Thursday, December 30, 2010

Bullet in the Hole Clubs: Pre-Order Horizon

And for the last of our December of Announcements, we're setting a date for Volume 3 Pre-Orders.

We'll be selling V3 Pre-Orders at Anthrocon 2011, from June 24-26, and opening them up online a week later for all to pre-purchase.

Although Volume 3 won't be completely finished at that time, it should be well on the way, close enough that we can set final pricing and order options, and give everyone time to place their order before Pre-Orders close.
And that's about the last of our news from where we're sitting, at the end of 2010. Thanks again to everyone who's been there, reading along with us up 'till now. I hope you had a joyful Allspirit's Eve, a Merry Christmas, and a happy Holiday Season. (Or whichever one of those will allow me to be cordial without stepping into an asinine culture war.)

Up until now we've been showing off our fabulous poker hand with four aces, one per week, but you really need a fifth card to make a full hand...
I guess we're not as good at this game as we thought.
Truth be told, we don't really know all that much about poker- but we are certainly in the business of having too much fun regardless of competence.

I think 2010 was a good year for Dreamkeepers - we completed the laboriously corrected 2nd editions of Volumes 1 & 2, finally set up affordable downloads for everyone, and completed the script & thumbnail layouts for all of Volume 3. We finished the final artwork on the next Chapter of the story, and as you've read this month, beefed up our staff and undertaken some exciting advertising endeavors.

I think 2011 is going to be a great year for Dreamkeepers. We'll be rolling faster than ever on Volume 3 production, probably completing the next two Chapters, opening Pre-Orders, and raising the funds for an unprecedented advertising run. We've got a lot of work ahead of us to pull it all off-

-I can hardly wait!

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Santa: The Horror

You've probably learned by now that Santa Claus is fictional - a Coca-Cola guzzling advertising icon designed to sell seasonal crap to the masses.

If only. If only.

Santa Claus is all too real - it's a part of the conspiracy, you see. The truth is colder than you could guess.

Well bundle up ladies, gents, and kids. Have I got a holiday tale for you! Huddle close, get yourself next to the roaring fireplace, and keep a sidearm handy just in case something bursts out of it.

With a ravening eye so clever and quick, I knew in a moment it must be Saint Nick.

What is Christmastime about, really?

If thoughts of shepherds, wise men, and holy infants tender and mild came to mind, you could be forgiven. But late December was a celebrated season far before the time of Jesus - Christmas predates Christ by centuries, under other names, among other peoples...

You see, the planet's path through dark spaces brings it to a special position during that time of year - when the sun, the light, is at its weakest relative to our mortal vantage here on earth. Ancient peoples from the Gaelic traditions and before celebrated and feared this time above all others.

Winter's Solstice was the original reason for the season. Pagan religions revered it as the time of death, the time when restraints against the nether-realm were at their weakest. The spirits of the dead were thought to be unleashed at this time, to wander the earth seeking out the lights of the living. Considered dangerous, the ancients developed many tactics for warding off these nocturnal roamers - such as the constant clanging of bells and gongs, to frighten evil spirits away. Bells were associated with death in many ancient belief systems - in fact, the Celts believed that burying small, brass jingle bells near a corpse would result in it's unnatural resurrection.

I heard the bells on Christmas Day...

The powers of necromancers and witches were thought to be elevated during this time of darkness - and in that age, witches, fair folk, and other creatures were considered to be matters of fact, to be respected and sometimes feared.

But, as we know, the Solstice would not remain the province of paganism forever.

With the Dark Ages stretching onward, Christianity was aggressively spreading from it's fallen Roman epicenter throughout Gaul, Normandy, the black forests of Germania, and beyond. The Old Ways were consumed, in one manner or another, by the new chosen faith. Pagan beliefs and peoples were either tortured out of existence, or converted. Holy days and celebratory feasts were subverted and formed into new amalgams, neither Christian nor heathen, but a forced union of the two.

Around 300 AD, one agent of this spreading religious order is known to us today as Saint Nikolas, the Bishop of Myra, one of the cities of Lycia. The Bishop of Myra was widely recognized for his kindness and generosity, especially for his habit of 'secretly' bestowing gifts to others. Thus are we familiar with the Saint Nick of legend - leaving surprise gifts for children, coins in shoes, trinkets in stockings. However, to his contemporaries the Bishop was known for more than his generosity.

Nikolas of Myra was a worker of miracles, supernatural feats, and inexplicable displays that led him to be dubbed the "Wonderworker." If labeled a pagan sorcerer, such feats would have been attributed to Satanic influence, and resulted in a slow execution. But safe under his official robes, Nikolas was given awe and respect by the pious as he displayed his Wonders. His reputation was secure in his lifetime.

But life cannot go on forever. At least, not for all of us.

During 343 AD, the good Bishop knew he was approaching death, and none of his Wonders could save him. The core promise of Christianity is, of course, the everlasting immortality of one's soul in heaven. Immortality - to breathe and see and speak and laugh and eat forever - has been the coveted bauble at the heart of every selfish man since time before time. Which is why, even before Christ, there were a myriad of techniques, formulas, and incantations for grasping the eternal, denying the grave. Even after Christianity, a tainted believer, driven to desperation, would perchance consider cutting a bargain with the ungod, the repository of wickedness himself, the Devil.

Nikolas's unorthodox insurances are not detailed, but history relates his appeals to God for salvation upon death. And, in fact, history explicitly relates his success in this venture.

Saint Nikolas was visited by powerful beings, angels, who assured him that they would see his soul escorted through eternity after death. If they were truly angels, perchance they lied - because the death of Nikolas has no historic record.

To be certain, there was a funeral; A grand procession, attended by all, that wound through the streets of Myra in mournful honor of the 'Wonderworker'. There was even a tomb with, presumably, a body, laid to rest in a place of honor in the temple.

And that is when the strange goings-on began.

Something began to seep from the marble coffin. Something marvelous. At a loss to identify the otherworldly substance, later scholars dubbed it "mana". Although mortal knowledge could no more define its composition than it's source, one thing was known of this bizarre discharge: It had supernatural healing properties.

Saint Nikolas's tomb became a thriving pilgrimage destination, as hordes flocked to seek communion with the wondrous necrotic emulsions.

It is around this time that the legends surrounding "Saint Nick" began to take a darker turn.

Rather than sly winks and secret gifts, tales of terror in the night begin to spread throughout rural Europe. Tales of an invading creature that would desecrate homes, wrenching "naughty" children shrieking from their blankets to be stuffed into a rough sack and dragged into the freezing night - never to be seen again. The names of this dark fiend began to vary - Krampus, Ruebezahl, Hans Trapp, Black Peter, Knecht Ruppert... But, throughout legend, all were linked somehow to Saint Nick.

In some stories these creatures, portrayed with red lolling tognues and black horns, were Santa's associates. Sometimes they would make his decisions, sometimes they would be in charge of punishing wicked children while he rewarded the good, and in some legends, people whispered that Saint Nick and his demons were one and the same.

The official histories, under the oversight of the powerful Vatican, ensured that the angelic, gift giving, saintly Bishop Nikolas would be remembered for his piety and service to the church.

Tales of a supernatural abductor were the stuff of peasants. An enchanted child thief who knew no earthly boundaries, not barred shutters, not locked doors, who could penetrate through the cracks in the wall or down the chimney, about the eaves or within the chinks, such accounts were for the countrymen to be concerned with.

Other legends plagued the countrymen of Europe during these ages. Accounts of terror in the darkness, of corpses who had forgotten death, returning to wreak terror upon their loved ones under the cover of night, of shambling things which knew nothing of the sun. It was regular practice in those days predating embalming to take practical precautions against such reanimations - corpses were exhumed and bound, or decapitated, or dismembered and reburied, burned, stopped. In the dark ages, vampires were no fireside legends, they were an accepted and pervasive problem of daily life.

Today, as with other things, we know far better than our foolish predecessors.

And, of course, we know that Santa Claus is made up. Living - but fictional.

Santa Claus is not fictional, Santa Claus is a vampire!

The most successful vampire of all time - THINK ABOUT IT!

He's immortal, for one. He only comes in the dead of night.

Hellooo? Immortals that shun the sunlight? Shouldn't this be ringing some bells already?

He can levitate, move himself at will across the earth, is untouched by cold or high-altitude low-oxygen conditions. He makes his abode in a hidden Arctic fortress - a freezing, inhospitable environment which is plunged into perpetual twilight, without a glimpse of the sun, for half of the entire year. He can telepathically divine the actions and intent of any individual he sets his mind to.

...He knows when you've been sleeping, he knows when you're awake, he knows if you've been bad or good, so dear god this fucker is creepy!

He can enter any home by supernatural means - so long as he has an invitation.

Can you think of any homes Santa Claus might be welcome in? How about ALL OF THEM?!

If you were a vampire who needed an invitation to penetrate the domiciles of the living, what would be the holy grail achievement of your existence? The ultimate ruse?

The good, long-dead but not-really sorcerous Saint Nikolas is the first vampire in history to master the benefits of branding and good public relations.

The beard hides the fangs! The red clothes mask the blood! Have you heard of those vampires that glitter? Does Christmas feature glittery TINSEL?! And Santa's fat because he GORGES ON VICTIMS AT WILL!

Milk and cookies? Don't be naive!

I'm not saying that Santa sucks blood at every home he visits - or even that he only visits on Christmas night. (That is merely when his powers are at their peak.) But how many people go missing without explanation from their homes every year? How many victims left an open invitation to that fat bastard, only to be surprised in their covers one night by a Jolly Old Elf?

The fiction is self sustaining at this point - but I suspect in the early years of his "rebranding", Saint Nikolas actually did continue his habit of "secretly" giving gifts. Capturing children to manufacture his toys, he would then deliver them to good girls and boys on Christmas night - reinforcing the legend of Good Old Saint Nick just enough that the belief would grow.

Rewarding a handful of unharmed believers so untold masses would open themselves up to his ravages.

As for the abducted "Elves" enslaved to make his next round of toys, I sadly suspect that they are exhausted and consumed within the year - refrigerator snacks used up just in time for the next Christmas harvest.

So, ladies and gentlemen, girls and boys, have a happy holiday season. But if you want to survive it, I'd highly recommend you revoke any invites to that Dark Elf.

Stay together. Stay indoors. Keep a warm fire going, have some Christmas cookies to fortify your spirits, and some hollow-point .40 calibers to fortify your position.

You’d better watch out. You’d better not cry. You’d better reload, I’ve told you why.

A 700 year old sorcerous Lycian vampire bishop is coming to town.

Merry Christmas.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Bullet in the Hole Spades: Making a Scene!

The first chapter of Volume 3 is done!

About DAMN time, if you ask me. Cri-mi-nelly! And other words I never say! We released Volume 2 in early 2008, and here in late 2010, we're just finishing the next chapter. A previous blog showcases our 'Box 'o Excuses', so there's no need to recite it once more.

Even so, you guys have been fantastically, divinely patient with us regarding Volume 3. Regardless of how long our production has stretched, we've received overwhelming support and encouragement from so many kind people - thank you, everyone. If it's any consolation, the next two chapters will NOT take as long as the first one did.

But I think you deserve more than consolation. I think you deserve a gift - TA DAA!

We're posting the first scene of Chapter 7 online, for free - right now!
There's no worry over spoilers, since it's the very first scene of the book. You've waited long enough that you deserve at least a few pages of appreciation! Download scene 1 of Chapter 7 for free: We hope you enjoy the preview!

Additionally, I do like tossing out some evidence that, yes, we have been working on another book over here, and finishing actual pages of tangible story. Volume 3 is not an elaborate hoax, we've got like 40 pages of this stuff, with more in the works.

But I'll tell you what is a hoax. A terrifying, bloody deception.

Santa Claus.

If you want the horrific truth, I'll give it to you - right here, on Christmas. In the meanwhile, stay away from that old fucker, for your own safety. Consider yourself warned!

If, on the other hand, you just want Dreamkeepers news, then hop on by next week - we'll have our last 'Bullet in the Hole' announcement!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Bullet in the Hole Diamonds: Animatic Action

...Wouldn't it be awesome if, theoretically, you were quietly browsing online one day, and then WHAMMO! Sparkly, fully-animated Dreamkeepers action flew out of nowhere to kick you in the ass?

And wouldn't it be crazy, suppositionally, if that cartoon collision happened in a big, high-profile mainstream website - the type of site where no independent comic, let alone a furry anything, has ever before ventured?

And wouldn't it be spiffy if none of this was hypothetical?

Liz & I have plans in motion to produce a 15-second, fully animated Dreamkeepers commercial slated to air on this summer - for starters. Using our publishing revenues and some planned 2011 fundraisers, we've budgeted $10,000 to unleash an unprecedented independent ad campaign. It's our intent to spread this promo to the ends of the earth, and take a big step towards bringing Dreamkeepers- and the entire genre of furry art & comics - closer to the mainstream recognition it merits.
But I'm staying pretty composed about the whole thing. Serene. Unflappable. Mr. Cool, that's me.

As much as I enjoy power-blasting hot air regarding our hopes and plans, 'what-ifs' are never quite as fun as 'lookit this'. So check out our progress so far! (Note - There's no need to worry about spoilers in the animated scenes, as they're intended to be teaser images for new readers. So if there is anything that's new or suggestive, bear in mind that it's not a major story twist or anything, you are safe.)

But, regarding the animatic above - a bit of background before I dash off.
We were fortunate to meet voice actor Philip Sacramento at a previous convention. Contacting him again recently, he was available to create the spectacular voice-over work you just heard. This guy is absolutely stellar - he even went so far as to give us more than one version of his lines!

It was hell trying to choose which take to use in the commercial - but a good kind of hell. If you really want some fun, check out the amazing range on his site's vocal reel, I'd highly recommend him for anyone seeking some voice talent.

The background music I made myself, cobbling together royalty-fee samples and foggy memories of childhood piano lessons. Audio isn't my forte' but with some tweaking I think we've got a perfectly serviceable soundtrack coming together for the promo. Plus the composer was willing to work for coffee and peanuts, which is pretty awesome.

Most of the work, of course, will be in creating the actual animation - even 15 seconds of good stuff is a monumental task. Which is another salient reason we made the decision to add some freelancers to the team recently. That way we have some extra production-power in churning out animation frames, plus the ability to keep Volume 3 progress rolling forward unchecked.

And speaking of Volume 3, we've got some fun in store for you, right here next week...

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Bullet in the Hole Hearts: Colorful Staff

It's time for our first Bullet in the Hole announcement - by the by, the name is derived from a poker term, where aces are present in a person's hand. There are four aces in a deck, four blogs to post, & four weeks left to post them. Why are we using poker terms for our announcements? Because it's Christmastime, that's why! I dunno, just roll with it.

Revealing the first card in our deck of surprises, Dreamkeepers has expanded its staff!

Rest assured this change isn't going to change much. Up 'til now, the whole show has been put on by one dynamically unpaid duo: Dave and Liz, cartoon junkies extraordinaire. But for the first time ever, we've expanded Vivid to bring in a few cohorts as freelance assistants on the project. Hopefully, we'll be able to do more damage that way.

Ha! No, not damage, art. I sometimes confuse the two. As for what exactly this will mean for Dreamkeepers, you may have some questions - watch, as I pretend I know what they are, and proceed to answer them!
That's pretty much it. Volume 3 is huge, and we're still finishing off the first of three chapters. ...Which is running to about 43 pages. Any normal DK book, that'd be about the halfway point. But V3 is looking to exceed 130 pages - it's a freakin' shark attack!
As far as creators go, Dave & Liz tend towards extreme self-reliance. We built our own book series, our own company to publish it, and our own website & webcomic to promote it. We weave our own clothing from the grass of the field and hunt & kill our own frozen waffles. We don' need no high-falutin' help from NOBAWDY!
Well, maybe we do. In fact, we'd had plans in years past about, in a far-off someday, hiring some help for the project. But 'someday' has come upon us far faster than we'd ever expected. With the huge, supportive, and eager response from readers for the next book, we finally realized that it's time to take care of business.
This book needs to get done, and especially with our to-be-announced excitement next week, it's time we loosened up a bit and accepted some help.
As my spectacularly rendered flow-chart illustrates, the story and finished art are still Dave & Liz territory, so the look and feel of Dreamkeepers isn't going to be warped or changed at all. But blocking in the flat colors is extremely time consuming - the most laborious part of producing the art, in fact. And that is where our intrepid freelancers will be zooming to the rescue, to act as our new color department!

They'll get single pages with swatch sheets that look a little something like this: (Liz blocks in the characters, so she can catch & correct my consistency bloopers.)
We'll nix the word balloon text on outgoing pages, to reduce risk of spoiler leaks because blowing the story is the sole province of Liz and I. We may get pages back that look a little something like this:
At which point we'll flip some final color choices about:

-and then Dave shades in the fun stuff.

Admittedly, the color department doesn't have the most glamour-drenched job in the world, but that's why we're compensating them - whether it be with money, sparkly pebbles, or bits of ribbon remains to be seen. Depends on what I can get away with. (We'll pay with money - I was a starving artist too long to turn around & not pay others for their work.)

Reasons - I haz them! I know there's a flood of readers out there who would be more than willing to help us out of the goodness of their hearts. However, we have enough trouble staying organized amongst ourselves as it is, so keeping our team small and cohesive is the way to go right now. It's not our intent to be exclusionary, but there's only so many people we can effectively work with at any given time. If we ever publicly open applications for freelancers, we'll be sure to announce it here first and foremost.

I haven't actually asked yet if anyone prefers anonymity or not - once we actually start working with our new allies, I'll know whom I'm permitted to assign blame to. For now they shall simply be known as "The Association of Seven." Are there seven of them? No. But it's got a nice ring to it.

One might also wonder, why are we starting to pay freelancers if we haven't actually started paying ourselves yet? Simple. That way, we can build up the funds to more effectively promote Dreamkeepers, and do spectacularly fun things -

Such as the thing which we will be announcing next week.

...Since adding staff is such a new and different step for us, we are anticipating more questions on the subject. In a vain attempt to fend off the inevitable, we present for your perusal:

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

"Feel the Illinoise!”

Strangers in fedoras, anime-character identity crossovers, very confused marketing executives, and somebody threw a tank. I’m speaking, of course, about the recently concluded Midwest Furfest convention in Chicago!

We had a blast, and got out alive - the primary hallmarks of a successful convention. I must add, it’s always fun when a non-furry, 'Business Leaders Roundtable’ or something is meeting in the same hotel and weekend as a furry con. Executives in suits just wander shell-shocked around the lobby, looking for all the world like they accidentally woke up in Dr. Seuss Hell.
Interestingly, they often seem to pick Liz out of the crowd to demand an explanation from. Bouncing around, she looks too fun not be involved somehow, yet she’s tiny and blonde and therefore safe to speak to. So far as anyone knows.

The convention was a blast - we saw old friends, and had the opportunity to meet for the first time (in person) some of the folks from our forum. Oddly enough, there seemed to be a tendency for everyone to be wearing fedoras - which I wholeheartedly approve of. We wound up having a little fedora flotilla around our table - even one total stranger was pulled in by it’s dark, rakish gravity.

Apparently, Liz & I also made quite the impression on another con-goer, with the fursona 'Steven' who declared unwaveringly that he recognizes us - as characters from the anime series ‘Baccano!’. Evidently my choice of wardrobe and Liz's pantomimes were enough to give us away. After acquiescing to a photo-op, curiosity over our animated doppelgangers motivated us to look it up:
I think Liz matches all too well, which is consistent with her animated cinematic track record:

But clearly, my double is missing the crucial glasses, and I need to cultivate some sideburns to keep up. But on the plus side, Isaac and Miria rob places dressed in outrageous costumes - which is, of course, the Way It Should Be Done. I don’t countenance boring criminals. Although I’ve found a subtle crime is impossible in costume - the time I went shopping in Michaels dressed as a WWII soldier, I was lavished with attentive customer service. Too bad for them I was just browsin’ for Krauts.

Cartoonish antics aside, most of the convention was spent with my nose to the grindstone, sketching out... cartoon characters & commissions. (Currently available only at conventions.)

Even my pencil commissions are getting increasingly elaborate and fun, and we’re getting more and more requests for them at conventions.

The result, which we were forced to face this con, is that I’m getting severely overbooked - pun, INTENDED! HA ha! I’m the only one laughing...

The easy solution, of course, would be to start saying ‘no’ to people. I tried that, but it turns out my heart has all the toughness of a delightful custard. One hopeful set of eyes, and kaPOW! My willpower disintegrates faster than an executive’s grasp of reality at a furry con.

As a result, we’ve got to integrate some price hikes and a first-come first-serve slot system for the next round of conventions. This should provide the structure and firmness which my spine currently lacks - I’ll post up the details when we get closer to our next convention.

And in closing (You’re still reading? Wow! I could just write anything in here and you’d seriously read it for this long? Well- Ahem; Dear, dear, dearest internet-Diary, let me count the ways...)

Or not. In closing, we're home - and we've got some fun in store for you. A lot of fun. We've got a salvo of mind-exploding Dreamkeepers announcements which, if unleashed in one blog, might just be too much fun for any one reader to withstand. Heck, we've been having enough trouble ourselves, just containing our enthusiasm - our tendency is to play things close to the chest until they transition from a 'what if' to a certainty... And a whole pile of fun has just made the transition. So to protect us all from enthusiasm overload, we'll be releasing the news in bite-size chunks all month - during our December news marathon, Bullets in the Hole. Right here, every Thursday, we'll be slapping down glittering, untold Dreamkeepers news - see you next week!

Meanwhile, we have much to do - to observe, enjoy our newly designated, self indulgent webcam: