Tag Archives: Salamandra

Young Salamandra

This week we bring you another Dr Abbey art.

There is an extra story to tell with this one, and on this occasion it is more about the materials than the image. That textured paper was my grandmother’s. I inherited her art equipment, and had quite a stash of paper and oil pastels that were hers. It’s been good putting the paper to use, and I’ve wondered repeatedly what she would make of this process. Hopeless is very different from the kind of art she used to do.

I’m fairly sure that some of the colouring materials used in this were from Dr Abbey’s family as well, and that it is a meeting of people in a rather magical way.

Hopeless, Maine returns to North America with Outland Entertainment

Hello people! (and others)

We can now reveal that Hopeless, Maine is returning to North America with Outland Entertainment! The first two volumes will be printed and released soon, along with illustrated prose novels by Nimue Brown and Keith Errington and the Hopeless, Maine RPG is in development and may well be out at the same time. Here is the press release! 

Cover art – collaboration between Nimue and myself.

Salamandra as a Child

I had a lot of conversations with Dr Abbey about child Salamandra as he started getting to know the deeper lives of the characters on our fictional island. It’s always interesting bringing someone new into the inner life of the books, seeing what is obvious to them, and what I need to talk about, and what new things are discovered in that process.

“How old is she in this book?” he asked. I had to admit that I couldn’t tell him. Her age is vague, reliably, for reasons.

It’s always difficult to know what to say when there are things in a story that are important, and you want people to notice them, but you also don’t want to spell them out. How old is Salamandra? Is she a physically small child? A precocious child? A magical child? What kind of child is she? If you’ve read New England Gothic, you’ll know that many of the monsters on and around the island are probably her mother’s children. What does that make Sal? What was really going on with her when she was thrown into the sea in The Blind Fisherman?

Who is she? What is she? These are questions at the heart of the story. I can encourage you to think about it, but that’s about as far as I’m ready to go.

In this image by Dr Abbey, we see child Salamandra as she starts to add wrappings to her regular attire. The strips of cloth have prayers, charms and spells written onto them and they are a form of protective magic that she builds up over the years until she has an entire dress of it. She is a grumpy child, and with good reason.

A very long time ago, I read a quote from Toni Morrison to the effect that often the most important part of a story is how we shape holes for other people to put things into. It’s an idea I’ve spent a lot of time with. The holes are where we write ourselves in, bring our own stories and experiences to fill in the gaps. The holes are where the collaboration happens between author and reader. Hopeless Maine is the project in which I have given most thought to the gaps. It’s also the only project I’ve done where a lot of people have responded by wanting to bring their own creativity to those spaces. It’s a truly exciting process.

Who is child Salamandra? She’s the awkward, unacceptable one. She’s the child who refused to be tamed. She is your lost inner child. She is the magic your child self wanted. She is the resilience to survive bullying and to overcome setback. She is herself despite where she came from, she is not simply a product of her parents. She is childhood rage and frustration, and a child’s keen sense of justice and fair play. She might rescue you. She might glower at you. She might set fire to your kitchen chair. If she whispers to you, listen carefully – she may have secrets to share, or demands to make.

Drawing Hopeless Characters

This week I thought about the fact that I’ve never drawn anyone from Hopeless, Maine. I’ve coloured plenty of them. I don’t draw much – I’m not very confident in my drawing skills. There’s an additional thing that for me, these are Tom’s characters, and as I can’t draw them like he does, I haven’t ever really thought about me drawing them at all.

In recent weeks, I’ve watched Dr Abbey get to grips with the Hopeless Maine cast. He’s drawn all of the main characters, some of them repeatedly. There’s been a process of him figuring out how much of his own, more manga-informed style to deploy and how far to dig in emulating Tom’s style, and what’s resulted is something that clearly blends the two. It’s been amazing and educational to watch.

And it got me thinking about why I’ve never even considered trying to draw the characters from the books I am involved in creating. Seeing what Dr Abbey has done with the characters has left me feeling like I could have a go.

Art, like any other skill, requires time. Talent is nice if you can get it, but time invested in developing what you can do, is key. I am never going to put in the hours that would allow me to become a good artist, because of the time I need to invest in writing, and reading and other aspects of my life. But, creativity shouldn’t be just about being able to produce work to a professional standard.

So, here are my takes on a few of the Hopeless characters. I hope my sharing this enables other people to feel they can have a go too. We’d love to see your versions of our people.

Owen Davies, as he appears in The Gathering, back when his taste in hats was especially bad.

 

Annamarie Nightshade

 

Salamandra in the grumpy, gothic early teens stage.

Melisandra dances

Melisandra is the monstrous mother of Salamandra, the main character in the Hopeless Maine books. Sometimes these things are just who and how you are – Melisandra’s mother was probably a mermaid, and not the nice sort of mermaid…

 

Dancing with Kali,

Goddess of my missing mother

Ocean gone, abandoning mother

Lover of death and mayhem.

They say I look like you

Only with fewer scales.

I look like you

But my teeth are not so sharp

No amount of staring at my face

In mirrors gives me a word

Of your truth, your wisdom

No taste of your own life

Except the taste of my own flesh.

I look at my daughter,

Who is not me, not me

Not me at all, not mine

And I would devour her.

What else is there,

Mother dear, would you

Have eaten me yourself if you stayed?

I dance with Kali

Who understands the horror

Of motherhood

How is can swallow you up

If you let it.

 

(art by Dr Abbey, text by Nimue)

Hopeless Optimists

So here we have it – the next Hopeless Maine book cover, for the penultimate book in the graphic novel arc. We don’t know what happens after the final book and will worry about that when we get there.

At no point in the story itself does this image get explained. I thought I’d do that here, for the reading pleasure of those of you (you know who you are) who like to ponder the details.

Here we see experimental occultist Salamandra O’Stoat making protective magical glass for the light on her lighthouse. You will see some of this glass magic going on in Optimists, but not at this location. The reason she’s doing this, is to create a light that will drive back the fog. Or The Fog, if you prefer.

The colours of this owe to a version of Hopeless that pre-date my involvement. During one of those rare periods of his life when Tom overcame his fear of strong colours, he did a version of the lighthouse with complex rose designs in stained glass windows. He wasn’t working to deadline then and hadn’t thought about having to draw that design repeatedly. So this is a nod to that, without the nervous-breakdown inducing potential of the original design.

He died for science

A report from the Hopeless Maine Scientific Society

For much of this year, Benjamin has been trying to establish that the reason boats sometimes appear in the sky over Hopeless, is that physics works differently here. It’s an interesting theory, and one that many of us have disagreed with. However, it’s been entertaining watching the various experiments as Benjamin has tried to prove that anyone can make a ship fly.

Having observed a number of these experiments, I can attest that Benjamin had for some time been confident that the main problem would be one of getting the boat into the air in the first place. As the least scientifically minded amongst us have observed, boats generally don’t float in the air when left to their own devices.

Back in the summer, Benjamin suffered significant injuries after trying to get a boat airborne from the roof of his workshop. His conclusion was that greater height must be required. It was an unfortunate conclusion.

So great was the concern about his studies that experimental occultist Salamandra O’Stoat took him up in her boat and did her best to explain to him about magic. Tragically, Benjamin remained unconvinced by this experience, and became ever more determined to get his own boat into the air.

The catapult method he finally settled on was entirely successful on its own terms. He launched a small dory into the sky at considerable speed. At reaching the highest point of its arc, the dory simply got on with doing exactly what all objects thrown into the sky like to do at this point – and headed down. Proof that our laws of physics are just as good as anyone else’s.

While Benjamin’s body has not been discovered, the scientifically minded of Hopeless are in agreement that no one could survive that sort of fall and that there might in fact be very little solid matter remaining to recover. We applaud his courageous efforts, but encourage residents not to follow in his footsteps.

The Case of Good Fortune

Hello people! (and others)

We have a special Vendetta post today (or whenever you are reading this, naturally) This post highlights a box of wonders created by one of the finest and most creative makers in all of steampunk, in my experience. We came across this because Salamandra’s key was to be incorporated in it, but this had lead me to find the rest of his work and costuming. Here is a mind that embraces sheer childlike creative glee and combines it with great skill, craftsmanship and keen intellect. So, without further ado (hoping that was sufficient ado, for you) we bring you, The Case of Good Fortune and what its creator had to say about it!

___________________________________________________________________________

It’s in the second drawer down on the left, along with the Key of Erebor, the Key to Davy Jones’ locker, a complete set of Wills ‘Lucky Charms’ cigarette cards and an authentic signature from Van Kleist.

What is?

Salamandra’s key.

This is one of eight drawers in a wooden box that has seen better days. The drawers contain a number of seemingly random objects, like a sample of Holy Water, a bezoar, four baculums and a small pot of soot. These treasures are all part of the ‘Case of Good Fortune’, a Compendium of Good Fortune for the Discerning Traveler compiled by my grandfather in 1916.

The collection was put together as a means of harnessing the certainty of good outcomes that invariably follows the expert use of the right combination of good fortune charms. The power of this collection above any other, however, is the inclusion of a scientifically proven electrical system which directs the user to the optimal set of charms to use in any particular scenario by way of a series of knobs and flickering lights.

Hence when seeking good fortune with respect to wealth the user may be directed to a device that accurately predicts forthcoming lottery numbers, or when seeking fame the user might be directed to a pair of aurodium plated gold dice.

A special switch in the control panel allows the user to choose whether to accept good luck charms which rely on the placebo effect or not. The case has a mind of its own, however, and it sometimes knows better than the user.

Two particular points merit further mention. One is that the case includes a number of artefacts (including samples of hair, a wand, a tintype and a signature) from well known members of the UK Steampunk scene. There is also a sample of ore from the Spiffing-cum-Lightly tin mine. Together with Salamanda’s key it is expected that the inclusion of these charms (including Rapunzel’s hair and the Thestral tail hair) will enhance the power of the case when its contents are used within the Steampunk community.

The second point is that subsequent to its completion in 1916 a number of items in the case have found their way into later works of fiction including books and film, such as Felix Felicis (Harry Potter), Mr Pointy (Buffy the Vampire Slayer), the moustache curlers (Hercule Poirot) and the Tibetan thunderbolt (The Imaginarium).

The outside of the box is decorated with a number of tatty maps of The World, Great Britain, Morecambe and Madison Wisconsin as well as the route of the Orient Express. Having won the UK heat of the Steampunk World Suitcase Challenge at Morecambe the box will be (at least figuratively) off to Teslacon at Madison Wisconsin for the world final in November 2019.

The theme of Teslacon this year will be Murder on the Orient Express. The key fob belonging to compartment 66 is to be found in the third drawer down on the left. But will Salamandra’s key fit the lock?

Nimrod Lancaster III”

No photo description available.

No photo description available.

___________________________________________________________________________

Is that not a thing of joy??  We are desperately proud to have been in any way associated with this artefact. The Key was made by the equally amazing Mat Inkel of the Arcane Armoury. (whom we hope to work with again, as he is just generally wonderful) If you would like a key of your very own, you would be well advised to click on the following highlighted word. For more information on Sal’s key and the making of it, we did a post, which can be found here.

I hope (as always) this finds you well, inspired and thriving.

 

 

Breaking the moon

As far as I know, this is the first picture Tom ever did of Salamandra breaking the moon. It’s about ten years old. I don’t think at this point we knew why she was breaking the moon, either.

Those of you who have read either Inheritance as a standalone book, or as the second half of The Gathering, will know that Sal breaks the moon at the end of that book. Or appears to. Whether it is illusion, she never says. Is she really strong enough to split the moon in half and then put it back together later when no longer in a fit of pique? If she is strong enough, why is she hanging about on a small, grim island? Why hasn’t she taken over the world?

As the story unfolds, the questions of who and what Salamandra really is, what she can do, and what her limits are, remains pertinent. Obviously I’m not going to give you any spoilers for future books at this point!

In the meantime though, here are some things to ponder. What are the limits of your powers? How do you know? Why are you living the life you are living and not rushing off to do something far more dramatic and important? What are the limiting factors on your ability to change the world?

Visiting artists.

Hello people! (and others)

This is going to be a mostly-art Vendetta, and though I have titled it “Visiting artists” they are really both residents. Firstly, you have heard us saying wonderful things about our publisher-Sloth Comics, I assume. (If not, I will just say this is the best company I have worked with in my entire comics career) Well, how many other comics creators get to say that they have a fan art made by their publisher? This is now a thing that we get to say, and to show you. Here is the (utterly adorable) Salamandra-Sloth (she does magic very slowly, I expect) by Nicolas Rossert. He can not really be said to be a visitor only, as we have a long publishing relationship ahead, among many other things.

The second visiting artist who has become a resident is Mr. CliffCumber. He is originally from the UK, now residing in the US. (Just the opposite of me) We found him on Twitter and managed to drag him to the island (I do not specifically recall any kicking or screaming) He is now a regular artist for the Tales from the Squid and Teapot column, and has agreed to do some art for the Hopeless, Maine Tabletop role-playing game also. We consider him to be creative family, and he brings his own vision to the island but shows in every piece that he understands it on a very deep level. Here are two pieces from him. The first is a continuation of the adventures of a certain librarian on the island (We first saw her examining werewolf markings on a vase) The second is Sal (Salamandra) in her(flying) boat. I *may* be going to have to steal that lamp design on the back…

As always, I hope this finds you well, inspired and thriving.