Things learned from watercolouring so far

– Have an idea of the shape you want to do in your head – you can’t wing it when the brush is on the paper and the paper is wet.
– It will come out differently anyway.
– Let go of the illusion of control.
– When you make a mistake, go and do something else, don’t go over it again, you’ll overwork it and completely ruin what might have worked or been fixable later
– Use the biggest brush you can conceivably manage to paint your current topic with. Always. Don’t start painting big areas with tiny brushes.
– Learn to fake detail with big brushes.
– Let go of the illusion of control.
– Premix your colours, unless you really really know what you’re doing or are going for a specific effect. Again, don’t muddle through on the paper, know what you are doing before setting brush to paper.
– Many and unmixed paints are good for bright, cartoonish paintings. When you want to paint realistic, use a limited palette and mix.
– Water is your friend. Running out of water and/or pigment at a crucial point is a catastrophe. Don’t do paint by numbers – wet the entire area of the mass you’re currently working with. Learn to think “mass” instead of “physical area”.
– Differently to acrylics or ink, for good results, good materials help a lot. Even as a beginner.
– Let go of the illusion of control.

NaNoWriMo: Hymn to my muse.

Warning: Contains strong language, Muse abuse.

(Sung to the melody of “My favorite things” from Sound of Music)

Writer.
Please, my dear Muse, could I get inspiration?
I want to write rockets and space exploration,
Asteroids, spaceships, and lasers, and stars,
Or green-skinned aliens from Venus or Mars!

Muse.
Dear writer mine, I will tell you of fairies,
Unicorns, mermaids, eagles in their eyries,
Princes and dragons and castles in clouds:
These are the things that you should write about!

Writer.
Waltz music playing on swirling space stations,
Evil empires, star fleets, federations;
C-Beams that glitter at Tannhauser Gate:
Something like this, my dear Muse, would be great!

Muse.
Would you not rather be writing fan fiction,
Songs to myself with Shakespearean diction,
Do what I say, just let me pull the strings:
I’ll fill your head with most wonderful things!

Writer.
I need place names that are not idiotic,
My bad guys are sweethearts, my heroes neurotic,
My plot’s lost in space (and so is my fleet) —
Help! Please! Dear Muse! I have deadlines to meet!

Muse.
You won’t think of flowers and poems and poodles,
Want to write wordcount, not ditties and doodles?
Oh, I don’t know, that’s not fitting my style;
How about I’ll just shut up for a while?

Writer.
No! Stop! My Muse! Come back here! I still need you!
Without your guidance my words will not read true.
But then, who cares, I just want to get done,
Fuck you, my Muse, I will do it alone.

Both.
Got no plot line, got no write time, I’m just gooo~oing mad
We’ll get all the plotholes out in the next draft, and that won’t be so bad!

Aikido comic

aikidocomic5_3Joker: It’s a cliché to say that aikido/any martial art is meditative, but there is a certain “Aaaah”-effect from being so exhausted your brain just lets go of all those small nagging thoughts that it usually has. Or maybe that’s just me. I don’t know.

Mirar: It’s not just you. Though I try to get past that state when I get onto the mat, so I am ready by the time we sit down.

Library build day 5 – Moving upwards!

Now that the base shelves are done, all that’s left to do is add something to the space above them. What? We weren’t going to let all that space go unused, of course!

All the way to the ceiling.
All the way to the ceiling.

The first item on the menu was to build shelves that could divide up the space in a pleasing way. After some deliberations, we went for a simple step-like pattern that repeated the dimensions of the shelves underneath. (It’s not like we really *need* the space. It looks better and we have some things that we want to show off there. Also, if I have a library I bloody well want to have a library with shelves to the ceiling, because yes!)

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I feel so small… ;_;

As the shelves were that small and light, they didn’t give much problems mounting them up above the normal bookcases. It’s something you have to consider when building with high ceilings – our ladder only just about goes up to the normal cases!

This also means that the tall person among us (*cough*Mirar*cough) had to do all the work and mount the final trim on those shelves. Getting the right length and angle was tricky, but he did an admirable job!

All that was left now was to add the last trimmings, the boards hiding the feet of the cases and some more actual shelves, and all was ready for the books to move in!

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And here we go – one finished library wall, complete with hidden door. Time to unpack all those books and celebrate!


Next up: Moving in, sofas, and a sliding door…

A book! A book!

Mission: Levity, Episode 2 is out!
Mission: Levity, Episode 2 is out!

I apologise for the long silence – with summer times and family visits, finishing projects took priority over blogging about them.

But now we’re back! Just in time to announce the release of joker’s first official publication – Mission: Levity Episode 2!

You can buy it on Amazon or directly from the publisher’s webpage. The printed edition is going to be released in autumn.

So what is this all about? As I said before, laser guns pew pew pew, space dogfights, ships falling from orbit, daring rescue missions and much more!

Our intrepid crew (do people really still say that?) is on the move, eagerly awaiting their first mission. Actually, the thing most eagerly awaited is the payment for their first mission – Captain Cheb has run out of money and was only able to buy protein pudding in bulk for provisions. The crew morale is at an understandable all-time low. To make matters worse, at the next jump point the USE is already lying in wait for them, or so it seems…!

Want to know more? Buy the book! It’s available in German right now, but the more publicity we get, the more likely you are to some time get an English version…

Soon: More library and the finishing of that build project!

Library build day 4 – Missing Vocabulary

Duct tape holds the universe together. And the trim on while the glue sets.
Duct tape holds the universe together. And the trim on while the glue sets.

We’re on the home stretch! Having finished the hidden door and the base shelves, the next step was to add some decoration – namely, to hide the gap that the door needs for opening using black wood trim.

Here, we stumbled onto an interesting problem – we don’t know the actual English word for the wooden bits we are using! Asking some people didn’t bring up a better word than “trim” either – while our friends are all highly intelligent and educated people, none of them is a carpenter. Ah well. “Trim” it is for now.

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We’re going to the next dimension!

We also added a shelf that is going above the windows. Our tomato plants do not agree with curtains that are closer to the window. And since this is Sweden, our north-east window is perfect at allowing the rising sun to shine into the bedroom at 3AM during the midsummer months. So curtains are a necessity. The shelf also received black trim to keep in style with the rest.

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The motor, patent “we’re too lazy to remember to open the curtains ourselves”.

The curtain is of course not held on by anything as ordinary as a common curtain rod – we’re going high tech here as well. Because why not? This is a small motor that will move the curtain along the rail, connected to our home automation – the computer can open and close the curtains for us and we can bask in the feeling of making our automatic minions do our work for us – like the evil overlords that we are! Muhaha!

Here are the shelves in all their black-trimmed glory.

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Next step: We’re moving upwards!

The Brute Squad – Fight scenes (and how to cheat your way through them)

Yes, this is actually my sword.“You seem a decent fellow… I hate to kill you.”
“You seem a decent fellow… I hate to die.”

I was recently asked by an internet acquaintance how to write good, convincing fight scenes without making obvious that the author in fact has no fighting training or experience at all. The answer got a little bit longer than I originally thought, so I offered to write it up as a guest post to share with you.

Fight scenes can be daunting. I often notice that beginning writers either gloss over them or, in an attempt to balance the scales, overdo them and fill the page with overly technical descriptions. Neither is rewarding to write, and eventually, neither of those versions are fun to read.

But, you say, I am a couch potato and my only battle scar is from fighting that stubborn jar of salsa last Superbowl Sunday, whereas my main character has mastered five martial arts and is a superstrong vampire! How could I possibly make a fight convincing?

Well… before we go into left hooks, atemi or überhau, let’s take a step back and think about what we want to achieve with a fight scene to begin with. As with all scenes, why would you have it in the story if it weren’t important in some way? Of course, the obvious part of the fight is to advance the plot. But there is another, just as important part to every fight: the people in it.

Even if you have never fought or held a weapon in your life, you can write about the characters in your fight scene. If you can put yourself into the mind of your characters, if you can think how they would think in the current situation, then you can make their fight convincing without even having to go into the detailed techniques.

Think about the fights in Ender’s Game, and how much there is said about the psychology of the contestants. This, rather than any specific style, informs their actions and the cause of their success or downfall. If you can logically think what your character would do in this specific moment, then you can write a realistic fight even without specific knowledge. The fight will make sense even if you aren’t naming specific styles or describing perfect techniques.

Here are some questions that I use for inspiration:

  • Reason for the fight
    “Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.”
    Why are the characters in this fight? Are they deathly enemies? Are they just some mooks sent to rough up the character? Is it a fight for survival or do the opponents just stand in the way of some goal? How important is the victory on an emotional level for the characters: is it a matter of honour or just a means to an end?
  • Circumstances
    “Have fun storming the castle!”
    What does the character want to achieve with the fight? Do they just want to get it over with and move on? Or is the fight a show for the spectators? A test of proficiency? This will determine how showy the characters act, and how much importance they will give to style over efficiency.
  • Style
    “My way’s not very sportsman-like.”
    Is the contestant the kind of person to fight dirty, fight efficiently, or have a lot of flourishes? Is their style brutal and direct, or refined and stylish? Even within the same martial arts school, personal styles can differ a lot.
  • Expertise
    “You are using Bonetti’s Defense against me, ah?”
    Are they a master of a martial art, or bumbling and untrained, or perhaps only trained by experience and street fighting? Each style gives advantages. Even a beginner can surprise a master.
  • Personality
    “No. To the pain.“
    Do they relish in causing pain, or do they shy away from the possibility of death and/or permanent injury of the opponent? Will they always go by the rules, even if the opponent cheats? Do they enjoy the fight for itself, or would they prefer not to fight if it was not necessary?
  • Strategy
    “But it’s so simple. All I have to do is divine from what I know of you: are you the sort of man who would put the poison into his own goblet or his enemy’s?“
    Do they plan five steps ahead in the chess game or do they react spontaneously? Are they the kind of person to act or to react?

Treating fight scenes as much as characterization devices than as simple action sequences will make the fight rather more interesting to read than a depiction of a flawless martial arts match, no matter how well researched.
Of course, if your character is supposed to be an expert in his art, you might want to read up on at least some names and tactics in that sport. But for your generic, run of the mill action sequence – learn to think like your character would think “fight” and you’re all set!

*All quotes are from The Princess Bride by William Goldman.


Mission: Levity Nr. 1 by Bettina PetrikMy first science fiction book, Mission: Levity #2: Gute Leute, Schlechte Zeiten is due to be published on the German market in August 2015. Check out the series pilot here!

This article first appeared as a guest post on Crackin’ the WIP.

Mini project: Bike helmet

Of course it’s sensible to wear a helmet when biking. So that means that I am wearing one. But I couldn’t stay out of at least modding the one I got a little bit. Because who wants a normal bike helmet? Well, okay, if it fits you, that’s fine. I had an idea of what I wanted instead. And when the joker has an Idea, take cover.

masking masking
Ah, airbrushes. A breeze to paint with, several hours of painstaking masking tape application not included.

Which doesn’t mean it would be easy. I, being a very casual “too lazy to take the bus”-biker would probably just have grabbed a paintbrush and some water-based acrylics (bike helmets are generally made out of foamy plastics that don’t like solvents in the least). But nooo. That would have been too easy. A bit of research showed concerns over uneven paint layers compromising the helmet, and Mirar wasn’t happy with that. So off to the internet it was, to order a beginners’ level airbrush. Which I had wanted to try out for ages anyway, so there we go.

First, I masked off all the exposed (=non pre-painted) parts of the helmet and the parts I didn’t want to paint with masking tape. This took longer than expected. And lots of swearing. But I got it done eventually, and I could go on to testing my airbrush (important!) and then, finally, painting.

Getting there
Getting there…

Airbrushing is fun! I started by trying it out on a yoghurt bucket, which was a Good Thing, because you do not want to get your first spattery experiments onto the Thing You Really Care About Painting Nicely. (From experience with other media.) But with a bit of tweaking, even the cheapish airbrush managed to get a nice and even flow. And as opposed to spray cans, they aren’t basically firehoses, so once you get them tuned in you can work nice and detailed and put thin layers of paint exactly where you want it (well, almost… if you get the hang of it… and have a good nozzle… but you get my drift).

Red!
The Reddening has happened.

One thing I definitely learned was this: When working with bright colours, a light base colour definitely would have helped. Next time I’ll do a foundation of white before I start with the red. That would have saved me some layers of paint, definitely. I’m not saying it would be cheaper (I took care to order a paint specifically recommended for painting on this kind of material) but as you can see on the photo, the masking tape is already a LOT redder than the helmet seems to be! So, next time, foundation.

Eventually I did manage to get the red to a level I liked though. After thorough drying overnight I dared to make a scratch test in a non-sensitive area (looked fine, though I might go over with a finish later on) and remove the masking tape.

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Looking good! Now the joker can go out and ride in style, without danger of being mistaken for a normal person. 😀 (Also, the helmet has a blinkenlight built in. How cool is that?!)

All in all, not a bad yield for a first-time mini project.

Library build day 3

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Still life with building tools.

The library is starting to look like something!

After the big door build, the two bookcases are put into place and done. But we are far from done. After all, two bookcases do not a library make.

As usual unless we’re talking about Billy, Ikea has stopped making these cases (we got them on final sale when we first bought them, actually) and the other two units we have are wider and have already been positioned on the opposite side of the room. But that’s not going to stop us!

We will just have to make our own book cases.

IMG_20150625_140817But first, a bit of finishing work: The small shelf that we built nearest the left wall needed to be finished, sanded, painted with clear lacquer, sanded again and installed in its final place. There will be a curtain going in front of the windowsill (so as to disturb our plants as little as possible), so we made a little nook for it to be hidden away when not in use. The middle board of this shelf  is clipping slightly with the windowsill, so that also had to be taken into account. It is resting on the windowsill now.

That corner done, the frame of the bookshelf is taking shape around the wall. Extra boards are added both for stability and to add to the final shape of the design. And then we have something that suddenly looks a lot like a wall of bookshelves!

IMG_20150626_125828   IMG_20150626_195958IMG_20150626_195028   IMG_20150626_202107

Amazing. Well, I’m amazed. I love it when something suddenly starts to take shape. Before, the corner of the room was a piece of space that you previously didn’t even know was there. Now it is framed and pulled into existence. It is as if we have gained that space now, not just put something in it!

And there is yet more to come…

Mission: Levity takes flight!

Mission: Levity Band 1 It should not come as a surprise to anyone that both of us are huge science fiction nerds. (Gasp.) So it should be even less of a surprise that when I was offered to join a team of authors writing on a new German science fiction serial, I grabbed it with both hands.

Mission: Levity has all the things I like in a good space opera: Laser beams, spaceship chases, mysterious telepaths, evil sprawling organizations, frigging laser beams, space pirates, blue-skinned space babes competent spaceship architects, technobabble, alien civilizations, evil ex-girlfriends, …did I mention FRIGGING LASER BEAMS? 😀

Well… I was sold. With our crack team of experienced writers, we immediately set to worldbuilding and editing, and today we are proud to present the first volume of Mission: Levity!

Captain Cheb Fantas would be an exemplary member of the United Security Enforcement – if he could keep his mouth shut. Since he can’t, he is soon stripped of his rank. But that is only the start of his worries. Soon, they will be joined by assassination attempts, a mysterious mission, his even more mysterious alien employer, a motley crew of an even odder ship, his angry ex-girlfriend, and the fact that nobody on this side of the galaxy sells crackers to his taste.

Sounds interesting? Mission: Levity Nr. 1 by Bettina Petrik is published today as E-book. The Paperback print will be available in October. The publication language is German. (Note: If your Kindle is registered somewhere else than Germany, you can order the epub directly on the publisher’s homepage http://www.ifub-verlag.de )

My own book, Mission: Levity #2: Gute Leute, Schlechte Zeiten, will be published in electronic format in August and as a paperback print in November. Link will be added when it is available!