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Hope 2017 is a great year for you all! 😀

Doodled on my new art package XD

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#WhateverWednesday If It Wasn’t for Baaaad Luck….

Frankie Av

Today’s hashtag has never been more appropriate than it is for this week’s post. Not in a “Whatever Wednesday! Wooo!!!!” kind of way, but rather a “Whatever, Wednesday…” way. In fact, I’ve had a “Whatever, Monday…” a “Whatever, Tuesday…” and have the feeling it will continue to become a week of disasters which might end with me running naked down the road screaming and cursing while tearing out my hair–a thing of nightmares for anyone who might witness this.

I think it started a couple of weeks ago when a large wall-mounted mirrored jewellery box I ordered arrived in pieces. It wasn’t a build-your-own project, it had been mishandled by the gormless delivery man who appeared to be playing an old childhood game of Knock-the-Door-and-Run-Away.  He thought it would be fun to leave my parcel on the front step, knock the door, then guiltily jump in his van and drive off at top speed. Instead of a gorgeous large mirrored box to store my bits and bobs and aid me in fixing my hair in the morning, I was left with cleaning up the shards of sharp mirror which fell from the box when I lifted it into the house. Since then I’ve been riding a wave of bad luck on a chewed surfboard as sharks swim in the surf waiting on me whale-diving into the water like an eager feast.

My main laptop keeps breaking down with all the flashing lights of death and blank screens of doom. It would appear to be a memory problem–badly seated RAM which is easily fixed–but it could well be signs of imminent motherboard failure. If this is the case, I will need a new laptop. Which will suck immensely as I grow rather attached to my tech.

Yesterday my dog ran excitedly across the room, dragging my little netbook with her. As a result, the charging port is broken. Probably an easy fix as my husband has fixed it before. He sure was glad to hear it was broken again…

This morning I went to take a photograph of a doodle I did in my drawing pad, only to find that the camera in my phone is not working. It is a brand new phone, it was definitely working last night and has had no accidents since. Upon reading about it on the net, it appears to be a common issue with no real fix except sending it back to Sony. There could be an easy fix if it turns out to be conflicting software problem or dodgy update data. I will find out if this is the case after I’ve charged its perpetually drained battery.

Then there is the case of the brusque belittlement I received in the form of an email which burned through my inbox like a flaming torch. I didn’t take the contents well even though they are innocuous enough. Bad timing to receive such a thing. Perhaps if I had received it last week I would have laughed, but this week I just want to return a napalm-laced reply and burn down sender’s inbox.

To top all of this off, we are still decorating the living room. Six coats of paint ought to be enough to cover even the most awful of graffitied walls, but apparently our walls are a little more resistant to paint colour. Either that or there is a platoon of elves coming in at night trying to recreate a Jackson Pollock masterpiece for us to find in the morning. Except I’m not a shoemaker, and I don’t appreciate their interference…

These are all bad enough, but I’m not mentioning half the stuff which has happened in the past few days. It would seem that I have ran out of luck and good fortune. Maybe I walked under a ladder I failed to notice, or kicked an invisible black cat or something, but there is a definite shift in my karma and it’s all making for a rather cantankerous and furious Dragon. I’m not exactly a pleasantly peppy princess today, nor was I yesterday or Monday when I discovered the parts for my new shower had been delivered to and signed for by someone else.

I’m more like a walking death ray on full charge waiting for an excuse to lose my shit. And that moment is getting closer with every mishap and breakage which trundles my way. In the back of my mind there is a voice that keeps telling me, “This, too, shall pass,” yet I feel the worst is yet to come. I’m scared to think of what might happen the rest of the week. Terrified to look out of the window in case a damned UFO appears and destroys my house while little smiling martians scream “Ulla!!”

At this point, I could honestly believe this could happen. I’m half expecting one of the sheep in the field next to my house to mutate and evolve into some horrendous representation of Albert King and sing me a deafening altered rendition of “Born under a Bad Sign” every morning when I open the curtains, just to prepare me for the day.

“If it wasn’t for baaaaaaad luck, you wouldn’t have no luck at all….”

So, whatever, Wednesday, I’m done with you and done with this week. I need to go find me a magical creature and turn this karma around….

F.R. Donaldson lives in scenic Scotland. She is the author of the psychological sci-fi MALEVOLENCE

Frankie Av

I know, I’m late again, but it is the entire house we are refurbishing! If I could write at the same time as I stripped wallpaper or painted walls, I would! To top it all off, my laptop died yesterday. Posting and writing is difficult on a mobile phone or netbook!

Anyway. My review this week is for an anime I had heard of, but knew nothing about. I was lucky enough to come across The Vision of Escaflowne anime DVD boxset for the bargain price of just £3.50. The pictures on the front looked kinda old fashioned and screamed nineties anime. My favourite anime is from the nineties, so I thought perhaps I might like this one too. I didn’t just like it, I loved it.

Escaflowne tells the story of a young schoolgirl and budding athlete, Hitori, in love with her track mentor, and who reads tarot cards with uncanny precision. She appears to be extremely adept at reading the future and people’s fates so everyone asks for her to read their cards. On the race track one evening, a young man appears before her in a blinding light, followed by an actual dragon. Soon after, she is whisked away to another planet, Gaea, a world from which Earth and the moon can be seen in the sky.

At first glance, it appears to be a soppy coming of age story, as we see Hiroti fall in love with just about everyone she meets. But there is so much more going on in the story that it keeps your attention. I mean, there are dragons for one thing. Men with angelic wings for another. There are even huge Mech Knights powered by the heart of dragons. There is the fact this all takes place on another world where levitating rocks power airships. And, strangely enough, Atlantis is also a key feature. To top it all off, there are two outrageously insane characters vying for the title of Top Batshit Crazy Maniac.

Don’t get me wrong, it is soppy, and cheesy and so lovely it is sickening, but there are more difficult aspects of the story which make it so great. There is a huge war going on between the different cities on Gaea. One city is burned to the ground in the first episode, the city of Fanelia from where the lead male character, Van-the king- comes from. The name of the show is actually the name of the huge Mech Knight which can only be used by the Kings of Fanelia.

The entire world of Gaea is also at the mercy of a fanatical army of powerful mech knights, the Zaibach Empire, which is led by Van’s estranged brother, Folken. So there is extreme sibling rivalry and epic fight scenes throughout. Hitomi’s fate predictions play a large part in attempts to sway the war in favour of other characters.

Van and another male character, Allen, appear to fall for Hitomi and she them, leading to her confusion as to who she loves the most. Therefore there is also a love triangle, which quickly becomes a love-pentagon with the arrival of a princess who loves Allen, and a cat-girl who loves Van.

This all sounds like a confusing mish-mash of ideas, but the story is so well written that there is not confusion other than in Hitomi’s love-struck heart. The characters, even the supporting characters were very well written. Each had a reason to be in the story, each had a background pertinent to the overall anime.

Once again, I found the soundtrack amazing. In fact, it was a complete orchestral score of epicness. No surprise that such amazing sounds were created by Yoko Kanno. Honestly, I think the woman could whistle a tune in the bathroom and it would be epic.

The one thing which grated on me to begin with was the voice of the primary baddie, Dilandau, whose voice sounded squeaky and forced. But, I found out later that there was a very good reason for this and so could forgive the initial brash tones.

There are 26 episodes to Escaflowne and I found myself wanting to watch them all in one sitting. The story demands you watch it as long as you can as each episode leads into the next–no stand alone filler eps in this series.

I also got the movie at the same time for the paltry sum of £1. Although it is very different from the tv series, I still enjoyed it. But I had to view it as a different story–unrelated to the tv series–otherwise it is just confusing. I would say the movie is darker, a little rushed, but is interesting to see the different take on the same story. The endings are different too, and I actually love them both, even though they are bittersweet.

If you can get hold of it and have a spare day or two to sit and watch it, I’d recommend Escaflowne for all its cheesiness, epic fight scenes, and awesome musical score. It is now high up there in my fave animes!

F.R. Donaldson lives in scenic Scotland. She is the author of the psychological sci-fi  MALEVOLENCE

 

#WriteTip Screaming Frustration and Frankie Dragon Meltdown

Frankie Av

Apologies again for my lack of timely updates this week. The heating system renewal saga continues and finding a quiet few minutes to write is damn near impossible. Anyway, while the workmen carry on working installing our new boiler and replacing all the pipes, I decided to work on the Malevolence PDF for print edition. Sounds simple enough, fix the pdf and upload it to Blurb and that’s it! Yet, this simple decision has led to a Frankie Dragon meltdown of epic proportions which continues to plague me as I have yet to successfully upload any file to Blurb.

I spent an hour attempting to fix the file yesterday morning, tweaked the format, and fixed the errors created a few months ago with a “search and replace” malfunction. Once I had this lovely new file I started uploading to Blurb. The first attempt failed, giving no indication as to why it failed. It said there was an error, but could give me no more details. While grinding my teeth in frustration, I tried over and over again–with no success. After the tenth attempt, I began to lose it. How hard can it be to upload a simple PDF file?

Back in May, I encountered the exact same problem and ended up allowing Sam one-time access to my account in order to upload the file. She managed to upload the same file I had problems with–within a few minutes!

After the tenth attempt yesterday, I tried a different browser. Three in fact. I turned off firewalls, ad-blockers; every browser add-on I could find was switched off. I dug out my other laptop which runs on Lubuntu, uploaded the file from there. I even tried uploading onto both the dot-com and dot-co-dot-uk Blurb addresses. Nada, error and failure. By this time my teeth were being ground down to pegs, my hair was fraying with all the tugging and my throat was in tatters with all the curse-filled ranting.

I then tested the PDF file in Adobe Acrobat and found there was an irreparable problem with the PDF file itself. I fixed the issue and made a brand new, lovely file and thought this would fix the problem. I eagerly uploaded the file with the expectation of the issue being fixed, only to find that the file failed again. As I stared at the screen I could almost feel the blood vessels in my brain pulsing on the verge of bursting…

In the end–after several hours of trying–I contacted Blurb customer support. I received a timely response from Jessica requesting more information as well as providing a few suggestions of things to try. Unfortunately, these were solutions I had already exhausted. After a few emails, Jessica spoke to her tech team about the issue. Their response was this was a highly unusual issue, and that perhaps it was a connection problem at my end. This would explain why I can’t upload the exact same file that Sam can upload. So I turned off my wi-fi and connected my laptop to my mobile phone internet. Different connection should work, right?

The file upload failed again. My laptop nearly went careening through the window at this point, thrown across the room in disgust. My husband was wary, afraid to make another suggestion while the dog kept her distance. I must have been exuding a dark cloud of ominous fury which they both obviously sensed. Perhaps the sulfurous smell was not coming from the construction bricks the workmen were drilling, but from my frustrated hellish anger!

Later, I went to bed in an absolute howler of a mood with the hopes of getting up today and have it all miraculously fixed, perhaps even a message from Jessica with a reason and solution to my ongoing problem. So far I have received no more replies from customer support, but I expected this given that it is the weekend. Also, customer support is in America so works on a different time-zone from me.

First thing I tried was a test upload which failed. One single upload failure came back with an internal error flag. This might mean it has nothing to do with me at all, that the issue in fact lies with the Blurb servers. I also decided to look into PDF file formats and such, wondering if there was a problem there. I discovered that Blurb uses PDF-X3 files. As I was unsure whether my file was of this type, I researched how to create such a file and made yet another shiny, new, larger and more perfect file. I was sure I had it right this time. This had to be the reason for the file failing. I smiled as I set the file to upload. Watched the progress bar with anticipation and hope. Nearly screamed when the processing bar froze and upload failed yet again. In sheer frustration and with the bloody-minded determination of a fool, I tried over and over, sure that one file would slip through and somehow dance around the Blurb servers with glee.

The last file failed about fifteen minutes ago and I am now at the end of my tether. My nerves are frayed, my temper short. My teeth are sore, my head is aching, my family present me with wary grimaces when I look at them. The workmen have gone quiet as they install the new copper pipes below the house. And I sit here, fuming and defeated at last as I shake with cold and wish there was some bloody heat in this house.

This should not be so difficult! There should be an explanation for the failures, but none are given so I am at a loss as to why I can not upload!

I am currently waiting on Sam coming online, to ask her to try uploading my file like she did before. I am 100% sure she will get it uploaded within minutes again, while I have spent over a day trying to do the same thing. I should not have to wait on my friend in America coming online just so I can upload a PDF file.

If you take into consideration all the times I have tried to do this, it equates to four months of fruitless attempts. I know it will likely end up being something very simple to fix, a stupid mistake somewhere which is preventing me from uploading. But, at this moment in time, this does not help me and I sit here ranting as my temper breaks again for the fifth time today alone.

Perhaps Malevolence is destined to remain in ebook format only…I will let you know…

F.R. Donaldson lives in scenic Scotland. She is the author of the psychological sci-fi MALEVOLENCE

#FrankieWIP Writing Emergence and Drawing

Frankie Av

I forgot it was Thursday and a vlog was due from me!! Anyway, I eventually remembered! I’ve started writing Emergence and want to draw. The pic below the video is the one I entered into the competition mentioned in the video 🙂

F.R. Donaldson lives in scenic Scotland. She is the author of the psychological sci-fi MALEVOLENCE

 

 

#WeCreate How I Make Trailers

Art has been a big part of my life since I was a child. I taught myself many of the skills I have today, including digitally produced artwork. I shied away from digital art for many years as it was looked upon as an inferior skill. This was mostly because of the *undo* tool. You can not magically *undo* a mistake on a real painting, even though there have been times I dearly wished I could. I even recall a comment on a truly beautiful piece of digital work on Deviant Art one day, in which a person wrote;
“It’s a pity it’s not real art.”

Of course, this comment sparked a long and bitter debate, one of many which could be read a few years ago all over art forums. Now, digital art is seen in a completely different light. It is finally recognized to be not only an art-form, but a special tool which gave rise to phenomenal digital artists and became an integral tool for special effects artists in movies and television.

These days, digital art dominates 90% of the artwork I create. There are various reasons for this; it is less messy, I don’t need a lot of storage for my art, it’s environmentally friendly and enduring. And because sometimes, I just can’t be bothered dragging out the canvas, easel and paint brushes just to paint what is in my head. Here is some of my work:

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You can also find more at my Deviant Art page.
I was really just learning to make somewhat decent artwork when an international competition was announced for my favorite television show; Stargate Atlantis. Entrants had to create a video about the show to win. My friends pushed me to enter the competition, but I had no idea what to do. Then one mentioned my artwork and I thought, maybe I could make an animation. So I taught myself new skills, which was an incredibly steep learning curve as I only had a month to learn, create, and enter my submission. I went on to make three very short  animations for the competition. Even though they were badly drawn and terribly animated, I actually won the competition. I went on to make another four animations for two different shows. As you watch, you can see the difference a few years of practice can make, even though I know I can do even better if I made another now.

First Stargate Atlantis animations:

Second set of animations I made for Supernatural:

Most recent animation, created for the show Hollyoaks:

When I wrote The Scientist’s Daughter, I decided to create a trailer for it. It was made around the time of those first animations and is a very simple, short and to the point advertisement for the book.

When I finished writing Malevolence, I decided to create another trailer. Up until now, I had never considered 3D art, believing it to be too difficult to learn. But I wanted a certain look for Malevolence so looked into using a 3D rendering program to create some neurons as a backdrop for the trailer. This was a far steeper learning curve as I had never attempted 3D rendering before. Luckily I found a video on YouTube tutorial with exact look I wanted to create. While my version isn’t quite as professional as theirs turned out, it was good enough as a backdrop for me. I only gave myself a few days to learn the rendering and come up with a finished trailer. Perhaps with some foresight, I would have had the trailer ready to go when the book was published, rather than rush to create it in the days following the launch.

I’m often asked how I actually get the drawings into the computer, how I animate them, and how I make them into a video. So for the next couple of weeks, I intend to explain the different tools I use to create all the things that go into my artwork and animations. There is probably an easier way, but this is how I taught myself to do it and I’m quite happy to continue this way.

This week, let’s look at the very first thing in the process; the artwork.

I use two systems for my digital artwork. Adobe Photoshop CS2 on my laptop and graphics tablet and pen. I have three graphics tablet, two A4 and an A5. This is the A4 one I use the most:

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Since it is an older program, you can download CS2 for free by registering with the site. The other system I use is a Motion LE1400 tablet pc with digitized screen and pen running the art program, Artrage.

IMG_20160525_212056

I also use a two-fingered glove called a SmudgeGuard, which stops marking the screen or my hand dragging on the surface while drawing. 

Both systems have their uses. I prefer to draw on the tablet pc as you draw straight on the screen which is natural and intuitive. With the graphics tablet, you draw to the side while watching the screen. I’m used to it, so it doesn’t bother me, but it is certainly easier to use the digitized screen of the tablet pc. I like to finish artwork off on the laptop as Photoshop seems to give a better finish.

In the following gif, you can see the stages of drawing, from sketch to finishing.

dinogifIf I wanted to animate this drawing, I could do it in two different ways. Create a new layer and slightly change the position of the dinosaur over and over until I had a sort of flick book animation giving the impression of movement.
The second way-and my favorite way to animate-is by making different layers from parts of the body. A layer each for the limbs, one for the tail, another for the head and maybe the body in different positions. I would then save the layers as png files and export them to the next stage of the sequence; animating in After effects. I will show you how I do this, but that is for next week’s #WeCreate blog! 😀

F.R. Donaldson lives in scenic Scotland. She is the author of the psychological sci-fi MALEVOLENCE