Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Europa of Naimes

Forsooth, the Branden Rose is a real soul, you can go see her activities get all Tumblr-ed over at Europa of Naimes, where she and other bright-souled Sundergirdians keep the energy of the Half-Continent roiling.

I go there to remind myself that the Half-Continent is not just me in a room on my own in front of a blank screen.

Thank you, Branden Rose, thank you.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Drawing with DMC

A couple of posts ago Elinor Blackwood (Ashira) was asking for me to divulge the process that goes into making my coloured images, so I shall now oblige.

So, I start with the line drawing on paper (yes, a real piece of paper!) done with a sepia pencil for no other reason than I like the feel of the media and the brown looks nice. Some folk have mistakenly thought these charcoal drawings, but they are not, just coloured pencil.

Having scanned the image in at 600 dpi, in Photoshop I then make a layer on MULITIPLY setting, onto which with the PENCIL tool I draw/paint/whatever it is you do in the digital context, areas of flat colour corresponding with the lines of the original drawing.

Usually making a copy of this FLAT COLOUR layer – as I call it (turning off the original flat layer, thus preserving the original should anything go awry) I then mould the copied flat colour layer with the BURN tool, working in shadows and form as appropriate.

Finally over the line drawing and the moulded colour I make a HIGHLIGHTS or SHINE layer (sometimes both if I am really pushing things around) onto which with the BRUSH tool I work all the glimmers and glows and shines that pull the image out and finishes it off.

Not much to it really, just time and the right ordering of layers. I highly recommend some form of drawing tablet for this though, drawing fine details with what amounts to a bar of remote soap (by which I mean a mouse) is not so much fun and does not allow quite the same finish without some extra frustration and effort. (Believe me, I have tried for many years with mouse only, and when I finally got a tablet it was like a whole new world opened up… usual story.)

What I like about this combination is the immediacy of a real drawing yet the glamour and finish of fine digital colour. Oh, and I used the same process for the image of Europe you see as a background to this blog.

I hope that is what you were looking for, Elinor.

All images (c) D.M.Cornish, 2011

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Notebooks & False-gods OR Ben's Questions asnwered at last!

About a million years ago, Ben Bryddia asked some questions and it is high time I say - HIGH TIME! - that they were answered. I shall reproduce much of his comment enclosing said enquiries here for context.

"Do you have an index for all those notebooks? If so, how is it set up? Yeah, it's a strange question, but I'm curious what form of note organization you've found most helpful..."

Ooh how I wish I indexed my notebooks, bit they are merely a repository for collecting thoughts as they come to me. 36 notebooks in I am starting to find it difficult to find older ideas, though it can be an adventure to go hunting for some half remembered notion I KNOW I wrote back in NB 32 or was it NB 31...? It can also drive me a little nuts trawling through every page when I just want to get on with what I am currently focused on.

I am very much a scatty-headed creative type, and though there is a quite complex system of symbols to show what each note is, there is no indexing; so I have no help for you there, Ben, sorry.

"I was rereading the conversation with the Lapinduce in Book 3. Out of curiosity, if land monsters are birthed from threwdish muck, where do all the river and sea critters come from? Is there such a thing as threwdish waters or threwdish ocean muck?I'm assuming that the false gods are to nadderers what urchins are to nickers and bogles. Is this correct? I seem to recall that Kraulschwimmen and false gods aren't on the best of terms."

Kraulschwimmen and false-gods are on very bad terms. Indeed, it is the kraulschwimmen who have been set watch over the mad false-gods - the pseudobaths - to make sure they never rise again as they did in the beforetimes in the folly of their arrogance. The false-gods were once like the urchins but sacrificed their place for the sake of seizing more power and so were thrown down and made idiot, the drool and seethe in the crushing black of the lowest oceans, whilst kraulschwimmen keep watch and wrestle with them when e'er an everyman seeks to call a false-gad back.

With the oceans, the deeper down you go the more threwdish they become, and the water deeps are fairly throbbing with threwd, and as you surmise, their muds are fertile places indeed for spawning new monstrous life. River nickers and other fluvial critters are either sprung from the sludge of waterways bubbling up in strongly threwdish lands, or from the slimy beds of shorelines that runs past threwdish places. Of course this is not the only way monsters come to be...

I hope that suffices.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

(This post needs a title...)

Hello hello, hello! Still here, still kicking about, avoiding the blank page and all that.

A favourite truism of mine (heard as a sample on Ride's "Going Blank Again") goes, "even a stuffed clock tells the right time twice a day." So in that spirit I am blogging again after an extended hiatus.

First, I have an interview for your perusal over at fellow author, Greg Mitchell's page.
A caution for those of a less religious bent that one of the answers gets pretty religious, so bare with me.

Well, I have some questions to answer, I will have a crack at one:

The glorious Justine H. asks: "... How exactly did you come up with the idea for leers? Are leers able to fall in love?And where on the Half-Continent did you come up with such an epicly amazing character as Sebastipole (and his amazingly epic name?!)?!?!"

Well, I think it came first with seeing something that made me think it would be "cool" to put a large box right on someone's face but then have it that instead of impeding their senses it heightened them.

Leers are just people who have soaked their eyes in chemicals to see things not normally possible and are trained in the use of a sthenicon and olphactologue, so as to falling in love, I suppose that is as variable for them as it is for any other soul. I can add, however, that being in relationship with a falseman might be awkward at best or downright frustrating/terrifying as they could always tell if you were speaking the truth or not, so fob-off answers like "Nothing," to the question "What's the matter?" would not work so well.

Sebastipole is actually a misspelling of the Ukrainian city of Sevastopol, made known to me through reading on the Crimean War. I have since figured however that as far as the Half-Continent goes, his name actually comes from the fact that his mother is Baste from Sebastian and his father a Pollard from Pollux (a bit odd to name your child thus, but Sebastipole's upbringing was a cold thing and it is the Half-Continent after all...)

Both Ken and Amanda were asking after the availability of my books in the necessary e-formats, and whether I am all down with it.

Firstly, I believe each publisher in each region (North America, UK, Australia/NZ, each of the European nations etc...) is figuring out how best to provide those formats and what the royalty rates ought to be. So it is happening, but the publishing industry is in a massive bit of flux at the moment as it transforms into the digital.

Am I down with it? Bring it on I say! I am, however, getting rather ticked with "torrent-ing" and otherwise illegal digital thieving of such formats. Sure, I could look at it as free advertising, but consider that if I can't make a living from these tales then I am not going to be able to write any more of them. Grrrr....

And here is a *SMILEY FACE* just to end on a happier note.

(Mr Bryddia, I shall get to questins soon(ish))

Thursday, May 26, 2011

A short tale of the Half-Continent well worthy of your time (IMO)

Hello folks, I have just returned from England's sunny shores and am so jet-lagged my body keeps asking me in a feed back loop, "Should I sleep now? Should I eat now? Should I go out and run about now?..." Taken up in the name of research for the next Half-Continent story (now in its 4th chapter) the trip to the UK has filled my head and soul with so much historical and contextual excellence I scribbled half a notebook's worth of notes and am fit to burst with an expanded sense of the Half-Continent (... once I can tell which end is my head and which is my hind).

I am however compos mentis enough to have found a most excellent short story over at the MBT Forum, penned by a soul who goes by the apt name of Master Come Lately. It is an ingenious passage of prose describing a scene you will recognise (as I did with a steady and wonderful dawning sensation) from MBT/TFT yet seeing it through a novel perspective.
I do not want to spoil it by saying any more than this.


What is brillianterer still is that the tale has helped me see that much better from this novel perspective!

Well done, Mr Lately - I think I owe you...

Thursday, May 05, 2011

To geek or not to geek...?

Hello all.

A little while back I heard a fellow of prominently public position speak of a film and its director, saying something along the lines that the director was a self-proclaimed "geek", which the fellow took to mean "prone to making immature decisions."

What do you all reckon?

Is there some truth to this?

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Shaun Tan you Rock my World!

I just have to acknowledge the stellar and utterly deserved success of a fellow Aussie, a fellow creative and some-time fellow spec fic con panelist, Shaun Tan, who today was announced to have won the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Prize!


And this on the back of an Academy Award [TM] in Animated Short for the Lost Thing.

Wonderful, wonderful...

Well done, sir.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

To Caroline Wojo

Well, I just formulated a reply to a certain lady in the USofA only to have the email bounce. So, I thunk to myself, how can I get the response to her. Well, my thunking proceeded, hows about making it a blog post, that way she just might stumble upon it. So here it is...

(apologies to long time Sundergirdians if I repeat myself)

Dear Caroline,

I have indeed read your email and here I am replying (at last!!!) just cause I can and, well, because more importantly you had the goodness to write so a reply is the least I can do.

As to advice about writing, I always find this a perplexing question - I am not a product of some tribe of formal training, it is an intuitive process for me, learning by doing, rather than the application of set rules. I am sure there are rules rolling about in this great intuitive blob but they are not what I am most aware of (argh! I ended a sentence with a preposition!!!)

Probably the best formal "rule" given by another author is: Plot is Character in Action.

As for the writing of fantasy: Avoid All Cliches like they are Swine Flu... ... that said, you might still perpetrate a few, but if your general intent is to avoid them, then you general will, and just might give to the world something that lightens and improves people's lives, not just numbs them with frothy oft-repeated blah.

The best practice I ever had and will ever have I think is reading, and reading well, by which I mean those books acknowledged as "classics" (though I do not find them all so), written with truth and mindful intent by folks with clear skill, not just to cash in on the latest fad. Having said that, it has not been some deliberate intent on my behalf, just that after reading Lord of the Rings I found that the only texts that really hit the same "button", that approached the same delight were not all the pulpy (in the worst way) fantasy fare, but the likes of Steinbeck, Kafka, Fitzgerald, Hesse, Galico. You see, my conviction is that if you're going to write it ought to be as good as you can make it, not just hammering away on the keyboard to get out a product, but show the contents of you soul to others in a way that is both utterly true of you and considerate of them.

I hope I am making sense.

Perhaps the best thing I can do is tell how it is that I have some thing to even write about, a bit from my own life, maybe that will help...? See, the real moment for me where a light bulb clicked and I really wanted to write was the reading of Lord of the Rings when I was 12-13. I immediately pulled out a large sheet of paper and began drawing my own Middle-earth-esque map, begun to write my own story (all 26 foolscap pages of it! - which I thought a lot at the time). Yet barely begun I quickly realised I was not able to really say what I wanted to say, that I was not quite long-lived enough, that I knew in my soul what I wanted to achieve (something even half as life changing as LOTR) but that I had not been on the earth long enough nor yet possessed quite the capacity to do as my hero, Tolkien, had done.

So, I stopped writing.

(Actually, I did at about 15 or so begin a new tale all my own, with my own ideas that after 60 odd pages devolved into teenage angsty blah, but I WAS writing, so that is something)

Yet in me continued to burn a desire to create a work that shifted me as LOTR shifted me. Finally, in second year uni and with and hour and a half bus ride one way I was reading all manner of goodly books, until finally I hit one - Titus Groan - and then pop! The dual inspirations of LOTR and this combined and I began to invent what eventually became the Half-Continent.

That was 20 years ! ago. It has grown little bit by little bit ever since, drawn from all those things around me that delight me, working them into my own distinct whole.

So my intent in this little tale is to say most of all, be patient with yourself, writing is a skill that will only (Lord willing) improve with age and experience, indeed, it is a journey of a lifetime. So keep writing, that the great ideas you are having now will unfold into even greater ones.

Now, as to developing characters: well, I suppose I ask myself how they might react in a given situation, and am a bit tough on myself to make sure that I keep the character true to how they would really be, not just making them go they way I want to plot to go. So we come back to it, Plot is Character in Action. The best advice I can give here is let your characters tell you what they would do next rather than you forcing them against their true selves to go in some predetermined direction. This forcing of a character ALWAYS breaks either them or the integrity of your story. And if you are wondering how they might be, watch people, see how they are for real, and read history and/or biography to see how folks in time have behaved - real life is always odder than pretend. Doing this I reckon will give you a much bigger pallet of reactions and emotions to draw from. Also, I would say the writing of characters is acting on slow motion, that you become that character like an actor might and perform their part (in your head of course, though you might yourself like to be more demonstrative - each to their own).

The writing of detail is a craft my editor will tell you I am still yet to master myself. You must remember in reading my words or those of proper writers is that we have all been edited, all been helped hugely to be the best selves we can be. What I can say is that detail for me is a matter of passion, I really care a whole lot about all the bits and pieces, the lay of a belt, the fold of a cloth, the bend in a road and the lean of a stand of young pines - you know what I mean. Description of details in NOT an Inventory of Stuff - just some long list of objects, it is an expression of my delight in the all the "bits" that make this character, this scene, this (pretend) world tangible, visceral, right here and now. I get the feeling you love details too, so write from that love, that passion, your own delight for all the accoutrement's that matter to you.... And be prepared to edit edit edit it all down to the best of it.

A great adventure (and trials too) stretches out before you... But you don't need me to tell you that, I can tell you already know it.

Phew, and here was me thinking I was just going to give you a quick missive in response to let you know I received you email and was thinking about how to answer... Well I guess I have done that then... :/


Monday, February 28, 2011

What to say...? or I keep changing things!!!

How does one go on after a silence of two months? A strange thing it is to disappear so abruptly - all I can say by way of some manner of compensation is that there has been A LOT of good work going on for the next Half-Continent story (rather than the much anticipated Harlequin romance set in outback Australia... sorry about that folks, I know you were all longing for it so :) - a synopsis written, various passages penned and muchas muchas muchas research and invention going on.

The upshot right now of this is that in going much deeper into the construction and function and crewing of a ram I have discovered that some of the information about gastrines and rams given in MBT is now revised. I must confess myself a tad perplexed: how am I to proceed?

The normal process is to present your world full-formed upon the world, an unshakable rock of continuity and consistency. Yet here I am tweaking and changing and - more properly - refining ideas all the time, as I have always done.

What concerns us here are gastrines and just how it is that they work. Here are the variations:


  • dog box & gears
  • 5-20 year life span
  • jointed leavers everywhere
  • put into the vessel individually


  • muscles work straight to screw; "gearing" is simply the amount of effort gastrines put in and the number of gastrines put to the screw
  • 30-50 year life span - I like the idea of them living as long as a generation of vinegars (& notwithstanding death due to sickness or injury or being eaten whole and entire by a ravening kraulschwimmen)
  • straight wooden beams and levers
  • grown within the vessel (though this one I am not so sure about)

My thoughts are that none of this actually varies things too much, that the previous information can be easily incorporated into the revisions and vice versa - well that is what I hope anyway... Is it appropriate to simply alter things as I go and expect you all to just keep up? Is it actually a good thing for the whole process to be evolving right out there in publicland?

Where I will draw a line is at the total reversal of an idea: what I intend is only the kind of fluctuation that will occur as a I think an idea through all the more deeply, and discover some real-world fact that adds to the whole.

So, there, I am back, fretful as ever - if anyone is still reading :/

Most earnest mae culpa for so long a silence.

Oh, and just to speak into any suspense, my current project is (at this stage anyways) a new story with different characters set in HIR 1602 - the very next year after MBT. Events in MBT have an affect on it, are part of its own motion - because, verily, they are events more particularly in the Half-Continent - but it is its own tale.

Thank you for all your - well, "suggestions" is to little a word for the depth and passion of your thoughts but it will have to do... maybe "advice"? - it helps a whole heck of a lot, even if I seem to be going in some other direction, your thoughts and ideas go with me all the same.

Final inkling: I reckon this will be a stand alone story - no multiple volumes...

OK, this one really is the last thoughts: Rossamünd's story does go on, whether a write about it or not, so let your minds run free with that one; & Europe is indeed too "cool" to let go, but I reckon I need time to ponder just how to tell about her next... & I reckon, though I seem to "avoid" or digress for now, that the Half-Continent might indeed be working up to some kind of dissolution, though do not mistake the movements in one small part of the Sundergird (as seen in MBT) to equal a threat to the greater part of it - just see how small an area we cover in the story so far; I reckon folks in Hamlin or Gottingen could not give two hoots what happens in Brandenbrass (bar the impact on trade, I suppose.. hmmm...)

It must be said though that cataclysmic dissolution is a bit of a genre cliche, too, and though I keep finding myself in my inexperience committing them , I am trying not to do so, and all conquering baddies threatening the existence of everything seems an obvious one to avoid. The original premise of the Half-Continent was that the existing relationships were/are enough to generate stories without then needing to break the idea.

Apart from a certain LoTR, the few genre novels i have read always seemed their best at the start with the original concept of the world, before everything gets broken - it was where I wanted to stay, and I haven't and continue to put all this work into figuring just how the H-c works "now" to bust it all up again. That said, I do think there does need to be some manner of larger and obvious conflict... hmmm.

...& Aphrodine, expect to find "rumsibol" in some form in the next book too, if i may, simply brilliant!