Fifth Friday: March!

Hey, Hi, Hey, Hi, Howdy, Hello!

What a freaking semester, mates! Let me tell you, I wasn't entirely certain I'd make it out of this semester in one piece... or well, passing. It's a little touch-and-go and scary for me, on a very serious and personal level. I'm actually just barely on the cusp of having my cushion of chapters anymore these days, yet I've still managed to hold out and I'm really proud of myself. I have a month left to go and it's not getting any easier, but at least I can see the end of the tunnel.

So I thought, for funsies, I'd share a bit of the behind the scene work that goes into making each of my chapters, in particular ones that relate to the upcoming chapters you'll be seeing (or have seen, in some cases). I'm going to do a small share for each story, and then one for the overall lore of it. 

Let me take you into my head for a bit, and maybe you'll have fun! 

So, a fun-fact is I go through several rounds of... "production processing" (if you will) before producing a chapter. My general structure is
  1. Brainstorming
  2. Writing
  3. Formatting
  4. CC Creation/Building (if applicable)
  5. Pose-making
  6. Screenshot taking
  7. Editing
  8. Final formatting
  9. Posting process
*Exhales deep breath* phooo! That's a mouthful!

Some threads are blacked out for privacy of their owner. 😉

My main source of brainstorming happens on Discord on a private server of mine where I do a mass dump of my ideas - all of them. Ideas I like, ideas I can't shake away, ideas that hit me at 4am, ideas that end up trashed-then untrashed-then retrashed, the list goes on. Today and maybe on future 5th Fridays, I'll share a few with you. 

Be warned: in the cases they are screenshots I will be censoring out spoiler material! Also, these are brain dumps so I don't often use proper grammar and spelling/full sentences. 

Where the Willow Walks: Brainstorming
Spoilers up to Chapter 18!

This is my most recent one I've been working on, so I figured it'd be easier to start here. Plus I had my 5th Friday in mind while brainstorming that one and had the good notion to grab some screenshots of the way things usually go down.

So I was in the midst of writing what will be the next Willow chapter to be released (20... the big 2-0 *mind blown*), I got a tug from Luken amidst my third scene. When I write I try to fully flesh out my characters so I can have "conversations" with them, it lets me feel out their personalities as if they were real people, as opposed to two-dimensional objects. As such, it leads me into very... interesting conversations: 

It was shortly after this he derailed my chapter and sent me on a seriously wonderful spree of flashbacks. 
Worth it? Most certainly.
And you'll find that out in what? Two weeks? Mhm!
Robert's struggles that occurred in Chapter 20 also spilled out into the brainstorm:

You'll find I pick on Robert a lot. I love my precious child.
As my own French improves, Robert's does too. The joke of that phrasing was "Je sens mal" is "I smell bad" as opposed to "Je me sens mal" is "I FEEL bad." 
So you know, have some French funnies. 
Almost as good as the Un Deux Trois Cat race joke. 
What? Haven't you heard of that one? 

Explanation: it's in the pronunciation of each. "Quatre" (four, in French) sounds like "Cat" with a soft trill at the end, and "Cinq" (five in French) is pronounced very similar to "sank." So the Un Deux Trois cat sank! 

Hey look French jokes, maybe you learned something new today? Net positive! 

I'll even go further to show some of my brainstorming processes for those who are curious by showing what it looks like when I'm actually feeling out a chapter. I started thinking of how I wanted to start Chapter 21, for instance: 

So now we're entering the tentative range. Things that will most likely happen, but aren't actually set in stone as I'm feeling out the flow and general emotions I want each chapter to give off.

Which continues on here, because I don't have screenshot access for miles:

So there you go, *snort* that's a look inside the horribly messy brain's vomit that will eventually turn into a fantastic chapter. 
Or mediocre chapter, depending on your critiques. 

Song of the Nightingale: Underwater Photo Edits

I've had a great deal of fun getting to mess about with editing water all throughout Nightingale... and some instances have worked better than others. 

Chapter Two: The Night Has Just Begun
Chapter Eight: Ezekiel's Wife
Chapter Nine: Purpose
Chapter Thirteen: Ditto

Fifteen: Thanks for Being You
Sixteen: Taking Risks
Seventeen: Little Fish and the Conch Shell
This has ultimately lead me to my more latest style I'm trying out (who knows if I'll stick with it) but I find that I really enjoy using the light feature in GIMP.

As a note for my editing: I do almost all of my edits in GIMP. I'm a sucker for a free program, ok?
I also have a drawing tablet that I'll pull into Paint Tool SAI (a paid program I might've bummed off my best friend ever) for some specific edits like the ones you see in the car accident in Reapers: 

This seatbelt was hand-drawn in, yo!

But that's something else entirely with editing, what I'm showing off is my Dodge/Burn tool, which has very quickly become my favorite lighting tool that I probably overuse for shit but WHY NOT it's my party and I'll die if I want to.

The Dodge/Burn is two tools in one. Dodge is the normal use of the tool, to access Burn you have to hold CTRL down before clicking.
Let's see this on my image (unedited *gasp* shield your eyes):

Dodge lightens an area:

Burn darkens an area:

The combination of the two when used well (or well, what I feel is well in the moment that in a year from now I'll cringe when looking back on) can work well to create vivid water/light play.

Hadrian, Pretty Boy and Angst King, deserves only the best.

Thankfully for me, bubbles can be minimal with Hadrian 'round since he's not injecting AIR into the system that is water. I also tried to use actual underwater shots to guide me in how it might look, as I felt inclined to throw in bubbles because "it's water" but apparently that's not always the case:

This was my inspirational image for what guided me in the light department.
So, that's kind of what I've been doing/will keep doing for the later part of Eighteen!

The Reapers: Posing

I do a lot of posing.

A lot of posing.
I even offer some up for download! Though not very many, at the moment, due to time. I am taking requests though for specific poses I've done (if they're wanted) which you can see more details about in that thread.

And I usually do a fair amount of poses per chapter, though lately I've been leaning harder on other poses/older poses because I just haven't had much time.
Posing is a huge deal to me though as it portrays a lot of what I want out of my characters.
I can say a lot, but sometimes poses says more.
Here's a draft-to-post comparison on why I like having my own poses, taken from Where the Willow Walks Chapter 9: You Won't Last Here, which was a highly symbolic chapter for me and heavily emotional.

Hi, yes, those are my heartstrings. A lot easier to convey emotions this way, and it's especially important for me with big characters like Olivia and Kefka for portraying them just right. They have a very different couple dynamic than most couples and are extremely affectionate whenever possible.

Ezzie always prefers a more "relaxed" position when she's around friends.

More than that, since I have this beautiful meshing of big characters of mine (like Ezzie and, yes eventually, Quinn), I like to try and pull their own personalities through their mannerisms. I just can't do this easily without my own poses.

Olivia's mannerisms are what make her, her. Upcoming pose for Chapter 1.05.

I use Blender and various plugins to help make this work, which isn't always easy, as within the last year an NVidia driver absolutely borked my Blender, or rather did. I went back and haven't updated since, but my husband was awesome enough to port over the tools I need for posing in Blender.
I just have to be brave enough to finally update.

Posing isn't a very difficult process, so much as it is time consuming, and maybe one day (if there's interest) I can show others how to pose in Blender.

Kefka and Olivia's pose from Reapers 1.03: Maybe.

The truth of the matter is, posing looks a lot more complicated than it actually is. Once you get the hang of the controls, then it's just a matter of getting good enough to bang out poses in a short amount of time. My first poses used to take me an hour to do just one or two, and now I can have out 20 or so in an hour, depending on the intensity of the pose's requirements.

Like, for example, so I have to painstakingly make them hold hands fingers laced because Kefka and Olivia are affectionate like that? That's going to take more time than, say, a single person pose, sitting down on a couch like Ezzie's picture earlier.

At the end of the day though, these little extra pieces are what makes the characters come to life:

While sometimes I nearly tear my hair out trying to make the poses, I'm always happy with the results, and without them... well Agnes couldn't do her little dance, could she?

Pose pack of Agnes's dancing poses is my next project to be released when I finally have a spare minute to breathe, which isn't very frequently these days.

Faction of the Lost Ones: CC Creation/Building

Yes emphasis on the building portion here, as I've not needed to make any CC.
Actually. I lie, I've made plenty of CC, but I do it in a very half-assed manner because school and life so I wasn't recording anything as I did it. One day I'll make something nice and maybe even offer it (as if I'll ever think it's good enough *snort*)

Yet really my emphasis in Factions has been building, and I've built/refurbished quite a few buildings that I'm very proud of, for example:

Agonin's Home Base, Monte Vista

And here's the two I'll give you a tour around since they'll be coming up a fair bit and I've not yet got a chance to really show them off:

The Dance Studio

The Diner/Jonnie's Apartment

So starting with the Dance Studio that Sol and Jonnie frequent, top downs first:

This massive dance studio boasts two stages and two practice areas, several "dressing" areas, a make-up/costume area, an office, and more... plus I'm pretty damn proud of the stages, ok?
Some internal, unseen-before shots:

Upper stage waiting area for entry to concerts.

Upper stage balcony seating.


Dressing Room 


Lower stage.

Curtains are drawn for this one, but I do have the ability to move them and open them up for performances!
The second one is the diner/Jonnie's house. Top-down, then diner pictures first:

Then the upstairs apartment which Jonnie lives out of:

Slight spoiler warning for upcoming chapters:

Sol will be moving in!

So yes, a lot, a lot of time and effort goes into building and decorations. I like to painstakingly make every place look real and lived-in as just part of the charm, and this is just a taste of what's been done! I'll have a lot to do, of course, but it's fun and hopefully it's kinda fun to look at!

Sorry I don't have better pictures of the apartment, I'm pretty tired so getting new pictures isn't really that easy!

The World of Atalan: Outlining the Continental Divide

I don't have a lot of pictures for this part, so bear with me! Hopefully it's not too boring for you!

I ended up having a really neat and revealing brainstorm several weeks back that I wanted to put words to for fun in a way that's actually canon, as this is more world-based than story-based. I don't know if I've specifically outlined to anyone in particular that the world is named Atalan. I've just naturally referred to that whenever I post chapters or talk in general about the world, but I don't think I've actually outright said, hey, yes, this is the name of the world as a whole.

So you know, let's put a canon stamp down on that.

Those of you who have read through and are caught up on Where the Willow Walks will be familiar with the chapter where Robert and Professor Luken went over the different countries and the gods that live there (if any). I'm going to take this lesson one step further, so those who already read it... SORRY! I'm going to pretend you've not, if only because I can't be certain everyone's read Willow.

So here's our map of Atalan:

Keep in mind that this map is quite subject to change, as I have a fair bit of tweaks here and there as I uncover more about each country and cities and what have you.

Do I cringe at keeping some of the names I did? Yeah, a bit, but we're here now. In fact, this map you see above you isn't entirely accurate, as there's a second name to Sunlit Tides that was included properly in the map used in Chapter 18 of Willow.

If you're very astute, you'll notice there's two more names written by Sunlit Tides, and that's because the main language there is character-based. In the Latinized form, it's "Taiyou" or "ta-i-yo-u." Sunlit Tides is now the "English-associated" name for that island country, so it's still accurate, but those who call it home will refer to it as "Taiyou" or 太陽.

So let's do some geography. Atalan consists of two major continents and several island nations. The continents are named Almir and Respen, and are denoted as such:

For those who have wonky images/hard of sight/just want me to be redundant (you know who you are 😏)...
Almir is the leftmost continent, and hosts:
  • Midnight Hollow; predominant language - English.
  • Bridgeport; predominant language - English.
  • Hidden Springs; predominant language - English/Nymphen/Valleyman.
  • Twinbrook; predominant language - English.
  • Roaring Heights; predominant language - English.
  • Starlight Shores; predominant language - English.
  • Moonlight Falls; predominant language - English/Nymphen.
Respen is the rightmost continent, and hosts: 
  • Egypt; predominant language - Egyptian.
  • Dragon Valley; predominant language - English/Nymphen/Celtic.
  • Lucky Palms; predominant language - English/Egyptian/French/Deutsche.
  • Appaloosa Plains; predominant language - English/Deutsche.
  • China; predominant language - Chinese/English.
  • France; predominant language - French.
  • Monte Vista; predominant language - English/Montivan.
The Island Countries, for consistency, are: 
  • Lunar Lakes; predominant language - English.
  • Isla Paradiso; predominant language - Spanish(to be renamed)/English.
  • Sunlit Tides; predominant language - Nihongo/English (in tourist areas).
  • Barnacle Bay; predominant language - English/Spanish (to be renamed). 
  • Siren's Cove; predominant language - English/Hallë.
  • Aurora Skies; predominant language - Norsk/English.
The language listed first is the true predominant language, the following are just languages also spoken there. Also subject to change over time.

So yes, now you're familiar with the continents, let's do a little review with the gods that are on each continent. Most will know by now, as I think I cover it in just about every story, there are 15 gods in the pantheon, and 18 gods in total - the 3 sisters of time are not included and are being reserved for a lesson on another day. 

For now, we'll just take a look at our human gods. 
What's that? Human? 
*coughs*they're replaceable*coughs*
Each have a domain that they call their own, though it's not always in the same realm as the human realm (in this case with this pantheon, it is), and not all gods take land, or at least, they're not required to. It makes life a lot easier for them, but Majnun did fine and well for a solid 1000+ years before settling down, and depending on what story you're reading, Majnun may or may not have yet found himself a home (looks at Willow). 

So here's the map AGAIN with a view of the gods territories: 

Pulling this straight from my Where the Willow Walks chapter as it's just easier, and time is just too precious of a commodity for me these days. I tried to color coordinate as best as I could, but there's only so many shades of fuchsia/magenta/pink/purple I can do! 
  • Midnight Hollow is Majnun's (God of Magic, also known as God of Insanity) contested territory as of Willow Chapter 18.
  • Bridgeport is Malice's (God of Night) domain. 
  • Sunset Valley is Adessa's (Goddess of Betrayal) domain, she also has a foothold in Barnacle Bay.
  • Hidden Springs and some of the surrounding forests are Spinner's (God of Nature) territory.
  • Moonlight Falls belong to Seryna (Goddess of the Moon) and her Werewolf clans, they have another holdout in Sunlit Tides, but it's not "technically" considered owned by her.
  • Starlight Shores is Ambar's (Goddess of Fate) domain. 
  • Egypt belongs to Sanja (Goddess of Dreams). 
  • Lucky Palms is Vinyx's (God of Debauchery) domain.
  • France currently holds the Library of the Knowledge and the God of Knowledge's Domain.*
  • Monte Vista is a shared domain between Agonin (God of Order) and Carule (God of Love). 
  • Siren's Cove is (obviously) Calypso's (Goddess of the Sea) domain.
  • Aurora Skies is Taelagor's (God of Elements) domain, though he also has a foothold in Sunlit Tides, Dragon Valley, and Riverview. 
  • The small island off the coast of Lunar Lakes is Harkon's (God of Death) domain.
  • Isla Paradiso is Eravaeral's (Goddess of Lust and Beauty) domain.
*Obviously I had to put a note here because depending on which story you're reading right now, the God of Knowledge is different. (shrugs) Beats me, I have no idea why. This writer is nuts and now there's two of them at different points of the timeline... what is she trying to hint to? She crazy.

So now the fun stuff: this is a lot of information, but based off the type of gods living in the area I've been able to determine the technological advancement of specific countries (and well, it's mostly continent based, I've found) as well as their likelihood to be religious/superstitious. 

In short, what you may have noticed you wonderful readers of Willow you (hint, hint) that there's not a lot of technological advancement where Robert is. Growing up in Dragon Valley, well, he was lucky to have some pipe system configured, but no electricity. On the other side of the world, though, in, say, Roaring Heights (Jacob's home) - not only is there electricity and movies, but skyscrapers and radios. 

There's a fairly interesting reason for this, and this trend is very much similar across most of Respen, my rightmost continent. Dragon Valley is very mountainous and the villages do not get many visitors, so they've been quite isolated and have a very different set of beliefs from, well, most of the world. (You ever wonder why Robert's mom was the only one to talk about "the Greatest Creator" out of all my stories? Her father was a Vallian - valley born and bred. Her mother was French - that's a whole story for another day, though) They've been mostly unspoiled since the last god that claimed the area as their domain, which was many, many, many hundreds if not thousands of years ago. They're very religious and spiritual because of this, but in a more distant way than many of their neighbors. For example, they don't worship Agonin himself, but rather "The God of Order." They see the faces of gods as quite interchangeable, and prefer to view them as a force instead.

Then on the other continent we've got all this crazy advancement in building and technology. Almir hosts the two biggest cities in the entire world: Bridgeport City (Bridgeport), and Roaring Bay (Roaring Heights). They've come together to elect a continent-wide language to make for easier travel (English) and have ultimately embraced science, technology, and engineering. They're the frontrunners for electricity, radio, TV is in the works in Willow's timeline already, movies, cinema, the list goes on and on! And this  wasn't kept to themselves, no, they did spread it as far as they could - even trying to spread it all throughout their neighboring continent Respen. Respen took a lot of these initiatives... at first... but then...

Egypt, China, and France especially have actively avoided technological advancement to the point of throwing it away after receiving it. These countries are ones that have the ability to have electricity, radios, etc, but choose not to. Sounds crazy, right? But it's a little deeper than you might think and it all relates to the gods. Appaloosa plains and Lucky Palms both did embrace some technology - more than Egypt, China, and France, as they're mostly land-locked and the technology proved to be worthwhile. China ended up keeping some English throughout it's villages/cities because the alphabet was similar to that of their neighbors and made it easier to communicate. 

So why did Respen, for the most part, throw it all away? 
The answer is: the gods.

Almir is the hub of scientific advancement and technology - and it's really no wonder when you look at what gods made that place their home. The Goddess of Fate, Ambar, is in a constant war with Calypso (Goddess of the Sea) for fun - trashing towns, killing innocents. Seryna (Goddess of the Moon) is a very careful goddess who focuses most of her effort on her Werewolf Clans and keeping the humans at bay from hunting them. Majnun is... Majnun. (God of Magic) I mean I could leave it there but Majnun isn't a god who runs out to help others. He's selfish and a hermit on his best days and a troublemaker who starts wars on his worst. Malice (God of Night) runs a vampire hierarchy who see humans only as food sources and nuisances. Adessa is the Goddess of Betrayal like do I even need to elaborate on her? Her latest scheme (a-la Reapers, as you've been getting light hints about) is that she's getting enjoyment in making the humans of Sunset Valley believe the gods don't even exist and keeping them isolated from the outside world. Finally, Spinner is a goddamn hermit. He's God of Nature and literally cares only for his plants. If you're not a plant, you're dead to him.

Basically, the gods on Almir are fucked. It's no wonder they've run and embraced the shit out of technology and science, it's their only reliable way forward

Respen, on the other hand? Agonin, the God of Order, is the sole biggest human activist. Every soup kitchen, orphanage, and homeless shelter across the world is likely his doing. He handles world crises, and is the face of the gods. He prevents wars. Sanja, the Goddess of Dreams, guards the Dream Realm, which is a realm that sits between the spirit realm and the human realm. As such, it's prone to getting shades (also known as empties) or tricky spirits that want to pry into the heads of humans to absorb their energies. All humans have that connection in their mind to the spirit realm, and it's through the dream realm that everyone has dreams at night. When they sleep, their minds are susceptible to dreams, which are good, but also to those that would wish harm on them, which are not so good. Sanja and her followers are the ones who guard the doors and keep the empties/shades/trickster spirits out.

Carule is the god of love and marriage. He's a matchmaker! He runs domestic abuse shelters across the world and is an advocate for helping others find the person who suits them best. Then the last two: the God of Knowledge who has endless supplies of information and knowledge to keep people safe and educated as well as Vinyx (God of Debauchery) who's followers are more like wish-granters and genies than anything else... Respen's whole existence currently is based on a group of gods who only wish to help and are fun or beneficial to them. They only see the good sides the gods bring. They see protection, hope, security... they don't need technology, and in some countries like the ones I mention, they see technology as the opposite of their spiritual sides. Almost all countries will be/have adapted to electricity and basic necessities, but this will change what you see in specific countries and how "behind" they are in certain aspects of technology.

Almir embraces science, on the whole, while Respen embraces magic. This is the shit I live for uncovering, and hopefully it shows in my writing when there's travel to different places.

So yeah... that's my head on a daily basis. Constantly chewing through these things and turning them over so I can unlock new stuff... I dunno, so hopefully you found this interesting!

Happy end of March, everyone!
Lots of love,


  1. This was just the BEST
    Yes inject me with ATALAN LORE
    Really, this was incredibly informative. I absolutely ADORE the depth and diversity of your stories and how they intertwine.
    The amount of effort you put into your story, in the sets, the characters, the poses ALONE to show off their personnalities is MIND-BLOWING. I'm in absolute awe and I adore this behind the scenes you've given us, and I just want more haha!!
    If i wasn't already I'm so in it for any and all stories of Atalan.
    Thank you for LETTING us go on this journey with you heh

  2. Such a cool look at your creative process! I totally agree with Blams -- even though I've only just started reading, the effort you put into making this universe real is incredible, and so far I'm just enjoying taking it all in!

  3. So much content... brain exploding...
    I love the brainstorming thing, I do the same! Though I don't tend to have conversations with my characters, just write out bits and pieces of their convos :P And then I save it all in one giant Google Doc and can reorder and refine stuffs and sort them into actual fics/chapters. TBH I'm kind of jealous that your characters talk to you, though, it would make things so much easier if mine would just TELL me what they want.

    And then all the stuff about the world is just amazing. As blams said, the depth is brilliant. I freaking love how you weave the gods into the world of the humans/normals so seamlessly without getting all religious on us. And lmao, one continent embraces technology because the gods are fucked up. Best explanation ever.

    Don't necessarily agree with you about words not being able to convey the same thing as pictures/poses... but you would need a whole lot more words to express one picture, that is true. We'll just have to agree to disagree about the picture thing. ;)

  4. The Discord idea is kind of genius when things come as stream of consciousness, plus it's accessible across all devices unlike Notepad. It ain't plagiarism if no one sees it after all. ;)

    The dichotomy of Almir versus Respen is different than how I was reading it as, but I'm not gonna knock the concept either! It's the skeleton holding up great stories.