10 August 2022

2022 July Roundup

It's a lovely cloudy morning as I begin writing this. The summer sun is valiantly glowing through the hazy cover, but I'd be happy if the clouds thickened a bit more~ Google says it probably won't rain today, but I can always hope! To be honest, I'm finding it a bit difficult to start this month's roundup post. I'm feeling relatively well today, but about a week ago, we had to say the big goodbye to our 15-year-old fur baby, Sun. It was a sudden and shocking event, and I have been in a state of grief ever since. In my Sun-boy's honor, I'm including a celebration section at the end of this post 😊

July Patreon Rewards

It was actually Sun's 15th birthday in July, so I livestreamed a chibi caricature of him and made the end result into Patreon rewards! Patrons who have been with me since July 2021 now have two birthday Sun rewards, since I did the same thing last year 💌

First livestream session: ink complete!

Second livestream session: all done!

The sleepy Sun-dog poses with his portrait~🧡

Rewards away! Sun lives on in Studio Mikarts member collections 🤍

Click here to join Studio Mikarts on Patreon and get either a handwritten postcard, three blank postcards, a full-size print, or three postcards AND a print, all featuring my newest illustration work, every month.

Art Livestreaming

I put myself on vacation mode for obvious reasons last week, but until then, art livestreaming proceeded smoothly in July. I completed two Lucky Dip pieces (which is where I choose four art supplies at random and make a drawing or painting with them) and two chibi caricatures (Sun, my dog, and Deku from My Hero Academia, whose birthday was also in July!). My streaming schedule remains the same this month: Wednesday and Friday afternoons, 15:00 - 17:00 MDT (GMT-6). You can check for schedule updates and subscribe for livestream notifications by visiting my channel here

Thank you to everyone who joined me for these streams! Especially those of you who helped the time pass pleasantly by chatting with me while I worked 🗨️❤️

Lucky Dip XII, made with acrylic, watercolor, and ink.

Chibi Deku part 1, ink complete, marker started.

Lucky Dip XIII, graphite and metallic ink.

Chibi Deku part 2, complete!

I am unfortunately behind in uploading my art streams to YouTube, but I've got everything queued up and nearly ready to share, so there will be some new videos this month! Click here to visit my channel and subscribe to get notified when those videos debut 😉

Gryphia Progress

As with everything else in July, I wasn't productive in writing during the last week, but I had already reached a total of 2,734 words for my chapter four first draft, so I feel satisfied with my progress. There will always be ups and downs in any long-term project; what's important is keeping the work flowing, even if it's only a trickle!

My goal for August is to finish chapter four and start chapter five. I'd be super happy if I could finish chapter five within the month, but I have learned from long experience that setting goals too high ends up with my lamenting what I didn't accomplish, rather than celebrating what I did (which is usually still a lot!).


I'm making progress in catching up my deviantART account! This was one thing that actually benefited from my week of rest at the end of July. I wasn't very motivated most of the time, but I realized that I had uploaded neither my most recent Sun chibi, nor the one from last year! So now my 14th birthday Sun and another chibi dog caricature have joined the other 19 years of art on my account 😊

Happy 14th Birthday, Sun!

Monthly Recommendations

Now it's time to have fun with my monthly recommendations! In every roundup post, I like to share things that I've really enjoyed and hope that you will enjoy, too 😄 Here we go!

📕 Book of the Month📕
His Majesty's Dragon by Naomi Novik

I wrote a huge review for this book on The StoryGraph last week, so I'll just let that speak for me!

 adventurous challenging emotional funny fast-paced

    Plot- or character-driven? A mix
    Strong character development? Yes
    Loveable characters? Yes

5.0 ⭐

It's been over a decade since I last read this book. I remembered loving it at the time, so much so that I preordered all the sequels as they came available, but after the fourth book, life got busy and I never finished reading the series, even though I owned it. Well, this year, with many recent disappointments while trying to discover new fantasy books, and after hearing about the rerelease of the Temeraire series in a set of beautiful, matching trade paperback covers, I was inspired to read His Majesty's Dragon again.

I was afraid my memories of loving the book (I remembered nothing but my feelings about it; everything else had completely evaporated from my mind) might end up being rose-tinted relics of the past. That actually happened to me with a gryphon book series earlier this year; in an odd way, being disappointed by an old favorite is heartbreaking. So I was half expecting to be let down when I flipped to the first page of His Majesty's Dragon this time. Imagine, then, my elation when I was desperately taken by the story from the very first line! And how much pleasure I experienced when, every time I opened the book to continue reading, I felt just as excited by the plot and as enamored with the characters, as I had the last time I set the book down ❤️

Naomi Novik's storytelling has done nothing less than restore my faith in fantasy. My entire life, this genre has been my absolute favorite, but for many years now, I just haven't encountered anything satisfying outside my frequent rereads of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, and the Harry Potter series. I was legitimately questioning, when I picked up His Majesty's Dragon again, whether my tastes had actually changed as I've aged, and that the only fantasy I still liked were my childhood favorites. I am so grateful to feel completely reassured that I do indeed love fantasy books! I just need to be a little more selective when I give new books a try; from now on, if I don't feel gripped after reading the first page, I'll move on. I've spent too much time in recent years, trying to force myself to like a book, slogging through page after page, chapter after chapter, telling myself that I just need to give it more of a chance, perhaps reminding myself of how much other people have said they love it. As odd as it may sound, Temeraire has given me the confidence to respect my own tastes and opinions.

To get at last to talking about the contents of His Majesty's Dragon, I think my favorite part of the book is the deep, loving relationship between Laurence and Temeraire. There were so many moments that just touched my heart, and reminded me of my own feelings toward my non-human companions. I think, perhaps, the only reason I can write this review right now, is because of this heartwarming friendship. The reason being, just hours after I finished reading the book, my dog of 15 years passed away. I am still in the throes of grief as I write this, but rather than feeling like writing a book review is at odds with my feelings of loss and loneliness, instead I feel glad to finally have the motivation to put my ideas into words. The relationship between the principle captain and dragon in this story is so similar to those of us humans and our non-human friends, full of understanding, loyalty, love, comfort, and camaraderie that spans the boundaries of species (and confuses those who have not the pleasure of such a relationship).

But the relationship between Laurence and Temeraire isn't the only thing carrying this book. There is so much depth in the characters, different captains who have different relationships with their dragons (even entering the painful, heartbreaking realm of abuse and neglect), complex relationships between humans (mothers, fathers, daughters, lovers, commanders, subordinates, etc.), and of course the myriad of dragons who have varying levels of intelligence, sizes, features, desires, personalities, etc. The writing itself is so good that all of these things are very well presented, so that I was never confused about which dragon can do what, or why something was happening, or where the story was going next. I will say, however, that my love for late 19th and early 20th century British and French writing is probably a boon for me; if you're not good with the original Sherlock Holmes stories or the English translation of The Count of Monte Cristo, for example, you might find this writing style challenging. It is so akin to older such writing (at least that which I'm familiar with) I actually took a moment to see whether the author was British herself (nope, she's a fellow American 😊). After the characters and writing, the plot is the next feature I'd like to highlight. I remember when I first read this book, I had no interest in history whatsoever. The idea of Napoleonic Wars-era dragons was wacky and wild, which is why I gave it a shot, but I didn't expect to actually enjoy the historical aspects, which I did, both then and again this time! Just goes to show that well-written fantasy can make everything it's associated with awesome 😄

Something I liked about the end of this book is the excerpts from the "sketchbook of Sir Edward Howe". It's a very fun addition to the world of Temeraire and a nice way to ease the reader off the high of the final, exciting chapters of the story. The inclusion, as well, of an excerpt from the next volume in the series was also a great way to get readers excited about continuing their adventures with Temeraire. Well, for this reader, it's not just exciting but worrying! I want Laurence and Temeraire to be happy! I need to get reading Throne of Jade right away, so that the versions of that pair who live in my mind can overcome the challenge that has been set before them by this final teaser!

It may not be surprising to know that I am currently over 50% done reading Throne of Jade 🤓📖

🎧 Music of the Month 🎧
Imagine by John Lennon

The music I'd like to feature this month is one of those rare old songs that seems ageless. It was written about 15 years before I was born, but I didn't really begin to appreciate it until I was an adult, when the harsh realities of life were starting to sink in, conflicting with my bright vision for the future. My favorite lines are these:

You may say I'm a dreamer
But I'm not the only one
I hope someday you'll join us
And the world will live as one

It wasn't always so, but these days, Imagine is my favorite song. I don't know if I've ever heard a more bold and encouraging proposition than that which it offers. It gives me hope for the future and makes me feel like I'm not alone ❤️

📺 Show of the Month 📺
Raya and the Last Dragon by Disney

We've been having a weekly movie night at my house for about two months now and I enjoyed all the movies we watched in July. It was tough to pick just one, but ultimately, Raya and the Last Dragon is my featured feature 😉 I had no idea what to expect from it other than humans and dragons doing stuff together (wow, humans and dragons is a bit of a theme for July!) but that mystery paid off in the form of a touching, humorous fantasy adventure that I'd love to watch again!

🎮 Game of the Month 🎮
Olympia Soirée for Nintendo Switch

I'm still playing Olympia Soirée! It's my featured game again because, other than fitness games, I haven't played anything else, ha ha. Like most Otomate titles, it's a very long visual novel. According to my Switch console, I've already logged over 55 hours of play time, and that's including the fact that I skip read text on all but the final route 😅 I'm now on the second-to-last route and I'm very glad that the order I wanted to play these final characters in is actually the only way the game allows!

Without repeating too much of what I said about this game last month, I would like to reiterate that it is a shining example of an otome visual novel, complete with gorgeous art, music, and voice acting, and driven by a complex, engaging story that deals with some very tricky and timely real-world social issues. It's a game that really makes you think, but still doesn't skimp on the adventure, romance, and fantasy.

👟 Workout of the Month 👟
Garage DDR

My featured workout this month is a fairly rare undertaking, I assume. Every Saturday, I slip on my athletic shoes, walk into the garage, and play an hour of intense Dance Dance Revolution! Just this year, my awesome husband drove all the way to Utah to pick up some homemade arcade style dance pads. We started playing DDR in our garage last year (after a multi-year hiatus) but all of our old dance pads were worn out, with buttons that didn't always work, or they slid around so much that we'd start missing arrows because the buttons had physically moved under our feet. With the new setup, it's like playing DDR at an arcade, but even better because we don't have to keep feeding the machine money, nor do we have to share with strangers, and we can play dozens of console and PC DDR games, making for days (weeks??) worth of songs to choose from 🤩

Believe it or not, this dancing game is what first set me upon the path of lifelong fitness, over twenty years ago. Until that point in my teens, I always thought I hated exercise. In fact, at one point in my childhood, my mom even used exercise as corporal punishment! No wonder I hated it! But then, during a visit to family in Southern California, my sister and I discovered DDR in a video game arcade that was, I think, part of a mini golf place 🤔 Of course, we totally sucked the first time, and failed out in the first song, but it didn't matter. My fate was sealed. My interest in the game grew, thanks to my parents gifting me a PS2 DDR game complete with foldable plastic dance pad, and when I was old enough to get a job, one of the first things I invested in was a sturdy metal dance pad set that lasted me all the way until last year! DDR taught me that exercise can be fun and these days, I even do squats and pushups, and all the calisthenics that were once used as punishment, just for the fun and satisfaction of a good workout!

🍽️ Vegan Victuals of the Month 🍽️
Field Roast Stadium Dogs

My featured vegan food this month is another example of a childhood favorite that's kinder to our animal cousins and better for the planet 💚 Good ol' classic hot dogs! I've tried and enjoyed many vegan hot dog options, but these Stadium Dogs are exactly like the quick lunch and backyard BBQ fare I grew up with. They grill, pan fry, and even microwave just as you'd expect, and have the precise texture and flavor a former meat-eater will remember. The only negative is, they are made with pea protein, but oddly, although I have a mild allergy to the ingredient, I've never had a reaction to these dogs 🤔 (Maybe it's because I always eat them after cooking to a high temperature?) Of course, if you don't have pea or peanut allergies, you will be good to go! It's the middle of summer here right now, so it's just the perfect time to grill up some vegan dogs and enjoy the dog days! 🌭🌞

💸 Charity of the Month 💸
The Peregrine Fund

For July, I designated The Peregrine Fund as my featured charity. They work to conserve birds of prey and their habitats across the globe, and I consider myself fortunate to live in the same city as their public face, The World Center for Birds of Prey 🦅🦉💕 This is now the second month of my new charity fundraising system in which I use my monthly unique viewer count on Twitch to determine my final donation amount. The formula is $0.10 USD per unique viewer, with a minimum of $10 and a max of $100. Here's how viewership stood in July:

Of course, the number was negatively impacted by my unexpected week off at the end of the month, but if we divide the existing number of viewers by three to get an average per week, then add that number as an estimate of what that missing week might have added, and round up for good measure, that's about 27 unique viewers for July 🎉 Accordingly, I have made a $10 USD donation to The Peregrine Fund 🤎

Just so you know, my favorite raptor is actually this charity's namesake, the peregrine falcon!

Celebrating the Life of Sun Liu Shennaimu Hu

To close this post, I'd like to remember my beloved doggy with some written memories, photos, and artwork 🤍 I first adopted Sun (which is pronounced 'soon' like the Chinese surname) in 2008. It came about because my coworker--who had just learned of my deep affection for the shiba inu after showing her its entry in a dog breed encyclopedia when we were on a lunch break bookshop trip--noticed an ad in the paper from someone wanting to rehome their shiba inu and Yorkshire terrier due to divorce. I jumped on the chance, and 8-month-old Koda soon became Sun Liu Shennaimu Hu.

My first photo of Sun, taken during our first meeting.

If you're wondering about the length of his name, there was a good reason for it! It made no difference to whether I wanted him, but it turned out he was a pedigree-holding descendant of champions! Pedigree animals are generally given long names to ensure no two animals are registered under the same name. Since I wasn't interested in breeding or showing Sun (I just wanted an awesome shiba inu buddy!) I defied convention--which often has the pedigree name containing the kennel name and maybe some play off the parent dogs' names, and is rarely the dog's real name--by giving Sun a long string of real names. Sun and Liu are Chinese surnames, and I took them from a couple of my favorite characters in the Dynasty Warriors video game series. The next name, Shennaimu, was my attempt at converting another favorite character's Japanese name, that is Kaminogi Soryuu from the Ace Attorney series, into Chinese. Finally Hu is the Chinese word for fox 🦊

Sun's pedigree; he had some amusingly named ancestors 😅

For the first few months, Sun lived with my dad because I was right in the middle of buying and moving into my first house. I still remember introducing Sun to my other dog, Kenshi, who was also living with my dad. I was full of trepidation. I wanted them to get along but I didn't know how long it would take for them to become friends. Would it be a long warming up period? Would they get into a fight at first? I needn't have worried. They were fast friends from the first moment, and stayed that way for the rest of Kenshi's life ❤️

Sun & Kenshi, BFF 💖

Once we were all settled in my new house, I realize now, Sun was with me for every major event in my adult life. My mom's death; meeting the man who would become my husband; adopting our cats Kiki and Kiba; my Oma Jan's death; seeing a mental health counselor for the first time; making my marriage proposal (and getting the yes!); losing my job; getting married; Kenshi's death; starting my Patreon; running my first 5K race, my first 10K, and my first half-marathon; buying a bigger house with a proper yard for Sun to play in; the deaths of four more grandparents, and that of our cats, Bear and Kiba; rescuing our pigeon Sora; graduating with my Illustration degree...a perfectly bittersweet mix of life that was always better thanks to Sun being by my side.

Sun, one year old, at our new house, enjoying the grass and sunshine~

Sun made his way into my artwork frequently. Even when it wasn't Sun specifically, I drew and sketched him so much, the shiba inu silhouette is now my default when I think about drawing a dog from memory 🐶 I won't post all of my drawings of him, but here are a few examples of his many appearances:

In 2011, he joined chibi Bear on an ACEO.

In 2014, I made a simple sketch of him enjoying a day outside.

In 2019, he joined me for a tea party in one of my first illustration class assignments.

Although I am grateful for the many, many years I got to spend with Sun, I feel greedy. I wish he was still with me. I know this is such a tired line, but it truly describes my feelings: there's a Sun-shaped hole in my heart, and nothing has been able to fill it 😢 Perhaps for now, it doesn't need to be filled. Time heals all wounds, albeit slowly. Until then, I'll savor my happy memories, and smile every time Sun's photos pop up on the Google kitchen display and my phone charging screen.

The 15-year-old birthday boy, enjoying a delicious peanut butter bowl 🐶✨

It's now been a week since I started drafting this blog entry. My work progresses slowly as I adapt to my new normal. It's hot and cloudy again today, but my wish came true: the clouds thickened up and it even rained a bit this morning!

Thank you for joining me for July's roundup post, especially if you read the entire thing! I appreciate the opportunity to share my professional and personal life with you through this blog ❤️ I hope you'll stick around and look forward to finding out what happens next!