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Expanding Beyond Webcomic Communities, for #WebcomicChat

Expanding Beyond Webcomic Communities, for #WebcomicChat published on 2 Comments on Expanding Beyond Webcomic Communities, for #WebcomicChat

I’ve been doing some of these chats realtime because my only answers were Tweet-sized anyway. Figured I’d compile them here for reference, and for ease of reading.

Q1: Do you stick to webcomic communities and services that cater to webcomics for promotion? How is your strategy working out?

Yeah, mostly. I have a constant 1-cent-or-less Project Wonderful campaign, and do intermittent more-expensive one using the best-performing ads. It’s a steady referral source.

A Project Wonderful screenshot — steady exposure, for about $0.83 per week. (The costs are all covered by my own site running ads like this.)

The trick IME is trying lots of different ads, introducing new ones every so often, and then looking at metrics to see which get the higher click rates.

And I make sure both BICP and Leif & Thorn are on resources like the LGBT Webcomics Link List.

Q2: What are some other options outside of webcomic communities for sharing your work?

Think about your genre & build on that. Mine are LGBT-centric, so I’m writing some posts for @LGBTQReads, to put a variety of recs in front of an audience that likes LGBT+ stuff but might not have thought about webcomics before.

(Here’s their Webcomics tag! One reclist is already posted, and there are more in the queue.)

Q3: What things make you nervous about sharing your comics outside of webcomic communities?

Yeah, this. It’s not like webcomic communities are magically nicer or better than the rest of the internet. Or like my strips are somehow inaccessible to a reader who’s never read webcomics before.

This is peak #relatable for all of us, I think.

Q4: What kinds of results have you had when talking to people about your comics outside of the webcomic communities? / Q5: What are resources that you have used outside of the webcomic niche to promote your webcomic?

Really just the stuff mentioned above. And when people IRL see me drawing, I tell them what it’s about, maybe give them the URL of the strip I’m working on.

Invariably, without fail, they say something like “oh, you’re so good, I can’t believe you’re not doing it full-time and making tons of money!”

…yeah, this is how you can tell someone isn’t familiar with webcomics.

Technical Difficulties: the aftermath

Technical Difficulties: the aftermath published on No Comments on Technical Difficulties: the aftermath

So for the past few months my computer has had a couple of bluescreens and other random errors…culminating in this past Sunday, when it tried to boot and couldn’t even find the hard drive. Not fun.

The good news:
I got a new drive! Solid-state, so it’s faster and more durable. My programs are all reinstalled. Most of my data is safe. It only took four days, and I even had some things in the queue that I could post in the meantime.

The bad news:
It cost $600.

Yyyyeah.

How you can help:

Commission some art. Doable again, now that Photoshop and my scanner are back up and running. Having stuff to work on will even help me get all the settings reconfigured.

Donate through PayPal – if you don’t want any art but still feel like sending money. This is the link that gets you a bonus wallpaper.

Donate through Patreon – you can sign up for a recurring donation, or sign up and then cancel five minutes later to make a one-time payment. Also gets you wallpapers.

Click the “Purchase” link on this art (it’s just the high-res version of the image) as a quick’n’easy way to send money through dA.

– No cash of your own to spare right now? No worries. Link your friends to Leif & Thorn or give a bump to BICP to boost my ad revenue.

Every little bit helps – even $1 or $5 at a time can add up fast. And share this post around! If just 10% of readers chip in a few dollars each, we could have this thing covered by tomorrow.

Spooky comic settings, for #WebcomicChat

Spooky comic settings, for #WebcomicChat published on 3 Comments on Spooky comic settings, for #WebcomicChat

A post I had to illustrate with the stock image of Lady Stanczia and Lord Imri’s eerie mountainside castle. (Last seen in Vampire Hunter Thorn #3.)

Q1: How would you describe the difference between “spooky” and “scary”? Is there one?

“Spooky” is a particular aesthetic, all ominous and Halloween-y. “Scary” is a much broader category. If you narrowly miss being in a car accident, that’s scary, but not spooky. Dark misty forests with no sound except a cold breeze rustling the leaves, on the other hand…those are both spooky and scary.

Q2: What makes a scene or setting spooky to you?

Let me just rec some comics that do spooky really well, and you can work it out backwards from there.

The Last Halloween (ongoing) is full of claustrophobic staging and ominous crosshatching. Along with all the specific pumpkins-and-graveyards type stuff.

Stand Still Stay Silent (ongoing) gets these wonderful eerie effects from detailed art with limited palettes. Check out this shadowy, rain-drenched forest.

Awful Hospital (hiatus) does a great job of combining the gory and horrific with the oppressively mundane.

Serenity Rose (complete) has lots of shadow-filled forests, ornate but falling-apart old houses, and elaborate gothic architecture. Plus stuff in the corner staring at you.

Q3: Are spooky settings limited to specific genres? Why or why not?

If you’re writing something like a lighthearted comedy or a fluffy romance, there’s a limit to how deep you can go into horror territory. But spookiness doesn’t have to be horrific — you can also do the cute-and-fun version. Any genre can be paired with at least some point on the spooky spectrum.

Or, to put it another way: any comic can do a Halloween special.

Q4: What sorts of elements make a scene less spooky?

Bright lighting, pastel palettes, humor.

Spookiness isn’t really something that happens by accident, it’s something you have to actively cultivate. But those are things that can temper it after it’s been cultivated.

Q5: Provide us some examples of your favorite spooky settings!

I did it for other webcomics up in Q2, so here are some from Leif & Thorn:

The dark and deserted-by-order Embassy gardens from Homecoming. And again in Vampire Masquerade, complete with cold blowing winds.

Mata in a deep dark hole — this is one where the spookiness gets tempered by the way he stays relaxed and keeps making jokes.

Stanczia and Imri’s castle from the main continuity. Complete with ominous business deals.

Rec your own favorite spooky comics in the comments!

Send me art prompts: Sweet Affectionate Moments Meme

Send me art prompts: Sweet Affectionate Moments Meme published on 8 Comments on Send me art prompts: Sweet Affectionate Moments Meme

Adapted this from the original on Tumblr.

Send me a NUMBER & PAIRING and I’ll write draw a little something.

KISSES:

1. A Sweet Kiss
2. A Hot Kiss
3. A Tired Kiss
4. A Drunken Kiss
5. A Reunion Kiss
6. A Kiss of Relief
7. A Scared Kiss
8. A First Kiss
9. An Awkward Kiss
10. A Shy Kiss
11. A Morning Kiss
12. A Night Kiss
13. A Sorry Kiss
14. A Sad Kiss
15. A Hope We Don’t Get Caught Kiss
16. A Naughty Kiss

SWEET MOMENTS:

17. A Love Bite
18. Holding Hands
19. Cuddling
20. A Massage
21. A Promise
22. Caught in a Storm
23. Seeking Shelter
24. Slow Dancing
25. Exchanging Letters
26. Tending an injury
27. Accidentally Sleeping In
28. Teaching the other something new
29. Cooking Together
30. Sharing A Bath/Swim
31. Catching the other before they fall
32. Getting Caught in the Act

(Canon & non-canon pairings welcome! Only limit is, no family members for the romantic prompts. Everything else is fair game.)

Leif & Thorn calendar! — Volume 1, printing for 2018.

Leif & Thorn calendar! — Volume 1, printing for 2018. published on No Comments on Leif & Thorn calendar! — Volume 1, printing for 2018.

Now available on Deviantart, Leif & Thorn Calendar Vol. 1: At Your Side!

Featuring OTP artwork from the first two years of Leif & Thorn, a cross-cultural bilingual m/m fantasy comedy. One’s a dragonslayer with a magic sword and PTSD; one’s a gardener working off a debt in a country where he doesn’t speak the language. Turns out love knows no borders. (Although it does get sidetracked by poor translation.)

Originally printing for the 2018 calendar year. After that, it updates every July (so if you order after July 2018 you’ll get the calendar for 2019, order after July 2019 you’ll get 2020, and so on).

Some of the art hasn’t even been posted anywhere else yet, so if you buy early enough, you’ll get a sneak preview. Click through to purchase!

Talking about detail for #WebcomicChat…well, trying to.

Talking about detail for #WebcomicChat…well, trying to. published on No Comments on Talking about detail for #WebcomicChat…well, trying to.

Q1: How do you feel about comics with incredibly detailed visual or story elements?

Deeply envious. If I wanted to draw comics in a minimalist style, a la 1/0 or xkcd, I could pull it off. But lush, elaborate, detailed art? Even if I tried, there’s only so high a mark I can hit.

Check out these establishing shots from Devil’s Candy, or these eldritch city environments from Zebra Girl, or this surreal interlude from Floraverse.

Q2: What sorts of things do you find necessary to put the most detail into?

Establishing shots — that is, a wide shot of the scenery when the characters enter a new environment. That’s what both of these are:

(The first one following a fourth-wall-straining metajoke about “gosh, this scenery would take forever to draw.”)

After that I make a conscious effort to put the characters in front of a simple background — various walls, rows of bushes and trees, a cave, the sky. In a black-and-white comic you can get away with just leaving blank white space around the characters, but in Leif & Thorn there needs to at least be a specific flat color.

(But I’m A Cat Person falls between the two (in a…grey area *rimshot*). It’s somewhat easier to cheat because I can fill the background with whatever shade of grey fits the lighting and tone of the scene, without having to keep track of which exact wall they’re in front of.)

It doesn’t save 100% of the work. You still need to keep your panels visually engaging by doing long shots, different angles, and other things that demand some thought for the background. But it cuts it down a lot.

Q3: How do you balance complicated details with simpler, more accessible details?

Mostly the common advice of “keep the characters/point-of-focus detailed and the background simple, so the focus stands out.”

Make your characters’ everyday outfits relatively simple and quick to draw, then give them more elaborate and complex clothes on special occasions.

Same with rare and fancy objects versus common ones. There are complex magical contraptions with engravings and swirly bits, but the smartcrystals they’re always using to make calls or browse the Network are just plain rectangles.

Q4: Do you have any time-saving techniques or resources for handling fine details?

Make yourself some stock graphics!

I finally made a nice tiled pattern for the embroidery on the trim of the knights’ uniforms, so I don’t have to draw random little fiddly bits every time. It’s just black lines on a white background, so I put it on a separate layer and set it to Multiply, and then it blends naturally with whatever shading or color-adjusting happens underneath.

And I have transparent graphics for the detailed art-nouveau Embassy gates. They can be resized, skewed, and otherwise distorted to match whatever angle the panel calls for.

Q5: What are your favorite comics that have immense amounts of detail?

The ones recced above, plus Homestuck (a ridiculous variety of planets and dreamscapes), Buying Time (cyberpunk settings and equipment complete with cycling Flash animation), and Serenity Rose (spooky midwestern town and supernatural environments).

Readers, what are yours? (And/or, what’s your favorite high-detail Leif & Thorn scene?)

The latest in #WebcomicChat — cameos!

The latest in #WebcomicChat — cameos! published on No Comments on The latest in #WebcomicChat — cameos!

Today’s topic is cameos!

Used to do them all the time in And Shine Heaven Now. They have their own tag on the new Shine site.

Mostly in Leif & Thorn I’ll only do cameos from But I’m A Cat Person, and vice versa. But if there’s a big crowd scene, sometimes you want to make it interesting.

Q1: Have you ever used other comic creators’ characters as cameos in your comic? If not, would you?

Not characters from webcomics specifically (I don’t think). At least, not yet. Characters from other media, sure.

Speaking as a reader, they’re a really fun Easter egg to catch. Rereading Bruno the Bandit recently, I was all entertained to spot some cameos from Sluggy Freelance. In an intra-artist example, Sleepless Domain borrows some characters from the same author’s Kiwi Blitz to fill out magical-girl crowds.

Q2: How do you usually go about adding cameos – ask people, request cameos, or just add them as a fun surprise?

Fun surprise!

If it’s a quick background appearance, I don’t think you should ask. The goal is to show your appreciation for the other creator’s work, not get their approval for yours. (Copyright-wise, you’re fine here — look up the YoI cameos in the Steven Universe comics, or Sailor Moon characters in the background of My Little Pony issues, for examples.)

If it’s a long-term use of someone else’s character, then either it’s some kind of planned crossover/tie-in (in which case, both creators should be discussing it), or it’s a fancomic (in which case, do whatever you want! — just don’t sell it). Or it’s a mid-line case, like Phil Likes Tacos — an original comic, but with so many sci-fi and video-game cameos that the artist has consciously decided not to put it up for sale.

Q3: What are the upsides to using cameos of other people’s characters?

It gives you a break from drawing your own designs, lets you branch out a little.

It livens up boring crowd scenes.

It’s a small way of showing your appreciation for the other person’s work.

If you’re lucky, they see it and like you back and link their followers to your strip — but don’t make that your goal. There’s an episode of the Webcomics Weekly podcast where the artist of (iirc) PVP complained about how many “look, I gave your character a cameo!” emails he gets that are clearly just shilling for links. That’s just rude.

Q4: What are the downsides to using cameos of other people’s characters, if any?

Well, if you’re rude about it, the creator you admire is going to feel annoyed rather than appreciated.

And if you overuse the cameos, it limits your ability to sell the comic. (Only a downside if you were hoping to sell the comic in the first place. If you’re just here for the fun of the hobby, it’s all good.)

Some people are probably going to answer this with “it limits your creativity and gets in the way of developing your own characters,” but, listen, if making comics with 100% other people’s characters is fun and entertaining for you, go for it. Four King Hell and Powerpuff Girls Doujinshi are pure fancomic, and they’re delightful. Have fun.

Q5: Share a page where you have used cameo characters!

This L&T strip has gay skaters on the left, Magic Tavern podcasters on the right:

Read the whole storyline to pick out others! Including the Leverage crew, apparently stealing a Summerfest.

The Moral Of The Story — for #WebcomicChat

The Moral Of The Story — for #WebcomicChat published on 5 Comments on The Moral Of The Story — for #WebcomicChat

For today’s discussion on @webcomicchat.

Q1: How do you define the “moral of the story”?

A practical lesson it teaches. Can be a deliberate anvil-dropping, but any well-written and complex story will have natural morals, in the sense of “if you, too, behave like this, you’ll face these consequences.”

e.g. a moral of The Lord of the Rings (and by extension DM of The Rings) might be “don’t underestimate your gardener.”

Q2: Are a story’s morals and its themes the same thing? Why or why not?

A moral should be an outgrowth of a theme, but a theme doesn’t necessarily lead to a moral.

e.g. if one of the morals of Sleepless Domain is “reaching out to your friends can help you deal with a traumatic loss,” that comes from the way it handles the broader themes of loss/grief and friendship.

Contrast something like Catball & Clown Girl, which arguably has themes of friendship (and hatred, and cat-ness), but I don’t know that you can draw any useful lessons from it. It’s just cute.

Skipping around because this one’s related:

Q4: Do a story’s thematic elements need to reflect any of its morals? How so?

…how would you get a moral that doesn’t involve any of the thematic elements? That’s like asking if the answer to a riddle needs to reflect the setup.

I guess you can read this as “do the characters need to behave in accordance with the moral,” in which case, no. You can have a story that centers on Bad People Doing Bad Things (consider String Theory, or Bruno The Bandit), and interpret the moral as “hey, don’t be like that guy.”

Q5: Tell us about your favorite stories with a central moral to share!

Ehh. Anything with a “central moral” is likely too anvilicious to be a “favorite story.”

Good storytelling and character development needs to be at the center of the writing. Morals are just an outgrowth, an aftereffect, of that focus.

Q3: What are some examples of stories (including your own) you see with morals imparted in them?

I think the most obvious moral of Leif & Thorn are “communication is important, even (especially!) when it’s hard work.” Maybe with a side of “be kind to people, because you never know what they’ve gone through.”

…Readers, any other nominations?

A Small Orange vs. SiteGround: customer service FIGHT!

A Small Orange vs. SiteGround: customer service FIGHT! published on 2 Comments on A Small Orange vs. SiteGround: customer service FIGHT!

Well, if you’ve been watching any of the sporadic blog/tumblr posts over the past few days, you know I’ve been working on migrating my site. A lot of the reason it took so long is because I had to keep shuttling between two different incarnations of tech support.

I’m writing it up for anyone who could use a case study of the customer service at these two companies. Or anyone who just wants to read juicy details of data migration.

The project: Moving a grand total of 3.7 GB of data, including 3 separate WordPress installations, tied to 2 different domain names plus multiple subdomains.

Original host: A Small Orange. I got an account there in the halcyon days of 2007, when it was just a scrappy startup with chart-topping reviews. Bought out in 2012 by the notorious EIG, but the original staff was kept on and the reviews stayed high…until some kind of shakeup in 2015, followed by the reviews going off a cliff.

New host: SiteGround. I followed a rec to research this small still-independent Bulgarian company, founded in 2004 but having a growth spurt recently. Their reputation is solid, they get praise for customer support, and it’s deeply encouraging to hear phrases like “strong feature set – especially if you are more technically biased” and “it’s apparent that they invest a lot in their employees.”

Continue reading A Small Orange vs. SiteGround: customer service FIGHT!

So Leif & Thorn was down for a while this afternoon.

So Leif & Thorn was down for a while this afternoon. published on 3 Comments on So Leif & Thorn was down for a while this afternoon.

With an error message that said something about “account suspended,” which was immediately suspicious, because my web host hadn’t sent me any kind of “we are suspending your account” email. (But I’m A Cat Person is on the same host, and had the same issue.)

Well, it turned out it wasn’t a hack. Turns out A Small Orange can just…accidentally put that error on your site now.

I got into a chat with tech support, where the agent was able to fix it. They explained the glitch as “the permission of the website was not set.” What permission? Not clear (although maybe that was an EFL issue). How and why did it come un-set between this morning and this afternoon? No way to tell. Will this happen again? ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Last unexpected downtime was less than a month ago.

Long story short, anyone reading this who has a website and is loving the quality of the hosting, please send me a rec. I don’t need anything fancy, just 5 gigs of space where I can install a few WordPress installations and run them in peace.

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