see" the moment as I do.

She and I do all our own manuscript editing as well. I know that's literally blasphemy to many, probably most, writers, both traditionally and indie-published, who believe, always and everywhere, that not paying a professional editor to look over your manuscript is a Great Big Sin. But we don't care. Again, a professional editor wouldn't care nearly to the degree we do about our work. They may have the technical skills to fine-tune a manuscript, but not the love. That belongs to Kye. And it belongs to me, too.

Does that mean we produce substandard work? Again, most writers would say yes, even without reading anything of ours, or even bothering looking at our covers or illustrations.

One of the great crimes of the modern world is the brainwashing each of us has endured that says, in a million different ways each and every day: Doubt yourself, and doubt your experiences. Doubt your tastes; doubt your love; doubt your persistence; and doubt your gifts. Nowhere is this more prevalent than in writing, I think; though I'm certain it's as bad in other arts--music, for example, or painting, or even in something like architecture or homemaking. That brainwashing makes us instant victims and profit centers for others. It forces us on an artificial hierarchy. It makes us not just poor in wallet, but in spirit, too.

Am I a great illustrator? Most assuredly not. Am I a great writer? Maybe I am, maybe I'm not. Both questions are irrelevant to me. I love my projects as I'd love flesh-and-blood children, were I to have them. I love editing. I love polishing and rewriting. And despite my fear of drawing pictures, which I've had most of my life (due to an unfortunate encounter with an art teacher in the third grade, I believe), I love bringing an illustration to life, as I am with the next novel in Melody's story arc, The Failure of the Saeire Insu. I'll post that cover soon (hopefully). It's probably two-thirds completed.

Writing is my answer to the world. These projects are who I am. I've put everything I possibly can of myself into each and every one of them. That's as meaningful a "thing" to me as anything I've ever done or experienced. It's how Kye approaches her work, too. It's one of the reasons I love her so much. She gives her all to her projects, and to hell with the naysayers, gatekeepers, and meddlers who try to tell her, and me, that that's not good enough.

In fact, yes it is.


A Sea Horse With a Soul Conceived in the Fire of a Titanic Battle

Tachyon, Son of Ion


This illustration, you may notice, has the same background as my featured post, "The King's Tree." That's because I began with the intent to draw Tachyon, but then ended up drawing the King's Tree in the middle of it, so decided to kill two birds with one stone.

Ion, you may remember, died by Necrolius' hand. Tachyon, as a result, is a little different from his fellow sea horses. He's a bit more temperamental, and, still undiscovered by anyone, possesses a few more interesting traits. At least, I believe that is so. I can't be sure at this point. There is still so much of the story to be told.

Tachyon is Conor's sea horse. Below is the excerpt of the meeting between him and Maggie.



Four Kumiyaay strode towards her in full uniform, their faces severe and unsmiling. Clockwise was the last to flash through. They came to a halt before her, where they saluted before three took their immediate leave of her, walking silently around her towards the beasts, who had noticed them and floated to the shore of the river, chiming happily. The Supreme Commander stood waiting in front of her.
She managed to gasp out, “I ... I’m riding one of those sea horses t-to see Aedan?” And then, noting that there were five riders, including herself, added, “I take it I’ll be going with one of the warriors—?”
Clockwise gave a mad smile, said, “Of course not, Ms. Singleton. You’ll be riding the king’s own mount, Tachyon.” He looked around. “He must have wandered off. He does that. He isn’t the most social of sea horses ...”
This made Maggie’s heart flutter even faster. Even so, she caught the use of the pronoun and said, “You called it ‘he.’ For some reason I thought sea horses are sexless.”
“They are, properly speaking,” said Clockwise shortly, still looking around. “But if a sea horse belongs to a man, it comes to be known as a ‘he’; if by a woman, a ‘she.’ It sounds silly to denote them in such a manner, I grant you, but it really isn’t. Hopefully I’ll be able to explain why in a minute, given that I find him. Ah. There he is, just coming over the rise there. See?”
She looked left. Over a small brown hillock well within the salt marsh floated a streamlined, rainbow-laced shape that made her forget everything she’d seen to this point, everything she’d heard. Clockwise noted her expression and allowed himself a second deranged smile. She didn’t notice.
Tachyon floated over the river, coming around the other sea horses, who took note of his presence and immediately settled down, like children do when a stern parent enters their playroom. He loomed large, stopping just five or so feet from her. She looked up, breathless.
Tachyon was larger than the other sea horses, and shaped slightly differently. His form was leaner and longer, the great vertical fan on his back pointed, the ridges running down from it sharper, his curled tail firmer and more whiplike. Startling, irregular streaks of red-black lightning laced backward through his form from his massive chest, disappearing deep within his body—something that didn’t happen with the other sea horses.
“Tachyon,” said Clockwise in a loud voice, “this is Ms. Maggie Singleton.”
As though he had understood, the sea horse’s huge body swiveled around, stopping when it faced her. The black onyx commas of his eyes caught the sunlight, sparked as he regarded her. Maggie sensed enormous intelligence in the beast. She spluttered, “C-Commander ... I can’t ... can’t ride that, er, Tachyon. I don’t know how! I ... I have no training on them!”
“You’ve ridden a regular horse, haven’t you, Ms. Singleton?” He studied her.
“Of course I have,” she responded, unable to keep the irritation out of her voice. “I was 4-H Champion at the Kansas State Fair when I was fourteen. But that was a ... a horse, an Arabian! This is a ...” Her voiced trailed away.
“I’m glad you can see him,” said Clockwise, who had come up behind her. “Not everyone can. Sea horses can only be seen by those whose souls are strong enough.” He walked around her, extended a hand up. Tachyon drooped his head low enough so that the Commander could pat his face. Clockwise took note of her expression and said, “There is nothing to worry about, ma’am. If you’ve ridden a regular horse, you can ride Tachyon.”
The sea horse chimed as Clockwise ran a hand up and down his glassy face, but it was a chime so different from his brethren that Maggie, her heart jumping, blurted out, “What’s that?” For it had sounded less like a chime than the sound of wind passing through trees in a dense forest, or the sound of a tumbling river, or maybe the sound of a collapsing office building. She could just make out the pleasant pure notes of the chiming, but it was as though they were relegated to the background, washed out and in the distance. The beast had not stopped his consideration of her, even though he was being tended to by the Supreme Commander.
Clockwise ignored her question. Without turning around, he said, “This is the son of Ion, Ms. Singleton. His Excellency has told me you’d know who that was.”
“His Excellency—? You mean—Luis Arroyo?”
“This ... is Ion’s son?
“Yes. He was part of the only clutch Ion was known to bear.” He looked over his shoulder at her. “Again, as you’ve mentioned, sea horses are sexless. They are, at least, in this stage. They have three life cycles: larval, breeder, and adult—the stage Tachyon is at now. The larvae can be found all over Earth. Gaians buy them in pet stores and the like. They are called ‘seahorses’ as well—but spelled as one word. They do not evolve beyond the larval stage on this world, though they have developed an entire life cycle of their own to ensure their survival. On Aquanus, the larval stage is just the beginning for them. There, in that stage, they are called ‘prehorses.’ When they become adults, we respell ‘seahorse’ as two words, ‘sea horse,’ to denote the time when they finally separate from the sea. When Ion was a breeder, and still in the sea, ‘he’ had a clutch of eggs. Tachyon is the only survivor from that clutch.”
“He’s ... different,” said Maggie delicately, certain the great beast watching her understood perfectly what she was saying.
“Yes,” agreed Clockwise. But he offered no more information. Instead he said, “Care to go for a ride on the king’s sea horse?”
Maggie closed her eyes and tried to gin up her courage. She took a deep breath. “Yes,” she said resolutely, knowing that the firmness in her voice was an absolute lie. “What do I need to do? I mean ... his saddle is ten feet off the ground! How do I get up to it?”
Clockwise said, “I will show you how in a moment. For now, I must tell you that sea horses sustain themselves by feeding on the Living Aecxis of their riders. When you mount this horse, you will enter into just such a relationship. Does this concern you?”
“Should it?” she asked.
“It bothers some. You will be entering into a symbiotic relationship, Ms. Singleton. The sea horse feeds on your Living Aecxis; in exchange your physical body is replenished and rejuvenated. You become stronger, healthier, as does the Living Aecxis within your spirit. It is by this symbiotic relationship that sea horses with male riders tend to start to manifest male-type behaviors,” he continued. “They become more aggressive, more impatient, more—”
She flushed. The word had rushed out of her mouth unbidden. “Sorry ...” she said quickly. “That was uncalled for.”
But the look in his eyes, along with the momentary presence of that crazy smile, made her reconsider her apology. Because something like respect passed through that gaze as he regarded her just then. She broke the discomfort of the ensuing silence by asking, “What happens to sea horses with female riders?”
He smirked. “They become bitchy and needy three weeks of the month; the fourth they’re completely useless. Why?”
And Maggie understood Guptaamaq Jelignite, “Clockwise,” Supreme Commander of the Saeire Insu, and he understood her. Their friendship was sealed. And though the prospect of riding this splendid aecxal beast was still daunting, she knew she’d be okay. He’d see to it. She laughed without sound, nodding, looking into his eyes, a self-effacing touche! grin spreading over her face.
He said, “Come. Let’s get you acquainted with him. Go ahead, touch him.”
She did as told, first barely and very cautiously touching the sea horse with her fingers before becoming quickly more confident and running her full hand up and down the side of Tachyon’s massive face. The king’s mount felt quite real, just like Tawny, her old horse—almost. The surprising velvety softness of his face was contradicted by an iron hardness beneath that belied the beast’s semi-translucent, seemingly ethereal nature. Tachyon chimed—his very disconcerting chime—then dropped his head a little and nudged her beneath her chin, tossing her ten feet backward onto her butt on hard, baked earth.
She goggled up in awe—and then burst out laughing.