The World According to Mama Hog

Mama Hog, Rannit's oldest and most powerful witch, claims to be a hundred and twenty-five years old. She's seen it all, done it all, and she's not shy about sharing her opinions concerning this messy tangle of circumstance we call life.

For years, I've kept a file of Mama Hog's witticisms. A few found their way into the Markhat books, but most still languish, waiting for the right time to grace a page. 

Today is the day, and this is the page. So, in no particular order, here are some select Mama quotes, on subjects various and sundry.

Mama's Guide to Life and Love and Such

Mama on money:

"You come into this world without a copper and you're goin' out the same way. It don't make no sense to believe otherwise. If you got coin sufficient for a roof and a bite of supper, you're better off than most, so quit your whinin'. That said, I charges for my services. If you ain't payin', that's my door, and you'll be wanting to take your leave through it, thank ye very much."

Mama on heartbreak:

"Fallin' in love is akin to putting the gobble on mushrooms plucked in the dark. You'll see bright colors and hear Angels playin' harps and your heart is gonna race and leap like a young goat in a sun-dappled meadow, oh yes it is. That's the first bit. Now, only time will tell whether you got a good mushroom or a bad one. The good ones is rare. The bad ones is plentiful and at best you're gonna regret bitin' into one pretty damned soon. At worst, it'll kill you dead as a door-nail. But you ain't dead, so sit up straight, quit your bawlin', and have a cup of tea. Life don't need to stop because you ett the wrong fungus."

Mama on kinfolk:

"Kinfolk is to be treasured. Hallowed. Revered. They is your family. Ain't no bond stronger. That's why I lives in Rannit when my kin is all in Pot Lockney. I can do my treasuring and hallowing and such better from a couple hundred miles away. Up close, my kin is a ragged bunch of ne'er-do-wells, and I ain't got patience for 'em."

Mama on poor folks:

"You can get that pointy nose down out of the clouds, Mister Fancy Pants. Only difference 'tween you and that there beggar is the name you was born to. If'n you had been hatched in some mean alley and wrapped in rags till you was old enough to steal or beg, I reckon you wouldn't smell none too fragrant either. Does ye want the other shin kicked too?"

Mama regarding magic:

"I sees things. Hidden things. Secret things. What I don't do is poke my nose into the dark places where haints and devils and all them twisted spirits hide. Cause boy, I tell you this plain -- them dark ones takes twiced what they gives. There ain't no fair dealin' with the dark. They sets their claws in you from the first, and if you keep goin' back, you'll wind up in the dark with 'em, scratching and scrabbling and hungry till Doomsday."

Mama on strong drink:

"Now I knows ye sets a high regard on your beer. I ain't opposed to such myself, in what they calls moderation, but when ye come stumbling in here with eyes like day-old bacon and clothes smellin' of a brewery, I reckon you needs to stumble your ass back home. Take yourself a bath and ponder your wicked ways for a mite. Then scrub up and come back sober we'll talk sense."

Mama on marriage:

"Gettin' married ain't all bouquets and carriage rides, boy. You got to be set in your mind for the long haul, and you damn well better know that there's times you'll be carrying her and times she'll be carrying you. If you ain't ready to bear her, or you're too proud to be borne, all them high-sounding vows ain't worth a beggar's butt-rag."

Mama on gender equality:

"Does I look like some frail damn petunia? I've buried a husband, I have. Took down a bear with a fireplace poker. I've delivered stillborn babes and looked the mother right in the eye in that deathly silence. I've shivered in the cold. Baked in the sun. Seen the dead stir, heard them whisper. I've walked the deep forest on many a moonless night, naught in my hand but a stick. I was young, you toothy bastard, and now I done got old. But you think 'cause I'm a woman I'm gonna go on my knees and beg for mercy and suchlike? I ought to gut ye just for that, and now that I thinks about it, I reckon I will."

Mama on ghosts:

"I don't give a tinker's damn what you think, boy. Ghosts is real. They got their business to tend, and we got ours. Sometimes paths cross. Best thing to do when that happens is be polite and mindful of your manners and let them do what they come to do. A vengeful ghost ain't to be trifled with, cause if being dead don't stop them, odds are you won't either."

Mama on foreigners:

"We's all foreigners. Some of us just has a longer walk home than others. Now if you was to wake up where everybody is talking some foreign tongue and eatin' strange critters, wouldn't you appreciate somebody takin' a little while to let you know what's what and how to go about things? I won't have no discourtesy about outlanders in my earshot. If I hears it again, somebody's hair is gonna commence to fallin' out. With a quickness."

Mama on violence:

"Ain't never a good reason for bloodshed. Ain't a good reason for whirlwinds or house-fires, neither, but they happens. The world don't make sense sometimes, which is why I carries a good sharp cleaver. If there's going to be bloodshed, I aims to be the last one standing, and no mistake."


I'm still playing with cover graphics. Here are a few of the new works-in-progress:


And a variation, with a close up instead of a full-figure pose.



I've also been experimenting with some post-production work. 

You don't see many digital models used on book covers. There's the problem of the 'uncanny valley,' which means figures that are nearly, but not perfectly lifelike can make the viewer feel uncomfortable. The uncanny valley effect rendered the big-budget CGI film 'The Polar Express' a flop despite boasting Tom Hanks as the lead.

The characters were good, especially for the technology of the time. But they landed squarely in that unfortunate space between 'obvious computer generated human' and 'this looks real.' 

We don't mind cartoons, or painted scenes, because we know instantly they're not attempts to accurately depict reality. 

That's why hiring artists to paint or otherwise illustrate book covers hasn't been supplanted (yet) by computer-generated scenes. Viewers will forgive, and better still love, a painted scene. They might recoil from a CGI rendering even if, from a technical viewpoint, the CGI is more accurate. 

So here is a crude first pass at turning my CGI rendered scenes into paintings. It needs a lot more work, obviously, but I think the process shows promise. Do you agree?