Sunday, May 29, 2011

In Which the Starks Don't Get Screwed... (Spoilers)

Last night I went to http://www.fanfiction.net/ to see what kind of A Song of Ice and Fire stories were available.  Here's one I found, which I was the first to review:

http://www.fanfiction.net/s/7022988/1/what_well_be

It diverts from the canonical timeline before Ned leaves for King's Landing but we first see the divergence after Petyr "Littlefinger" Baelish leaves Ned and Catelyn alone after their meeting--Catelyn reveals to Ned that she is pregnant.

The "butterflies" (successive changes caused by the first change) from the canonical timeline cascade after this.  Although Ned is still executed, things go much better for the Stark family.  I had to ask the writer for some clarification as to why things went differently, since I've only read A Clash of Kings, the second book in the series, and that was when I was in high school.  Those of you who've read the first book (A Game of Thrones) might have an easier time of it.

I like the Starks more than any of the other families due to their moral, honorable nature, but the bad decisions Ned and Robb make due to following honor before reason lead to all sorts of horrible things happening to their family.  Ned doesn't move against Cersei when he has the chance, Robb sends his friend--who is also his diplomatic hostage--back to his homeland to secure an alliance and said hostage's father invades instead, Robb promises a marital alliance with the Frey family and breaks it to marry a girl whose virginity he took (and is therefore going to have problems finding a husband) after Frey troops die in his service, then he trusts the Freys when the Frey patriarch says he's willing to reconcile...

Irnan (the author) explained how the "butterflies" worked.  I don't want to post them here because that would ruin the story, but they sound plausible to me.  That makes things all the more tragic when you realize how easily things could have gone better.

It would have been better if the dialogue snippet revealing the cause of all this would have been in the actual story instead of the synopsis on the author page.  I sent Irnan a suggestion about how this could be done (another letter at the beginning).

Still, I think it's worth a read.  And if you all could post reviews, that would be nice.  I'm the only one so far.

My Winnie-the-Pooh Epileptic Tree

On TVTropes, they have a term called "epileptic tree" for off-the-wall fan theories.  At dinner last night, I came up with one of my own.  Lest anyone be concerned, this is a joke...

Winnie the Pooh is really about invasive animal species, with the kickoff of many of the major plot points likely being a mass escape from a circus or zoo.

When I was little, my mother took me to a Winnie the Pooh show at the Atlanta Center for Puppetry Arts.  The storyline that I can remember involved the arrival of Kanga and Roo at the 100-Acre Wood and the reactions of the other residents of the Wood to the new arrival.  I remember one of them saw a bottle Kanga had with a skull-and-crossbones on it (some kind of medicine or household chemical, I imagine) and telling the others it had the bones of a dead animal on it, to their general fright.

Winnie the Pooh and the Blustery Day, which I watched a lot when I was a kid and even brought to my preschool class at Mount Bethel United Methodist Church for my classmates to watch (that was when I lost my first tooth as well), also depicts Tigger as being a new arrival to the 100-Acre Wood.  He acquaints himself with Pooh (in his typical fashion of jumping on him) in the middle of the night one night and claims the most wonderful thing about "tiggers" is that he is the only one.

Author A.A. Milne was British, so I'm assuming the 100-Acre Wood was in England somewhere.  Neither tigers nor kangaroos are native to England, so Kanga, Roo, and Tigger would had to have been introduced from elsewhere.

Perhaps there'd been an escape from a circus or zoo and the three of them made their way to the Wood from there.  According to Wikipedia, there are wild colonies of red-necked wallabies living in Scotland and France (and there used to be a population of England that apparently died out), so there is precedent for Kanga and Roo.

As far as Tigger is concerned, one theory behind the phantom cats like "the beast of Bodmin Moor" is that they're escaped zoo or circus animals that have successfully established themselves.  Not only would that explain Tigger, but it could also explain the "jagular" from The New Adventures of Winnie the Pooh--although we never actually meet a "jagular," the other characters seem absolutely terrified of it.  Perhaps Tigger sustains himself with fish from the river and isn't a danger to the others (except perhaps by playing too roughly with them), but the jaguar, another escapee from the zoo, has a preference for bigger game (like Piglet).

The Heffalumps, who have actually appeared in some of the more recent Winnie the Pooh materials like Pooh's Heffalump Movie, might also be escapees from a circus or zoo.  Given how we don't actually meet any of them until relatively recently (aka the newer stuff), perhaps they and the "jagular" came from a more recent zoo/circus escape than Tigger, Kanga, and Roo.  Given the release dates of the Pooh materials, the original three established themselves in the 100-Acre Wood sometime in the 1960s, while the Heffalumps and the "jagular" escaped during the 1990s.

If I wanted to get really dark, I could suggest a Winnie the Pooh movie in which the British animal-control service invades the 100-Acre Wood to collect the animals that don't really belong there.  It'd be like The Secret of NIMH in which NIMH's discovery of where the escaped intelligent mice are living is a major plot point.  Given how an escaped family of elephants would be a much bigger deal that kangaroos or even a couple of big cats (I don't recall major efforts to hunt down "phantom cats," although they might not actually exist), it could be a direct sequel to the Heffalump movie.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Time For a Name Change

I just took a look at my Blogger stats and apparently one of my "Battle for the Wastelands"-related posts was viewed because someone did a search for "Karl Steuben."

I did this search myself and apparently Karl Steuben is an artist with lots of work to his credit. Given how the character of Karl "Mangle" Steuben from the Wastelands novels is a wicked man who experiments on himself and others to create an army of mutants, I don't think Steuben-the-artist deserves to be associated with him.

So I'll change the name, although I'm not quite sure what I'll change it to. I think I'll keep the surname, since Frederick Von Steuben was a German (Prussian specifically, I think) officer who helped the Americans during the Revolution and my goal with the story is to be evocative of an earlier time historically.

Given how "Mangle" is a "non-ethnic white" (as opposed to some of Grendel's other supporters, who are essentially Norse or Arabic), I guess I'll boot up that "Old West Baby Name" site I'd found and see if I find anything good.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Steampunk and Frozen Yogurt in Gwinnett County

I'd had plans to visit the Boiler Room, a steampunk-themed shop opening in Duluth, yesterday, but covering a health fair for my newspaper and making sausage-cheese bread for my potluck took up most of the day.

So I decided to check it out today.  To make things cooler, it turns out my friend David Carswell from the Boy Scouts had opened a new business, Five Spot Yogurt, in Snellville.  I figured I'd hit the Boiler Room first and then Five Spot afterward, since Duluth is halfway to Snellville anyway.

Unfortunately, the Boiler Room's weekend hours were to be determined--they were closed.  Maybe I'll head over there sometime later, but it's a fair drive and the hours are such that going before or after work is going to be a problem.

However, I found David's shop was a happening place.  When I got there, there was a big crowd at the door.  Since the local fire inspector hadn't checked out the sprinkler system, customers weren't allowed in and were being served outside.  However, being the media, I guess I'm not a customer, and soon we were sitting in some nice leather chairs along the wall.

David and I were both Eagle Scouts in BSA Troop 1011 in Marietta, but I hadn't really kept up with him even though we both attended the University of Georgia.  He graduated ahead of me and ran an AT&T store in Watkinsville with a friend.  In 2008, he became a franchisee for Little Caesars and with a business partner owned four stores.  The two of them parted company, with David inheriting the Little Caesars in Alpharetta and Duluth.  It was after this that he went into the frozen yogurt business.

"I saw a need for a good frozen yogurt shop in Snellville," he said.

He started working on it in September 2010.  He found a location and started working on the design.  Jessica Mullis from UGA helped create the logo, while another friend, Nicole Morgan, helped design and furnish the interior.  He purchased the equipment and signed the lease.

There are a lot of these weigh-your-own-frozen-yogurt places these day, so I asked him what the difference between Five Spot and the other places were.  David explained that on Monday through Thursday, the prices are capped at $5.00 regardless of the weight.  There are also comfortable leather chairs.

"We offer free WiFi," he said.

He said his yogurt was better-quality than many other yogurt places since it's liquid-based.

"It's not grainy like the other ones," he said.  "It's very smooth texture."

I had some chocolate/vanilla swirl frozen yogurt--my standard choice for frozen-yogurt places, along with vanilla mixed with Oreos or chocolate-chip cookie dough--after I finished speaking with him.  David was right--none of the powdery bits that I've noticed at Yogli Mogli to be found here.

There're 16 flavors and over 40 toppings.  David said he hadn't introduced new flavors yet, but he did intend to provide some later.  For example, there'd be jelly-flavored frozen yogurt to go with the peanut-butter-flavored yogurt already there.

Although customers should be able to go inside by May 23, there's still work to be done on the interiors.  David plans to put photographs on the walls, along with more dot-patterns.  I asked if he intended for a giant mural of Optimus Prime fighting Megatron (like in Scrubs) and he said no.  Drat.  The big empty wall across from the cash registers would be a perfect spot for a very large piece of art, but it's his shop and his decision.

I don't think I'll be coming out there very often, since it's a 40-minute drive from where I live.  However, I figured those who live in Gwinnett County might be interested in checking it out.  The yogurt is very good and the seating is comfortable, plus that $5 cap strikes me as something big yogurt-eaters would appreciate.  It's in the same general shopping center as the Borders and Carmike Cinemas are along Scenic Highway, but it's at the far end of the development near the Panera Bread.

The Patriot Act May Rise Again...

The Patriot Act, though its renewal was temporarily blocked, looks like it might be in place for another four years.

Congress to Vote on Extending Patriot Act

Not all of the Patriot Act is bad--I don't see any problem allowing the FBI access to CIA data in tracking terrorism suspects.

However, the parts that are bad are very bad.  The federal government being able to subpoena your library records and then gag the librarian to keep them from revealing this, for example.  And here's something else...

White House proposal would ease FBI access to records of Internet activity

I found the above link on my alternate-history forum.  It's dated to July, but it's relevant to this situation, since it involves the Patriot Act's "National Security Letters."

Imagine the blackmail potential being able to get into everyone's search history represents.  You could control people by threatening to reveal illegal music downloading, perusing pornographic Web sites, searches for already-written term papers, viewing Internet personal ads, wasting time when one should be working, etc.  You could say that those who avoid doing these dubious and/or immoral things would have nothing to fear, but even one slip-up could get an otherwise-virtuous person into trouble.  Say you download one song illegally and someone with access to your search history threatens to get the RIAA to sue you for a million dollars or something like that.  Even if laws and/or moral precepts have been broken, those who have done so do not necessarily deserveto be victims of a crime and that's what blackmail is.

Those blackmailed can be then used for nefarious purposes.  Here's an article science-fiction author David Brin wrote about just how dangerous blackmail can be:

The Hidden Danger to Public Servants

Blackmail can build upon blackmail--look at Brin's example of U.S. Marines blackmailed by the threat of revealing lewd photos of them with Russian girls into stealing information from the U.S. Embassy and then threatened with the revelation of their espionage to keep on doing it.

Imagine an opponent of the president or a powerful Congressman having a family member or friend blackmailed into spying on them.  Or even killing them--anyone remember the film Dial M for Murder in which a man blackmails another man into trying to kill his wife?

There's also the Fourth Amendment issues involved.  I'm pretty sure the principles still apply even though one's Internet history is not the same as one's file cabinet.  Given how the text of the amendment describes the right to be secure in one's "papers," I think you can apply that to one's personal information.

The vote won't take place until next week and many from the Tea Party movement have stuck to their small-government principles and opposed renewing the Patriot Act, at least without reforms. 

Anyone who wants to keep their privacy rights--and potentially much more--protected from government interference should write Congress via http://www.congress.org/ to let their representatives know that they don't want to be spied on.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Writing Exercises, Courtesy of TVTropes

I posted an earlier blog post on the Facebook wall of my friend Alex Hughes since I had referenced a comment she made during writing group in it.

This spawned a discussion about the use of TVTropes for marketing.  She is skeptical of the concept, while I think it would be a good way to do viral marketing.  Meanwhile, Terra LeMay warned that the Merriam-Webster definition of a "trope" also includes the word "cliche" and so if there are a lot of tropes in one's work, that might be a bad sign.

(Somewhere along the way, someone posted a "Periodic Table" of fiction using individual TVTropes as the elements.  That got discussed as well.)

Based on these discussions, I came up with a few writing exercises that could be useful for brainstorming or stretching one's writing muscles.  Both exercises use TVTropes.  Here goes...

Exercise #1: Take randomly-selected tropes and try to include them in a story.  Bonus points if they're from totally different genres, so getting a sensible storyline out of them takes hard work.

Exercise #2: Inspired by Terra's comment about how she only uses tropes when she wants to "upend or invert them."  Basically, your mission is to take one or more tropes and do the exact opposite.

Here's something I came up with as a joke to entertain Alex and Terra but figured could be an interesting "inverted trope" story element:

The only thing that really trips the "cliche alarm" in my opinion in Battle for the Wastelands is the destruction of Carroll Town, which begins Andrew Sutter's journey that will eventually take him across the Iron Desert and back again.  On TVTropes, this is called "Doomed Hometown."

So instead of the protagonist beginning his quest for revenge on the Big Bad after the Big Bad destroys his hometown, kills his family, etc., he begins his quest because the Big Bad has decided to make his hometown his new capital, a major military base, etc.  A lot people he knows lose their land (either through eminent domain or simply being chased off) due to the need for palaces, defensive works, etc., while others are forced to sell because property taxes have gotten too high for them to pay.

Perhaps the resulting conflict can be called the Gentrification War.  :)

That could be an interesting subversion of the "Doomed Hometown" trope because although gentrification will hurt some people, it will also benefit others (people supplying the palaces and military bases with goods or labor, frex)--destroying the town and killing or enslaving the people is bad for everyone.  If the hero eventually defeats the Big Bad, he'll find a lot of "his people" aren't going to be too pleased.

Monday, May 16, 2011

"Battle for the Wastelands" and More TVTropes...

I've completed sixteen continuous chapters of Battle for the Wastelands and over the weekend completed the first half of the last chapter.  I've still got a fairly large chunk of book left to write and will need to edit something fierce to keep the word count below 100,000 and deal with the divergence between Andrew's story-arc and Grendel's story arc.

However, I'm thinking that I'll be able to get my first draft done by Veterans' Day after all.

In the meantime, here are some more TVTropes featured in my book:

Pragmatic Villainy-Grendel didn't get where he's at by being Stupid Evil.  This has led to some question as to whether he's truly evil or not, since he doesn't go Kicking the Dog.

What the Hell, Hero-Alonzo Merrill forces Flesh-Eater turncoats to kill their officers in front of a cheering crowd; Andrew and fellow members of his squad bayoneted Flesh-Eater wounded after a battle.

I'm a Humanitarian-The Flesh-Eaters practice ritual cannibalism.

Even Evil Has Standards-Grendel finds Karl "Mangle" Steuben, who's really into Body Horror, to be disgusting.

The Lost Lenore-Cassie Wells, Andrew's girlfriend who is wounded during the fall of Carroll Town and captured by the Flesh-Eaters.

Made of Iron-For a 16-year-old boy suffering from malnutrition, Andrew survives a whole lot

Wicked Stepmother-Averted with Signe Allansdottir, who raised Falki Grendelsson after his mother's death; played straight with Lenora Starr, who wants her son to succeed Grendel and not Falki.

Rated M for Manly-My friend Alex Hughes has described my story as "a boy book" and suggested I send it to Baen.

Even Evil Has Loved Ones-In the chapter we first meet him, Falki Grendelsson teases his little sister in a brotherly manner--before showing his father the list of death sentences he has authorized. Plus Grendel and his (many) children.

Me Love You Long Time-Grendel's late wife was of a quasi-Chinese ethnicity; Grendel himself is quasi-Danish.

Really Gets Around-After his wife's death, Grendel took many concubines and fathered many children.  This is a running problem with Falki, who complains his father's promiscuity is leading to too many potential rivals for the succession.

Obligatory War Crimes Scene-A whole bunch, mostly from the Flesh-Eaters but some from the Merrills as well.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Movie Review: "Thor" (spoilers)

I saw the new move Thorlast night, in 3D no less.  Here's my review...


The Good

It was an action-packed, enjoyable movie that was rarely dull.  The creators of the film did a good job developing the motivations of the main divine (alien?) characters (Odin, Thor, Loki).  Both Thor and Loki desire to emulate and/or impress their father, driving Thor to behave in a belligerent manner toward the Frost Giants and Loki toward treachery.

I liked Tom Hiddleston's performance as Loki and his gambit, which involves betraying Asgard to the Frost Giants and later betraying the Frost Giants himself.  His deception of Thor when he is in exile on Earth was also clever.  I also liked how he attempted to claim the hammer himself when visiting the SHIELD base.

As far as mortals are concerned, Stellan SkarsgÄrd's portrayal of Dr. Erik Selvig, mentor of astrophysicist Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) was quite humorous, both when he gets Thor out of SHIELD custody and later when he and Thor engage in a drinking contest.

The battle in which the Lady Sif and the Warriors Three face off against the Destroyer was tactically well-planned.  It makes sense for the Warriors Three, who are men and in the case of Volstagg (Ray Stevenson) fairly physically substantial, to bear the brunt of the robot's attacks while the physically weaker (but I assume quicker) Sif sneaks around and takes the Destroyer by surprise.

The arrival of Sif and the Warriors Three on Earth, in their attention-grabbing Asgardian outfits, was really funny.  The townsfolk look at them like they're freaks and the SHIELD agents watching Foster and her team openly wonder if the Renaissance Faire has come to town.

The Asgardians being extraterrestrials with advanced technology who were mistaken for gods by primitive humans makes more sense than them actually *being* the Norse pantheon, as I believe the case was in the comics.  I also liked the scientific jargon Foster used to describe how they traveled between worlds, as well as Thor's astrophysical explanation for the World Tree being a constellation of some kind containing the different Norse realms (planets rather than planes of existence).

I liked the mythology references, like when Odin arrives at Jotunheim to retrieve Thor and his friends and he's riding an eight-legged horse--Odin's horse in Norse myths, Sleipnir, had eight legs.

I also liked how Heimdall told Thor that Foster was searching for him and we then see Foster using her gadgets linked to SHIELD technology to search space for Asgard's star.  That was done well.  Sif's facial expressions indicating she's interested in Thor romantically are also a nice touch, considering both she and Foster were love interests for Thor in the comics.

Finally, the scene where the locals find Thor's fallen hammer and establish a carnival/barbecue around the site while they try to pull it out of the ground (even using a pickup truck and chains at one point) was downright hilarious.  Usually when there's an alien landing or something like that, the government arrives immediately and takes control of the site.  Having the local rednecks find it first and what they try to do with it was one of the more original elements of the film.

The Bad

Foster developing feelings for Thor like she does seemed rather quick.  It is foreshadowed--when Thor sets off toward his hammer's landing site by herself and the others abandon him, she is the last to do so and keeps looking at him--but it's not clear what the basis for it is.

Is it just physical attraction (which I can buy--at a female friend's birthday party in which I was one of the few males, the girls went on at length about actor Chris Hemsworth's musculature), the fact he represents proof of her theories (which Portman said in an interview were viewed as crazy by most of Foster's scientific peers), respect for his willingness to sacrifice himself for the others that he develops later, or some combination thereof?

Selvig does describe her late father as being a man who never listened and Thor admits he is like this as well.  Is there some Electra complex going on here?

The above musings do represent a good basis, but I think the whole thing was done a bit quickly.  It didn't harm the film much.

Also, SHIELD releases Thor, who has invaded their complex and beaten the hell out of a lot of their soldiers, into Selvig's custody despite Selvig's explanation for what happened being clearly nonsense and them knowing the ID Selvig supplied for Thor being fake.  Agent Phil Coulson, the SHIELD man in charge, does tell his minions to follow Selvig and the others--is his goal to somehow find evidence to justify arresting Foster and her intern, since they don't have trespassing and multiple counts of assault and battery (Thor) and forgery (Selvig) to justify that?

We later see SHIELD agents in the town, indicating that the orders are at least being carried out.  It might have been better to have them eavesdropping on Thor's conversation with Foster and relaying what was being said to SHIELD.  Maybe some SHIELD subordinate objects to Thor being freed and Coulson points out that he wasn't very talkative--then when they're recording his conversation with Foster, Coulson can look at his subordinate and be all, "See?"

Developing the characters of the Warriors Three would have been better.  The only one who seems to get much development is Volstagg, a glutton and general party animal.

Finally, an explanation for why Bifrost simply could not be rebuilt might have made Thor's sacrificing his future with Foster to prevent the destruction of Jotunheim more obvious.  I'm assuming the Asgardians built their city themselves, although their human appearance suggests they might be humans who've learned alien technology rather than being aliens.

Having Loki scream "WE DON'T KNOW HOW TO REBUILD IT!" just before he screams that Thor will never see Foster again would make this clearer.

The Verdict

Nine out of 10.  This was a fun movie.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Conan the Barbarian (2011) Trailer



Now this looks awesome.  Nothing in the trailer, nor anyone in the list of characters in the Wikipedia article about the film stand out as being based on any particular story or culture from Robert Howard's stories.  IMDB mentions Valeria, but I don't see her in the Wikipedia cast list.

That being said, I don't think I've actually read any of Howard's Conan stories, only about them.  I have read L. Sprague de Camp's Conan stories, but those were written later on, to fill in the gaps in Howard's chronology, and many fans do not regard them as canon.

Also, although Conan objects strongly to being enslaved himself, I don't think he's ever expressed general anti-slavery sentiments ("no man should live in chains").

Some of the material I've read about Howard's work indicates he develops stronger morals and a sense of responsibility that comes with leadership as he ages, leading to him suppressing the banditry he'd started his career in when he became King of Aquilonia, but that would be years later.  In the movie, Conan appears to be a young man, and based on the Wikipedia article, is still in his "make money by violence and then blow it all gambling, drinking, and whoring" phase.

That being said, this looks awesome and I will definitely see it.  It already looks better than the original Conan the Barbarian from the 1980s.

BTW, thanks belong to James R. Tuck for finding this and posting it on his Facebook page.  He's got a three-book deal about a monster hunter and the above link is his author page, so if the phrase "Deacon Chalk: Occult Bounty Hunter" appeals to you, you might want to check this out.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

My Column About Donald Trump...

Rather than write a column about local issues, I have decided to dip my toe in the 2012 presidential waters.

Here's a column about Donald Trump:

http://www.northfulton.com/Articles-c-2011-05-03-187113.114126-sub-Donald-Trump-not-a-good-Republican-candidate-for-2012.html

Hopefully this will be an attack on Trump from an unexpected direction.  I've heard Trump criticized on other grounds, like his divorce from his first wife, his tendency to attach "Trump" to everything (that he even jokes about), and his hair, and those attacks can be answered.

The eminent domain abuse criticism, although Michelle Malkin and John Stossel have engaged in it, has not to my knowledge hit the general public's radar yet.  However, those two wrote against Trump years ago and he was not a viable candidate then.  Trump's record is, in all likelihood, getting more attention right now than in the past.

Hopefully this foolishness can be nipped in the bud before Trump gets the Republican nomination (and is likely defeated in a landslide by Obama) or runs as an independent, which could lead to the vote being split and the Democrat winning again.

For the record, if Trump wins the Republican nomination, I'm voting Libertarian.  Even though the Libertarians won't win and I've been somewhat less hostile toward government spending in recent years, Trump's abuse of eminent domain is antithetical to everything any self-respecting conservative (or for that many, any self-respecting liberal) stands for.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Something Awesome from Robert Howard's "Conan" Stories

Found this on TVTropes.  The site lists this under Badass Creed and said it's from Howard's Conan poem "The Road of Kings."


Gleaming shell of an outworn lie, fable of Right Divine
You gained your crowns by heritage, but Blood was the price of mine
The throne I won by blood and sweat, by Crom I will not sell
For promise of valleys filled with gold, or threat of the Halls of Hell!
When I was a fighting man, the kettle-drums they beat
The people scattered gold dust before my horse's feet
But now I am a great king; the people hound my track
With poison in my wine cup and daggers at my back.
What do I know of cultured ways, the gilt, the craft and the lie?
I who was born in a naked land and bred in the open sky.
The subtle tongue, the sophist guile, they fail when the broadswords sing.
Rush in and die, dogs — I was a man before I was a king!



This is awesome.  Very Nietzchean and Will-to-Power, which is appropriate considering how the film Conan the Barbarian began with Nietzche's "What does not kill us makes us stronger."

I need to work in an allusion to this in my "Wastelands" novels, for Grendel and ultimately for Andrew Sutter.

(Oops...was that a spoiler?)

I did ponder a sketch of Grendel ramming his foot down on one Merrill soldier while shooting another with his "Old World" rifle (a modern assault rifle, probably an AK-47 or an M-16) and title it "I Was A Man Before I Was A King."  When I was in Britain in 2006, I saw a Star Wars-related magazine cover depicting Vader bringing down his lightsaber on a Rebel Alliance soldier, so it would be in a similar style.  I could also do a similarly-themed sketch with Andrew doing the same to a Flesh-Eater.

I already have a sketch of Alonzo Merrill in my sketchbook, which I used to visualize him for Chapter Nine of Battle for the Wastelands when the character is introduced, so I've already got some "Wastelands" artwork.

However, until my "Wastelands" novels become popular, there's not much of a market or audience for that.  I suppose I could post it on DeviantArt, but that risks the ideas being stolen.