Reality Skimming

Reality Skimming

Reality Skimming promotes optimistic SF -- stories that inspire us to fight the good fight for another day. Committment to larger projects, the writer's sense of mission, joy of reading, the creative campfire of the SF community and the love of deserving protagonists are celebrated. We believe in heroes and striving to be what we believe in. It is also a news hub for content related to the Okal Rel Saga written by Lynda Williams.

27Dec/13Off

Diff the Dragon – Part Twenty One: The Lionesses Meet Again

Diff the Dragon by Angela Lott, illustrations by Richard Bartrop. An Okal Rel Universe Legacy Novella featuring the young Alivda

Angela Lott is the middle child of Lynda’s three daughters. She did two years of Business schooling at the College of New Caledonia and is now working as a receptionist at her local FYiDoctors. In her spare time she enjoys writing, video blogging, reading and watching very nerdy TV shows.

Part 21

The space station they were on wasn’t very big, but that wasn’t a big deal since Amel didn’t like crowds anyway. Or at least crowds that knew who he was.

“Ann!” Amel said when he saw her sitting in the bar they had agreed upon days earlier.

“Amel,” Ann said with relief, but when she saw Alivda the happy look slid off her face.

“You brought her again?” Ann said when Amel had come over to her table.

“Of course,” Amel said. “So how have you been? Did you get your work finished?”

“Work?” Ann asked.

“The work you had to do the last time I saw you,” Amel said.

“Oh, that work,” Ann said. “Yeah, all done.”

“Great!” Amel smiled.

Ann looked resigned. She was starting to think she would never have another private moment with Amel again.

A normal child would have pulled at their parent’s clothes or just spoken up when they wanted attention, but baby dragons jump onto their parent’s shoulders.

“Oh,” Amel said as Alivda sat on his shoulders with her arms wrapped around his neck.

“Diff,” Amel said stiffly, “can’t breathe.”

“Oh!” Alivda said. “Sorry.” And she loosened her grip.

“So…” Ann said.

“Yeah.” Amel smiled.

“Drinks?”

The Lionesses Meet Again

25Dec/13Off

Interview with Jeff Doten

Jeff Doten

Jeff has been drawing, painting and sculpting things since he arrived on the planet. So far he has been unable to stop. He studied animation and illustration at the Alberta College of Art and Design as well as zoology at Mount Royal University. A few projects include: design work for Angelic Pictures ‘Pirates of Venus’ movie, life sized horses carved from foam for Spruce Meadows, murals for a ‘Lord of the Rings’ themed pub and lots of dinosaurs for the Royal Tyrrell Museum. He is the creator of the illustrated ‘sword and planet’ collection ‘Strange Worlds’ and owner of Quick Covers book art. He also continues to buy new copies of books that he loves if they have a new cover that he likes. www.jeffdoten.com www.quick-covers.com www.strangeworldsanthology.com

Interview by Sarah Trick

Can you tell us about how you came to do the illustrations for Shepherds of Sparrows?

Last summer I was photographing some old artwork when I came across the work I had done for ‘Throne Price’, which I think was the first book written in the series. The book was shelved at the time (I’m guessing for a rewrite) but I had tons of artwork. I hadn’t been working on just a single image; I had multiple cover concepts, environments, characters and costume ideas. The sketches filled my studio floor. I had met Lynda a few times at conventions, so I showed her the artwork on Facebook. She was pretty enthusiastic about it and showed some of the work on the Facebook site. So I have a sort of history with the series already.

How about the concept behind each individual illustration? Did you choose which scenes to illustrate and if so, which ones spoke to you?

Often I will read a book and come up with ideas of my own if the client doesn’t have something in mind. Hal sent me a list of scenes that they wanted illustrated, which was really helpful as I was just reading the book at the time. In terms of the scenes speaking to me, I think his choices were pretty bang on. I produced quite a few takes on my first image, the Spaceport, as I was getting a handle on the overall look that I was going for and was acceptable to Hal and Lynda. The next one was just about how to illustrate the scene with a large number of characters. Too far away and it’s a mob and farmhouse, too tight in and I’m painting fifty brawling people in the kitchen. The drama was there but I had to find a way to visually present it and hopefully in an interesting way.

When you are illustrating a long project like this, how do you connect with the author's characters and the story?

The process of putting pencil to paper and starting to design what things and people look like adds more layers to the world than I usually get on my first read. Once drawing, I have to pay attention to things like ‘what does a chair look like?’ or how a character is dressed even if they are just in the kitchen baking. It always has to reflect their culture, time and place. I look for specifics from the text as well as basing it on what seems reasonable and logical. Once I’m drawing them, the characters open up for me through their costume and body language. It can be quite an enriching experience of the text for me, and I view it as a collaborative effort between myself and the writer even if they don’t know it. Doing several pieces makes it more like film production art than when I just do the cover.

You have a business called Quick Covers, where you design covers for indie authors. How did that come about? What are the challenges of designing covers so quickly?

Quick Covers came about while I was working on my own project, an illustrated collection of Sword and Planet stories called “Strange Worlds Anthology”. I was working with a large group of writers and became aware of how many people were printing their own books. Usually their covers were some photo snagged off the web and photoshopped. This can work for mundane subjects, but for science-fiction or fantasy titles it usually isn’t enough. I hung around on some forums for a while and gained an idea of what a realistic budget for self-publishers might be.

What I like about the short turnaround is that it allows me to focus and ‘just do it’. It makes me much more decisive and sometimes I feel like these are my best work.

Quite honestly I’ve had very few challenges with these commissions. I get very little fussing or changes. I did have one where I was asking specifics about the appearance of a creature because the writer didn’t really know to the degree that I needed to illustrate it. So I influenced him on that in the long run.

What are some future projects you have coming up?

I don’t usually know future Quick Cover projects, but I am locked into a couple long term series which I’m not complaining about. Other than that there is more Reality Skimming, perhaps a second Strange Worlds Anthology collection and I’m presently rewriting a heavily illustrated novel of my own.

And finally: at your job for the Royal Tyrrell Museum, you dress up as a dinosaur once a week. Is this awesome, or totally awesome?

I was working as an illustrator for the museum, but I was hired by the education department which included weekly theatrical performances. I also played paleontologist Charles Sternberg for a few brief lines. After Charles, I would race into the back and put on a furry dinosaur costume. That role involved a lot of dancing and hopping around, so I just wore shorts under that costume. The museum is in the Badlands and it was hot even with air-conditioning. This led to a birthday striptease in the cafeteria for one of the cashiers one time, but maybe I shouldn’t bring that up...

20Dec/13Off

Diff the Dragon – Part Twenty: Bad Cargo

Diff the Dragon by Angela Lott, illustrations by Richard Bartrop. An Okal Rel Universe Legacy Novella featuring the young Alivda

Angela Lott is the middle child of Lynda’s three daughters. She did two years of Business schooling at the College of New Caledonia and is now working as a receptionist at her local FYiDoctors. In her spare time she enjoys writing, video blogging, reading and watching very nerdy TV shows.

Part 20

After what Amel considered to be a disastrous visit with Perry he decided to go visit Ann again. This time he had made sure to ask Ayrium’s permission so there wasn’t going to be a problem. Or so he thought.

“Flying is fun!” Alivda said as Amel flew her to his meeting with Ann. Instead of going to Rire to visit Ann, Ann had agreed to see him on the Gelack side of the jump.

“I think so too,” Amel said. “But you are already fighting me for control.”

“I am?” Alivda asked.

“Yes, you are.” Amel smiled. “One day I will teach you to fly.”

“You will!” Alivda said happily.

“Either that or I stop flying with you,” Amel said; Alivda looked sad at the idea of staying behind, “’cause if you can fight me this much now I don’t want to know what bad cargo you will make once you’re older.”

Diff smiled widely and continued to watch every move Amel made.

When they docked Amel decided he needed to talk to Alivda before they met Ann.

“Now, Diff,” Amel said. “You remember Ann, right?”

Alivda nodded.

“Last time,” Amel continued, “you kicked Ann?”

Alivda nodded again.

“I don’t want any more of that this time, okay?”

Nod.

“Good,” Amel said, and they went to find Ann.

Bad Cargo

13Dec/13Off

Diff the Dragon – Part Nineteen: Dragon Taming

Diff the Dragon by Angela Lott, illustrations by Richard Bartrop. An Okal Rel Universe Legacy Novella featuring the young Alivda

Angela Lott is the middle child of Lynda’s three daughters. She did two years of Business schooling at the College of New Caledonia and is now working as a receptionist at her local FYiDoctors. In her spare time she enjoys writing, video blogging, reading and watching very nerdy TV shows.

Part 19

Amel didn’t arrive for another five days—Ev’rel didn't like to share—and Perry was not impressed.

“Why are you late?” were the first words out of Perry’s mouth when Amel walked in.

“And hello to you too,” Amel said, and kissed her. “How was the visit?”

“Do you really need to ask?” Perry said, pointing to the state of her room.

Not only had Perry not been able to put the bookshelf back together, but what was left of the books were still there and the light fixture was no longer on the ceiling.

Amel chuckled. “I guess not. Where is Diff?”

“Over here,” Perry said.

Amel followed Perry to a corner and found for the second time he was horrified by what Perry had done to his little Diff.

“You put her on a leash!” Amel said.

“Yes,” Perry said with no shame.

Little Diff didn’t seem as upset by it as Amel was. She was sleeping with the harness still on and tied to a hook in the corner. There were marks on the leash were Alivda had tried to chew herself free.

Amel didn’t notice these, however, since he went straight to the wall and untied the leash. He went to take the harness off when Perry stopped him.

“Never wake a sleeping dragon,” Perry said.

Never wake a sleeping dragon

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