Free Real Estate

Just another day in the life of a powerful but clueless wizard and the princess who (only barely) tolerates him.

This scene takes place at the end of the second story arc of my original fantasy novel, The Demon King. What essentially happens is that Balthazar attempts to learn how to control the weather and ends up harnessing ancient forces at the limits of human comprehension, which he uses for silly nonsense that does not benefit him or anyone else. But you have to admit that floating islands are cool, and like Ceres says – it’s free real estate.

This comic was written by me and illustrated by Mjoyart on Twitter (and elsewhere). I wrote the script and sketched a set of rough thumbnails, and Meghan was able to turn my stupid joke into something truly magical. Meghan posts Pokémon and Legend of Zelda comics and fan art on Twitter, and I highly recommend checking out her online portfolio (here) to see her original storyboards and animation projects. Her art is fantastic and never ceases to amaze me, and I’m very lucky to have been able to work with her!

Tsuboniwa

Shigeru Miyamoto has famously said that he envisions video games as small gardens. He uses the Japanese word tsuboniwa, which refers to the tiny courtyard gardens of traditional Kyoto machiya townhouses that are narrow but long enough to have a private garden in the middle. This is how video games have always felt to me. When I enter one of these virtual worlds, I can explore the green space at my leisure while taking a quiet moment to rest and reflect.

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I created this piece to include in the Philly Zine Fest 2021 Anthology. You can check out this year’s event on their Instagram account (here) and their website (here).

Today’s gender is…

…iguana! 🦎

I used to have a pet iguana, and I never learned whether it was a girl or a boy. It was fascinating to me that this beautiful and handsome creature could exist in the world without a gender and be perfectly fine, and I still think that’s neat. I was a weird kid, but I knew what I was about.

My Great Outdoors

When I moved to West Philadelphia at the beginning of the pandemic, the neighborhood was a mess. The city sanitation workers were on strike (good for them!!), and trash was everywhere. No one had trimmed the vegetation growing along the sidewalks, and there were all sorts of weeds and flowers pushing their way up from underneath the piles of loose rubbish. Most of the university students and faculty had evacuated the city, and no one was walking around outside to begin with, so the crows and opossums had gotten bold. It was quite nice, actually.

I don’t intend to suggest that there was anything “good” about the pandemic, which was and continues to be a nightmare, but I have to admit that it was still a welcome relief to be able to walk around outside while feeling like I was just another part of nature.

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This is a comic I created for the third issue of Nature Held Me Close, a zine about “gender dysphoria and the great outdoors.” Free digital copies of all three issues of the zine are available on its website (here).

2021 Writing Log, Part Thirteen

– In October I wrote two Legend of Zelda ghost stories. Ocarina of Time is one of the scariest games I’ve ever played, so for Halloween I wrote a short spooky story about the creepy Poe Collector who sells ghosts in the ruins of the castle gatehouse. It’s called “The Ghost Shop,” and it has two fantastic illustrations by @Frankiesbugs (here) and @QuinkyDinky (here). I wrote a bit about the story (here), and you can read it on AO3 (here).

– The other Legend of Zelda horror story is “Flowerblight Ganon,” which is about Magda in Breath of the Wild, a minor character who will beat Link within an inch of his life if he steps on her flowers. This story is my foray into botanical horror, and you can read it on AO3 (here) if you’re interested in a quiet story about gardening and murder. I wrote a bit more about it (here), and it has a super-creepy illustration by @clarabellumsart (here).

– I finished the essay I’m contributing to Return to the Planet, a zine celebrating the original 1997 release of Final Fantasy VII. There’s an amazing collection of writers, artists, musicians, graphic designers, and YouTube game theorists working on this project, and you can check out their profiles on the zine’s Twitter account (here).

Carpe Noctem, a collection of historical vampire fiction and art, is now live on Kickstarter (here), and it’s already 85% funded within the first two days! The short story I contributed, “The Kumo Diary,” is about a Meiji-era scholar’s assistant discovering a lost chapter from The Tale of Genji that I’ve always wanted to read. You can check out previews of the zine on its Twitter account (here).

Midnight Gathering, a horror anthology zine that I contributed an original short story to, is still open for pre-orders. You can check out a few previews on their Twitter account (here) and pick up a copy (here).

– I reviewed Abby Howard’s horror anthology The Crossroads at Midnight on the Women Write About Comics blog (here). I wrote this review back in August, so I wasn’t able to discuss this in the review itself, but it did not surprise me in the least when this book won the 2021 Ignatz Award for Best Comic Anthology. It’s really, really good, and Howard’s Edward Gorey style monochromatic line art is spectacular.

– I posted a review of Nahoko Uehashi’s fantasy novel The Beast Player on my Japanese fiction book review blog (here). Although the blitz of fantasy names and politics at the beginning can be difficult to get through, the book gradually mellows out into a more accessible story about a young girl caring for fluffy winged wolf at a fantasy vet school. I’m not usually a fan of YA fantasy, but I really enjoyed The Beast Player.

– I’ve begun work on a new original novel, An Unfound Door, and I’ve started posting #WIPWednesday graphics on Twitter. The first one is (here), and the second is (here). I’m looking forward to sharing more about this project later in the month. Until then!

( You can follow me on Patreon if you’d like to support my work! )

Flowerblight Ganon

I posted a short story on AO3 (here) about a minor character in Breath of the Wild named Magda, who is affectionately known by the fandom as “Flowerblight Ganon.”

In Breath of the Wild, Malice is a tangible substance that infests objects and locations controlled by Ganon, including the four Divine Beasts, Hyrule Castle, and the Akkala Citadel Ruins. It also infects the dragon spirit Lanayru who guards the Spring of Wisdom.

While writing this story, I wondered if it were possible for Malice to infect regular people. If so, the woman who zealously guards the garden of flowers surrounding Hila Rao Shrine is as good of a candidate as anyone.

The story illustration is by Clara Kay, whose gorgeously monstrous horror art can be found on Twitter (here) and on Instagram (here). I really enjoyed working with Clara, and I also want to give a shout-out to her store (here), which has all sorts of cool Legend of Zelda merch!

I’d like to share a bit of the artist’s description of this piece, because it’s fascinating:

There’s a lot of symbolism packed into the flowers here. The petunias (pink) represent anger and resentment, the devil’s trumpet (the tall white one) represents power and caution, the spider lily (big spiny red one) represents death and reincarnation, and the carnation (white with red ring) is considered the ‘flower of the gods’ and represents admiration, passion, and love.

Carnations represent “passion and love” because they’re thought to be white flowers dyed red with blood, which is entirely appropriate for this story. “Flowerblight Ganon” is my first foray into botanical horror, and I don’t think it’s necessary to be familiar with Breath of the Wild to understand what’s going on. Magda is a regular woman enjoying gardening, quiet living, and occasional tea with friends in a dying postapocalyptic world, and if she lives her best life by indulging in murder every once in a while, then at least her flowers are well fertilized.

Felis Decapoda

I spent part of my childhood in rural Georgia in an old farmhouse that my mother went into bankruptcy to refurbish and remodel. Along with antique furniture, my mother collected stray cats, and at several points we had more than two dozen roaming around the house and yard.

I know that living in an historic farmhouse filled with expensive furniture and cats sounds like a dream come true for many people, and presumably this was the case for my mother. For me, however, it was extremely uncomfortable. I could never sleep properly, and I used to have nightmares about the cats eating each other and merging into giant mega-cats with far too many legs.

I don’t have anything against cats, and I’d like to adopt one of my own one day, but for the time being I’m happy being a dog person.

The Ghost Shop

I just posted a short story about the Poe Collector in Ocarina of Time on AO3. It’s a spooky fandom treat for Halloween, and you can read it (here).

This story is about what it might have been like to live in Hyrule after the castle fell to Ganondorf, and I really enjoyed exploring the postapocalyptic environment. The story is also about standing up to power and the abuse of authority, even when it won’t benefit you in any way. Grand acts of heroism are all well and good, but it’s also nice to be too weird to care about what people think of you.

The illustration is by Frankiesbugs, whose creepy-cute art you can find on Instagram (here) and on Tumblr (here). They actually created two color variations, the one with the Halloween-inspired palette that I posted above, and a more Film Noir style version that I posted along with the fic on AO3 – and that they posted on Tumblr (here). It was difficult to choose between such gorgeous and stylish pieces! If you’d like to get a better understanding of just how brilliant Frankiesbugs is, you can check out the concept sketch I sent them (here). This artist’s horror illustrations have been one of my primary inspirations in writing Legend of Zelda horror stories, and it’s always a pleasure to work with them. You can read some of the horror-themed comics we’ve created together (here) and (here).

Midnight Gathering Halloween Zine

I’m excited to announce that my short story “Ms. Weaver’s Halloween Candy” is going to appear in a Halloween-themed zine called Midnight Gathering.

“Ms. Weaver’s Halloween Candy” is a Stephen King style take on the trope of the creepy older woman, by which I mean that it’s more about character-driven family drama than it is about violence and shock value. The protagonist is a fourteen-year-old girl who’s trying to deal with a rough patch in her life by investigating a rumor that a woman in her neighborhood makes her Halloween candy out of cats, and she inadvertently discovers that what’s actually going on is much more sinister. As someone who tends to root for the villains, I did my best to portray everyone involved in the most sympathetic light possible while still imbuing the story with a sense of creeping dread, and I’m very proud of the ending.

I started becoming interested in the Minotaur myth in 2017 while exploring Hyrule Castle in Breath of the Wild, and this is the first original story I’ve written that references it. I’m the sort of writer who has to tell the same story in a dozen different ways before I feel like I understand it, so it’s something I’ll definitely return to in the future.

This is not my first piece of original fiction to be published, but it’s the first that’s going to appear in print (fingers crossed). Perhaps 35 is a bit old to be celebrating this, but whatever. I was publishing nonfiction during my twenties, and the paths people take through life aren’t set in stone. It does feel a bit strange to be the “old” person in the room on zine Discord servers, but it’s also quite nice to see my writing appear alongside the work of up-and-coming artists who contributed a plethora of unique and interesting illustrations to the publication.

You can check out Midnight Gathering on Twitter (here). They’re going to be posting previews of the art and writing appearing in the zine every day for the rest of October, so it’s a good Halloween vibe. If you’re interested in picking up a copy of the zine, which will be shipping in December, you can pre-order it (here).