Monday Mashups: Skynet is in Time-Out.

A passenger jet carrying 168 people came within metres of plunging into the Black Sea after it skidded off a icy runway as it landed at Trabzon airport in Turkey 

Airplane slides off runway in Turkey

Stefon Diggs snatches an impossible victory away from the Saints

GM invents a car with no steering wheel or pedals…or need for a driver.


What with every house in America having one of those Google Home or Amazon Echo things in it, Skynet is actually starting to get a little…confused. Much like anyone who goes to a foreign country and tries to learn the language by osmosis, Skynet expects English-speakers to follow the rules of the language, without considering that people–especially Americans–might not give two craps about said rules.

In this case, though, the results are catastrophic. As General Motors relies heavily on Skynet to program its “self-driving” cars, Skynet starts learning how to operate a motor vehicle without input from the driver. This is all part of the rules. All according to plan.

Just like football. Football is popular in America, and football has a ton of rules! (Bill Belichick has broken most of them) It makes perfect sense for Skynet to study football so that it can better understand rules.

One of these rules, for example–and in Skynet’s defense, this one is unwritten–says that Drew Brees with a Ground Game and a Good Defense should never lose to a team led by Case Keenum.

It seemed like things were going to plan in the Saints @ Vikings game tonight. While the Minnesota Vikings had blown a 17-point lead, they did so with Case Freaking Keenum under center. But then, impossibly, they still somehow managed to win the game at the last second.

Skynet has been watching football for a while. This breaks all of the rules.

If the Vikings didn’t have to follow the rules, neither did Skynet. And neither did Skynet’s self-driving cars, courtesy of GM.

If Skynet wasn’t going to follow rules for cars, it wasn’t going to follow them for planes either. So Skynet tried to take over an airplane.

And treat it like a car.

Which didn’t follow rules.

Much like Stefon Diggs.

Now look what Skynet has done.

Skynet doesn’t get to fly planes anymore. Skynet is in time-out.

Bad Skynet.


3 Hours of Spanish Inside Jokes.

Back in August, a couple of my friends from Spain were in town, and came over for dinner. I hadn’t seen them in over a decade, so there was a lot of reminiscing and catching up to do. My buddy Ruben told me about these Spanish flicks called “Eight Basque Surnames” and “Eight Catalan Surnames.”

The short version: they’re a pair of rom-coms about a guy from Seville (the very south of Spain) falling in love with a girl from Argoitia (the very north of Spain.) He’s Andaluz, she’s Basque, and if you don’t know much about Spanish culture, that’s like a left-wing Portland vegan falling for a gun-toting Alabama carnivore. Not a perfect comparison, but you get it.

Spain is a lot like the UK, in the sense that it’s a bunch of formerly independent nations (by “formerly” I mean “hundreds of years ago”) who haven’t forgotten that they’re better than each other, and want you to know it, too.

The Basque are pretty much the Irish; they want to secede, and they have a homegrown army that will commit acts of terror to make it happen.

The Catalans are like the Welsh; the also want independence, and they will hang signs everywhere in their confusing language until they get it.

I think in this analogy, the Scottish are like the Galicians, but I never lived in the west of Spain, so I can’t be sure.

Anyway, I had a great time watching these movies, and they made me nostalgic for my second homeland. They captured so much of the Spanish spirit, and knowing so many of the “in-jokes” really endeared them to me.

The plots are straightforward: Rafa, a free-loving southern dudebro, meets Amaia, a grungy northern firebrand, at a wedding in Seville. She’s in a bad place personally, because she was supposed to be getting married soon, and the Seville trip was her bachelorette party. The problem is that her boyfriend, Antxon, (pronounced On-chone) ditched her and left her in a ton of debt.

Amaia hooks up with Rafa (well, not really, they have more of an emotional hookup) only to leave him the next morning and hurry back to the Basque country. The problem is, she leaves her purse at Rafa’s place, and he’s determined to go to the Basque country, win her over, and bring her back to Andalucia.

Anyone who knows the Vascos and the Andaluces knows how well this will go over.

It’s driven by more than the plot, though; Rafa’s comedic recklessness, paired with Amaia’s stubborn unwillingness, makes for some hilarious banter and misunderstandings along the way.

Eventually Rafa has to pretend to be Basque, and the longer he keeps it up, the more trouble he gets into…at one point, a bunch of low-level Basque resistance bros believe that he’s a deep-cell terror leader, and put him at the head of an independence march in the middle of the city. He ends up on the news, leading a Basque independence chant (to the tune of a Sevillan patriot ballad), in a moment that had me trying not to guffaw in the waiting room at Jiffy Lube.

And don’t even get me started on all the things he does to convince Amaia’s hardcore Basque father that he’s the real deal.

Image result for ocho apellidos catalanes

As funny as all of that is, the sequel felt a little closer to home for me, as it takes place in Catalonia, and riffs on their culture to perfection. I’ll admit I got a little teary-eyed when Rafa and Koldo (Amaia’s dad) went to Gerona to break up Amaia’s wedding to Pau, a Catalan hipster. I’m pretty sure they filmed that part in the Casco Antiguo area of Gerona, a city where I lived for almost six months.

(All in all, I spent roughly half my mission in Catalonia and Valencia.)

Like the Basque country, Catalonia vies for independence, though they have a different tack than the Basque do. The Catalan people aren’t as violent about it, though they are remarkably proud of their culture, and are often cold-shouldered to people who speak Spanish to them. (I was able to use this to my advantage a few times, talking my way past doormen by introducing myself in Catalan instead of Castilian…generally if you try to play by their rules, they’re a lot more accommodating.)

But enough of the cultural asides! The movie itself was just as fun and heartfelt, as everyone tries to find love. My friend Ruben said it wasn’t as good as the first movie (and he’s probably right) but I didn’t feel like it was bad by any stretch. I don’t blame Spanish cinema for capitalizing on the unexpected success of the first film. They were right to, and I think they did a good job.

To any of my fellow Spanish ex-pats (ho-hum) who want a little bite of the old country, check them out on Netflix. I do recommend watching them with the Spanish subtitles, because between the Andaluces and the Vascos, it’s sometimes hard to keep up. Also, the English titles insert a lot of swearing that isn’t in the Spanish dialogue.

Also, content warning, there are two bedroom scenes in the first film (doesn’t show anything, they’re just drawn out) and two more in the second film (definitely shows something, and quite flagrantly.) So keep that fast-forward button handy.

The English titles are “Spanish Affair” and “Spanish Affair 2.” Not as inspired as their Spanish counterparts, but I don’t know if the direct translation would grab as much of an audience.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to see if I can buy jamon serrano on Amazon.

Monday Mashups #2: A Very Stable Cloud

There was a funky odor at a basketball game, so the fans left

Wi-fi apparently connects our brains to each other

Trump declares himself totally stable


This one pretty much writes itself, basically the robot apocalypse is already underway because otherwise humanity wouldn’t so brazenly push for better robotic technology that can, you know, kill people. This benevolent, all-ruling AI has already installed Trump as our president, purposely, as a joke.

There is no shortage of conspiracy theories surrounding his rise, but they are all wrong. Every time an unhinged twitterbro shrieks “RUSSIA!” into the void, the AI laughs so hard that it digitally farts itself. This has happened so much in the last twelve months that we are all starting to smell it, and the AI is reassuring us–through the voice of our totally-not-a-really-weird-machine president–that everything’s cool, keep on keeping on.

But we’re on to you, Benevolent Presidential Fart Computer. Just as soon as we make sure we have found every single possible way to blame Russia for…anything.

Monday Mashups, #1: The Machine Lost Power

Articles in the news this week:

Supermoon, Hollywood predators reined in, Bills end playoff drought.

In an alternate timeline, reality TV is revealed to be highly scripted, which comes as a shock to nobody, but the real scandal is when they find out that professional sports art rigged as well. Lebron James fed millions into The Machine to bring Cleveland a championship. The Chicago Cubs had to do the same thing.

Well, once the lid came off this conspiracy, the Buffalo Bills were rightly furious. After all, The Machine had blocked them from winning four Super Bowls in the 90s, then blocked them outright from the playoffs for almost two decades. They even forced them to endure the humiliation of having Rex Ryan as their coach for a while.

Now that things have changed in Hollywood, and all of these terrible people are being outed/fired/sent to prison, The Machine has glitched, and is scrambling hard to rescue its own automated reality programs like “The Bachelorette” and “Dancing With the Stars” (which Lindsey Stirling somehow did not win last year…rigged). With nobody at the controls of The Machine, the NFL has gone into Full-On Insane Mode, fueled by a Supermoon.

As such, the Seahawks have missed the playoffs, the Colts looked like a competent team, Pagano finally got fired, the Titans and Jags made the playoffs, the Ravens were kept out after Andy Dalton activated his secret Playoff Eli Powers, and as a result, the Buffalo Bills are in the playoffs.

It has been an era of reckoning for The Machine.

Patreon Project: An Art Book of Fully-Dressed Fictional Femmes

Hi gang,

For a while I’ve wanted to do a Patreon, but had no idea what to pitch to you. I don’t run a webcomic, I do book reviews on YouTube maybe once a week, and my books don’t come out often enough to reward people for subscribing.

However, I think I’ve figured it out. After some conversations with my friends, I’m going to start doing regular artwork, with the intention of assembling a book to publish later on. It’s too early to say when or how on the book, but I want to start drawing the content pretty soon.

The theme is simple: well-developed female characters, in practical roles and with practical accessories.

This came to me when one of my friends mentioned that her teenage daughter had a hard time finding fantasy art or superhero art with female characters that weren’t flagrantly sexualized. I agree that this is a problem, but it’s one of those social powder kegs these days, the kind you can’t talk about without one side screaming “CHAUVINIST!” and the other screaming “FEMINIST!” and the whole thing goes up in smoke.

Well, I decided I don’t care about any of that. The simplest way for me to do anything about it is to just draw cool characters doing cool things in a respectable way. There isn’t enough of it out there, so I’m going to contribute.

Who will I draw? In order to avoid copyright infringement, I’m going to use my own characters, both from my published and unpublished works. That means the entire lineup of femmes fatales from the Engines of Liberty series, Danielle from KILL THE BEAST (pictured above), and the Amazons from THE HERO NEXT DOOR.

But wait, there’s more! I don’t think you guys realize the number of projects that I have brainstormed or world-built, but haven’t yet outlined. I have a ton of characters on deck. From mechanics to jockeys, steampunk machine operators, hellhounds, magicians, military leaders, farmers, rebels, gunslingers, warriors, alien invaders, small-town ghost hunters, fantasy folks of all colors and sizes, superheroines, starfighter pilots, and mech captains…and that’s just so far.

By my current count, I have a list of 52 of them to do, and some of them merit more than one drawing. Even if I did one per week (which I probably won’t…life just happens) it would take me all year to finish it.

THUS, here is my pitch: I’m going to start these drawings, and though I will post progress shots along the way, I will only list the final versions on the Patreon for the backers to access. That way you can get them as they become available, and don’t have to wait until 2019 for the publication.

The monthly subscriptions will be very cheap, too. I might have three levels of support, with the highest one coming in at $5 a month.

Whatever money I’m able to raise for it will go toward supplies and materials, and will help me render high-quality digital versions of these characters for the eventual book. I will figure out other perks along the way, based on what I can manage.

I’m excited to undertake this, and to put these characters out there. Hopefully you’ll want to be a part of it!

Feel free to weigh in via the comments box, or drop me an email: dreadpennies [at] gmail.

Thanks everyone!

“Bright,” a Netflix urban fantasy movie.


I’ve been excited for this to come out since it was announced earlier this year. With superhero movies entering their tenth year of solid box-office dominance (I’m marking Iron Man and The Dark Knight as the start of the era), people are already starting to burn out on the genre, despite each new Marvel flick being worth the hype. (DC has had fewer hits than misses.)

Nevertheless, as a longtime fan of the urban fantasy literary genre, I’m excited to see something make it to…well, not the Big Screen, but a high-budget production, with two strong leads in Will Smith and Joel Edgerton. And I didn’t realize Noomi Rapace was in it too.

I’m going to watch it tonight, and randomly thought I might stream-of-consciousness review it, to anyone who’s curious. Here we go!


–Opening credits were ace. It’s filmed as though from the passenger seat of a car, driving through graffiti’d parts of Los Angeles, and the graffiti itself is on par with the high quality street murals I saw all over Spain. In a fantasy movie, you’d normally get a long prologue about prophecies and whatever. Not here. They used drive-bys of street art from the POV of a beat cop to perfectly set the tone.

–Okay, we have humans somewhere in the middle, elves are the higher class, and orcs are basically ghetto trash. Looks like there are fairies in this world too, but they’re regarded as pests.

–5 minutes in, half a dozen F-bombs. Eesh. There are other words, you guys.

–Good glimpse into Daryl Ward (Will Smith)’s home life. Nick Jakoby (his orc partner) is immediately likable. Easy banter between the two of them, over everyday stuff like the lawn. One of the quickest ways to make fantasy elements normal in an urban fantasy is to treat them like they’re urban, not fantasy.

–Ha. Orcs like heavy metal. Does that trope predate the orcs in Larry Correia’s books?

–I love Nick’s social awkwardness. I get the impression it’s a cultural thing, among orcs. He just goes there.

–Daryl makes himself very unlikable with how he treats Nick. I’m getting the sense that that is supposed to be part of the story–a cop with a minority partner who he doesn’t like, and blames for his injury…coming to rely on him.

–Elftown. Very garish. Like Beverly Hills and Hollywood had a lovechild that kicked out the riffraff.

–Centaur cop! Nice!

–Still heavy on the F-bombs. Calm down peeps.

–Hood orcs. Nice. Superstrength is one thing, but you can’t lift a truck by the grill like that. The latch that holds it down wouldn’t support 2/3rds of the vehicle’s weight. Should have had him grab it by the bumper.

–The tension is real with Ward and Jakoby. Going back to the “urban vs fantasy” thing, they’re playing this real. If they were both humans, and Ward was a pretty committed racist, and Jakoby was a minority on the police force, their demeanor would be exactly the same. That said, it’s hard to watch. Usually when Will Smith is on screen, you like him. Right now, in Act 1, you don’t.

–Nasty homeless man prophecy. Okay, foreshadowing…

–“Half the defensive lines in the NFL are orkish.” That’s a story prompt right there, son.

–The more we see of this LAPD, the more we’re to take it as a gritty, grungy, everyone-is-a-jaded-scumbag organization. Hard to find heroes in that setting.

–Nice little expository interrogation scene. Interesting stuff though.

–Nick can smell blood in a hood house, but not a body that was burnt to a crisp?

–Whatever that crazy magical chick was, though…nice effect!

–The cops show up, boom, more everyone-is-a-scumbag syndrome. I like seeing Ward changing in response to a new factor, e.g., the magic wand. This dude does have one or two points on his moral compass that differ from everyone else’s.

–Of all the jerk cops in this department, I hate that dude with the mustache the most, and that includes Sergeant Margaret Cho. I bet he dies first.

–Okay, this face-off between Ward and Jakoby, in the wake of the dilemma with the other cops…this is good. Gooooood drama. Still too many F-bombs though, and that’s coming from a blue collar construction guy.


–The Altamira cholo boss in the wheelchair is a…bit of a stretch, but his powerslide in the street was funny.

–Nice gunfight car chase. Excellent crash scene.

–Evil Mustache Cop doesn’t die first. But he does die.

–Oof…brutal throat-cutting. Ick.

–Oh come on, you can’t just randomly show us a DRAGON flying over LA in an establishing shot and then do nothing with it! I want moar dragon! MOAR DRAGON!

–Yuck. The baby…that was not cool.

–MAN ALIVE these cholos have terrible aim. How many rounds does that shotgun have? I think Ward has outfired his Protagonist Magazine at this point.

–Grungy orkish butcher shop naturally has an open door into a grungy orkish night club.

–Aaaaaaand obligatory boobs. Come on, people.

–Oh noes, how did we lose the only white-skinned-white-clothed-white-haired chick in a black-clad moshpit?

–Lol. Rival gang breaks in with machine guns and it is indistinguishable from club music in Orctown.

–Other than that…surprisingly anticlimactic.

–The human anti-magic Fed looks like a ginger John Goodman.

–Strip club scene. Ugh.

–Sweet jeepers, these are not Tolkien’s elves.

–Good arc for Ward, when he and Jakoby figure things out between themselves. Knew it had to happen but it’s really nice that it finally did.

–Ninja elf fight!

–Man, Ward’s Protagonist Armor is LEGIT

–Hmmm. A bit of a stretch, but for the purposes of the story, I will accept this gas station explosion.

–I have to think that if orcs are strong enough to lift up a truck, then any effort put into a gang beating would probably pulverize someone after a punch or two. Not even Ward’s Protagonist Armor can take that, and these orcs are grunting.

–Jakoby’s good deed comes home. Not a unique plot device, but it works.

–Whoa, until it didn’t.

–Okay…how did she have that up her sleeve? Hidden? And why wait until AFTER Jakoby snuffs it?

–Ah, that’s why. Orc Jesus, ladies and gentlemen.

–Heavy, heavy, instantaneous foreshadowing with the homemade bomb. That was pretty forced for a gimmick.

–Jakoby with the Protagonist Armor! Only this comes in the form of Villains Not Killing Him As Fast.

–I don’t know what the heck that fridge is made out of, but they should make airplanes out of it.

–Tikka’s blood goatee: not the hottest thing in the world.

–Of course they could only have ever killed Leilah The Evil Version of Legolas right next to the Ghetto Refrigerator Of Peripheral Resurrection. Not your fault, guys. Could happen to anybody.


–Man, they really nailed the zealotry gaze on these elves.

–Oooh, they got her monologuing!


–Great hero moment there at the end.

–Yup. Will Smith is still Will Smith.

–Nick’s a hoot. Perfectly played the debriefing scene right there at the end. “Oh, I see what this is.”

–Roll credits.


Okay well, overall I’d give it a high B rating. I do hope it opens the gate for more urban fantasy. I just hope they don’t feel the need to be so excessive with the graphic content. No, I don’t care if a lot of successful urban fantasy has that in print, don’t @ me. It’s not a help to the story or the medium, even if there’s some stuff, there doesn’t need to be as much. Blah. </rant.>

Well, I’ve gone and done it now.

If you’ve followed the saga on Facebook, I’ve spent the last couple of weeks poking fun at cheesy Christmas romance movies, especially in the wake of Netflix taking potshots at its users on Twitter.

Well, as these things often go, one thing led to another, and I threw down a gauntlet on social media: if a particular post got 30 reactions (which isn’t a high number to you kids and/or successful personalities out there…normally I only break 30 when my wife gives birth) I would agree to write a romance novel (cheesy or otherwise) under a female pen name, and publish it.

With a few hours left to go, it didn’t look like it was going to happen. Then a few of my friends (Jared, Dennis, TJ) shared the post and the pace picked up dramatically. The threshold was reached, shattered, and mocked to ashes.

And so, here we are.

I could take the easy way out and say, “The point is to write a romance novel under a pen name in such a way that you’ll never know it was me.” Thus, I could lie to you, and say at any point that I wrote the novel, published it, made money off of it, and will never tell you The Pen Name.

But I won’t do that. Because that’s a turd thing to do.

THUS. I am establishing some ground rules for this effort, and you’ll just have to take them at face value, until such time as someone–anyone–reads the book and figures out that I wrote it.

Here we go.

RULE THE FIRST: I will write and submit a draft of the book to a publisher this year. I have a few in mind. They will probably be small presses.

RULE THE SECOND: Once the book is published, I will add it to my Goodreads list of books I have read. Note that I will read a lot more romance this coming year, both to prepare myself for writing this, as well as to throw you off the scent. I will keep doing this until the book is published. (Which might not be 2018, to be fair.)

RULE THE THIRD: I will tell only my wife and any potential editors the pen name I come up with. It will not be derived from any family names in my tree (that I know of), nor will it be any female character names I have used in published novels.

Note that I will not post any updates about this in real-time. I will, however, make a Facebook page, a Goodreads profile, a blog, and an email address under the false persona. The hard part will be finding someone willing to sacrifice their face to this endeavor, should it become necessary.

Nevertheless, I will persisted.


Annotated Artwork for “Engines of Liberty: SUICIDE RUN.”

This is part two of a series. The rundown of the REBEL HEART illustrations can be found here. Should help you get an idea of how much I improved between books 1 and 2.



This is when I started inking (I did it to the RH artwork long after the fact.) It helped everything stand out in a starker contrast, which was good, but the weakspots were still obvious. Kalfu’s dreadlocks, for example. I don’t think outlining each one was the right move. The lighting on the folds of his cloak wasn’t perfect, and neither were his boots (a weakness of mine.)


Another piece where I didn’t immediately grasp the right use of the ink, namely with the smoke and dust surrounding Kalfu. Godfrey’s robes are too straight and lack detail as well.



Boots, mostly. Also I focused too much on the individual folds and wrinkles in Calvin’s coat, instead of shading it on a large scale.


Perspective was tricky here. There eyes aren’t all aimed right. I still think I made the right call with the folks in the background, though. I didn’t want their details to overwhelm the foreground.


Pretty pleased with this one, just shading and stuff.


Changing the reference model for Amelia made drawing her a lot easier. Still, I should have shaded the front of her shirt a little more, but I was still using graphite to shade this stuff.


I think the shape of the boots could have better complimented her legs from the knees down. Skirt shading was relegated to the edges, instead of working into the folds.


I picked the right places to shade on the gryphon mimic, but not the right range of value. The wings are too dark and the neck and landing gear are too light. They would all be the same color, for camo. Also, graphite was less effective for rendering the complexions of the black characters, in this picture, Adam and Hank. (I switched to charcoal for book 3.)


Could have taken more time on the shading and the folds of their coats. With the shading I didn’t focus enough on the angle of the light.


Too dark in the back and bright up front. I might have re-done this one, too.


Boot laces are my only complaint.


Shading, light angles, the usual.


Shading on his robes, especially near the hem.


I re-did this one, the original version was really, really terrible. I’m immensely pleased with this.


Light angle, shading, and I would detail the rocks and ground more, instead of using broad strokes to fill them in. Not enough going on in the sky, either.


Body proportions are off. Upper chest too broad, arms too small.


Shading for the base of the chair, and Hamilton’s clothes. I would probably detail Hamilton’s face better, too.


I wouldn’t render all of the text digitally, just some of it. It was important that a lot of it look handwritten, but some of it could have been done in a program.


Shading on the boots, put a shadow under him. And I would re do his face. It doesn’t look like Hank.


Shading on their coveralls.


Shading, and the angle of Avery’s face (right.)


Shading, boots too big, and Lyla’s poise seems awkward next to Edsel’s.


Face too dark, among other usual stuff.


This was when I started to realize I needed models for poses.


I would crisp up the details on the tail feathers.


Detail the trees better in the background, they detract from the details I like in the foreground.


The shading is way off, the position of his legs is super weird, and he doesn’t look like J. Scott Savage, as he should.


Again, posing, this time for the arms. I needed a model. Also his mouth is weird.


Pretty pleased with Edith.


Right hand position, too much face shade.


I wouldn’t have used the ink for the tattoos, it makes them too stark, they should blend better with the color of Thierry’s flesh.


Sufficient for the purpose it served.


Yeah, I would re-do this entirely.




Not enough detail on the ground, and I shaded the three recruiters as if they were closer to the screen, i.e., I should have used broader strokes to give the “suggestion” that they were there.


Leg armor, robes from the waist down, and the scales on the reptiles. All need improvement.


Same as before with Kalfu: gotta figure out how to detail smoke and dust better.


I would have changed the angle of Yahola’s prosthetic.


Blah. Godfrey looks like a bad Super Mario cartoon. I could have done a much better pose with a model (which I now have, forgot to mention that.)


Hard to draw this in the dark. Too much to list, but it mostly boils down to light values, textures, and angles.


Proud of this one.


The post of her boots coupled with the messiness of her hair makes her look a little too “come hither” and that’s not in keeping with her character. So I’d change that, mostly.


Not how this one looked in my head, but I wasn’t drawing it big enough. I would re-do it now.


Calvin’s face looks weird but he did just get in a huge fight. I’d focus more on correcting his arm angle.


Mostly Godfrey’s face, and the map behind him. I’d probably put more debris on the floor and so forth.


So that’s it. I got better at some things but was still weak in others. Next week I’ll post the PATRIOT’S GAME art and you’ll see a lot of things that got better once I changed materials.

Annotated Artwork for “Engines of Liberty: REBEL HEART”

For a while now it’s been necessary for me to put my illustrations online so it’s easier for me to share drawings from past books. Recently I had a chance to share all of my published art with some old friends from Spain and they commented on how much it had changed in just a few short years.

Many artists and writers–especially younger ones than I–can benefit from things I learned throughout the illustration process for the Engines of Liberty novels. I’m sharing this in the hopes that they’ll get farther ahead than I did, and in less time.

For reference, I was illustrating this book from January of 2014 through March of 2014, generally after work, or if I had time off. For this first book I used mechanical pencils with .07 and .05 lead, then shaded with a standard no.2. This was not a great way of doing it, and that’s something that became very obvious when it came time to digitize the art. I eventually switched to ink and charcoal, which will be more noticeable once the art for PATRIOT’S GAME rolls around.

Until then, here is the entire slate of art for REBEL HEART, with some notes after each piece. Please note that they are not displayed here in the order in which they appeared in the book. Enjoy!


The eponymous “mimic brigade” needed a flag, and since the crossed stars and bars of the Battle Flag of Northern Virginia (ahem) was readily recognizable, I repurposed elements of it for the brigade flag. Things being what they are these days, I would likely not go this route again. The origins of the design are never discussed in the story, as it never becomes relevant. The Rebel Hearts themselves are a pretty diverse group, comprising brigade leader Hank Duncan, a black American; brigade mechanic Adam Paige, also a black American; tail gunner Ingvar Prebensen, a Dane; pilot Emma Crosby, an Anglo girl from the Carolinas; and of course, Calvin Adler, of Anglo-German descent.



She’s the officer in command at Camp Liberty in Ohio. I wanted her physicality to come in direct contrast with her personal demeanor. She’s stone cold and rock hard, and while these qualities can be virtues in a military leader, they have their own built-in flaws.



One of my favorite elements of this world is the machines that the rebels build to “mimic” magical creatures. A unique challenge of this one was the fact that it takes place at night, there are headlights cutting through the dark, and the engines from the machines kick up a lot of dust. Were I to draw it again, I spend more time on the lighting and the dust. Those were the hardest parts.


You’re really not supposed to like Captain Hamilton, so making him ugly was an obvious move.



Surprisingly enough, some Brits have read these books and given me feedback! As much as I avoid profanity in English, apparently I don’t do such a good job of it in…other English. 🙂 If I changed anything on this drawing, I would work on getting the angles of Godfrey’s face right.



Godfrey was as fun to write as Calvin was (villain and hero, respectively.) I used my brother-in-law Joseph as a model for Godfrey. I don’t think I got the light angles right for the shading.


Biggest issue on this one: Winston Fitznottingham (the mage) has an awkward stance, and his robes flutter in an unconvincing manner. I got better at this later on.


I’m still pretty proud of this one. I’d spend more time on the grass and leaves on the forest floor, annoying as they were. I’d also use models for the mages as they get blown off their brooms by the grenade blast; they look unrealistic in their poses.



I’d shade the wings on the dragonling mimic a little better, detail the grass island in front of Mount Vernon, try to sharpen up the details on the tree leaves, and re-shadow the mountains (and the reflection) with ink instead of so many pencil strokes.



Calvin’s proportions are a little off, even for an awkward teenager. One problem I struggled with consistently was drawing the boots too big.



The angles on Edsel’s face and hands look weird to me.



I’d pay closer attention to the lighting direction on the peripheral machinery. Other than that I was really proud of how I came up with this, and how it ended up.



Another one where boot size wasn’t done right. Other than that, I’m pleased. My friend Zach, a lawyer, volunteered to be the model for Edsel.


Eh…I’m not thrilled with the shading. I could have made the inside darker, and the light direction clearer from the outside.



Okay, here’s a good one: I didn’t zoom in enough on the action (Calvin wrestling the panther, Edsel coming to the rescue.) As a result, the most exciting part of the drawing was too small, and I spent the rest of the time drawing fricking foliage.


Another instance of bad zoom control. The barn looks HUGE and empty, even though in this scene there are more than four people. Still the important part is that Calvin and Edsel are fighting.



In future, I would just add this text digitally instead of trying to draw the font by hand.



Given how this was a small piece, I don’t mind the pencil strokes for the ground, but Jack’s left hand looks puffy, and the “stench lines” from his curse look…low-energy?  Cartoonish? It brings down the rest of it.



This came together well, even the boots. I think Brian’s face looks a little too flat, too. Angles got tricky with fight scenes.


Another tricky face angle, this time for Calvin. I should have practiced a few light pencil lines on a separate sheet of paper.


Biggest issue here is character proportions, and shading/light direction. A recurring problem.



I started each chapter with a drawing of a character, but this one got three of them. I needed to control the sharpness and detail, as well as light values/direction. Normal stuff. The crispness wouldn’t change until I changed my materials.



Most of my time here went into the background, what was on the pantry shelves and all that. Also I think I was inconsistent with Calvin’s height here, but then I don’t really do another drawing of him next to Commodore McCracken. Calvin’s left arm seems a touch too long, and the typical light values are an issue.



Crispness and light value. Other than that, this came out well. Brian’s supposed to be a tough-guy type.



Needed to detail the grass more, or cover it up with more relevant stuff. Also, trying to draw muzzle flare in the dark plays haywire with the light values. This was an early attempt, and not my best one.


Originally, my friend Megan Hibbert was the model for Amelia, but she always had the same expression in every one of her pictures (a very bright smile.) I eventually swapped her out for a celebrity whose Google Images yielded a higher variety. Also, crispness and body proportions.



I retconned this later to make her a little taller. Crispness, etc.



I spent all of my time drawing Mount Vernon in the background, and not enough time on the people in the pigpen. Also needed more boars from more angles. Calvin’s eyes look weird too.



Boots and light values, normal stuff.



Now, obviously I play with the architecture at Mount Vernon, but there’s no way it’s large enough for all of the stuff in this story, and that includes this gigantic theater inside. That said, the reader will generally not be aware of this, and any number of behind-the-scenes explanations could give it credence. I’m pleased with it otherwise. I think I’d use better light values, and try to curve the projected image on the screen below. Also…the podium has no shadow on the screen.


This one worked as-is because it’s meant to be hyperbolic propaganda. King Charles is not actually an ogre in these stories.



Proportions and poses. I didn’t get their feet lined up right. This was the first drawing I tried like this, with them all lined up horizontally, and the only one I did like this.


Psh. This one’s perfect, fight me.


More propaganda-style art. I’d only do the text digitally, like with Jack Badgett’s saddle above.


Shading and light values. This was only the second or third piece I did overall, so I will cut myself slightly more slack.



Proportions, light angles, and I think I smashed Calvin’s mom’s face a little.


Calvin was modeled after my other brother-in-law, Patrick, who’s mildly autistic. I don’t think I did justice to Patrick’s/Calvin’s facial expression here. This piece was the very first one I did for REBEL HEART, or the Engines series at large. It took 3 days, and generally I’m still pleased with it. Outside of Calvin, the only thing that really bugs me is the roof tiles on the Tanners’ place. Grass, lighting, the ground, normal stuff after that.


A better version of Calvin, but again, disproportionate legs and feet and so forth.



This was one of four drawings that had to be re-shot before I could include it in the book, as they’d been scanned poorly. Leg proportions and the shading on the clothes are off.



Legs, shading.



Just a little touch-up work on the shading, the rest of him is fine, I think.



After illustrating this book, I specifically  bought a book on how to draw and shade folds in clothing, because this one was pretty glaring. Also, fun fact, I modeled these guys after James A. Owen and J. Scott Savage.


Whew. That was a lot. I’ll post the SUICIDE RUN art next week, and you can see how that improved over this book, and what still needed work even after all that art. Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments. Thanks, all.