Nov 13 2015

Art, Comics, and Why There’s Been Precious Little of Either From Me Lately

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Long title is long.

Anyway! So what’s the deal with me? Issue four of Rough Housing was due to be up and running by now, and people are waiting on commissions and and and…

Yes. All of that is true. Guilty, nolo contendere.

There are a few explanations for this. First and foremost, Mrs. Gneech’s job evaporated, and while we’ve been living on savings, those were rapidly evaporating too, which led me to return to the world of being a barista to pay the bills. That was a pretty punishing job when I was 30. Now I am 46, and it’s devastating. Even on part-time hours I tend to spend my time at home flopped into a chair just trying to recover, and for me art is a thing that requires a certain amount of energy investment.

Second, I wrote a novel when nobody was looking! I’ve recently completed the second draft and will begin shopping it around to agents and/or publishers in December. I’m very pleased with it and I hope it will be the launch of a new career for me. But it also pretty much ate August, September, and much of October whole.

Finally, there are real art block issues I have been contending with.

Now You’re Just a Genre That I Used to Love

The furry art scene was very different when I got into it. Yes, the whole “clean vs. naughty” thing was raging on then, but there was also a lot of vitality and invention going on. “Kids’ WB” was in full force and people were drawing inspiration from things like Pokémon, Road Rovers, and Animaniacs as well as beautifully rendered animated films like The Lion King and Beauty and the Beast. Furry, like webcomics, was in a growth period, with something new and never-seen-before popping up all the time.

The genre has cooled a bit, since then. I don’t want to imply that there’s no innovation going on, because there always is– but there is a sort of standard “furry art” that is just sort of there. I recently went to my FurAffinity account after my extended writing absence and had 1,500 art pieces waiting for me by artists I follow… of which maybe 6-8 caught my attention. The rest were pretty much the same “fursona standing in a pose” portrait or “YCH orgy” thing that has been filling my watch list for the past five years.

No slices of life. No funny takes on the oddities of animal behavior. Not even so much as a “skunk stinking up the room” joke. Maybe there’s something fun and interesting going on somewhere that I haven’t seen, but right now at least it feels like the furry world is in a rut. Which in turn makes it hard to find inspiration to create new, fun, and interesting stuff. Quite the Catch-22.

The Comic I Created Wasn’t the Comic I Wanted

On a more specific note, Rough Housing was half-baked on launch. I think there’s a lot of good in it, and I intend to salvage it. But on some level I think I was still trying to create the “Verity and Tanya” story without having to reconcile the baroque steampunk look it should have with my sloppy, toony art style. But the whole thing was forced and, as I say, incompletely developed.

I’m working on fixing that now. The series is undergoing, as they say on TV, “a soft reboot.” I’ve completely thrown away my existing script for issue four and I’m rewriting it from the ground up, as well as trying to re-evaluate just what it is I want from the series and how to achieve it. I wanted a vehicle for drawing fun scenes of characters romping around on the beach or engaging in silly shenanigans, and I think there’s still plenty of room for that, but as I was writing it I was trying to shoehorn a lot of shipping things into it that really don’t belong there, or at least were not growing organically from the story, because they belonged in the “Verity and Tanya” book instead.

Hopefully, writing that book will get some of that junk out of my system and I can let Rough Housing become its own thing now. When issue four will actually come out, I’m not sure, that’s entirely dependent on the job situation and how tied up I get in publishing the novel. But it’s not just sitting there ignored!

It’s still going to be called “Buff Housing” though. I can’t let a gag like that escape. 😉

-The Gneech

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Nov 05 2015

In Which I Draw a Comic Not My Own

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Yesterday, I finished the second draft of my Sky Pirates novel and sent it off to the beta readers, which gave me a nice feeling of achievement. At ~80,900 words, it’s almost exactly the length I intended when outlining, even if that may end up being too short for some publishers.

Today, the first comic by me to see the air in a while went up, a guest comic for Matt Youngmark’s Conspiracy Friends! which is a fun romp through life as presented by the tabloids, I highly recommend it!

Meanwhile, In Hasbro's Hidden Lair...
Meanwhile, In Hasbro’s Hidden Lair…

Speaking of comics, I think I figured out what was going wrong with issue four of Rough Housing– to wit, the part of me that wanted to be writing the Sky Pirates book was starting to shoehorn stuff from it into Rough Housing instead because that’s what I was working on.

So, having written the Sky Pirates book, maybe now I can relax a bit and let Rough Housing be its own thing. There’s a longer, more detailed explanation of what’s been going on with that, with my art generally, and with furry art in particular, which I still intend to write up at some point, but not just yet. Too many topics spoil the post!

-The Gneech

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Oct 02 2015

What’s Going On Here?

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(Modified from a post on my Patreon page.)

As you’ve probably noticed, there hasn’t been much art activity here for a bit, so I think you’re due for an update.

There reason there hasn’t been much to see here in the way of comics and such is that I’ve spent the past few months writing a novel instead. Getting Rough Housing up and running has been a much more arduous process than I thought it would be, and while it has had some success, it doesn’t seem to be making the kind of impact I’d hoped it would. So, while I’m not ready to just can the project, I am looking for other things I can do that will get more bang for the buck, so to speak, and writing is one of those. The fact that I wrote a 70,000 word first draft in a month and a half probably gives you an idea of how much more facile I am with writing than with comics, even though I love them both.

In the meantime, there has been another wrinkle, which is that the company where Mrs. Gneech worked for the past 20 years is rapidly shutting down, taking her job with it. We have some savings to live on, but they will rapidly get burned up, so starting some time next week I will be returning to the life of a barista in order to bring in reliable income, at least until Mrs. Gneech finds herself something new. That will probably put the kibosh on putting out comics reliably any time soon in any case, as it takes me so long to draw them.

What does that mean for my Patreon? Honestly, I’m not entirely sure. One thing I will definitely start doing is posting story previews, character sketches, sample chapters and other such things there. That said, I know it may not be what you signed on for, so while I’d hate to see anyone go, I won’t take it personally if folks reduce or discontinue their patronage.

But for those who are staying (Thank you! ^.^) I’m very open to suggestions as to what you’d like to see! I’m going to retool the whole Goals and Pledge Rewards structure, and I was thinking of shifting from the “per month” model to a “per creation” model as well, but I’d love to hear what you have to say on the topic.

So let me know! And seriously, thank you everyone for the support you’ve provided over the years and into the future. It means a lot to me!

-John “The Gneech” Robey

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Sep 09 2015

Having Written, Now to Read

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Because I have a terrible sense of timing, I spent August writing a novel. (Alas, no NaNoWriMo bragging rights for me this year!) After being consumed by the muse for a month and a week, I wrote the last sentence of the first draft yesterday, and did the mental equivalent of flopping over in exhaustion.

In a day or two, I shall attack the next project on the stack, which will be either to finish off a few more commissions or to draw Dungeons & Denizens, not sure which yet. But before I do that, I’m going to read a mother-hugging book.

Mere words cannot describe how important books were in my life once upon a time. My mother was a librarian until I was five or six, and never lost the temperament even when she left the job. As such our family hoarded books the way some families hoard cats, Beanie Babies, or collectible holiday glasses from fast food restaurants. Since the advent of the internet, however, books and I have somewhat drifted apart. As in, I still have more books than average and going to the bookstore is still my favorite recreational activity… but I don’t always have one in my pocket and pull it out whenever there’s a lull in the conversation, and I don’t have a room full of bookshelves stacked three deep any more.

I regret this state of things; going from someone who read two books a month to someone who reads two books a year has left me feeling out of sorts and given me the gnawing fear that my brain may be atrophying from disuse. But the reason I don’t read any more is because I tend to work myself to exhaustion, then not feel like I have the “time” to read. Generally once I start a book, I have a hard time putting it down until it’s finished, and if I try to read in small chunks over time, I lose the thread and get bored. In short, if I can’t read a book all at once, I have a hard time reading it at all.

But reading, and reading a lot, is fundamental to being a good novelist. You have to read in your genre of choice, so you know what’s going on and what’s “been done,” and you have to read outside your genre so you don’t become myopic or stale, and you have to read nonfiction to learn what the world is actually like, not just to add to the verisimilitude of your stories, but also to know how to actually be a proper human being.

Recognizing this, I have decided to treat reading as a project. When I finish one project (such as the manuscript I just wrapped up), I will read a book, and then move on to the next project. Besides getting me back into reading, hopefully this will also act as a mental palate-cleanser. When I’ve been deeply involved in a big project, even once it’s “finished” I tend to spend the next few days or weeks wanting to tinker with it, like somebody coming back and saying “And another thing!” after the argument is long over. Sometimes these thoughts are improvements, but usually they’re just puttering, and occasionally they’re making Greedo shoot first, so on the whole I’m better off ignoring them. By picking up a book, wildly different from the last thing I worked on, I hope to make my brain shift gears more quickly.

So! Having written a potboiler adventure novel about steampunk air pirates, today I delve into Assholes: A Theory by Aaron James, a nonfiction social studies book. Once I finish my next project, which is likely to be furry art or comics either way, I’ll probably re-read Soulless by Gail Carriger, or one of the various short story anthologies that have been building up by my bedside for the past few years.

By making it an assignment for myself, I can make reading a thing I don’t feel like a slacker for doing during the day, and doing it in binges is totally doing it right. Win/win!

-The Gneech

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Aug 27 2015

The Most Steampunk Song Ever Written

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“Hymn to Breaking Strain” by Julia Ecklar and Leslie Fish

The careful textbooks measure: “Let all who build beware!
The load, the shock, the pressure material can bear.”
So when the buckled girder lets down the grinding span
The blame of loss or murder, is laid upon the man
Not on the steel– the man!

But in our daily dealing with stone and steel, we find
the gods have no such feeling of justice toward mankind!
To no such gauge they make us, for no laid course prepare.
In time they overtake us with loads we cannot bear
Too merciless to bear

The prudent textbooks give it in tables at the end:
The stress that shears a rivet, or makes a tie-bar bend
What traffic wrecks macadam, what concrete should endure
But we poor sons of Adam, have no such literature
To warn us or make sure

We hold all Earth to plunder, all time and space as well
Too wonder-stale to wonder at each new miracle
’til in the mid-illusion of Godhood ‘neath our hand
Falls multiple confusion on all we did or planned
The mighty works we planned

We only in creation! How much luckier the bridge and rail!
Abide the twin damnation: to fail, and know we’ve failed!
Yet we– by which sole token we know we once were gods–
Take shame in being broken, however great the odds!
The burden or the odds

Oh, Veiled and Secret Power Whose Paths We Seek in Vain,
Be with us in our hour of overthrow and pain!
That we– by which sure token we know Thy ways are true–
In spite of being broken
–Or because of being broken?–
Rise up and build anew!
Stand up and build anew!

-The Gneech

EDIT: It has since been pointed out to me that Rudyard Kipling wrote the poem that comprise the lyrics of this! Which, as someone with a degree in English and who actually, y’know, studied some Kipling, makes me feel like a bit of a nimrod. ^.^’ What I said about it being the most steampunk song ever written still applies, tho!

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Aug 21 2015

Mid Draft Revising

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Weird thing about listening to the characters when I write, is that what I think the characters are going to do at the beginning, and what they actually do when they get there, are often completely different. In the current book, I’ve just hit 34,000 words and finally put into words a scene that I have been writing in my head for three years– a scene which is one of the major touchstones of the book for me. I’m pleased with the scene, and overall quite pleased with the book, but I am also faced with a problem, which is that the plot is off from my outline by about 33°. My intended next chapter… totally doesn’t make sense any more.

So, loathe as I am to do it, I need to stop my forward momentum and go back to the macro-level outlining stage and re-think the back half of the book. I didn’t want to be doing any story surgery on that big a level until I had completed the first draft, because I’m sure I will find more things that need doing on the way, but I also can’t complete the first draft in its current state because I have no idea what’s going to happen.

On the other hand, this can be a great opportunity to come up with a much better ending. If I take the first half plot as it has come out as my starting point and ask the characters, “What do you do now?” instead of trying to figure out a way to wrangle the story back to the outline I already had, hopefully the new ending will be stronger, more satisfying, and truer to the characters.

It’s just, y’know, more work for me. 😛 *shakes his fist at an uncooperative muse*

-The Gneech

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