If I Could Be Serious…

February 17, 2018

Things I’ve Learned While Painting

Part II: No Joking Matter

I don’t want to pick on Games Workshop, but since that was the miniatures company that I spent most of my time following, it might seem like it. I’m not attacking them, in fact what I’m about to talk about has been addressed by them many times. There are other companies that have done this as well, too, so there’s that.

The overall theme, feeling, and design of Warhammer 40K used to be fairly tongue in cheek. It was a serious game, no doubt, but there was still a lot of goofy stuff. Squats, for instance, were humans who colonized a low gravity world and turned into “space dwarfs” and worked as miners (hmm, sound familiar?) and their main mode of battle transportation was with motorcycles. It had the possibility to be really badass, but ended up looking rather silly.

Chaos had Noise Marines (still does, actually). They played electric guitars that fired sonic blasts at the enemy. Now they’re just some type of gun. Orks were kooky and big ol’ dummies. The list goes on.

And that’s just the storyline stuff.

While a lot of effort went into the sculpting of the miniatures, there was a more cartoony aspect to them. Compare something from 20 years ago to now. It’s sharper, more defined and detailed (hey, like my last post said!), and just a lot more serious. Other companies did this too; look up galleries online of old fantasy miniatures and you’ll see quality and craftsmanship that pales in comparison to what’s out there now.

I feel proud to paint and put together miniatures that were well thought out and crafted. I know that when I give it my best and put 100% into it, they’re getting the return investment they put into it as well (not to mention the money I paid…). Seeing something that is super duper sculpted with a shitty, breezy paint job, it just feels…wrong somehow.

And hey, that’s how it is with writing. I’ve always taken it seriously, but I put more time into it now. I take the outline, writing, editing and even submission process very seriously. Compared to how I did it ten years ago, I feel like a true professional (despite not getting professional pay rates!).

I might write something for fun here and there, but I’m not joking around with stories either. I want this to be something that in five, ten, or whatever years I’ll be proud to pull out and say “I wrote this.” Not something that’s laughable and cute for the time I wrote it in.

It’s not rocket science. Take things a little more seriously, put a little bit more effort into it, and you’ll see better results. Not only from yourself, but others as well. The difference between five minutes can lead to a lifetime of good results, and that’s what I’m happy to have learned, even from painting a little plastic figurine.

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The Finest of Details

February 13, 2018

Things I’ve Learned Painting Miniatures

Part I: Details Keep Getting Finer

Way back in 1996 when I started painting, I was 16 and timid. Having very little artistic ability, I couldn’t imagine myself painting miniatures on a regular basis, let alone doing them well. Still, I persisted, and flourished into the mediocre painter I am today. I think I was smart by choosing minis that appeared to be quick, simple paint jobs.

All my friends decided to get into Warhammer 40K. I had always liked the look and feel of it, and was definitely interested in tabletop wargaming. Still, I picked what looked to be the easiest army to paint—the Tyranids. To be honest, I slopped through that army, but yeah, they were much less detailed than all the others.

Throughout the years, as Games Workshop released new editions of 40K, they would redo a lot of the miniatures as well. While older models are always welcome on the battlefield, players are encouraged to give them more and more money keep up with the most recent releases and constantly evolve their battle forces. In addition to a constantly growing price tag, something else changes: the quality of sculpting.

Compare any miniature from 1994 with something that came out last week. You’ll see a major change in the level of quality and detail. Some of the microscopic angles and lines that are included now would cause a massive table flip 20+ years ago, but it’s commonplace now.

I’ve noticed that painting has become a larger hobby on its own. I mean, it always was, but given the growth of the internet, there are tons of “how to paint X” videos, in addition to galleries and bragging posts all over the place. One thing I see is that a lot of people log their hours working on something, and very rarely do you see “badly” painted minis. Let’s be honest, sometimes you see absolute shit on the battlefield and display cases.

This has given rise to commissioned painting, or simply unpainted armies. Two friends at the game store a few weeks ago, for instance, had their 40K armies out, having fun, but were literally basecoated. No detail, no highlighting, nothing. Both admitted they had no time and no talent to do it, but they were in fact on waiting lists for local pro painters to do their figures for them.

As for myself, I’m spending a lot more time on each figure in my Shadespire army. While I want it to look good, I keep noticing little, fine details that can only be done in a certain way. I hate having sloppy miniatures (I’m not 16 anymore, guys!), and I take pride in my work.

I keep finding all these parallels to writing with this. “Rules” and “standards” in literature are always growing and changing. You look at a published novel from 100 years ago, and you’ll see a sloppier, totally different style of writing as compared to something that just came out. While a lot of today’s novels still tell instead of showing, use lots of passive voice, and use highly unrealistic dialog, it’s a completely different way of writing than it used to be.

Fine detail might not be everyone’s forte, but the quality not only of writing and storytelling has grown, so has the control over this quality (editing, beta readers, etc.). Yes, I know there are a lot of books with major plot holes and unrealistic plot points, but the point is, it’s a lot different.

Not to say that writing from 100 years ago (or 50 years, 20 years, even 10 years ago…) is bad or sloppy. They had their place, and did what they set out to achieve. As Citadel and Games Workshop tighten their storylines and universes, moving from a tongue-in-cheek semi-RPG to a grimdark, uber-serious galaxy of constant war, the figures they create reflect that. Naturally, other companies follow suit and up the ante on the caliber of sculpt with their miniatures.

I’ll keep focusing on the fine details and do no less than by best. With painting my figures, and writing my stories.

 

If you’ve been following this blog with any sort of alacrity, you’ll know that around December of 2016 I dove headfirst into a new collectible card and dice game called Star Wars Destiny. It’s a lot of fun. Expensive (and I’m still suffering…), but fun. Infuriating, but fun.

Anyway, since I’m spending a bit of time at game stores now, I’ve reimmersed myself back into the gaming world. Ever since I was 13, I was big into gaming, and as a result, became a huge nerd because of it. Well, not just that, but it had a big hand in it. Back then, and for a long time, gaming stores were not in abundance, and gaming was not cool. Nowadays, board games and pretty much any type of game are massively popular. Barnes & Noble has a bunch, toy stores and toy departments are getting more than your typical Milton Bradley/Pressman kiddie/family/party games, and Kickstarter is flooded with new games all the time.

It’s also rekindling my interest in a lot of games I’ve fought long and hard to be out of.

Mainly, Warhammer. Games Workshop is a fantastic company, don’t get me wrong. They produce some of the best miniatures and paints known to man. Citadel Miniatures and Paints are expensive as hell, but so impressive in sculpt, scope, popularity, and awesomeness, I can’t complain.

Back in 1996, a bunch of friends and I got into Warhammer 40,000 big time. 40K is still one of the most popular games on the planet, and has become so much more visible than 22 years ago when we were delving into it. Regardless of all that, it got me and a bunch of pals into painting minis like it was nobody’s business.

Back then, we tried our best to make them look good, but we weren’t experts. Getting them painted and ready for the battlefield was our main priority, and if you go back and look at those figures, it shows. All of mine are gone, however, victims of one of my many phases of The Purge, a daunting task at getting rid of most, if not all, of my collectibles and random junk I had laying around.

Still, painting minis was a big hobby for me. Over the years, I’d buy and paint miniatures just for fun. Not just Citadel, but other brands like Reaper and Ral Partha as well. When I started working full-time back in 2009 (yes, I had somehow managed to survive until I was 29 years old at 25 hours a week. My debts and lack of a savings account now show for that, let me tell you!), I quit. Not that I wanted to, per se, but not having any time to paint in addition to working, spending time with your significant other, and making sure that life doesn’t run you over with a truck are not all things that can be juggled easily.

A few months ago, I was struggling with writing and many other things. My wife suggested I start painting again, just to kind of give myself a break. Not that I’m taking a break from writing, but it’s always good to give yourself some space when you’re getting too close.

So I pulled out the paints and got moving. It’s been fun. Back in October, Games Workshop put out a new skirmish game, Warhammer Underworlds: Shadespire. My friend Tony is into it so he’s told me a bit about it. It looked interesting and after reading the rules, I figured I’d give it a try. In December, I bought myself a warband (group of miniatures ranging from 3-6) of Orruks (formerly known as Orcs), and let them sit for a few weeks.

Recently, I’ve painted two of the four. I have a lot of thoughts about painting, especially after being out of the game for so long. This will be a long series of blogs, so stay tuned if you’re interested. There’s a lot of neat stuff here, not all involving painting or gaming. Life lessons of all varieties are abundant, and I’ll show you why in future installments.

And don’t worry, I’ll still talk about writing. In fact, I’ve got a story I’m in the middle of right now, and if things go right, it’ll be finished within a few hours…

Anniversary of Awesomeness

February 3, 2018

Things are looking up!

Behold, my typical negativity is gone. I mean, sure, I’ve still got my hang ups, but I’m pretty happy right now. In spite of financial difficulties and the fact that no matter how much I work out I’m not losing any weight, things are going well.

Cloaked Press is releasing an anthology called “Spring Into Sci-Fi” in a short while. My story, “The Man Without a Planet” will be in it. I’m super excited, and you should be too! It’s an actual paper book, with real ink and everything! Be sure to pick one up when it’s available.

I’ve been writing and editing like crazy. I have a stack of stories I’m very happy with, and working hard to get them out there. Some are going over very well with critique groups. Others are finding their place. I think if it’s longer than 2,000 words, people don’t want to take the time to read, review, critique and comment on it. It doesn’t mean they’re bad, just that it’s harder to find reader for something that’s 3,500 words than 1,500.

Stories are out in the wilds! Some are even on shortlists, and I’m holding my breath. I know I shouldn’t, but after all the time I’ve spent on these, why not hope for something positive? I don’t want to say I deserve it, but would it be too much to say it’s my time for something good?

Journaling the hell out of a new novel. Still waiting to edit The Third Tower, but I’m getting other ideas out there. I even jotted down a quick idea for a short, sweet, classic sword & sorcery novel. Maybe they’ll bring back the cheap spinner paperbacks with ridiculous cover art? What’s so bad about a short novel about a bunch of muscle-bound psychos killing each other?

And hey, look at that: today’s my 5 year anniversary with this blog! Thanks for following all these years, and thanks for your support!

Not in writing news, but I had a sinus infection for over a month. It’s gone! Finally. Seriously, feels great.

I started a new Clay and Styg story the other day. Should be done soon! Hopefully things will continue on this good path. As always, stay awesome!