Must write!

A letter to my children on the eve of my 35th birthday

Dear Harrison and Colin,

While I was working today, I watched "Deep Impact" on Netflix. It's not what one would call a good movie, per se; movies in which all mankind is threatened by a fast moving space rock on a collision course with Earth tend to be categorically terrible due to overly earnest dialogue, bad science, and repetitive deus ex machina eye-roll-inducing scenarios (e.g. Elijah Wood somehow manages to locate his girlfriend in a sea of thousands of evacuees just in time to haul her to higher ground before a colossal tidal wave kills them? Yeah, no.)

But hey, who doesn't love a fun apocalyptic drama!

Watching a flick about the end of the days on the eve of one's birthday is both a good and a bad idea. It's a bad idea for all the reasons I've already mentioned, but it's also a good idea because it does force contemplating the unspoken question of every apocalyptic drama: "What would you do if the world ended tomorrow?" Granted, my end of days is a long ways off (I'm only turning 35, for crying out loud), but I do think this question evokes a different answer depending on your age and experience. That may be the reason why the protagonists of "Deep Impact" range in age from teens to adults of varying maturity - each character approaches the cataclysm from a different perspective which drives their actions throughout the film.

I think "What would you do?" is the very question that motivates us to keep making apocalyptic movies - because otherwise, how many of us actually think about the precarious nature of life and act accordingly? Good thing we don't have a comet the size of Mt. Everest headed straight for Canada - we'd be unprepared on multiple existential levels with no one to save us!

Which leads me to the other thing that happened today.

Tonight, Harrison, you cried for a long time about not wanting to go to bed. Last night, a nightmare had convinced you that a monster was in your pillow waiting to attack you in the middle of the night, so you crawled into our bed during the wee hours (and Daddy had to go sleep in the living room as a result). "I want to sleep in your bed," you cried into my shoulder, "because I don't want anything bad to happen to me! I want you to protect me!" (Your capacity for innocence at the same time as you express yourself so maturely never fails to blow me away.)

To calm your fears, I told you that monsters are only make believe, that Mommy and Daddy are always here to protect you and keep you safe, and that our prayers at night fill your room with goodness and light to help keep bad thoughts away, for that's all that monsters are. Then, Daddy and I took turns sitting with you in the dark until you fell asleep. (You were there, too, Colin, only you were asleep for most of this. Thankfully, your dreams so far seem to focus on nursing and also possibly milk.)

So you may be wondering what all this has to do with a mediocre disaster film from the late '90s. It's because, despite multiple past viewings on HBO, TNT, TBS, and goodness knows how many other networks, for the first time ever, I watched "Deep Impact" and wept. In particular, it was the scene where Sarah's parents, seeing an opportunity for their children to live, strap their youngest - a baby - to their eldest - Sarah - and send them away to find higher ground. Her mother sobs as she watches their children disappear into the throng.

For some reason, it took being a parent myself to read this scene accurately. Though they have doomed themselves by staying behind, Sarah's parents aren't grieving the inevitable end that awaits them. They cry because, in sending their children away to survive, there is finally nothing else they can do to preserve them or ensure their safekeeping. They are, in essence, giving their kids over to fate, and though expedited by the unwelcome arrival of a 600 billion ton space rock, it's what every parent generally must do at some point. And something about that feels a little like the end of the world to me.

The older I become, the closer that moment will arrive when we must hope for the best and let you take over as your own savior. Watching you grow, it seems like time is hurtling ever faster toward that inevitability, and I have to consciously remind myself that I will blink and find two grown men before me one day. Some of the best scenes of "Deep Impact" are quiet moments between people who, despite age differences, use their remaining time to slow down and (re)connect. "What would you do if the world ended tomorrow?" For this movie (and for virtually every other film about the end of the world), that is the answer. In Hollywood and in life.

Another year of my life begins tomorrow, and as this day wraps up, I want you to know that I will do my best to keep you safe, secure, whole, and loved for as long as I am able, pending heavenly bodies don't collide with our planet. And until the day I let you go on to become the masters of your fate, I will strive to slow down the breakneck pace of our lives together, cherish every moment, and be grateful to God and Creation that I am your mother, come hell, high water, and meteors.

Happy Birthday to me.

Love you to the ends of the earth,
Must write!

"Narratives, Neophytes, and the Language of Division" (or: "How Labels Make Us All Awful People")

My scholarly writing hasn't gotten much of a workout in a long while, so warnings in advance if this is a little clunky.

I work from home full time, which means I get massive amounts done without a commute to factor into my day (Yay) at the same time as I suffer a lack of human interaction (Boo). Which is why I pepper visits to social media throughout my day. It makes me feel a little more... connected.

Whether or not Facebook's algorithms force things onto my feed based on my click-through history, I find myself confronted every day by passionately worded headlines accompanied by passionately worded captions from friends who are, well, passionate about something. Most days it's politics, but the categories include religion, science, race, and gender - the usual suspects in a lineup of things that both bring us together and divide us.

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Deathly Hallows H/G

Seven Years Ago Today.

Seven years ago today, I was volunteering as a face painter at my favorite Borders bookstore - the one that had given me a spot in their cafe to draw every weekend and rewarded my attempts at artistic legitimacy by hosting my very first (and only) art show featuring my Harry Potter artwork. It was the midnight release party for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, and I joyfully spent four straight hours dressed up as Hermione drawing owls, Hogwarts crests, dark marks, basilisks, and anything else kids and grown-ups alike could concoct to wear on their faces, arms, and hands.

Of course, face painting all night prevented me from queuing up with the rest of the fans to get my copy of the book. By the time midnight had arrived, I emerged from the children's book section with a sore wrist and realized I would be at least 200th in line to get my book. At this point, I was tired and daunted at the idea of driving myself home later than it already was, so I resolved to get myself back to the bookstore early the next day to pick up and pay for my reserved copy. I made sure to greet the manager on my way out to thank him for another opportunity to participate in a Potter event at his store.

He gave me a big hug and asked why I was leaving. "It's pretty late and the line is a little too long. But it's fine. I'll be back tomorrow," I had said.

"Wait here," he replied, and disappeared into the throng. Moments later, he emerged with a shiny new Harry Potter 7. "For you."

Elated, I dove into my purse to take out my wallet, and was promptly interrupted.

"Nope. It's yours free of charge. For all you've done for these kids and our store. Take it home."

My eyes filled with tears as I accepted my copy, and I stumbled over words in an attempt to convey just how grateful I was. I raced home and, despite my exhaustion, jumped into pajamas and read the first chapter to my roommate. Ultimately, she went to bed, and I stayed awake all night reading the rest until the last page had been turned.

A lot happens in seven years. The Borders bookstore that had welcomed me so warmly as one of their own is now closed. And I now have a little Harry of my own. But the memory of being among so many enthusiastic fans, doing what I love to do, being on the receiving end of such generosity, and devouring an entire book in the same night as so many other die-hard Potterheads stays with me to this day.

So here is the first Harry Potter artwork I've completed in many years. It was commissioned by a dad for his 14 year-old girl who is nearly as big a fan of the books as her old man. I'm thrilled to share it with the only group of people on the planet who know just how much I love this scene. It represents the beginning of amazing things - in the books, and in my life.

Title: "Fluffy"
Medium: digital
Characters: Ron, Harry, Hermione, Neville

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H/G Book 7 kiss

Setbacks and such.

First off, thank you so much to the following people who backed the Starflyer John Jackson Kickstarter Campaign: lunalovepotter, major_dallas, geezer_also, elka78, lewlinx, hedwig5221, star54kar, lnalvgd, yaaronet, pili204 and other friends and family on Facebook (whose LJ handles either elude me or do not exist). I am so truly touched by your outpouring of support.

I regret to say that the first iteration of the campaign had to be cancelled before it failed to make its minimum donation goal, so naturally, everyone's contributions were immediately refunded. But it means that Steve now has an opportunity to review his approach and streamline the expenses to match the amount that he DID receive, so that the next attempt is sure to succeed.

So the good news is that he's going to give the project another go on Kickstarter in fairly short order. And that gives me a second chance at an opportunity to illustrate a truly fun story. I promise to update as soon as the campaign is relaunched, and I hope those who contributed the first time around will be willing to give it another go when the time comes.

Thank you guys again for cheerleading and donating! I promise to keep you guys posted!
Must write!

More about Starflyer John Jackson

A couple nights ago, I dropped a bit of info about an upcoming illustration project I'm hopefully going to embark on this summer. It's a children's book called "Starflyer John Jackson" - a picture book about a very special pilot (special, because he's five years old) and his adventures around the universe with his crew as they travel to distant planets and escape from the Zeeps (read: space pirates!).

It's being written by an old friend of mine from high school, Steve Shaw. The last time he and I worked on something together, we were tap dancing in 1950s garb as Mabel and Heinzie in "The Pajama Game", so it's kinda crazy how we reconnected after a gajillion years and decided to dust off this story to get it published.

And having spent time with the manuscript, I can confirm that it's as fun to read as it is to draw. Here's the "Cast" picture:


So I used the word "hopefully" because it's not funded yet. As you can imagine, I'm trying to make a living wage as an illustrator, Steve supports a family in his corner of the Bronx, NY, and really the only way to make this project happen is through the interest and contributions of our families, friends, and of course, the Kickstarter community.

If you think you might like to donate, there's an extra incentive for folks who donate by way of my LiveJournal flist. Just drop me a link in the comments saying you helped, and you'll receive one of the following "Old School Mudblood428" prints:

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Here's where to go: Starflyer John Jackson Kickstarter Campaign

Thank you SO MUCH for any small way you can contribute. As you can seen from the incentives list, there are loads of rewards for those of you who are willing to put your faith in this project. I hope you'll consider supporting Steve and me, and I look forward to sending loads of HP prints to the post office! :D
H/G Book 7 kiss

It's the night before my 33rd birthday...

...and I don't need anything. No presents. No cake. I have everything I could possibly want. This makes me both nervous (as though the universe has some unhappy tricks in store, so I'd better enjoy this while it lasts), and incredulous, because it feels a little like winning the lottery after so many years of beginning private entries with the words, "I wish..."

The thing that makes me happiest is the knowledge of how much more there is to look forward to. Skills to polish. People to know. Places to visit. Things to create. And they are, I am grateful to say, within reach in one way or another. But, for so many, happiness, health, and prosperity - the stuff I am trying really hard not to take for granted on a daily basis - are not in the cards.

So this year, I have a request for anyone who would like an excuse to do something awesome. It's my birthday, and my wish is to help more people achieve the kind of good that I and so many others enjoy, and give a little more back to the planet we take so much from. If you have the time, dollars, or interest, here are some things on my wish list.

1) Sign my petition urging the US Government to get the plastics problem under control. Not only is this stuff poisoning our environment, but our country also makes plastics something for other, poorer countries to deal with by sending them our waste, which they have no means to effectively handle without putting their communities at great risk. They deserve better and so do we.

2) Visit "Click to Donate" at It is 100% free. Using pay-per-click sponsorship, your click can save acres of rainforest, rescue wildlife, purify water, and raise dollars for cancer research, among other causes. And did I mention it is FREE?

3) Donate to They have taken on the massive task of convincing governments and corporations that our air, our atmosphere, and our climate are worth fighting for.

4) Give to Team J.E.D.I, a leukemia and lymphoma fundraising initiative spearheaded by my friend, Jason, who just won his battle against a rare form of leukemia.

And then, if you feel so inclined, there's a special project I am involved in that, if you can help, comes with rewards. My friend, Steve, has asked me to illustrate a scifi picture book, and being a father of two without the ability to pay for my services out of pocket, he has put his faith in Kickstarter to raise the funds to illustrate and self-publish it. There are a number of incentive levels, but if anyone on here donates you'll get a little extra something from me to thank you for supporting a project that will have my name on the cover as illustrator. Just let me know in the comments if you donated:

Starflyer John Jackson Kickstarter Campaign

And I am now 25 minutes away from being a year older. Thanks so much for reading. Thanks so much for always being here for me. My birthday wishes include the wellbeing and happiness of all you amazing people, who are in great part responsible for so much of what brings me joy in my life. Keep being awesome.


H/G Book 7 kiss

[BREAKING:] Dreams don't work unless you do.


I hope you're all well (and warm, all you folks in the northern hemisphere). I've been derelict in my LiveJournal duties - but for good reasons, I swear. 2013 was a doozy and thensome with Harrison turning 1, working more or less full time for the fed, and putting whatever leftover energy I had into a project I've been waiting most of my adult life to accomplish.

Which leads me to the big announcement.

I am art-ing again. Like, a LOT. Introducing my new sole proprietorship for illustrating and filmmaking, Red Admiral Creative Studio.

Red Admiral Creative Studio

Red Admiral combines the disciplines that, until recently, I've done in relative privacy. It is so named not only because Red Admirals are a Vanessa species of butterfly (hem, hem), but because butterflies have always inspired me for the way they struggle to come into the world. And starting this enterprise was definitely a struggle - not just because starting a business is a logistical maze for a right-brained person like me, but moreso because I have a personal history of nearsightedness when it comes to the things I think I can do. In many ways, this journal has functioned at times like a dress rehearsal for a life I had only hoped to lead - one defined and propelled by its creative expressions. I sometimes think this is the reason why my departures from LJ are so long - my fanartist appellation started to feel confining because, whether real or imagined, it created borders around what I created, why, and for whom.

While I believe that my Mudblood428 screenname will still live on here as means to share my personal thoughts, experiences, and Harry Potter fan activity (including HP art) I have finally arrived a point where I feel ready to anchor my creative exploits to my real name instead of a tag I made up years ago. From now on, my work will hold as much value to me as it has for those for whom I have worked. And I believe that attitude, ultimately, serves all artists who wish to be valued for the hours, headaches, heartaches, tears, and triumphs we experience at the drawing board, behind the camera, or in the studio. If we don't stand behind our art, how can the world recognize the value of beauty?

Already, things have taken off far faster than I thought they would. As of this writing, I have two children's books in the wings, I've animated several videos (it's gov't stuff, otherwise I'd totally show you guys), and there's now a board game in the wings among other projects that are flowing in. I'm so grateful (and busy!) my heart is fit to burst!

And I have the LJ community to thank for this.

With your encouragement, your comments, your criticisms, and most of all, your friendship, you've helped me build up the confidence to make this leap. I'll crosspost here as often as I can for those who aren't into bookmarking another site, but I hope you'll follow me on the links below:

Twitter: @RedAdmiralStuff
Pinterest: @RedAdmiralPins

If you're still reading, you have my gratitude for wading through this TL;DR. lol Anyway, cheers to you all!