Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Episode 24 - Happy Holidays, You Perverts

It's 12:30AM, Christmas day. I've been up since 5AM, and refused to go to sleep until this sucker was finished and posted. That's how much I love all of you. Really!

Aside from the web comic and the book I'm currently editing (Future Perfect, due out in February 2009 from Logical Lust Publications), I decided to take it easy this week. My parents are here, along with my sister. I had one day where I buried myself in editing, and I missed out on making the gingerbread house, so that was the end of my daytime work hours. Since then, I've played Twister, made fudge with the kids, gone book shopping (our extended family overwhelmed the cafe in Barnes & Nobles!), wrapped presents, gone to church (yes, my family dragged the only Buddhist they know to church, and I had to stand through the whole mass, it was so dang crowded), and tossed naughty story ideas back and forth with my good friend Kathleen Bradean. We want to write something super-naughty, kind of like that cartoon up there.

Anyway, I need to hit the hay, because I know the kids are going to yank me out of bed at any minute, screaming, "Santa came! Santa came! And he left presents!" Here's hoping Santa hits your house too and leaves you something fun.

Merry Christmas and happy Boddhi Day ;)

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Episode 23 - When Princess Grows Up...

People always say that Princess is just like me, only shorter. That is not true at all. For starters, Princess wears a lot of pink. Pink shirts, pink pants, pink socks, etc. And she wears dresses. Lots and lots of frilly dresses. And she loves the jewelry and the bling and all the glitter she can get her hands on. There's a reason why we call this girly-girl Princess.

Me, I don't do the pink thing. I look good in black. And brown. And I'm killer in red. As for the type of clothes I wear, I'm a basic t-shirt and jeans kinda gal. Dresses? Don't own any. Well, okay, I have one or two, but they only get pulled out once every couple of years when someone gets married or dies, and those dresses are definitely not PINK. I don't like pink and I look horrible in it. In fact, I think I'm allergic to the color. Seriously.

Anyway, I wanted to apologize for being a bit late with this week's ep. My husband, St. Michael the Magnificent, spent all last week re-painting the downstairs and that completely disrupted my work schedule. But those rooms need painting, badly. We've been in the same place for the last 14 years, and things were starting to look shabby. Since I knew it would be another 14 years before we would re-paint, I made sure to pick out a color I would be happy with. I spent hours comparing paint chips, studying them in my foyer and kitchen until I finally found just the right shade. It's a very pale sort of shell pink. Wait, no. I did not say pink. It's really almost a warm white. You can't tell it's pink at all. Unless you look at the trim color which is mint green, and then you know it's pink...

Well crud.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Deep Fried - A Holiday Self-Portrait


Yep, this is me. All frazzled and fried, just in time for the holidays.  And from what I hear, I ain’t the only one feeling like this.

It’s December 5th, and I have managed to buy a grand total of one, yes one, Christmas present.  That’s it!  Even though I put a little reminder in my calendar to start shopping waaaay back in October.  See, that’s how organized I am!

So the plan now is to drug— er, occupy the Pixie with some TV and then spend the morning knocking out a few blog posts.  After that, I’ll hit the online shops and do the Santa Mommy thing.  The Cynical Woman cartoon gets the rest of the day.  Tomorrow and Sunday are dedicated to my erotica podcast — I’ve got a story to finish for next month, plus recording to do for the next week’s episode.  Oh, and I did I mention I’ve invited the Princess’ little playmates over for an evening of pizza and mini-chick flicks?

No wonder I look like this!

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Episode 22 - Yoga!


Allow me to introduce my good friend Patricia (also known as ‘Other Patty’)!  She puts up with an awful lot from me.  Of course, so do Mary and Patty…

The four of us form a gang we call “The Screeching Harpies.”  Remember, this is a posse, NOT a mommy’s group.  Yeah, we get the kids together to play, but our real purpose for meeting up is to plan the next Apocalypse.  So if you see a gang of forty-somethings (we’re not quite that old but we’re getting there), sitting in your local sushi restaurant, cackling evilly as they devour platter after platter of sushi, you know who you’re dealing with.

This week’s strip got done a little quicker than last week’s, thanks to the fact that I now know what to expect from Manga Studio Debut 4.  Since I bitched so much about the program last week, let me say something nice this week.  The program’s got some new nifty features, especially in the drawing tools.  The pen tool can now adjust its line width according to how close you’re zoomed into the picture (that’s a big help, believe me!), and I can save customized settings for the tools I use most often, which also helps a lot.  The pencil tool stinks – it draws a line so faint I can’t see it on screen – but that’s okay because I can set up a customized marker tool instead for roughing out the artwork.  And the text tool and word balloons are pretty nifty, so long as I save **every couple of seconds**.  Otherwise, working with text will crash the program so bad I have to restart my computer to get it to work again.

But that’s about it!  Over all, we’re doing good this week.  Now go practice some yoga.  Seriously. 

Friday, November 21, 2008

Episode 21 - With Friends Like These...


…who needs enemas? But seriously, this one is for Sam and Terri Pray of Under The Moon press.  They were recently screwed out of buying a house because the local community voted to ‘not harbor producers of gay porn.’  Under The Moon produced one anthology of gay erotic romance, which automatically brands them as undesirable elements according to this particular pristine community, but hey, the hetero erotic romances were apparently okay.  It was just that one book of gay smut…

Anyway, this is the first cartoon produced with the brand spanking new Manga Studio Debut 4.0!  I was so excited when I got the notice earlier this week that the upgraded software was out, I went right ahead and bought it.  I couldn’t wait to try it out.  Among the new features listed on Smith-Micro’s website were an improved text tool and WORD BALLOONS!  That’s right kiddies, for just $20 I could upgrade to a product that was going to solve the biggest problem I’d been having with producing the cartoons – getting the words onto the panels.

Except that it wasn’t exactly that easy.

First off, I bought the download version (with a back-up disk on its way to me).  When I installed and started up the program, it asked me to install the materials for MS Debut 4.  Materials are those nifty gray scale images that I use for backgrounds and fills.  I knew I had the materials – I’d seen them when I checked out the program folder after installation.  Problem was, I couldn’t figure out exactly which folder to point the materials installer to.  I tried the folder marked ‘Materials’ but that didn’t work because that would be too easy, apparently.  After an hour of trying to figure out how to get the materials and tones installed, I finally sent an e-mail to tech support.  To their credit, tech support answered within a couple of hours.  In the meantime, I searched around the Smith-Micro websites (there are two of them, and it took me a while to figure out which one had a FAQ on it for technical questions) and the Manga Studio website to get some answers.  What I discovered is that the good folks at Smith-Micro wrote up perfectly nice installation instructions… if you were installing from a disk.  But they left out a few details if you were installing from a downloaded version of the program.

Once I finally heard back from tech support, I was able to get the materials installed and I went straight to work.  The pen tool has some nifty new updates that make it ever better for inking cartoons, which is a huge plus.  However, the text tool crashed the program repeatedly, which led to yet another e-mail to tech support who replied that they couldn’t replicate my problem so obviously the fault was with my computer and not their program and I would have to un-install and re-install the program to fix things.  Joy.  That only took another hour or two of work time to accomplish.  And even after that, the text tool still kept crashing the program unless I saved after every use of said tool.  It’s annoying, and it bugs me because if I add more than two text objects to a page, that program is gonna go down like Moses in the fifth, and the only way to get it to come back up and cooperate is to shut down and restart the computer.

However, I can get the text tool to work, and once I figured out where Manga Studio kept the word balloons hidden (the user’s manual says they’re in the materials window – they’re not!!  They’re in the Beginner’s Assistant window), I was able to add my dialogue to my cartoon and finally output the finished work.

So this week’s image was all done in Manga Studio Debut 4, which is really how I prefer to do it, and it was done in the space of a single day (would have happened even quicker if not for technical difficulties…).  Drawing by hand is fine, but I really do prefer doing the whole thing digitally, and in just the one program.  The quality of the inking, the ease of adding tones, the supposed ease of adding text… If it weren’t for the fact that the text tool is buggy as hell and the fact that the user’s manual is unfortunately obscure on certain important aspects of the program (like installation and where to find those bloody word balloons!), I’d give Manga Studio Debut 4 a perfect 10.  As it is, the best I can rate them is a 6.5.  The program has great potential, but it’s also got some serious flaws.  Let’s hope Smith-Micro figures this out and does something to address the problem.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Episode 20 - Sudden Death


Oh my god, I think I just gave birth to twins.  Twin strips that is.

Please notice that while this week’s strip is THREE WEEKS LATE, it is also TWICE AS BIG.  And I got railroaded by a butt-load of work and the Princess’ kindergarten stuff.  For details on all of that, see my other blog here.

But at last this episode is done, and I can honestly say I still haven’t figured out how I want to draw this.  Manga Studio or Adobe Photoshop?  By hand or on the laptop?  All options have their advantages and disadvantages, and I’m seriously wishing that Smith-Micro would hurry it’s ass up and put out Manga Studio 4 so I could test it and see if the new version solves my current problems. But noooooooo! That would be asking a bit much I suppose. I’m only a heavy consumer of computer graphics programs after all.

So about the cartoon itself. This is something that has happened all too frequently to me.  I get a great idea while I’m out with the kids but when I finally make it home, ‘I got nothing,’ as Orziel would say.  I have learned to keep a notebook with me as often as possible, and I even have a handy little folding keyboard for my PDA, but none of those really gives me the freedom to write the moment the inspiration strikes.  Because I’ve always got to keep an eye on the kiddes, see? I look away for a few seconds and the next thing I know they’re tattooing someone else’s darling child with purple and green Sharpie markers.

But the writing does eventually get done and the inspiration is never completely gone.  It just goes into hiding.

The bastard.

To learn more about Orziel and his lovely boy-toy Jarresh, visit Mojocastle Press at and BUY A COPY OF MY BOOK, DAMMIT!

Going to bed now…

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Episode 19 - Napkins


I swear, I thought I’d never get this one done.

In an effort to find a more effecient way to do these cartoons, I tried doing the pencilling and inking the old fashioned way, on actual paper.  Both stages went very quickly, and I was extremely happy with the results.

Until I scanned in the inked cartoon, that is.  It did not look good when I went to clean it up.  Manga Studio gives me a very nice, crisp pressure-sensative line.  My pens do to, but they also bleed a bit on the paper, and that showed up very quickly on the scan.  So it took me a while to fix that little problem.

Then there was the matter of adding the screen tones to the cartoon.  You know, those little shades of grey I color with?  Yeah, those were a bitch.  I had to make them all by hand in Photoshop, and then the pasting in took lots more time than I would have prefered.  I did learn a few things in the process, which was nice because I’m still feeling my way around Photoshop, but man I was not satisfied with those tones.  Manga Studio has some very nice tones, and they look great when I paste them in.  My handmade ones do not measure up, I’m afraid.

The lettering and adding of word balloons did go much quicker than it would have in Manga Studio, and that has led me to the following conclusion.  For the next episode, I plan to do the pencils on actual paper, scan them in, import the scan into Manga Studio, and then ink them there.  Then the cartoon gets exported out to Adobe Photoshop for lettering and word balloons, because that’s one area where Manga Studio really falls short.  At least Debut does.  Not so sure about EX.  I’ll have to see.

And about what’s going on in the toon itself?  Those screaming kids in panel one are all part of my “mom posse” playdate group.  Patty and Mary of course are there with them, and yes, I have wandered off to capture story ideas on whatever paperlike surface I can find.  Writing on cheap fast food restaurant napkins sucks, by the by.  I know.  I’ve done it.

See you in a week, hopefully!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Episode 18

Episode 18

At long last, episode 18 is here! This week you get to meet Patty, another one of the moms in my posse (I don’t do MOMMIES GROUPS!).  Patty is pretty practical and has a solution for everything.  While she never said this line to me (actual credit goes to Alessia Brio, I think), this is something she would have said.  Her solutions are great, it’s just me and my freak life that makes them impossible to use.

This week, I handled the pencils the old-fashioned way – with an actual pencil and paper!  I found a drawing pad that was 24” by 8”, which equals a long, skinny sheet of paper perfect for sketching out four panel comics.  I’m still experimenting with the inking.  Will it be quicker to ink in Manga Studio or to do it by hand as well and then import everything into Photoshop or Illustrator for lettering and word balloons?  I’d stick with Manga Studio because it’s so much easier to handle toning and the pen tool gives such a nice dark line, but honestly, Manga Studio Debut sucks at handling text.

Manga Studio 4.0 comes out sometime soon, so I’ll check that out and make a decision then.  But I think I’ll stick with actual paper and pencil for the initial sketching.  That happened much quicker.  I’ve already got next week’s strip pencilled and ready to scan.

Enjoy the cartoon!

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Episode 17


Oh my freakin’ god!  I thought I’d never get this one done…

Notice that there are FOUR characters in this week’s episode.  Notice how they are all be-YOO-tifully drawn and inked.  Notice how late this week’s episode is.

*Sigh*.  I’m working on ways to get these done faster.  Really, I am.  Meanwhile, this week’s episode features Jarresh (the young hottie in the loin cloth), another character from my e-book Demon By Day (  Yes, it’s shameless self-promotion.  Self-pimping, even.  But this week’s ep is also very true to life.  I spent many a play date pondering what I was writing while chatting with my best friend.  What can I say?  Mary is a fellow freak.  She understands my need to write porn.

Anyway, enjoy this week’s episode.  Hopefully, the next one will arrive a little quicker.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Episode 16

Episode 16

This has happened to me far too often.  There’s nothing so frustrating as having the whole story in your head and not being able to capture it.  That’s my best friend Mary on the bench with me, by the way.  She knows about all my writing woes, and yet she still puts up with me.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Episode 15

Episode 15

This is the real reason why we need four hands and two sets of eyes.  Multi-tasking is very important to us writer-moms.

By the way, this one took forever to draw – four characters plus all those seat.  Ugh!  It was worth it though.  That hottie in the passenger’s seat? That’s Orziel, the main character from my e-book, Demon By Day.

(Insert shameless pimping here!)  Demon By Day is available from Mojocastle Press.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Episode 14


This is also a true story, although Pixie wasn’t able to blow up the ‘balloon’ herself.  She asked me to do it instead.

Episode 13


True story! My youngest, Pixie, gets into everything.  And the results are maddening, but funny.

Episode 12


This one stars my best friend Mary!  She’s the nurse, the one who will give you a colonoscopy if you look at her wrong… Just kidding.  She’s really nice.  She puts up with me.

Playing for Keeps is a super hero novel written by Mur Lafferty, who also produces the “I Should Be Writing” podcast.  Both her podcast and the book are cool, so check them out!

Episode 11


Sadly, this one is also true.  My poor husband.  He really is an angel.

Episode 10


Here we have it, the sad, sad truth about my life.  Not the glamorous cliche with whips and chains and lingerie, but a pre-dawn wake-up call and a blank page.  Still, I love my job.  Beats working at Micky-D’s.

Episode 09


No, this one didn’t really happen.  But hey, I’m allowed to dream, right?

Episode 08


True story! I wrote a piece for Coming Together: With Pride, an erotica charity anthology edited by Alessia Brio.  Proceeds from this book go to to help with AIDS/HIV research and education.  Remember, coming is good. Giving is better.

Episode 07


Yeah, this one’s happened to me too.

By the way, where do babies come from?

Episode 06


True story!  This has actually happened to me on a couple of occasions.  Thus I no longer join mommies’ groups.  Not that I don’t have a mommy posse.  I do, but we’re all too weird to be a proper mommies’ group.  We’re more like a murderous gang of heathens and freaks.  Seriously, don’t piss any of us off.  We might have to rub you out.  Or else let Mary jab you with a hypodermic needle.  She’s a nurse, she can do that.  She can give you a colonoscopy too, so watch it pal…

Episode 05


Don’t ya just hate smart-ass main characters?  Especially when they’re pretty boys.  Yeesh!

Episode 04


Here’s a scene that happens all too often. One kid sick, one with a poopie diaper, laundry waiting to be done… I can wash it, but never can get around to folding it for some reason… and in the midst of all this, me trying to work on my great epic pornographic novel.  Yep, that’s my life.

Episode 03


I did this cartoon as a Mother’s Day present for my mom.  When I was three, she found herself trying to run me to ground so she could kill me for something I’d done (yes, I was trouble even then). That was when she decided she really needed to go back to work.  I work at home these days, so I don’t have my mom’s options for getting out…

Episode 02


Ain’t this the sad, sad truth?  Baby got back, but so does Mama…

Episode 01 and Welcome!

Welcome to 'The Adventures of Cynical Woman!' This is the official home for the Cynical Woman cartoons, written and drawn by Helen E. H. Madden. Basically, this is my life as a stay-at-home mom and erotica writer. If you like the cartoons, feel free to print them out or pass them on to your friends. These cartoons are protected under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License. That means you can share it, but you can't sell it or take credit for it. Thanks!