art

The Evolution of Carol

AI art is harder to make than you would think.

You go to Stable Diffusion for the first time, type in a random prompt like, “A horse galloping through the woods,” and get back a picture that actually looks pretty cool.

So you play around a lot more, until your confidence is bolstered enough that you start to think that you can create something specific — to approximate a solid idea that you have in mind.

And that’s where the trouble starts.

I decided that I wanted to create a character portrait of Carol, from The Scion Suit/The Scions.

My first attempt, anime style:

… Okay, I’ll give it a few more tries …

By which point, I realized that simply describing the woman I wanted a picture of wasn’t going to be enough. AI doesn’t have the same intrinsic grasp of human anatomy and faces that we do.

I joined a Discord server and did a lot of reading.

A LOT of reading.

And I quadrupled the number of keywords I was using, to include things like, “Normal face,” and “Not disfigured.”

Highlights include:

Waaaaay better, but not even close to my end goal. Too glamorous and sunkissed for Carol.

Anatomy is still off. Also seems a little vampirish.

Hair is too short.

Now we’re starting to get it.

I liked the picture, but I decided to change art styles to see if I could better grasp the essence of Carol. And I like anime, so, you know … 😀

I’m still amazed that the face isn’t horribly wrong. But it’s not quite there — the woman is too doll-like to really be Carol.

AH-HA I’VE GOT IT!

All told, it probably would have been easier and faster to draw a character portrait if I had the art skillz — but I don’t. I generated dozens of pictures, most of which I didn’t save, and probably spent more time on it than it would have taken to paint it in photoshop.

But, truth be told, I enjoyed the process quite a bit. I think very strongly in words, and my brain turned it into a puzzle game of figuring out which words in which order would produce the best results. My final change was to swap out the keyword, “Shy,” for “Demure,” which gave the right tilt to the eyebrows and mouth for her expression.

And thus, I give you, Carol.

About Me

Today is my “trauma-versary.”

The skinny of it is that I spent a few years trying to move on and forget it ever happened, until I realized that I was committed to acknowledging the day despite my best efforts. So, I baked a cake to celebrate instead.

This year I feel like having a jelly roll cake, with our homemade peach jam.

Twelve years ago, my fundamental assumptions about humanity were shattered. Innocence lost. Horrors revealed. I was torn apart, never to be the same again.

And I was reborn.

Cheers.

Stories, The Scions

The Scions – 4b

He considered finding out which of his friends were available that night, then shot down the idea. He wasn’t in the mood to show off, and he didn’t need the help of a wingman. What he needed was a distraction.

There was also enough time to get dinner and a few drinks before the prime hunting hour, when women were done with the bars and ready to be picked up. He settled on his favorite restaurant, and thought about Carol in the cafeteria on base with that young corporal. He hoped that she was as uncommunicative and dismissive with everyone else as she was with him – he didn’t want her making friends.

The fucking cleaning lady, prancing around in his Suit like a girl. He had never thought that he would consider a 12-foot mecha to be feminine before.

It had been like watching Carol be stripped free of her shyness and become fully herself.

In the space to process how events had turned, he had to grudgingly admit that there was something right about Carol inside the Suit. Something in his brain assured him of that, and comforted him with the knowledge that once he laid claim to Carol, he wouldn’t have truly lost control of the Suit; he would be piloting it by proxy.

But there was no way she could ever handle combat. That area belonged to him.

Hartmann lightly flirted with the waitress to ease himself into the proper mindset for the night, and was pleased when she responded with extra attentiveness. He left a large tip, knowing that it would leave a favorable impression for the next time he returned.

He stopped by his apartment to change his clothes, but skipped showering, then it was on to his favorite bar.

Hartmann was still nursing his first drink when a woman walked in wearing a red dress made of flimsy fabric. Her hair was almost the same color as Carol’s, and cut to the same length. When he looked over at her, she pulled the side of her bottom lip underneath her teeth, and he took it as a sign. She was the one he would go home with that night, but first he had to play the game.

He spent awhile chatting up other women, all the while keeping an eye on the woman in red. She had noticed him, noticed every time he glanced over, and began to make small movements when he was watching. First she changed the crossing of her legs, then brushed her hair behind her ear, and bit her lip again. But he kept her hanging. Kept her wondering.

When she checked her phone, he knew it was time. He quietly moved, and stood behind her for a moment, smiling when her eyes looked for him in his former place at the bar. Then he sat down next to her.

“Hey,” he purred in a voice of velvet.

“I was wondering when you were going to talk to me.” She grinned like a cat that had eaten a canary. “I was just about to make the first move.”

That was a lie, of course. Women like her never made the first move, out of terror of rejection, and he hated the emptiness of her bravado. But he played along, stroking her ego with the words, “I had to build up the nerve to say hello.”

“Oh? And why is that?” She was leaning towards him, her fingers touching her hair.

“You’re beautiful.” He signaled for a waitress to come over, then said, “May I have the honor of buying you a drink?”

“I don’t know about drinking with military guys.” She made a show of eyeing him up and down. “I don’t know if I can trust you.”

“You’re right.” He leaned over and whispered into her ear, “You shouldn’t trust me.”

She giggled, then agreed to the drink. They flirtatiously bantered back and forth as they worked their way to the bottom of their glasses, then Hartmann put his hand against the back of her neck as he crooned, “Come back to my place with me.”

“I’m not really that sort of girl,” she answered, breathing deeply with flushed cheeks. Inwardly, Hartmann cringed. She wouldn’t be there in the first place if she wasn’t that sort of girl.

“You won’t regret it,” he purred. “I promise.”

“Yeah. Okay.” She picked up her purse, and he took her elbow.

He found himself hating how corny the game was, and the fact that it worked. For a moment he allowed himself to actually look at the woman he was leaving the bar with, at her penciled eyebrows and fake eyelashes, and wondered why he was bothering at all. But her hair was an imitation of Carol’s, and until he could possess the real thing, he would satisfy himself with this caricature.

(A/N: The following is a depiction of an adult situation. I recommend practicing judgment and jumping ship here if you suspect it will make you uncomfortable.)

Continue reading “The Scions – 4b”
art

AI generated art of The Scion Suit

My husband has been telling me about AI generated art for awhile now. Stuff along the lines of, “It’s getting really good,” and also, “It’s getting really scary.”

As a reclusive author sort, it’s a topic that’s really intrigued me — there’s something extremely appealing about working with an AI to generate art for my books.

I tried out a free “trial version”, and with absolutely no clue what I was doing or why, I typed in a descriptive sentence to get the pictures below. The first obvious glare is that the people came out weird, particularly with the faces. But otherwise, it’s pretty cool.

This is Carol, but feeling “meh” about how she was generated. The Suit is about twice as big as it’s supposed to be, but looks fantastic.

This was supposed to be Hartmann. IDK.

This one is of The Black Magus. Doesn’t actually come close to fitting the story, but still cool.

Observations

The Forbidden Chronicles – 6

I ran across some blogs that marketed themselves as “anti-feminist liberals,” which I found to be fairly amusing — the idea is spreading, I s’pose.

During my stint in college fifteen years ago, I took a class of feminist theories. I was genuinely exploring feminism at that point, and the class was intended to be pro-feminism — I was probably the only student who came away from the class permanently turned off from the ideology, since I was by far the smartest person in the room and understood what was actually being taught. #ego

You see, everyone believes that the first wave of feminism began in response to women being treated like second-class citizens, but that it totally and completely wrong.

First wave feminists were the ones who originated and promoted the idea that women are inferior to men.

We’ve been living with this ideology for over a hundred years, so it’s hard for us to imagine the world being any different, but have you ever wondered why “kicking ass” is seen as superior to “healing touch”? It’s because we have all been deliberately taught for generations that everything feminine is defective.

The goal was pretty simple: First, convince society that feminine traits are stupid, then push women into traditionally masculine roles and behavior.

This is why people think that motherhood is “wasting your life.” Why raising children isn’t a good enough contribution to society. Why any form of dependence is deemed unforgivable.

The solution to being born with a defective feminine body is to pay and ungodly amount of money to “higher education” for the privilege of becoming a wage slave for the rest of your life. But hey, when you die, you can rest easy knowing that your job will replace you in a week and forget that you ever existed; sure beats hearing another human being sincerely say, “I love you, mom.”

Anyway, it’s actually kind of comforting to see that people are finally trying to progress past the dogma that has enslaved everyone for the last several generations.

The Scions

The Scions – 4a

“You don’t need to eat dinner with me, master sergeant,” Carol protested, her face turning bright red. “Corporal Holmes has been assigned to watch me.”

“What’s the matter? Are you terrified of pigging out in front of me? Don’t worry, I like a woman with a healthy appetite.” he teased, letting himself touch her elbow, feeling the soft curve of her bone as her blush deepened and she sputtered,

“Aren’t you supposed to be busy, or something? Surely you don’t have time to …”

“I have all the time in the world for you–” Hartmann stopped himself before he called her the cleaning lady out loud. “Now that I don’t have the Suit.”

She caught the undertone in his words and turned away, silent. He noticed that she was clenching her hands into fists, and the glint in her eyes was too hard for her to be feeling any sort of regret or sympathy about ousting him out of his position in the Suit, sparking his own anger once again.

“I need to train you how to eat properly, since you’re practically skin and bones,” he snapped.

“It doesn’t matter in the Suit,” Carol retorted, catching Hartmann by surprise. “I didn’t feel the slightest hint of fatigue while I was inside it this morning. If anything, I felt better.”

“That’s … unusual,” he muttered. He had gone on countless missions in the Suit, and while he certainly had enhanced abilities, he had still been very conscious of the passing hours. The mental exhaustion had more than made up for the lack of physical exertion, and it was something that he had willed himself to ignore. The thought that Carol didn’t experience it at all was galling.

Everything about her pushed him to his limits.

But orders were orders. As much as he ached to renegade with the Suit, he didn’t know where he would go or what he would do, and practicality kept him there. After he had lived half his life in the military, he didn’t know what he would do without any missions to devote himself to – without orders, he would be adrift.

He needed to keep himself under control.

“Maybe I’m worried about your health,” he purred, knowing that it sounded too smarmy in light of the growing tension.

“I’d prefer to eat alone.” She turned to face him, her jaw muscle twitching slightly. “As alone as I’m allowed to be.”

“Have it your way, then,” he replied dismissively, and turned to leave.

Good riddance, he thought. He couldn’t keep up the act for much longer anyway; Carol was getting too much under his skin. Her reluctance to speak meant that he had to study her carefully, to pay attention to every twitch and turn of her body to read her thoughts, and she was starting to drive him crazy. The way she curled in on herself made her seem shorter than she was, and he wanted to grab her shoulders to straighten her out, to tell her to hold her head high so he could gaze at the curve where her neck met her shoulders.

He had never had to work so hard for a woman in his entire life. After he had developed a pair of biceps, women had practically lined up around the block to throw themselves at him, and all he had to do was learn how to pick carefully. Carol was making him doubt himself, because she didn’t seek him out with flirtatious eyes, or try to give him a peek of her cleavage to catch his interest. She made him feel … invisible.

The irony was almost hilarious. Perhaps invisibility wasn’t a talent that Carol had perfected, but an infectious disease that descended on everyone she interacted with. The moment he first touched her had sealed his fate, and he was now dissolving into the background, unnoticed.

Left on his own, he made his way to captain Lambert’s office with the deliberate swiftness that had become second-nature after the years he had spent in the military, and sharply rapped on the door. A gruff voice answered, “Come in,” and he opened the door.

“Do you have any idea how much paperwork you created for me?” Lambert growled after a quick glance up. “Would’ve been easier on all of us if you had left Carol alone to clean the Suit.”

“I am well aware of that, sir,” Hartmann replied, standing at ease. “And I regret my mistake.”

“The fucking cleaning lady …” Lambert pressed his hand to his forehead. “Between the two of us, MSG Hartmann, the General has gone off the deep end. One look at Carol, and it’s obvious that she’ll never be able to handle combat – even inside the Suit – but now that anxiety-ridden mouse is our problem whether we like it or not.”

“I know that, sir,” Hartmann replied. “She expressed concern over the possibility of going into combat, and I replied to her that I didn’t know the specifics of what was expected of her.”

“Basically, the General wants to see what sort of offensive features she has access to in the Suit. So, yes, she will be going into combat at the end of next week.” Lambert set his pen down and leaned back in his chair. “However, don’t mention that to her unnecessarily.”

“I won’t, sir. I won’t do anything to upset her,” Hartmann answered dutifully.

Hartmann had started working with Lambert two years prior after the captain had been brought on to the Suit project, and while their personalities clashed, they had developed an unique respect for one another. In many ways, Lambert was the opposite of Hartmann, and had achieved his rank through education – he had never had to prove himself on the battlefield, and that fact hung between the two of them every time they spoke. While Lambert was the commanding officer, Hartmann was the one with the experience, and had earned himself a level of admiration that the captain would never replicate.

“Did you need something?” Lambert asked. With his temper soothed, he was becoming more relaxed and amicable. They were comrades again, which made it easy for Hartmann to make his request.

“I would like the rest of the day off, sir. Carol has hit her limit with how much training she can do, and there’s nothing left for me while she is resting. I could use some personal time.”

“Granted.” Lambert picked up his pen and began writing. “But first, give me your report on how the first day of training went. You already mentioned that she’s concerned about combat … what else is there?”

“Carol has no endurance or stamina, even for a civilian woman. Otherwise, she didn’t talk much.”

“Very mouse-like, isn’t she.” Lambert smiled slightly. “She’s every bit as quiet and timid as one, and practically as small, too. I’ll have more free time tomorrow, so I will be assisting more with her physical training.”

Hartmann wanted to bristle. That was the nicest thing that he had ever heard Lambert say about a woman, and he didn’t like the idea of having to overtly compete for someone as difficult as the cleaning lady. Lambert was supposed to stay distant and divorced.

Fortunately, Lambert’s temper combined with his borderline alcoholism were certain to serve him poorly; Hartmann was much better at playing suave than the captain. If he worked the situation so that Carol pushed Lambert’s buttons, he would not only look better by comparison, it would create a vulnerability that Hartmann could exploit. Carol was definitely not the sort who could withstand being yelled at.

Hartmann forced a smile to hide the real one brewing under the surface. “I’m looking forward to your input, sir.”

“If that’s all, then you’re dismissed.” Lambert turned back to his notes, and Hartmann made his exit.

About Me

Followers

Seeing that made me oddly satisfied.

In case you suspected that all of my ranting against social media was hypocritical, I give you this screen shot as proof that I don’t engage with it at all.

0 social followers.

😀

The weird part is the number of views I’ve gotten with Facebook as the referrer. It’s not my doing, and I have no clue who is posting links to my blog.

art

Handspun sock yarn WIP

I received the supplies for this project with Paradise Fiber’s fiber of the month club, back in May 2022, and I’ve been sloooooowly working on it since August.

The wool is the Walkin’ On Sunshine blend, which is 75% cheviot and 25% faux cashmere.

I’m only partway done. I decided that I would pause the spinning process to dye the singles before plying them, and as of this moment, the other half is still in the dye pot. I plan on using my spinning wheel to ply, so I handwound the finished portion onto a bobbin.

I used a drop spindle, which is part of why it’s been taking me so long. The other part is my tiny humans providing plenty of interruptions.

Instagrammers be crazy jealous of my breathtakingly beautiful yarn turtles.

Actually, despite how it looks, those little yarn balls are easy to hold in the palm of my hand and wind up into a proper skein. They’re quite handy.

With any luck, I’ll have the yarn completed before too much longer. Who knows, maybe I’ll even get it made into socks for my birthday this month.

The Scions

The Scions – 3

Hartmann waited for Carol out on the running track, smiling slightly when she came through the doors and squinted at him through the sunlight. The corporal was still with her, so the first thing that Hartmann did was dismiss the soldier, to ensure that they would be alone. She was nervous as the corporal left, so she bit her lip as her eyes locked onto the ground, and the action made her look younger and more girlish.

He had to find his tongue before he could say, “We’re going to run a mile to start.” It was hard to describe the effect that Carol was having on him. She wasn’t feisty like the women in the military, nor did she try to act sexy like the women at the bar. She was something else … something unfamiliar.

Carol nodded and murmured, “Yes, sir,” with her eyes still pointed downwards. Her hands tightened into fists.

“Relax, I’m under orders to be nice to you.” Hartmann smirked as he added, “And remember to call me master sergeant. I’ll let you off this time because you’re a civilian.”

“Yes, sir … master sergeant.” She glanced up, met his eyes for a split second, then looked away.

“Go on, get moving. It’s four laps around the track.”

Hartmann was silent as they jogged the first lap, giving Carol time to get used to his presence and feel more at ease. He watched her out of the corner of his eye, noting that it didn’t take long for her to begin breathing heavily, and compensated by slowing down the pace. When they started around the curve again, he said, “I’m sorry for being a dick.”

Carol didn’t reply, but he had expected that.

“Everyone knows I’m a real asshole to be around …” He feigned sheepishness, though inwardly he winced at his own words. He hadn’t even begun to get rough with her when she had jumped into the Suit, and if given the chance he would show her in a heartbeat just how much of a jerk he could be. However, at the moment he had a goal, and he wanted Carol to relax and open up to him. “I especially get a little crazy about the Suit.” That part was true.

He was quiet again, studying her closely, doing his best to read her thoughts through her body language. Her face flitted through a number of micro-expressions, enough to tell him that the inside of her mind was no where near as empty as her exterior, but it was going to take more time to be able to read her accurately.

“Master sergeant,” she said hesitantly as they began their third lap at an even slower pace. “Do you know what the visor is made out of?”

“Not a clue. I’d guess something similar to leaded glass, but I don’t think the minerals used in it came from this planet.” Hartmann stopped and grinned at her. “You noticed, didn’t you.”

“Not while we were inside.” Carol placed her hands on her knees as she huffed. “But when I had the Suit out in the sunlight, it was like seeing the world for the first time.”

“It’s amazing, but it’s something that you’re going to have to get used to. Those new colors have an odd way of swirling together and causing vertigo and nausea once you get moving fast enough. That’s going to matter during combat.”

She looked away. “Am I supposed to go into combat?”

“I’m not cleared for that information. I was told to train you, so that’s what I’m doing.” Hartmann was eyeing Carol up and down again. “In the military, you follow orders without question.”

“I guess that’s something we have in common,” she blurted, then bit her lip shyly as she began walking again.

Hartmann was momentarily lost for words as some sort of electrical shock pulsed through his chest. A feeling started to form inside his throat, then hardened into anger. How dare the cleaning lady suggest that they had any commonality – he was a hero, and she was a nobody. She was only there through some unexplained fluke, because some computer inside the Suit had called her “commander.” If not for that, her place would be in the shadow of his glory, unnoticed as she maintained the Suit for him.

He walked beside her, neither of them bothering with the pretense of jogging, until he regained himself and a quip came to him, “I saw the employee file on you, and it said that you’ve always been the picture of good behavior. I bet your parents loved you for that.”

Carol shrugged. “I guess they would have.”

“Would have?” Hartmann prodded.

“They died when I was three.”

He frowned. Carol didn’t look like the sort who carried childhood trauma, and she had delivered the news so blandly that it would have better suited a conversation about the weather. “How?” he asked, not out curiosity about the answer, but more for the opportunity to gauge her response.

“House fire.” Carol looked over at him and met his eyes. “I nearly died of smoke inhalation as well.”

“That is surprisingly interesting for you.” Hartmann cracked a grin. “I would have guessed that you grew up in some ordinary middle class family, did all of your homework and managed mostly B’s in school, then graduated and decided to twiddle your thumbs until you died.”

She scowled, finally annoyed by something. “No. I grew up in foster care, and got myself emancipated at sixteen. I got a GED instead of graduating, and I’ve been working full time ever since. I am not twiddling my thumbs.” A shadow of doubt crossed over her eyes, as if she was second-guessing what she had said.

“Foster care, huh? Dark place, isn’t it.” For a moment Hartmann felt the impulse to reach over and place his hand against her shoulder, to feel the crook of her neck with his fingers, but he tamped it down and kept his hands by his side.

“I survived.” Her mouth twisted downwards. “By becoming invisible.”

“That explains the great mystery of the cleaning lady,” he said smugly. “I should have guessed there was something tragic lingering behind that pretty face of yours.”

Carol stared at him, her expression blank. Then, abruptly, she began jogging again, her hair bouncing as she pulled ahead. Hartmann picked up the pace as well.

“Since I know that you’re wondering, but are too shy to ask, I grew up in some ordinary middle class family, but I got straight A’s, and was the captain of both the lacrosse and swim teams,” he said conversationally. “Then I enlisted when I was seventeen … to kill people.” Hartmann laughed at the series of expressions that flitted across Carol’s face when she glanced over at him, then added, “I had to get out.”

“Doesn’t sound like it was that bad,” she murmured.

“It wasn’t. It was so normal I was suffocating,” he replied.

Hartmann continued to study Carol, piecing together what he could about her from the small bits that she had told him. There was something off about her, some essential part that was either repressed or incomplete, that enabled her to speak almost monotonously about her past traumas. It intrigued him.

She was skinny, and combined with her lack of stamina, it made him suspect that she was a chronic under-eater, though not out of body-image issues. He’d guess that Carol was completely unaware of herself as a physical being, and probably wasn’t aware of her nervous habits. The way she pulled her teeth slowly across her full, pale pink, bottom lip was sensuous – more so, because of her naivete – and if she had any idea of how it made him think about her mouth, she would stop doing it immediately.

He wondered how she would taste.

After they finished their final lap, he took her to the vending machine and bought an electrolyte drink for her, then debated how much more exercise he should put her through. He liked the sheen of sweat on her forehead, liked the idea of pushing her so hard that her muscles burned, and wanted to make the most of the opportunity that he had been given. The obstacle course was guaranteed to be too hard for her, but he could drill her through calisthenics out on the field for as long as he liked.

She was going to be sore when he was through with her.