SEO and Click-Bait, but Then THIS Happened

Writing a personal blog is easy. Creating blog posts in the hopes of directing potential customers to my work isn’t too challenging. Finding a balance between genuine content that reads like it comes from a thinking, feeling person with things to say AND satisfying the SEO bots at the same time, though? That’s hard.

Stylized doodle of a snake with a purple glow to make the SEO bot happy

The SEO thingy says that including an image will improve the article’s ranking in the search engines. Here’s a snake I drew.

The Internet is bloated with crap from content farms: articles that only exist to jack up the site’s search engine ranking and drive clicks to product pages. There’s no real substance to most of these; they simply cram a bunch of keywords and descriptive links together and pad them with sentences to make it look like an article. You’ve read them. I’ve written them. It felt dirty. It seems like easy money at first, but every time I take these little jobs, all my enthusiasm for writing just wilts away (not to mention my faith in humanity) and it takes me two hours to write 500 words.

How much can one really say about pet-carriers or USB adapters, anyway, without getting blatantly repetitive? How many different ways can I find to say that Virgo needs to unclench?

Occasionally there’s an interesting research assignment. One time I spent all day learning about lyme disease for a thousand-word article (sorry, SEO bot, I don’t have the link). Had I written it for a class, it would have been an A+. I think I made $30.

The SEO Bot Says I Need A Sub-Heading

Anyway, my point is not to whinge about cringy stuff I’ve had to do for money. My point is that I really hate the fact that click-bait and content farms exist at all and that anyone creating real, personal content has to keep trying to shout over all the marketing fluff if they want to get seen. I want to make money with my art and writing, sure, but does it have to feel so icky?

I know that Ayn Rand’s ideas aren’t too popular, but I’ve never forgotten one scene from The Fountainhead. A brilliant artist was facing poverty, so he had to take a job painting insipid little mass-produced sculptures. The creative constraints began to drive him crazy, and he started adding tiny little personal touches to stave off the repetitive blandness: a wall-eye here, a sinister twist to the mouth there. Each piece became a subtle fuck-you to the ubiquitous mediocrity that values production and consumption over originality and excellence.

Money ruins everything. Please click my links and give me some money.

The Tiniest of Termaters

Here’s a post that’s just something from my daily life and it’s not about art at all. Except gardening is an art, I suppose, in a way. And I don’t garden very much in my daily life. But I’m trying to take care of Grandma’s garden for her, and I’m not very good at it, but I did find this ITTY BITTY ADORABLE MUTANT cherry tomato today (pictured next to a normal-size cherry tomato).

So this post is about art that I’m not good at but somehow still managed to discover something really cool amidst the mess I made out of it.

And then I ate it.

Close up of my hand holding a normal cherry tomato and an ITTY BITTY TINY MUTANT cherry tomato

A Gaming Map, of Which I Am Quite Proud

I love D&D. I’ve been playing since 1986, and I still play 2nd Edition. The pandemic has been horrible, but one silver lining for me was that I discovered online D&D. I’ve been designing graphic assets for my homebrew games for a year and a half now, and here’s one that I’m pretty happy with.

My group uses Roll20. They have this thing called “Fog of War” that lets the DM hide certain areas of the board from the players, but it’s pretty ugly: all it does is make big black spots over the whole thing (yes, I know how to use dynamic lighting). For my latest campaign, I’m sending the players into a ruined town in a beautiful forest in autumn. The buildings they haven’t found yet are hidden by trees–not big black spots. So I decided to make my own “Forest of War.”

First I drew the buildings, and Photoshopped a colorful forest around them.

Map of ruined town in the woods

Then I created small groups of trees that could be moved around, and put them over the buildings.

Map of ruined town in the woods, mostly hidden by trees

You can tell which trees can be moved here because the background hadn’t finished loading in on Roll20 yet when I took this screen shot. Fortuitous!

So when it’s all together, there’s no way the players can tell where the buildings are–until they get close enough to one and I move the trees!Map of ruined town in the woods, mostly hidden by trees

You can see they’ve already discovered one of the buildings. I did a fun thing with those, too. I didn’t want to make a separate map for each building: changing maps would be a pain, and I wanted them to always have the expanded overview of the area. I decided to make removable roofs, and just move those over to show the interiors when the players declare that they’ll enter a building.

Once the whole thing is in Roll20, I fill it with props, the characters wander in, and HA! They get attacked by a couple of giant spiders hiding in the woodpile. HOURS OF FUN!

Ruined building filled with props and PCs' positions inside

 

Actual Content

I suppose I should post something besides things I wish you’d buy, or posts about how I’ll be posting better posts soon.

Are you afraid of getting old? I’ve come to terms (mostly) with the idea that I’ll most likely be old someday sooner rather than later. It’s okay; it’s just a thing that happens to everyone who survives long enough. But getting old? Facing the mental and physical deterioration? That doesn’t look so appealing.

My husband Corvin and I are live-in caretakers for my grandma. She’s going to be 103 next week. That’s old. She was doing fine up until a couple of years ago, but now she needs 24-hour assistance, and watching this downward spiral day-by-day is…daunting. Her mental faculties took a major dip over the weekend. No one can figure out what broke. She’s been in the hospital for two days now, getting poked and prodded and complaining that she wants to go home. She’s irritated and I don’t blame her. I’m not expecting a cure, but I hope they figure out what happened so we can make a plan for dealing with it.

What about death? Are you afraid of death? I’m not afraid to be dead–I’m pretty sure that there are only two possibilities for what happens to us after death: The Big Nothing, or The Thing You Really Believe. If it’s the former, it won’t matter. If the latter, it’ll be pretty cool. I’m good with it. But the process of dying? That makes me nervous. Will it hurt? Will it be embarrassing? Will I even be aware of what’s happening? (Do I want to be?) Will I finish even half of the things I want to do here before then?

So many question marks.

Corvin and I took advantage of the “night off” when Grandma went into the hospital and had ourselves an evening walk by the river. Here’s a pretty sunset. Sunset over a river with dramatic storm clouds rolling off

 

WIP: Ornamental thing

The gold disk is a photograph of a detail from my first Christmas ornament that my dad bought in the hospital gift shop when I was born. I’m still playing around with this–not sure if I like the spiral, but the background (a painting I did in art school) is cool.

Yesterday I wasted a lot of time trying to apply this to products in a POD store, but it doesn’t look right on anything and I really kind of hate POD stores anyway.

Gold sun-like disk with a whispy spiral against a blue-and-black blobby background

The Gri’x is Online (again)

If you think my portfolio site has had a lot of incarnations, here’s the latest version of another one that I keep re-vamping. Is it finally done? NO! No, it isn’t. And it probably never will be. But it’s fun and I like doing it.
The Gri'x LogoThat’s right, The Gri’x is back online! THRILL to the hundreds of wiki pages! WALLOW in the stories and poems of the Scriptures! WONDER why the footer is still acting so wonky on some pages! Yes, THE GRI’X! My favorite setting for dreaming and tale spinning and stream-of-consciousness rambles! Now with its own shiny new URL!

A Couple o’ Glyphs

Usually when I start a new portfolio site I get overwhelmed with uploading and labeling decades’-worth of everything I’ve ever made, but this time I want to start off with something kinda new.

Ok, they’re not exactly NEW-new, but the pretty effects are new, and I’m going to be using them as part of a new project. These are two of forty-eight mysterious magical glyphs that have started to show up in Lausperia, my homebrew D&D world (stay tuned for more of that).

Yellow glyph magically floating above wooden disk (digital effects)Glyph burned into wooden disk (digital effects)

I made the original physical glyphs with shrinky-dink film, colored pencils, and markers. Then I scanned them and fiddled around in Photoshop.

48 glyphs arranged on a tray

They can be used as divination tools, a written language, and sigils in magic spells.

In the make-believe fantasy game world, that is.

Of course they’re not real magical tools.

Of course not.

That would be silly.

An Arting

In the interests of science, I am testing this new gallery plug-in. Behold! Here is some art.

Oh hey

YES, I’m starting over with a fresh new WP install. Wow, this template is awful. Who chose that greenish-gray totally non-threatening pastel background for the default theme? Yuck. Talk about making a non-statement. I’m on it!

LATER: Ah, that’s better. Good old Twenty-Eleven. My favorite. I really hate the new themes, with pictures all the way across the screen, flipping around as you try to scroll through and generally being a nuisance.

STILL LATER: So what am I planning to do with the site this time (other than fixing the background images and all the other custom stuff I still have left to do)? Welp, it’ll probably be a lot like all the other times I set up a WP site for my portfolio. This time I’m hoping I’ll be able to maybe actually complete all the info for the art in the portfolios. Regular new content would be nice, too, just in case I ever get followers on Patreon (note to self: must renovate and reactivate the Patreon page). And getting THINGS in online shops and putting links up to said THINGS.

THING-LINKS.

THE LINKS TO BUY MY THINGS.

When I get them into the shops, that is.

That’s what.