Monday, February 26, 2024

Lara & the Witch Collection - Volume I

Like I said, in publishing "Here To Help," I had five stories that I thought made a pretty good presentation of the Lara Demming series, so I went ahead and put out "Lara and the Witch: Volume I," which collects those stories (as well as a new introduction).

This was something I challenged myself to do in the month of February, choosing "Here To Help" (which wasn't 100% finished) to end the collection, instead of "The Company You Keep" (which was finished and already out there).  I decided on five stories instead of six when I discovered that just the first four stories came to sixty-something thousand words (which seems like a great deal).  With the fifth story/introduction, that brought it to more than 81,000 words.

I struggled with the cover art, having picked this image (that I still like), but was much too low-res:

But I found a photo of two mushrooms on last year sometime (on Unsplash, where people upload photos they've taken and you can use them as long as you give the owner credit), and sent it to Big, which he used his own special magic on to make this cover:

I still like that one a lot.  Maybe I can use it sometime.

But since then, he and I have discovered that most pernicious of new technologies, image-generating A.I., and while I have dabbled in here and there (probably only wasting five or six hours over the past months), Big has absolutely gone wild for it, spending nights at a time on the website, not getting up to go to the bathroom (warning: that bottle of Mountain Dew he's got next to his office chair is NOT Mountain Dew).  You can read about his adventures here, if you like.  He's blogged about it, but he couldn't pull himself away from the A.I. siren song to publish the post yet. 

But using that program, I asked for a silhouette of a big witch and a small one, and here's the new 2024 cover, one I had a bit of difficulty getting to look right (I'll admit that the mushrooms are less prominent than I would've preferred).

So, now that I have published it (you can get your own copy HERE, if you like), I've started editing the audio for "Here To Help," and I keep getting ideas for new stories (just today, I noticed that Lara mentions that her birthday is in just over a month, and I thought, "Ah, that's got to be a story, what she gets/does for her fifteenth birthday"), but what do I do if I write them?  What I mean to say is, as of right now, this volume includes the first five stories, chronologically, in the L&TW series.  But if I write a story set in 8th Grade, or heck, one from back when she was even younger, where do I fit them?  And does that mean I need to revise the collection, so it's six stories?  Or keep it to six stories, but kick "Here To Help" to Volume 2?  

I've never done this sort of thing, so I honestly don't know.

Sunday, February 25, 2024

Lara Demming is "Here To Help"

Well, I went and put out another "Lara and the Witch" story.  This one is "Here To Help," as is the most recent one I've written, taking place when Lara is fourteen (Ninth Grade, which is the last year of Junior High, at least in the fantasy world I created)--putting it between "The People We Touch" and "The Company You Keep."  In this one, she encounters Perpetua Trevorly, another witch who claims to be a friend of Old Widow Holcomb. She wants something from the girl, something seemingly only Lara can give.

This one may or may not interest you, but I found myself quite moved while performing the end of it last week, having to stop and sniffle and wipe my face, which is pretty unusual for this particular narrator.  As soon as I finished it, I published the text version, which is a good habit to get into.*  In re-reading it for the audio version, it gave me an idea for a story that takes place before this one, and an idea for a later story, probably set between "Bundling Made Easy" (Lara's Junior year) and "When You Need It Most" (her Senior year**).

Once again, Big helped me create a cover I don't have to be embarrassed about.  He seems here to help as well.

If you wanna check it out, it's available HERE.  However, I did go ahead and put out a new collection, featuring the first five stories.  I'll try and write up a blogpost plugging it tomorrow.

*I did have to write an author's note, but that only took a few minutes.

**This one's not yet available.  I'll try to tackle it in March or April.  Maybe.

Friday, February 23, 2024

Rish Outcast 272: The Winter of Our Discontent

Back in 2023*, Rish recorded a sprawling episode, ostensibly about the winter, but much more about writing and sports and being an extra in a Clint Eastwood film, and the MATRIX sequels, podcasting, and Stephen King, "The Adventure of the German Student" by Washington Irving, and WHEN HARRY MET SALLY.  

You know, the usual.

To download this episode, Right-Click HERE.

To support Rish on his Patreon page, click HERE.

Logo by Gino "It's Bloody Summer Here" Moretto.

*He didn't know what winter was!!!!!

Tuesday, February 20, 2024

Swift As A Coursing River

The other day, I mentioned Taylor Swift on here (talking about a song of hers I listened to and liked), and decided to make a searchable keyword for her, since I knew I'd referred to her before.*  I then thought I would check to see what other posts (in the past) I had mentioned her in, so I could add the keyword to those posts.

An hour later, I was still at it.  You see, there were dozens of references to Ms. Swift over the years, starting in 2009, which according to my math, is over five years ago.  And instead of writing--or doing anything productive--I read through those posts to determine whether they merited a "Taylor Swift" tag or not.

Taylor Swift is important to me.  Enough to waste all that time, apparently.

Oh my lord, I just realized that I've now wasted even more time blogging about it.  I really, really didn't want to write, did I?

*WHY doesn't Lara Demming like Taylor Swift?  Is it something as basic as not liking the pitch of her voice (I recall my mom saying that about Taylor Dayne, back in the day.  And Big Anklevich had that with Tina Turner.  I feel that way about Billy Corgan, Alanis Morrisette [nails on a chalkboard, children], or the dude who sings with Rush)?  Does she dislike her because of all the attention she gets--one of those "I don't like anything everybody else likes" kind of stands?  Or is it that something about Swift reminds Lara of her dead sister Emma . . . and that makes her feel guilty because she was so jealous/disdainful of Emma, and now Emma's gone?  Hmmm.

Thursday, February 15, 2024

Not Bad For A Little Furball (2)

A few days back, I showed the repaint I did of Wicket W. Warrick, but you know, I never explained WHY I was doing it.  The answer is twofold: first, because I really enjoy painting.  It relaxes me and the voices that constantly tell me to kill start singing Echo and the Bunnymen songs (they really like Ian McCulloch apparently).

The other reason is that since Hasbro started the toyline in 2013, they have only ever released three Ewoks (well, four, if you count the white Paploo repaint this last year), even though there are seventy-two Ewoks credited in RETURN OF THE JEDI.*  But when I was a child, I would often take the headdresses off my Ewoks and switch them around, so mine looked distinct from the ones owned by Steven or Dennis or Ryan, and I thought, "Hey, I could do that with the ones they've put out, and double or triple the number of 'distinctive' Ewoks in a display or collection."  Madness, you say?  Well, maybe, sure.

So, Hasbro's website put these guys on sale recently, so I went ahead and ordered a couple of extras, so I could paint them.  And the first to arrive was this one, Paploo:

He's dark brown/reddish brown) with a light tan hood.

I had a bugger of a time getting the hood off the figure--indeed, the head popped off much easier.  But that made the painting around the neck a simpler task, so ah well.

Wicket's cowl looked good on the (headless) body of Paploo, so I thought this would work.

Now it was time to paint the body.  I picked a light tan, since the factory paint was so dark.

It may seem to be white in the above photograph, but it's actually a tan color . . . maybe the bathroom tile is tan too.

I was amazing while painting to discover how detailed this figure is, with fur that's realistic and way more fun to paint than armor (sorry if I said this on the Wicket post, but it's been a month since I wrote that).

It was incredibly difficult to get the paint right on the eyes and nose and mouth.  Ultimately, I grabbed a toothpick and used that instead of a brush.  It was not ideal, but it was a lot better.

It turned out to be a real pain to get Wicket's cowl on Paploo's head, and I kept having to cut the ear holes longer and longer (it's not a soft material, despite its leathery look).

Here are both of my repaints together.  I think they turned out well . . . but it did make me wish I had a dozen more, so I could try all sorts of new combinations.

And be careful what you wish for, by the way--they're still on clearance on Hasbro's website.

*I counted.  That's how much I love you guys.  Er, guy.  Singular.

Wednesday, February 14, 2024

St. Valentine (R.I.P.)

 I've always had a hard time with this day.  You understand.


I was boasting to Big the other day about how, in the Lara Demming stories, Lara continually expresses dislike for superstar Taylor Swift, which is so very far from my own opinion.  I am a fan, though I've never bought any of her albums, and know only a handful of her many, many songs.  

For example, I downloaded a track called "August" by Ms. Swift (purely at random), one I'd never heard before.  It tells about a cherished adolescent romantic experience one summer, and how fondly she remembers it . . . now that it's done.

It's familiar ground for a Taylor Swift song, and its refrain of "August slipped away like a bottle of wine, 'cause you were never mine," is like a lot of her best songs, and it occurred to me that the reason it resonates (with me) is because she's singing about a time that is over.  She lost her virginity (or the character the song is about, anyway) to some (presumably) dude, and for just a little while, all was right in the world.  

And then the world continued to rotate, and soon enough, it was all over, in the rear view, as I have grown fond of saying.

And that's what works about these Taylor Swift songs: there's a palpable heartbreak to a lot of them, some wistfulness, some anger, some regret, some embarrassment, maybe.  But the romance is in the rear view, and for me, that's so easy to relate to, even if it wasn't my personal experience.

There's so much negativity toward her right now--gotta be at an all-time high--so I figured, unlike Lara Demming*, I'd try to say something positive.  I especially like the bit where she says 

So much for summer love and saying "us"'Cause you weren't mine to lose.

Fleeting, isn't it?  Just like life.

So, I listen to the song (over and over, as is my wont) instead of dwelling on this abhorrent day, and pretend that I share the bittersweet memory of that August day with the writer(s?) of this song.

Take care.

*I even toyed with writing a story where Holcomb surprises Lara on her fifteenth birthday with some happy news: that singer she hates so much has died in a tragic, one-in-a-million accident.  Lara is mortified, realizing that her complaints about her least-favorite singer have inspired her well-meaning guardian to murder the musician.  But when she opens her phone, she finds that Florida hip-hop artist Sailor Twift was killed in a bizarre petting zoo calamity.  She spends her birthday trying to decide whether to explain the witch's mistake, and when she finally does, Holcomb claims to have done nothing to anyone, and presents her more banal present to the girl: a candy cane that allows her to see in the dark.

Tuesday, February 13, 2024

Rish Outcast 271: Run Away

I prefer stories that don't lose contests.  

Rish presents "Run Away."  Carol Tooley leaves home and makes a stop in Siodmak Corners.  Wouldn't you?

To download this episode, Right-Click HERE.

To support Rish on Patreon, click HERE.

Logo by Gino "Pun Away" Moretto.

Monday, February 12, 2024

My Voice on "The Decline of the West" on Journey Into...

Marshal "The Acupuncturist" Latham has finally put out the second-place winner in his (cursed) Quardle Quell story contest.  It's by R.C. Anderson, called "The Decline of the West (And Other Terrorist Photo Galleries)," about a computer programmer who stumbles upon a pattern that might be a far-reaching conspiracy.  

I voice Zoltan, an Eastern European computer hacker, which, yeah, is typecasting.  Also featured are Bria Burton, Josh Roseman* and Marshal himself.

Check it out HERE.

*Not THAT Josh Roseman, though.

Wednesday, February 07, 2024

R. Crusoe Moment

I remember (pretty vividly) Stephen King in 1997 mentioning that in "Robinson Crusoe," there was a bit where the main character stripped naked and swam out to a nearby island, where he gathered up what he found and filled his pockets with it.  He brought it up in regard to discovering a similar mistake in his current book ("The Green Mile"), but promised it would be fixed in future editions.*

Well, I discovered my own Robinson Crusoe moment while editing yesterday, where Lara Demming meets a man whose hair looks like he cut it himself . . . and on the next page, he takes off his hat.

It's not that big a deal, and I know I'm no King or Defoe, but I wonder if it's something I should sit down and fix (and re-record), knowing there are probably dozens more of those kind of errors still out there, unnoticed by me.

*Unusually, "Green Mile" was published in paperback first, and then in a hardcover version a number of years later.

Sunday, February 04, 2024

Rish Outcast 270: Have Toys Will Travel 4

Rish gets together with Cousin Ryan to talk about toy-selling . . . for the last time?

Spoiler: Maybe.

As always, please download the file by Right-Clicking HERE.

And pretty please support my Patreon by clicking HERE.

Logo by Gino "Have Toys, Will Unravel" Moretto.

Friday, February 02, 2024

Exercise Report '24 - January

So, this is how I did for the first month of the year, exercise-wise.

Not too shabby.  Of course I could do better, but since it's January (typically very cold and miserable), not too shabby equals pretty darn good.