My Bliss

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I get wanting to be married once, but I don’t understand how anyone could do it 25 times.

Originally, I thought this would be the hardest story to adapt to comic format. Even though it’s a very short flash fiction–that’s literally the complete text in the comic–it leans toward what I would call “experimental” and doesn’t lend itself to summary. Like, what would the yellow box say? “A woman claims to have married a variety of inanimate objects and non-human animals”? That’s not a story.

Admittedly, when I first read the book, it was my least favorite piece. I thought it was too precious, too blithe. Drawing this comic helped me see it in a different perspective, though. The narrator is much like many other characters in Bonnie Jo’s books: clueless about relationships. Once my brain delved into the layers of the story, the way to adapt it seemed obvious.

My first stylistic idea was to use the full text as a background and draw everything on top of the words, but that makes it even more experimental. If you can’t figure out what’s going on with the entire story, you’re not going to get much out of the entire story with half of it covered up. But as I started writing out the actual words, the idea of putting all the pieces, words and images, together with only one sentence of commentary from me seemed like the way to go.

It’s entirely possible that I have it wrong, and this is not what the author intended.

Then again, I know people like this. The next thing is always the thing. Whatever catches their eye, that’s the thing that’s going to save them. And they drop what they have and run after something new. A lover, a job, a hobby, a car. It’s not really the lover, job, hobby, car that they’re chasing. The reward is hope, because it’s easier to maintain hope about something new and totally unknown than it is to focus on all the problems and obstacles in your current situation.

There are always obstacles, though.

My Dog Roscoe

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For once, I take no credit for the messed up things that happen in this comic.

At long last, the wait is over. Here is the first Bonnie Jo Campbell Mothers, Tell Your Daughters comic.

For those coming in late, after I drew my comic about Bonnie Jo’s mother, some of her legions of admiring fans said they wanted to see her entire most recent book made into a series of comics in that style–6 panels summarizing an entire story–and Bonnie Jo said she would like to see that, too. And part of me was like: who am I to say no to this opportunity? And part of me was like: who am I to say yes to this opportunity?

It was a daunting task. You can’t say much in 6 panels, and Bonnie Jo’s work is so complex and nuanced, both in its use of language and its understanding of human nature. And the thing is, I absolutely knew that I had the ability to do it. If not me, who? But I also doubted my ability. I kicked around ideas. I pondered and perseverated. I realized that I didn’t own a corrected copy of the book, just the ARC, which Bonnie Jo had explicitly told reviewers never, ever to cite, and also to burn, which you know I didn’t do. But I did request the complete manuscript, which she kindly sent.

Then, overwhelmed, I failed to decide where to begin. Originally I thought it should be the eponymous “Mothers, Tell Your Daughters,” which, in some ways, I think is the most powerful story in the book, but it’s also 20 pages long, and my brain wasn’t prepared to wrap around that yet. Then I thought I should start at the beginning, but it happens that I have a particular relationship with the first story in the book, dating back to more than a decade before the book was published, and, in keeping with the original comic, I knew that if I did that one, I would have to tell my story about the story, rather than the story itself. And that didn’t seem the way to begin either. If anything, that comic would come at the end of the project.

“My Dog Roscoe,” like most of Bonnie Jo’s work, and also like Bonnie Jo herself, has this sort of electric undercurrent of humor. The concept is ridiculous. You want to shake this character and explain to her what’s actually going on, but you can’t, and to the character, the scenario is life and death serious. That’s another thing I love about Bonnie Jo’s work. She writes about people who either have the worst luck or make the worst decisions or were just born into the worst circumstances (or some combination of all 3), but there’s still something funny about their misfortune. There’s this story in American Salvage where this guy is having an increasingly terrible night (mostly because he makes terrible decisions, because, like the woman in “My Dog Roscoe,” he’s missing some key information about himself) and he literally douses himself in gasoline and sets himself on fire by accident. And it’s terrible. He’s badly burned. But you’re also still laughing a little bit.

Comically tragic.

Maybe that’s just me. Maybe I’m a terrible person. Maybe nobody else thought it was funny when that dude accidentally set himself on fire because he didn’t understand women or the rules of safety at the pump.

Then again, if it’s just me, then why does this work so well as a comic?

Also today, I was thrilled to note that my work was used (with attribution and backlinks) in a post about Venezuelan idiom on a language blog. It’s an Australian website. I think the Australian idiom would be “chuffed.” I am chuffed to see my work travel and see the world.

 

Crystal Perfect Mandala

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Every once in a while I locate an element of balance.

Sunday I attended a performance of Klezmerkaba, Tucson’s premiere Klezmer band. I think it’s probably Tucson’s only Klezmer band, but I am not the band’s publicist. The Man, however, is the band’s tuba player, meaning I have heard their set list maybe once or twice or ten times before. There was also a food festival and a fundraiser and some other stuff going on around the concert, but I was reading this Roger Zelazny novel that I’ve been trying to finish all month. Strangers kept asking me how I could read with so much noise. Well, much more easily than I can with all these questions, that’s for sure.

So this guy sits down next to me and says, “It must be a very good book.”

Turns out he’s the rabbi of the shul where the band is performing. We talked about science fiction and he pulled out his phone and copied down the name of the book. He told me about going to Phoenix Comicon. He said he got his picture taken with Gene Simmons. Cool rabbi, I guess.

Then I finished the book, so I took out my computer to do some work, and an older lady asked me if I was a writer. Yes, I tell her. So then she asks me if I know this much more successful Tucson author who is also Jewish, and actually, yes, I do. She’s one of the SFWA writers in my little writing group. The older lady knows her from a refugee aid organization where they both volunteered. Cool older lady, I guess. Cool in a different way from the KISS-loving rabbi. But cool.

I totally forgot that Gene Simmons is Jewish.

Eventually, I got some work done. I have deadlines, which helps.

Just Because We’re Inhuman Doesn’t Mean We Have to Be Inhumane

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Technically speaking, knight errant must be free-range by definition. 

Back when I was single, after the invention of the internet, but before newspapers seemed completely obsolete, I placed a personal ad in the local alternative rag, which included an anonymous voice mailbox where my suitors might woo me by recording spoken word messages, to be retrieved at my leisure. I ended up dating the glibbest of these guys for a year, and still talk to him occasionally, but most of the wooers failed to wow me with their woo. One of them failed really spectacularly.

His message began by saying that he was a vegetarian, which was actually fine with me. At the time, I was a vegetarian, too. But this guy was very passionate about his vegetarianism, to the point that his entire message was about how important it was to him that he never find himself in the vicinity of meat, and how disgusting meat was, and how he could never date someone who ate meat because the smell of it, the idea of it upon his lover’s lips, was overwhelmingly vile. He spent so long complaining about his distaste for meat and meat-eaters that the voice message cut him off in the middle of the sentence. Undeterred, he called back and continued his tirade for several minutes more.

Needless to say, he did not get the callback.

As to this comic, I just keep thinking of Temple Grandin saying, “Nature is cruel, but we don’t have to be.”

If I felt better I would have taken the shading further (like, but making the tower look cylindrical instead of 2-dimensional) but you can see I tried. I really tried.

 

Stung

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I guess you’d call this creative non-fiction, but it would have been more creative if I had used the actual Anglo-Saxon expletives that were called upon in the situation instead of the family-friendly grawlixes.

I didn’t write a comic last night because chronic pain prevented me from feeling or expressing humor. I figured I would have better luck today, but as it worked out, chronic pain is still preventing me from feeling or expressing humor. So here’s a sad slice of life instead.

Since the artwork is so simple, I gave shading another try, and it seems to have worked out nicely in the first 2 panels. However, that technique doesn’t appear to translate to the up-close view of panel 4, which, frankly, is a bit of a failure. I’m not sure it even looks like a leg, let along a leg with a giant bee sting on it. I hope the inclusion of more grawlixes expresses the pain, at least. It’s supposed to be a picture of a leg, with a giant, swollen bee sting below the knee. Since I work from photos half the time, it’s perplexing to me when a finished drawing doesn’t resemble anything. I mean, what’s up with my toes in panel 2? Whatever, I’m done. Maybe I’ll have better luck tonight. Who knows? In addition to the usual suspects, and this gigantic bee sting, I also created the world’s largest blisters on both my heel from wearing Doc Martens without socks.

It’s a hard knock life.

Superkids

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No adults were irrevocably scarred in the making of this webcomic.

Pop Quiz!

You are in your house. An adult is in the kitchen, cooking dinner. There are 3 burners lit on the stove, which is 5 steps away, in various directions, from the 3 separate counters where the ingredients have been prepared and the utensils are stored. You feel the need to wash your hands for a full 60 seconds, for the 4th time in 2 hours. Do you use:

A) The bathroom sink

B) The sink in the perfectly functional 2nd bathroom that you decided 7 years ago was creepy even though there’s absolutely nothing wrong with it, but you still refuse to you use it and have only ever set foot in its vicinity under extreme duress

C) The kitchen sink where the adult is attempting to drain a boiling pasta pot into a colander

If you answered C, congratulations! You may possess one of the myriad superpowers of childhood. You likely have the ability to look directly at a person who is holding a knife in one hand, a spatula in the other, and stirring a pot over a gas flame while walking back and forth between multiple points in the kitchen, and decide that that very best place for you to observe the action is the mathematical center of the room. You may even develop the extreme power of not having any idea that your actions are inconvenient or dangerous, despite having been told as much repeatedly over the entire span of your conscious life, including 3 times in the previous 3 minutes.

Ha ha. I exaggerate. But aren’t they so adorable when they’re asleep?

Cooperation

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Anything besides time-sensitive tasks on which my future depends.

Yeah, my focus sucks lately. What can you do? I don’t tolerate caffeine or other stimulants at all, so I’m very much at the whim of my container. My poor, badly engineered, increasingly dysfunctional container, with its many worn-out parts. At least we’re all on good speaking terms. They’re not afraid to let me know when they’re unhappy. But according to the Facebook discussion from which I adapted this comic, everyone has these problems. Being easily distracted is universal.

Then again, the not easily distracted among us probably aren’t on Facebook.

This comic took forever because the Wacom tablet is getting wonky again. The power cable is touchy, and the pen keeps getting glitchy, and tonight something froze the entire keyboard and I had to do a hard reboot and lost some part of my work. How fortunate that I remembered to save as I was going along tonight. Sometimes I don’t. But in fact, it was the cable repeatedly disconnecting and the pen constantly increasing its sensitivity to the point of uselessness that reminded me to save.