Busy Month Incoming

Tomorrow sees the start of LGBT History Month – which will be a busy month for me in my Staff Network capacity. We have events and blogs planned, including a social event and an evening at the History Centre. There’s also Valentine’s Day, a birthday, and a plan to finally see my parents for the first time since lockdown.

Oh, and of course there’s the day-to-day engagement required to keep libraries open. We have family events as ever, stock rotations, and collaborative work with charities and local groups. I have amazing and hard working staff working to make it all happen. Even when I have occasion to quietly mutter under my breath, its within a context of people trying their best.

I think the best challenge is going to be to keep a balance between all the things going on. I’ve not even touched on the D&D games yet. The Librarians adventure will get going properly – hopefully as scheduling settles – and the DDC will return soon.

By soon – I mean this week. I am busy writing adventure seeds and ideas for where it all goes next. I have a very rough direction for it, but picking up the threads from where we ended up will take some work. We ended the last chapter with some very definitive closures for Thorin’s story and have entered into some more epic territory.

We’ve already had prophecy and dragons in the mix – and the levels of power that the characters are at in Eberron are the sort of levels where many adventurers have already retired for easier lives. The DDC are now truly exceptional individuals, and their swashbuckling adventures will be reflecting that if all goes to plan.

So, here’s hoping my brain keeps up with all this plate spinning. Who knows, I might event get some stories and sketching done too…

Heroforge – Faces To Watch For

We completed year two of the DDC campaign this afternoon with an emotional rollercoaster that tied all sorts of loose ends together. I’ll write it up properly tomorrow. In the meantime, here are some faces that will loom into view in the next chapter. One of them is a recurring character called Inquisitor Rojas who is a paladin of the Silver Flame, while the other two are duergar heroes who escaped the final battle for Amberhammer Hold.

The DDC first met Inquisitor Rojas while enjoying a break in their train journey – he approached Thorin in the station bar and asked a series of questions about Thorin and about his sister. He played his cards close to his chest but pledged the assistance of the Silver Flame should they be needed. As the Silver Flame were the main drivers of a pogrom that destroyed all known lycanthropes and doppelgangers before the Last War, the presence of a body of armed men on the borders of Amberhammer lands, led by Inquisitor Rojas led to a great number of discussions about how to prevent them from descending on the dwarvish lands to eliminate the werewolves. The fear was that zealotry would lead to mass civilian casualties.

With the defeat of the mindflayers however, the Inquisitor made one more appearance – arriving alone outside the Hold to have a conversation with Thorin. He congratulated the new Lord on pushing back the powers of evil and defending his people – and was told by Thorin that the werewolf problem was now under control. He offered to bring his people in to assist with any last rounding up that needed doing but was rebuffed. He seemed convinced by Thorin’s arguments – at least enough not to push the new lord on his own doorstep – but he did pause when Caeluma growled at him as he left. After a moment, he continued on his way, and led his force back to the larger body of men still camped outside Cragwar.

The two remaining characters are duergar who fled the battle and remain within Amberhammer lands. Umbas Fell is a psionicist, while Marko Patchbeard is a paladin with an oath of vengeance. Time will tell how they impact the stories to come.

DDC – Valenia’s Parents

Earlier this year we ran a D&D session around celebrating the birthday of one of the players – Lady B as it turned out – and it became an extremely wholesome session of parental gossip from back home and the players all scurrying around the local town to find the perfect presents for them. Lady B plays a half-orc ranger and described her parents in simple terms which allowed me to lean in on how to play them.

Anyway, this is all a roundabout and long way to say that my early evening yesterday was spent in HeroForge to create representations of these two NPCs as a nice reminder of the event and an aide-memoire for as and when they may turn up again later. Given they were last seen staying at a hostel near the DDC’s house I really wouldn’t be surprised if they became house sitters while the group was off saving the world. So, please welcome Misaki and Valenash.

I wanted to capture their zest for life and hint at their pasts as retired adventurers so a moderately hedonistic cleric and a gruff and generally laid back woodsman were born. Lady B said these were fairly close to her own imagining of the pair so that’s as sound a mark of approval I’ll get given these were done blind without referring to my notes…

Each of these digital images were created in HeroForge using a Pro subscription. Just thought I’d share.

Knickers Everywhere

We’re starting to gear up for the Jubilee celebrations in the libraries, and I’ve just overheard two of my staff on the phone to each other assuring each other that they’re not copying each other and are doing quite different children’s events and crafts based around the book The Queen’s Knickers.

Independent invention is a wonderful thing, and in this case I know it’s been prompted by hardback deliveries this week of the same books to each library in the area.

At the library I’m currently basing myself from, the focus is on inviting people to decorate a template looking like a set of underwear with whatever colours, patterns, or cut out shapes and pictures they like. The resulting pieces are then being hung up on “washing lines” within the children’s library.

It’s all good fun, and I’ve only had to veto a couple of design choices suggested out of devilment by the staff as they make up some samples to start it all off. I look forward to seeing the collection grow…

And yes, I have contributed a design. Doesn’t seem to be up yet.

Ah Payday

I would say that I’m not sure why the last week has been a bit of a struggle with money but I can very firmly point to the two parking tickets I managed to earn this month as contributing to the pain. Never mind, lessons learned and all that.

It’s been a quiet couple of days, but I did go to Kingston yesterday to have a payday spend, looking at things for the flat. By far the best decision I made was to walk in to Not My Beautiful House, which is a pop up art gallery set up and run by students at Kingston University. They are focused on selling art by local people and I found a fair few things that caught my eye. In particular there were abstracts created by an ADHD support group, and I couldn’t resist

For £20 I had a new canvas piece for the hall, and I’ll definitely keep an eye on the place from now on.

Other than that it’s been quiet. Both the introverts have tucked themselves away so I may go out to the gym later – or spoil myself with a nice rioja – I haven’t decided yet.

Tshirt Things

I spent some time this weekend putting a couple of reworked designs on the Amazon site, and starting to work through translation settings for non-English versions.

As there’s over six hundred clothing variants across a number of languages that are in turn spread over the nearly eighty designs I’ve current got up, I’m doing them in small batches. Some of the more niche D&D related ones will probably end up getting rotated out in time but for now they’re good for practice so they’ll stay up.

The two newest designs are called Ignition and Hungry Love and I hope its not just me who likes them. They are available on both UK and US sites at present, under the Ludd Clothing brand, and I’ll work on French, German, Italian, and Japanese versions soon.

Busy or Productive?

I’ve been a little subdued and quiet the last couple of days, and have generally put it down to post-Christmas and indeed post-work tiredness. Without the artificial deadlines to work to I’ve been allowing myself to not get worried about being productive, and therefore haven’t been plunging into being busy. I think I’ve fallen into the creative trap of actively trying to be productive and instead falling into making busy work that hasn’t really satisfied by the end of it. Whether that’s been attempts at drawing that I’ve given up on after a few strokes, or attempts at cleaning that have ended up just moving things around and solving nothing – its been frustrating because I’ve been putting the expectation of things on myself.

So, bearing in mind I booked this time off, I’ve been consciously giving myself permission to sleep – and to just be. It’s made me aware just how tired in my bones I’ve become, and how much rushing around I’ve been doing. Stopping a while has been needed.

With the stepping back from trying to wrestle my brain into a more creative space has come some actual creative work – like the sketch page presented here – which I have quietly developed over the last couple of days while we’ve caught up with tv shows.

The quiet grind of editing short stories has also brought some dividends too, with a growing number of more polished pieces amounting up to a respectable collection of pieces suitable for publication in the near future. I’m very carefully not putting a deadline on that happening, but in my headspace I have an expectation on how much more I need to do and it isn’t as daunting as that felt even a few weeks ago.

So, by stepping back from being busy, I’ve ended up being more productive – and I doubt I’m the first person to notice this or comment on the irony of it. Some people thrive creatively working to deadlines, others don’t – and some, like myself, perhaps are creative in different ways or find more satisfaction in pieces created when not pushing to be busy for busyness’ sake.

I’m going to go and play some games online now, and not feel guilty that I’m not creating something, or working on something, or worrying about some deadline that really doesn’t matter because I made it up and there’s no need to stick to it. The world keeps turning.

Frontline Quiet

I ended up running one of my libraries solo this afternoon as the person scheduled to be there was taken ill. It was quite gentle really, and in some ways reassuring that I haven’t quite lost my grip on the nitty gritty of customer service work.

It was good to be able to just talk to customers and be a simple friendly soul as a contrast to the plate-spinning expert I often have to be these days. It didn’t stop me processing recruitment paperwork and sorting out meeting with some potential partner organisations, but it was almost a spa day, returning to the basics like that. It was almost a shame how quickly closing time rolled round.

True to form, as you might expect, there may have been some doodling between phonecalls, customers, and bouts of shelvng:

I’ve left them to bemuse the staff due there in the morning.

Out and About

After a long day of work as one of the senior staff on duty, followed by my regular biweekly Saturday evening counselling session, I eventually made it up to the Novotel Excel for a little before midnight to join the rest of the household. It meant that I could be with them for day two of the Social In The City event – and while it just isn’t my thing, it was a delight to see how excited boy s, the niece and nephew, and the cub were. I did the coat holding and bag-carrying thing as my brain weasels were in revolt, and my stomach decided to flare up – but that didn’t mean I didn’t enjoy the people watching. If nothing else, seeing the hero worship reactions was both delightful and entertaining.

For her part, Lady M went into shameless networking mode with the youtubers and podcasters in attendance. Her positivity and directness looks to have nabbed a number of high profile LGBTQIA commentators to participate in future discussions, and I can’t wait to see what comes of those contacts. It was a rare chance to see her at work in that aspect of her passion project: namely, the identification and planning of future content, and ways to widen conversations and discussion. Her Two Women In Tech podcast (available all over the place but start with Spotify and Apple) and her wider TWITT projects are deeply personal, and related to her belief in building people up and opening opportunities. That’s why it was lovely to see and hear the enthusiasm on various people’s faces as she told them about what she was doing and invited them to take part. I shall await the results with interest

For my part, to settle my nerves and rest my aged aching body, I settled near the coffee stall and edited up an old sketch on the laptop in between retrieving lost children as they disappeared and reappeared without telling anyone where they were off too.

Yes, there will be a tshirt

Its one I did with a variety of metallic ink pigment ink pens a few years ago on black craft paper. I tried an edit at the time but could quite make the colours pop, but this time with some filter layers and light rendering on the filter layers I was able to bring more a vivid flame flicker to match the lines. I also resampled it in slightly different proportions as it originally didn’t quite work in my eyes. I’m much happier with the new proportions and resulting better clarity of facial features that have resolved while working on it.

I might not be feeling great, but I can take some measure of satisfaction in being able to create and produce images that catch the eye. It’s particularly enjoyable as a reclamation of skills I’ve not felt able to use in a while – and is especially warming when the act of revisiting an old piece I’ve discarded creates something better than it was when I started.

But I digress – we all got home and my body decided it wasn’t going to cooperate any more, so I’ve spent the best part of the late afternoon asleep and trying to settle after a broken night. I’m getting very tired of being ill so regularly. Hopefully the various investigations under way will pinpoint what the problem is so we can deal with it.