nebula

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Blue & White Nebula

Notes: Created on an 8×10 canvas mounted on board. Using a trowel, I smeared on a thick layer of white semi-gloss acrylic house paint and let it dry. Then I sprayed it with water and dropped Golden brand liquid acrylic artist paint, in Prussian Blue. It made these interesting patterns as it diffused through the water.

Now let’s have some rock from the band Nebula, from the Nebula/LowRider split album:

dead computer guy postcard

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This “day of the dead” postcard came to me this year without any indication of the artist’s name, but it does have an address on the back for Milo Papers in Boulder, Colorado – which, as far as I can tell from the internets, doesn’t even exist anymore. It doesn’t get much more dead than that!

solstice

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Solstice

My antipodean sister, today is your longest day
but here, our shortest. I grow jealous of your sunlight
though you are the moon who shines in daytime.

I need days that last forever, open and unending
while you crave black-walled rooms and curtains
to deny the outside world and murder it.

These are trivialities. Your heart beats like mine.
It knows the rhythm of the seasons we cannot escape.
They enslave us and they liberate us
and we cannot tell the difference.

Beneath your radiant southern cross
you sing and paint with light to create new worlds.
You, my partner in musical treason,
my inversion who lives one day into the future,

we are not so different: two halves of a sine wave.
My troughs are your peaks
though I cannot touch nor hold your hand.

Our amplitudes are one heartbeat:
the same symphony, the inhalation and exhalation.
Water crashes into sand as far as the eye can see.

You made a home for that part of me too wild to settle down.
I could not repay you with all the gold stolen
from a thousand papist galleons.
But this is no transaction.

The family we are born into
is not the family we meet later,
the one who resonates with us and
cares more for who we are than what we were.

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orchestra

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Orchestra

Some songs fade like old photographs.
Others change our lives
and stay with us always.

An orchestra could not do you justice
unless the score was revolution.
I listen to you so loud it hurts.

Long after our sun grows red
to devour her planetary children,
our elements will find a new star, together.

carving

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Carving

When she loves you she will prove it
with glacial patience and eternities of storms
carving sacred geologies into your planetary skin

filling it with peaks and gorges
majestically dismembered terrains
where jaguars roam in shadows

where seekers quest for visions that often find them
but other times escape to nests
like birds on the edge of a thundercloud.

Mark this place with petroglyphs
so you will never forget
here you drank the dew and starved

for one more drop
one more sign she cared
when every crevice of the world dripped evidence.

Paint the animals you hunted in her caves
then realize they are you and never hunt again.
You don’t need to search. You are not lost.

You are here in the palm of her hand
the gully between her breasts
and the soft forgotten folds of prehistory.

If you look up into the rain and drink it
you already know everything you need.
Caress the canyon and dance

in its unrelenting atmosphere
like all the other trees whose limbs embrace
and interpenetrate her like capillaries.

Dreams are mirrors. Fools refuse their gaze.
You can see it all from here
and she can see inside you too.

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Writing

She had no patience for anyone
who had not set themselves on fire.

It wasn’t a game to her, or an idle pastime.
It mattered in a way you couldn’t understand

until flames crawled up your skin from the pyre
consuming all you loved

boiling the blood in your veins
and filling your eyes with landscapes you’d never seen before.

That’s the kind of woman she was.
She wanted more than to go out with a bang.

She wanted you to take everything with you.
If you couldn’t, then it never belonged to you in the first place.

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edifice

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Edifice

The city crumbles and takes her with it,
her portrait painted on its aging skin.

They should have sprayed her over metal
so she could live forever

like guitar riffs in a basement
and lovers we will never meet.

Instead, she’s been falling apart since day one,
a persona stenciled on concrete

barely more permanent than flesh.
Her heart refuses to break

but the surrounding world is falling apart
and always will be

and she is one with it and it is her and she is
all the things we should have listened to

but ignored
like our bodies

the substrate we grow on
the lines and cracks of age

the structures of civilization
and all it pretends to be.

cougars

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Cougars

Winter visits us with careless brutality
and we only want her gone.

My tiny kitten,
bathing you with my tongue

finding shelter in these rocks
that refuse to forgive or remember

here we make our comfort.
I will teach you unconditional love and murder.

We will drink the blood of incomparable vistas
where we have only enemies and sunlight.

This frozen wasteland tattoos itself on our hearts
and the moon in a tempest we will always carry.

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fearless

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Fearless

Naked, we run at night
caring nothing for heat or cold

only for what can be killed
only for what is ours.

We mark it, maul it
and make it our own.

This battleground
is our sole inheritance

and we have no prayer
of leaving it alive.

Doubt we never entertain
nor fear

nor hesitance.
We leap into the unknown

and if it will not catch us,
then we die.

But what is that
to immortals?

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petals

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Petals

Black daisy.
A kiss we already forgot.

I no longer taste
your salt on my tongue.
The skin healed shut.

Pull me apart again.
I never wish
for peaceful days.

I crave days that boil,
days filled with sun
destroying everything

except my blossoms.
They bloom for you.

They bloom for you
and they bleed.

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doll

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Doll

She grows wings that beat the air
until it roars in turbulent currents.

She writes love letters in the dark
with invisible ink in a language
that belongs only to us.

Our hearts are made from stars.
The smallest atoms contain planetary landscapes
we can touch, together.

They will never leave us. Our gravity owns them.
Nowhere in the night sky will you find anything
that is not ours.

We are sisters of the same moon
whose web of light is our home
whose phases wax and wane in time with our bodies.

We can fly to anywhere from here.
Come into my arms and dream.
I have something to show you.

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singer

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Singer

She wasn’t pretty like a model,
not the kind of beauty who disappeared
when the makeup came off.
She was something else,

a song that gets better year after year,
one you appreciate on new levels
the deeper you go.

You didn’t need to know the names of
her musicians to understand her song.
You could even get the words wrong.
It only mattered that you listened.

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death on the web

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Many human endeavors can be understood as an urge to conquer death by creating something that will live on after we’re gone, and blogging is no exception. We put things up and hope they will last. But despite the internet’s ubiquity and massive storage capacity, it has an ephemeral, ever-changing quality. Things die on the web.

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I thought about that last week while subjecting this blog to a couple tools to check for dead links. What sort of things had died here on Mars? Many were links to (and pingbacks from) pages I have taken down due to the evolving nature of my artistic concerns. Some were links to other sites whose owners no longer have them hosted, or pages they took down. Some were links to products and product searches at retailers which, for some reason, were no longer generating valid results. And at least one was just a dumb typo I made in a URL!

It took the better part of a morning to scrub 3000 pages here and repair or delete between 100 and 300 dead links. Hopefully the efforts will keep this site fresh and vibrant for search-engine indexing, and reward people discovering it for the first time with links that actually go somewhere, rather than into the dreaded 404 Error dead zone. I sacrificed a few pages that were so problematic it seemed easier to burn them clean instead of re-doing them. They weren’t getting hits anyway, and the dead links were probably part of their problem.

Mars has always been my little garden of inspirations, and I hope clearing out the dead wood will help it remain a thriving one. Do you have a favorite tool for checking broken links? Drop a line in the comments section here and let me know!

painted abstracts make unique backgrounds

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I’ve been experimenting with a new method of creating colorful, visually interesting backgrounds for things like book covers, business cards, and blog headers. It begins with painting 8 x 11 canvasses which are mounted on a board instead of a frame. They fit nicely on my scanner, so I can digitally manipulate the images later.  This one began as a collage of pages torn from a proof copy of my new poetry book. It ended up as the cover to a new book.

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Throw a filter and text on it, and it comes out like this:

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It looks pretty awesome in print with a matte finish. Once I get a few good scans, the canvases can be recycled by adding layers of different materials to create cracks, swirls, and other interesting textures. Below is the same canvas as above, but in the process of getting a new, messy layer of krackle over it.

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Here’s one I haven’t used for any backgrounds yet, a basic color wash with acrylics.

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I had some old acrylic varnish and played around with pouring it and liquid paint at the same time, splashing water on them while they were drying, and mixing them together before pouring.

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It isn’t going to hang in a museum or anything, but it’s a fun way to get unique backgrounds and textures. I sampled a section of the image for the current header on this blog. The image’s right half is simply a section of the canvas with its colors inverted.

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Blind Alley Blues

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Blind Alley Blues blasts off from where The Lost Crew of the Volya IX ended.

Join Meteor Mags and her criminal crew on a suicide mission to Ceres, and help them steal the biggest guns in the Solar System!

Bang your head as the Psycho 78s play their most nefarious concert of all time, and find out how the band originally got together!

Run for your life in the tornado that terrifies an entire asteroid! And grab all the ammo you can carry, because you are rocking the Asteroid Belt with Meteor Mags and Patches—at a more brutal volume than ever before!

Available in paperback from Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Also for Kindle, iBook, and Nook Book. See more ebook formats.

21,000 words. 102-page paperback includes black & white ink drawings.

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legend of the frozen coast

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library of female pirates 10: bêlit

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The Library of Female Pirates has thus far focused on historical accounts of real people. But today, let’s have a look at one of my favorite pirate stories: Queen of the Black Coast, by Robert E. Howard, featuring Conan’s brief and ill-fated romance with Bêlit.

The following pages are excerpted from The Coming of Conan the Cimmerian, Random House 2002, compiled by Patrice Louinet, editor, and illustrated by Mark Schultz. It presents the first thirteen Conan stories in their original versions, in the order Howard wrote them. My only criticism is the exceedingly small font size for the text, with letters so thin they practically disappear into the page. The book’s completeness and Schultz’s beautiful artwork make this a worthy paperback anyway, and I suppose you could buy the Kindle version instead of investing in a magnifying glass for the print edition.

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In his Foreword, Schultz calls Queen of the Black Coast one of the “indisputable classics of fantastic short fiction, richly deserving recognition and appreciation outside the genre.” You can also appreciate it outside the printed page by listening to a reading of the entire tale, free of charge, at Librivox: Conan and the Queen of the Black Coast. (You have the options to either stream it or download the audio files so you have your own copy.)

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Brian Wood and Becky Cloonan have taken on a modern comic book adaptation of Queen of the Black Coast for Darkhorse in recent years. It is not the tale’s first appearance in comics, either. The good folks at Longbox Graveyard have reviewed the Marvel Comics adaptation at Queen of the Black Coast. The review includes covers and panels like this glorious Buscema rendering of the final, tragic scene:

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What is it about this story that has earned such widespread admiration? Howard’s prose certainly deserves the credit. With a plot that could easily be presented as pulp silliness, Queen of the Black Coast sings like a literary masterpiece under Howard’s pen. The world of masculine power fantasy and adventure take on an urgent, brutal, and even philosophic reality through the author’s use of language.

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But what of the character of Bêlit? She is as full of the drive for savage conquest as Conan, and does not fall into the “damsel in distress” role. She is tough, and she is in charge, and her dialogue reveals a sharp mind. This makes the scene of her mating dance a bit hard to swallow, where this incredibly powerful woman suddenly throws herself at Conan’s feet and begs him to take her. This may be the one out-of-tune note in an otherwise brilliantly composed symphony of female piracy.

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But Bêlit is no shrinking violet who tumbles passively into the barbarian’s arms. After an all-too brief narration summarizing what must have been an epic season of seafaring mayhem for them, she takes her brawny adventurer on a truly suicidal mission. “We fear nothing,” she says to him boldly. “Let us go and sack that city.” It’s easy to see why Conan loves her!

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Other reviewers of this tale have pointed out that Bêlit is a Shemite, which is Howard’s version of Semite, and that Howard borders on ethnic stereotyping by having a Jewish character whose main love is riches and jewels. But I find this avarice very much in character with what we would expect from a pirate, regardless of ethnicity, and we should keep in mind that Howard used all kinds of warrior races as models for his imaginary civilizations. It seems far more odd that Bêlit is described as having pure white skin, despite spending her life in the blazing sun on the decks of her ships!

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Bêlit has a dialogue with Conan in which they discuss their philosophies, and she makes her pledge that she would come back from the grave to save him, so powerful is their love. Along with her dance, these are her major character scenes. After a scene in which she directs her crew in the plunder of some hidden jewels, even heartlessly sacrficing a few of them to do it, Bêlit meets a tragic end off-camera. She dies while the reader joins Conan in the jungle getting his psychedelic trip on thanks to the touch of a nasty plant called the black lotus. That Bêlit should become such a memorable character and bear so much narrative expansion in later adaptations is a testament to the way she commands attention in her brief but intense screen time.

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Conan’s final scene is poignant. The sea means nothing to him without her. It only mattered to him because it mattered to her, and its music is no longer a siren song for him but a lonely requiem. Not even jewels mean anything to him, as he evidences by including them on her boat with her body, which he sends out to the ocean in a blaze. Howard writes it believably, but the depth of Conan’s emotion tells us that he and his pirate love had bonded with an intensity that perhaps the short story did not have the time to fully explore. Still, it is a beautiful monument to the passion and romance female pirates can stir within us, and the loss we feel when they must take that final, fiery voyage back to the seas they loved so much.

Fair winds and following seas, Bêlit.

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painter

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I haven’t painted in two years. But I recently rewrote a couple old memoirs as a poem about painting, and it felt like time to take some pretty colors and make a big splashy mess in the kitchen again. The blank canvases in my office aren’t going to paint themselves, after all. The working title for the painting-in-progress is The Legend of the Frozen Coast, partially in tribute to the Frozen Coast painting I sold on Craigslist a few years back.

I don’t know what other painters think about when they paint, but I have been imagining The Legend of the Frozen Coast as a pirate adventure story starring Meteor Mags’ great-grandmother and read on a radio program. Explore Nordic debauchery in the icy wastelands! Witness the fate of a ferocious kraken frozen in a glacier for 10,000 years! Set fire to a fleet of brigands and mercenaries! Throw in some insults and salty language from The Pirate Primer that arrived this week, and the tale almost writes itself.

Painter

A storm hammers the forest.
The wind rips down his tent.
He can’t make any sense of it in the dark.

The painter drags his sleeping bag to a rock ledge.
It gives no shelter but is clear of the trees.
Electricity tears the sky to shreds.

The rain carries out its assault
not in drops but one continuous torrent.
He huddles in the soaked bag for nine hours,
powerless and small.

Stillness, yet never-ending motion.
The calm shadows of trees on a lake
draw lace stockings on a nightmare.
The struggle for life rages below the surface.

A bee caresses a flower intimately.
He cares nothing for the coming storm.
He is within her and she is within him.
They are one and the same.

Step away from industry. Obliterate
the underlying colors and textures
even when they persist. Use an avalanche.

Give them landslides. Drench them in
thunderstorms of black and broken skies
until they recede. The painter and the canvas
are the cyclone and the shore.

You don’t need to paint this canvas at all.
Do what comes naturally. The painting
will take care of itself.

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indie spotlight: line of thought

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Line of Thought by Peter Deligdisch is long overdue for a spotlight here at Mars Will Send No More. For maybe two years now, Line of Thought has inspired me. Filled with complex and often abstract drawings, this completely black and white book gives me an instant trip to an art museum. It’s the cup of ink-black coffee that wakes me up when my artistic spirit is lagging.

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Line of Thought by Peter Deligdisch

Peter’s newest work is called Almanac, which you can see at http://www.peterdraws.com/#almanac

Maybe you’ve already discovered Peter’s artwork on YouTube or, like me, on Reddit. Line of Thought collects many of his more polished works alongside a few odds and ends that make the book feel like an intimate look at the artist’s sketchbook. I like that kind of thing, but some reviewers criticized the book for not being print-quality reproductions and for including what they felt were doodles.

I enjoy Line of Thought‘s resemblance to underground and indie comics, and to zines, and to publications like Seattle’s Intruder which is entirely comics and art. (Intruder will soon publish its final issue after a pretty amazing run.) This book fits right in with works such as Rick Griffin’s Man from Utopia. It’s an art book, and I think my fellow comic book fans might dig it, too.

Peter works in several distinct styles, but most of his work fits in with what have recently been called zentangles. They are ornately detailed renderings of the plane along shapes which can be either swirling and chaotic, or geometric and orderly. You can make a zentangle out of something representational, or it can be abstract. And when you see Peter’s ink drawings, you can’t help but imagine coloring in all the tiny shapes.

Although I love this book, it may be a mistake to have it categorized in the coloring books category. It got some negative reviews for not really being a coloring book, and that sounds fair. On the other hand, many of the pieces in Line of Thought could totally work as coloring book pages, with a few alterations to the current format. That might include enlarging many of the pieces currently filling half a page (and thus sharing it with another piece). And, pieces with grey-scale shading could be omitted in favor of only pieces created in high-contrast black and white.

That’s not to say it would make me love the book any more, but it would position Deligdisch more accurately in the coloring books category. I’m perfectly content to pick up Line of Thought and flip through the pages whenever I need a reminder that anything is possible in art, that both chaos and order are beautiful and intertwined, and that it’s possible to create pure magic with only a pen and a piece of paper.

Buy Line of Thought by Peter Deligdisch in Paperback.

indie spotlight: tomb of the triceratops

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Click the cover for a free Kindle preview of Tomb of the Triceratops.

Tomb of the Triceratops takes you on a dinosaur dig where researchers and a group of young students uncover a realm where dinosaurs are still alive. The boys selected to go on this archaeological expedition risk their lives to free a triceratops from the clutches of its brutal, otherworldly tormentors.

And that’s just the beginning.

Author Michael Ajax seasons the story with plenty of dino facts that will surely please any dino-maniac. Between the action scenes, the characters are just as likely to discuss the biology of a Stygimoloch as they are their interpersonal conflicts. The people in this story are passionate about dinosaurs, and that makes it especially fun for those of us who share that enthusiasm.

Though action-packed, Tomb of the Triceratops keeps its language and violence in the “family-friendly” range. Even as an adult reader, I was pulled into the nightmarish struggle of the captive triceratops, but the level of detail and word choice did not venture into overly graphic territory. If you thought Jurassic Park and Rex Riders were fun, this is a good addition to your bookshelf.

The boy heroes of the story casually banter with each other, keep secrets from the adults, and have an unforgettable adventure in this first novel by Michael Ajax. Discover the mysteries inside the Tomb of the Triceratops in paperback or for just 99 cents in Kindle.

Author website: http://www.michaelajax.com/