April 26, 2011

Weekend Workshop: The Dark Visitor

For this week's Weekend Workshop Crashtest and I have decided to shift away from scenery and on to characters instead. I've had some experience with this doing my characters for my book "The Zone: Life and Death" so I was pretty excited to take on the new challenge.

Though I was rushed for this one, I pulled it together at the last minute (literally, I finished edits at 11:59pm my time) and believe that I used my 90 minutes to the best of my ability. I think that the characters I came up with will work well for next week's Weekend Workshop and are interesting enough that they could really bring any story to life. No more stalling now, I gotta get this thing posted before this Easter-candy hangover makes my brain explode! Here are the parameters I was given:
  • You must write 3 base character profiles, around 200 words each. 
  • The characters inhabit a world upon the brink of doom - both due to conventional `real world` issues and means, but also the threat of ancient conspiracy, occult fanaticism and transdimensional beings. 
  • The setting is contemporary 
  • The 1st character is a protagonist type. someone who shouldnt be a typical hero - try and make this happen through a mix of their past, flaws etc etc. 
  • 2nd character. a disposable `bad guy` - but not neccesarily the nemesis of character 1. just have fun with this one. 
  • 3rd character. a transdimensional being - some spirit, old god or great evil given corporeal form. get WEIRD AND ABSTRACT on this one. check hp lovecraft, alan moore and grant morrison for reference. 
  • Ill produce some thumbnails / sketches for each and develop ONE into a `final` design. 
  • 90minutes minimum 
This week he did several teasers for the concept which can all be found on his blog, so be sure to check them out as well as the step-by-step process for this week's concept below!

See it's creation on Crashtest's Blog

Here are the 3 characters I came up with:

Thomas Page

A typical brown-eyed brown-haired male in his 30’s. Currently un-employed, he struggles to maintain any job he can but, due to insomnia, PTSD, and other forms of as-of-yet undiagnosed mental illnesses he tends to drift in and out of reality, making it difficult for him to remain focused on a task for any extended period of time. He lives in a small, decrepit apartment in a normal city where he is just another typical person as far as anyone is concerned.

Abused as a child, he struggles with relationships of any kind, finding it difficult to express himself emotionally or physically to others. Though he is full of emotion, thoughtful and even friendly to most people, they quickly find that a long-term relationship is impossible due to a lack of reciprocation. He does not maintain contact with any family and it is supposed that they have severed ties with him.

It is common for him to wake up screaming in the middle of the night for no apparent reason and to believe that, though awake, he is still in the nightmare. It is reasonable to believe that he suffers from paranoid delusions and hallucinations. All attempts to further diagnose his mental health have been unsuccessful.

Ron Edward 

A state politician quickly working his way up the political ladder thanks to his rising popular vote. An ex-cop, he is an idealist and a visionary, using promises of prosperity and security to propel his campaign forward. He hopes one day to be president and, with his current track record, it is likely that he will succeed. Though he is an older man it is merely a disguise for his notable physical and verbal strengths. He is both an expert in public speaking and martial arts. Most people have come to idolize him as the embodiment of the 21st century man; strong in every aspect.

On the surface it would seem that you could want nothing more in a leader or a man. This fact has practically erased all his past blemishes from the public eye, such as reports of his past occult activities, falsified police reports, and even rumors of human sacrifice. All attempts to uncover any evidence of such activities have been met with utter failure, almost as if the information has been completely eradicated from all forms of existence.

The Dark Visitor 

A mythological creature buried under millennia of denial and fear. Like most ancient records, the details are vague and highly speculative. Though there are many opinions and conflicting truths, there are some commonalities which lead to a generally accepted version of the creature to the few who believe in its existence. Most accept it is a dark, shadow-like being that appears in times of great despair. Some like to think it is the physical embodiment of the “Grim Reaper”.

It is said that its appearance marks the beginning of a cataclysmic event, and that it has appeared many times throughout history as far back as written history itself. Most do not know what it is, where it comes from, or why it chooses to present itself, but it is believed by some that its appearance is a warning or even a mockery of impending destruction.

There have been a few isolated reports in recent times of its appearance in dreams on the night before a major disaster. Reports state that the affected individuals witness a premonition of the event to come in which they are an active participant. That is to say that, they are offered a choice of whether or not the event they are a witness to is allowed to take place or not. The specifics of this are not elaborated on and the subject tends to drift into a trance-like state shortly after revealing this information. Most subjects are admitted to mental institutions shortly thereafter.

April 17, 2011

Weekend Workshop: The Chapel of Many Angles

The latest Weekend Workshop has been completed and uploaded (and just in time!)

This week, I set the theme and parameters and Cyrus did the art, followed by my story which was inspired by it. The theme and parameters were as follows:
  • A Classical Era Drama
  • The main character is upper class, like a Count
  • The scene takes place in his place of work or refuge. It is esteemed like a chapel or a theater.
  • Times are troubled - give the majestic scene s sense of dread or depression. 
  • Feel free to exaggerate elements to enhance the story like some media of the era has, but keep it historically accurate whenever possible.
  • 90 minutes.
  • Bust a nut!
When you're done I'll switch back to a 500 wordish minimum description/short story or just see where it goes. Have fun.

Here's what the old bloke came up with. Be sure to check out the following link to his article to see the steps and story involved in its creation.

See the full piece on Crashtest's Blog!

Once I had seen the art and read the story behind it, I used the remaining 2 hours of the weekend to come up with this little piece. I hope you enjoy it and it suits the art well. :)

The Chapel of Many Angles

The air of the chapel was thick, as though a cloud of smoke had seeped its way up from the cracks of Hell and filled it to the top of its high, stone ceiling.  It was here that the father stood ever vigilant over the prince, to whom he had provided sanctuary at his request. The prince kneeled at the altar before him in prayer, shaken over the rumors of the king’s murder at the hands of an angry mob. The father’s eyes remained steadfast on the book he held in his hands as he read a passage that had always given him strength in times of need.

The prince was not a particularly faithful man by reputation - and yet here he was; confessing his life’s sins in what he felt in his heart to be his final moments. The father paid little attention to the man who begged his attention in his hour of despair, unworthy as he was. But it was not his place to judge the man; judgment would come to all in due time.

The door to the chapel burst in suddenly, slamming against the wall with a loud crack. The prince stood suddenly, his eyes pleading with the father to cast his divine protection upon him as the mob advanced before them. They laid their accusations at the prince’s feet and he begged for his life before their tools of justice and strife. It was then that the father spoke, calling upon the wisdom and teachings of his life’s calling to protect the sheep of his flock.

“I stand before you as the Lord’s disciple. His eyes are upon you. It is his will that, for as long as I stand before you, no harm come to this man in His holy sanctuary.”

They ignored his warning with cries of “Blasphemy!” flying from their tongues as they advanced towards him. The prince retreated behind the priest, relying on his faith in his words to shield him from harm. The father clasped the crucifix tightly in his fingers, calling upon the strength of the heavens as the mob drew closer with their weapons raised in malice. His heart fell as the trapdoor to the undercroft slammed shut behind him and the prince fled the chapel, forsaking him. The prince, like the mob closing around him, had failed to realize that there was no escaping the eyes of God.

The father acted quickly, kneeling down to lock the door and pocketing the key in his priest’s robe. His eyes returned to the book that had been his teacher, his protector, and his friend all his life. He read the words as he had countless times before, gaining new understanding in its words as time began to slow and the dull grey halls of the chapel he had walked every day of his life burst into blinding white light.

The book fell from his hands and on to the floor of the desecrated chapel. Just as its pages had given him life, he gave his life now to its blood-stained pages as they fluttered in the breeze flowing through the open door and over his crumpled body. The words of his favorite story, stained forever red, told the final moments of his life - just as they had the man for whom the story had been written.

“Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do…”

April 10, 2011

Weekend Workshop: Flight to Clandestine

Another weekend, another workshop! As you may have noticed, there was no weekend workshop last week. This was due to some personal issues (Cyrus' sex change was a little rough on him/her) so we decided to call it off. So, we've changed the titles to reflect the date since instead of the actual number of the project so as not to confuse you, the wonderful viewer. :)

This week, Cyrus laid out the theme. It had a very Final Fantasy feel to it, which was interesting for me because I've never played a FF game in my life. But, having watched a few cinematic sequences and hearing friends talk about it I decided to merge some of the visual elements with some story elements from The Legend of Zelda, basing the piece off a story I've had in my head for a while. The story is intended for a yonuger audience, as you can tell from the word substitution (I decided to take a break from big words). 

Anyway, now that I've given you a walk-through of my side of things, here is what Cyrus came up with, accompanied with the parameters and the resulting story, "Flight to Clandestine". 

  • sky pirates
  • a mix of high end and low end tech - but lets not refer to it as 'steampunk' 
  • think airships, propellers, final fantasy games etc etc
  • not massively epic in terms of numbers - but potentially epic in terms of scale
  • if this was a game, this would be the escape sequence 
  • feel free to add any 'sword and sorcery' elements you want
  • a minimum of 750 words AND 90 minutes work - that is, if you have done writing before then, spend the rest of the time refining the little bugger. feel free to write as much as you want though.
  • i in turn will do a minimum of 90 minutes postprep - that is, after finding any reference images etc or creating any custom brushes i may need. im also looking at some screencap vid software - so i MIGHT be able to do a vid of me working - depends on whether my system will hack it with ps on the go too
See the step-by-step process on Cyrus' blog!

Flight to Clandestine

The city of Tristen, one of the greatest cities in all of the land, was one of the most prosperous, fair, and good places you could ever imagine. Every day, its streets were filled with friendly townspeople who visited the market, their friends, or simply stood and gazed at the magnificent shining sea that bordered their fair town. Standing watch majestically over them stood the castle Cloudtop - perched atop a great, green hill like a stalwart stone guardian protecting them from danger. The day had started out as wonderful and welcoming for all just as countless many before it had… except for one small soul who darted through shaded alleyways for fear of his life as the castle guards chased him.

“Hey you! Stop there!” the guards shouted as they pushed their way through the crowded streets in pursuit of the young boy wanted for crimes he did not commit. Marcus was his name. He ran across the cobblestone streets as fast as his nimble legs would take him, darting through the alerted passerby looking for an escape of any sort. More guards made their way down from the castle atop the hill, shoving people aside to get to him. He found himself caught in the middle of them, with few options left.

Think! Think! He urged himself as his eyes darted around the town in search of an escape. The alleyways were overcrowded with crates and jars full of goods for the nearby markets and the rooftops of the nearby buildings were at least two stories tall – too tall to climb onto. He was sure that they would catch him now and feared what they might do to him. It was then that suddenly, to his left, he spotted his salvation.

The dock!

He took off; the fear of capture giving him the strength he needed to outrun the guards who drew closer and closer by the second. When he reached the dock, he ducked behind a crate out of sight of the guards knowing that, in seconds, they would be upon him. But he had bought himself a few more seconds that he did not intend to waste. His eyes passed over the ships docked before him, bustling with busy deckhands and dock workers. He knew they would stop him immediately if he tried to run aboard, but he had to get on one of those ships. It was the only way out now.

Then, out of the corner of his eye, something caught his attention. An open container sat alone on the dock, waiting to be filled with goods and loaded onto one of the large boats docked in the city’s harbor. He gathered all of his strength and dove towards the crate, tucking into a roll as he hit the ground before it and disappeared inside. He could hear the heavy footfalls and yells of the guards from beyond the crate’s wooden planks as he pulled its lid closed over the top of him.

“Did you see him? Where did he go?” a guard barked at one of the nearby dock workers.

“I didn’t see nobody come through here.” One of them responded.

“Search the dock – he couldn’t have gotten far. Check those crates!” the guard ordered.

Marcus swallowed hard at the sound of crates being torn open and searched near him. They would surely find him now, and there was nowhere left to go. He heard heavy breathing just beyond the crate and tensed, ready to leap out and dash away at a moment’s notice when suddenly, he heard another voice.

“You there! Who gave you permission to search my cargo?”

“I did – by order of the king!” The proud guard proclaimed.

“Then I presume he no longer cares for the condition of his spices to be delivered to Pelaham? The same voice questioned him.

“His spices?” the guard repeated the words, sounding puzzled.

“Yes. He urged me to get them there are quickly and in as good of condition as possible. I would hate to inform him that his goods were spoiled by a careless guard.”

“Er… uh…” the guard stammered stupidly.

“Now that that’s settled, I must load up this shipment and be off or he’ll have my head... and maybe yours too.”

Marcus sighed heavily, feeling safely concealed inside of his hiding place once again.

The guard grunted with annoyance.

“Search the water. Maybe the little bugger dove in and is swimming away right now!” he ordered the others.

The guards’ footfalls grew more distant as they walked along the length of the dock on a hopeless search for him.

Marcus barely had time to celebrate before he felt himself being hoisted up suddenly. He braced himself against the sides of his hidden sanctuary as he was carried aboard the ship. The air beyond the crate grew cold and the light, dim. He peeked through a small slit to see that he had been taken to the underbelly of the ship. The men carrying him sat him down in a stack of crates and then exited, leaving him alone with his thoughts.

What a mess I’ve gotten myself into. He thought, reflecting on the events that had gotten him here in the first place.

It hadn’t really been his fault; but his longing for adventure that had gotten him in this mess. He was prowling around the castle late at night, looking for secret rooms and treasure that he was sure existed when he noticed a strange light coming from one of its tall towers. So, like any good adventurer would, he went to investigate it. Using the grappling hook he had brought with him, he quickly and quietly hooked it on the window sill above him and climbed up the tower wall. When he reached the top, he peered inside and saw what he thought at first was a shadow, but later realized was actually a man in dark robes standing over the king as he slept.

He watched for a few moments as the man muttered things under his breath and colorful magic crept from his fingers. He was fascinated by it, having never seen any magic beyond the occasional tavern trick, but then he witnessed something that startled him. As the man reached towards the king his hand became exposed. Marcus gasped when he saw its skinless hand reach towards the king, probing his face with a bony, white finger.

“Stop!” he blurted out suddenly.

The creature turned towards him, startled. The king awoke suddenly, sitting up as he began to search for the maker of the sound he had heard. When he saw the shadowy figure standing over him and Marcus staring back at him through the window, he must have thought Marcus was some powerful magician who had conjured the shade to do his evil bidding.

“Guards!” the king shouted as the robed creature evaporated into a cloud of black smoke and he grabbed his sword.

“Your majesty! I saw the man in your room and-“ Marcus began, urgently.

“What are you doing up here? Trying to kill me in my sleep?” the king accused him.

“No your majesty! I-“

“You will not get away with this!” he said as he ran towards the window. Marcus slid quickly down the rope as the king swung his sword at him and dropped into a bush at the bottom of the wall with a thud.

“Assassin!” Marcus heard him shout from the tower above him.

Before he knew what was happening, guards appeared out of nowhere in pursuit of him. He had been hiding from them all morning, flitting from shadow to shadow like a mouse. While he was hiding, the guards had posted wanted pictures of him all around town, offering rewards for his capture. It hadn’t taken more than a few minutes after he had come out of hiding in search of food for someone to recognize him and alert the guards. He didn’t know what the robed creature was or what it was doing in the king’s chambers, but his overwhelming sense of curiosity urged him to get to the bottom of this so that he could return to Tristen a hero… not an assassin.

Suddenly, Marcus could feel himself being shaken awake. His eyes popped open and a large, white-bearded man stood over him.

“I didn’t do it! It was the robed man!” Marcus shouted and scrambled away from the bearded man.

“Whoa lad! I believe you if you say so!” The bearded man said calmly. “You’re safe now. My name is Kentley – and I am the captain of this vessel. And who might you be my little stowaway?”

“Marcus…” Marcus said as he slowly took in his surroundings.

He looked around the ship’s deck to see deckhands hard at work. They paid no attention to him, being far too occupied with their current tasks. Slowly he began to stand, but quickly collapsed back into the smooth deck of the ship when he realized that it was not ocean that they were sailing through.

Kentley erupted into jolly laughter, throwing back his head and resting his hands on his big, round belly.

“Expecting something else, were you?” he laughed as he extended his arms outwards to showcase the ships surprising ability. “This is a skyship, young man. We’re bound for the Great Spire!”

“The Great Spire…?” Marcus asked, perplexed.

“Aye! It’s our city in the sky. Atop it is sits the city of Clandestine – our home!” he said, proudly.

Marcus rose cautiously to his feet once more and timidly approached one of the golden railings encircling the skyship. To his amazement a colorful, silky wing stretched outward from the ship. Though rigid, it fluttered gracefully as the wind caught beneath it. He gathered the courage to lean slightly over the railing, and was amazed again to see a pair of propellers swirling dizzily away at the back of the ship. Clouds passed beneath the ship like a wispy sea, parting as the ship continued along its course. He had to look away when a hole appeared suddenly between clouds beneath him and he saw the entire kingdom far below him. From this height they must have looked like nothing more than a bird flying high up in the sky.

“We’re nearly there. You may want to hold on to something!” Kentley cautioned him with a smile.

Marcus ducked down, holding on to the railing as if his life depended on it. The ship began to moan and groan as an enormous shadow covered it. Marcus gasped as a large, stone structure emerged from behind a curtain of clouds. The Great Spire!

He dared another brave glance over the side of the ship and found that its base stood atop the very tip of a large mountain he had never seen before. It rose high into the sky like an upside-down needle and, nestled within the needle hole, rested a small glittering city. After a few minutes, Marcus quickly began to realize that the city was anything but small. The small, glittering rocks quickly became large spires that dwarfed the ship and, indeed, anything he had ever seen in all the land. Marcus’ eyes remained fixed on the magnificence as the city, unable to look away as the skyship quietly came to rest within one of its many docks.

Kentley rested one leg on the tip of the ship’s bow and held his arms out as if to hug the city he called home.

“Welcome to Clandestine, Marcus!”

April 3, 2011

Mining Facility 23

While I'm waiting for Crashtest to finish his end of the Weekend Workshop I decided to take on another piece of art he did a few days ago:

See the original artwork and the creation process on Cyrus' blog!

He supplied me with the following details in hopes that I would write a short story detailing the background behind the piece:
  • The station is called min-fac23 - or mining facility 23
  • You can only see a portion of it here - i figured to the left was the main bulk of the asteroid its situated on
  • Its 'deep' space - although not deep enough to be utilizing any warp technology - consider it being there as the painful outcome of centuries of struggled infancy of humanities efforts to conquer the stars
  • It mines some kind of ore containing helium3 - think 'moon' if you have seen that
  • Feel free to go anywhere you want with what you write - Ive just supplied these as background info i decided on whilst doing the doodles
So, with that in mind here's what I came up with...

Mining Facility 23

MIN-FAC23: the station is all I’ve known and, from the day I had the misfortune of being born on it, I’ve wanted nothing more than to leave. All my life I’ve been raised to be a miner, “Because that’s what you were born into.” my father said. That was before the accident. He dug right through one of the rock walls of the asteroid the station was built into and was sucked out into vacuum. He wasn’t even given a proper funeral since the cause of his death was “far too common to merit any credits to be allocated to a funeral”. Bastards. I’ll never forgive them for that.

What can I say about this decrepit old station that couldn’t also be said about a scrapyard? It’s rickety, rusty, and damp. I think the ancient Romans had better idea of pipe layout than the builders of this floating piece of space junk did. The days are long and the work is grueling. I’d be willing to bet that prisoners on slaveships have it better than I do… probably make more than I do too. All day long it’s the same story… smash some rocks for scientific progress. Lack of progress more like it; this station has been around since the beginning of time and we’re no closer to the stars that they all insisted were just within our reach.

So we’re digging for Helium-3: some element that’s supposed to make travel time between here and the inner colonies much faster… fast enough that I might actually get off this rock someday. Nobody admits it, but I think that’s the only thing that keeps people working with so few incidents; the hope of leaving this place far behind them. The eggheads say they can use it as some sort of nuclear fuel for the fusion drives they’ve been working on for God-knows how many decades now. Their plan to “conquer the stars” has become more of a rescue effort than anything.

About a generation or so ago, we started to look beyond earth and establish our first colonies on the Moon. Mars followed right after that. The eggheads said that establishing colonies on new worlds would be the catalyst for a golden age of scientific discovery. But, in reality, it turned out to be the most expensive failure in our history. Every day they spend trillions of credits putting people in stasis pods and flying them towards the outer colonies using slow, conventional engines. I takes anywhere from a few months to a few years for the supplies we need to reach us. It really does a number on your morale after a while… not knowing when the next supply of food or medicine is coming in.

If all that weren’t enough, there’s been an increasing amount of reports coming in from the outer colonies about pirates attacking freighters and stealing their cargo. It’s only a matter of time before one of ours is hit… then, I don’t know what we’ll do.

It’s been over a month since our last shipment, which means one of two things: either it’s late, or it’s been hit. I fear the worst. It’s my hope that, if that shipment never makes it, someone will find this letter and give the guys upstairs this message: YOUR GREED IS KILLING US ALL!

Miner 230243 - Jacob Pierson