If one is looking for Literature, you don't need to go far on deviantART. There is a large community of writers and a plethora of work to peruse. Featuring genres such as fantasy, mystery, horror, and romance, one would be hard-pressed to find an area not covered. However, due to the nature of the site, shorter works tend to get more focus. It's easier to quickly read a poem or a short story, and thus many of the feature articles on dA showcase those works. However, there are many novelists and serial writers among the mix, oftentimes fighting an uphill battle to have their works seen and appreciated.
With that in mind, I have started an article to spotlight some of those artists and their literary-worlds. The works covered in this feature will exclusively be long-form fiction such as novels, trilogies, etc., or fiction serials.
Editor's Note: Some people feel it is questionable when a writer who publishes an article series features their own work. Mirz doesn't have a problem with those who do so, as she doesn't feel an artist should be precluded from promoting their own work simply because they choose to feature others. Still, she was feeling a little apprehensive to do so herself. Since many of her friends and watchers encouraged her to showcase Relativity, feeling her work is worthy of a spotlight also, as a Literary Compass Story scout, I have offered to take the reigns of publishing Volume 7. This duty may also extend to the future, when there are times I will be needed to publish the article for various reasons. In any event, remember you can watch the group LiteraryCompass to read any articles or updates you may miss. ~Endorell-Taelos
Current Stop - Gale CityThe next stop on our Literary journey is the comicbook-inspired world of Gale City, home of the superhero group, Team Torrent. Created by Jim and Michelle Lehmann (Ravenswd and Mirz123 - mirz-alt), it is featured in the fiction serial, "Relativity"
What better way to find out what a book is about than reading the back cover. Grab the virtual paperback and flip it over to see what Relativity is about...
Gale City. A metropolis riddled with crime, controlled by the mob, and with a police force struggling to keep up. The citizens have come to expect corruption and go about their daily lives, resigned to the fact things will always be that way.
Until a hero from the past re-appears…
"You put on that cape on your own...without anyone telling you to. You took up the family business, and you didn't even know you were in the family." ~ Yule
Of course, the best way to learn about a Literary World is to visit it yourself. Here are some works from Relativity to help whet your appetite.
Lost and Found Scene 1 - Relativity Episode 1The light above the vanity flickered, throwing the room into a series of shadows. Babs Stone tapped the plastic casing with her finger, hoping to jiggle the bulb back into place. The room fell into complete darkness. After a moment, the light snapped back on, shining bright and steady. The prostitute leaned back towards the mirror.
Pulling up her chin, Babs checked her throat carefully. While she didn’t have a policy against rough stuff, she didn’t like when her clients left marks. It made it difficult when picking up another john, not to mention she simply didn’t like bruising on her neck. Satisfied, she tousled her long platinum blonde hair so it framed her face, then twisted open a cylinder of Fire Engine Red and smeared it across her lips. She could hear shuffling and smiled at the thought of the man on the other side of the door.
While she had several regulars, Babs liked Denny the best. He was always clean and smelled nice. More than that, he always called
Legend of the Cheese Maidens "And what, dare I ask, is a Cheese Maiden?"
Ravenswood chuckled. "Sorry. They were the cheerleaders at my high school." He sat up in the bed to face Melody. "I grew up in an area that was little more than a bunch of dairy farms. Pretty much everything in town had a name relating to cows, milk, or cheese. So my school newspaper was The Daily Moo, the football team was the Rustlers, and the cheerleaders were Cheese Maidens."
Melody smiled coyly. "So it would really turn you on if I dressed up as a cheerleader?"
Ravenswood hid his face in embarrassment. He was still uncomfortable talking to his wife about his sexual leanings, even though the number of suggestions she had made about bedroom activities far outnumbered his, and were generally much more adventurous.
"Yeah," he admitted.
Melody thought for a moment, then asked, "So, was there any girl in particular?"
Secrets - A Dark Flame Story Some say Gale City is the worst place to live in the whole United States. I've been living here since I was two years old. Considering I'm ten now, I guess that's not a long time, but eight years is usually long enough to get to know a place. Before I was placed in Gale—and I can really remember that far back—I used to live in Chicago. My mom and stepdad and four sisters lived in a two bedroom apartment in the projects. It was clean and we had food to eat. The problem was that dad always needed money to pay for the "junk." Back then, I never understood why anyone would want to buy garbage. I now know that junk doesn't mean trash, but it is garbage, and people pay through the nose for it.
Maybe you're wondering how a kid can know so much. Well, in Gale you learn to know or you end up doing something bad—and ten years old is too young to die. I've always picked up things fast, and I don't even watch t.v. that much. Bobby Brali and me
Literary Universes are worlds created out of words on pages, but many authors now expand beyond that. Creating or commissioning art of their characters and settings is a way to help enrich the reading experience for their fans, as well as help inspire the creators themselves. We asked the creators to each pick out two of their favorite pieces and tell us why they are so special to them.
1. Jim - This is a scene from the story Cotillion. It depicts the members of Team Torrent out of costume, in their "civilian" identities. This is a nice, quiet moment -- they aren't fighting crime, they're just out at a social gathering. What's great about this picture is you can also tell their personalities from their body language: Melody is bubbly and outgoing, Ravenswood is more reserved and looks to his wife to make the first move socially. Michael is the kind who takes charge, and Sara is shy and timid. Even though this is our most recent piece of art, it's a great illustration and one of my new favorites.
2. Michelle - This is a bit of a cheat--a composite of 3 separate portraits. I had the artist create this collage as these characters are the core of Relativity. While many people see the story as being about Team Torrent, in actuality it's about these three friends and how their pseudo-family relationship ripples through their lives. The portrait artist, ThreshTheSky, did an amazing job of visualizing Michael, Tony, and Andy, and it's just a wonderful piece.
3. Jim - This is one of my favorites because it shows the relationship between these characters. In the foreground, you have Dark Flame rescuing a child. That's her specialty. Unlike most superheroes, she focuses on saving children. In the background, you can see Black Torrent watching her. He's not interfering, but he's there in case she needs him. He acts as her guardian angel. This really sums up the dynamics of these two, in and out of costume.
4. Michelle - I'll be honest, this piece really doesn't tell you much about the series, but I love it because it's darkly beautiful. Vincent is a villain from Sara's original history and what role he'll play in Relativity isn't carved in stone yet. However, this scene just exudes so much emotion. Vincent is a wicked, rip-your-throat-out-and-ask-questions-later vampire, and this picture makes no qualms about that. Sara is a more demure, gentle character, but she has spirit and fight, and you can see she's not going without a struggle. The artist created a gorgeous work and it's one of my all-time faves.
"You know, you guys are always saying the Bruces have a superhero gene, but your family was pretty amazing today. I think you both get it honestly." ~ Sara
The second-best way to learn about a literary work is to talk to the creators. Jim and Michelle were nice enough to sit down for a Q&A about their series and other works.
Please introduce yourself.
Michelle - My name is Michelle, but most deviants know me as Mirz. I'm a legal secretary and mom by day, varied artist by night. I specialize in pixel-art and literature--not quite a combination you'd expect.
Jim - My name is Jim, but my dA name is Ravenswd. Yes, that's Ravenswood without the Os. Some people think it's short for "Raven-sword," which... would be pretty cool, actually. I'm a computer programmer by profession.
How long have you been writing?
Michelle - Kindergarten-age. Though, admittedly, I never started writing with any firm ideas or focus until I was around 12-13.
Jim - I've been writing since I was old enough to write. But I hardly ever finished any stories until I was a teenager and got a computer. Before that, I wrote things in notebooks and it was too difficult to edit stories, so they tended to just get abandoned.
Tell us a little about your novel/series?
Michelle - Relativity is a character drama that centers around a team of superheroes who operate in the fictional Gale City. The focus of the series, however, is the people behind the mask, and how they juggle work, life and love while donning a mask at night. While essentially a prose-comicbook series, Relativity is also firmly planted in the mystery genre as the team investigates and solves various crimes. Of course, there is also a menagerie of fun and interesting villains for our heroes to contend with.
Jim - What Michelle said. On a side note, the series is called Relativity as the word has dual-meaning to the story. It's a play on the word "relative" since the main focus of the series is the familial relationships between the characters, be it through genetics or affiliation. It also explores the complexities of family and how subjective the term "relative" can be. Meaning that you can have genetic relatives who are disconnected and don't care about you, while you can have friends who can be more like family than your flesh and blood.
When/How did you come up with the idea of your novel/series?
Michelle - A big fan of comic books as a kid, I created a female superhero, Dark Flame, when I was in my late teens. Even though she was a fan-character in the Batman universe, my goal from day-one was to have her act on her own, outside of any licensed universe. I ended up taking time off of writing to raise my family, but kept the character alive through tabletop roleplay. Over the years, there were several times I wanted to start an independent series featuring her, but I couldn't come up with a storyline that gripped me, so it never happened. It was the movie Ironman that was the catalyst to finally do it. The film inspired me to write a story that was so different than what I had done in the past that it took my brain in new directions and I came up with the concept of Black Torrent, a/k/a Michael Bruce and his two childhood friends. Running with that idea, Jim and I spent the next year and a half fleshing out the characters and storylines, and thus Relativity was born.
Jim - When I was in college, I created the name "Ravenswood Cadavre" more or less at random, and someone mentioned that it sounded like a good name for a private eye. So I began writing a series of mystery stories featuring that character. Since he was basically my "self-insertion", I began using "Ravenswood" (or "Ravenswd") as an on-line name. When Michelle and I began role-playing a superhero series, I used my private eye character but made him a superhero on the side. The current incarnation of Ravenswood is very different from the earlier versions.
You call your short-stories "episodes". Is there a reason for that? Do you then have "seasons"?
Michelle - Well, as much as it is literature, the pacing is much like a t.v. series, so it just seemed right to call them episodes. That said, we don't have formal "seasons" like a t.v. show, but the series is broken up into three parts, which we call "cycles." The cycles are three different stages in the lives of the Relativity characters. How many episodes will be in each cycle is yet to be seen.
Since your series is essentially a collection of short stories, which story is your favorite?
Michelle - It's hard to say, since they really are one long story. Of the core episodes, I would pick "Happy Hour". It's such an emotional episode and has one of the most dramatic and pivotal scenes in the whole series. However, even more than that, my favorite is "Ghosts of Christmas Past." It's a side-story, which isn't considered essential reading to enjoy the series, but it's a classic superhero tale and you get to see Black Torrent in his early beginnings, which I think is cool.
Jim - "My Big Fat Superhero Wedding" - It's basically a comedy, so it's a bit different from most of the other episodes. I like the fact that for most of the story we just see the characters interacting in their "regular" identities, not as superheroes. Then at the end, we get the reverse: regular people acting like heroes, in and out of costume. It's a fun story.
Who are your two favorite characters and why? (Yes, I know picking only two is hard.)
Michelle - Actually, it's not hard for me: Yule and Michael. The father and son. It's just amazing to see how these two men who are related are so similar, yet so different. They both wear the Black Torrent costume at some point in time, though their views on the role and responsibility don't always mesh with each other. They're also imperfect characters. Yes, they're the heroes, but they're not always the best people, and there are times the audience may not like them at all. But, that's what I love the most about them. Deep, complex, yet at the core, still very decent and good human beings.
Jim - Ravenswood and Michael. They're best friends. They're fun to write because they have such good banter. They don't always agree and they can say things to each other which other people wouldn't be able to get away with. But at the end of the day they're always still friends.
What’s one of the best compliments you’ve gotten on the novel/series?
Michelle - That the characters are some of the most-developed and interesting that people have read about. To me, that's the ultimate compliment, as that is really what Relativity is about. When readers tell me they feel real emotion and passion for the characters, I know we've done our job.
Jim: I think the best compliment is that we have a ton of fans who have told us they don't like superhero stories or comicbooks, but they love Relativity. They enjoy that the focus is the people, and that the heroes are very human and relatable. That was what we set out to do and it makes me feel good we've accomplished that.
What would you estimate the readership of the work has been/is?
Michelle - I know we have 2 or 3 dozen hardcore fans who have to read the episodes as soon as they come out. Beyond that, our readership is probably a couple hundred. We get a lot of fans who enjoy the story because we offer it in eBook format on our Black Torrent site, as well as available for reading here on deviantART.
Jim - I don't really keep track of statistics, Michelle does. One thing that I do think is neat about our fanbase is that we have quite a few people who follow the series solely through the art. Of course, we'd love if they went on to actually read the stories, but we appreciate any support for Relativity, even "sideways."
Just for fun, if you could pick an actor or actress to pay the lead protagonist and antagonist, who would you choose?
Michelle - We did a meme on this a while back.
For the protagonist, Black Torrent? Thing is, while I've found actors who can look the role, I haven't really found anyone I feel could pull it off from an acting standpoint. Though he's not quite what I imagine look-wise, I think Ryan Gossling would do a great job as Michael Bruce. He'd just have to beef up a lot. As for the protagonist, we don't have a core villain (well, at least not yet revealed). Of our known rogue's gallery, the one that re-appears the most is a character named Phanthro, who was Dark Flame's original adversary back when I first created her. Phanthro is dark and sinister, but has a wry sense of humor and charm. I think Ben Stiller would be great in the role.
Jim - I'm pretty happy with our choices in the meme. Though, I'd love to do it again and get our fantasy cast, if time-travel were allowed. For example, having General Lira played by Ricardo Montalban from the 1980s.
Aside from this novel/series, what are some of the other works you’ve done (if any)?
Michelle - Writing for 20+ years, I've work on lots. However, I do have two other core works I hope to develop in the near future. Norfallon is a 2-book fantasy series with a real-world edge, focusing more on politics and drama rather than magic and lore. The Adventures of Delilah Quord is a good old fashioned 50s-esque sci-fi bounty hunter series with lots of action and fluff. I also have a stand-along novel called "Page 59" I really want to pick up again some day, too.
Jim - A number of short stories and novels-in-progress. I'd like to put them all up on dA whenever they're finished, I just need to find the time to write them. I've mentioned a couple of them on dA, like "Crockwell", which I'm planning to be a novella. And the "Archibald" series, which makes a guest-appearance in Relativity as a TV series.
What’s your favorite part of the writing process?
Michelle - Watching the characters evolve. I know people talk about how character take on a life of their own, and I've even described it as such. But in reality, they simply grow and evolve. The process of discovering your character and having that process effect your writing is amazing. I love my characters. I know many people feel that they have a story they need to tell. To me, it's having these characters I want the world to meet and get to know. Of course, they also happen to have some cool adventures, too.
Jim - When other people read my stories. Is that part of the writing process? I love it when people mention that they understood some little thing and I think, "Oh, good. That part worked."
What are your goals for the series/novel?
Michelle - To entertain people. I wouldn't object to being published, or even see the series on t.v. or in the movies. But, at the end of the day, my main focus is to have as many people read and enjoy Relativity as possible. Period.
Jim - *peeking at Michelle's answer* Oh, man, I was going to say "To entertain people." Seriously, though, I don't care about selling books or making money, I just want people to read our stories and enjoy them. This is why I love the internet so much - before it existed we wouldn't have been able to do this.
Michelle - I want to thank everyone who has supported the series, be it through reading the episodes, enjoying the art, working on commissions, or simply chatting with me in abstract about the stories. I appreciate your taking the time to enjoy my little world.
Jim - Thanks for reading this interview. I hope it's piqued your interest in the series. Mostly, I hope I didn't bore you.
"I am the Black Torrent. I promise to always protect you."
You can follow Relativity through the official website: BlackTorrent.us, as well as through the deviantART group RelativityComic Note all stories are mirrored on the site and deviantART, with da being one story behind the site. Relativity also has a Twitter feed , and fledgling Facebook and Tumblr pages.
The group is also currently hosting a contest. For more information, check out the page below:
Valentine's Contest - CLOSED A very nice turn-out with 18 entries. As there is some longer lit to read and judge, as well as some detailed commentary with the visual pieces submitted, judging may take a little while. We hope to announce the winners soon, but please be patient as there are so many lovely entries, it's gonna take a bit of time to decide the winners.
In celebration of Valentine's Day (which is today) we are hosting a Relativity contest! Note, this theme is a bit different than our past contests, so be sure to read everything.
The theme is Romantic Love
Just what that means depends on you. Perhaps it's a shipping of two characters. Perhaps it's unrequited love where one side gives and the other doesn't reciprocate. Perhaps it's a tainted love that ends with screams and gunshots.
Who's in love? That's up to you, and you have TWO options:
One of your original characters paired up with one of the Relativity OCs.
You can view past editions of the series here ---> literarycompass.deviantart.com…
If you would like to recommend a novel or series to be considered for Literary Compass, please drop me a note. A series or novel must have a deviantART base , be fairly established, have supporting art, and offer some 2-3 excerpts/literary pieces for reading. You MAY self-suggest your own work.
Guidelines and FAQ for the series can be found here ---> mirz-alt.deviantart.com/journa…
Commissioned journal CSS and map background created by GillianIvy
Coding modified and formatted by Ravenswd
Art featured in article courtesy of FranciscoETCHART, ThreshTheSky, arthm, and PiccolaRia