Episode 26 – I Have A New Book! AAAAUGH!


Seriously, I’ve spent the last few months running around like a chicken with my head cut off AND my ass on fire, trying to get ready for the release of “Future Perfect: A Collection of Fantastic Erotica.” Final edits, cover art, announcements, promo, conventions, more promo… I’ve pulled more all-nighters than I have since Pixie was a new-born, maybe even more than I have since grad school (and that was a loooooooong time ago). It’s been a lot of work, and I hope you all find that it’s worth it.

Future Perfect will be available both in digital format and in print from Logical Lust. It will also be listed on Amazon.com, and I believe there will be a Kindle format for it as well.

I will be at Farpoint this weekend, the 13th-15th of February, in Timonium, Maryland. I’ll be there as a writing and podcasting guest (and that feels so good to say – I was INVITED to be a GUEST!). I plan to have 20 copies of Future Perfect, plus copies of “Coming Together: With Pride,” “Cream: The Best of the Erotica Readers and Writers Association,” and hopefully a few copies of “Demon By Day.” I’ll also have some swag – bookmarks and postcards, and maybe even some nifty looking buttons for the Heat Flash Erotica Podcast.

I have to thank Michael for everything he’s done through all this. No kidding, that man really does have a halo. He’s taken the kids more evenings and weekends than I can count, caring for them while I lock myself away in the office to work. He’s put up with my weird schedule (weekends off? Who the hell gets weekends off?). He’s fixed computers, built computers, bought computers, and probably executed a few computers for me (the last I’m sure he did as humanely as possible). And he’s taking the girls again this weekend as I take off for three days of pimpin– er, promoting the new book up at Farpoint.

I still have a lot to do after the convention. I’ve got to get promo put together for EPICon 2009 and prepare for a panel I’m doing on podcasting there. Plus Michael and I have a three-day karate camp to attend, and Princess has a birthday coming up this month (so do I, but we really don’t want to talk about how OLD I am, do we?). But, come March, I’m hoping that things finally start to settle down a bit. I won’t be taking on any more new deadlines, but instead plan to concentrate on what’s already on my plate.

Any other news? Oh yeah! I’ll have a story in the upcoming “Coming Together: Al Fresco,” edited by Alessia Brio. This is another charity anthology, which means I’m donating the story, but I have to tell you, competition to get into these anthologies is fierce, so I’m happy to be given the opportunity to participate.

I’m sure there’s lots else going on too, but right now I’ve got a slippery Pixie fresh out of the tub and I need to catch her and slap a pull-up on her before we have an incident. Have fun this week! And don’t forget to…


Episode 25 – This Is My Life!

Yes, this has been my life the last several weeks. Since November, I have struggled to survive the holidays, a convention (9 panels, 1 reading, an all-day author table!!), final edits on my new book Future Perfect, creating the cover art for said book, getting set up to join the “Oh Get A Grip” group blog (read us – we’re fun!!), keeping up with the Heat Flash erotica podcast which now airs on Thursdays at 8PM on Radio Dentata (streaming internet radio with teeth!!), clean the house, feed the kids, help the Princess with her homework, potty train Pixie, and somehow find a few moments to have sex with my husband.

Yeah, it’s been a little busy.

Things are starting to slow down a bit. I got my last major deadline out the door on Friday. I submitted a short story to Alessia Brio’s Coming Together: Al Fresco, and regardless of whether or not I make it into this volume, I highly encourage everyone to buy a copy of any of the Coming Together books (I do have a story in Coming Together: With Pride, if you’re interested). Coming Together is a charity anthology and all the proceeds go to the organization of choice for each volume. It’s doing good while being bad, and ya gotta love that.

So this week’s cartoon is just a glimpse into what’s been going on at la casa de Cynical Woman. I’m tired, but things are evening out and I hope to be back on some sort of regular schedule in the next couple of weeks. I’ll be at the Farpoint science fiction convention on Valentine’s Day weekend, the same weekend as the release of Future Perfect, so I will be gearing up for that, getting promo ready and preparing for the panels I’m on (only six this time, I believe). Otherwise, I’ll be turning my attention back to the podcast and this cartoon, putting in a little more time on my two favorite projects for a while. Hopefully, I’ll have another cartoon ready within the week. See ya then!

Ephemera 01 – I Am a Baaaaaaad Cartoonist

I did not forget you guys. Seriously. And no, I have not died. I have simply been too dang busy for words. Honestly. Right now, I’m trying to finish edits on my next book, get the cover artwork done for said book, get my podcast out the door, prep to participate in TEN panels at a science fiction convention coming up this weekend, and put together a workshop outline on podcasting for EPICon 2009 (Vegas, March, be there, baby!). Not to mention trying to recover the house from the holidays, recover the kids from the holidays, and oh, I’ve been sick the last week and a half.

Yeah, yeah, I know. Whine, whine, whine. Quit being such a big cry-baby, Helen, and get with the cartoons already! Well, I don’t have a Cynical Woman cartoon done right now (although I already have the next few episodes scripted out and they will be funny, I promise!). What I do have is this…

I know, it’s freaky, but this comes from my current sketchbook, which I carry around with me and doodle in whenever I get a free moment (free time? Ha! What’s that?). This was mostly done in the dojo our family attends, during Princess’ karate classes. The Saturday morning classes, that is, when Saint Michael the Magnificent takes Pixie shopping so I don’t have to keep an eye on that hyperactive little busybody who gets into everything.

So, every now and then, when I get a sketch done (or as I find a few old ones I’ve got lying around), I’ll scan it in and present it here. These will be called ‘Ephemera’ and they will be a nice little bonus to the usual comics. Or they will be a way for me to buy some time when my sorry ass gets behind in my work again.

Episode 24 – Happy Holidays, You Perverts

It’s 12:30AM, Christmas day. I’ve been up since 5AM, and refused to go to sleep until this sucker was finished and posted. That’s how much I love all of you. Really!

Aside from the web comic and the book I’m currently editing (Future Perfect, due out in February 2009 from Logical Lust Publications), I decided to take it easy this week. My parents are here, along with my sister. I had one day where I buried myself in editing, and I missed out on making the gingerbread house, so that was the end of my daytime work hours. Since then, I’ve played Twister, made fudge with the kids, gone book shopping (our extended family overwhelmed the cafe in Barnes & Nobles!), wrapped presents, gone to church (yes, my family dragged the only Buddhist they know to church, and I had to stand through the whole mass, it was so dang crowded), and tossed naughty story ideas back and forth with my good friend Kathleen Bradean. We want to write something super-naughty, kind of like that cartoon up there.

Anyway, I need to hit the hay, because I know the kids are going to yank me out of bed at any minute, screaming, “Santa came! Santa came! And he left presents!” Here’s hoping Santa hits your house too and leaves you something fun.

Merry Christmas and happy Boddhi Day 😉

Episode 23 – When Princess Grows Up…

People always say that Princess is just like me, only shorter. That is not true at all. For starters, Princess wears a lot of pink. Pink shirts, pink pants, pink socks, etc. And she wears dresses. Lots and lots of frilly dresses. And she loves the jewelry and the bling and all the glitter she can get her hands on. There’s a reason why we call this girly-girl Princess.

Me, I don’t do the pink thing. I look good in black. And brown. And I’m killer in red. As for the type of clothes I wear, I’m a basic t-shirt and jeans kinda gal. Dresses? Don’t own any. Well, okay, I have one or two, but they only get pulled out once every couple of years when someone gets married or dies, and those dresses are definitely not PINK. I don’t like pink and I look horrible in it. In fact, I think I’m allergic to the color. Seriously.

Anyway, I wanted to apologize for being a bit late with this week’s ep. My husband, St. Michael the Magnificent, spent all last week re-painting the downstairs and that completely disrupted my work schedule. But those rooms need painting, badly. We’ve been in the same place for the last 14 years, and things were starting to look shabby. Since I knew it would be another 14 years before we would re-paint, I made sure to pick out a color I would be happy with. I spent hours comparing paint chips, studying them in my foyer and kitchen until I finally found just the right shade. It’s a very pale sort of shell pink. Wait, no. I did not say pink. It’s really almost a warm white. You can’t tell it’s pink at all. Unless you look at the trim color which is mint green, and then you know it’s pink…

Well crud.

Deep Fried – A Holiday Self-Portrait


Yep, this is me. All frazzled and fried, just in time for the holidays.  And from what I hear, I ain’t the only one feeling like this.

It’s December 5th, and I have managed to buy a grand total of one, yes one, Christmas present.  That’s it!  Even though I put a little reminder in my calendar to start shopping waaaay back in October.  See, that’s how organized I am!

So the plan now is to drug— er, occupy the Pixie with some TV and then spend the morning knocking out a few blog posts.  After that, I’ll hit the online shops and do the Santa Mommy thing.  The Cynical Woman cartoon gets the rest of the day.  Tomorrow and Sunday are dedicated to my erotica podcast — I’ve got a story to finish for next month, plus recording to do for the next week’s episode.  Oh, and I did I mention I’ve invited the Princess’ little playmates over for an evening of pizza and mini-chick flicks?

No wonder I look like this!

Episode 22 – Yoga!


Allow me to introduce my good friend Patricia (also known as ‘Other Patty’)!  She puts up with an awful lot from me.  Of course, so do Mary and Patty…

The four of us form a gang we call “The Screeching Harpies.”  Remember, this is a posse, NOT a mommy’s group.  Yeah, we get the kids together to play, but our real purpose for meeting up is to plan the next Apocalypse.  So if you see a gang of forty-somethings (we’re not quite that old but we’re getting there), sitting in your local sushi restaurant, cackling evilly as they devour platter after platter of sushi, you know who you’re dealing with.

This week’s strip got done a little quicker than last week’s, thanks to the fact that I now know what to expect from Manga Studio Debut 4.  Since I bitched so much about the program last week, let me say something nice this week.  The program’s got some new nifty features, especially in the drawing tools.  The pen tool can now adjust its line width according to how close you’re zoomed into the picture (that’s a big help, believe me!), and I can save customized settings for the tools I use most often, which also helps a lot.  The pencil tool stinks – it draws a line so faint I can’t see it on screen – but that’s okay because I can set up a customized marker tool instead for roughing out the artwork.  And the text tool and word balloons are pretty nifty, so long as I save **every couple of seconds**.  Otherwise, working with text will crash the program so bad I have to restart my computer to get it to work again.

But that’s about it!  Over all, we’re doing good this week.  Now go practice some yoga.  Seriously. 

Episode 21 – With Friends Like These…


…who needs enemas? But seriously, this one is for Sam and Terri Pray of Under The Moon press.  They were recently screwed out of buying a house because the local community voted to ‘not harbor producers of gay porn.’  Under The Moon produced one anthology of gay erotic romance, which automatically brands them as undesirable elements according to this particular pristine community, but hey, the hetero erotic romances were apparently okay.  It was just that one book of gay smut…

Anyway, this is the first cartoon produced with the brand spanking new Manga Studio Debut 4.0!  I was so excited when I got the notice earlier this week that the upgraded software was out, I went right ahead and bought it.  I couldn’t wait to try it out.  Among the new features listed on Smith-Micro’s website were an improved text tool and WORD BALLOONS!  That’s right kiddies, for just $20 I could upgrade to a product that was going to solve the biggest problem I’d been having with producing the cartoons – getting the words onto the panels.

Except that it wasn’t exactly that easy.

First off, I bought the download version (with a back-up disk on its way to me).  When I installed and started up the program, it asked me to install the materials for MS Debut 4.  Materials are those nifty gray scale images that I use for backgrounds and fills.  I knew I had the materials – I’d seen them when I checked out the program folder after installation.  Problem was, I couldn’t figure out exactly which folder to point the materials installer to.  I tried the folder marked ‘Materials’ but that didn’t work because that would be too easy, apparently.  After an hour of trying to figure out how to get the materials and tones installed, I finally sent an e-mail to tech support.  To their credit, tech support answered within a couple of hours.  In the meantime, I searched around the Smith-Micro websites (there are two of them, and it took me a while to figure out which one had a FAQ on it for technical questions) and the Manga Studio website to get some answers.  What I discovered is that the good folks at Smith-Micro wrote up perfectly nice installation instructions… if you were installing from a disk.  But they left out a few details if you were installing from a downloaded version of the program.

Once I finally heard back from tech support, I was able to get the materials installed and I went straight to work.  The pen tool has some nifty new updates that make it ever better for inking cartoons, which is a huge plus.  However, the text tool crashed the program repeatedly, which led to yet another e-mail to tech support who replied that they couldn’t replicate my problem so obviously the fault was with my computer and not their program and I would have to un-install and re-install the program to fix things.  Joy.  That only took another hour or two of work time to accomplish.  And even after that, the text tool still kept crashing the program unless I saved after every use of said tool.  It’s annoying, and it bugs me because if I add more than two text objects to a page, that program is gonna go down like Moses in the fifth, and the only way to get it to come back up and cooperate is to shut down and restart the computer.

However, I can get the text tool to work, and once I figured out where Manga Studio kept the word balloons hidden (the user’s manual says they’re in the materials window – they’re not!!  They’re in the Beginner’s Assistant window), I was able to add my dialogue to my cartoon and finally output the finished work.

So this week’s image was all done in Manga Studio Debut 4, which is really how I prefer to do it, and it was done in the space of a single day (would have happened even quicker if not for technical difficulties…).  Drawing by hand is fine, but I really do prefer doing the whole thing digitally, and in just the one program.  The quality of the inking, the ease of adding tones, the supposed ease of adding text… If it weren’t for the fact that the text tool is buggy as hell and the fact that the user’s manual is unfortunately obscure on certain important aspects of the program (like installation and where to find those bloody word balloons!), I’d give Manga Studio Debut 4 a perfect 10.  As it is, the best I can rate them is a 6.5.  The program has great potential, but it’s also got some serious flaws.  Let’s hope Smith-Micro figures this out and does something to address the problem.

Episode 20 – Sudden Death


Oh my god, I think I just gave birth to twins.  Twin strips that is.

Please notice that while this week’s strip is THREE WEEKS LATE, it is also TWICE AS BIG.  And I got railroaded by a butt-load of work and the Princess’ kindergarten stuff.  For details on all of that, see my other blog here.

But at last this episode is done, and I can honestly say I still haven’t figured out how I want to draw this.  Manga Studio or Adobe Photoshop?  By hand or on the laptop?  All options have their advantages and disadvantages, and I’m seriously wishing that Smith-Micro would hurry it’s ass up and put out Manga Studio 4 so I could test it and see if the new version solves my current problems. But noooooooo! That would be asking a bit much I suppose. I’m only a heavy consumer of computer graphics programs after all.

So about the cartoon itself. This is something that has happened all too frequently to me.  I get a great idea while I’m out with the kids but when I finally make it home, ‘I got nothing,’ as Orziel would say.  I have learned to keep a notebook with me as often as possible, and I even have a handy little folding keyboard for my PDA, but none of those really gives me the freedom to write the moment the inspiration strikes.  Because I’ve always got to keep an eye on the kiddes, see? I look away for a few seconds and the next thing I know they’re tattooing someone else’s darling child with purple and green Sharpie markers.

But the writing does eventually get done and the inspiration is never completely gone.  It just goes into hiding.

The bastard.

To learn more about Orziel and his lovely boy-toy Jarresh, visit Mojocastle Press at http://www.mojocastle.com/demon/byday.html and BUY A COPY OF MY BOOK, DAMMIT!

Going to bed now…

Episode 19 – Napkins


I swear, I thought I’d never get this one done.

In an effort to find a more effecient way to do these cartoons, I tried doing the pencilling and inking the old fashioned way, on actual paper.  Both stages went very quickly, and I was extremely happy with the results.

Until I scanned in the inked cartoon, that is.  It did not look good when I went to clean it up.  Manga Studio gives me a very nice, crisp pressure-sensative line.  My pens do to, but they also bleed a bit on the paper, and that showed up very quickly on the scan.  So it took me a while to fix that little problem.

Then there was the matter of adding the screen tones to the cartoon.  You know, those little shades of grey I color with?  Yeah, those were a bitch.  I had to make them all by hand in Photoshop, and then the pasting in took lots more time than I would have prefered.  I did learn a few things in the process, which was nice because I’m still feeling my way around Photoshop, but man I was not satisfied with those tones.  Manga Studio has some very nice tones, and they look great when I paste them in.  My handmade ones do not measure up, I’m afraid.

The lettering and adding of word balloons did go much quicker than it would have in Manga Studio, and that has led me to the following conclusion.  For the next episode, I plan to do the pencils on actual paper, scan them in, import the scan into Manga Studio, and then ink them there.  Then the cartoon gets exported out to Adobe Photoshop for lettering and word balloons, because that’s one area where Manga Studio really falls short.  At least Debut does.  Not so sure about EX.  I’ll have to see.

And about what’s going on in the toon itself?  Those screaming kids in panel one are all part of my “mom posse” playdate group.  Patty and Mary of course are there with them, and yes, I have wandered off to capture story ideas on whatever paperlike surface I can find.  Writing on cheap fast food restaurant napkins sucks, by the by.  I know.  I’ve done it.

See you in a week, hopefully!