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Dark Valentine magazine is here

I'm the art director on a new magazine, Dark Valentine, that is dedicated to dark fiction. The publisher, Katherine Tomlinson, veteran of the movie, magazine and publishing industries, is our publisher, and author Christine Pope (aka christinex1001) is our valiant editor.

The amazing graphic designer/illustrator Sarah Vaughn designed our site, which is now up and running. You can see the new Dark Valentine website here. I'm very happy with it, and I can't wait until the first issue.

We are accepting submissions for story submissions and illustrations. Here are the details:

The first issue will be in May, deadline is April 1.

We’re soliciting entries for our THROUGH A LENS DARKLY (they’re not paid) and we will pay $10 for stories and $10 for illustrations that run in each of our quarterly issues of DARK VALENTINE. We know that’s not much but it’s coming out of our own pockets.) Web design is by the multi-talented Sarah Vaughn, whose stories and art you may remember from Astonishing Adventures Magazines #7 and #8.

We will be specializing in dark fiction—mystery, horror, romance, slipstream, urban fantasy, fantasy, sci fi, cyberpunk, you name it. Our influences range from E.A. Poe to Tanith Lee. We know you’ve got a story to tell us.

Here’s where you send it: submissions@darkvalentine.net.

Instant Stalker Postcard

It's Valentine's Day, and nothing says romance like getting a special customized postcard from your very own stalker. My sister cut this out of a 'zine many, many years ago, and she has kept it on her fridge as long as I can remember. Of of curiosity, I did a google search for "instant stalker postcard," and couldn't find anything. So I knew there was a need to be filled, in our hectic twenty-first century, for such a delightfully old-fashioned piece of correspondence. After all, just think how useful this would be to Edward Cullen, of Twilight fame.

And here's an extra-large version, just in case anyone wants to print it out.

Just think-- you could be the Edward to the Bella of your dreams!

'80s Video Romance Novel Guy

I really liked Carla Capshaw's previous inspirational romance, "The Gladiator" (think the Ridley Scott movie, but less ridiculous, with a tasteful religious theme)-- it also had a nice cover. This cover, however, makes me less enthusiastic. Is it just me, or does the duke look like he belongs in an '80s video? The burning question, of course, is which one!

What do you guys think? Hall and Oates? A-Ha? John Mellencamp? Or something else? Tell me, I'm all ears!


I'm published! My short story "Wendy" was published by Astonishing Adventures Magazine last month, and it's free to read and download here. It's a slipstream riff on the Peter Pan story: above is my illustration of Peter.

Last year, AAM also published my essay about ancient Rome as depicted in pulp paperback novels from the '50s, '60s and '70s, which I called Toga Porn. It's also free to download. I hope you guys enjoy!

It was a great experience working with AAM. I'm now working as art director on a new magazine called Dark Valentine which shall be debuting this spring. More to come soon.

I've finally moved to New York

And it's not snowing yet! I want snow! Too many years in Palmtreelandia...

An amusing exchange on Twitter:

Suburbanbeatnik: @LoraInnes Thanks! BTW I'm in NY now, I don't know if I told you. :)
LoraInnes: @suburbanbeatnik I saw in your journal. I'm jealous. Not that I love NYC so much-but that you can go to Hamilton's house whenever you want.
Suburbanbeatnik: @LoraInnes Such a place exists? Usually I hardly ever leave the upper west side!

Seriuously, yeah. I hardly ever go below Union Square. (I currently dwell near 125th street.) I was like... there's a world beneath the boutique ghetto of Soho? Who'da thunk?


So, the masses have been clamoring for my review of Avatar-- and when I say "masses," I mean my sister and a couple friends (you know who you are). I'm not really that qualified to review the movie, since my actual movie-going experience was a bit weird. However, I'll do my best.

I saw it with my friend S. and his new wife, and we were catching the midnight showing on opening day. We were going the whole hog, the James Cameron approved Imax 3D "Experience." I was a bit leery, since I've never seen 3D before, and I was afraid that I might get a violent headache, since I'm near-sighted and prone to motion sickness. S. told me that if I have any problems, I should just shut my eyes for a few seconds every now and then, and I should be fine.

Well, no. I now hate 3D with the burning intensity of a thousand suns. The whole experience left me feeling queasy and headachey-- it was physically exhausting and I felt like I was going wall-eyed. It was also hard for me to judge the actual quality of the movie itself, what with this gimmick constantly been pushed up my nose. I had to leave halfway through the movie. After I stumbled over half a row of people jammed into their seats with a shoehorn, I ended up sitting on the toilet for twenty minutes, staring into space, listening to the inane conversation of a pair of teenage girls ("what was it about? Is this in outer space or something?") trying to get excited about going back in and subjecting myself to the nauseating, eardrum-destroying thrill-o-rama that was THE IMAX 3D EXPERIENCE!

I was informed by my friends when I staggered back in that I had missed quite a bit, but it didn't take a lot of effort to catch back up with the story. It was kind of cool, and the story, while hackneyed (basically Dances with Wolves IN SPACE) seemed to work more or less. A few days ago, I watched RedLetter Media's extensive and smart critique of The Phantom Menace, how it didn't work because there was no dramatic structure, and no protagonist with a character arc. Well, Avatar has what Phantom Menace lacked: a main sympathetic protagonist and a decent story that logically follows from point A to point B. It's not a great story, but it's a decent one; even though I'd seen it a million times before, I got sad when I was supposed to get sad, and I was rooting for the guys in the white hats to beat the guys in the black hats. Also, the entire universe is very well thought out, so you get the sense the characters are moving around in an internally consistent and cohesive world, which is certainly something you don't see enough in Hollywood.

As for the much-vaunted CGI, I thought it worked marvelously for the backgrounds, which are stunning, but the blue alien characters still felt a touch stiff. (There was something very plastic-like about the way the way the muscles moved around the mouths, I noticed.)

As for it being revolutionary, eh, you know, it's a movie. I'm going to catch a cheap matinee somewhere to see whether I like it more or less when it is 2D, and I can properly judge it on its merits. I'll post more later.

Oh yeah, one more thing... I thought Stephen Lang, as baddie Miles Quaritch, was hot. I look forward to seeing what fanfic is written about him.

Which fantasy writer are you?

Gacked from CapnFlynn. Apparently I am low-brow, cynical, experimental and violent!

Your result for Which fantasy writer are you?...

Lian Hearn (b. 1942)

-1 High-Brow, 3 Violent, 1 Experimental and 11 Cynical!

Congratulations! You are Low-Brow, Violent, Experimental and Cynical! These concepts are defined below.

Lian Hearn is the pen name used by Australian author Gillian Rubinstein when writing theTale of the Otori series, beginning with Across the Nightingale Floor (2002). The trilogy (which has spawned a sequel and a prequel) was a great success, becoming bestsellers world-wide and being published in more than thirty countries. Part of the reason for the series' success is probably that it is traditional fantasy but with a twist: The books are set in a country resembling feudal Japan, rather than some vaguely European environment. This setting gives Hearn a great opportunity to explore themes such as war, revenge, power hunger and clashes between cultures, all of which makes for an occasionally very violent tale, where nothing is ever coated in sugar. The books also feature at least one strong and very believable female character. While there have been japanese-style fantasy written by Westerners earlier (such as the Book of Years series by Peter Morwood), Hearn uses the brilliant technique of describing her world from inside, calling typical japanese phenomena by generic names rather than exoticising Japanese terms. Thus, swords are called swords, not katanas, we hear of wrestlers and realize that they are sumo wrestlers, characters eat bean curd rather than tofu, etc. All in all, Hearn has succesfully expanded the borders of what can be done within the genre, while still writing for a mass audience!

You are also a lot like C S Lewis.

If you want something more gentle, try Orson Scott Card.

If you'd like a challenge, try your exact opposite, Susan Cooper.

Your score

This is how to interpret your score: Your attitudes have been measured on four different scales, called 1) High-Brow vs. Low-Brow, 2) Violent vs. Peaceful, 3) Experimental vs. Traditional and 4) Cynical vs. Romantic. Imagine that when you were born, you were in a state of innocence, a tabula rasa who would have scored zero on each scale. Since then, a number of circumstances (including genetical, cultural and environmental factors) have pushed you towards either end of these scales. If you're at 45 or -45 you would be almost entirely cynical, low-brow or whatever. The closer to zero you are, the less extreme your attitude. However, you should always be more of either (eg more romantic than cynical). Please note that even though High-Brow, Violent, Experimental and Cynical have positive numbers (1 through 45) and their opposites negative numbers (-1 through -45), this doesn't mean that either quality is better. All attitudes have their positive and negative sides, as explained below.

High-Brow vs. Low-Brow

You received -1 points, making you more Low-Brow than High-Brow. Being high-browed in this context refers to being more fascinated with the sort of art that critics and scholars tend to favour, while a typical low-brow would favour the best-selling kind. At their best, low-brows are honest enough to read what they like, regardless of what "experts" and academics say is good for them. At their worst, they are more likely to read what their neighbours like than what they would choose themselves.

Violent vs. Peaceful

You received 3 points, making you more Violent than Peaceful. Please note that violent in this context does not mean that you, personally, are prone to violence. This scale is a measurement of a) if you are tolerant to violence in fiction and b) whether you see violence as a means that can be used to achieve a good end. If you are, and you do, then you are violent as defined here. At their best, violent people are the heroes who don't hesitate to stop the villain threatening innocents by means of a good kick. At their worst, they are the villains themselves.

Experimental vs. Traditional

You received 1 points, making you more Experimental than Traditional. Your position on this scale indicates if you're more likely to seek out the new and unexpected or if you are more comfortable with the familiar, especially in regards to culture. Note that traditional as defined here does not equal conservative, in the political sense. At their best, experimental people are the ones who show humanity the way forward. At their worst, they provoke for the sake of provocation only.

Cynical vs. Romantic

You received 11 points, making you more Cynical than Romantic. Your position on this scale indicates if you are more likely to be wary, suspicious and skeptical to people around you and the world at large, or if you are more likely to believe in grand schemes, happy endings and the basic goodness of humankind. It is by far the most vaguely defined scale, which is why you'll find the sentence "you are also a lot like x" above. If you feel that your position on this scale is wrong, then you are probably more like author x. At their best, cynical people are able to see through lies and spot crucial flaws in plans and schemes. At their worst, they are overly negative, bringing everybody else down.

Author picture from http://www.lianhearn.com, used by kind permission.

Take Which fantasy writer are you? at HelloQuizzy

New Moon

Tonight I went out to the wonderfully retro Cinerama Dome in Hollywood, where I saw New Moon, the second installment in the Twilight "saga." I wrote a snide little blurb on my FB page, but I feel compelled to write a longer entry here.

When I heard last year that Catherine Hardwicke, the director of the first Twilight movie, had been fired by the Hollywood boy's club, and Chris Weitz, the hack responsible for foisting The Golden Compass upon the world, had been put in her place, I knew this meant the sequel would be crap. And I was right!

New Moon is a big snooze. It's superficially pretty, but there is nothing engaging about it. Even worse, it drags on for an ass-busting two hours and twenty minutes. Twilight wasn't a great movie, but it was entertaining, it had a certain liveliness and charm, and the actors were engaged. In New Moon all the performers struggle valiantly through the uninspiring material, but it's a losing battle. I felt sorry for Robert Pattinson and Kristin Stewart, who deserve better-- especially Stewart, whose character, Bella Swan, is so relentlessly self-absorbed, passive and navel-gazing that she becomes a gigantic black hole on the screen, draining the life from the audience.

Maybe I would have liked the movie better if it were, say, an hour shorter. It also would have been better if one of the side characters-- like Alice or Jacob-- were the focus of the movie, since they actually seemed to have a personality. Bella had no function except to be continuously rescued, to stare gloomily into space, or to gaze dreamily into her sweetie's eyes. Get the girl some Prozac already! The two most intriguing actors in the movie were the ones playing the villainous vampires-- like Rachelle Lefevre as Victoria, and Michael Sheen as Aro. However, they weren't given that much to do, which is a pity, since the only exciting moments in the movie came from Aro and Victoria being evil.

Even worse, the movie really lacked the right sensibility. Twilight had the right feeling of dreamy adolescent romance fantasy-- whereas New Moon just feels like big soulless Hollywood product. I refuse to see any more of these movies in the theater. It'll be interesting to see what they do with the horror show that is Breaking Dawn though. Vampire caesarean section-- how is Weitz going to make that palatable, I wonder?

I know, I never update

Damn! I never update this thing anymore, do I? I also have a blog hosted by my website... but I haven't updated that in months either. What I'd like to do, ideally, is to keep all my illustration/publishing related news to my joannerenaud.com blog, and keep my LJ for everything else. Let's see if I can do this...

I'm going to Comic-Con this weekend. I'm wondering what George Lucas' big announcement will be. Will it be about the much anticipated live action series? Here's hoping!

I'm on NPR!

I did a number of illustrations for "Beyond Heaving Bosoms: The Smart Bitches' Guide to Romance Novels" by Sarah Wendell and Candy Tan, and they were just interviewed on NPR's "All Things Considered." You can hear their interview here. You can also see my illustration on NPR.org!

Here's Mavis, the stereotypical romance novel reader, as described by Sarah and Candy:

"Beyond Heaving Bosoms" is available to buy now. It's a hilarious book with lots of great illustrations, by me and Carol Main. Check it out!

(I cross-posted this to my blog, which I'm finally doing something with, huzzah!)

Latest Month

March 2010


Books I'm reading

The Sand-Reckoner- Gillian Bradshaw
A Wizard of Earthsea- Ursula Le Guin
Turn Back the River- W.G. Hardy
The World Without Us- Alan Weisman
Your Movie Sucks- Roger Ebert
Game of Thrones- George R.R. Martin


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