11 September 2017 @ 05:50 am
It's that time of year again! Yuletide nominations are now open, and will close on September 16th at 9 a.m. UTC (which basically, for most of us, means Thursday night).

I've added Forever Knight, with Nick, Natalie, LaCroix, and Vachon. I figure that to be a selection that gives people scope for requesting vampire, cop, or historical fic, as well as stories focusing on the new third-season characters.

On the other hand, it's a pretty short list! Is anyone else planning to nominate Forever Knight?

I hope so. With so many characters to pick from, but only four permitted per nominator, it would be good to have at least one other person (even two!) adding more characters. If so, we should coordinate our efforts so that we don't waste any slots through duplication.

Information about nominating can be found here on [community profile] yuletide_admin. You're allowed to suggest a maximum of three fandoms, with up to four characters for each of them.

After the tag set is checked over by the moderators, sign-ups will open on October 1st.
01 July 2017 @ 04:39 pm
“Oh, boy! ‘Man and his World’, yeah!”

The other two looked at Schanke, wondering what he meant. The phrase “man and his world” had cropped up in their own conversation; but, as he’d been typing up the day’s report, his focus had been on the form in front of him. Whatever he thought he’d overheard, his enthusiasm was contextually incomprehensible.

“Man and his World!” he repeated, looking at them. “You know—the Expo ’67 site, only the next year.” He looked a bit glum. “We never did go to Expo ’67, would’ve been great. But we did go to Man and his World. Drove all the way … ROAD TRIP!!!” He grinned broadly, and pumped the air.
Read more... )
19 January 2017 @ 08:14 pm
There's a new exchange that looks quite interesting, [community profile] worldbuildingex. The description says:
For the purposes of this exchange, "worldbuilding" will be defined as any exploration of how a fictional world works beyond the information presented in canon. This includes (but is not limited to) more detailed extrapolation of information presented in canon, filling in gaps in the canon backstory, attempts to reconcile apparent contradictions in canon information, exploring the perspectives on canon events of characters implied to exist but not considered within the canon, etc.

Please note that it is absolutely fine for the gift you create to be an action-adventure story/shippy fanart/etc. (provided your recipient hasn't expressed a desire for you to avoid such things), so long as there are also worldbuilding elements present in a significant way.
I'm thinking of nominating Forever Knight, and possibly also the Sime~Gen series and Hellspark, and maybe even some Diana Wynne Jones.

If any other FK fans want to participate, nominations close on Tuesday the 24th of January at 07:59 UTC. That's 8 a.m. British time, midnight Monday in Pacific time.

More character nominations would be handy, whether you plan to participate or not. :)
05 January 2017 @ 11:55 pm
This year, despite having extra time (since nominations/sign-ups started earlier), I still only got four stories written. My usual, in other words. I guess doing Trick or Treat for the first time is some sort of excuse. After all, I wrote four stories for that, too—but they did tend to be shorter, as one would expect. The truth is, in early December I came over to visit Flo for a long Christmas break, and I spent the first couple of weeks lounging around, watching TV and reading, getting over jetlag, and basically doing nothing about Yuletide except a bit of canon review.

Ah, well ... I clearly needed the time off.

My assignment, "A Correspondence between Gentlemen", was written for [personal profile] elsa, who wanted a Charioteer story about Laurie and Ralph. It took me a while to decide how to tackle this; and, in the end, I wrote epistolary fic (having got the okay through the Yulemods). The "gentlemen" of the correspondence are Mr Jepson and Mr Straike; and all Charioteer fans will appreciate the irony of applying that appellation to them. What starts as Jepson congratulating his old school friend on his recent engagement finishes up with revelations about Ralph's expulsion. Straike is not amused.

This was uploaded before I headed over to England; so the delays in getting back to writing only affected the treats. I had a little list....

Okay, like a lot of other people, each year I go through the requests and copy-paste intriguing prompts. I never do even as many as half of them. However, with all the extra time this year, I thought that I should be able to manage at least one or two more stories than usual. Certainly, I was determined to write a Forever story that I'd not had time to do last year, when so much of November and December had been taken up with caring for my mother (who had finally died a week before Christmas). I also wanted to write a Forever Knight treat, since I always do.

Of the other prompts on my list, I was less sure. However, I brought over to England my copy of Georgette Heyer's Venetia, being uncertain if Flo had a copy. (Just as well: she has several Heyers, but not that one.) I read it on the plane; arrived with it fresh in my mind; and ideas started to flow. It was therefore the first story I started: "The Rape of the Book", written for [personal profile] morganmuffle, who wanted a story about Venetia's younger brother Aubrey.

It seemed to take bloody ages to write. I mean, seriously, there was a point where I wondered if I'd even finish in time to write any other treats. First, I kept looking things up on line—Wikipedia, mostly; but also Google maps, and sites about Austen's Regency England. I spent several days investigating routes from York to Cambridge, and finding out the names of inns that are old enough to go back that far. That section of the story took about three days to write for fewer paragraphs! In the end, the story finished up about twice as long as I'd originally thought it would be.

As I'd failed to write the Forever story the previous year (and I'm terrible at doing NYRs, needing hard deadlines to get me to start writing), I had been really glad when [personal profile] argylepiratewd included the same prompt in this year's Dear Author Letter. So "Whisper" simply had to be written next: no way was I going to risk running out of time. The prompt was for a story in which Henry got ill, and had to cope like anyone else, since people knew how sick he was. For this, I had what seemed like the perfect plot. Back in the spring of 2015, I'd come down with a truly horrible cold that turned to laryngitis, bronchitis, and (according to the X-ray) pneumonia. None of which I wanted my mother to catch, of course, which had led to its own complications. Add a touch of humour, and voilà!

Fortunately, "Whisper" didn't need much in the way of research. (Or, to put it another way, I'd already done the research the hard way.) So, on the 23rd, I was free to tackle a third treat, "The Father, the Son, and the Unholy Ghost". For this, I did not have a definite recipient. In fact, I initially was quite uncertain what to write: I just knew that I always write FK for Yuletide, and had every intention of doing so again, if I could come up with something.

Now, I did have an idea that had been kicking around in my mind for a while: to write a story about LaCroix's daughter, Divia, who had been turned into a vampire back in Roman times and brought her own father across at the time of the eruption of Mount Vesuvius. I think it's fair to say that she is far from my favourite guest star; however, I thought her motivation in that episode deserved a closer reading than it usually gets. She's his daughter and his master; and it seemed to me there was more to be said about this than had ever appeared in the script. However, Divia had not been nominated. Eventually, though, it occurred to me that all three of the other people requesting Forever Knight had asked for LaCroix; and recasting the story from his perspective might actually yield deeper insights.

I had then to decide which of the three potential recipients I'd give the story to. It proved very simple. One person DNWed character death: Divia dies in "Ashes to Ashes"; and I'd opened the story with the cremation of her body. A second person DNWed noncon and underage: Divia is only twelve and canonically tries to persuade LaCroix to commit incest. Fortunately, [personal profile] astolat seems to be fairly squick-free; so I gave it to her.

Each of the four stories got very nice comments from their recipients; and each has at least one comment from someone else, as well. Add the fact that the two gifts that I got were both wonderful, and I had a great Yuletide!
02 January 2017 @ 04:50 pm
This has been a very lazy Christmas. Apart from writing (and reading), I've mostly spent it watching television. And nibbling, of course—no doubt far more than I should. However, I have been feeling noticeably little stress, which in turn makes it clear that this past year, living with my mother's empty chair in the living room, so to speak (and literally, too), has actually been far harder than I'd realized.

Since my sister works long hours and has to commute, she commandeered her computer over the Christmas weekend, pointing out that I'd have it later in the week when she had to go back to work. She also grabbed it for much of the evening most days. As a result, I'm still working my way through the Yuletide collection.

I did, however, manage to read my own gifts on the day. As I went out to pinch-hit and neither of them is tagged as a treat, I don't know which of them is my official gift. However, it doesn't matter. Both are thoroughly enjoyable; and I heartily recommend them.

"Serial" was written for me by [personal profile] fabrisse. It is a deliciously plotty Forever Knight casefic in which Nick and Schanke must solve a series of murders in which the victims were exsanguinated. Immediately, one's mind flies to vampires; but the injuries suggest otherwise. The question therefore is who and why—and discovering the truth drags LaCroix and Janette into the investigation, each of whom has insights to contribute. The result is a story that could easily have been an actual episode of the show.

"Serial" is, I fear, ill-served by its Author's Note. I am sure Fabrisse merely wished to warn people who might be triggered by the suggestion of blood; but the wording suggests a degree of gore that is not actually in the story. Be not warned, in other words; or, at least, be not warned off.

My other story, "Universally Challenged", is a Yes, Minister fic written for me by [personal profile] machiavellijr. My prompt said, "I'd like something similar to the series, whether it's a tale of mutual political intrigue or just a scene in Hacker's office involving all three of them. I particularly love the repartee...." Well, that's exactly what I got. In "Universally Challenged", the newspapers have got hold of statistics indicating that British universities have been frivolling public money away on such things as cleaning the silver and stocking the wine cellar. The Minister comes up with a marvellous scheme to counter bad publicity by establishing a new Institute of Technology (in a marginal riding, of course). Sir Humphrey and his civil service peers are rather more concerned to save the status quo. Wit ensues, as it always does.

So .... going out to pinch hit can, as rumour has it, yield much reading pleasure! I have, in fact, been lucky in Yuletide. (Knock wood.) Though I don't always get a treat, I've always received well-written, thoroughly enjoyable gifts. This year has proved no exception.

As for the writing department, I managed to complete four stories. Eventually, I'll do webpages for them; and I'll say more then. All my recipients wrote nice comments; so ... a good Yuletide all round!
08 September 2016 @ 05:32 pm
More sad news has been posted to FORKNI-L. Sandi Ross, who played Grace Balthazar in the first two seasons of Forever Knight, died on 31 August.

There is an "in memoriam" here, with a precis of her career.

While I never met Ms Ross (unlike McLisa, who responded on list), I certainly recall Grace. Though the character appeared in only a handful of episodes, she had immediate appeal to FK fans, who loved seeing her scenes with Natalie at the morgue. Grace appears in many works of fan fiction, and must certainly be one of Ms Ross's most beloved roles.
24 August 2016 @ 12:16 am
There was a FORKNI-L digest today for the first time in a while; and it brought sad news of the death of Arletta Asbury.

This is Cousin Tok's post:
I have received word, from a mutual friend on Second Life,
of Arletta's passing.

"Hello all. I am sad to say that Arletta Martian/laneybell Martian
passed away Monday, August 22, 2016 at 12:15pm SLT. She went into
the hospital a few weeks ago to fix a surgery that was botched some
time ago. Complications arose and her body could not compensate for it."

The last time I spoke to Arletta, she'd mentioned the botched surgery
to me and said they were going to fix things. I'd just been thinking
of her recently and wondering how things had gone. I guess I have my
answer now. Arletta was my friend, my co-conspirator in times of
War, and she introduced me to Second Life. I'll miss you, my
friend. It won't be the same without you.

I've spent the last few hours working on the wiki—not just updating it with Arletta's death, but reading all her stories and making articles for them (or filling out stubs). Here's the article we have on Arletta herself; and it links to the other pages.

When the mailing list was more active, Arletta was a regular correspondent; so her name was familiar even before I took part in any of the wars. Although she wrote several stories (most particularly in her Fourth Season elaboration of an early LK fic), I think it's fair to say that her biggest contribution was as leader of the Light Cousins, and an indefatigable war scribe, often in concert with Cousin Shelley. The pair of them were the co-leaders for War 13, which was the first one in which I took part—and a very successful war it was, indeed: a very good introduction for someone new to the game.

Later, when I started refurbishing old websites taken from the Wayback Machine, one of the first ones I tackled was Forever Light Cousins, their old faction site which had disappeared when the fan hosting it gafiated. A couple of people helped locate missing material; and everything was run past Arletta, as faction leader.

Although the mailing list is much quieter now than it has ever been, that doesn't mean that the good times are forgotten. She will be missed.
25 March 2016 @ 08:47 pm
It's been a while since I posted a seasonal ficlet to FKFIC-L. However, I had an idea; so "Heat in the Kitchen" was posted in the wee hours, just before I went to bed. A good deal of the day was spent making it a page on my website; and I've just finished posting it to AO3 (so those whose ISP, for some reason, bars access to the webhost can read it there).

I decided to go with a thematic background for the webpage, and worked for a while with the tile I cropped from a screen capture of Natalie's office, doing it in different colours, before selecting a beige version (representing a backsplash). The frame around the story is done in wood tones (cupboards) and a sort of glossy white (formica countertop). I found a suitable wood-coloured divider to use under the title.

The picture after the story was, as usual, cropped from a photo on Wikimedia Commons. It looks delicious; and I'm sure Natalie's own baking was, too.
25 September 2015 @ 02:24 am
It's that time of year again: Yuletide nominations are about to open. Is anyone else planning to nominate Forever Knight?

I hope so. With so many characters to pick from, but only four permitted per nominator, it would be good to have at least one other person (even two!), and coordinate our efforts so that we don't waste any slots through duplication.

As it is, I am bewildered which to pick. Nick must be nominated, obviously. Natalie? Lacroix? If I do all three, then I have only one more character I can list.

Some would say that it must be Janette. (Certainly, any Ravenette or Immortal Beloved would insist.) However, there is a good argument for including Schanke or Tracy: Nick is, after all, a detective. With only one slot, though ... which to choose?

Or should I drop either Natalie or Lacroix and put in both of Nick's partners?

(Certainly, I cannot nominate all six characters.)

And then there's Vachon—who has not been the focus of much recent fic, but certainly has his followers. As do Screed and Urs. The three captains. Grace, Divia, Fleur, and Miklos. (The list goes on.)

Perhaps I should go for Nick, Schanke, Screed, and ... Reese? Though whether anyone else would request a Yuletide fic from such nominations is another matter entirely.

If someone is thinking of maybe including Forever Knight in their slate of Yuletide nominations, please could we coordinate?
13 June 2015 @ 06:13 am
Since I've taken part in FK Fic Fest each year, this is a standing Dear Author letter.

When I first joined the FORKNI-L mailing list, people used to ask me what faction I belonged to; and I always said that I didn't have one since, in order to write a virtual season, I had to be able to write all the characters without playing favourites. Not surprisingly, then, I've played as a Die-Hard in the last three FK Wars (if that means anything to you).

I like all the characters. Okay, some a bit more than others: inevitably not every character gets the same loving attention—neither from me, nor from other fans. In fact, there are some about whom there has been very little fanfic written at all. That includes the police captains, Schanke's wife and daughter, and Grace, as well as characters who only appeared once, such as Feliks Twist and Aristotle. Recently, it's also included Vachon and his friends. Sadly, I only have a limited number of prompts; so I can't ask for everyone. However, I am interested in seeing an expansion of the characterization of supporting characters, both mortal and vampire.

On the whole, I prefer gen. Not that I ask anyone to ignore canon, you understand. However, I'm not as much interested in romance as I am in plot; and I don't much care for "adult" (i.e. explicit) stories of any persuasion. This means that, for stories involving a pairing, I am more interested in character development than I am in bedroom scenes. I should perhaps add that I've no objection to slash; and there are certainly a number of FK characters whose preferences are not specified in canon, or were left sufficiently unexplored to allow fan writers a free hand. Indeed, although I personally don't think anything like that is happening with Nick and LaCroix (or Nick and Vachon) in the present, they are vampires and hence, of course, have a very, very long history.

I prefer stories that are canon-compliant, but do feel free to ignore "Last Knight" if you want. I'm always happy to ignore it!

General Guidelines:

What I Like:
* Plot and/or character (both being the ideal, of course!)
* A sense of humour and being able to recognize the ridiculous when it pops up; also wit and wordplay, if the story calls for them. (Having said that, I totally leave it up to you whether you write a serious or comic story—or a serious story with comic interludes.)
* Stories that are true to canon (though I've certainly enjoyed some flat-out AUs)

What I Dislike:
* Explicit sex, especially if long and detailed. No objection to hints, but I'm not into plumbing.

My Own Writing:
If you want to have a look at some of my own Forever Knight stories, you can find them on my website.
02 June 2015 @ 08:10 am
Now what would you call a story about Tracy and the Inca (or Inka, depending on which spelling you prefer)? On Sunday, Bonnie P. asked the list whether there was a faction "because the Inca was every thing Vachon was not." Okay, there was some joking around involved—but then, nowadays, any factioneering has to be taken lightly.

Upon being told that, up till now, no Tracy/Inca faction existed, Bonnie R. promptly dubbed them the Trinkets. Heartily endorsed by both Bonnies and Allison, it must be so. Right?

Which means they have an icon. Obviously.

(The patterned background is a hot pink version of an actual Incan weaving.)

Bonnie P. also included a Trinkets ficlet in her post; and Andrew C. promptly followed it up with another one. So, whether or not there are any Trinketly inclined FK fans out there, the faction name does have its uses!
23 January 2015 @ 06:50 pm
Yes, yes: a bit late to be talking about my Yuletide stories, I know; however, there's been quite a bit going on in my tiny corner of fandom in the past few weeks. Despite this, I have finally managed to squeeze out time to put up webpages for the four stories that I wrote. In due course, one by one, I shall describe these in my usual (no doubt desperately boring) style. First, though, I'm going to ramble a bit about my assignment. Read more... )
22 January 2015 @ 01:14 am
David McCabe, the boyfriend of Lora Haines, has informed subscribers to the Forever Knight mailing list that she died on the 18th of January, aged 63, of complications from pneumonia. Funeral arrangements have not been determined.

Lora was the president of the Forever Knight Fan Club in the 1990s. She was instrumental in arranging the first of the two Dead of Winter conventions, held in Boston in 1994 and 1995. Later, she was honoured by having a character named after her in one of the episodes: "Laura Haynes", the friend of Natalie's who commits suicide in "Last Knight".

Those who were active in FK fandom in its heyday will surely remember Lora and her contribution. Sadly, we have lost too many.

(Please pass this news along to all who might be concerned to know.)
27 December 2014 @ 03:31 am
This has been a curious Yuletide for me. First, I found myself writing a story without a recipient (though, in the end, I did find someone to gift it to), then I had an absurd amount of difficulty with my assignment (though I did finally manage to find the Missing Middle), and then—after successfully uploading one treat—I got hit by a tummy bug when I was working on a second. As a result, it was uploaded unpolished at 11:15 p.m. UTC on Christmas Eve, shortly before the deadline; and, when I then quickly spent an hour getting a bit more shine on it, I found when I had done that the recipient had already left a comment. (Eep.)

Leaving aside my embarrassing shortcomings....

I got three stories.

Two full length, and one in Madness. And all of them good'uns, too. May their authors be justly proud of themselves, for I am certainly delighted. Two of the stories, including my main gift, were written for Mary Renault's The Charioteer, and the third for Forever Knight.

It's clear from the upload dates that "The Thousandth Man" is my main gift. A lovely fat 6569 words, it needs all that to delve into the character of Hugh Treviss, a mere throwaway character in the book, here fleshed into a man with a new-fledged career in British India. Just when he thinks he's beginning to get the hang of the job, he is confounded when his old schoolfriend Ralph Lanyon turns up in Bombay. The author knows a hell of a lot about the country; and I have a suspicion who s/he is—though I shan't say so, of course. (Hey, I might be wrong.) The treatment of Treviss's reaction to Ralph's sudden reappearance in his life rings as true as the setting.

"Boy Blue" I'm discussing out of order, really, since full length stories ought to take precedence, and it's a mere 400 well-chosen words. However, it is not only another Charioteer story, it is also about Hugh Treviss. Well, I suppose when one takes pains to include an extremely minor character in the tag set, it is not unreasonable for a writer to conclude that one has an interest. This story is set much earlier, just after the appalling scandal that led to Ralph's expulsion. As he and Treviss were friends, it is not surprising that the latter took it badly. The result is short but sweet. (Though I doubt if their housemaster would agree.)

Last, but far from least, is "Chasing Prey", which, at 8392 words, is a monster of a treat (and was uploaded on Christmas Eve, having no doubt left its author sweating about deadlines). Many fans are terrified at the thought of being faced with a request for casefic; but clearly this is an author who knows how to handle the genre. "Chasing Prey" is long and plotty, just as I love it. There has been a series of disappearances in Toronto, ending with the discovery of the remains of one of the victims; Nick and his partner have caught the case: so far, so good. However, the autopsy makes it obvious that a vampire is to blame, which brings a whole new set of complications. Throughout, we get the feel we are seeing real policework, from chit-chat at the station between Nick and Schanke, through their examination of the crime scene, to interviews with witnesses and suspects. And, of course, there is a nicely exciting denouement.

All three stories are gratefully received and thoroughly recommended!
21 December 2014 @ 06:34 am
FKFIC-L has been very quiet this year. Even the people who, in the past, have crossposted their [community profile] fkficfest stories have mostly not done so yet. So I've just posted a challenge to the Forever Knight mailing list. I decided to cross-post here as well, since I know that there are people on LJ/DW who were on list once, or still lurk but seldom post anything.

Here's the challenge:
It's been a long time since we've had a Christmas Challenge on list. Seems to me about time we had one again. The list could use a little love so ... let's all give it a present for the holidays.

Here's the challenge:
Write a seasonal drabble: Christmas and FK in 100 words. No more; no less.

(You will have noticed that, in the true tradition of FK challenges, I've gone first. Not to mention second, and third.)

Have fun!
It's tradition, when posting a challenge, to fulfil it oneself first, which is why I've already done so. (Speed over quality, I dare say. The big day is coming fast.)

By all means put your drabbles on AO3, or on your journal or website. But do please crosspost to FKFIC-L, too. And, if you're no longer on that list, you can always rejoin, you know.
In the back room of the Raven, Nick and Janette were opening the day's mail. Cardinals and snow, fir trees and poinsettias all passed muster, more or less, depending on the quality of the art. Occasionally, a vampire finger was snatched back hastily from a sizzling star-and-manger or Three Wise Men.

"Bah, humbug!" said Lacroix. He left the club--knowing precisely the effect those words had--and flew to CERK, where he gave a Nightcrawler broadcast that was scathing on the subject of tawdry sentimentality.

His own mantel still was empty of cards from his Cousins, and he wondered why.
20 December 2014 @ 07:15 am
Nick looked incredulously at Natalie as she plonked the big plant on the table.

"It's Christmas," she said stubbornly. "It's the human thing to do."

"Well, it can't stay *there*!"

But she simply shifted the antique centrepiece to the top of the piano, and then spent a good minute carefully positioning her gift. "Just remember to water it," she admonished him. "Isn't it lovely?"

"I suppose," came the unenthusiastic reply.

"Oh, come on," she chided. "As soon as I saw it I thought of you."

"Well, at least it's my favourite colour," he said, with a wicked little smile. "Red."
How to procrastinate profitably: write a ficlet instead of the Yuletide story one is supposed to be working on. (Though, in some faint defence, I have got it started. Nowhere near finished; but at least started.)

"Contemplations on a Portrait of a Lady" came to me over breakfast, loud and clear with the words forming themselves in my mind. I stopped, went straight to the computer, and wrote it down. Oh, I did go through and tweak it a bit before posting; but it came that quickly.

So it's gone to FKFIC-L.

I then got down to the seriously procrastinatory business of making it a webpage. Since Leonardo's portrait of Janette features in the story, I used that to illustrate the top of the page. (I had already clipped it from the screencap; I still needed to trim over her hands. You see how one passes the time?) The background and frame around the story have been done in shades of gold, picking out the tones of the picture frame.

All up and done.

No excuses left: it's nose to the grindstone. Or fingers to keyboard, which right now feels much the same.
02 September 2014 @ 02:13 am
I've been back for a week now. You'd think, in that time, I could have posted something; but it's quite astonishing how the time fills up. Especially when I was so frantically busy just before I left that I got done almost none of the things I had planned to do. Including write the conference paper I was supposed to be going to England to give.

What did I do before I left? Far too much in the way of packing boxes, plus a story for [community profile] fkficfest. The final days—which I had thought would be filled with researching and writing the conference paper—were somehow conscripted by my mother, the contractor, and my doctor. (At least all the tests done for my latest physical turned out to be negative/normal, which is nice to know.)

While I was away, therefore, I did not rewrite the two FK stories I had thought I might revise. I did not write character interviews for the 10YO festivities on [community profile] maryrenaultfics. I did not write the Yuletide prompt that I started a treat for back last year, which very likely means that it will never turn up as a New Year's Resolution.

I did, on the other hand, get two wonderful stories as presents. )
06 June 2014 @ 07:12 pm
In honour of the 70th anniversary of D-Day (6 June 1944), I have written a Forever Knight ficlet, "D is to Dine". I posted it to FKFIC-L early this morning (and then went to bed very late, while everyone else was commuting to work). This afternoon, I made its webpage; and those who aren't on list can find it there.

I fancied topping the page with a picture of the D-Day landings, and found quite an attractive one in Wikimedia Commons. (Attractive, that is, from the artistic perspective of someone wanting to illustrate a story. It is still, after all, a picture of war.)

This, of course, dictated the colour scheme. After much searching, I found a background graphic that seemed not inappropriate. It's actually a "marble" (i.e. stone) tile; but the colours combine khaki green with the blue tones of the photo. After that, I simply looked for suitable textures to make the frame that surrounds the central panel.