Dec 19 2016

What Do You Do When You’re Branded?

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Fandom Guy loves you! And fish. He also loves fish.

As mentioned last week, I’m in the midst of something of a “brand overhaul,” which includes everything from my comics and art, to my novel writing career, to my business writing and graphic design efforts. Each of these categories need a slightly different approach, and I’m still banging out a strategy for that, but today I’m concentrating on the art end of things. Because this past week I set up a TigerDile streaming page, for which I needed some graphics to spruce up the place. To that end, I tossed together this banner image:

Three Lions and an Otter! Art by John 'The Gneech' Robey

Honestly? I like it. I like it a lot, in fact, except there’s one big problem, and that’s using “Three Lions and an Otter” as the central motif. It’s a handy model and I think there’s value in it as a touchstone for myself, but it’s not what I want to use for my “brand identity.”

As I took pains to point out when I first started using it, the idea was shamelessly stolen from inspired by M.C.A. Hogarth’s Three Jaguars. This is not a secret. In fact, it’s kinda the whole point. It was intended as a respectful nod towards a brilliant conceit. But what do I immediately get every time I reference “Three Lions and an Otter”?

“Say, are you familiar with Maggie Hogarth?”

“Y’know, M.C.A. Hogarth did something similar. You should check it out.”

“Have you seen Three Jaguars?”

Okay, world. I get it. Message received. XD

So I’m still casting about for a proper umbrella term to use for my “personal brand.” Don’t be surprised to see me “trying on” a few different ideas in the upcoming weeks! Some great ones I’ve seen over the years besides “Three Jaguars” include Michele Light’s Light Bright Studios, the OzFoxes, and so on.

I thought about simply broadening “Suburban Jungle” to reference the body of my work, with the original comic and Rough Housing simply being two projects flying under that banner, but I worry that might be too confusing. Those two projects share a history and a continuity, which random bits of furry art or whatever might not.

So… still chewing on it. I’m open to suggestions if you have any!

-The Gneech

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Dec 15 2016

Every Lion (and Otter) Has His Day

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Three Lions and an Otter

One of the purposes of identifying the three lions and an otter was they made handy touchstones for the tasks I need to get through with my writing and illustration. My plan was (and still pretty much is) that each of them would get a certain day (or days) during the week for their thing, to help me keep focused and on task.

Of the four of them, Content Guy requires the most time, because he’s the one who actually does the writing and drawing. On the other hand, Business Guy’s stuff doesn’t take as long, but it’s such a struggle for him that it feels like it takes forever. Fandom Guy loves what he does and is always having fun, but he has to focus his efforts on the days when people are most likely to be listening.

Muse never does anything directly. So she has no day… or it might be said she has every day.

Thus, assuming a five-day work week (which may or may not be a valid assumption), the week breaks down like so:

  • Monday: Fandom Guy! I haven’t looked into it recently, but for a long time the stats of websites made it very clear that Monday was the day people were most likely to check out links and want to be distracted from their day. So if Fandom Guy wants attention, this is the day to go for it. That’s why Suburban Jungle goes up on Mondays, and so when Fandom Guy has something to say, that’s the day you can expect to hear from him.
  • Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday: Content Guy. Assuming nothing else gets in the way, these are the days our hard-working lion spends down in the pixel mines. Of course, this can also include work for Fandom Guy in the case of things like streaming sessions or posting commissions and the like. But these days are mostly for just getting the work done.
  • Friday: Business Guy. Last but not least, our frazzled number cruncher does his thing on Fridays, whether it’s paying the bills, keeping URLs up to date, booking convention hotels/travel, hunting down markets/editors to submit to, or updating merchandise availability. Why does he get Friday? So that at the end of a long day doing things for which he has little talent and less patience, he can kick back and have the weekend. 😉 He earns it!

Now given that the average page of Suburban Jungle takes me two days to draw, this means that Content Guy only has one day dedicated to business writing gigs, commissions, book writing and whatever else. But the sneaky trick here is that Fandom Guy and Business Guy rarely need a whole day each week, so Content Guy gets whatever they don’t use. Also, well, weekends are a thing. As the old saying goes, “Find a job you like and you’ll never work another day of your life.” I write and draw because that’s what I enjoy doing (and because I kinda can’t not do them), so as long as I have some time to spend with Mrs. Gneech and the kitties, “working” on the weekend is the opposite of a problem.

And on that note, I’ve got commissions to work on! Catcha later.

-The Gneech

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Dec 12 2016

Social Medium at Large

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Fandom Guy loves you! And fish. He also loves fish.
So one thing that was made quite clear at the most recent Midwest Furfest is that I’ve really gotta get back in touch with the fandom. Suburban Jungle used to mean room parties and charity auction cameos going for hundreds of dollars, but this past weekend it seemed to be “That comic everybody used to know and remembers fondly.”

Dude. What am I, the Animaniacs? XD Nostalgia is not my brand!

Seriously tho, I think a lot of the problem is that as time has gone on, I’ve just gotten out of touch. I met plenty of people at the convention who’d never heard of me or my work, but upon seeing the art were instantly interested in checking it out. So clearly what I’ve got to do is get it front of more eyeballs!

To that end, I’m working on a retool of my online presence generally, looking for new venues to spread the word and so on. Besides the usual DeviantArt and FurAffinity accounts, I’m going to start posting more of my work on my Tumblr account (which has until now been little more than reblogs), I created a Pinterest board for my art, and I have (finally) started dipping my toes into groups on Telegram.

Sometime by the end of the year I expect to also start streaming fairly regularly on Monday and/or Tuesday nights as I work on the next comic page. Right now I’m still researching that, looking for artists with successful streams and watching what they do. (If you have faves, let me know! I want to see ALL THE STREAMS.)

As a general thing, I also just sorta need to get back out into the world. Over the past years I had kinda retreated into a cocoon as I dealt with the slings and arrows being fired at me by outrageous fortune, and I’m finally sticking my head back out. (What did I find? 2016. For cryin’ out loud, world, I hide away for just a few years, and you turn into a dumpster fire? I want you to go sit in the corner and think about what you’ve done while the rest of us clean up this mess.)

…Er, sorry, what was I saying? Right, getting back in touch with the world. I’ve got a few volunteers who are helping me with that, and I’ll gratefully take any assistance I can get, but nothing replaces me getting out there and taking care of it myself. I need to do a lot more connecting with the world than just posting to LiveJournal and Twitter, and that’s going to be a big priority for me over the next several weeks.

If anyone has ideas on what I should do, I’d love to hear them! 😀

-The Gneech

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Dec 07 2016

TelegrAIM

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I pretty much stopped paying attention to new social media platforms a while ago. They were coming and going so fast, there seemed little point in getting invested in any of them because they’d just be gone the next day. So other than a foray into Tumblr, I’ve stuck with Twitter and LiveJournal for some time, and those three covered most of my needs or wants in the social realm. Except for one thing: I missed chat.

I dumped AIM and ICQ ages ago due to security holes and general bugginess, but doing so left a big hole in my connections with friends. Anyone who wasn’t on Twitter pretty much faded into the distance, and even on Twitter the DMs tend to be spotty and slow for a lot of things.

But this past weekend at Midwest Furfest, the phrase I kept hearing over and over again was, “Do you have Telegram?” Everybody and their sister was using it to connect for commissions, to plan meal outings, whatever. So I decided that I’d better look into it. A quick download and a few keystrokes later, I was up and running on both the desktop and my phone.

My first thought? “Wow, it’s like the glory days of ICQ again!” You don’t get the adorable little “Uh-oh!” when a message comes in, you just get a beep, but you’ve got a friends list (based primarily on your phone’s contacts), in descending order based on how recently they’ve posted something (basically a less binary “online/offline” notification) and you can toss in emoji, “stickers” (which are basically GIF images like meme posts), and so on.

The best part, for me, is that I immediately restored contact with people I hadn’t been in touch with for years, or at best had sporadic contact through slower channels. We didn’t necessarily have real deep discussions beyond “Hey! You’re on Telegram! I’m on Telegram! We can chat again, yaaaay!” but it had the warm and happy feeling of coming home.

Given how depressing Twitter has become since the election, I would not be surprised if I spend less time there and more time on Telegram, where I can have more focused conversations with friends and “opt out” of the relentless barrage of bad news when I need a break. Over the years I’ve had amazing and transformative discussions with friends via chat, and maybe that can start happening again. 🙂

-The Gneech

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Nov 19 2016

The Official #NaNoWriMo Punt Post

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As things have developed, both public and private, I have decided that my I need to change my priorities in the upcoming months. To that end, I need to put By Elves Abandoned on the back burner and work on other things. Instead of working on those other things and feeling guilty about not hitting wordcount goals for NaNoWriMo, I’ve decided to simply let that go.

The book still has a lot of potential, and I expect to pick it up again before too long, it’s purely a matter of timing. Maybe my own personal NaNoWriMo will come in February, we’ll see!

Suburban Jungle will keep going, and punting on NaNo will hopefully give me time to fix up lingering issues I’m having with the current storyline and the direction the comic is taking generally. Fortunately, that only takes me a couple of days a week and could be done at night or on the weekends as needed. I am also still working on finding a publisher for Sky Pirates of Calypsitania.

How Not to Suck at Overwatch is also going to go quiet for the foreseeable future. It was a fun project and I enjoyed it (and I’m very grateful to the friends and fans who made it possible), but at least for now I have other things I need to concentrate on.

As for what I am working on, that’s not in a stage where I’m ready to tell the world. But when the time comes, I will! But until then, I’ve got commissions to finish and a comic to draw, so I’d better get to work.

-The Gneech

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Nov 16 2016

Fantasy Novel vs. D&D Campaign

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When I started trying to brainstorm for NaNoWriMo this year, I had nothing to go on. Months of shopping Sky Pirates of Calypsitania around to agents had received mostly chirping crickets, with the occasional “You’re a good writer, but… nah.” On the advice of J.M. Frey, I decided to write a more “mainstream fantasy” novel that would help me get my foot in the door, figuring that once I had a body of work, it would be easier to get people to buy in to other stuff.

But again, what to write? I can craft prose all day, but creating a compelling story is much tougher. Finally, with nothing else to work with, I said, “Fine! I’m taking some of my unplayed RPG characters, tossing them into a scenario, and writing it as a book!”

On the good side, it definitely got me rolling. I have some protagonists and a broad story arc, and that’s all good. However, there is one big problem with this framework, which is: most RPG campaigns, even good ones, tend to be a never-ending string of fights. Whether it’s orcs or stormtroopers, the “filler” of an RPG campaign is generally going to be battles with monsters… which can make for dull reading.

Yes, the blow-by-blow of a tense action scene can be exciting. Bilbo’s encounters with trolls, goblins, spiders and dragon (and later Frodo’s encounters with ringwraiths, orcs, trolls, more orcs, more ringwraiths, more orcs, easterlings on oliphaunts, more orcs, a giant spider, still more orcs, and a giant pit of lava) are iconic. But what really makes a battle interesting is not who slashed what or cleft the other in twain– it’s what changes as a result of the battle.

And that’s where the neverending string of fights in a D&D game fall down as fodder for a novel. As a rule, they don’t change anything, other than to nibble away at resources. In a novel, the “five rooms full of orcs” at the front of the level that lead up to the “boss” at the end would lose readers after the second fight. “We’ve seen this already!” would be the cry of the frustrated reader. “Get on with it!” (And they’d be perfectly right to do so.) The first fight with orcs is interesting, because it’s new, which means it changes things. The fight with the boss at the end is interesting, for the same reason. (And presumably the boss has some kind of plot coupon or other thing to make them worth fighting in the first place on top of that.) The stuff in the middle? Gets mercilessly summarized unless and until it makes an impact.

So this is where my NaNoWriMo project actually hits an uphill climb: I have more or less completed act one, with the hero about to set off on her journey with her new companions. While I have the next big change– the “boss” of the next section so to speak– worked out, I need to figure out interesting and relevant things that will take the character from here to there. In a D&D game, this would be an overland journey with some random encounters, ending in a dungeon complex, easy peasy. For a book? It has to matter, or be cut. And that’s the tough part.

-The Gneech

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