chop wood, carry secret document

It was Sunday, and the sky above Rita opened onto a golden world of radiance and beauty. Nobody took any notice. Except for Rita. And she had places to be.

I was sitting around doodling and this picture of the titular lady from Decrypting Rita happened. Prints on Redbubble; source file on Patreon. Background halftones thanks to Astute’s Phantasm plugin.

Rita: The End

Today, I took the last high-tier backer’s copy of the Rita omnibus to the post office. And then I did this.

Time to get rid of the Finder sidebar shortcut to the project directory. Time to close the virtual desktop I’ve kept all the project’s windows on for something like five years. Time to move on.

I dunno what I’m going to focus on next. Absinthe? Drowning City? Parallax? Right now I mostly just want to wait and see what kind of feelings I have about finally being done with the biggest thing I’ve ever made. I feel like I should be relieved, or proud, or delighted, or something, but I’m just kinda empty.

Maybe I’ll just take some porn commissions for a while or something.

Rita: very close to completely done.

Yesterday, I drew in the back of the last Rita omnibus for the high-value Kickstarter backers.

It joined about twenty copies of book 3 and the omnibus sitting under my drawing board, all with signatures and pictures in them.

Today I ordered boxes to put them in.

Pretty soon I’ll spend an evening or three putting the boxes together and putting books in them. And then I’ll get them in the mail.

And then I’ll be done with Decrypting Rita and I really feel like I should have some emotions about that, but I don’t feel anything right now.

Ah well. Off to draw some other stuff. I got a deadline in three weeks, and five pages to get done before then.

the dream of the impossible printing error

I dreamed that my books had come in! The Rita omnibus was printed, huzzah!

But the body of the book was just big dark grey spaces. After a moment the images would slowly load in. Somehow I had sent the printers an InDesign file that linked to images on my website instead of having them embedded in the file, and somehow they had managed to print books that loaded the images off the net. Slowly.

Charlie Stross had a copy and tried to console me, saying it looked wonderful anyway, but I knew he was wrong. “It does when the net dies,” I moaned. “I've got to come up with $10,000 to reprint it. Oh god.” And then I flipped forwards onto the ground, miserable, and woke up in exactly the same position.

Luckily I am pretty sure this is not a problem that is physically possible to have.


Rita: the home stretch.


Half the money has been wired to the printer. The interior files are done. I’m uploading two zip files to the printer’s FTP site; they’re the compressed result of asking InDesign to “package” my files. Which means that it created a directory containing the 223 Illustrator files that make up the pages of the book, all the fonts used, a PDF export of the whole book, and a version of the InDesign file that has the proper path references to use all those files.

Four and a half years of work. Four and a half years of drawing, writing, thinking, and drawing. Each page is in there three times: the Illustrator-only representation in its .AI file, the larger PDF-compatible representation in the same file that InDesign can read, and a print-res image contained in the PDF. It’s a little under two gigabytes.

And somehow that doesn’t feel like very much data for four and a half years of work.


On the other hand book 3 is gonna take about three days to upload, and the omnibus is gonna take another three or four. So maybe that’s a hell of a lot of data. It’s certainly a hell of a lot of data to upload on my asymmetric consumer-level connection. Maybe I should see if I have a friend with a fast connection at home or work who’ll let me use it. Or just put these things on a USB key and FedEx that.

(It’s also a lot of data to be uploading three times, as Dropbox and Backblaze both try to synch it… pausing those sounds like a good idea.)

It is also Thanksgiving, which I have been spending very happily alone. And I suppose I should do the traditional listing of Things I’m Thankful For. Let’s see:

I’m thankful to my grandfather for taking advantage of a bank offering scandalously low interest rates on a loan, and leaving me a big enough pile of money that I haven’t had to worry about a day job for the  time I spent drawing this comic.

I’m thankful to all the people who now support me on Patreon; their small per-page donations add up to about a hundred bucks per page, and when I’m cranking out two pages a week that ends up paying a significant chunk of my rent every month. I’m thankful to the folks who built Patreon, too!

I’m thankful the three-way relationship that broke up not too long before starting Rita ended up with me having an ex-with-benefits who’s a great creative partner, as well as a source of, you know, regular, um, benefits.


“Decrypting Rita is that rarest and most refreshing of things: a science–fiction story that feels like it comes from the future.” – Phil Foglio

“Deliriously confusing and addictive… It’s kind of wonderful.” – Peter  Watts

“Seriously folks, if you haven’t looked at Decrypting Rita yet you really ought to. Innovative, fresh, interesting, and it does my head in.” – Charlie Stross

The comic I spent four and half years on is finally ready to go to print. You know what that means in this day and age: KICKSTARTER. And you know what to do with a Kickstarter for stuff you like: reblog, post to social media, tell your favorite news aggregators about it, whatever. Or back it, that’s great too. <3

rita: omnibus cover iteration

I’ve been playing with cover ideas for the omnibus. (And am still debating skipping book 3, or maybe having it be a stretch goal for the omnibus (wonderful idea, Jer!). If I can bring the omnibus in around $30 for the softcover then it’s a definite go.)

First off is my first image. I really love this one but it’s not really doing a good job of advertising the book; I think it’ll probably be on the hardcover if I do that option and make it to a ‘dust jacket’ stretch goal.


But I feel like I really need to communicate the “multiple parallel realities” thing for a cover to work. This just says “it’s about a fast robot lady and has a strong horizontal motion”.

So I pulled in the image I’d done for a t-shirt for the second book’s kickstarter, and simplified it.The arrow would be gloss, of course. Still not there; the figures are tiny and aren’t going to grab you from across the store, or as an icon.


Then I tried doing a set of all four timelines, knotted together. Kinda working but I dunno, it just didn’t… didn’t feel right. Didn’t feel like it really had potential. Also felt really potentially fiddly and tedious what with wanting to have the different timelines weave in front and behind each other more.


So I pulled out the image I’d done for my convention banner and tried it on a sideways book. Interesting but no. Also kind of annoying and frustrating because Illustrator went unresponsive whenever I tried to copy over the green world layers; I had to copy them one at a time, and had to copy one layer in parts. Pain in the ass.


Maybe it’d work on a horizontal book? Eh. It could work but I’d have to draw a new image for this, and I didn’t really feel a single pose could convey the story properly.


So I just started doodling. I scribbled a really loose rectangle, then started drawing a bunch of them with the rectangle tool, in the disintegrating/glitched-up look that shows up throughout the story. Referencing an important recurring image, good. Calling back to the very effective (IMHO) covers of book 1/2, also good.


See? Book 1: bold, striking, conveys ‘confident female lead’ and ‘shattered into multiple realities’. Book 2 has Dragon Rita and Hat Rita looking out of the arrows, worried now as they’re out of alignment. Remix the idea into a wider composition, with a bit more fragmentation, and appearances by all four Ritas, Add in some Panopticon, maybe a couple of cables in the gloss layer, maybe some more source code from the guts of some ciphering algorithm, and I think it’s a winner. Especially once I have white face bits popping out of the color and black.

(Incidentally, this proposed omnibus cover bears little resemblance to the one I have planned for book 3, if that happens. I’ll probably have to draw that anyway, I kinda want to have all the covers in the extra material at the back of the book, along with some notes on my process, the Ask Ritas,  and maybe a little epilogue short for each Rita…)


I just uploaded the remainder of Decrypting Rita to my site. On November 3, the last page will go online.

It will be four and a half years since I drew the first pages with no real idea of where the story was going beyond a vague idea that it might be cool to do something with multiple stories running on the page at once. Over the course of this comic, I have printed two books (and will be running the Kickstarter for the third soon). I have gone from doing tables in the artist’s alley at local cons to flying all over the country to break even at cons, and to getting together a group that holds down two corner booths at a megacon. I have acquired glowing quotes from one of my long-time idols and a couple of big names in modern SF. I lost my mother.

It’s been a long trip. I learnt a lot.

I wonder what I’ll learn during my next project.

I am not completely done with drawing the comic. I may do a second pass on the last chapter and add a few subtle things. I also need to fill in a few gaps in That Spread, either by getting art from friends who volunteered to do something, or by drawing something myself. But it’s finally done enough for me to post it.

I guess I’ll have something to tell the stuffed elephant on my bookshelf when I get home. Because that’s the closest thing to calling my mother with this news I have any more. And that makes me feel like all the hard work I’ve put into this project over the past few years doesn’t mean a damn thing. Have I said “fuck mortality” lately? Because fuck mortality.

I should go get some food. I’ve been sitting behind a convention table all day, with no food since breakfast.


sequel sales

Well. This is interesting. I just looked through my records to get an idea of how many copies of Rita 1 and 2 to stick in my suitcase for SPX.

ECCC 2014: 20/ na (R2 wasn’t printed yet)
RCCC 2014: 12/7 (5 bundles)
APE 2014: 11/6 (6 bundles)
Sasquan: 12/12 (8 bundles)
ECCC 2015: 13/14 (9 bundles)

And that tells me two things. One, that at most cons I sell about twice as many copies of book 1 as I do book 2. Unsurprising, as I’m not the only person who’s seen that kind of drop-off for sequel sales.

But wow. Sasquan moved the same amount of both books. And Emerald City is amazing: I moved more copies of book 2 there than 1. And a third of those were either returning fans, or folks who bought book 1, then came back the next day and got 2 after loving 1 overnight – I get that every other con or so.

I’m definitely doing something right here. I think I’ll bring about 20 of each book to SPX.