Things That Make Me Smile No. 231: A Short, Animated Gif

Though it took an extra week, I put together a rough story in pictures. I’d forgotten how much words, not pictures, are my medium. I can create a visually stunning image, but telling a full story just using pictures is quite difficult. My skill with a pen/pencil has grown rusty, and I never managed the skill level I aspired to. As such, break between what I wanted to do and was capable of doing proved wider than I’d hoped.

Still, I undertook this for the challenge, and challenge it was. There’s a lot I attempted but failed because my drawing skills weren’t there. I had to add a few beats to the story, too, so it could flow more smoothly. All in all, the final story required 17 images, not including the title page or closing words. Between the two, I think I’ve more than completed the October challenge, though not as I intended.

A quick technical note before the show: I used my laptop folded in tablet mode and the digital active pen it came with for the majority of the drawing. I drew everything in GIMP 2.10. A few of the images required a touch up with my finger and the mouse, but it’s a start. This has been a hard path, but I think I’m becoming familiar, if not proficient, with my drawing tools. It will take much longer for my skills to improve, though.

Note: Because some people had trouble with getting it to go off again, I have put this story on a continuous loop. Just keep an eye out for “The End” at the top of the page, and the next one is the title. Enjoy.

P.S. For the curious, here is my “outline.” Can you see where I incorporated the various elements?

Story: Girl with balloon walking along. Girl sees dog. Girl stops to pet dog. Her balloon floats away. She is upset. Dog leaves. She’s sad. Dog comes back with balloon. Girl happy and leaves with dog.

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5 Interesting Links for 10-16-2020

Note: Videos may auto start with sound so be prepared.

Construction (Housing)

This is a fascinating site geared for Seattle, Washington, but with information available to all. It provides different blueprints from the designers for accessory dwelling units added to an existing property. The guide might not cover steps and regulations for areas outside of Seattle, but the designs provide a variety of approaches to small footprint (rather than tiny) efficient dwellings.

Innovation (Medical Technology)

While a long article, I found this history on the development of an innovative heart replacement fascinating. This makes me wonder whether removing the traditional pulse will lead to the requirement for Wi-Fi SOS signals in coffins much like the bells above graves, though. It takes a while for news to spread.

Indigenous (Music)

This group of six indigenous bands might not be what comes to mind when you think of the category. They fall in the metal genre, both heavy and death metal even. The combination of indigenous instruments and visual storytelling in the videos is wonderful. (Via Author Cliff Winnig)

Formatting (Publishing)

The overall structure of a published book, whether non-fiction or fiction, is somewhat standard. There are fixed key elements like the copyright page along with a handful of optional ones in the front matter and as many expected at the end of a work. This article has been updated to reflect changes in convention, driven largely by “Look Inside” features, that push some traditional front matter pages to the end. It serves as a good review for those designing a book or a solid introduction to those just starting out.

Sharks (Research)

This article describes an old great white shark captured for research and released back into the ocean. The respect in the expedition leader’s voice is audible while you see the details he mentions in the included video.

An Innocent Secret (Book 3 of Uncommon Lords and Ladies)
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Black Sun by Rebecca Roanhorse

Between Earth and Sky, Book 1

Black Sun by Rebecca Roanhorse (Between Earth and Sky, Book 1)

The book is epic in scope with a broad cast and a few incidental points of view (POV). The cast includes everything from a world governing body that has lost its relevance, the vessel for a reborn god, and a foul-mouthed captain from a people of myth. I could have become lost in all the names and different circumstances, but the characters are distinct and the characterization rich. Even with chapters between mentions, it took little to bring me back to knowing who held the POV.

Using multiple POVs in the same group of characters helped with this by reducing the stretch of time without a mention, and through developing an internal and external understanding of the people key to the story. These characters are far from cutouts or straight forward. Nor have their lives left them unscarred physically or psychologically. They are as likely to find their contradictions puzzling as the reader…or maybe more so because we know situations are rarely simple.

The same is true of the cultures and places. This is not a single nation with a single culture. Nor are the various cultures united under a single worship or practice. Instead, we have a rocky agreement based on an ancient treaty to hold all these cultures equal beneath the guidance of the Sun Priests. The world is a vivid mix of experience and myth. We learn through the eyes of sailors, priests, and fanatics among others, though that turn of phrase is too limiting as one character is blind.

The conflicts are against society and history as much as individuals. Betrayal and sabotage are often grounded in birthplace or events two generations before. Cruel or kind people exist, but most are a blend of these states, showing position and history fail to produce a perfect or corrupt person consistently. This is not a book for those seeking simple answers or splits between good and evil. Both violence and rough language exist on the page, along with an intimate scene, but these elements reveal the characters and their philosophies in important ways.

The book throws you into the thick stew of a fantasy world drawn from pre-conquered indigenous cultures in what we now call the Americas. People and cultures connect through areas of influence or control, and through the trade moving between the locations by canoes, barges, and presumably, over land. The author doesn’t hold to what we have discovered of the histories, though. She uses them as a starting point to create a world of her own populated by old and new gods; fantastical beasts large enough to bear a human or two whether crow, eagle, flying serpent, or water bug; and myths that might have more truth to them than anyone in the story knew.

Each chapter begins with an excerpt from a historical or religious text belonging to this world and offering the reader insights. These headers also provide a date and timeframe that’s crucial to tracking the story. The novel is not chronological, or even set in a current time with flashbacks to a previous one. Instead, it combines flashbacks, flash forwards, and time moving up to meet the future we have seen.

Normally, this lack of chronological storytelling would have bugged me, but it’s more a story outside of the strict limitations of time than not. I was grateful to realize the header held the necessary grounding, however. The book’s epic not only in scope but in timeframe. It covers the lifetime of gods along with that of humans, and yet everything works and makes sense in context.

The novel has fascinating cultural beats, something I enjoy, yet they can sometimes slow the story down. I noticed a few slower spots in the beginning as we’re getting to know the people and places, but the story moved quickly overall. Switching between the various characters helped this. The captain offered a good contrast to the Sun Priest, for example, until that part of the tale got rolling. By the end, I couldn’t say which of them I preferred.

Black Sun speaks to my craving for sociological speculative fiction. It draws on North, South, and Central American ancient indigenous societies whose sophistication is often ignored whether the Polynesian navigational skills or the buildings found in Inca or Aztec ruins. Then add in complex characters who come to life in their contradictions. Yes, there are dark moments, but I don’t think that’s the heart of this narrative. There’s a lot of meat on these bones, and I look forward to the next book in the series.

P.S. I received this Advanced Reader Copy from the publisher through NetGalley in return for an honest review.

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Things That Make Me Smile No. 230: Music from Gambia

Sona Jobarteh, live on tour, sings a song named for her homeland of Gambia. The music is powerful and her instrument, the Kora, is new to me. Enjoy.

If you want to learn more about Jobarteh, here is her website:

Note: Life happened, and my animation from the creativity challenge isn’t ready. I’ll post it next week instead.

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5 Interesting Links for 10-09-2020

Note: Videos may auto start with sound so be prepared.

Society (Architecture)

Whether you’re a fan of open plan homes or prefer doors and walls, this article provides a fascinating exploration of the historical, class, and societal factors driving the removal of walls between living spaces over time. The need to reassess is critical as we move toward energy efficiency, something harder in most climates with the open floor plan. I wish the article took climate into consideration, because the style encouraging air flow rather than air conditioning is appropriate in some places, but a single article can only cover so much.

Turtles (Conservation)

An innovative tracker allows scientists to learn the behavior not of turtles but of egg poachers. This information could lead to better targeting of education and conservation efforts to protect endangered turtles.

Tips (Health)

Some of these tips assume a flexibility in available time and physical ability not everyone has, but they offer a good starting point for setting up your own routine to reduce the risk of catching viruses.

Technique (Website)

Following on my animated GIF link last week, here is one with specific instructions for transforming an animated GIF into a light-weight video using GIMP. I used these steps to create my example in the creativity challenge.

Characters (Writing)

Here are a few methods for approaching characters who are not like you. Even if character building in advance doesn’t work for you, as it doesn’t for me, many of these techniques could be applied later. They can help make sure your characters are dynamic and real instead of stereotypical or flat.

Threats (The Steamship Chronicles, Book 2)
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