Tag Archives: sea

Saltwater Witch new pages and panels

Okay, I'm really excited about some new pages I'm drawing and painting for…wait for it…Chapter 11 of Saltwater Witch.  This is all new stuff, continuing where I left off several months back, with Kassandra and her favorite sea-demon Ephoros headed out to see some bad guys.  Back in April or May I had to finish writing a book–that's done, and it's time to get back into putting up at least one page (3 – 4 painted panels) per week, sometimes more when I can.

Sorry you've had to wait this long for me to get my act back together.

Here's a preview of one of the panels that's going up tomorrow night or Monday morning–Kassandra looking Shakira-like for some reason:




I haven't painted a traditional mermaid in a long time.  I've penciled and painted bunches of "people from the sea," but my Seaborn don't have tails, in fact they make fun of the mermaid myths.  I actually started thinking about this in May for a contest running on dA that ended in June.  But I was finishing up my last book, and never got around to it.

Waterhouse-Mermaid I wanted a fairly realistic mermaid with jewelry, rings in her hair, maybe some cool tattoos, and clothes of course would be for those freaks who breathe air.  I wanted a mermaid who can kick Waterhouse's mermaid's scaly butt–with her tail. I wanted a mermaid who was stronger, edgier and maybe a little tragic, none of that combing long tresses and singing on the rocks–not unless it was clear that it's just a ploy to lure sailors to their dooms. Finally got around to completing the painting this morning.

A lot of this painting is about the light, bold white light coming from above.  As usual, I'm still tweaking, but it's pretty much done.  Hope you like.  Love to hear what you think.

So, here's the full work and some detail crops.  Click them for the full view.




Sea-demons spitting up governesses

Watercolor on art board.  Two characters from Saltwater Witch and Seaborn (Mentions of both in Seaborn, but both are out of the picture by that time). This is a scene from Saltwater Witch, the demon Ephoros spitting up Kassandra's governess a few minutes after eating her.  You can an idea of what's going on if you check out chapter one of Saltwater Witch here.

Click the pic for the large view:

Heart of the Sea

The title of this one is "Heart of the Sea," and I'm using it for promotional material for the November 20th signing at Pandemonium Books in Cambridge.  Joe Haldeman and Jeff Carver will be there! 

Click the image for a closeup


It all starts at 7PM.

I'm having prints made and bringing them as giveaways.

Where is it:

Pandemonium Books and Games


4 Pleasant Street
Cambridge, MA 02139
(617) 547-3721
Get directions

An interview!

Thanks, Lori!  An interview I did with author Lori Devoti a couple weeks ago just went up on her site, and looks great–I’m a little blue, however, but that’s just my author pic from the Juno Books site.


IF: fierce

Spent a couple hours painting this afternoon, this one for Illustration Friday topic: fierce.  (Yeah, I’m a little late).  This is Kassandra dragging some unfortunate Seaborn troublemaker to the surface by the hair.  Click for the larger view.



My son Christopher and I got out our brushes tonight and went to work on some Kanji. I spent most of my time with umi, which means ocean or sea in Japanese, drawing the character in a fairly normal fashion, and then playing with styles, strokes and pressure.

These are all the same character, umi





Syren Tears

Or, how do mermaids cry and sweat, and what it looks like in the water.  This is the second in a set of posts for those speculative fiction authors out there who have already–or are planning to–dive into a stories with humans/half-humans that live and breathe underwater.  (See the first, How do mermaids hear? on underwater acoustics).

Right off, I’ll say if you’re a mermaid and someone’s trying to sell you the "never let them see you sweat" line, keep your money.

Let’s start with an experiment.  Take a glass of fresh water, a glass of saltwater (mix in a few tablespoons of salt into 4oz/118ml of water), and with a teaspoon, pour the saltwater into the fresh a few drops at a time. What do you see?  The mixing of fluids of differing salinity affect the refraction, the way light comes through the fluid.  Where the two mix, there’s a blurry swirl in the water.

I’ve tried to capture it here in these images.  The one on the left is the glass of freshwater, the right has some saltwater mixing in.  This also works in reverse.  Pour the freshwater water into the saltwater, and you get the same swirls and blurriness.

Salinity1_2 Salinity2

Close-ups of this:


What’s happening here?  It’s all about salinity, or the measure of total dissolved salts in water.  (Salts come in many flavors and compound varieties, but we don’t need to go into that here).

The salinity of human tears, sweat, blood plasma, amniotic fluid are around 9PPT (parts per thousand) and seawater is around 35PPT  (These numbers vary, for example seawater sampled in the north Atlantic is less saline than water sampled from the Red Sea). 

What it comes down to is that even though we have much the same properties as seawater, we are, well, less salty.  When a mermaid cries, her tears take some time to blend into the saltier water around her eyes. She may have trouble seeing through a good fit of sobbing.

The lacrimation system, primarily used for cleaning and lubricating the eyes, includes the gland, reservoir, and canals that manage tear production in most land mammals.  Tears are salty, but they don’t sting because our eyes are already accustomed to the salt content in the fluid that protects them.  This protective fluid for the eyes is actually a set of three different substances that make up the tear film, each layered on top of the other, the outermost lipid layer, aqueous layer, and a mucous layer. (For the different kinds of tears, basal, reflex, and weeping, see the Wikipedia article on this).

No sweat.

There are around 650 sweat glands in an average square inch of your skin, and although the mineral composition of sweat changes with the individual and the source of sweating, the blurring effect of mixing two fluids of differing salinity still applies.  In other words, you would be able to see a mermaid sweat, a thin blurry layer of water over her skin.

All of this assumes that your mermaids, mermen, selkies, nereids, people of the sea, have typical human skin and tear functions.

The concentration of sodium in thermal sweat, M. G. Bulmer and G. D. Forwell


Think organic

Not in what you eat but what you write.  (Think Dr. Seuss).  So, I’m wondering about the world that fills the pages of what I’m writing right now, and I’m looking back at my last three Seaborn novels–and then I’m studying the Sadko in the Underwater Kingdom painting by Repin, and one of the thoughts that strikes me–rather sharply–is that many of us writers of fantasy fall into the worldbuilding groove of basing the fantastic on something very real, familiar…solid fortress walls of stone, cities made of towers.  Even when we take a few steps over the edge, and say, make our characters live in the trees, we tend to think of houses in the branches, flat level floors, rectangular windows, gabled rooflines–the familiar bolted on to the fantastic.

Is it because it’s the simpler path?  Is it because we need to stick with something readers can reference–I mean we’re already asking them to accept magic, faeries, things that live off human blood?  Could we lose our readers with a blind rush over the imaginative edge–into the absurd–readers scratching their heads a third of the way into your book, thinking, why can’t the protag live in an ordinary house–you know, stucco, Spanish tile, etc.  Why does the author insist on dragging me through the character’s "house"–some amorphous, self-propelled, windowless, floorless, jelly candy the size of a gymnasium with shifting walls the consistency of yogurt?   

Here’s Repin’s masterpiece, Sadko in the Underwater Kingdom (1876).  Click to view the larger version.


Back to Repin:  What I noticed right off is that here’s this fantastic underwater world, and everybody’s dressed like they’ve stepped out of a fête in Victorian England–with a few nice eastern touches to add an exotic element.  Where’s the weird natural ocean feel?  Where are the spines, fins, bold coloring, bioluminescence, organic branching coralline growth of the world under the sea?

I did some doodling for this post.  Wouldn’t a city under the sea look like this?


What do you think?  An author needs to hook readers with something of the familiar?  Or should an author sprint for the edge, not look back, readers be damned? Somewhere in the middle?


What’s up?

I know, I know, everything’s on the Web, but it’s a different experience when you live a few miles away from someplace, and then find that there’s even better stuff about it on the web, details I wouldn’t be able to get easily even on site.  So, I really don’t need to live a few minutes away from Rye Harbor to know what it looks like, how deep the moorings are, that if I was coming by sea I should "pick up the Rye Harbor Morse A buoy on approach, and then follow the green buoys inside the protected breakwaters."  It’s all at Marinas.com

I know everyone knows it, but it’s still hard to believe.  Everything, it’s on the Web.

Do you read GUD?  The zine with outstanding short fiction and interesting payment methods?  Check it out. 


Writers: Greatest Uncommon Denominator Magazine submission guidelines

I’ll be at GDC at the end of February–back to back with Boskone.  (Game Developers Conference 2008: February 18-22, 2008 San Francisco).