Monday, December 3, 2012

Think Out Loud #21: Fern Sea Chronicles

Welcome to Think Out Loud.
A weekly meme where you can do whatever you want!
A recipe, a rant, a nifty picture, just do it!
Full info on Think Out Loud HERE.

Hello everyone!
I have something awesome to share with you this week!

Do you like webcomics? (Ummm. Yeah.)
Do you like gnomes? (Who doesn't?)
What about webcomics about gnomes? (Of course!)

Then you are going to love the Fern Sea Chronicles!
Here is some of the final product. Sorry I can't make the pic bigger.
You will have to go to FSC to check it out full size!

Welcome to The Great Fern Sea! This is a family-friendly world of gnomish inventors, pet dragonflies, steam-powered catamarans, dreaded troll pirates searching the Ferns from their airships sailing the skies above, and most importantly, a ton of characters living their lives and learning the lessons that lives teach. We're glad to have you aboard!

The Fern Sea Chronicles is written by W.O. Billman
and the artwork is by Indi Martin.
Their comic is set up on Blogger, HERE.
The Fern Sea Chronicles is updated every Friday.

Now, I have another treat!
This is the tale of how author and illustrator met
and how the creation of Fern Sea Chronicles came about!
Highly Recommended!

It was a dark and stormy night...
Ok, not really. It was actually a hot and humid day when Indi Martin met W.O. Billman II, or “Starbuck” met “XJ” as they were trail-named, at the end of a grueling and waterless day of hiking on the Appalachian Trail. Both failed to find the springs which the guidebooks swore were there, and both were dehydrated and exhausted by the time they tromped into Low Gap Shelter. Starbuck got there first, drank straight from the river, and collapsed on a table. XJ arrived soon after, did exactly the same thing, and thus was born a friendship that would eventually flower into a creative partnership. As they continued to hike together over the following months, XJ noticed Starbuck would doodle impressive drawings on the shelter logbooks at the end of each day, and began to share his ideas and storylines with her.
Long distance hiking is an odd thing. After several miles, one’s body just adapts to the rhythm of the walk and seems to enter a sort of trancelike state. The pain that began in the morning, and the soreness that will certainly come at the end of the day, ebbs away in the face of continued movement, and a serenity comes that allows creativity to spill forth. Or so we like to think. Regardless, one day on a hike, W. looked at a sea of ferns billowing on the top of a bald which rekindled an old idea of his...
Fern Sea Chronicles was originally conceptualized as a single-story children’s book, but W. just kept writing. Before long there were over a dozen short story arcs that they agreed might work better as a webcomic, hoping to build toward the full storybook eventually. The stories explore a world highlighting the Kingdom of Arbor - within the Great Fern Sea - full of compact gnomes who have adapted steam power to sail above them and travel from place to place. It’s an all-ages world with stories that explore characters like Ember Gearheart, a flawed teenage gnome (as most teenagers are) who tries to handle the problems life throws her way, or Cog, the Royal Engineer, who McGuyvers his way around to solutions. There are visceral dangers (e.g. the dreaded Troll pirates who sail the skies in their airships), and emotional dangers (e.g. the humiliation of peers when one’s near-sighted pet dragonfly knocks over a stack of boxes) that the characters must find a way to overcome.
FSC is still fairly new, with only the third long-form story arc having just begun. W. writes the stories freeform, indicating broadly where page breaks might be, but leaving a great deal open so that writer and illustrator can work together on adapting the story to the finished piece of art. Indi illustrates each page manually, pencils and inks, before scanning and digitally painting them, then laying out the lettering - something that was more difficult than she originally thought would be. Apparently there’s quite an art to not only page layout but even speech and thought bubbles - do it the wrong way, and the reader’s eye wanders wrongly, breaking the intended flow of the page. The biggest challenge has been to produce beautiful pages with compelling characters in a short-story-type format, but balancing the need to not take itself too seriously or to be overly moralistic. Whether or not that has succeeded so far is up to the reader!
The latest story arc is “Ember & Kiwi Go Caching,” a simple story that speaks to a hobby we both love - geocaching! We wanted to include the activity in a way that would fit the world’s aesthetic and characters, and have it be a fun little shoutout to a fellow cacher back in Maryland (“Kiwi”). The next arc, however, will focus on some older characters and be intensely action-oriented, and REALLY challenge Indi in the art department.
Thanks, Think, for letting us share our project! We hope some of your readers decide it’s their cup of tea!

I really hope you all enjoyed Think Out Loud #21.
And please, stop by FSC and give them a shout out.
You would put a smile on their faces!

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