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my best mistake and ex-best pants

illustration: girl spitting black goo into a jar with other fuming jars behind her

When i was the Art Director for Nightmare‘s special issue, Queers Destroy Horror!, i originally wasn’t going to assign myself an illustration. I wanted to involve as many queer people as possible.

But after i’d almost finished selecting my artist lineup, i realized i didn’t have any traditional artists. And i really felt like “Hungry Daughters of Starving Mothers” by Alyssa Wong deserved splashy, dirty media. The kind of art mess that gets under your fingernails so people think you were disemboweling fish with your bare hands. (And then it also stains your favorite pants out of inky spite.) I am a fish guts kind of artist, and i loved the story, so i figured i’d handle this. I’m so glad i did. It was really fun!

Months ago i mentioned my process (and the pants) and someone asked to see it. Now that i have a working scanner set-up, i can finally share. Sadly, i’ve forgotten who asked in the first place, so whoever you are, hopefully you come across this!

If the choices are “read Alyssa’s story” or “look at the steps of how i illustrated it,” READ THE STORY. It not only won a Nebula Award, it’s now a finalist for the World Fantasy Award.

I put these behind a clickwall because they may contain spoilers–i think they’re obscure enough, but just in case!


crab sketches

I was already thinking about how neat crabs are when i was visiting Alyc this spring, and then she was showing me some of the cool history and worldbuilding for the tabletop game, and there was a “Crab Clan.”

I was like YEAH CRABS

drawings: different species of crabs drawings: different species of crabs

I should have been like YEAH SCANNER BRIGHTNESS/CONTRAST ADJUSTMENT though, haha.

Clarion West Write-a-thon & Princes of Iron

drawing: glass bottle with a vertebrae inside

A sparkle caught my eye as I passed one of the empty burrows. The Unlight fell dull upon the windchimes that hung there, but it was bright upon a sky-blue glass bottle the size of my fist, dangling from an orange ribbon. Nothing shows up that brilliantly with faery-augmented sight unless it’s magic.

When I picked up the bottle, a vertebrae rattled inside, and I felt the vibrations of an angry little ghost thrumming against my palm.

– Princes of Iron, Cory Skerry (WIP)

I’ve already written this novel several times, because it’s a story i’ve wanted to tell since i was twenty years old, but my skill level always fell short of my aspirations. If i accomplish it this time, if i reach “the end” and decide it’s time to make it available to everyone, i’ll owe this success to my experiences at Clarion West.*

drawing: art supplies with a mug of hot cocoa


If you ever think you’d like to sit with me and have coffee, but you know that we’re too far apart or too busy for that to be feasible, donate the price of that latté in my name. I tend to sketch scenes and characters from my stories as i write, and this year, i’m sending (most of) those exclusively to people who support me in the Clarion West Write-a-Thon. Since sketching is what i do with my hands when i’m having coffee with someone, it’ll be the closest we can get to the real thing. ❥

I wrote some more about my Clarion West experience & Princes of Iron below.  (Continued)

new digs

Moving for the third time in sixteen months was still an anxiety-inducing nightmare and i’m surprised i have any friends left, but it was a good move. TL;DR: I don’t feel like this anymore.

I once again live in someone’s converted garage, but i like to keep my punk cred, so that’s ideal. 😉 It’s a 3 mile bike ride to downtown instead of 11 miles, it’s a bigger converted garage, and one of my two private entrances opens into a fenced run that wraps around two sides of the house. Hanzo is delighted–here he is in the sun the first day, before i even put down a rug for him to be more comfortable.

photo: Hanzo lying in the sun

Since there’s room, i rescued my drafting table from storage. It’s only gone one day without being used since i moved in a week ago. It’s amazing what a difference it makes in my productivity, to have a dedicated space that’s always available for drawing/painting.   

photo: my art desk with a work-in-progress

(Also, i finally saved up enough to get a new computer, which also has its own desk and will *knock on wood* make it feasible to actually scan my art, which means more No Keys and S.E.E.D. soon, as well as some other projects that have been stuck in the technological bottleneck for months. But soon!)

meme: raccoon with its paws together, captioned SOON

My geriatric cat Every is a cautious homebody, so he’s already allowed outside into the fenced area with the dogs because i know he won’t take off. Here he is, peeking outside.

photo: Every looking out the door

Even though i no longer have a private bathroom and i’m not living with my partner (there’s not enough room for Seamus, even if he was the kind of person who could comfortably live with small children) i already feel relieved. I really appreciate that our other friends let us move in with them last spring, especially since i would have been homeless if it wasn’t for their generosity, but it was increasingly difficult for me to make it work. This isn’t ideal either, but i’m confident that it will be healthier for me and my pets.

photo: me snuggling Briar

I don’t want to post this

I feel like a bible story. Maybe i don’t have boils or dead kids or whatever like Job, but the cheerful “it’ll pass” mentality i’ve supported myself with for 30+ years must have offended some cosmic force. Everything i do right now comes at the cost of something else, and i can’t afford any of it. Being sick for literally more than half of the last month was the final straw: i’m drowning.

Historically, i’ve avoided mentioning something negative until i have the solution for it or at least a plan of action. I don’t really have either of those things. But i still feel an explanation (or maybe a warning) is warranted. I owe a toe-curling, ass-clenching amount of work/time/money to various people and organizations and i’m currently not in any shape to accomplish most of it. I promise i haven’t given up, i’m just doing that running-in-a-nightmare thing, where i can’t do anything at the speed or efficiency that i could before.

I’m sorry i can’t be the same type of a fuckup that i usually am, because that guy was at least mostly useful and mostly pleasant. He never had enough time, but he always had enough optimism, resourcefulness, and cheer. This guy is five words from a fight. Everything is broken, ill, empty, dirty, weak, owed, thin, and if i say the words “it’ll pass” even in the should-be-safe silence of my own mind, something else shows up on that list. I wish that was hyperbole, but it’s happened so regularly i feel like i’m a lab rat learning not to push the electrified button that used to give me food.

Job passed his test; not sure if i’m made of the same stuff.

This is NOT an invitation to talk about this with me. Please don’t send me well-meaning messages or anything else you wouldn’t normally do. It’s difficult enough just saying it where you can see, but i’m terrified my deteriorating social skills will permanently damage relationships without some kind of PSA, so i’m forcing myself to do it.

drawing: little lemon kitties staring in dismay at a glass of lemonade, unfinished

changing parameters

My first fiction “sale” was to a small press with well-meaning but ignorant staff who screwed me over (entirely by accident, i am sure, but still annoying). David Levine, whose beard, work, and career all have earned my respect, was kind enough to look at that contract for me when i received it and point out why he wouldn’t personally sign it.

I signed it anyway, regretted it, and have subsequently taken his advice ever since: don’t go to underground MMA death matches if you don’t know where the emergency exits are, if you’re going to sell your body get the money first, and do not sign away your first publishing rights for anything less than professional rates as outlined by the SFWA.*

cartoon: David D Levine breaking down a door

A mutual friend and writer, the late Jay Lake, disagreed some–he advised me to think of pay as only one of the factors in choosing magazines to which i should submit fiction. He had a system, which he described as “the three Ps.” His concerns were primarily Payment (how much cold hard cash are you going to get for the piece), Publicity (how big is the publication’s readership, how often are they reviewed, etc.) and Prestige (how often does the publication yield work that ends up in Best Ofs or work that wins awards).

cartoon: Jay Lake meditating to create the three Ps

I combined Lake & Levine’s advice into a system that yielded me sales in the $200 – $500 range, inclusion in one Best Of, and consistent chances for high-profile reviewers to shit on my work. hahaha I don’t sell often, but my bibliography still looks pretty good. After i made those rules, i only broke them once, for love. Ideomancer was a fantastic, small online magazine that consistently published quality stories. I’m still proud of “Rendered Down” and often include the sale in my cover letters.


In “Rendered Down,” a woman finds a male selkie.

Lately, i’ve been thinking about that love. I want to add another P to Lake’s advice, a P for my own personal parameters: Passion.

I realized i have been preventing myself from attempting publication in interesting magazines or anthologies if they don’t fit my formula. Because i read submissions for, i try to read lots of other short stories, to keep current with what’s being published elsewhere. For example, i recently discovered Vitality, which doesn’t pay pro rates but has a mission statement that speaks to me.

L.A. Little is nearly finished compiling an anthology called “SF Outliers,” which is working on the high-risk indie model of “no one gets advances, but everyone gets royalties.” Not usually my thing. You know what though? I love that he has committed to sending personal responses for every story. I can’t do that at; our volume is astronomically prohibitive. But i believe it’s important, so i try to be personal when i can. While being a professional writer requires a thick skin, not everyone starts out with it–some people have to grow it. Little’s dedication to the editor-writer relationship made me smile.

So i sent the SF Outliers anthology my best eligible work, with no guaranteed return. I wouldn’t do that for every indie anthology that pops up, but if i have eligible work lying around and they’re committing to something i personally believe is worthwhile? Hell yeah.

potential cover for SF Outliers

If i never see a dime, whatever. Passion is now my fourth P, and while i am sad i can’t discuss my modification to Lake’s formula with the man himself, i have a feeling he would approve of my motivation even if he found fault with the execution. Lake was the first professional to take a personal interest in my work. He consistently encouraged me as a new writer, and i like to promote that behavior whenever i can. I’ll be paying forward his generosity, patience, and kindness for my entire life, however long it may be.


* These may not all be advice from David, but he can’t prove otherwise.


drawing: climber Natalie Duran Natalie Duran (from a photo–not sure who took it)

drawing: climber, from photo by Cody DuncanAn unknown (to me) climber, from a photo by Cody Duncan

I’m trying to remember to practice more dynamic poses/perspective/etc. because those often are my favorite things to look at, and i still nearly always default to easier positions and viewpoint angles.

#inktober 01 – 07

At the last minute, i decided to participate in #inktober. (And i dragged my friend into it with me, so check hers out, too!) If you’re not aware, #inktober is a month-long artist meme in which we post one inked drawing each day of October. I’ll post them daily on Instagram, Tumblr, and Twitter, but i’ll do a week’s-end roundup here on my blog on October 14th, 21st, and 31st.

Since i don’t have a lot of storage space in my current pad, i’m trying to remember to offer my art for sale more often. So every one of my #inktober originals will be available for $10USD (international orders are okay). I’ll update this entry daily with a master list of the first week’s drawings, their status, and how to claim them.


drawing: skull sunk in sand with two crabs nearby“Those Who Love The Sea”
(#inktober 01)
brush + ink
~5″ x 6″
$10 USD
AVAILABLE – e-mail to claim



drawing: a hammerhead shark with a dog toy in her mouth“Pet Shark”
(#inktober 02)
brush + ink, Faber Castell Pitt pen
~6″ x 7″




drawing: anglerfish with a poppy growing from its face“Let Us Follow”
(#inktober 03)
FW ink, Kuretake sumi pen, Signo white & gouache
~5″ x 7″
$10 USD



drawing: seahorse in a kelp bed, black & gold“Kelp King”
(#inktober 04)
Kuretake sumi pen, gold mica calligraphy ink
~5″ x 7″
$10 USD


[I missed Inktober the 5th! Oops! I was late with the 6th & 7th because Instagram kept freezing, but they’re here:]


drawing: orca breaching against a splashy background“Thrash”
(#inktober 06)
FW ink, calligraphy ink
~5″ x 7″
$10 USD
AVAILABLE – e-mail to claim



drawing: black octopus on purple background“Thrash”
(#inktober 07)
FW ink, calligraphy ink
~5″ x 7″
$10 USD

thanks for the free envelopes, asshole

I don’t know why it’s even legal for a credit card company to send you a bunch of wasted dead-ass trees you didn’t ask for and definitely won’t use, especially when it’s a security risk for identity theft.

I would be angrier if it wasn’t for this: I haven’t bought an envelope in over thirteen years.

photo: me painting over pre-printed envelopes with gouache
photo: me painting over pre-printed envelopes with gouache
photo: me painting over pre-printed envelopes with gouache

he ate it >:|

On my walk with Briar the other day, i found some beautiful California poppies in a parking lot.

photo: a flower i found on a walk

I picked one, and when we got back, i put it in a little tiny vase with some water, because i planned on drawing it later. Then i made myself lunch, which pissed off Prince Hanzo the Four-Legged Center of the Known Universe, who stomped his feet and complained that he hadn’t had his walk yet and why did she get to go first (in dog language, which sounds like a drunk Wookie angrily singing church hymns).

Then i heard him making some gulping, snarfling noises. And i turned around and found this:

photo: my guilty pit bull Hanzo, with the remains of my flower

So since i apparently don’t have a flower to draw any more, here’s what i drew instead:

drawing: my flower-eating pit bull Hanzo with a stupid face and stink lines and flies, so there