Monday, October 31, 2011

Mark Rude Is Happy To Announce...

The Hollows Insider and The Gold Cat's Daughter have been released and are now available for purchase! You can read about my involvement in Kim Harrison's Hollows Insider in this post: The Coolest Thing EVAR! Several of my pencil drawings are featured among the loads of other cool stuff that takes the reader under the skin of the Hollows, home of Cincinnati's supernatural Inderlanders. I have been a huge fan of the Rachel Morgan series from the beginning and it was a dream to work with my favorite author on this project.

Buy it at your favorite bookseller!

And finally, my own project that has been many years in the making (in fact the bulk of this blog is devoted to it): The Gold Cat's Daughter! This is the first novel in the Cindra Corrina series, the story of a brave young girl who must chose between her duty and her desires, with the fate of the kingdom at stake. Dark forces and hidden conspiracies are moving against her, hoping to lead the land to war and ultimate doom...

Available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and other fine online vendors!

And if that's not enough, the next book in the series, The Gallant Riders, is due to come out this time next year! It's been a very busy couple of years for me and I'm sure it will only get more hectic. If writing and publishing my books was my only job, I'd be one happy camper.

Visit The Gold Cat's Daughter on Facebook and "Like" if you like it :)


Saturday, October 15, 2011

How a Toy Changed My Life

My bear is a Horcrux.

Let me explain.

When I was 12, my family went on a vacation to Sequoia National Park. Stopping at a gift shop, our parents bought my brother and I these little stuffed toy black bears with tan muzzles called "Sierra Bears" on the label. I don't know if they only existed in that gift shop or not, but I've never seen their like since. I named mine B.J. McBear and he named his Rex. For the rest of the trip they were our main form of entertainment as we created little squeaky voices for them, gave them personalities, and generally drove our parents crazy.

When we got home, the fun didn't stop. I believe it started when my brother made a little Dukes of Hazard car out of a Kleenex box for Rex. I made one too and soon we were racing them along the linoleum floor and leaping them over the steps. One thing led to another and soon they had a small fleet of cardboard cars and a small selection of clothing. Then things got really cool.

I went through mom's bag of fabric and made costumes. Batbear and Robin were born and needed a Batmobile, so more cardboard was consumed. Superbear needed no car, nor did Spiderbear, but they did need enemies. We only had the two stuffed animals so we recruited from my sister's large selection to round out the cast.

Rex had a Lamborghini, so B.J. had to have one too. Tron came out so I built them light cycles, costumes and even a tank. Then came the helicopters. I made a gunship out of cardboard with a yard stick for the propeller. When that one crashed and broke, I made another. I made two versions of Airwolf from the TV series of the same name. Did the bears have flight suits and helmets? Oh, yes they did.

The stuffed animals and their friends appeared in the first comic book I ever did; an animal version of Disney's Condorman. Just like the hero of the movie, I built all the stuff depicted in the comic book. Then there was the Return of the Jedi animal comic that I started on, but it was far more fun to play light saber duels with B.J. as Luke and my sister's polar bear as Darth Vader. He was dressed all in black, complete with the mask and helmet, but he was pasty-white when you removed it, just like in the movie.

My bear was, among other things Indiana Jones, James Bond, Dracula, Rambo, the Mighty Thor, a ninja, Zorro, Doctor Who (#4 with scarf), Perseus from Clash of the Titans (and a Pegasus stuffed animal was added to the family), an astronaut, and of course, James T. Kirk. Every costume came with little props and whatever vehicles I needed for his adventures. The Star Trek crew had uniforms and an Enterprise bridge playset made of cardboard, complete with a revolving captain's chair and interchangeable view screen. I even made Rex little pin-on felt pointed ears.

One of the last big projects I worked on was for Ghostbusters. B.J., Rex, and Pegasus (Peg) were the three main characters and they had costumes, proton packs and gadgets for catching ghosts. I sewed a stuffed "Slimer" ghost to chase around and made an Ecto-mobile with a sliding rack in the rear for the backpacks.

B.J. modeling one of the last costumes.

Only a few costumes remain, and none of the vehicles or playsets. The bear has traveled with me everywhere, sharing many adventures. I lived my life vicariously through him, even becoming good at animating him through puppetry. I can make almost any stuffed animal seem alive now. I instilled in B.J. McBear a little piece of my soul and childhood, and it remains there to this day. He and his friends sit on a shelf gathering dust, overlooking my bedroom, but every once in a while I will take them down, dust them off, and remember all the fun times we had. As long as B.J. is around, a part of me won't die.

Just like Voldemort.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Adventures in Voice Work

I am a highly qualified Dungeon Master.

That's where I developed most of my voice work talents, running role playing games and doing different characters, from mayors to monsters. I also practice impersonations in the car on the way to work, just in case my employer wants to hear a celebrity voice reading the company mission statement.

You never know.

So I decided to record my own audio book, partly because I thought it would be fun, and partly because Patrick Stewart is so damned expensive. I've already blogged about Recording an Audio Book so I won't go over the same ground again, but I will share some of the things I've learned and tips that I think are helpful if you want to try it yourself.

Tip 1: Get a good microphone.
Using one of those headset mics is a bad idea. It may be fine for raiding with your guild (gamer reference) but not for doing quality work. I learned this when trying to redo some spots in the original recordings. Sound is a fickle thing, and working with a cheap mic is like starting a road trip under the wheels of your car. I use a Blue Snowball USB condenser microphone, a good low cost alternative for non-professionals.

Tip 2: Find a quiet spot.
This is one of the most important tips I can give. If you don't have a professional studio with soundproofing, you will have to put up with background noises. My sound guy Todd did a great job of soundproofing the space we used, but it was done over time so the first several chapters went from bad to better. Traffic was a real problem because of the location, and we had no control over people coming and going.
My solution to this was to redo the first few chapters at home, making a little sound studio of my own. While it is not as dampened as the original site, my house is off the main streets a bit and traffic noise is minimal by comparison (as I type this a firetruck is going by... *sigh*). I record on weekends around 1am after most of the world has gone to bed. The house is quiet, the kitties are sleeping and only the air conditioning makes noise as the vents pop. This is mitigated by my other precautions...

Tip 3: Dampen the sound in your studio.
Seems obvious, but the amount of work you must put into it depends entirely on what you have to work with in the first place. My desk is in a room next to a window (facing the street), I have wood floors and blinds instead of drapes. Not ideal, but at least I don't raise chickens.
To combat these problems, I've done some modifications that work to my satisfaction. The first thing I did was buy some sound foam from the local Guitar Center music store. That helped me to muffle the sounds of the already-quiet computer in my desk. I also got some foam board and made a sound dampening filter to house the mic.

You can see the round white mic in the little booth. The wire goes out a hole in the back and into the computer under the monitor; also shielded with sound foam over top and in the back. This isolates the hum of the cooling fans and most of the noise bouncing off the walls and coming from the window. Not perfect but it works for me.
The next thing I did was to sink a bit more money into blocking off the rest of the room. About $200 bought a nice six-sectioned woven room screen, which I then draped with thick blankets to act as a sound shield behind me. It also adds an extra layer of privacy when looking at porn. Not that I do that, but just FYI.
Yes, those are tiger patterns. I have tigers watching me on the other side.

Dropping towels on the floor might compensate for the wood flooring a bit, but I don't go crazy with it.

Tip 4: Hydrate and keep your mouth moist.
Neophytes will completely overlook this. Talking really dries out your mouth and vocal chords, and drinking water is very important. Bottled or filtered water is best, and avoid drinks with excess acid or sugar. Also, avoid eating foods that can cause congestion, like dairy. There are other sites that go into this stuff in more detail, but the best tip I learned was to have an atomizer full of filtered water handy.

Why? It's called Pop/Click, and it's the bane of sound editing. When your mouth dries out and loses saliva to lubricate it, you get these popping, clicking noises all over your vocals. This is especially bad with audio books where you don't have music or loud singing to mask it. Some of my early recordings were so bad I thought I had one of those aliens from the movie Signs behind me, talking in their clicky insect language.
Some people recommend having green apple slices handy, not to eat but to bite and suck on because the tartness encourages saliva. Well, this involves having apples around. Pshh. Yeah right.
An atomizer will mist your mouth and coat your inner cheeks, teeth and tongue with additional moisture, instead of washing all the saliva away like a drink of water will do. Priceless. Because I'm recording a minute of dialogue and listening to it immediately after, it gives me a chance to redo things on the spot if they get too clicky. This is a lifesaver when editing for timing and content later on.

Remember, you can't polish a turd.

Well, you can, but all you wind up with is a polished turd. Try for the best recording quality first, don't rely on "fixing it in post."

Here endeth the lesson.

Fantasy Book Cover in 2,843 Easy Steps

I have a really nice paint program that I barely know how to use.

I mean there's like 25% of the total features that I am familiar with, and most of what I do is through trial and error. I can do the basics and learned to play with some of the features, but I'm self-taught and never read a manual. The internet helped me with some important features like Layers, but I used that for my comic book covers and promptly forgot everything years later. Also, Paint Shop Pro X is not the industry standard, so all those Dummies Guides in the bookstore are kind of hit-and-miss. It was easier to find parts for my Mitsubishi than to find a book on PSP.
Anyway, this is about my first fantasy book cover. I wanted it to be dramatic but simple, the kind of thing you could describe in a sentence. This was not only a marketing decision but I wanted something I could learn on without making too much of a mess; kind of like George Lucas putting that big lizard in the background of Star Wars. Nothing too crazy or ambitious. Just learning the basics so I can really screw it up later.
It started with a rough pencil sketch. I had two ideas: one being a sweeping vista with the city in the background and the two romantically involved characters in front; the other was the main character with a young boy she saves, fending off a monster with a knife. I was informed by an author friend that I needed a glowy magic knife for it to be a real fantasy cover, whether there was one in the story or not. Luckily, there was.
Looks good!

So that was the beginning. later I gave it a bit more detail...

Very comic-booky. I wasn't too concerned about the details because I was only going to use this as a guide. I scanned it in at 600 dps so I'd have lots of pixels to play with. With my old comic book covers, I'd scanned ink drawings and used a layer to color behind the artwork, resulting in a "stay-within-the-lines" look. This would be different as I needed to paint "over" the pencil work. I began with a process called flatting, which is laying down flat base colors to work up from.

This was done on a layer under the pencil work. From there I was able to start painting the details of Cindra's face. I should mention that I use a Wacom tablet and stylus, which is a huge advantage over drawing with a mouse. Who knew?

The pencil layer is removed and the face work begins. I figured if I couldn't pull off a good looking face, there was no point in doing the rest of it in digital art. Modeling (getting the light and contours right) was done using a Paintbrush tool with an opacity of about 25%, allowing me to build up the colors like a real oil painting.

It's rough at this stage, but I'm starting to be encouraged. I have no photo references so I can't really go for photo-realism without them, but this ain't too bad. It's already lost the cartoony look. After more modeling and playing around with Smudge and Push tools, I decide she looks good enough to go on to the boy Nixy.

For him I'm lucky enough to find stock photos online of terrified children. It helps to get the eyes and mouth right. One of the tricks with painting/drawing young kids is to pull back on the detail. Artists like me tend to get too much into the things we know are there, like lines around the eyes and mouth, but this makes the subject 'read' as older. Young kids are smooth faced, even when pulling an exaggerated expression. I also found a picture of a female fashion model to base his hairstyle and texture on.
Here's another advantage of digital media: resizing. Eyes too small? Resize. Mouth too small? Resize. Hands too small and feet too big? Resize. By making subtle changes to the proportions or details you can enhance the image in a way that is impossible in traditional media without a whole lot of work. Cheating at its best.

Next came the fabric. While I have a grasp of the basics of drapery on the human figure, there's always room for improvement. I did a lot of hunting online for photo references of dresses like hers. Needless to say it's not in current fashion so I ended up on a lot of Medieval Garb sites. While the results may not be perfect for the fabric it's supposed to represent, I think it is more dynamic and interesting to look at without being too crazy. After all, authenticity isn't everything.
The ultra-green background was for the matting process; since I planned to do the foreground separate from the rest of the picture, I wanted to pick a color that I would not be using in the painting, telling the program to make that green transparent when needed. This did not entirely work as planned. There was a thin line of green around the figures after placing them on the background and I have to paint over it. Not sure if it was such a bright idea.

Next came the background, a cracked wall at night with an evil shadow on it. The color choice was the biggest issue and I tried a few variations. Falling back on my art training, I went with complimentary colors. Purple and yellow worked out best, so I played around with that, using separate layers for the base colors, the wall and ground details, tinting, and shadows. Being able to manage them all separately is a real life saver. I'll have to remember that for next time.

The final step was adding the text and giving it a golden metallic sheen. Once again, I used a layer for it so I could make any changes I wanted to the typesetting without disturbing the artwork.

And it only took six months.

I'm counting this as a big learning experience and now that I have the basics down, the next one should go a lot more smoothly...

Unless I go all "Lucas" on it.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Juggling Monkeys...

I hate it when they scream.

I recently asked some readers if there were any questions they wanted me to blog about regarding my work. I took some time sorting through the two responses I received and finally picked one: “How do you balance fitting your projects with everything else in your life?”

That’s a darn good question. I wonder that myself sometimes.

The answer really depends on the project. The longest so far was the “Passage” comic book project which went on from about 2001 to 2006. It was also the most difficult because it involved drawing page after page of artwork, which requires a minimum set of tools and paper. During this time, I was most often seen carrying a 9” x 14” clipboard with a few pieces of Bristol board (some to draw on and one for a cover sheet to avoid smudges) and a zip-up pencil holder bag with a few weights of pencils, a kneaded eraser, a blending stick, twisty-sharpener and some extra lead for my mechanical pencil. The nice thing about that is that you look quite innocuous going into any job with a clipboard; no one looks twice.

So, I’d draw at work. Most of my jobs during that time were answering phones, so between (and often during) calls, I would draw. Oh, and during training? Draw. Lunch? Draw after eating. I like to say that I’ve been paid to draw for years, but my employers just didn’t realize it. I didn’t let my work suffer for it; in fact I was never fired for drawing at work. They fired me for other reasons. But we won’t get into that right now.

After work I’d often go to my favorite Border’s Books café and draw, but sadly, they are now closed. I can’t work at home due to the distractions that are all around me. If I have the house to myself it’s a bit easier, but I still do better if I’m not in the same building with my bed, a couch, TV, or a computer with games on it. The only exception is the stuff I can’t do elsewhere, like digital painting or editing sound files for my audio book (which I’ve been doing for the past week).

My novels have been easier mostly because my productivity is so much higher. I can churn out half a chapter in a few hours, compared to one page of drawing. I write on a second-hand laptop (a Toshiba Portege M400) which I usually brought to the café after work or sometimes on my lunch breaks. The key ingredient here was lots of caffeine, both to stay awake and to blunt the headaches I’d invariably get from typing on a computer all day. Migraine pain pills were a must. I also channel creative energy through my Burning Bunny pin on the front of my laptop bag.

There was a point when I had enough in the bank to take most of a year off work and just write, and that was a dream-come-true. If I can make a living like that, I’d be happy. It was also during that year that Devon the Demon Duck was born from my surplus of free time.

Now I have a job where I work the night shift from 10pm to 6am. That gets a little more challenging. Daylight is now accursed and burns my eyes, so I only stay up for a few hours at most before or after work. My job also takes all my attention so I can’t write or draw, but I can listen to audio on the internet. I’ve found that lots of research material on self publishing is available on YouTube to pipe into my ears while I do my real job. If I learn something vital, I e-mail myself a note with the website address and check it out at home.

Recording my audio book was done almost every Saturday evening from 10pm to 12am or so, over a period of several months. Saturday was my only social-life day so I’d have to cut that a bit short to do the recordings, but that’s over for now. My work load has increased as my publishing goal approaches, and I’m finding it harder to balance it all. One week off work was not enough to finish editing the audio book and I still need to complete the cover. Suffice to say, I’ll have to cut back on my “fun time” even more, so all those orcs, Klingons and rift beasties can breathe a little easier for a while.

BTW, if you can't tell by now, I also don't have a girlfriend.

So the short answer is “However I can get away with it.”


Sunday, July 10, 2011

A Difficult Decision

I suck at this.

I am at that stage where I need to put a business name on things. Copyright by (blank), published by (blank), "visit ( for more details..." I need to come up with something catchy, memorable and unique that goes with my business image. I think. Maybe it just needs to be short.

My first business name was "Jayde World Productions" which was named for the world of my comic book (Jayde). Not obvious. It also sounded like some kind of Asian arts and crafts company. Looking it up on, I found this entry:

"Jayde World Productions in Phoenix, AZ is a private company categorized under Motion Picture Producers and Studios. Current estimates show this company has an annual revenue of less than $500,000 and employs a staff of approximately 1 to 4. Companies like Jayde World Productions usually offer: Creative Video Productions, Film Production Rentals, Indie Film Production, Documentary Film Production and Venus Film Production."

This is all bullshit. I don't know how they determined I was a motion picture company that offered any of that crap. But that's the internet for you. The annual revenue is correct at least; I make far less than 500 grand annually. I don't even know what 500 grand looks like.

Anyhow, I need to make up a new publishing name that sounds cool and captures the spirit of what I'm up to. I want to incorporate my fantasy book series starting with The Gold Cat's Daughter with my Devon the Demon Duck From Hell series. Current ideas are:

Gold Cat Publishing
Gilded Mallard
Golden Pekin Publishing
Quackery Press
Duck Walk Press

...and variations thereof. 

I hope I come up with something soon; opinions and ideas are appreciated. There might also be a shiny nickel in it for the best idea, so don't be shy! Vote early and often!

Monday, June 6, 2011

Recording an Audio Book

I've never talked so much in my life.

I'm planning to release an audio version of "The Gold Cat's Daughter" to coincide with the print and e-release, and let me tell you, it's a lot of work. I have a new respect for anyone who has to read lines before a microphone or camera. I've flubbed at least two lines per page, and it's my own words I'm reading. You'd think I'd get it right.

I had the good fortune to meet a guy at work who had lots of audio equipment and experience using it. He offered to record my book, but I don't think either of us knew what we were getting in to. He doesn't have a professional studio and I'm not a professional voice actor, so we can only go as long as the ambient noise is at a minimum and my voice holds up. It's a challenge for us both to make this work but he has the harder job by far: that of sound-proofing the room and dealing with all the technical aspects. I just have to show up with my bag of voices and healthy throat.

Each chapter takes an average of 1 1/2 hours to read through, retakes and all. I was delighted to learn after taking a few weeks off that we were on chapter nine, three more than I remembered. There are fourteen total in this book, so it is almost done. That's a good thing too because the summer months are coming and that little room will get warmer and warmer.

Todd, my sound guy, once remarked that I have a lot of "shit" in my book. This is because after each mistake I mutter "shit" into the mic. It's his cue to pause. It's a system we developed naturally with no forethought and it seems to work out fine. Any curse words not in the book will of course be edited out. We do a technique called 'punching in' which means recording over the mistakes, so the editing process should mostly be all about timing.

The real unknown quantity is my voice. I don't know if it's the kind of voice someone would want to listen to for hours on end. I've been told it's low-key and monotonous; maybe my book will be recommended for insomniacs? I hope not. Anyway, I plan to have a portion of the audio book available for free on my eventual website so buyers can make up their own minds.

I really wanted to read it all with a British accent, but I felt that would be dishonest somehow...

Saturday, May 28, 2011

The Coolest Thing Evar!

Yeah OK, it was the hot chick on the cover.

That's why I agreed to read "Dead Witch Walking" with my book group back in 2004. Little did I know it would lead to the Coolest Thing EVAR. (That's how you spell 'ever' on the internet, btw). I loved the book so much I was inspired to do some fan art, which I originally posted on the Yahoo "Hollows" site and which I've reposted here.
I got lots of positive feedback from other fans, but the really gratifying thing was the author herself was quite pleased. Kim Harrison (later revealed to be Dawn Cook in disguise) told me that the pictures brought a big smile to her face.

Then it gets weird. And cool.

In 2007, I had a dream. I was wandering in a cluttered book store or library and I climbed up a ladder to some secluded little room full of books and there, seated amongst them, was Kim Harrison. "Kim Harrison?" I asked, and she looked up. Then I awoke. Weird.
The next day I got an e-mail out of the blue from the author. She said she couldn't stop thinking about my artwork and wanted to know if she could let her agent show it to the people at Tokyo Pop. My jaw dropped. Really, it did. *Thunk*  I told her of course, by all means! Cool!.

I got to correspond with her agent Richard Curtis, a very nice and courteous fellow. This was a while before the Hollows graphic novel was in the works, so nothing really came of it. Ah well. I thanked Kim for the opportunity and went on my way, happy for the notice and validation. We artists thrive on validation.

Now for the Coolest Thing Evar. About a year ago in May, I got a Facebook message from Kim asking if I had the time/inclination to do some character drawings for the Hollows world book she was working on. Excuse me;


Okay, sorry. Reliving the moment.
Slavering in fanboy delirium, I told her I'd love to and threw myself into it with abandon. Wooohoo! And I was getting paid for it too! My first real paying illustration job and it was for my favorite author doing some of my favorite characters! I was happy-dancing for weeks. At first she asked for about a dozen, but the number kept growing and by the September 2010 deadline I turned in 31 pieces, most of which I believe will be published. It has been a great collaboration and I had lots of fun. Did I mention "Squeeee?" I think I did.

Anyway, I got permission to post a few images from the upcoming "Hollows Insider", which is scheduled for release October 25th, 2011. Without further adieu...

Rachel and Jenks (turned big) after an adventure.

Ivy looking suspiciously over her shoulder...

Kisten and the Cincinnati skyline. 

Kim and me (squatting a bit) at the Tuscon Book Festival.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

The Work Continues...

This is a status update, the first of what will hopefully be a regular series. I find it much easier to blog about past efforts, mistakes I've made and things I've learned than to tell about the things I’m doing today. I guess I figure it would be more interesting to read about if there’s some kind of conclusion. Well, misgivings aside, here goes:

I am making my way through the internal illustrations for my first novel, doing little pictures for the beginning of each chapter like the Harry Potter books. It’s challenging trying to pull an image from the text that resonates and encompasses the spirit of the writing without giving too much away. I also want to avoid too many character drawings because I want the reader to develop their own images (which is hard for a former comic book artist). So far I have drawn six new pictures and pirated one image from one of my unpublished comic issues. I also did a big city map that will be opposite the Chapter One page, so the reader gets a gander at the setting of the book. It was done more loosely than the ones in the comic book, so it should not be relied upon as a street atlas for the casual tourist.

I have finally cajoled Microsoft Word into formatting the book to my liking, coming in at 356 story pages. Headers and footers gave me the most trouble, making me cry and pound my head on the desk throughout the night. Eventually I overcame the odds and figured it out.

The biggest thing looming in the future is the cover. It will have to be dazzling yet simple, something that is easy to describe yet hard to forget. I want it to be a real piece of fantasy art too; the kind of thing that can be used as a poster, banner or computer wallpaper. It’s going to be a challenge to be sure.

Because the text is locked down and no more content edits will be made, I will be ready to do the audio book recording in the next month. I am really looking forward to that since I haven’t performed as a voice actor since my ‘dungeon master’ days.

Oh, and I will soon be taking a road trip to meet one of my favorite (living) authors Kim Harrison on her Pale Demon release tour! We’ve had a correspondence for a few years and collaborated on a project together but this will be the first time I meet her in person. Happy dance for that! I will post photos after the event.

That’s all for now...

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Why I Haven’t Blogged in a Few Weeks

Short answer: I been busy, damn it!

Long answer: I’ve been sleeping, playing video games, working, puzzling over issues with my book, and generally avoiding the big plunge.

In late December I decided to eschew the old ways of begging for representation and waiting for approval from the publishing gods. Instead I’m jumping on the rickety little boat for internet print-on-demand and self publishing. To prove to myself that I’m serious, I’ve been reading other blogs on the topic, gathering all the little tidbits of data and inspiration that I can. I did a final edit on my first novel, formatted it for its eventual print size, made inroads on doing an audio book as well as e-book; all good first steps.

The details of marketing are still eluding me but I figured that like most things you need a finished product to present to reviewers and convention goers. So it’s on to the artwork for the chapter breaks and the cover. My goal is to have a product to show sometime in mid-summer.

Impossible? Maybe. I am a big procrastinator when I have to do everything myself. I will probably need to re-establish a business presence and a website again; not sure the old comic book image will work best anymore. I’ll need to set up a relationship with Amazon and one of the POD publishers. I must wear many hats and I only have one head, large though it may be.

There are a few details I can share at this point:
1)      I’m going back to the original title “The Gold Cat’s Daughter” at 330+ pages.
2)      It will be 5.25x8 inches with a map or two and interior graphics (might as well employ all my strengths).
3)      It will have a digitally painted cover in full color that will have to be the best piece I’ve ever done in any medium.
4)      It will be released with Print-On-Demand, audio, and e-book formats.
5)      I will use my own name.

This last bit is an interesting one for those not in the business. “Why not use your own name?” Well, look at my name. I’ve heard the same stupid jokes since my kindergarten teacher tried her wit on the first day of class. I have a chance to pick something cool and flowing, like ‘Arthur Knight’, ‘Richard Ritter’ or ‘Earl Chevalier’. But I want to make people use the Rude name with a bit less levity and maybe a little respect someday.

If Arnold Schwarzenegger can do it, why can’t I?

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Journey to the Bottom of the Bottomless Cup

I started drinking coffee early in life, since it was served with donuts after church. I wanted to seem more adult, so I added some fresh brew to my creamer and sugar. It got me hooked, what can I say.

Anyway, I remember the first time I ordered it in a restaurant. We went to a Denny’s or comparable family eatery after church one Sunday (this was in the late 70’s so it wasn’t as bad as you’d think) and I took it upon myself to order coffee. My parents looked at me as if I had just asked for bourbon but kept silent, not wanting to embarrass me. The waitress brought the drinks and food and I sat there in victory, sipping my coffee and feeling all big and stuff.

Then she came for a refill. She didn’t even ask, she just snuck up and poured us adults our coffee. I looked up from my French toast in time to see my cup filled to the brim again. Fine, I thought. I could use another cup anyway. I added my mix of heavy sugar and cream and sipped away. Oh how my siblings were impressed, or so I believed.

Then she came back again.

And again.

And again.

Every time I emptied the damn cup it was refilled. I was raised to always try and finish my food because there were kids starving in China, so I downed cup after cup. At one point I heard my dad snickering at me. I was getting jittery, my bladder was getting full, and I was trapped in the booth between my parents and siblings.

”Why are you drinking so much coffee?” asked mom.

Dad said, “She keeps filling it and he doesn’t know what to do.”

”Well, what am I supposed to do?” I squeaked. Obviously some vital piece of adult information had eluded me. Was there a secret hand sign? A code word? My brain was firing at a ridiculous rate, going through all the possibilities. Finally I put my spoon over the top of the mug. I figured she’d either get the message or make a mess. My parents just grinned, mocking me silently.

When the waitress came back, she almost poured me another cup but stopped just in time, staring at the spoon like it was a tiny big-eyed kitten that she had just avoided scalding to death. She looked at me and asked, “No more?” in a curiously annoyed tone. I just shook my head and continued sweating.

Finally it was revealed that all I had to do was tell her what I wanted or didn’t want. Imagine that. All it took was five cups of coffee to learn that little life lesson.