Webcomics and Graphic Novels, Fantasy and Sci-Fi by Mark Oakley!
is, Thieves &
engrossing self-published black-and white fantasy saga. [. . .] This is
a story for fans of Bone, Elfquest, Nausicaa, or Harry Potter to fall
in love with; highly recommended for teen and adult fantasy readers
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Posting a buncha page updates before I hit the road tomorrow!
(I'm going on an apartment hunting road trip through Quebec and New Brunswick. Woosh!)
Wolfville, Nova Scotia,
July 27th, 2017
University of New Brunswick
Wow. I'm in Fredericton!
What a nice drive! Only cost $36 in gas. Compact cars are kind of amazing.
It's been a long while since I've done a proper road trip, with a sleeping bag and supplies tucked in the trunk. I'm right now staying on the UNB campus in one of their dorms, which plays the part of youth hostel during the Summer months.
Man! UNB is a BEAUTIFUL university! It's like a modern Hogwarts built on a hillside overlooking the river. Walking through it looking for the admin building made me want to go back to school! It's so still and quiet with all the students gone, and it smells vaguely like the woods.
I'll take some pictures and post them later.
The comic shop was closed by the time I rolled into town, so I'll check that out tomorrow. Strange Adventures Fredericton!
-And what an odd hostel this is! I'm in a giant building with no front desk. Only a phone number, which I can't even use since I live in a perpetual stubborn state of sans-cellphone. I was wandering around the dark maze of hallways and rooms, and only ran into one other person, another guest looking as puzzled as me. It's a bit spooky...
Oh well. The key fits the room and there are clean sheets.
I might wander around town and come back for an early night and then be up and running tomorrow.
This is SO cool, btw! I've not had a proper adventure in ages! Things are waking up inside of me I'd forgotten were there.
Also, around 4 AM last night, I woke up with an intense desire to cut off the bulk of my giant mass of hair which has been following me around in pony-tail form for a couple of years now. So I did! The Box Cutter Special. (The result elicited noises of surprise from a couple of people on my way through Wolfville as I saw to the last couple of chores which needed doing before I could leave town). I *feel* different. I feel something changing...
Ain't got no strings to hold me down...
Fredericton, New Brunswick,
August 1st, 2017
Strange Adventures, Fredericton
Well, I spent a nice (sleepy) afternoon at Strange Adventures. Jason (the manager) was like a New Brunswick Cal! What a nice guy! Very mellow and friendly! Thanks, Jason, for welcoming me on such short notice.
-They cleared off a table and I hauled in my box of tricks and set up a small book display.
Tuesdays are a slow browsing kind of day in the comics world, as things wind up for the Big Wednesday New Comics Day, but I nonetheless found myself chatting for three hours with a variety of folks. Fredericton would *definitely* make a great home base for a comics-driven lifestyle like mine!
Thanks again, guys!
Fredericton, New Brunswick,
August 1st, 2017
Yesss! I'm off to my very first couchsurf experience, (as a guest rather than a host, that is).
This organic farm worker on just this side of the St. Lawrence sea way -with a ton of glowing references has invited me to stay at his place! -He sounds like many of the best of the best Wolfville dudes, into eco-friendly living and an active lifestyle. I can't wait!
I was getting a bit worried as this day drew to a close and my plans were becoming increasingly, "Well, I could fold back the car seat and I have a blanket..."
Fredericton, New Brunswick,
August 1st, 2017
Have Pencil, Will Travel!
August 2nd, 2017
I spent a good part of the morning driving too far. -I had the whole day all planned out nicely; drive down the coast of the St. Lawrence to the next big(ish) city, and catch the afternoon ferry at 3:00. I left early, (I wrote a note to my couchsurf hosts and left them a couple of those really nice chocolate bars to find when they got home from work), and I figured I'd have two or three hours to sight-see before the ferry check-in time.
-You have to book in advance and then check in 60 minutes before the ferry leaves or they mightily ding your credit card. But no problem, I arrived in great time and had a really nice and relaxed tour around the place. I ate some genuine Poutine. (I allow myself this a couple of times a year!).
I began to get a funny feeling. (Not fry and gravy related).
Turns out I'd overshot the ferry terminal by a whole freakin' city, and had half an hour to back track all the way up the coast to where I was booked to cross. Wow! (To be fair, there are only a few ferry crossings indicated on the provincial road map, and the one I found myself at wasn't on it. So it was a stupid, albeit, honest mistake.)
Okay. So then I'm cranking it up the highway to get to the real ferry dock on time, and pulled in just as they were starting to load cars on board.
But I had another funny feeling...
It was ANOTHER wrong ferry. -But the town name was the same as the street name I needed to find in the next town up the road... Whatever. Basically I suck at maps. There's no excuse.
So then I was beginning to lose my Zen Calm, (as Jenny would say).
Long story short(ish).
I made it and crossed the sea way and it's all good.
Pictured below is me with "A funny feeling".
The other is a lousy picture of the amazing view while crossing. Charlevoix is epic. I mean, we all *know* this stuff is in Canada, but until you're there...
August 3rd, 2017
The Motel Blues
So I just found a motel. It's in a new building with a fresh sign on the road side. I blew past a camp ground before I realized what it was, and figured I'd turn back to check it out. I just wanted to find out the price for the motel.
A really excited couple came down to greet me. -I got the feeling that this was a new business venture for them, and there were hardly any cars in the parking lot so I don't know how well it's doing for them. They seemed very excited to have me show up, and they recited all the various details about their motel in imperfect English with a school project presentation-day kind of energy.
Anyway.., I reaaaaally need to learn my French numbers. I thought the desk clerk said $48. I thought, "What a deal!"
$120 was the readout when the debit card machine was in my hands. I looked up and they were all eager smiles. Screw it. I'm spending the night. I've been sleeping for almost free for the past week. I'll look for camp grounds tomorrow if I can't find another couchsurf!
Buuuuut, it does mean I get to sleep in style! With internet access and a chance to get my future plans together in peace and compile some pictures and all that good stuff.
Toward that end...
You gotta check out this crazy huge bay that Rimouski was built on. (That's the town I left this morning.) It sort of reminds me of Wolfville with all the low-tide mud, but bigger. Population: 50,000 (or thereabouts).
August 4th, 2017
Rock Climbing and Comics
Today was really cool!
I found a little comic/game/sword shop with a really friendly fellow at the cash who spent some time telling me all about the cool features of his town and why it is a great place to live.
I bought a couple of French comics, "Livre de bandes dessinées" and found that I was able to piece together fairly well what was going on. This is a great way to learn another language. In fact.., come to think of it, I learned how to read English from comics!
Then I was invited out by one of my host's roommates to her rock-climbing gym. -I wasn't allowed to try myself, (you need rented shoes, and they only rent to members after 8PM), but they let me sit and watch. -After I got bored reading a copy of Dragon Ball Z (in French) which happened to be sitting on the table, I pulled out my sketch stuff, and started trying to capture some of the Spiderman climbing poses of the gym members.
It was fun! Talk about gesture drawing! You don't even get 10 or 20 seconds; you only get a moment before the pose changes. I used a thick brush to throw down fast inks. Some of them looked really cool, and by the end, I was able to turn several of the climbers into solid character designs!
They were all really fun people, and one guy was quite excited by it all. I let him keep one of the pages with a really nice sketch of him. -Heavy shadows and lines, it could with a little work be turned into a logo or a tee shirt design.
Anyway.., that was great! Such friendly people!
I also met several people who are clones of folks I know in Wolfville. That happens frequently while traveling, I find, but one woman in particular I could have literally mistaken for somebody I already know! Weeeeeeird. And really neat!
Anyway... I'm off to bed. Fingers crossed on a response from one of the several couchsurfer hosts across the sea way!
August 4th, 2017
No. Not Here.
I'm on the road again!
I made it into "Ground Zero" of Charlevoix. -And that's not even hyperbole. -In another era or epoch or whenever, a massive impact event took place, leaving a 60km wide crater in the face of what is now Quebec!
-Apparently, biologists and geologists find the region interesting for study, because all the rocks and plant life were changed enough to warrant microscopes and such. How cool is that?? I thought if I move the Stardrop crew to another place to continue their story, that such a place lends itself perfectly to the narrative in some neat-o sci-fi ways!
Sadly, though... I don't think that's going to happen. My preference filters are on guard, you see...
The first town on my list of Charlevoix settlements is a place called "Malbaie".
-Which translates roughly as, "Bad Bay" or "Bay of Sickness". So... um, no thanks. I don't know exactly what that kind of place name would do to the subconscious lives of the folks living in the region, but I figure it can't be terribly healthy. Anyway, there's plenty of other places to live. Though, granted, Malbaie is super-pretty. They have this cute little farm market and cafe scene, (but I mean LITTLE. Like 15 vendors. Wolfville's farm market makes it look like a cardboard lemonade stand. Ah well...)
On to Baie-Saint-Paul!
Wow! It's a bigger town, and it looks amazing from above!. But driving through made me feel a strong sense of, "Nope". The vibe was all wrong. There seemed to be a lot of unhappy people shuffling around behind the flashy tourist front. The massive hospital complex seems to be the primary industry in town, aside from tourism. I just didn't connect and my tummy said, "No. Wrong. Get out of here! You have somewhere else to be!"
So onward again, I guess.
And feeling a little sad and lost, to be honest. (Though, that might have been the crappy ice cream I found at a grocery store and ate too much of. Never eat foods which make you feel sad.)
I switched on the radio and the first thing which came across the speakers was a song about raining and feeling like crap, just at exactly the same moment the sky slapped my windshield with a rain squall. Heh.
Anyway, I'm now in a Tim Horton's and feeling more positive. -Tim's, corporate roots aside, is probably one of the top three blessings for the Canadian traveller. Open 24 hours, free internet, hot coffee and not-bad food. And they're everywhere. Thank-you Tim!
So I'm sitting here and I just sent off a couchsurf request to a fellow in Quebec City. There are over a THOUSAND surfers there. I have good hopes of meeting somebody!
The pictures above are of the little Malbaie market and Baie-Saint-Paul from above. And the brooding mountain in the bay...
August 4th, 2017
Old Quebec City
Okay. So after driving through the belly of the beast, I emerged into what I was surprised to find was Old Quebec City.
The map I was following to the hostel neglected to mention that. Or rather, it probably didn't but my poor map skills weren't up to the task of determining that I'd be arriving in the heart of the real-world Highborn of Oceansend (from T&K). Built on a steep hill, covered in old stone buildings connected with those narrow, winding cobblestone streets so beloved by post-card publishers, Old Quebec City is a beautiful thing to behold and wander through.
The hostel website I'd checked before dejectedly setting out this afternoon informed me that they were full for the night, but I decided "What the heck? I might as well just show up and maybe there will have been a cancellation. What else am I gonna do at this point?"
-I'm discovering that my seat-of-my-pants complete lack of trip planning might not be the best way to navigate the world. Or maybe it's the perfect way; when Quebec rose on the horizon, my heart swelled with joy, -just the opposite of the feelings of misgiving I'd experienced earlier today.
The entrance foyer of the hostel was thick with damp tourists; a family from India in all-the-same disposable plastic ponchos, a clutch of Germans with excellent mountaineering all-weather wear and various people from various countries with umbrellas of all different types and sizes. And me in my wet shirt and backpack.
The fellow at the desk blinked at me in awe and told me that, Oh yes, they were quite full.
Having been through this sort of thing before, (and having sent Ashelle and Jen through the same experience in Stardrop), I asked hopefully if he might contact some of the other hostels in the area. He did so and, the second place he called had a room remaining. He laughed in happiness for me as he held the phone receiver and told me I wasn't going to be sleeping outdoors tonight. Cool! -And I'll be blowed if the room wasn't cheaper than the road side motel I'd left just this morning! A real bargain, in fact!
See the picture below. -I'm staying in a *beautiful* building, the interior seeping with history. I have a teeny little room to myself with a sink on one wall and a desk on the other, a full bed in between and balcony with a little set of chairs and a table beyond the window.
So that worked out well.
But that's just the prelude.
Check this out: While walking through the old city, through crowds of colourful tourists and dozens of little shops and such, I wistfully thought aloud, "Well, darn it. I now know where I want to move to. -Too bad these apartments are all probably a million dollars each!"
I found myself at the doors of a tiny comic shop I never knew existed, where the fellow at the desk, an amiable guy named Sam, informed me that, "No, actually, the apartments in Quebec are quite affordable. Cheaper than Montreal. Even in the old city if you want."
"Really?" (Skeptical). "But I have like 150 boxes of book stock. I need space."
"Yes, I only work here part time. I run a record label. Vinyl. I have many heavy boxes as well. I pay $650. Internet and power included."
I blinked at him in shock.
"If you'd come last month," he continued, "I could have gotten you a place big enough for your needs for $550. You just have to know people. I know lots of people."
I blinked again.
So yeah, I feel the universe laughing at me with twinkling eyes.
It's not all booked yet, not all decided. There is much to do and many steps to take. Things to discuss and no doubt, many more problems to navigate, but...
It looks like I've just been tapped on the shoulder by the Great Cosmic Mind and had it strongly suggested to me that it might be a good time to start drawing Thieves & Kings again.
My friend, Melissa Kelly, is quite correct with regard to these curious impulses and random trials and directions bubbling up from the heart and soul. From the Pull of the Tummy:
"Trust it all"
Okay. Off to find some dinner. I'll post some proper pics tomorrow. (The ones above aren't mine; I just pulled them off the internet.)
Have a great night everybody!
Quebec City, Quebec,
August 5th, 2017
Reality time! -I spent the day hiking around, doing the tourist thing. And sketching tourists. And.., kind of scoping out the possibilities for self-employed street artists. (Man! I don't know if I'd fit in all that well with that numerous bunch. Some of those artists are *really* good, -and I didn't see a lot of sales happening...)
Though, the dopey caricature craft was going strong. People like that sort of thing, I suppose. Cheap and fun. I guess I could practice up with a big fat Sharpie for some part-time work. Hmm. I dunno.
I had a long chat with Sam-in-the-comic-shop. Finding an apartment, even if it's in a good price range, is still going to be a big freakin' pain in the arse, all of which is compounded by my distance from Quebec. I may have to make more than one trip out here to get it done. -Though now that I've got a more precisely defined mission in mind other than "Somewhere on Planet Earth", I can at least start taking some steps which are a little more concrete than renting a car and just sort of driving around with a vaguely perturbed look on my face.
So tomorrow, I'm walking down this big boulevard where one of the hostel clerks said he saw a good apartment up for grabs. -It's about a half-hour walk from the center of all the really awesome castles and such, which (while I still need to check to make sure), my skeptical self is still betting are not in my price range by a fairly magnificent margin. -I just have that feeling, y'know?
But we'll learn more tomorrow! I'm booked at the hostel for one more night after this, and then I gotta start driving back home, (and yes, Nova Scotia is still HOME! -I want comfortable Wolfville pavement under foot again, and my own bed beneath my back. And my nice little apartment walls around me. Though.., (sigh) I need to remember that my apartment exists on distinctly borrowed time at this point, -and with the new window fixtures and my furniture not yet moved back from the renovation turmoil, it doesn't even *feel* like my place so much anymore. -Which is, of course, in a large part why I'm on this journey in the first place. Wolfville went and became too expensive for me, so.., I have to move to a big city? How the heck does *that* track?
Well, it tracks because the vast majority of working Canadians don't speak French and prefer to live where there is no language barrier, (and thus the lower prices).
Fortunately for me, I'm somewhat naturally inclined toward doing things the hard way, -plus there's lots of great comics published in French (you should SEE the little stack of books I'm bringing home!) -As well as a culture I'm rapidly becomming charmed by.
I mustn't forget the castles.
Okay. G'night everybody!
Quebec City, Quebec,
August 6th, 2017
Apartment Hunting - Ain't Got Nothing to Complain About!
I walked all over the place, taking pictures of "For Rent" ads in building windows, slowly pulverizing my feet and sort of maybe but possibly not really getting anywhere...
Apartment hunting is hard. Phoo.
-I do have a list of phone numbers now, and there's this one place I saw listed which looks almost doable, pictures posted online, on the far edge of my price range but juuuust big enough I think for me and all my boxes. But it's also a long way from the sorts of things I'd need to keep a life going. (Groceries and possible work opportunities not involving drawing...)
When I was finished with my lower city search route, I found a giant stairway which would bring me back up to the old city...
Man. I made it to the top -and felt pretty good about my state of cardiovascular health actually. -I was sharing the journey with a bunch of people in spandex and cross trainers, and I kept pace with them (more or less) in my jeans and heavy back pack.
If I end up living at the foot of the mountain, I'll either be in damned good shape within a year, or will simply have resigned to living in the mountain's shadow. Or knowing the bus schedule by heart.
In any case... It has been a long, hot day, -like every other day I've spent searching for apartments. I don't think this ever changes. It's always with a heavy heart and a heavy sigh that I sit down again and wonder at my fate. -Before looking around at the thousands of people around me and realizing that every last one of us must deal with these kinds of problems, and the fact that they're here and walking around means that they've solved them to some degree... That's encouraging.
So... List time. I currently have:
-A place to live which I can afford for the next half year or so.
-My health; All my teeth and enough energy to tramp up a thousand stairs.
-A fairly solid skill set in the drawin' and story-tellin' department.
-Some savings and no debt.
When your feet are sore and you're uncertain about the future, when you've got a whole new language to learn and too many boxes to cart around.., well, I find it's easy to forget that the hand of cards I'm playing with is actually a really, really, (REALLY) good one to be holding on Planet Earth today.
So I got nuthin' to complain about. (There... -breathe- Yes. That feels better.)
Anyway.., I leave tomorrow. I don't know how I'd quantify the level of "fruitful" this trip has been exactly, but I do have a lot more hard knowledge of what I'm looking at getting into at least.
And a backpack of really awesome French comics.
Nothing feels quite so nice as having a big pile of fresh comics to read.
(Pictured above are a couple of Jenny pictures I did at a cafe yesterday. I notice she's not in the best of moods... Hm. But this trip is nothing if not good for my drawing mojo.)
Quebec City, Quebec,
August 7th, 2017
August 8th, 2017
A Loop Closed - Herge Exhibit
Here's a neat story...
So, back when I was just 19 years old, I visited Europe. -I did the backpack thing for a couple of months. It was great!
Anyway, I visited Belgium and found myself one afternoon sitting on the steps of a big, important looking building in a majestic courtyard, sketching a church spire across the way. -The spire was all covered in scaffolding, undergoing repairs. It looked really neat, so I spent an hour or so trying to draw it. I still have that picture stashed away somewhere...
Anyway, after an hour of drawing, I packed up my things and left.
A week later, I was in Spain and a fellow hostel traveler was leafing through my sketchbook. He saw the scaffolding tower drawing I'd done, recognized it and reacted with delight. "Oh!" he said. "You were in Belgium at the Herge museum! Cool!"
I blinked. "I was..? Wait. Herge? The artist who drew Tin Tin? There's a museum?"
"Yeah! Herge is a national treasure! That museum is famous. The tower you drew is right in front of it!"
"-What? Didn't you know? Did you not visit the museum?"
He was astonished. So was I.
"But..," he struggled to grasp the enormity of the thing, "you just spent the last fifteen minutes telling me how much you're into comics. -How much you want to draw them for a living... Why would you fly all the way from Canada, go to Belgium, -and then not visit the Herge museum? He's arguably the most popular cartoonist of all time!"
I've thought over that question often and have come to the conclusion that there's really no good answer, and I've felt foolish about it pretty much ever since, (though I do somewhat enjoy the weird irony of having sat on Herge's front steps to engage in cartooning without realizing where I was).
Anyway, the point of this story...
I found out this morning that a Herge exhibit was on loan from Belgium at one of Quebec city's big cultural centers! I HAD to go.
So I did! It was amazing, like closing a big loop which had been left open since I was nineteen.
-They even let me take photos, (so long as I didn't use the flash on my dinky little camera. This was the first time I wished I'd had a proper camera with me!). I was a little disappointed that they hadn't a display of his pens or other art tools. I would have loved to have seen his tool kit, but you know.., sometimes it's good to retain a little mystery to keep you wondering.
In any case, I was pretty much blown away. There were over a hundred Herge originals! And boy, he worked BIG! Some of his original pages are nearly twice the size of the ones I did in T&K. -And wow; they had the original artwork for that famous rocket ship adventure! It looks SO cool. I wish I'd gotten a better shot of it, but whatever. It was so neat to see real ink on paper, with little spots of white-out and touch-ups. It makes it so real and human and humbling!
It was also SO cool to see that the way he captured vehicles and other detail shots is pretty much the same thing I do, using photo references with different backgrounds and characters added.
The other amazing thing...
His colourist team painted right on copies of the linework! I've always wondered at the beautiful colours and how they were done. Now I know!
So.., all in all, my last morning in Quebec was a total gift. -I'm in Fredericton now, spending the night before I complete my journey home, but already I miss the French language all around me and I can't wait to go back for more!
Love you all!
Fredericton, New Brunswick,
August 8th, 2017
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