#FineArtFriday: Don Quixote in the Library by Adolf Schrödter, revisited

Today we are revisiting area of art which has often been a primary reason why I buy books, the illustrations. This post was first published here on August 3, 2018. The above image is one I love, a scene from  one of my favorite books. Don Quixote is a character that is near to my heart.

The artwork that went into many books in the 19th and early 20th centuries was sometimes exquisite. Yet, these illustrators remained unknown for the most part and unsung. Today’s image is from Wikimedia Commons and is by a German artist, Adolf Schrödter.

Little is known about Schrödter other than he was born on June 28, 1805, and died Dec. 9, 1875, and was a genre painter of the Düsseldorf school of painting. According to Wikipedia, the Fount of All Knowledge:

The Düsseldorf School had a significant influence on the Hudson River School in the United States, and many prominent Americans trained at the Düsseldorf Academy and show the influence of the Düsseldorf School, including George Caleb BinghamDavid Edward CroninEastman JohnsonWorthington WhittredgeRichard Caton WoodvilleWilliam Stanley HaseltineJames McDougal HartHelen Searle, and William Morris Hunt, as well as German émigré Emanuel LeutzeAlbert Bierstadt applied but was not accepted. His American friend Worthington Whittredge became his teacher while attending Düsseldorf.

However, some of Schrödter’s art survives in the form of illustrations and a few prints have been sold at auctions.

In today’s image what impresses me is the level of detail. Here we see Alonso Quixano reading, lounging in a room that is clearly a book lover’s sanctuary. He is a descendant of the family of “Gutierre Quijada” by direct lineage and is proud to be part of a long and noble tradition of knights. In the first part of the book, Alonso, later Don Quixote de la Mancha, is a dreamer, preferring to imagine himself as a superhero, living out a knightly story.

Books are strewn everywhere, beautiful, heavy leather-bound tomes. Schrödter shows him in a relaxed pose, deep into a book. The light of the room comes from a large window. He is a very human, ordinary middle-aged man, relaxing in the most cherished place in his universe: his library.

Alonso Quixano, the protagonist of the novel (though he is not named until much later in the book), is a retired country gentleman nearing fifty years of age, living in La Mancha with his niece and housekeeper. Although he is mostly a rational man, his excessive reading of books of chivalry has produced a skewed view of reality and what we might consider dementia. In keeping with the theories of the time, not sleeping adequately—because he was reading—has caused his brain to dry.

I love that notion.

As a result, Alonso is easily given to anger and believes every word of these fictional books of chivalry to be true. Don Quixote’s niece commits, what is to me, the most heinous crime–she and the Parrish curate burn his library, and lie to him, telling him it was the work of an evil magician.

He descends completely into his fantasy world and decides to become a knight-errant in search of adventure. Schrödter has captured the essence of the making of Don Quixote in this painting—the man who loves books is in his element, the one place where he fits. When that is taken from him, the story begins.


Credits and Attributions:

Don Quixote in the Library, by Adolf Schrödter, 1834 PD|100, via Wikimedia Commons.

Wikipedia contributors, “Düsseldorf school of painting,” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=D%C3%BCsseldorf_school_of_painting&oldid=822264175 (accessed August 3, 2018).

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The Short Story: Need, Limits, and Theme #amwritng

When writing a short story, it helps to know how it will end. I suggest you put together a broad outline of your intended story arc. I’m a retired bookkeeper, so I have a mathematical approach to this. Divide your story arc into quarters, so you have the important events in place at the right time.

Assume you have a 4000 word limit for your short story.

You have less than three paragraphs before a prospective editor sets your work aside. If those paragraphs don’t grab her, she won’t buy your story. Pay attention: you absolutely must have a good opening paragraph.

The first 250 words are the setup and hook. The next 750 words takes your character out of their comfortable existence and launches them into “the situation” –will they succeed or not?

The next 2,500 words detail how the protagonist arrives at a resolution.

The final 500 words of your story are the wind-up. You might end on a happy note or not—it’s your story, but no matter what else you do, in a short story, nothing should be left unresolved. For this reason, I feel subplots should not be introduced into the short story unless they directly advance the larger story. You need to use every word you are allowed to make that story the one the publication’s editor can’t put down.

I am a plotter, so I write my short works to an outline. However, I will deviate from my original plot if I have an idea that works. I need that structure when I begin writing, or my plot will stall, and the story will never be completed. When I don’t know how the story will end, the plot wanders all over the place, and I have a story that will garner a pile of rejections.

Theme is an essential tool for writing a coherent short story, and many anthologies are themed. When you assemble your outline, ask yourself these questions:

  • What will be your inciting incident? How does it relate to the theme?
  • What is the goal/objective? How does it relate to the theme?
  • At the beginning of the story, what could the hero possibly want to cause him to risk everything to acquire it?
  • How badly does he want it and why?
  • Who is the antagonist?
  • What moral (or immoral) choice is the protagonist going to have to make in his attempt to gain that objective?
  • What happens at the first pinch point?
  • In what condition do we find the group at the midpoint?
  • Why does the antagonist have the upper hand? What happens at the turning point to change everything for the worse?
  • At the ¾ point, your protagonist should have gathered his resources and companions and should be ready to face the antagonist. How will you choreograph that meeting?
  • How does the underlying theme affect every aspect of the protagonists’ evolution in this story?

What narrative mode will you use? Who is the best person to tell the story? One of my favorite short stories to write, Thorn Girl, is in the forthcoming anthology, Swords, Sorcery, and Self-rescuing Damsels. I could easily have told her story in third omniscient POV, but I had a compelling main character with a real, gut-wrenching story.

Originally, I tried to write her tale in my usual narrative mode of Third Person. As I worked, that mode didn’t feel as close, as intimate as I wanted.

My MC had to tell her own story.

The theme was a good theme, but it was a challenge to write something original and not overdone. It was an excellent opportunity to think wide.

In the first draft, there were several places that I thought were the beginning. As always, I had difficulty deciding where the story actually began. After reading that first draft, my writing group pointed out that the narrative had to begin at the point of no return, as there is no room for backstory.

I tossed out the first half of the original story and begin at what I had originally thought was the middle. That was when things began to fall together.

What did my character actually know? Realistically, she could only know what she witnessed.

I spent some time figuring out what she really could have witnessed or overheard, and then worked only with that information.

What did my protagonist want? At first glance, it seemed obvious, but the purported quest was only an impetus, a prod to move her down the path she needed to travel. Her true quest was to find herself as a human being, as much as it was to honor a promise made and quickly regretted.

What was she willing to do to achieve it? I didn’t know. She didn’t know either, and until I wrote the last line, I didn’t know what she was capable of or if she had the backbone to accomplish it.

Short stories are a real training ground for authors because words must be rationed. Writing short stories forces me to consider how my limited number of words can be used to their best advantage. It requires me to tell a large story using a limited number of words carefully chosen for their impact. Word choice and sentence structure must convey a massive amount of information: mood, atmosphere, setting, hints of backstory – all packed into a finite space that is already occupied by knowable characters, a coherent plot, and an ingenious resolution.

I try to keep conciseness and creative word choice in mind when writing longer works.

To wind this rant up, need drives the short story, theme stitches it together, and word-count limits force concise storytelling.

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The Author’s Superpower #amwriting

The world around you is filled with ordinary people, each going about their ordinary business, working ordinary jobs. When you meet these accountants, homemakers, engineers, programmers, and baristas, you would never know that among them are a few with a dark secret—they are possessed of dual superpowers.

What incredible feats are they capable of? Unfortunately, unless they are Doctors,  First Responders, Firefighters, or Astronauts, their dual powers are not likely to visibly shake the world.

But their powers do bring change, working subtly, opening minds to possibilities hitherto unconsidered.

They are authors. When no one is looking, they create entire worlds, fill them with people, cultures, political systems, religions, and with each paragraph they write, they start these worlds spinning.

The first superpower is the gift of “what if.” What if” is an ability latent in all sentient creatures, but only storytellers seem able to tap into it at will. This is the author’s first superpower, but it is useless without the second gift.

A moment of “what if” was the spark that started the fire in Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451.

What if” started Bilbo Baggins down the road to the Lonely Mountain in The Hobbit.

Many people have that nagging idea, that moment of “what if,” but few also have the other gift, the “power of perseverance.” While many will imagine, and many will begin to write, few will go to the trouble of finishing their book.

Imagination and perseverance are the author’s superpowers.

They are the gifts of the few who have the determination, the will to learn the craft of writing so that their moment of “what if” can become a reader’s moment of “You have to read this book!”

So, you have the imagination, and you believe you might also have the perseverance. You have a book about to burst from you, and you want to get it right. What do you do? Every superpower must be trained, or who knows what havoc you could wreak?

HOW TO TRAIN YOUR SUPERPOWERS:

  1. Write new words every day. Revise old words as needed.
  2. Read books that inspire you.
  3. Read books you hate.
  4. Dissect books to discover what makes them great or awful.
  5. Write new words every day. Revise old words as needed.
  6. Go to writers’ conferences if you can.
  7. Attend writers’ seminars if you can.
  8. Join a local writers’ group.
  9. Buy and read books on the craft of writing.
  10. Write new words every day. Revise old words as needed.

Superheroes must work at training their powers, or they become flabby and useless.

Suggestion 9 is the most affordable of the suggestions.

Writing is not a one-size-fits-all kind of occupation. No one style guide will fit every purpose. I use Bryan A. Garner’s The Chicago Guide to Grammar and Punctuation to answer my questions about grammar and punctuation.

The following is the list of books that are the pillars of my reference library:

My reference library grows daily. I talk to writers every day about the craft, about their lives, about their approaches to what they do. I want to know what inspires them, what books they got advice from, what books they read as children that lit the fire that burns inside them.

Writing is my superpower, and I am constantly in training.

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#FineArtFriday: Tronie of an Old Man by Rembrandt van Rijn

Tronie of an Old Man by Rembrandt van Rijn is a portrait of Rembrandt’s father, Harmen Gerritszoon van Rijn.  Harmen was a miller in Leiden.

About the word “tronie” from Wikipedia: A tronie (16/17th-century Dutch for “face”) is a common type, or group of types, of works common in Dutch Golden Age painting and Flemish Baroque painting that shows an exaggerated facial expression or a stock character in costume. It is related to the French word “tronche” which is slang for “mug” or head.

Rembrandt’s family was quite well-to-do and as such, young Rembrandt was educated in the best schools, which his father paid for.  Rembrandt’s father encouraged his son’s talent.

To my opinionated eyes, this painting shows Rembrandt’s affection for his father.

Rembrandt resembled  his father, if this portrait was accurate, and I think we can assume it was. As an artist, Rembrandt was unflinchingly honest in the portrayal of his subjects, while always managing to show their humanity.


Credits and Attributions

Tronie of and Old Man by Rembrandt van Rijn

Wikipedia contributors, “Tronie,” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia,https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Tronie&oldid=872242306 (accessed March 15, 2019).

Rembrandt and workshop [Public domain]

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Thoughts on Character and Place Names #amwriting

I have addressed the subject of names for both places and people before, in my post of January 14, 2019, Naming Characters. A conversation in an online writers’ group has prompted me to revisit it, but there’s no reason for me to repeat the bulk of that post. However, there are some points that could use a little more expansion.

To begin with, names are more than just handles to carry your characters. How we name our characters, and the names we give places in our worlds offers the reader cultural information that you don’t have to resort to giving through an info dump.

A Viking named “Wayne” wouldn’t be believable. But for most Americans and many Europeans, Viking names are difficult to pronounce when written in Old Frisian, which is the root language that English shares with Danish. A good way to keep a cultural feel but make the tale easier to read is to write the names the way they are pronounced or use simple ones.

Many modern Nordic names are easy for English speakers to read and pronounce and will give your story that Saxon flair. So, consider looking names up on baby naming websites rather than the hokey “Discover-Your-Viking-Name” type websites. While “Wayne” doesn’t really work in an Old Saxon-style society, “Fritjof the Flatulent” doesn’t either, unless you are writing comedy.

I stressed this in my previous post, but I feel it needs to be said again. Do keep the simplicity of spelling and ease of pronunciation in mind when sourcing names for your work.  I didn’t understand that concept when I first began writing seriously. When I named my characters, I did it for how the words looked on the page, never considering that they might be read aloud.

When I wrote Huw the Bard, it never occurred to me that most people wouldn’t know that Huw is Welsh for Hugh and is pronounced the same. I was raised around people of both Welsh and Irish origin, and I wanted Huw to have that cultural flavor.

That spelling choice has been a problem since publication because most people are unaware that a “W” is actually a “Double U” – UU -2 U(s). It is pronounced “Yoo” or “oo” (like goo) in Welsh and in old English words.

I have another character in my Tower of Bones series named Friedr – pronounced Free-der. This name is also a problem for readers.

Audio books are the new “must do” way to get your work into the hands of “readers.” How will that name be pronounced when it is read out loud? Take my advice and write your names so a narrator can easily read it aloud without stumbling. If you are just beginning your career as an author, you probably don’t realize how  important this is.

I learned several things about names the hard way. I only have one book that is an Audio book, but the experience of making that book taught me to spell names simply. I resolved my stupidity by telling the narrator he should pronounce the problem names the way that worked best for him, and that made him happy.

There are many good sites for names on the internet. You can find Norse, French, Hawaiian—they are all out there and they have some wonderful, simple names for you to use. You can get a little fancy—that is good and adds a cultural flavor to your characters. But when readers aren’t sure how to pronounce your main character’s name, they might focus on that rather than on your novel.

Speaking as one author to another, you never want to write something into your narrative that will throw the reader out of the book.

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Mind Wandering #amwriting

I write my blog posts a day or two ahead, usually trying to get them written and scheduled on Sundays. That way, I can concentrate on pretending to be an author.

It’s a pretense today because I just want to slounge around out on my back porch and enjoy that rarest of winter glories—the sunny day.

Some days are perfect for sitting on the porch and just letting my mind wander and this day is too cold, but I don’t care. I’ve had enough of winter and just want to sit in the sunshine, cold though it may be.

I take my blanket out and uncover a chair. I do check for spiders before I sit—they like the porch as much as I do, sadly. Every sunny morning from here on through September will find me out with a broom, chasing spiders off MY territory. My relocation program is inefficient and by August they will far outnumber me, but I don’t kill them. They have a place in this yard, just not on my porch or in my chair.

Fluffy white clouds drift overhead, hummingbirds dart here and there, my eyes close, and I absorb the sounds of my small town all around me.

The trees and shrubs of this small neighborhood harbor mourning doves and they seem to be speed-dating—eager to get on with nest building and rearing chicks.

The drone of large helicopters flying low over my home as they leave the base nearby shakes the house and rattles the dishes. I don’t like helicopters, and really don’t like them so low over my home, but it’s a disturbance I must put up with, as all who live in my area must do.

They pass over the hills and fade into the distance, diminishing altogether. A passing train resounds from the other end of town, sounding its horn to alert vehicles at the crossings. I like hearing the train in the distance.

But back to the finches, hummingbirds, and mourning doves. They share this neighborhood with chickadees, nuthatches, and brown tree-creepers. Crows and stellar-jays, starlings, and wrens also live here.

I need to just let my mind wander. I have a short story jammed in my head, and it will have to find its own way out. I know from experience that forcing them never works for me. Mind wandering is the only way to pry it loose.

Winter has been a long, drawn-out affair this year. We’ve had snow on and off for weeks, and while the piles of dirty snow in the local parking lots are mostly gone, it’s cold, only a few degrees above freezing. I should pull myself together and go inside. I have an editing job I need to finish, but the sun is shining, and the birds are out, and I’m warm enough under this blanket.

The finches and doves go quiet—a lady jay has landed in my still-barren maple tree. She flies down, picking something from the ground, then flies away.

Soon the sounds of the local mourning doves advertising their availability for mating resume, a gentle background to my thoughts.


Credits and Attributions:

Mourning Dove on Easter Day, by Kazvorpal [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)]

Wikimedia Commons contributors, “File:Mourning Dove on Easter day.jpg,” Wikimedia Commons, the free media repository,

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#FineArtFriday: The Boating Party, by Mary Cassatt

What I love about The Boating Party by American artist, Mary Cassatt, is impression of movement, of the life of the water. It has a feeling of contentment, of peace. There is a serenity about this painting that evokes wonderful memories of boating and water sports, of the time when my family still lived on a lake. It reminds me of the sheer joy and freedom of being on the water with no purpose other than to enjoy one’s self.

About this painting, from Wikipedia:

Art historian and museum administrator Frederick A. Sweet calls it “One of the most ambitious paintings she (Cassatt) ever attempted.” His 1966 analysis focuses on the balance of the “powerful dark silhouette of the boatman”, the angle between the oar and the arm that “thrusts powerfully into the center of the composition towards the mother and child” and “delicate, feminine ones.”

Cassatt placed the horizon at the top of the frame in Japanese fashion.

  • In 1890 Cassatt visited the great Japanese Print exhibition at the ecole de Beaux-arts in Paris.
  • Mary Cassatt owned Japanese prints by Kitagawa Utamaro (1753–1806).
  • The exhibition at Durand-Ruel of Japanese art proved the most important influence on Cassatt.

(Influence of) Manet

Frederick A. Sweet suggests that Cassatt may have been inspired by Édouard Manet‘s Boating from 1874.

I hadn’t considered that position of the horizon as being a traditional Japanese style until I read that paragraph. Then I realized that most Western artists place it lower on the canvas. In Western art, the sky (an allegory for God) traditionally dominates the work.

This painting has made me aware of  how greatly the ability to travel the world via ocean liners and contact with other cultures changed the way we produce art. Impressionism was new and daring in its time. The eye of the artist was freed from traditional confines of the various schools (Hudson Valley, etc.) by exposure to the simplicity and elegance of the previously unknown tradition of Japanese art.

Every new painting I come across leads me to another, which often leads me to another country and another tradition of style and form.

My life as an admirer of art is one of constantly finding something new about history and the world around me.

About the artist, Via Wikipedia:

Mary Stevenson Cassatt (May 22, 1844 – June 14, 1926) was an American painter and print-maker. She was born in Allegheny City, Pennsylvania (now part of Pittsburgh’s North Side), but lived much of her adult life in France, where she first befriended Edgar Degas and later exhibited among the Impressionists. Cassatt often created images of the social and private lives of women, with particular emphasis on the intimate bonds between mothers and children.

She was described by Gustave Geffroy in 1894 as one of “les trois grandes dames” (the three great ladies) of Impressionism alongside Marie Bracquemond and Berthe Morisot.


Credits and Attributions:

The Boating Party by Mary Cassatt, 1893–94

Wikipedia contributors. “The Boating Party.” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 9 Dec. 2018. Web. 8 Mar. 2019.

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Identifying Genre, revisited #amwriting

Some of you have been following my advice to build a backlog of short pieces to enter in contests and submit to various publications. But where should you try to sell your work?

When you open the Submittable App and begin shopping for places to submit your work, you may find the list of open calls confusing. Many times contests, publications, and anthologies are genre specific.

When your work is nonfiction, it’s no problem because your work is targeted to a magazine with a specific readership, so the sub-genre will be clear and where you should submit it was likely evident the day you decided to write it.

When you write short fiction with no specific contest or magazine in mind you can run into problems of where to send it. If you are like me, some of your work may straddle genres, and in that case, how do you decide who will be most receptive to it? Spur-of-the-moment stories may be widely different from your normal work, and perhaps are not in a genre you can easily identify.

This list of genres and what they represent has appeared on this blog before. Genre is defined by setting and content, the author’s intention, their approach, and the way resolutions happen. The ideas explored within the setting are the provinces of these industry-wide distinctions.

Mainstream (general) fiction—Mainstream fiction is a general term publishers and booksellers use to describe works that may appeal to the broadest range of readers and have some likelihood of commercial success. Mainstream authors often blend genre fiction practices with techniques considered unique to literary fiction. It will be both plot- and character-driven and may have a style of narrative that is not as lean as modern genre fiction but is not too stylistic either. The prose of the novel will at times delve into a more literary vein than genre fiction, but the story will be driven by the events and action that force the characters to grow.

Science fiction—Futuristic settings, futuristic science and technology, space travel, time travel, faster than light travel, parallel universes and extraterrestrial life are the core of science fiction. You should be aware that the internet is rife with purists and impurists ranting on what does or does not constitute  sci-fi. If you use magic for any reason you are NOT writing any form of sci-fi.

  • Hard Sci-fi is characterized by rigorous attention to accurate detail in the physics, chemistry, and astrophysics. Emphasis is placed on accurately depicting worlds that more advanced technology may make possible.
  • Soft Sci-fi is characterized by works based on social sciences such as psychology, economics, political science, sociology, and anthropology.
  • Other main sub-genres of Sci-fi include Space-operasCyberpunk, Time Travel, Steampunk, Alternate history, Military, Superhuman, Apocalyptic, and Post-Apocalyptic.

The main thing to remember is this–Science and Magic cannot coexist in the Genre of Science Fiction. The minute you add magic to the story, you have Fantasy.

Fantasy is a genre of fiction that commonly uses magic and other supernatural phenomena as a primary plot element, theme, or setting.  Like sci-fi and literary fiction, fantasy has its share of snobs and damn fools when it comes to defining the sub-genres:

  • High fantasy–High fantasy is defined as fantasy fiction set in an alternative, fictional world, rather than the real, or “primary” world, with elves, fairies, dwarves, dragons, demons, magic or sorcery, wizards or magicians, constructed languages, quests, coming-of-age themes, and multi-volume Often the prose is literary and the primary plot is slowed by many side quests. Think William Morris and J.R.R. Tolkien.
  • Epic Fantasy–These stories are often serious in tone and epic in scope, dealing with themes of grand struggle against supernatural, evil forces.Epic fantasy shares some typical characteristics of high fantasy includes fantastical elements such as elves, fairies, dwarves, dragons, demons, magic or sorcery, wizards or magicians, constructed languages, quests, coming-of-age themes, and multi-volume narratives. Tad Williams’s Memory Sorrow and Thorn is classic Epic Fantasy.
  • Paranormal Fantasy–Paranormal fantasy often focuses on romantic love and includes elements beyond the range of scientific explanation, blending together themes from all the speculative fiction genres. Think ghosts, vampires, and supernatural.
  • Urban Fantasy–can take place in historical, modern, or futuristic periods, and the settings may include fictional elements. The prerequisite is that they must be primarily set in a city.

Horror—Horror fiction  shocks or frightens the reader. Some horror induces a feeling of repulsion or loathing – people who read horror like to be challenged by their fears.

Romance—Novels of this type of genre fiction place their primary focus on the relationship and romantic love between two people and must have an emotionally satisfying and optimistic ending.

(07 Mar 2019) Edited to add Mystery and Mystery/Adventure. Mystery is a genre with several subgenres.

  • “Who Dunnit” mysteries, cozy (think Agatha Christie)
  • Mystery, true crime
  • Mystery, hardboiled detective
  • Political thrillers
  • Legal thrillers
  • Medical Thrillers
  • Supernatural Mysteries
  • Romantic Mysteries

I mention Literary Fiction last because it is the most complicated and least understood genre of all.

Literary fiction can be adventurous with the narrative. The style of the prose has prominence and may be experimental, requiring the reader to go over certain passages more than once. Stylistic writing, heavy use of allegory, the deep exploration of themes and ideas form the core of the piece.

I have discussed the following  three books before, but they illustrate the problem of perception—the question of what constitutes Literary Fiction.

Alexander Chee’s The Queen of the Night is a historical fantasy. However,  the style and voice in which it is written makes it a powerful literary work.

The same goes for George Saunders work. Tenth of December is technically sci-fi, and Lincoln in the Bardo is historical fantasy, but it is his style and voice that makes George Sanders literary.

Neil Gaiman’s book, Stardust, is a magnet for the “that’s not literary/yes it is” debate. The prose is literary, the narrative has a relaxed, thought provoking style to it. I consider it literary.

Be careful of how you present yourself and your work. Never submit anything that is not your best work, and do not assume they will edit it because they won’t.  No publisher will accept work that is poorly written, sloppily formatted, and generally unreadable.

Choose carefully who you submit your work to and be scrupulous in following their submission guidelines. Read a sample of what they publish and only submit the work you have that best fits their publication.

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Game Review: House Flipper #amgaming

As you all know if you are regular reader here, I am an old gamer, with a great love for  epic console RPG games, the Final Fantasy empire being my all time favorite. I no longer have the time to sink into games like that, but I need a diversion now and then so I play computer games in the evening when the old brain can no longer write or edit.

The game I am going to review today is an odd one, something I didn’t expect to enjoy and couldn’t see the sense of. A friend of mine was quite thrilled with it, so I thought I would give it a try. I must say, this very strange game has been an experience.

House Flipper is an immersive first-person simulation game, developed by a European indie studio, Empyrean Frozen District and released by Playway S.A., through Steam. It was released on May 17, 2018. It has been a bestseller on Steam.

DETAILS:

  • Initial release date: May 17, 2018
  • Developer: Empyrean
  • Engine: Unity
  • Genre: Simulation Video Game
  • Platforms: Microsoft Windows, Macintosh operating systems
  • Publishers: PlayWay, Frozen District

I put off playing this game until after the second build, because several friends had mentioned it was quite buggy, and as a former beta tester, I don’t have the patience for dealing with buggy software any more. I did finally purchase it in January just before it updated and like the changes they introduced in February.

I use an Xbox controller for my PC and a mouse. There are options for keyboard users, but I do prefer games where I can use the controller.

There is no option to play as a woman. You walk into your first office, which must be cleaned and redecorated, only to find a real macho man lives there. You apparently have no housekeeping skills as you are living in filth. Cleaning your way into your home, combined with a few jobs to earn money for your first flip, is your training ground.

At first, you can only pick up and clean things and remove trash. As you do a few jobs that will be sent to you via your laptop’s email, you begin to gain other skills, such as painting, tiling, knocking down and building walls, and most importantly, selling things the previous tenants left behind. The money you earn doing those jobs enables you to purchase your first house.

The graphics are exceptionally good. While I’ve played many front-view camera console RPG games, I’ve been playing top-down PC games for a while. It took me a while to adjust to the interactive aspect of the 3-D front-view camera. I found controlling the character’s movements was a bit of a challenge until I went to settings and slowed the mouse sensitivity.

The way a player can move things around within the predefined parameters is nice.

Painting walls is time-consuming and boring but satisfying, just like in real life. Cleaning is time-consuming and boring but satisfying, just like in real life.

While the options for purchasing new finishes and furnishings are limited, they’re interesting and work well. The floor plans are of a style that is uncommon here in the U.S., and are highly compartmentalized.

I suspect the houses reflect a common European style, which is interesting to me. The kitchen appliances are also quite different from what I am used to, so that was fun. Ovens don’t seem to be high on their priority list, and I’m excruciatingly lazy–if dinner isn’t made in the Crock-Pot, I put it in the oven. Hell will freeze before I stand in front of a hot stove for more than the time it takes to make a pancake or two.

I like seeing the differences in the house layouts and styles from what I am used to. It’s interesting to see a different culture’s idea of the perfect kitchen.

While I do like this game, I have a few thoughts as to why it sells well and has a loyal fan-base, despite its (sometimes fatal) flaws.

Some flaws I’ve noticed:

Did I mention that there is no option to play as a woman? Well, there isn’t, and the first office is really creepy in a disgusting low-life mechanic’s hovel kind of way. The minute I gained the ability to sell things, I ditched the nasty girlie poster and sold the ratty chainsaw. In fact, selling all his tools and the filthy furnishings that come with the first place netted me enough to furnish it quite tastefully, thank you.

The vacuum tool is awkward and inefficient but eventually works. However, you are rewarded for the boring tasks by being able to choose furnishings and leaving the place in nice condition.

The dialogues about the prospective purchases and emails for jobs have been translated into English, but the syntax is sometimes wrong, so they’re difficult to follow. That doesn’t really matter, as the houses themselves are the important point of this game. Also–I speak no Polish, so the fact these gentlemen have gone to the trouble of making an edition in English is very good.

Hilariously Easy to Commit Operator Errors:

As I mentioned above, I use an Xbox controller. If you aren’t really careful when switching tools, you can accidentally sell an object you had intended to keep, such as, oh say, the plumbing for the toilet. When that happened, I couldn’t believe it—I laughed like a loon. The idea of being able to sell the plumbing out of a house is funny, but it’s annoying when it is not intentional.

One mistake and oops! The plumbing is gone, and there’s no going back. It costs quite a bit to replace the plumbing, and you don’t get as much for it as you must pay to replace it.

You can inadvertently sell the radiator you just bought. Doh!

In fact, if you aren’t really careful when switching tools or aiming the selling-tool, you can accidentally sell any replaceable object in the game.

One of the funnier YouTube videos about this game shows one of the players for the Beta Version discovering he can sell all the possessions of a house he has been hired to clean. That bug was addressed before the game was published so you can’t do that now. But if you skip ahead to 8 minutes into it, this video clip really is hilarious. IGP Stole Everything

Random Flaws Inherent to the Game:

Occasionally, you open your game only to find that when it loads, the colors of some furnishings have randomly changed, such as a steel refrigerator becomes bright red (the default color).

Also, I opened the game one day only to find a newly painted section on the outside of a house had reverted to its original Pepto Bismol-pink color. I had to buy paint and scaffolding—again—and take the time to paint it, again.

Sometimes the fabric on chairs will revert to the default color.

Those are annoyances, but the worst annoyance is a fundamental bug that randomly leaves the “ghost” of an object where it had originally been, so you can’t place furniture there, even though the space looks clear. I discovered how to resolve this accidentally when I couldn’t put a sofa in the place one had originally been, and when I pointed the selling-tool at the visibly empty spot, I was able to sell the ghost object for $52.00. Score! The ghost object was the wallpaper bundle that I had redone the family room with. Once I had sold all the ghost objects, I made $156.00.

Like all good fantasy authors, the developers seem to have become sidetracked by the doomsday prepping aspects of life. Many of the homes have underground nuclear fall-out shelters. Fortunately for all us virtual survivalists, the developers have included in the store a large array of items you can purchase for that nerve-center of any modern home, the bunker.

The inventory of houses to flip is limited, but each one has a unique history. They all look like squatters had camped for weeks and left their trash there. A couple of the houses have much darker histories, and one is downright frightening. That was fun to resolve.

The game takes forever to load. I do a lot of graphic design, so I suspect the massive database of images and graphics are what hangs it up, so I don’t mind waiting.

To Wrap This Up:

All in all, House Flipper is a fun game that a person can get quite involved in, but it feels unfinished as if they didn’t quite get all the beta concerns resolved before they rushed it to publication. That is a common mistake we indies in all walks of the arts often make.

I’m looking forward for the next DLC update for this game, which I understand will allow the player to clean up and landscape the overgrown yards. The developers plan to have it out in the first quarter of 2019, but I’m willing to wait for it to be completely tested and all bugs addressed first.

For the most part, the game is immersive. An odd thing that I like about this game is the fact that unlike some MMORPGs, you can play for an hour or so and easily walk away from it. It remains enjoyable but doesn’t become an obsession.


Credits and Attributions:

House Flipper Logo, © 2018 by Frozen District, Fair Use

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#FineArtFriday: The Ghost of Vermeer of Delft Which Can Be Used As a Table by Salvador Dalí, 1934

About the painting, from Wikipedia:

The Ghost of Vermeer of Delft Which Can Be Used As a Table is a small Surrealist oil painting by Salvador Dalí. Its full title is The Ghost of Vermeer of Delft Which Can Be Used as a Table (Phenomenologic Theory of Furniture-Nutrition). It makes reference to The Art of Painting by Johannes Vermeer, a famous seventeenth-century work in which a painter, thought to be a self-portrait of Vermeer, is depicted with his back to us, in distinctive costume. It is one of a number of paintings expressive of Dalí’s enormous admiration for Vermeer.

Vermeer is represented as a dark spindly figure in a kneeling position. The figure’s outstretched leg serves as a table top surface, on which sits a bottle and a small glass. This leg tapers to a baluster-like stub; there is a shoe nearby. The walls and the distant views of the mountains are based on real views near Dalí’s home in Port Lligat. In Vermeer’s painting the artist leans on a maulstick, and his hand is painted with an unusual blurriness, perhaps to indicate movement. In Dalí’s painting Vermeer rests the same arm on a crutch.

What I love about this painting:

I love the composition, the detail Dali puts into Vermeer’s hair and doublet–the attention Vermeer applied to his own work. This speaks to me of the desert, the way the sky looks in the afternoon just as the hottest part of the day slides into a cooler evening. Vermeer, the Master of Light, is enjoying the view. He is shown in a small courtyard, enclosed. Vermeer rarely left his rooms in Delft.

 

It is unsigned and undated but known to have been completed c.1934. It is currently on display at the Salvador Dalí Museum in St. Petersburg, Florida, on loan from the E. and A. Reynolds Morse collection.


Credits and Attributions:

Wikipedia contributors, “The Ghost of Vermeer of Delft Which Can Be Used As a Table,” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia,https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=The_Ghost_of_Vermeer_of_Delft_Which_Can_Be_Used_As_a_Table&oldid=861917029 (accessed March 1, 2019).

Wikimedia Commons contributors, “File:Johannes Vermeer – The Art of Painting (detail) – WGA24677.jpg,” Wikimedia Commons, the free media repository, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?title=File:Johannes_Vermeer_-_The_Art_of_Painting_(detail)_-_WGA24677.jpg&oldid=268076769 (accessed March 1, 2019).

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