Saturday Silliness: Useless Coupons

Is your Saturday full of shopping errands?  If so, you won’t get any use out of these coupons. Well, maybe a giggle or two.

IMAGE CREDITS: Many thanks to my son Tyrell Gephardt, for turning me on to these.

Book Review: Incredulity Gets Whiplashed

Available from Rainy Day Books and other fine booksellers.

As you may recall from earlier posts this spring, I’ve been dipping into my late aunt’s library of mysteries and thrillers, and occasionally reviewing them.

I’d been underwhelmed with some of the products of male authors on her shelves, who seemed hooked on men without discernable feelings for their protagonists.  Perhaps a female perspective would help.
I pulled out the book Whiplash, by Catherine Coulter. On the cover it was billed as “An FBI Thriller,” so that seemed potentially a fair sample in the same genre. Not unlike David Baldacci’s The Sixth Man, this one featured a male-female team of investigators who also have a personal relationship (in this case they’re married), and who have been the subject of several books. 
Author Catherine Coulter
Coulter is listed as a number-one bestseller, so she must be doing something right, I thought. And apparently Dillon Savich and Lacey Sherlock have a devoted following. 
Unfortunately, this book did not improve my overall “take” on the thriller genre.  Or “Romance Suspense Thriller,” as Coulter’s website proclaims.
Why not?  Let me count the ways.
One: Wandering Viewpoints
I’m not a real big fan of the limited omniscient viewpoint, exactly because of books such as this. We dip at random into one person’s head, then another, until I wasn’t sure whose head I was in.
Whose head are we in, now?

Is this evaluation of a character that I’m reading being done by an observer, an investigator, or by the character himself? Or a little of all of them? Or is it author intrusion?  Let me offer an example, from page 61 of the hardcover edition:

“Turley Drexel was fifty-two years old, and cursed with a round baby face he’d hated for as long as he could remember.  He answered her in the tone of a prim, tightly wound bureaucrat used to juggling numbers. ‘See here, Agent . . . . ’”
Does it matter whose head we’re in?  Yes!  To me it does, because until I know who is evaluating whom, I can’t begin to form an opinion about how reliable this witness is. Should I believe everything I’m told? Nothing I’m told? Some other measure? Yikes!
Two: Creeping Incredulity
Dillon Savich at FBI HQ?
Dillon Savich is an FBI agent . . . who talks to dead people. Sometimes in his office. And when he does, his co-workers calmly act as if he’s just interviewing any old witness. See to believe (from pp. 179-180 of the hardcover edition):
“[Savich] concentrated hard on trying to see her face, but there was nothing but a vague outline he could hardly make out. He thought he heard her voice, faint and hollow, her words indistinct and distant, as if she were retreating, farther and farther away.
“Savich’s eyes opened slowly. He looked at Dane Carver, who stood in the doorway of his office, stone still, watching him. Dane asked calmly, ‘You get anything from the wife?’
“Had Dane knocked and he hadn’t heard him?  Very probably.  Savich had to grin.  There was no doubt in his mind the whole unit knew about Senator Hoffman’s dead wife.”
Remember Fox Mulder?

Okay, then. Sure, that’s totally normal FBI behavior. 

Granted, I’m coming in on the middle of a series. Perhaps it’s less weird if you’ve been following it from the beginning. But what about that thing where each book should stand on its own merits?

As my friend Lucy Synkremarked, “It would be like working with Mulder.”
Three: Clichés, much?
I bet you’ve already spotted a few in the quotes above, but looking for clichés in this book is kind of like—sorry—shooting fish in a barrel. J
Here’s my candidate for Whiplash Overall Winner in the Most Clichés in One Sentence Category, from page 64 of the hardcover edition:
“At first he looked decisive, a man at the top of his game, sure of his place in the sun.”

Four: Such Speaking Eyes!

Yup, I totally accept the “Romance Suspense Thriller” label.  I don’t think I’ve seen that many different emotions, reactions, and thoughts in characters’ eyes since I was reading romances in high school.
When I was a teenager I used to believe it actually might be possible to read such eloquence in the eyes, but while I got pretty good at reading people’s facial expressions, I never did encounter eyes that spoke the volumes I’d been reading about.
Nowadays, I get restless with fiction in which the body language is lackluster and the eyes are doing all the talking.
“You sly dog! You got me monologuing!”

Five: The Marathon of Monologues

The last eighty-or-so pages of this book consist of one sustained monologue after another.  Jane Ann monologues.  Then Kesselring monologues.  Then Sherlock does her own monologuing, then Savich puts in his bit. Then Bowie. Then Hoffman.
I kept flashing on Syndrome, in The Incredibles, scolding Mr. Incredible: “You sly dog!  You got me monologuing!” Except no one has to encourage these guys. They just spontaneously blather on.  And on.
Six: Police work? We don’t need no stinkin’ police work!
Sadly, without the monologues, they never would’ve solved the case(s).
Following up? Analysis? Evidence?

I’m not kidding. Most of the truly crucial police work is done off-stage, on a hurry-up basis, after the heroes have made rather large intuitive leaps.

We don’t get to see the clues coming together, so we don’t get much chance to try solving the mystery for ourselves. 
No, this isn’t a chart of the plot. But it could be.

Seven: The Battle of the Storylines

Whiplash is not A story, it’s two.  Nor do I see a whole lot of overlap between them; it’s not as if they’re two sides of a single conundrum, or even parallel conundra (conundrums?). Nope, not much overlap at all.
As far as I can tell, it’s all in one book because of a small, circumstantial link, and mostly because neither storyline is strong enough to support the whole book on its own.
While I was reading, I kept trying to figure out what the title means, and how it fits with the story.  Between my reasons #1 and #7, I’ve concluded that perhaps it’s because a reader might get whiplash zigzagging from viewpoint to viewpoint, and plotline to plotline.
Is Whiplash worth reading? 
That depends on what you like. 
If you’re okay with speaking eyes, psychic FBI agents, and monologue after monologue to miraculously close the case, or if you’re already in love with these characters, maybe the rest of it won’t bother you so much.
IMAGE CREDITS: The cover illustration of Whiplash is courtesy of Rainy Day Books.  
The photo of Catherine Coulter is from her website.  
The cartoon of many hands on the keyboard is by Mark Marek, from The Comics Reporter
The spoof on “I see dead people” is from SomEEcards.  
The image of Fox Mulder is from the blog Welcome to Ladyville.  
The eloquent eye image is courtesy of Wattpad.
The photo of Syndrome is a still from The Incredibles, courtesy of What Culture’s article, “Six Sinister Pixar Villains we Love to Hate.”
The Crime Analysis image is from the Columbia, SC Police Department website, on their “Crime Analysis” page.
I hijacked the chart “NS Reciprocity” from Bernie Hogan of the University of Toronto. My apologies, dude.

Artdog Quote of the Week

What’s your song?  Have the courage to sing it!

IMAGE CREDIT: This week’s image is by Lisa Pirsk, from her blog “Lisa Pirsk Illustration and Design.”  She also has a Facebook page, which you may enjoy if you’re on FB.

Pop-up books!

I’ve always loved pop-up books, from the first time I saw one. They’ve always seemed sort of magical, but in the manner of a well-executed magician’s trick.

A page from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, art by Robert Sabuda

My kids had them, loved them as they grew up.  We wore several out.

My students loved them, too, when I needed a way to teach 3-D principles on a paper-glue-and-markers budget and I pulled some basic pop-up technology how-to articles from the Internet, to create a final project assignment for the color unit.

Dai Food, by Colette Fu

Pop-up books led me into the realm of turning the 2-D medium of paper into a 3-D creation, so yes–they are the origin of my explorations into paper sculpture.

Anyone who follows this blog also knows I’m a science fiction and fantasy fan, as well, so you can imagine my delight when my son turned me on to the amazing Game of Thrones Guide to Westeros pop-up extravaganza shown in this YouTube video:

I’m happy to give credit where it’s due.  The paper engineering is by Matthew Reinhart, whose website reveals a wealth of other wonderful projects as well.  Do NOT miss it!

The art is by Michael Komarck, who also has done a lot of other wonderful illustration work, most recently for Magic: The Gathering from Wizards of the Coast.

A steal at $65.00, this will  become a collectible. ISBN: 978-1-60887-314-2.

You’ll probably also enjoy the video on THIS wonderful pop-up, America’s National Parks, from the National Parks Conservation Association:

This one was designed by paper engineer Bruce Foster (I bet you’ll enjoy his blog).

The art for America’s National Parks is by Dave Ember.

This one’s got a two-tiered price structure, with a limited-edition version and a mass market version.  Part of the proceeds go to support the National Parks Conservation Association. ISBN: 978-0-97589-603-7.

IMAGE CREDITS: The Robert Sabuda page from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland came from The Alpha Mom blog.  Colette Fu’s amazing image Dai Food is from her website.  The wonderful YouTube video  for the Game of Thrones guide comes from HBO, ultimately. The National Parks Conservation Association and InkinMotion created that book’s YouTube video.

Artdog Quote of the Week

Sad, but all too often true.

IMAGE CREDIT: Many thanks to Justin Perricone’s “Illustrated Quotes” on his “Strictly Commercial” blog.

May: A Good Month to Re-Home Jan’s Art!

Denizen of the Winter Trees, 2009

I love selling art to someone who appreciates it. 

I’ve been able to do that twice this month–and in each case an original found a new home where I hope it will reward the new owners with enjoyable viewing for a long time.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I have scheduled myself for three science fiction conventions in May and June. So far, I’ve sold an original piece of artwork at each of the conventions I’ve attended.

Denizen of the Winter Trees
Demicon 25 was held in Des Moines, IA May 2-4, and my 2009 piece, Denizen of the Winter Trees found its new home there.

Treetop Primaries, 2009: more Twig Dragons.

Denizen was an important piece for me, when I made it in 2009. I had not done too many paper sculptures at the time, and I was still experimenting with my materials. I conceived the idea of creating small “fire-lizard size” dragons (Thank you, Anne McCaffrey, for the idea of fire lizards), which could perch on real twigs.  I had a yard full of twigs and sticks, courtesy of the large sliver maple tree in my front yard.

My 7-piece “Dragon Parts” stencil

I created a seven-piece pattern for making the dragon’s body, head, and wings, with the idea that I could create a series of “Twig Dragons.” I used the pattern like a stencil to transfer a pencil outline from the pattern to acid-free paper, inked and painted in the details, sculpted, and assembled the piece onto a real silver maple twig.  The background trees are painted with Winsor & Newton watercolors on Arches watercolor paper. It was a pretty labor-intensive process.  I only made one other “Twig Dragons” piece, the larger work Treetop Primaries, 2009.

All of my “Snowflake Dragons,” as well as the multiple original Common Cliff Dragon-Male, 2012, are descendants of the Twig Dragons, because I adapted that original stencil design to create them.


Horsefeathers in 2012: finished, but with no background!

I have an even longer-standing love affair with horses than I do with dragons (in strictest honesty, there’s more than a little “horse” in my dragons). Horses were my absolute favorite subject to draw, paint, read about, and write about, all the time I was growing up.  It’s no surprise, then, that the fantasy “pegasus” or winged horse is a subject I’ve returned to many times in my career as a fantasy artist.

Black-Headed Heron,2012

Horsefeathers 2012 was mostly created during March and April of that year, inspired by the design I’d created for the wing of my Black-Headed Heron. I liked the way the wing had turned out, so I adapted the pattern I’d created for it, and made my horse’s wing.

You may note, if you know horses, that this horse isn’t the usual light, airy little Arabian normally paired with a set of pegasus wings in fantasy art.  No, this guy’s a Percheron, with maybe a little Shire or Clydesdale thrown in there. The idea of a “heavy” horse with wings appealed to my sense of irony–and the icing on the cake was the hair on the feet. Those luxuriant, furry feet are called “feathers.”

How could I resist?

Horsefeathers has a new home.

I am happy to report that, thanks to Signy Gephardt‘s helpful eye, I was able to find a framing approach that worked much better for my “heavy pegasus” than anything I’d previously tried: velvety black to set him off.  The proof that I’d found his best presentation approach came when I promptly sold him at ConQuesT 45, which I attended May 22-24, 2014 in Kansas City! He has gone home to live with the obviously-tasteful Terry Matz and Ken Keller.

As the paper sculptures have gotten more elaborate (and I’ve gotten better at making them), the complexity of the patterns has gone up.  Horsefeathers was created from 15 different pieces, based on tracing paper overlays of an original drawing. The pieces were cut from (acid-free archival) Canson colored paper, and subtle additional color was added using Prismacolor artists’ pencils, both before and after cutting. Then they were sculpted and assembled.

Look for me at SoonerCon 23!
My convention-going isn’t over yet, and I still have more artwork to sell.  My art and I plan to be in Midwest City, OK (Oklahoma City metro area) June 27-29, 2014 for SoonerCon 23. Perhaps I’ll see you there.

IMAGES: All photos are by Jan S. Gephardt, of her artwork (and also her friend, in one case!). If you use or re-post them, please do so with attribution and a link back.  Thanks!

Artdog Quote of the Week

IMAGE CREDIT: Many thanks to the Occupy Wall Street Facebook Page, for this image.