Aiken lies on the small, grass-covered hill beneath his mother’s soul-tree, planted along with her ashes in just the fourth summer of his life. His ancestors believed it gave her soul a place to rest. Aiken believes this, too.

Her favorite book balances on his stomach, propped against bent and bony knees. The gentle breeze seems willing to turn the pages, if only it wouldn’t rush him so much. He wants to take his time, to enjoy the book, to soak in her memory, just like he does every summer as the anniversary of her death approaches.

The leaves of the soul-tree dance above as he turns another page. The afternoon sun warms him, almost too much—the tree has yet to grow large enough to provide more than a few hours of shade a day, and even then only if he lies in just the right spot.

His step-father casts a bigger shadow than the tree, and that shadow approaches, covering Aiken in its darkness.

“Reading?” says Tarin, crossing his arms against a barrel-shaped chest. Dirt stains his clothes and sweat drips from his brow. “You’ve always got a damned book in your hand. Ain’t you got chores to do?”

“I thought reading was a good thing,” says Aiken, though already he wishes he hadn’t said a word. He smells a hint of alcohol on the breeze, and he knows—he fears—what that means.

I've been working on a large mosaic for my wife. It's meant to be an anniversary present, but I underestimated how long it will take, so it will likely be a belated gift. It's right up her alley, though, so I don't think she'll mind the wait.

It's slow going, but I'm happy with it so far and thought I'd share a snapshot. It's more for my own personal memory of it really, but it seemed appropriate for the blog. 

I've never done a mosaic, so I had to use several references, but I'm very happy with how the sketch turned out. Hopefully I don't mess it all up in the later stages!
Herman pushes through the crowd of spirits, seeking out his target so he can get the message, get out of the Light, and pay his rent on time. It’s not going to be an easy day on the job.

"The hand of God is coming."

The spirit shouts at him. A woman, but not the one he needs to find. She stands so close he can feel her breath on his face, or he could if she still breathed. She’s wearing a robe of pure white, the same as the other spirits of the Light, and appeared in front of him from out of nowhere (which was almost as common as the robe).

None of this strikes Herman as unusual. He’s been a messenger for years and feels like he’s seen it all. The shouting is new, though. The dead are generally more peaceful.

The Smithsonian's Natural History is easily one of the most beautiful books I've ever seen. I posted recently on the inspiration to be found in a good museum, and this book is nothing less than a museum you can hold in your hands.

I had never seen this book until Ben Hatke mentioned it in a Q&A on Goodreads. Ben is one of my favorite author/artists out there (his website is an excellent mix of entertainment, adventure, and inspiration), so I ran straight to my library to check out the book for myself. I had it only a few days before I knew I had to order one for myself.

Collected inside are beautifully detailed images spanning the natural world from animals to minerals, and from the largest of whales to the most microscopic life. There's a great deal of information included, with most pictures captioned with at least a small tidbit of knowledge.

For me, this book immediately became a go-to source of inspiration. It's an excellent guide to get story descriptions just right, or to find that one little detail that adds an added layer of believably to a story's world. It's also great as a visual reference to incorporate nature into your art, or if you want to have fantastical fun, mix and match the images to create something straight out of another world.

Clearing My Mind

After a few tries at a "real" job, I'm in a position to pursue childhood dreams. It's a second chance of sorts, and I intend to enjoy every step of the journey.

I've been a serviceman, a businessman, and a family man, but it's that family that lets me pursue the things I love. I'm blessed with an amazing wife and a pair of adventurous kids that keep me on my toes.

I have a long list of dreams to chase, so I'd better get to work.

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