September update: MUSIC!

A bit belated (what else is new?) but that’s right: in August, I learned and recorded a new song.

If you want to download it, you can do it here: Jinx – Hope and Tragedy

As I’ve mentioned here before, I’m a follower of Dwelling of Duels, a monthly themed video game arrangement competition with the requirement of at least one real instrument used per entry. I actually submitted my own songs to DoD this year for the first time, though the previous entries weren’t very good.

When they announced that August would be a free month (no theme, no restrictions on game/track/style), I immediately knew which song I wanted to play. However, the month had barely begun when I listened to “Now Flightless Wings” from the Secret of Mana soundtrack and an entirely different project took shape in my mind.

The inspiration struck quite suddenly to combine several tracks from the Secret of Mana soundtrack representing the most hopeful, and saddest, parts of the game into a solo piano performance.

Thus, “Hope and Tragedy” was born. I spent all month finding sheet music for the various tracks I wanted to include, simplifying them for my ability, and learning to play it all together. It may not sound that impressive, but I’m proud of my work on the song and how it turned out.

Of course, I haven’t touched either piano or guitar since I finished the song…

With huge thanks to JohnStacy for mixing/mastering the recording for me and making it sound so much better.

September update: Writing

Two months since the last update, and I’ve been distracted by indulging in a few different creative outlets, so I’ll try to do a few different posts rather than lump everything together in one.

First and most importantly, of course: progress on the final book of my Sisters of Chaos trilogy. It’s not for nothing that I’ve been getting distracted from working on it, but I’m in the home stretch for the first round of edits. Four POV characters have had initial edits done and one remains. The last one requires a lot of rewriting – well, writing, as I didn’t even attempt earlier scenes from this character in the first draft – and trying to work out said scenes have had the manuscript untouched for the past two and a half weeks.

Reading was also far too easy a distraction away from writing, as I got through ten books in August (fifteen since my last update here). While reading good books has helped regain some motivation for writing, it’s still time spent not writing, but I have quite enjoyed my selections this summer.

Right now, I’m trying to buckle down on the novel, because there’s always something else shiny grabbing my attention. One of those, in fact, is a number of short story ideas that have taken over my mind of late. Much as I am looking forward to taking some time to work on those once the novel is in beta readers’ hands, I am still forcing myself not to write anything else until this draft is done. Maybe that’s a mistake, but darn it, I’m close and I want it done.

New art: Flights of fancy

My daughter asked me to draw her as a magical girl, and I decided to take that a step further with some additional drawings.

I do intend to add backgrounds to the latter two, but I scrambled to get these done in time for her birthday, and now that that’s past, I have two other goals I want to achieve before the end of the month, so finishing these is going on the back burner for now. (Along with getting better scans.)

All images done in marker (with backdrop on the magical girl picture in pencil crayon).

July update

Here we are, halfway through the year. School is out and summer weather is upon us. And it’s time for my (mostly) monthly update.

Didn’t progress quite as much with book three of the Sisters of Chaos trilogy as I had wanted to, but as might be evidenced from the last few posts, I’ve been engaged with art lately. I’m also working on a few bigger pieces at the moment, much as I would like to continue doing quicker sketches. I’ve really been enjoying doing art over the past month plus and it’s a lot easier to sink into when I’m not feeling writing, as I have been a bit of late.

I didn’t accomplish much else in June. Failed to keep myself off YouTube videos. Rarely touched the video game I was playing or either piano or guitar. Still haven’t finished the miniatures I was trying to finish painting. I’ve mentioned before about how I have too many hobbies, but lately, they’ve all been clamoring for my attention more than usual.

On the bright side, my plants are growing well. Last year’s jalapeno plant sprouted a flower that hung on long enough to become a full pepper, which is ready to harvest any day now. The tomatoes that a month ago were maybe four-inch seedlings have now surpassed the height of the tomato cage, and have bloomed their first flowers. The bell peppers are a little behind them, but love the hot weather we’ve had of late and continue to grow as well. One lettuce container is crammed full and has made a few delicious meals already. The other is much more sparse of plants, but those growing in it are quite happy with the additional space.

In the garden, of the seeds I planted, only the zucchini took off, but boy did it. Each plant has several eight-inch leaves and is sprouting a lot more. A little bummed that I won’t be getting pumpkins again this year, but not overly surprised that nothing else grew.

I didn’t quite reach my yearly goal of reading 30 books by halfway through this year, but I’m only one short, and I certainly want to start reading more. Summer holiday means checking out plenty of books from the library for my daughter, and as they’re middle grade books, I’m quite interested in reading them as well. Perhaps one of these days I’ll also get back to the many ebooks I’ve downloaded or least sampled.

For this month, I’d really like to kick my perfectionism to the curb. It’s been taking time out of everything I want to do. I can’t just do something; I have to do it well. I have to do it right. This makes everything feel intimidating – such as the video game I’ve been playing, which feels like a huge time commitment, yet when I sit down and play it, it’s just a fun story to sink into, and there’s even frequent enough save points that I don’t have to devote an hour or more to play. The end result of feeling so intimated, however, is it’s easier to just watch videos than do something productive.

I’m tired of doing that. I can just sit down and play a few minutes of my video game. I can open up a book and read a few pages without having to devour the entire thing in a night. I can pick up the guitar or sit down at the piano and just practice a few bars of a song. And even if I only write two sentences in an evening, at least it’s progress.

And I really want to finish this novel. I’ve almost finished my first edit of the third POV character’s scenes. That only leaves two to fix up afterward, one of which is only going to have an handful of scenes. If I actually sit down and work on it, maybe I could even have my edits done by the end of this month.

So, here we go again with the same goal from last month: just do more. I’ve seen plenty of memes and threads and inspirational quotes about perfectionism, but right now, taking a cue from Disney’s Luca, perhaps a simpler message would help me just do the things I want to do: Silenzio, Bruno.

May update

Writing:

  • Finished initial edits on two characters’ scenes in book 3 of the Sisters of Chaos trilogy. (Not as big an accomplishment as it may sound, as one of those characters only had a handful of scenes.) Still have some edits to do on one character’s scenes because another character I haven’t tackled yet is going to affect them. I do, however, feel vindicated in my approach of editing one POV at a time, as the one I’m working on now had a timing issue I might not have noticed doing the entire draft in order.

Art:

  • I’m doing it. More importantly, I’m enjoying the process of making art and proud of my results, more than I have been in many years. Also really enjoying trying out new techniques and media that I haven’t touched in years. I mentioned in my last art post that I recently watched a video about the benefits of keeping a sketchbook and have been inspired to do more casual art/art for its own sake/just experimenting of late. My recent drawings have brought me within ten pages of the end of my current sketchbook, which I have been using since 2012. I’m looking forward to filling up those last pages and looking for a new sketchbook, one better suited to mixed media so I can continue to experiment with watercolour and other media.

Reading:

  • Slowing down; only read two more books this month, both middle grade. Still greatly enjoying those. I am, however, getting back into the habit of spending at least part of most evenings watching YouTube videos, rather than reading or doing something else productive. Although, said videos have inspired the motivation to do art lately, and I have watched a few tutorials on art as well, so I guess it’s not a total waste. Still, some of those videos could be time better spent.

Video games:

  • Avoiding commitment. Tried to overcome that by starting Horizon Zero Dawn last week, though I haven’t touched it since after realizing that game is definitely a commitment, not just in time but in play frequency.

Music:

  • Fell by the wayside with the increased interest in art. Need to just sit down and practice more.

Garden:

  • A cool month had things going slow and a few plants spending quite a bit of time inside. While the progress of late came after the end of May, a few hot days had my tomatoes and peppers springing up. Last year’s jalapeño plant has even bloomed several flowers now. The first fell off at the stem before it could create a pepper, but I’m keeping my fingers crossed on the next ones.

Goals for June? Just do more rather than resort to YouTube. Perfectionism keeps making me think things are harder/more work to do than they are and I need to take my recent accomplishments as proof that it’s wrong.

New art: Raven

I did more new art, this time Hawkeye from Trials of Mana.

I tried a new method of marker colouring for this picture, and I’m actually quite pleased with it.

I started by inking the drawing with Prismacolor brush tip markers, and not inking all the pencil lines in the hair:

Then, rather than my typical method of using a single marker to colour and shade each area, I started by shading and highlighting the entire drawing using contrasting colours.

… which made for some really nice effects while adding the colours.

I still added a bit of additional shading with the flat colours to help give it a bit more depth. It may not be perfect, but I feel like my art is a lot more polished of late, and adding some simple colour theory to my shading in this one really made it pop. While I have other tasks I need (want) to get done before the end of the month, I’m feeling quite inspired after this picture and the watercolour painting to work on more art.

New art: Fable

After watching a number of tutorials and inspiring art videos, this weekend I finally sat down and attempted watercolour painting properly for the first time:

Riesz from Trials of Mana

I discovered that it is both a more relaxing and more forgiving medium than I realized. (And I need to remember that, as when I woke up on the second day of working on it, I was feeling intimidated about getting back to it.)

April wrap-up

Been a while. What’s been going on? A bit, and I don’t feel like going into details, so I’ll summarize.

  • After over 140 hours of game play, I finally beat The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. While I don’t anticipate wanting to play it again anytime soon, I dare say it beats out Ocarina of Time as my favourite Zelda game. It was an absolute joy in so many ways and terribly addicting.
  • Editing on book three of the Sisters of Chaos trilogy progresses, if not quite as quickly as I had wanted. Had a bit of writer’s (editor’s?) block in the past two months, but I’m finally starting to get some momentum again. I am close to the end of the first character’s scenes.
  • I’ve been completely absorbed in reading middle grade books, and as a result I have now read 26 books of my 2021 goal of 30. My belief has also been proven that they are my favourite type of book to read.
  • I played and recorded music. After many years of following Dwelling of Duels, a monthly themed video game cover competition, as well as s l o w l y learning guitar, I finally talked myself into submitting to April’s Free Month contest. It turned out to be one of the biggest and highest quality entry months in DoD’s history, and I got third from last place, which was honestly better than I expected. The encouraging comments from the community have also inspired me to work harder at music, and my pattern of the last few days has been alternating days of practice on guitar and piano.
  • Japanese lessons have been a little less productive, in a way. As I drew near to level 5 on Duolingo, I found myself increasingly frustrated that I haven’t seemed to be retaining anything for quite some time. So I went back to the beginning of level 3 and have been re-taking lessons to try to actually learn the words being taught, rather than just get it good enough to pass Duolingo’s multiple choice method and moving on. It hasn’t been easy, as I often find I max out the levels in a lesson before I fully retain everything it taught me. It’s also slow going, as I go back to previous finished lessons every few days to ensure I still remember everything. However, it feels better knowing that I am learning these words now. It’ll just be a while before I actually progress with my knowledge.
  • Planting has begun. The tomatoes I started have taken off very quickly and need to be transplanted into their final home; bell peppers have sprouted nicely; and I started broccoli seeds, though they haven’t been doing quite as well and I’m still not sure if I should restart them. I picked up other seeds from the grocery store and after the frost we got yesterday morning, I’m hoping we’re in the clear enough to start planting the outdoor garden. Also, the tulips I planted out front last autumn are coming up and that makes me happy.
  • Art? What’s that?

I think that’s pretty much my last two months in a nutshell. That and waiting, Disney princess-style, for my COVID-19 vaccine to come…