Skull Practice

sketch 91

I’m practicing bones again, because they’re good for me, etcetera.

Here’s what happens to Diana next:

Sample

The Continuation of Stuart’s Story

“I’d been doing my second set and I just—well, I vanished,” Stuart said, holding onto Diana’s hand while they walked without making any attempt to pull her closer or squeeze at her fingers.

He looked, she thought, both melancholy and cautious, though pleased at the fact that they were still touching.

“I wasn’t anywhere for a little while. I mean, it was as if I was in a kind of blank white place, but it wasn’t even white. There just—I don’t know. It wasn’t anything. It’s hard to describe. I wasn’t standing on anything that I could feel, but I also wasn’t floating. I couldn’t figure it out, and after about half a day, maybe, everything around me changed into a sort of conference chamber on an alien ship. Before that I was sure I’d had a heart attack or something. I thought I’d died, and the empty place was some kind of afterlife, but then I got pulled into a weird meeting room, and there were a couple of those aliens there, and they started asking me questions,” Stuart said, glancing at Diana to gauge her reaction so far.

Diana did a very good job looking neutral and as if she didn’t mind one way or another if Stuart kept going. He stifled a sigh.

“One of them was more in charge, I’m pretty sure, and he kept saying things to the other one, and then the other one would say things to me, like he was a translator. They wanted to know about what families were like, and how my parents lived. They didn’t seem to realize that I wasn’t grown up all the way,” Stuart said.

Diana nodded, for she’d gotten this impression from the aliens herself.

“They wanted to know how many children I had so far, and how I felt about my partner. Like, a wife, I guess, or something like that. They thought I’d already be matched up with someone, and, um, when they kept pressing me to explain about my partner, I just talked about you. I said that you were my soul mate, basically, and that we hadn’t had any kids yet because—well, I told them that you were confused and scared because of how screwed up your family was, and that I had to steal you away and make things right,” Stuart said.

Diana, at this point, was startled out of her neutrality.

“Excuse me? I was confused and scared because of what now?” Diana asked.

“Well, it was a lie, but they bought it, and I’m telling you what happened. I mean, you wanted to know,” Stuart said, looking mildly uncomfortable.

“Hm,” Diana said, crimping her mouth with a strong measure of irritation.

You’re reading Victor Poole, and in my current novel, the group is having a debriefing in the cockpit.

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No Picture Today Because … Tech Issues : ]

But  here is what happens next to Diana:

Sample

The President of the Diana Fan Club

“Now, the first thing I want to know about is what really happened when you got taken up with the aliens the very first time. I was walking to the junior high like everybody else, and people vanished one by one, and then you dropped in and started leaving cryptic, super creepy soap messages on the windows in the school. What happened to you when you went up and what was the whole conversation that led to you being like, ‘I’ll go and haunt my old victim Diana’? Tell me all about that,” Diana said, swinging their joined hands a little as they walked.

Stuart started to look very uncomfortable, which made Diana smile.

“You kind of enjoy my pain, don’t you?” Stuart asked.

“We’re staying on topic. What happened to you when you first went up with the aliens? What was it like? What could you see? And where were you when you got snatched up, since you were not dressed for the cold weather?” Diana asked.

Stuart sighed and looked almost prepared to refuse to answer.

“I’m not letting go of this, Stu. This is it. We’re having this conversation, and if you’d like to fight me about that, I’ll pretend not to see you. The aliens have given me other companions, and if you don’t cooperate, I won’t tell you anything about them,” she added, guessing by Stuart’s earlier jealousy that he would not handle this manner of reticence well.

“How many guys have you had coming around? A lot?” Stuart asked, instantly looking a wee bit deranged. Diana made a peaceful ‘I will never tell’ sort of face, and Stuart rolled his eyes. “Fine. Fine, I was in the gym down by my parents’ clubhouse, and I didn’t have anyone with me, or any kind of—I don’t know, there wasn’t a television playing or anything, you know, and I wasn’t looking at my phone. I didn’t know there were aliens until I kind of got vaporized off the weight bench,” Stuart said.

You’re reading Victor Poole, and in my current novel, Eric is doing internal renovations on an abused object.

Expression Study

sketch 86

‘Cause I need lots of practice. Here’s what happens next to Diana!

Sample

Diana’s House

“So,” Diana said when they had walked some distance towards her old house.

“Yeah?” Stuart asked, his tone indicating that he was in a pretty good mood just now. Diana giggled. “What?” Stuart asked, grinning at her.

“You told me that you wouldn’t be a shirtless boy for me, but now you don’t have a shirt anymore,” Diana said, and she laughed some more. Stuart blushed.

“Yeah, okay. Is that what you started to say?” Stuart asked, trying not to smile, for he was rather pleased at the implication that Diana possibly was enjoying the view.

“No, I was going to say that we’d better start talking over all the things that you’ve been avoiding telling me. You seem pretty pliant now that I’m holding your hand, so we’ll start with whatever I remember and go from there. First, I want you to admit that you are not sorry for being this stubborn and irrtated at me all the time. I don’t think you’re a bit sorry, and I’d like you to be honest about that to me. Are you sorry?” Diana asked.

Stuart chewed on the inside of his cheek for a moment and then shook his head in a no.

“Well, I’d like to hear words, you see,” Diana explained.

“I’m not really sorry, Di. I’m sorry that I’m not sorry, though!” Stuart said brightly. Diana laughed and nudged her shoulder against his shoulder. “Um, can I ask a question, baby?” Stuart asked.

“Not if you’re going to walk around lying to me and saying things like ‘baby,’ hon. Saying baby is for people who love each other, and I know for absolute sure that your actions are not loving. Try your question again without the lie inside it,” Diana said.

Stuart didn’t look particularly happy about this, but he took a deep breath and made an attempt.

“I want to talk to you about something. Can I ask you a question, Diana?” Stuart said. He made rather a production out of saying her full name and Diana laughed, though not quite so joyfully. “What? I didn’t say baby,” Stuart said.

“The answer is that no, you can’t ask me a question, and I don’t think I’m ready to hold your hand anymore,” Diana said.

“But!” Stuart exclaimed, for he’d thought they had come to a kind of partnership or understanding.

“If you’re going to stomp around saying my name as if it was a filthy swear word, I’m not going to be very inclined to hold your hand,” Diana pointed out.

Stuart let go of her hand and she grabbed it back up.

“You also don’t get to decide that I’m all mad at you just so you can go over to the other side of the road and sulk some more. Now we’re staying on topic and not having dramatic hissy fits, do you understand?” Diana asked.

“Yes, Diana,” Stuart said, sounding somewhat cowed.

You’re reading Victor Poole, and in my current novel, the new girl and the teenager are listening to the military commander sing to a special plant.

Some Faces

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Here are some sketches of faces. I like the guy with glasses.

Here is what happens next with Diana:

Sample

Stuart’s Fire

“So what’s your deal, Stu? Why are you being so stubborn about this?” Diana asked.

“About what in particular, please?” Stuart asked.

“Oh, liking me, and loving me, and apparently being kind of helplessly addicted to my presence,” Diana said.

Stuart stopped walking and made a few agonized noises, and his shirt started to smoke in the back again. Diana kept going, but she turned sideways because she wanted to see Stuart’s shirt catch on fire. Stuart appeared to come to the conclusion that the was really going to happen if he kept fighting whatever was happening inside, and he let out a very annoyed manner of growl and rolled his shoulders, looking suddenly relaxed. The smoke stopped rising from his shirt, though Diana suspected there would be scorch marks back there now.

“What happened?” Diana asked.

“It’s frustrating to talk about,” Stuart said, squirming his shoulders and running to catch up.

“Okay. What happened?” Diana asked with a grin.

“Why are you so cheerful all of the time?” Stuart asked with a sour expression. His shirt started to smoke again, and he looked like he was in pain.

“Is that mark getting set off with you hating yourself or something?” Diana asked.

“Something like that, yeah. Oh, come on!” Stuart cried, for his shirt had caught fire in the back. He tore it over his head and threw it aside, slapping at his skin and hissing with pain. Diana was tempted to roll her eyes, for it was becoming painfully obvious to her that he was aware of how to avoid discomfort and was aggravating the alien mark on purpose. She went to Stuart and laid a hand on his bare bicep, and Stuart relaxed, drooping as if he’d been dunked into a warm bath. “Oh, that’s nice. Wait!” Stuart exclaimed, moving away from Diana, who grinned, followed him, and wrapped both hands around his forearm. “Oh, Di,” Stuart said, getting melty. Diana snickered. Stuart tried and failed to rouse the energy to get away from her, and she slipped one hand down to hold his hand.

“So this is why you wanted me to hold your hand all the time?” Diana asked.

“Can I have a kiss?” Stuart asked.

“I don’t kiss liars or self-destructive maniacs,” Diana replied handily.

“Sorry,” Stuart said, looking almost ashamed of himself.

“Oh, sweetie, I think if you were sorry, you’d stop doing it,” Diana pointed out. Stuart could not think of anything to say in reply to this.

You’re reading Victor Poole, and in my current novel, we are hearing about how Quentin and his spouse became a couple.

Partial Study

sketch 84

This is a halfway finished study of someone’s cool fantasy photography, because I am in dire need of armor and tack practice for heavy horses.

Aaaaand this is what happens next with Diana:

Sample

Stuart’s Lies

“I don’t think that’s true, babe. I mean, Diana. I don’t—I don’t feel safe around you!” Stuart said, his body making a distinctly agonized clench as his alien tattoo flamed so bright that Diana felt it was in danger of catching Stuart’s skin on fire.

“Sweetie, obviously I’m like an oasis of good feelings for you. Come on, now. Face the music and stuff. You’re in love with me and I make you feel safe. Go ahead and say that, just to see what your body does,” Diana said.

“I know what my body would do, thanks,” Stuart said, and he stooped and grabbed up his shirt, which he pulled over his head. The marks on his back were throbbing a violent crimson, and when the fabric of the shirt lay against them, smoke began to rise from Stuart’s back.

“Uh, take that off, honey,” Diana said, watching twists of smoke curl up from Stuart’s shoulder as he glared at her.

“No! I’m not going to walk around and be a shirtless boy for you, Di! You don’t even—oh, crap,” Stuart said, and his body went into a very interesting manner of seizure and folded up onto the pavement. Diana thought he looked as if he was in immense pain but not actually in any danger of dying, and she watched him jitter with helpless grunts on the pavement. “Help me?” Stuart gasped, shaking uncontrollably.

“Admit that I make you feel safe,” Diana said.

“Never, you—you girl!” Stuart gasped, and his body did a very unpleasant-looking bend, which caused Stuart to yell. His body grew still and he panted on the road, looking like a man who has just experienced pervasive ill-effects from an alien device implanted in his skin.

“Was that supposed to make me feel bad? Calling me a girl? Is that an insult or something?” Diana asked, putting her hands in her pockets and watching Stuart try to catch his breath.

“It’s supposed to make you feel bad for being so heartless, leaving me here in the middle of the road—hey, wait!” Stuart exclaimed, for Diana, when confronted with the irony of a Stuart calling her cruel for standing nearby while he tortured himself with obstinacy against alien tech, found she had other places to be.

Diana walked towards her house, and in a few minutes Stuart jogged up behind her letting out several agonized noises with every footfall.

“You’re a jerk, Stu. You said you’d be nice and stuff. You lied again,” Diana remarked, ignoring the way he angled his body towards her.

“Okay, you make me feel safe. Fine,” Stuart said, and he evidently felt so much instant relief in his body by saying the words that he sat down in the middle of the road with a groan. “Wait, Diana!” Stuart called, sounding as if he’d made a cozy spot for himself on the pavement.

Diana kept walking. She heard Stuart groan again, though this time with impatience instead of relief, and his steps soon followed her once more.

You’re reading Victor Poole, and in my current novel, Quentin is explaining how he attained to his current position in life.

Previous Horse Sketch, New Color

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This is a sketch I’ve colored in before, but I saved the sketch and did another trial. I want to do it a third time and experiment more with the lighting.

But here is the next part of Diana’s adventure:

Sample

Further Remarks

“So why were you trying to detach from me, Stu? You said you wanted to make the marks disappear. How come, if you care about me so much?” Diana asked.

“Well, obviously I’m terrible for you, Diana. I mean, I’m a lousy guy, so to me, caring about you goes along with trying to get away from you. I feel like that’s a pretty logical outcome, is that I need to get away from you. That hasn’t been working out for me so far, seeing as we might be the last people left and I’m too scared to get stuck in a tube again. I mean, I could do a few things to make the aliens come and get me but I—”

“So do that. If you really mean it and you want to get away from me, why don’t you get away from me? Or is it that you don’t really care and you’re using me because you care about yourself?” Diana asked.

“I love you,” Stuart said, sounding irritable. The tattoo stayed blue. Stuart jumped into a question, and Diana suspected he thought she would be pushed off-balance by the suddenness of the way he asked. “Who’s Kevin? Who did you think I was when—well, when you couldn’t see me before? I kissed you, baby. That was me kissing you. Who did you think I was?” Stuart asked.

“Oh, I knew it was you, hon. That was me giving you a taste of your own medicine, with the lying. How’d you like it?” Diana asked with a grin. The marks on Stuart’s skin, to Diana’s great interest, vanished and became quite flesh-colored. She could not see them at all, and she reached out and touched the part of Stuart’s shoulder where they had been. Stuart flinched, and the marks flooded back into view, gleaming a wild, incandescent green. Diana stopped touching Stuart.

“Please don’t run away from me,” Stuart said. His marks turned orange, though he made no sign that he was in pain.

“This is fascinating, Stu. And usually you’re the one who runs away, you know,” Diana said.

“Yeah, I know,” Stuart said. His marks throbbed crimson and his muscles went rigid. Diana suspected he was in a lot of agony, though he made no sound.

“Why are you just standing there? What’s going on with you, that you didn’t spin around and glare at me or something, when you found out I lied?” Diana asked, reaching out and touching the largest red mark, which immediately turned brown and then emerald. The green color spread out like ripples in a pool, changing the other red marks to brown and then to a shimmering green. “Also, you really like me, Stu. I think I make you feel safe,” Diana remarked.

You’re reading Victor Poole, and in my current novel, the third commander and his project are having a quiet evening at (relative) home.