CtS in 2009

Created 1230796800 by Mithandir in category Chasing the Sunset

If you're reading this (and obviously you are) then the new year has arrived on our servers and Chasing the Sunset has to face up to the dark realities of 2009.
Now, I don't do resolutions. Invariably, these are things that are never achieved. Instead I make plans (that are only *usually* not achieved. I am by nature very lazy and I begin far more things than I finish).
What's the plan for CtS you (well, I) ask? Well, I'm glad you (I) asked as I have many goals for the comic.

1) As I've mentioned before, I'm hoping to use advertising on the site to generate some capital and then use this capital to attract more people to here. The goal is to have about 2000 daily visitors on update days by the end of 2009. As a comparison: before the holidays we had about 1100.

2) We're hoping, of course, to improve the strip. I believe the story has weakened some lately and I'm hoping to reverse this trend by putting more effort and time in the planning and writing of the script. Currently I have the rough outlines of the next two chapters in my head but am having some trouble fleshing them out.

3) Try not to end the comic. I need to think up more than those two chapters lest the story reach its conclusion next year. Leaf is getting closer and closer to the endpoint of his quest (though I already have some ideas of what happens after).

4) Improve the community. Nono, we're pleased with you all! You don't need to change! I just wish to add some new things to the site to increase reader interaction and to create a bit of a community around Chasing the Sunset. If you have suggestions, I'm all eyes.

5) Maybe release a Chasing the Sunset book. We've been pondering this for a long time now and it would require a lot of work to get the quality of the first 160 strips up to a printable standard, but it would be sweet to be able to hand my non-internet-enabled family members our comic. And hey, maybe some other people would be interested too?

6) Take a holiday without missing a strip. Alien and I are plotting another multi-week holiday. Though the destination is not entirely clear yet (either Egypt-Jordan-Syria or Zimbabwe-Botswana-Namibia-South Africa depending on our financial situation and the stability of these regions) we'll probably be gone for three weeks in september or october. Here's hoping we can get a big enough buffer up this time around.

7) Make people smile.

8) Deserve you.

Well, that's our plan so far, though we tend to just make it up as we go along.

Welcome New Readers!

Created 1221807600 by Mithandir in category Chasing the Sunset

Normally in this space I blather about things less related to the comic, but since we're expecting some new people today, I figure I'd show you around.

Chasing the Sunset is a storybased fantasy/humour comic written by me (Mithandir) and drawn by my wife Alien. We've got 500 updates today, with more coming at a rate of three per week currently (mondays, wednesdays, fridays).

The very start (recently remastered) can be found here or you can read (at lower res) on a storyline-by-storyline basis starting here.
If 500 strips is too much for you to catch up on but you want to follow he story anyway, we've got a story summary.
We're somewhat episodic, so you could start at the beginning of the current chapter.
Either way, every comic has a little question mark below it and if you mouse over that, you'll get a list of characters in that strip with links to their cast pages, so you never need worry you'll miss anybody important.
Every strip and nearly every page on this site lets you add a comment. Feel free to do so! (Be polite and PG-13 tho).

Like us? Great! We have several RSS feeds that you can subscribe to to keep up to date:
CtS: What's New has all updates to the site (including comics)
CtS: Comic Thumbs has all new strips, with thumbnails.
Cts: Full Comics has all new strips, with full comics (at slightly lower res than the site).

The State of the Comic Address

Created 1168352100 by Mithandir in category Chasing the Sunset

Well, it's been 2007 for a while, so it's maybe time to give all five of you who read this blog some idea of what's going on in the Chasing the Sunset multiverse ....

First of all, the comic itself.
After a spade of hiatuses and missed updates, we're hoping to stabilize back into or normal schedule of 3 strips a week. I say normal, but as you're probably aware it has been everything but that for quite a while. We've tried, and all we can do is continue to try.
The coming year should bring, with a bit of luck, some progress on the many interwoven plots that we've got going on, to wit:

With all likelihood at least one of these will be resolved before the year ends.
Of course, knowing us, we'll probably add another dozen or so strands before then.

Now what about the site?
As you can tell, it's been completely changed for 2007.

Well ...
Not quite completely perhaps. I still have to do the pixie forest and some icons here and there, but on the whole it should be easier to find things now. We even have an rss feed with new additions so you don't have to miss anything new I add (like background pages etc). Don't like rss? There's a normal page for it too.
The new design is based on WillowCMS, the system I wrote for reinder's rocr and have been using for this blog and my pictures.
My plan is to add at least the following pages in to the background in the next month or two:

What else, what else ... hmm ..
I've been working on a new story, but it's going slowly and may end up in my "never finished" pile. Shame, because I thought the beginning was a bit promising (but not quite sure where to take it after that)

That's about it, I think ... the state of the comic

A new site design

Created 1161938520 by Mithandir in category Chasing the Sunset

Today I opened the beta of the new CtS site design to the public. I started work on it last saturday, so all in all it took less than 6 days to write, more or less from scratch. That included learning some new (for me) stuff like AJAX.

This new design is the technically most advanced webcomic site that I know off, and probably amongst the most advanced on the entire internet. Actually, feature-wise even the old CtS site was ahead of any other webcomic that I know off. Let's take a look at what's new and what's old.

New: compact design

Despite a large comic taking up a lot of space (1000x640), the new site is compact enough to be entirely above the fold at resolutions of 1280x1024 (or at 1280x960 when browsing full screen). This is despite the wealth of extra information (comments, news, cast, archive browser, ....) that's available.

New: AJAX based navigation frame

In the bottom-left of each comic page you now find the archive frame. This can be used to navigate through the entire archive to find a strip, without leaving the page.
Simply click on a comic thumbnail to go to a strip. You can use the arrows to move backwards and forwards in the archive and hover over the thumbnails to identify strips. By clicking on the chapter or storyline icon you can select a different chapter and/or storyline (also with handy hints)). On top of that you can double-click either the chapter or storyline icon to go to the first strip of respectively that chapter or that storyline.
Thanks to AJAX, the data for this archive is loaded only when you need it.

New: Overlayed navigation

If you hover over the left or right 200 pixels of the comic image itself, an arrow will appear after about a second. If you click in this area (even before the arrow appears), you will go to the previous or next strip. No more looking for small navigation buttons, just click on the right part of the strip itself!

New: Comments/News/Etc tabs

Comments, News and some other things are wrapped together into the new comments panel. The news is loaded only when needed (again with AJAX) to reduce loading time. You can click either the expand button or the open tab to enlarge this area so it's easier to read.

New: Update Status

The countdown timer was already there on the old design of course, but now if you hover over it the hint window will tell you exactly what stage the next update is in: Not Started / Scripted / Framed / Sketched / Inked / Colored / Shaded / Done.

Old: 'You missed X strips'

One of our most popular features is still here: provided you have cookies on and use the same browser, teh site will keep track of how many updates you miss. So if you don't come for a few weeks, you'll be greeted with a message saying something like "You've missed 8 strips. Click here to go to the last one you've read."

Old: Also appearing in this strip

Just like the old site, the new one has a question mark on it. Hover over it and you get a menu of all characters that appear in this strip with links to their cast pages. From there you can go to any storyline they appeared in. No more wondering "who was that again?".

Of course, I'm still working on it. This is only a beta. So far it's been tested with IE 6, Firefox 1.5 and Opera 9.x. The latter two both on windows and linux. We've noticed some problems with the AJAX in Safari, but will try to get that sorted somehow (I don't have a mac myself) and I'll be trying to get my hands on an IE7 machine soon too.

Want to bet we still don't get nominated for best web design on the CCA's ? :P


Current status on different browsers:

Planned changes after user feedback:

Profile: Myhrad

Created 1160645820 by Mithandir in category Chasing the Sunset


This article describes some of the behind-the-scenes ideas behind Myhrad and some of his thoughts and feelings that are not directly expressed in teh comic (yet). As such it could be taken either as background info or as a spoiler. Read at your own risk.

Part of my pride in Chasing the Sunset is that most of its characters are quite complex. This is, obviously, especially true of the main cast. Even Feiht, who is arguably the simplest of the characters, has some depth to her. It's not about Feiht I wish to talk now tho, but Myhrad, our little drageling.

In the (real world) history of the comic, as it will be taught to rowdy schoolchildren in the year 2044, Myhrad was both the first as the last character of chasing the sunset to be created.

First, because it was a drawing of him that started it all. A drawing Alien made and showed me, and which I thought would make a great character for a comic. It was only several years later, however, that we actually started the strip. Thus, Myhrad is the oldest, teh first.

Last because it was only until we were well into the comic that I finally got a feel for the character of Myhrad. Before this, I simply didn't know who Myhrad was and he was shown little.

In hindsight now, I have to wonder whether this difficulty was because of the complexity of Myhrad's character, or whether the complexity of Myhrad's character is a result of the difficulty I had. Chicken, egg. Egg, dragon. It cannot be disputed, however that during the first hundred strips anecdotes formed around the as-yet unfinished myhrad (a proto-myhrad if you please) that restricted the posibilities and thus gave him shape:

Alright, so we had a thoughtful, lazy, cowardly, playful dragon. Right. We also learned he was a vegetarian and afraid of heights.

Now it should be clear there's some contradictions here: Lazy and Playful? Well, I guess cats manage that one fine. However his cowardly behaviour at some times contrasts with occasional acts of bravery, which is harder to reconsile. Myhrad has many of these apparant contradictions, some of which have been explained (why he's afraid of heights as a dragon, for instance), some of which haven't yet. For me, however, tehse contradictions are the very essence of Myhrad: he is a dragon raised by elves and sometimes his instinct, his dragon, is at odds with his upbringing. He's smart enough to know this, and it doesn't bother him too much.

As a character, he now plays the role of voice of wisdom. While Ayne protects Leaf with physical force, Myhrad does the same thing with cunning and knowledge. Having read a lot (and having more common sense than the rest of the party combined (even without feiht, who has negative amounts of it)) he will, often despairingly, advise and inform Leaf about the world around them. He will not, however, take decissions. Myhrad is not a leader, does not want to be a leader.

At the same time, he's also a joker albeit one with a very different, darker sense of humour than Feiht. His weapons are Sarcasm and sharp (often cynical) insights as well as dark alusions. His relative sanity (compared to the rest of the party) makes him perfect to point out just how crazy the others are (as such he doesn't provide the humour himself but augments that of others).

It's often hard to tell what Myhrad is thinking, because he keeps much to himself. We know he's torn between being a dragon and an elf, but has for now adopted a "laisez-faire" attitude towards it (whatever will be, will be). He knows he'll have to chose, but also knows there's no rush. Privately he'd like to find his parents, but he knows Leaf and the others could not follow him to the dragonlands. he figures that he has time, but does not know how much. In the end he is not sure what to do (does not even know what his options are) and this more than anything else is behind his passive attitude towards plans.

Spam? What spam?

Created 1160641440 by Mithandir in category Chasing the Sunset
If you recall, a few months back I updated the anti-spam filters for the commenting system used throughout the site. Since then, only one spam has gotten through. The system meanwhile blocked 22450 comments. There have been no reports of false positives. 99.15% of the spam attempts didn't even get through the first layer of defense. Okay, so the biggest defense of the system is ignorance on the part of the spammers (layer 1 is based on that), but still .... 99.995% block rate. Yay.

A (temporary) victory over spam

Created 1154603880 by Mithandir in category Chasing the Sunset

Last weekend I upgraded the anti-spam measures in WillowCMS, the system that I wrote which powers this blog, as well as my pictures gallery and Reinder's Rogues of clwyd-rhan site. The upgrade has been very effective and not a single spam has gotten through yet since.

Today I've moved the commenting system on the rest of the site to use WillowCMS as well, so I now have the same protection there and no longer have to delete 20-80 spam messages each day.

of course this is only a temporary solution. Eventually scripts will come that bypass the new defenses. But for now ... no spam.

Secret project

Created 1144414320 by Mithandir in category Chasing the Sunset

This is just to let you all know that Alien and I are working on a top-secret Chasing the Sunset-related project of which we cannot divulge any details at this point other than that it exists.

It's my universe. Mine!

Created 1142331780 by Mithandir in category Chasing the Sunset

Occasionally I get feedback critizising a part of Chasing the Sunset as being "wrong", that is: incorrect. The reason it is wrong is nearly invariable "because it's not like that in xyz" where xyz is the author's universe of choise. For example some people say Ayne should be smaller than Leaf because she's female, others say elves are immortal or that Morgane is Arthur's sister etc etc.

This baffles me, because as long as I'm internally consistant (and I realise this is not always the case), how can I be wrong?

Now I don't mind people bringing up these things or comparing us to other universes, but people need to realize that Chasing the Sunset is set in its own universe and not an existing one. Our elves may resemble Tolkien's, but they are not the same: ours can die from age while Tolkien's cannot, for instance (yes I am aware that in some notes Tolkien alledged that they could, but as far as I'm concerned the Silmarillon, LotR and the hobbit are the only books that are canon). Likewise our Lady Morgane le Fey, though she shares a name and some aspects with her source of inspiration, is not Morrigen/Morgaine/Morgase/Morgane etc from the Arthurian cycle. Our trolls are not from Middle Earth, discworld or scandinvaia. Our dwarves do not fight horde in azeroth. Our females are not always smaller than our males.

Now I know it's partly my fault. I reuse existing names too much because I don't want to make people have to memorize new ones. Hence we have female warriors named amazons, even though they bear little relation with the amazons of greek mythology.

It is partly to this end that I wrote down some of the mythology of chasing the sunset and The World That Is. So people will realise it is not Middle Earth, mideaval europe, or any other previously defined universe.

It's my universe. Mine!

Muse Magazine

Created 1141225320 by Mithandir in category Chasing the Sunset

Those who read the comic (which includes everybody who bothers reading this blog) have undoubtable noticed the recent invasion of Muse Readers. Hi Muse readers! Welcome!

A link to Chasing the Sunset was printed inside this magazine following a user-submitted url contest. It was reader Adae who submitted us, as admitted in this comment:

Looks like everyone is talking about me though they don't know it... ^_^ I was the one who put the link on Muse's fan page (Not the official site.) I was also the one who sent the link in to the magazine for that contest. I have been subscribing to Muse for over 5 years. I heard about CtS from a friend on her message board. Mith actually found that message board though now I don't go there that often though I do talk to my friend over IM and things. I'm glad that all of you who saw the link in Muse seem to be enjoying the comic! I meant to tell Alien and Mithrandir that I had put that link in earlier but I think that was when the comments weren't working and then I forgot. Sorry

Unbeknownst to Adae, I tracked down the muse fan page too, quite a while ago, after seeing some people come from there. Those muse readers who are looking for like minds, can probably find them there.

I'm wondering now though ... what exactly is Muse?