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ACW Episode 143 – An Unexpected Delay in Getting Back to Work

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Due to certain unforeseen circumstances, it may be another week or so before I get back to my regular blogging schedule. I didn’t even get “Rats!” up last week because of the events depicted in today’s comic. I will post the regular Cynical Woman comics and “Rats!” all this month, and hopefully be back to a semi-normal schedule by the end of January, but in addition to my recent illness, I’ve also just entered Girl Scout cookie season and today I’m up to my assets in spread sheets and calendars, getting ready for sales to start on Saturday. Oh, and convention season starts next week, with Marscon being the first con on my schedule this year. If you’re going to be in Williamsburg, VA, from 13-15 January, stop by and see me! I’ll be talking about writing, podcasting, speculative fiction erotica and, of course, web comics.

So anyway, I hope you all had a happy New Year. I know that I at least got an early start on one resolution – lose 10 pounds. I’m almost halfway there already!


ACW Episode 143 – Hoppy Holidays

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It was like the weirdest game of live-action Frogger ever. There we were, happily driving down the highway, on our way to see “Hugo” (great movie, by the way), when out of nowhere this froggy potty leaps out at us, forcing my mom to run over it with her SUV. It made this horrendous noise, like it was tearing the engine apart with its plastic molded froggy paws. Then the noise stopped. Then the noise started again, only different, and this time the car started to slow down, and it got slower and slower and slower… We barely made it to the movie theater parking lot, where my mom parked and we all jumped out to survey the damage. And there he was, stuck in the wheel well – a child’s froggy potty covered in black goop.

And yes, my dad did actually say the line in the last panel. That’s my dad! Now you know where I get it from.

My family is visiting for another day or so, and then I hope to get back to regular work, but I’m not making any promises for this week. I’ve got to get started on some stuff for Girl Scouts. Cookie season is rapidly approaching, as well as Thinking Day, and I’m in charge of both this year. Plus Marson is coming up, and I’ve got a lot to get ready for that. But someone very nice has offered to help me out with all three of these events, so I should be good. Right, Mich?

Anyway, this is the last Cynical Woman cartoon for the year. I’ll see if I can get Rats! up on Thursday, and then I won’t see you again until next year. Have a good one!

Episode 68 – What a Privilege!

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Wow, does this cartoon show my age. When I was a cadet, CDs were still very much a new technology. Very, very new. If you bought new music, you didn’t get it off of iTunes or buy MP3s from Amazon. You went to the record store and bought either the vinyl album or a cassette tape. I had 3 small boxes of cassette tapes and a whole slew of vinyl albums when I was a cadet. I didn’t have enough room in my dorm room for the albums and the record player, though, so I just brought a boom box and my cassettes. And I could only listen to the cassettes in my boom box because my car did not have a radio or a cassette player!!

Sounds pretty primitive, doesn’t it? These days, I have an iPod Nano that I can wear on my wrist like a wrist watch. I’ve got a converter that will allow me to plug it into my car stereo. I can play streaming radio from any station in the world on my iPad, and I usually buy my music from iTunes or Amazon. And all these devices are so tiny, so transportable! I can only imagine what it must be like to be a cadet today with all this technology available. Tell me, Rats of the VTCC today, does the Corps even bother to restrict your use of your iPods, your iPads, your Nooks, your Kindles, etc.? Do you have to earn the privilege to listen to your music? Because these days, the device you use to play your music on might also be the same device you read your text books on! And nobody could have even conceived of that when I was a freshman at Virginia Tech. In fact, my freshman year at Virginia Tech was the first year students in engineering were required to have computers. Not all students, mind you, just the engineering students.

My, how far we’ve come. And yet these days, I still prefer to draw my comics on bristol board with a brush pen. Unless I’m on the road, and then you know I use the iPad. Because, hey, technology works!

Freaky Friday! So I changed my tag line

Take a look at the header graphic for the site. Notice that something has changed? I have replace the tag line of “Stay-at-home mom and erotica writer” with “Motherhood made me EVIL!!!”

Why the change, you may ask? (Or maybe you’re not asking. Maybe you don’t care. Maybe you’re too busy eating Cheetohs, in which case I hate you for not sharing any with me.) The change is for a couple of reasons, the main one being…

I am not simply a stay-at-home mom and erotica writer. Not that there was ever anything simple about that. However, while I have primarily written in the erotica genre for the last ten years, this website was never really an erotica writer’s website. You never saw a lot of story excerpts here, no contests or give-aways, no big book releases or anything like that. Yeah, I’ve talked about writing erotica from time to time, and I have occasionally put up some stories here, but 99% of my erotica work has been poured straight into the Heat Flash Erotica Podcast, and let’s be honest, Heat Flash is the perfect place for it. It’s a site dedicated entirely to speculative fiction erotica. If that’s what you want, that’s exactly what you get there, and you can find plenty of it all on that one website. It’s focused and direct, and that’s made it a great platform for my odd little stories of erotic fiction.

This website though, the Cynical Woman site, has always been more of a mish-mash of stuff, from the web comics to the artwork to the occasional (okay, the frequent) rant about my life as a mom. An evil mom. A mom who really does have devil horns coming out her head (hey, have you seen me at conventions? The horns are real!!). So as much fun as it is to be a stay-at-home mom and erotica writer, and as catchy as that tag line is, it really doesn’t cover the full theme of this site. And that theme is…

Motherhood has made me evil.

Oh, I was evil before I had kids, but I never really understood the true extent of my nature until after I had them. Giving birth to and caring for a couple of vicious man-eating rug rats has led me to the discovery that I am the kind of parent who enjoys trying to civilize such savage little beasts. I get a kick out of sending a screaming kid to her bedroom and I have no hesitations about handing out time-outs or sweeping through a messy bedroom with a trashbag and vindictive will to enact a scorched earth policy on anything the little ones refused to pick up and put away like they were told to fifty-million times. I am the mom who shows up at a Catholic school, with hair dyed pink and blue and purple, to discuss volunteer hours with the nuns, and then I go home to write erotica stories for the Coming Together charity anthologies. I am the mom who sells cookies for Girl Scouts by cheerfully advertising that yes, those cookies really are made of real Girl Scouts and I made them myself. See my bloody hands? Now please, buy a few boxes and support the Girl Scouts. I play Wii Fit while drinking Choco-Vine wine (although to be honest, the person who decided to combine wine and chocolate is far more evil than I). I sew zombie dolls on the sidelines while waiting for my daughters’ karate classes to end. I am the mom who will save your sorry ass should said zombie dolls ever come to life and take over the world… unless I decide to be the mom who feeds your sorry ass to my zombie babies, because hey, they’re cute and they need to eat too!

In short, I am not your mama’s “Yo Mama!” Rather, I am a strange new species of bitchy breeder all together, and that’s what this website has always been about. So I changed the tag line to “Motherhood has made me EVIL!!!” Yes, you will still see the occasional mention of erotica stories and artwork here, and you can always go to Heat Flash if you want more. Because I’m still a stay-at-home mom and I still write erotica.

I’m just really, really evil, too.

‘Nuff said.

ACW Episode 128 – A Puppet?

Yes, this actually happened. And yes, Pixie actually said this.

Man, did I get an earful from that kid last week. The girls had been in school almost two weeks already, but Pixie’s kindergarten class only did half-days the first couple of weeks. The day they started full days was the day of “The Dreaded Nap.” As Pixie so succinctly told her teacher, “I don’t do naps.” And she doesn’t. Hasn’t, in fact, since she was 18 months old. Not for lack of trying on my part. I used to do my dangedest to wear that kid out so she’d sleep for an hour or so in the afternoons. But no matter what I tried – long walks around the neighborhood, swimming in the local pool, never-ending games of tag – nothing seemed to wear her out. In fact, I usually only wore myself out, which made the problem even worse.

So eventually, I struck a deal with Pixie, which was that so long as she played quietly in her room for 2 hours every afternoon, I would not force her to take a nap. And this is pretty much the deal her pre-school teacher struck with her as well. But in kindergarten, it’s a whole different ball game. They don’t have a separate room she can sit in to read or play a game. She has to stay with her class and the class has to lie down and be quiet. They don’t have to sleep, but they do have to be quiet. And Pixie does not like that one bit. Nor did she care for the puppet that was offered to her when she complained about it.

Other than that though, the first few weeks of school have gone well. We start Girl Scouts again this week, which should be interesting, and I’m finding my free time being eaten up just as much as it was before both girls were in school. I can’t seem to catch a break so I will have to continue to cut back on some of the work stuff that I do. I’ll continue to cartoon, and hopefully will get “Rats!” back up and running this week, along with one or two other regular blog posts, but beyond that, I make no promises. I’m working from 5-6:30AM these days just to get some extra hours in, and even then, I’m still having a hard time getting everything done. Hopefully though, now that we’re finally on a regular school schedule things will even out.

But you and I both know they won’t, so I’ll survive as best I can.

ACW Episode 117 – Crazy Train!

My follow up to last week’s cartoon. Summer break is here and it’s hit like Ozzie Osbourne’s Crazy Train. That’s why it’s been so quiet here at the website, as well as at the last few weeks. The end of school year period is always an awkward change-over in schedules and this year even more so. I hope to be back to a more regular schedule next week, but right now I’ve got one child out of school and at home with me all day and I’m desperately trying to recover the house from the mess it’s been buried under in the last several weeks. I’ve cleaned the kids’ rooms and mine is next on the list, followed by the art room and my office. Once I’ve got about 50 tons of crap cleared out and the rest of our wordly belongings cleaned/repaired/organized/stored, life should return to normal.

Or not, because you know, life never, ever really returns to normal. Especially not around here.

Enjoy your week. I’ll try to have a “Rats!” cartoon up on Thursday.

ACW Episode 93 – Smells like Katy Perry

Yes, I actually said this. And just to be clear, I really like the Katy Perry album in question. I’m just annoyed I can’t play it when the kids are around, which is ALL THE DAMN TIME. And I’m also annoyed that I don’t smell like cotton candy the way she does on the CD cover art. However, me getting my butt to smell like cotton candy would probably involve doing something highly lewd and illegal at a local carnival, which would then end in my arrest. So it’s probably not worth it. But I haven’t decided for certain on that yet.

I am hard at work on “The Little Death” for PerNoFiMo (Personal Novel Finishing Month). Aaaaaaaaaand… I’ve also started a new super-secret-special project, code named VeryScary. Details on this will be forthcoming.

Have a happy Turkey Day. Rats! will go up on Thursday as usual, but I expect things will be quiet around here otherwise this week.

Web Comics

Cynical Woman is proud to present two weekly webcomics – The Adventures of Cynical Woman and Rats! ACW is a semi-autobiographical comic about my life as a stay-at-home mom and erotica writer.  New comics are posted every Tuesday.  Rats! is a comic about my life as a cadet at Virginia Tech.  It originally ran in the Virginia Tech Collegiate Times, from 1989-1993. I am currently re-running these strips here on Thursdays.

Click on the links below read these comics.

The Adventures of Cynical Woman


ACW Episode 53 – Sleepwear (plus how to make a comic strip)

Just one more example of how exciting the life of an erotica writer really is 😉

I thought I might show you all how I put together the Adventures of Cynical Woman web comics. I’m sure you’re all just fascina– Hey! Get back here! I’m not done talking to you yet!

Where was I? Oh yes, how I put the comic strips together. First, I need an idea. This week’s idea was inspired by an e-mail interview I did with a journalist who wanted to know how I write erotica. I mentioned that some nights I curl up in bed with my laptop to write my stories, but that wasn’t nearly as sexy as it sounded because I always wear flannel PJs and tuck a heating pad under my feet. This particular erotica author does NOT like to be cold.

So I had my idea. Next, I needed to script it out and draw a quick thumbnail sketch of what the panels would look like. I do this step in a notebook I keep just for the cartoons. Here’s what the idea sketch and script look like.

Very fascinating, right? Right! Anyway, once I know what I’m writing and drawing, I set up a sheet of paper on my handy dandy drawing board.

The drawing board is actually a piece of foam core with some white poster-board taped over it for a smooth drawing surface. I use a low tack tape to attach the paper, and then use a mechanical pencil and T-square to draft out the panels. I always draw in red pencil. You’ll see why in a bit.

Next, I roughly sketch in where each of the characters and props are going to go in each panel. This is nothing fancy, just stick figures and basic shapes to help me determine how much room each character will need in the panel and still leave room for the word balloons and text.

Then I start to draw a detailed sketch for each panel, again using the same mechanical pencil with red lead.

I like to do a fairly detailed drawing so I know exactly what I have to ink. Once the final sketching is done, I pull out a brush pen (I use Faber Castell brush markers; they’re the best!) and I ink the cartoon. For the borders and fine line work and cross hatching, I use a Faber Castell technical pen or a Micron Pigma pen.

Once I’ve got the inking done, I scan the cartoon into the computer via Photoshop. I have to do it in two pieces, since I use a very big piece of paper for the cartoon. I don’t bother erasing the red pencil marks because I don’t have to. I simply delete the red color channels from my image once it’s been scanned in and then convert the whole thing to grey scale. Voila! No more red pencil, just black ink.

Once everything is scanned in, I use Photoshop to pull it all together. I have a blank comic template set up with all the credits and titles already in it, as well as guidelines set up to help me line up the artwork. I use the text tool and the pen/shape tools to add the text and word balloons. For the final touch, I add two extra layers to the image, one for black areas and one for white high lights. I’ve found it’s easier and cleaner for me to add black areas to the cartoon in Photoshop than to do it by hand, so certain things like the laptop in this cartoon or the Hubster’s hair will be blacked in then, with another layer set up for white highlights on top of that.

Once it’s all done, I flatten all the layers in Photoshop, scale the image down, and then put it in a blog post for the website. The whole process takes anywhere from 2-4 hours, depending on how detailed the cartoon is, or how tired I am that day. Today I was beat, so between that and putting together this little behind-the-scenes look, I probably spent about 4 1/2 hours on this total.

Anyway, that’s how it’s done. Now aren’t you glad you hung around to read all that? Wasn’t that just fascinating? Hello? Hellooooooo…

I can hear you breathing, you know.

Don’t forget, episode 03 of Rats! runs this Thursday on!

ACW Episode 52 – My very adult weekend

I know, I know. Today’s cartoon went up late, but there was a reason why. I left Friday morning for Marscon, and was gone all weekend. And yes indeedy, I did have several late night panels which have left me shambling about like one of the living dead. But that’s not why today’s cartoon was late. Today’s cartoon was late because…

It’s all the HUBSTER’S fault!!

Yes, Saint Michael the Magnificent did something truly amazing. He decided to upgrade both my laptop and my desktop this past weekend while I was gone. Now I knew about the laptop. That poor machine has been limping along like nobody’s business the last six months, and I knew while I was away Hubster was going to pull out the old hard drive, install a new one, and reinstall all my software. I knew this. What I did not know was that he also planned to upgrade the operating system on my desktop from Vista to Windows 7.

When I came home Sunday night, both machines were still undergoing upgrades. No big deal. I was too tired to do any work that evening anyway. But on Monday morning, they were both still down. Now I was starting to get a little antsy because in addition to getting today’s cartoon drawn and scanned in, I also had a bit of cover art to finish off for a client and a podcast to finish assembling for Radio Dentata. Both those projects were on the desktop, which I had not been expecting to be under repair. Thus I had not copied the necessary files to my handy thumbdrive in case I needed to use another computer to finish the work. In fact, I couldn’t have used those files on the laptop until the upgraded hard drive was installed anyway, because I think putting anything else on the laptop probably would have killed that machine deader than a doornail. So I had left everything on the desktop, which I knew would back up automatically onto the external hard drive, and went my merry way on Friday thinking I’d be able to get back to work when I got home.

Hubster kept working on both machines all through yesterday. By yesterday evening, they still weren’t finished. In fact, the desktop appeared to have hung itself around the 62% point of the Windows 7 upgrade. It wouldn’t go any further no matter how hard I swore at it. The laptop was almost done, but it didn’t have the files I needed to finish my work, plus it wasn’t connected to my scanner so I couldn’t scan in the cartoon I had managed to draw yesterday. You see, I was on schedule, but got derailed by technical difficulties.

Hubster finally got me set with the laptop very early this morning. The desktop finally hung itself and crashed mid upgrade on Windows 7, so he rolled it back to Vista. Now at 3PM, nine hours later than usual, I can finally post this week’s Adventures of Cynical Woman. Hubster tells me he will wait until the next time I go to a con before he attempts to upgrade to Windows 7 again. I told him fine, but let’s make sure we’ve got a back up in place.

You know, just in case.

Don’t forget, my new/old comic Rats! runs again this Thursday and every Thursday from here on out! If you missed the first episode, you can see it here.