Monthly Archives: December 2014

Interview with an Artist Q9: Incidental Stories

Question 9

Real life is a collection of moments that feed the storyteller in me.  I like to hear people tell their moments of triumph and their confrontations with what life throws at them.  I find that people’s jobs put them in the way of stories, because ultimately work is about interaction with the world on behalf of someone else.  They meet people they would not meet and do things they would not have otherwise done.  So I asked Liiga about her work’s stories and what she said touched my heart.

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Question 9. Everyone has an interesting story related to their work—what’s one of yours?

The most memorable story I have related to my work is actually a sad one. One client commissioned a painting of an angel with the facial likeness of his girlfriend as a gift to her. It was to have large, elaborate wings, a sparkly dress, and be shown melting away the snow from a wintery forest to herald the arrival of spring. Excited about the idea, I set to work, sending in a preview for the starting sketch, the halfway point and finally, after upwards of a month of scribbling away, the final preview. Oddly enough, although the initial responses had been fairly quick, the one to the final never came. After some waiting and reminders, I concluded the client must have for some reason decided to bow out and left it at that.

It wasn’t until a few months later that I suddenly received the payment for the finished painting and a response; however, it was not from the client, but from his girlfriend. It was then that I learned that the original client had passed away just before the painting had been completed, leaving her a final parting gift. It has been several years since this happened, and I can safely say I’ll never forget this story.


Winter Angel, in memory of Isaac, can be seen on Liiga’s site.


Teresa Edgerton interviews Author Jax Daniels

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Teresa Edgerton (left) is author of eleven charming fantasy books and a talented freelance editor helping writers pull the best from their stories.  Jax Daniels (right) is author of fantasy mystery, The Deadman’s Deal and…oh heck, just read the interview!

Hi, Jax! First of all, could you tell us something about The Dead Man’s Deal and The Witherspoon Mansion Adventures?

The Dead Man’s Deal is an urban fantasy set in New Orleans. The heroine, Winki Witherspoon, was recently widowed. Still devastated by the loss of her husband, she learns he kept a secret life and identity from her, a magical one. She also learns his death might not have been an accident, after all. This is the first book in a series.

Are you working on the sequel now?

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The second book, currently titled The Cook’s Curse, is complete, and in the hands of beta readers now. I hope to have it released in May of 2015.

There is something I have been dying to ask. The idea of a cockroach as a magician’s familiar is hilarious. What inspired that?

I knew I wanted Winki to have a familiar to help her through her new life. The traditional role is a cat, which has been done to death. A dog was recently done in the Dresden Files (one of my favorite series). I wanted something unique to New Orleans, and something small so Winki could carry it in a pocket, and I IMMEDIATELY thought of a cockroach. And I IMMEDIATELY dismissed the cockroach because, well, ew! No one wants to read about roaches, right? But, the thought wouldn’t go away. Hence, Hercule.

The Dead Man’s Deal combines elements of mystery with traditional fantasy: the training and testing of a champion. Which came first, or was it all part of your initial inspiration?

The fantasy element came first, and specifically the idea of the tournament. As I wrote it, however, I wanted Winki to be more reluctant about her new role, and the mystery unraveled itself.

You changed the gender of your main character from male to female because a writer friend suggested it. It’s hard for me to imagine Winki any other way. Besides the obvious, how did that change the way you saw his/her character?

Her attitudes towards (for example) cockroaches and spiders were much easier to write since they aligned with my own biases. Surprisingly, little changed as to how I saw the character – brave, caring, a bit thick – but it changed her voice tremendously.

How did that change impact the plot?

The biggest change plot-wise had to be the beginning. When the reader meets Winki she’s in a state of depression, lacking any interaction with the world. She starts her journey from a more frightened place and grows into the champion, whereas a man would come from a disbelieving place, I think.

The book is, on the whole, light-hearted, but there are some horrifyingly cruel things that have happened to characters in the past or that threaten characters at the time of the story. Was it hard to balance those so that the tone of the story didn’t change drastically somewhere in the middle?

It was, and it remains a tough line to walk. But that is life, really. We joke, we laugh, we live, yet horrible things happen to all of us, and happen all around us. It’s our own strengths that make us laugh again.

I’ve read that you were a math major and were drawn to math because you like solving puzzles. What was it like putting together a puzzle in the form of a mystery inside a fantasy novel?

A task involving many notes! I keep lists of problems and questions (as well as characters, places, and descriptions) to make sure that I answer everything – I even had a carry-over list for “things yet to be fully explained.” The secret to fun fantasy is the tiny line of plausibility!

How much planning do you do in advance? Do you begin with an outline, or do you begin with only a general idea and write the story to see what will happen next?  Or is it a combination?

Since this is a series, I have a major story arc. Each book has a “what happens here,” a major plot point on the arc. Then. For each book, I outline – I love an outline. I don’t always stick to it 100 percent, but it gives me breadcrumbs to follow to get to that story’s big reveal.

The inevitable question in an author interview: who are some of the writers that have particularly influenced your own writing?

I’ve enjoyed Jim Butcher (The Dresden Files), Anne Rice (the Lestat novels), Laurie R. King (the Mary Russell books), and recently Christopher Moore (the novel Lamb). The largest influence came from direct feedback from my writers group, who’ve been helping me develop for over ten years now.

Did you choose fantasy, or did fantasy choose you?

I chose it. I’ve written mysteries and science fiction in the past, but fantasy just rings my bell.

You’ve lived all around the country. Do you think that has influenced your writing?

As a kid we moved a lot, and making friends could be a long process. In the meantime, I daydreamed. I think that primed the creative pump, making tapping into the bizarre and “what ifs” a little easier now. It’s also made me open to change. I’m not tied to a particular story or character; so when someone suggests, for example, the hero needs to be a heroine, I shrug and give it a whirl.

New Orleans, where I currently live, gets a bunch of credit. It’s one of the oldest cities in the US, and it hums with history and mystery. It’s hard NOT to daydream here!

Interview with an Artist Q8: Mortal Shadow

Question 8

Another fun reason to do a character portrait is what you can learn. A few months ago, I did a challenge to list 20 things not in my novel (In a Mortal Shadow) that people don’t know about one of my characters.  I just added two more to that list, two things even I didn’t know about my character, and I learned them from the character portrait. 

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In the portrait, Falion has a line at the bridge of his nose, which looks just like a scar.  I didn’t know he had a scar on his face.  But he does now.  I just have to figure out what or who gave it to him.  The other detail that caught my attention was that if you look very closely, Falion has stubble on the left side.  Elves don’t grow beards, and Falion has never shaved in the story thus far.  But perhaps, because he is part human, he grows a beard, or at least the skimpy shadow of one.  Perhaps he has to shave a few times a year.  And according to the portrait, only on one side.  The right side is baby smooth!  I think I’ll just ignore that dichotomy.  So I wanted to know how Liiga approached depicting Falion. I saw Falion in a new light—or shadow—because of her answer.

Question 8. The art that inspired me to contact you is called Sunlight. I see that it was a heavily manipulated photo. How did you come up with my portrait of Falion?

In Falion’s portrait, the element of sunlight is portrayed through the contrast of light and darkness, as the character is shown emerging from a murky, foresty area. Since the character has a ‘darker’ and more experienced air to him than the one in ‘Sunlight,’ I felt this would be suitable as a transition from dark into light implicitly shows change, progression, experience.

From the technical standpoint, I kept the description close at hand and looked up additional photos of the actors and characters that had been pointed out as having resemblance to the character, as well as others which seemed to bear a resemblance. For instance, Pierce Brosnan was very helpful when it came to manly eye wrinkles.

I also stared at some birch leaves for a while.

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Not for commercial use.
Reposting allowed with the following attribution:
Falion from In a Mortal Shadow. Artist,  Liiga Smilshkalne
(Link to site or list as

Full interview will be available after the last of the selected questions has published on December 12.

Interview with an Artist Q7: Shiney!

Question 7

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Sss-Mine! by Liiga Smilshkalne. “This naga lady doesn’t mind the occasional bird snack, but this one sings oh-so-pretty, and they’re so hard to come by underground…” I loved this; it tells an entire story.

It wasn’t what I was looking for that was most important when I tried to find an artist, it was more important what I felt.  That’s what got me about Liiga’s Sunlight—the way the woman in the portrait seems to have transcended the moment.  That reminded me of Teara.  She retreats to the gardens where she can be alone with the sunshine, the birds, and the flowers and trees.  There she can transcend to steal moments of peace.

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Brenell by Liiga Smilshkalne was commissioned image for the RPG Forum “Skeyra—Eine andere Welt” (Skeyra—Another World). This one got into an art book: d’Artiste: Character Design by Ballistic Publishing.

I wanted that kind of emotion in the portrait of Falion, too.  When I went to Liiga’s gallery, I found several pieces that stirred me. That’s when I knew it was worth throwing the dice.  Sss-Mine is one of my favorites because it appeals to the storyteller in me.

Having found my favorites, I wanted to know what the artist’s were and how she gets inspired to make moving pieces or art.

Question 7: What are some of your favorite pieces and what inspires you the most?

It is difficult to pick favorites from my own works due to the common artist malady of picking out all the flaws in them once the initial excitement has worn down. So far the ones that have held up best in my own eyes are Brenell and Candlebright for Bella Sara. As for inspiration, it can be in a variety of places—the right kind of music, a foggy sunrise, a concept that explores interesting contrasts, or just the opportunity to draw shiny details, to name a few. And if all else fails, looking at art usually does the trick.

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Bella Sara—Candlebright by Liiga Smilshkalne was commissioned for Bella Sara, a game where you journey into the magical world of horses. © 2011 Hidden City Entertainment, Inc. All rights reserved.


Full interview will be available after the last of the selected questions has published on December 12.

Interview with an Artist Q3: Capturing the Ghost of an Idea

Question 3

My vision for my character Falion was more a feeling than it was a concrete image.  I knew how to get that across in words, but not in image.  But as words are my medium, color and images are Liiga’s. Where I knew how to get you to feel Falion’s angst and world weariness in my novel, Liiga knew how to put that into his face.  It amazed me to see his transformation from a page of words to a canvas of color.  So I asked her how she did that magic.

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Question 3. How do you capture other people’s visions and get motivated to do someone else’s project?

The process of getting from an idea in someone else’s mind to a painting can be a little esoteric. I usually start by trying to capture the mood or essence of the character in the initial concept sketches, intentionally keeping them fast and loose. Once the client and myself are on the same page on the general feel of the thing, the details can be narrowed down further.

How smoothly this goes can be affected by a number of things, such as the description and references, if any, and how specific the client’s mental image of the desired painting is. Sometimes the provided materials can be scarce, while other times they can be too specific or abundant. There have been a few cases where so many symbolic elements were to be included that it was difficult to find a composition that did not omit any, but also didn’t dissolve under the clutter or impossible spatial relationships.

Solving these challenges is usually enough of a motivator in itself, though for me anything that comes with a need for shiny details, creative, surreal, or creepy things holds just a little extra charm.

Full interview will be available after the last of the selected questions has published on December 12.