Sunday Contentments – Vacation time, sort of…

Princess has been home from school all week, out on Spring break. We decided to keep Pixie home too, because we knew she’d throw a fit if her sister got to stay home and she didn’t. There was also the fact that we wanted to spend a long weekend up in DC visiting Hubster’s family. So I’ve been sort of on vacation all week. Sort of.

I’ve done some work, but not a lot. I’ve kinda maybe looked at the laundry? I dunno. I’ve stayed up waaaaaaay too late and woken up even waaaaaaaaaaay too later. I’ve completely ignored this blog and Very Scary (bad blogger! Bad, bad blogger!). I think I wrote 2K words this week in “The Little Death,” but I really needed to write 4K. Oh, and I watched the ROYAL WEDDING. Twice.

And I’ve done some other odds and ends. Running. Yoga. Sex with Hubster. Duck Pin bowling. Hair dyeing. More sex with Hubster. Drawing on my iPad. A visit to a local petting zoo/farm with Hubster and the kids. Even more sex with Hubster (but not at the petting zoo because that would be wrong). Oh, and I made the best broccoli salad and tomato tart! But I’m too lazy right now to look up the recipes, so too bad for you.

Basically, I’ve not really done anything I was supposed to do, done all the time-wasting things I usually avoid doing, and spent a little quality time with my family in the process. And you know what? The world did not end because I was lazy and bad all week.

I also found this song that I really, truly love. Been humming it all week.

\”Fireflies\” by Owl City

Sunday Contentments – Drawing

“Rock On, Little Robot!” by Helen E. H. Madden

I’ve been doing more and more drawing over the last few weeks, to the point where I’m drawing every free moment I have. It’s astonishing to me how easy and natural this has become. What really astonishes me though is that I’m doing it all on the iPad. You have no idea how easy that device has made it for me to sketch and paint non-stop. I don’t even question what I’m doing anymore, I just do it.

It’s gotten to the point that I no longer leave the house without my spooky eye-balls bag. If you’ve seen it, you know which bag I’m talking about. It’s an arm bag made from black fabric with lots of spooky cartoon eyeballs on it. I keep two things in that bag – my current knitting project and my iPad. I switch back and forth between knitting and drawing when I’m out and about, depending on my mood and how bright the sunlight is. Too bright and I can’t draw, so I might as well knit.

Anyway, I’m a lot more relaxed these days than I have been in a while. I’m enjoying my work again, which is good, and I’m starting to see more clearly the direction I’ll be going in. I hope you like the robot drawings, because there are going to be a lot more of them. I’m just having too much fun with my iPad to stop.

Sunday Contentments – Ravencon

I spent the weekend in Richmond at Ravencon, one of my favorite sci fi conventions. Normally, I just go to hang out, but this weekend I ended up working on staff, filling in at the very last minute as volunteer wrangler. It turned out to be a low key job, and I enjoyed it enough to do it again next year. Meanwhile, I got to hang out with lots of friends and in general be a con lobby slug. Perfect weekend indeed.

After I got home, I did a quick robot drawing. Liked this app a lot. It’s called Sketch Club, I believe. This was 10 minutes work.


Sunday Contentments – Princess and Rosa Parks

It’s a chilly spring day here at la Casa de Madden. Pixie and I are in the backyard, relaxing. Hubster has taken the Princess to church. They have an all-day Sunday school today, in preparation for Princess’ upcoming First Communion.

It’s hard to believe that Princess is old enough to be preparing for such an event (especially since yours truly is Buddhist). Not that long ago, she was a chubby-cheeked baby, who screamed all night and spit up into my cleavage at random intervals. Those were the days! Now she’s going to school, learning science, taking karate… She’s gotten so big!

Last week, Princess had to do a school report on an important figure in American history, and had to dress up as that person for the presentation. She chose Rosa Parks. This left me a little confounded, as I had no idea how to turn my goofy 8-year-old daughter into one of the most important figures in the American Civil Rights Movement. Fortunately, my sister, the actress, came to the rescue. She found a website that listed the details of the outfit Rosa Parks was wearing the day she was arrested. We also did a search online and found Rosa Parks’ arrest photo. A quick trip to the clearance rack at Target and our local craft store got us everything we needed, and I only had to do a little sewing to pull the outfit together. Then we spent quite a bit of time reading about Rosa Parks and discussing segregation and the Civil Rights movement with Princess. Those were very interesting conversations, you can be sure.

Here’s a picture of Rosa Parks on the day she was arrested for refusing to give up her seat on the bus:


And here is Princess in her costume:

What astonishes me most about these two photos is this: over 50 years after Rosa Parks was arrested for refusing to give up her seat to a white man, a small white school girl with a serious addiction to Disney Princesses wants to look just like her, because Rosa Parks was the coolest person in the world.

Of course, Rosa Parks probably didn’t have spaghetti sauce all over her face when she was arrested…

Sunday Contentments – Getting Back on Track

Well, I’m not entirely recovered from the past six months, but I was able to slow things down a bit this past week and I managed to get a couple more things off my plate. I’m starting to get back to my old routine, mainly attending karate classes and sort of getting a handle on the laundry. Now the plan is to throw myself back into my schedule again and see if I can get the laundry completely under control while I tame the email in my inbox and catch up on blog posts.

But I feel a lot more relaxed today than I did this time last week. And that’s definitely something to be thankful for.

Nothing else to say right now. See you tomorrow!

Sunday Contentments – Epiphanies

I just got back from EPICon two hours ago. For four days, I hung around a hotel in Williamsburg, chatted with fellow writers and epublishers, ate delicious food, locked myself away in my room to write, and spent time doodling on my iPad. I think it was exactly what I needed. I attended very few panels, unlike previous EPICons. Frankly, I was very familiar with most of the topics being presented. I did sit in on an excellent panel on hostage negotiation, presented by Mike Woodcock and Angela Knight, and I was a panelist at a couple panels myself, but those were pretty much the only panels I showed up for. Honestly, I was just so burnt out from all the events of the previous few months that I preferred to hide in my room and write and cartoon in absolute peace, occasionally heading out to hit the fitness center or grabbing a meal when I felt the need. So I treated the entire weekend as more of a writer’s retreat than a conference.

And I don’t think that’s a bad thing. In fact, I think that was the best thing I could have done with my weekend. I was away from home so I couldn’t deal with cookie stuff or commissioned work. The Hubster had the kids so I didn’t have to worry about keeping them occupied while I tried to work. Instead, I had enforced free time, and I spent that in the hotel room, writing and drawing.

When I left the room, I spent my time chatting with friends, fellow writers, publishers, etc. We talked about all sorts of things: how we’re all doing in the business of writing and publishing; how we all rarely have time to do the things we want to do any more; how we all have project lists as long as our arms and we can’t get to any of those projects because our time is being eaten up by other things. Are we making any money? How successful (or not) have our recent attempts at promo been? We talked about everything, except for one question on my mind which went unasked. Not because I didn’t want to ask it, but because I wasn’t aware that it should be asked. And that question was…

Am I really doing the things I want to be doing right now?

It’s an important question for anyone, but it’s been one that’s been subconsciously plaguing me for a while now. The query finally forced itself into my conscious mind during a panel I was on. The topic was marketing and promotion, and the issue of branding came up. What is a brand, and how do you create it? I immediately pointed to the horns I always wear when I’m at a con, the horns I draw on myself in every cartoon, and said “This is my brand. This is who I am. Everyone recognizes me when they see these horns and they immediately think of my cartoons. People actually complain if they see me at a convention without the horns!”

Then the discussion moved on to how the brand isn’t just about having a recognizable website or a logo or an avatar or even about wearing a pair of horns. It’s also the consistency between the artist and her work. It’s about the artist’s ability to create a such distinct presence or voice within the work that the work becomes synonymous with the artist’s name. In fact, the brand, when you really get down to it, is who the artist is.

And that’s when it struck me. Who was I, creatively speaking? Was I the writer of anyone’s favorite novel or short story? Could anyone at the convention even name one of my books?

Sadly, no. But what they could name, and were always quick to ask about, was the Cynical Woman cartoons. Even the people who didn’t know me immediately developed an interest in the cartoons when they talked to me. It became such a topic of conversation for me that I finally had to admit that all this time that I had been trying to sell myself as a writer, I had actually successfully sold myself as a cartoonist instead.

Who am I? What sort of work am I really best suited for? What’s my calling? Those questions bounced around in my brain the rest of the weekend and the words “cartoonist” and “artist” just kept coming up. The answer took on more and more clarity as I continued to talk to others at EPICon. When did I plan to publish a compilation of the Cynical Woman cartoons, people would ask? Was I going to sell any of the artwork I’d done on my iPad as prints? And did I know that next year, EPIC might be open to judging graphic novel ebooks?

That last question was the clincher for me. I love writing and podcasting. But I also love to draw, and I have never explored my drawing abilities to the same extent that I have my writing. I think that exploration is long overdue. For weeks now, ever since I started working with the iPad, I’ve had people tell me they would love to see more of that artwork, and that I could sell that artwork online and at conventions. And I’m starting to think that maybe they’re right. So I’m shifting gears. I will continue to write and podcast. I very much want to finish “The Little Death,” and I have plenty of other novel and short story ideas waiting to be written and podcasted after that, but now I have new goals in mind. I want to go from producing one webcomic a week to creating a graphic novel. This goal will not be accomplished immediately, of course. You may see a very gradual change here over the next couple years as I work toward that. Hell, you’ve probably noticed some small changes already with the WIP Wednesday and Freaky Friday posts. But now I’m publicly declaring that it’s time to do something different. I am a cartoonist and an artist. I’m recognized as one and I want to be one. It’s time to take up that calling and make it work.

The first steps toward this goal will be to finish up all current projects to make more room on my plate. And I will set aside regular drawing time in my schedule. You’ll see the results of that here. Hopefully, come this summer, I’ll be hard at work on my first comic/illustration projects. And by this time next year, maybe I’ll have that first graphic novel out, or at least be well on my way to making it happen. In any event, I’m looking forward to getting back to work now, and I think the burn-out phase may finally be over.

Sunday Contentments – Reaching the “F@ck It” Point

I am lazy, lazy, lazy today. I was supposed to get up at 4:30 and jump right into work. That’s my usual schedule. Of course, that’s been my usual schedule for a while, but at some point last week I hit my “Fuck It” point and have not been following the schedule at all. Today, for example, I didn’t get up until almost 9AM, even though I know I need to blog, cartoon, work on taxes and do Cookie Mom stuff. I just couldn’t be arsed. Really, all I wanted to do was stay curled in bed where it was nice and warm and just doze.

And maybe I’ve earned it, given how much work I’ve been cranking out in the last several months, and maybe I haven’t. I don’t know. I only know that I’ve hit the point of burn out and nothing really seems that critical anymore. It’s time to dial it back a bit, whether my workload will allow it or not.

So I contacted my clients earlier this week and let them know I need to scale back on my incoming work. I’ve taken an indefinite leave of absence from one job and have told another client they need to hire a second artist to do cover work for them. Part of me hates giving up the work, but part of me would seriously like to get back to that time in my life when I could take a day off every week and spend it doing things like sewing or baking or playing video games or reading or even just snoozing on the couch for a long afternoon nap. I need the downtime, so I’m taking it.

I also need time to focus more on my personal projects, because I can get the writing and the art done, but then I don’t have time to do anything with it beyond that. I can’t find time to promote my writing, or make prints of my artwork, or set up an online store for said prints, or get my podcast book set up on, or even set up a Facebook page. It’s ridiculous. I really need to scale things back to where I’m only working on one or two projects at a time, so I have time to focus on the marketing and promoting of those projects before moving onto the next big thing I want to do. Honestly, I think I’d start making money if I did that. Thus another reason why I’m scaling back on client-based work.

The whole Cookie Mom thing will be over in a few more weeks, and that should free up a LOT of time. I don’t regret taking on that job because Princess really enjoys Girl Scouts and because a part of me geeks on logistical projects like this. What can I say? I was a transportation officer in the Army Reserves. This was exactly the sort of work I did for 11 years. Only with crusty old NCOs instead of squealing little girls young enough to be missing their two front teeth.

So I’m lazy today, and I don’t give a damn about much of anything except sitting on the couch and vegetating. And playing Wii games with the kids and catching a nap here and there. Tomorrow I will throw myself back into work. I’ll be at EPICon in Williamsburg this weekend, and I’ll be busy with Cookie Mom stuff until the end of the month. Come April, I’m going off the rails and taking a whole day off. Woo hoo. Or whatever.

Enjoy your Sunday 😉

Sunday Contentments – My Miracles

How did we get from this…

To this…?

After a week of mourning my father-in-law’s passing, we celebrated Princess’ 8th birthday. It was a relief to have something uplifting to enjoy after such a long week. I’m always amazed by both my girls. The Hubster and I spent four years battling infertility before I finally became pregnant with the Princess. She was my miracle baby, the child I feared I would never get to have. Three and a half years later, Pixie became my second miracle baby, just as impossible to believe she would happen as her sister was.

In the last eight years, I’ve watched Princess grow from a tiny red-faced screaming bundle of joy into a whip-thin, smart alecky bookworm who can hold her own against the boys in the sparring ring and yet still dress up like Cinderella when the mood strikes. She looks just like me, everyone says, and she even made us get matching eyeglasses last year to enhance that fact. She shares my love of all things spooky, especially zombies, and is so obsessed with cats right now she wants to be one (wait till I teach her about Selena Kyle!).

I’m proud of my girls, both of them, but to this day, I still look at them and wonder, “They came out of me?”

It’s a miracle, I tell ya.

Sunday Contentments – Yes, I can read a book

I’m having a lazy Sunday morning today after another long week. My stress level continues to bounce around from moderate to high, though has not gone through the roof again in the last week. I attribute this partly to the fact that I can see the light at the end of the tunnel for a lot of the things that have been causing my stress – Girl Scout cookie sales, the barrage of work landing in my inbox, and some projects that I think I am just about ready to get off my plate.

But I also have to attribute the moderation of my stress level to taking a little time for myself. After having owned my iPad for a couple months now, I finally made another trip to Borders online and picked up a couple of books, including Stieg Larson’s “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.” I love to read, but don’t do it nearly often enough these days. In fact, if I read a book a quarter (for pleasure and not for some project-related research), I’d be very surprised. The last good book I can remember reading is Dan Simmons “Drood,” a dark, fictional account of Charles Dickens’ years. It was a very loooooooong book, and very engrossing, and I spent quite a few nights staying up past midnight to read it.

I picked up “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo” on a whim. It was only $5 for the ebook and I can’t recall the last time I was able to buy a book for just $5. I sat down last week to start it and found myself once again engrossed. I read at night before falling asleep and then started reading during the day, taking a little time here and there to finish a chapter or two. Finally, on Friday I spent most of the day just reading. I had an unexpected break in my schedule and decided to spend the day at home just writing and reading. I read off and on all day and finally finished the book around 9PM, then went online and bought the next one in the series. I haven’t started it yet; I’ve decided to read “The Lost City of Z” first. But I’m fairly certain once I finish “Z” I’ll be more than ready to head back into Larson’s world of investigative journalism, hackers and brutal crime.

So today’s contentment is good books, something I don’t indulge in nearly often enough. Hopefully I’ll figure out a way to slow down my schedule in the future to give myself a little more reading time. It’s the easiest form of escape I can find.

Sunday Contentments – the Tooth About Bad Parenting

I am a bad parent. I freely admit this. There are things that I do that I would not do if I were a good parent. Like say, messing with my kids’ minds.

Princess lost a tooth last Friday. She got so excited when that tooth cames out. She just couldn’t wait for the Tooth Fairy to show up! Unfortunately, Princess has bad parents who have a hard time remembering to put in a call to the Tooth Fairy to arrange for a drop-off. Princess was so disappointed the next morning when she woke up and found her tooth still in its little tooth pillow and no dollar left in its place. Oops. I could have sworn I told the Hubster to call the Tooth Fairy, but somehow…

Anyway, last night when I tucked her in, I told Princess the reason the Tooth Fairy had not shown up was probably because she had inherited her mother’s screwed-up Tooth Fairy.

“What’s that supposed to mean?” Princess demanded, her face scrunched up in wary disbelief.

“It means that when I was your age, I used to lose my teeth too, but the Tooth Fairy had problems getting to my house to drop off the money. And sometimes, when the Tooth Fairy did arrive, she made mistakes.”

Princess cocked an eyebrow at me. “What kind of mistakes?”

“Well, once, instead of leaving me a dollar, she left me a walnut. And then one time when she did remember to bring a dollar, she gave it to the neighbor’s dog instead of me.”


“Seriously! So if you don’t find a dollar under your pillow tomorrow, I suggest you check with the cats, because chances are good she gave your dollar to one of them. But I’d check right away, because Hiccup strikes me as the kind of cat that would spend your dollar really quick!.”

Well, that pack of tall tales got me a few giggles, and seemed to put to rest any worries Princess had about the Tooth Fairy not loving her enough to come visit. I made sure to tell Hubster before going to bed to make arrangements for the Tooth Fairy, and this morning Princess came dancing into our bedroom with a crisp dollar bill.

“Look what I got from the Tooth Fairy! A whole dollar!”

“What? No walnut?” I asked.


I’m a bad parent, but I’m a pretty good liar, so maybe that balances things out.