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Saturday, September 24, 2016

Gaiman and McGinnis restore the human touch to book cover art

I apologise for not posting last week. I started a new day job and so it put me back in my writing schedule. But now I’ve returned to the night job here at the Fantastic Site once again!

A few weeks ago I was at Crocker Con talking to a friend, Chris Wisnia creator of the Doris Danger comic book series. The series commemorates comic book creator Jack Kirby’s art of the 1970s while spoofing 1950s and ‘60s atomic sci fi monsters. Anyway, I told him that one of the comic books I read over the summer was an issue from Neil Gaiman’s Sandman storyline from 2014, Overture. He told me he just finished reading Gaiman’s award winning novel, American Gods. I said I haven’t read that one yet because I normally don’t have the attention span for a 500-plus page novel. (The last one that I read was David Copperfield, which, as great as it is, took me over a year to read because I was reading other books simultaneously.) But I told him that I’ll probably read it as an excuse to buy the new Robert McGinnis cover edition. McGinnis used to paint the illustrations for early pulp fiction magazines and paperbacks, including the James Bond series. And so I’m using this excuse for two reasons: 1) Because McGinnis painted the cover art rather than digitally produced it; 2) The style is that of the late 1960s to early ‘70s. Though Neil himself says that “In my head . . . it's probably from about 1971...”  Close enough, since that was a transitional period between two eras.

Robert McGinnis Book Cover for Neil Gaiman's American Gods.
American Gods, Robert McGinnis cover edition
Credit: Amazon/William Morrow

The McGinnis edition of American Gods is now available. Neil plans to release several more of his titles with book cover art by McGinnis because, as he says, he is a lover of the old school paperbacks and loves the book cover art for its beautiful, hand-painted technique. He also says that it’s of a style of book cover art we rarely get any more. I agree with Neil, totally.

Too many people want realism in images now and so want believability in the technical sense. That photo-realism comes easier than ever with today’s computer technology, which I personally believe humanity has become too damn dependent on like a doper with drugs. This love of the photo sensual as opposed to the aesthetic high of hand-produced art, has been exploited by the corporate system, a system that I confess to being partly guilty of giving into myself in order to sell my own books. But, I haven’t sold out without offering the option of a hand-produced book cover illustration which was the case with “Circa Sixty Years Dead”. In about a month or so, before the holiday rush, I’ll have committed the sin of hypocrisy for “Circa Sixty Years”, or more like half-hypocrisy because I’ll still be offering the hand-produced book cover art edition alongside the digitally produced one.

But I support Neil’s and McGinnis’s return to hand-produced book cover art, because it’s helping bring back the humanity in art which has been taken over by the machine and the drive to make money. If you want to support a return to hand-produced art and you’re a Gaiman or McGinnis fan like me, then you may want to purchase the new paperback edition of American Gods. If you want to go a 16th of a mile further, then purchase “Circa Sixty Years” which you can get a hell of a lot less than American Gods but that’s because it’s on Kindle, though I plan to offer a print edition soon. So, yes the book is digital, and I’ll admit, the art is digitally reproduced, but the cover art is a photo of a hand-produced illustration the exception being the black background and some touch-ups (mainly around the edges of the statue which really runs into the digital black background). So the reason why I say you would be going the extra 16th of a mile is because the cover art isn’t completely hand-produced but also because I’m not Neil Gaiman. Hence, my book on kindle is only 99 cents.

How much humanity would you say is left in today’s book cover art, most of which is digitally produced?

Until next time . . .

Book cover depicting a six-armed goddess statue.
Available Now At Amazon!

Sunday, September 11, 2016

‘Circa’’s Influences and In Search of . . . Bloggers

Well, “Circa Sixty Years Dead” is one week old today, and my previous book, The Fool’s Illusion, will be three years old later this month! Several of you took advantage of the free giveaway of “Circa” last weekend, and so I want to thank you all. When you finish reading it, I ask that you leave a review at the book’s Amazon page at your earliest convenience, even if it’s just one or two sentences. For those of you who missed the freebies, you can still get “Circa” at the low price of 99 cents. I’m not sure when or if there will be another free giveaway for my newest short horror story. However, I am planning some more promotions where you can get a discount or even win a free copy. Watch out for promotions like these as we get closer to Halloween, the time to celebrate the horror genre! Also, I have an online book tour in the plans so watch out for updates on that, too.

A book cover depicting a six-armed goddess statue.
"Circa Sixty Years Dead" Now Available for Purchase!
Photo Credit: Steven Arellano Rose, Jr.

Superficially speaking, many of the influences for “Circa” come from my love of archaeology adventure films like Indiana Jones as well as old horror movies about archaeological finds such as Universal’s Mummy films. But I can’t leave out of the list my interest in documentaries about unexplained findings such as the 1922 King Tut excavation. One of these that I enjoyed as a kid (and still do today) was the old In Search of . . . TV series hosted by the late Leonard (“Spock”) Nimoy. The great thing about this series, as with most other documentaries of the 1970s and ‘80s, is that it didn’t rely on blockbuster- influenced drama and big budget special visual effects to win over its audiences.

Like good journalism should, In Search of investigated accounts of strange phenomena by showing credible sources. Doing so made the events believable of their possible existence, although the show itself made no claims about whether or not they were true. (To do so would have been over-conclusive and therefore opinionated.) It didn’t present its cases by blaring the masses’ televisions with cinematic, over-dramatic soundtrack or smothering them with surreal camera effects. Not that it didn’t use re-enactments or any soundtrack for its episodes, it did. But the producers balanced these techniques out with the exposure of documented sources such as newspaper clippings, news footage and interviews with experts. So below I’ve provided you with a list of sample episodes of this entertaining yet educational show along with some horror movie trailers to some of the cinematic influences on stories such as my above mentioned one.

Far Out Fantastic Archaeological Finds

'In Search of . . .' Episodes

“Mummy’s Curse”

“King Tut”

“The Diamond Curse”

Horror Movie Trailers

The Mummy (Universal, 1932)

The Mummy (Hammer Studios, 1959)

The Mummy (1999 Universal Remake; not that this is a favourite of mine, but it completes the list more.)

Sphinx (1980)

Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom

To Come . . .

Next time I’d like to return to talking more about book cover art, Neil Gaiman’s current work, and my plans for future editions of my own work. As I said, I have a lot more marketing to do for “Circa”. At the time, I’m in search of host bloggers for a near future book tour for “Circa”. If any of you fellow bloggers are interested in featuring “Circa”, please let me know in the box below or email me at and put “Circa Sixty Years book tour” in the subject box so I’ll know you’re not a spammer.

Until next time . . .

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Book Release: “Circa Sixty Years Dead”

Well, it’s finally here! “Circa Sixty Years Dead” is now available at Amazon! And to celebrate the labour of my work as well as the labour all of us put into our jobs whatever they may be, for two whole days I am making my latest book of horror available for free download! So from this Sunday September 4th through Monday September 5th, you can obtain your free digital copy of “Circa Sixty Years Dead”! You don’t need a Kindle device to read it. Just click on “Read On Any Device” under the book’s image at its Amazon page and you’ll be taken to instructions on how to download a free Kindle app that can be used on any digital device. So take a break, celebrate your hard work and the closing of the summer and read about an archeologist’s labour of love . . . and labour of death! Also, after you read it, please leave a review at the book’s Amazon page. It would be greatly appreciated!

A book cover depicting and six-armed goddess statue.
Credit: Steven Arellano Rose, Jr.

Book Title: Circa Sixty Years Dead
Author: Steven Arellano Rose, Jr.
Release Date: 3 September 2016
Format: Kindle/ebook
Length Type: Short-read (equivalent of 24 print pages)
Blurb: A young archaeologist obsesses over an ancient goddess statue that holds a beautiful force but a terrifying fate.
Where to Purchase: Amazon
Bio: Steven Arellano Rose, Jr. is a writer of science fiction, horror and other dark fiction. “Strange Phenomena” was his first short story published in print originally in the anthology Leafkin, Volume II (2010) under the name Steven Rose, Jr. He also writes film and computer technology reviews. Steven’s interests include collecting 1960s and ’70s pop cultural artifacts and other weird things, disco music and meditation. He resides in his native Sacramento, California. You can visit him at his blog,, or follow him on Twitter: @starosep2.

Now that I’ve launched “Circa Sixty Years”, look out for these upcoming events:

  • Possible book tour
  • “Circa Sixty Years” photographic cover edition
  • “Circa Sixty Years” print edition
  • The Hidden, a short fiction collection

I urge you to share this release post to your social media groups on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ or whatever platform they’re on. Also, bloggers: if you’re looking for books to feature on your blogs, I’m perfectly open to you featuring “Circa”. Just let me know in the box below, at my Facebook  page or Tweet me! Have a happy Labor Day and a great last few days of summer!

Until next time . . .

A statue of Shiva.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

‘c Sixty Years Dead’ Cover Reveal; Using a Graphic Design Application

Last post, I presented the complete book cover illustration reveal for my upcoming horror short read, “Circa Sixty Years Dead”. Now, may I present to you the full cover reveal--illustration and lettering both:

A book cover depicting a giant, six-armed goddess statue.
Credit: Steven Arellano Rose, Jr.

As I said I would, I used a graphic design application, Paint.Net, to paint the black sky and touch up some of the statue’s edges to reduce that glowing effect. I also used black digital paint to touch up the horizon line on the right-hand side because it had been uneven with the horizon line on the left. The rest of the illustration was produced by my own hands. The lettering was completely produced using Amazon’s graphic design application, the cover creator.

Graphic art software is very handy in practical situations, in my case, the marketing of a book. Yet I try not to let the digital art drown out my art made with my own hands using physical tools, pencils in this case, as opposed to virtual ones such as Paint.Net’s paintbrush.

Almost since time began, machines have been used for the practical purpose of making work easier. Even though art serves several functions, not all of it is practical. Art as we know it today is expression of the individual. It’s a reflection of the artist’s view point on life, including the emotional energy that comes from that view point. A virtual tool hides that energy because a program is doing half the commanding of the tool’s actions, distancing the artist that much more from the art.

Art’s function in the selling of books is at least half practical. It would have taken too long for me to go back to the original paper version of the illustration and hand-paint over the highlighted areas that left the glow effect. This was a problem I didn’t see until after I scanned the picture onto the computer and digitally painted in the sky. So, a graphic design application or software package such as Paint.Net and Photoshop has its use as a supplement.

As a substitute, however, the software can cover up the natural look and emotional energy of a work. When it does, it hides the artist’s role in the work. This problem is an example of the concern about computer technology taking over not only people’s jobs but also human activity in general.

Since art is a creative act, it is the artist’s job to preserve that act since machines cannot create based on human experience. At least they can’t do this through their own awareness or experience since they don’t have consciousness. To put it another way, it’s the artist’s duty to prevent the machine from taking over humanity, at least on the level of the creative act such as painting, music and writing. To ignore that duty is to allow the machine to take control of human life and maybe even all life.

A female robot with an electric guitar.

“Circa Sixty Years Dead” is scheduled for release during the coming week. However, I am still open to feedback about the cover even if it means having to delay the release by a few days. So please let me know what you think of it. I want my readers to be satisfied with a book they’re paying their hard earned money for. Although, I will be giving away free copies of the book on its release day in celebration of! If everything seems okay to you, I’ll release the book on Amazon by next Saturday. To be the first to know of its release and to get a free copy, follow me on Twitter, @StaRosep2,  or like my Facebook page.

Before I close up for the night, let me leave you with this question: in your honest opinion and belief, do you think today’s book illstrators are too dependent on computer technology for producing their work? Feel free to leave your answers and any feedback in the box below.

Until next time . . .

“Circa Sixty Years Dead” Synopsis:

A young archaeologist’s obsession with an ancient goddess statue is destined to haunt him for the rest of his life.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Book Cover Illustration Reveal for ‘Circa Sixty Years Dead’

Well, here it is! The completed book cover illustration for my short read horror story, “Circa Sixty Years Dead”.

A coloured-pencil illustration of a six-armed goddess statue.
Credit: Steven Arellano Rose, Jr.

That brings my book that much closer to its release! This week I’ll be working on formatting it for Kindle. I’ll also be uploading the illustration to Amazon so I can put it together with the rest of the cover. So next week, I’ll have the full cover reveal for you: complete with illustration, title and author’s byline. That is, provided that I don’t need to make any changes. Any changes I need to make will be determined by you, readers! Therefore, let me know what you think of the illustration and whether or not it needs any improvement. After all, the books I write are for you to read, not for me. The end product is for the pleasure of your reading; I already read the story as I edit it.

I’ll check the comments box below throughout the week, and if there are any suggestions for the illustration then I’ll work on making changes to it. If that’s the case, you can expect the full cover reveal, complete with synopsis, the following week. If you missed last week’s post, take a look at it: I posted the official synopsis there with the incomplete book cover illustration that you can use to compare to the complete one above.

Everybody have a great week. I’ll be busy working on the above mentioned tasks.

Until next time . . .

Monday, August 15, 2016

Book Cover Art Progress and Synopsis for ‘Circa Sixty Years’

Well, I have some good news and bad news. I’ll get the bad news over with first. Because of some technical problems with the software that I used, I didn’t finish the book cover art for “Circa Sixty Years Dead”. I was really determined to complete it and so was up late into the night Saturday/early Sunday morning so I could have it here for you. By the time I saw that it wasn’t going to get done, it was already too late to post anything and so I apologise for the late posting. The good news is that the illustration is closer than ever to completion and I have the official synopsis for the book.

‘Circa Sixty Years Dead’ Cover Art Progress

So I could have the best book cover art for “Circa Sixty Years” I took advantage of an update for the Paint.Net software that I use. is a free software which is really useful for those basic needs of an illustration, mine being painting a solid black sky. I know, I had said that I was going to use black marker for the reveal, but I’ve put off the reveal too long. So I’m contradicting my philosophy of, what I believe is, true art. The sky turned out perfect but it caused too much of a highlight effect around the statue as you can see.

A six-armed goddess statue looming over a desert.
Credit: Steven Arellano Rose, Jr.

I’m trying to find the tools in the software that will best get rid of that highlight so the statue doesn’t look like a cut-out or ghost. “Circa Sixty Years” is a horror short story and so involves the supernatural, but I don’t want a ghost effect on the statue which is a crucial icon in the story. I also have to trim off some of the jaggedness at the statue’s edges. Jagged outlines are a problem that comes to someone like myself who’s more used to using a pencil or paintbrush than a mouse for making a picture.

‘Circa Sixty Years Dead’ Synopsis

On Saturday, just before I left for the Time Travelers’ Bazaar, an annual steampunk event in Sacramento, it occurred to me that somebody was likely to ask what “Circa Sixty Years” is about. It would have been embarrassing to struggle for the words that describe it. So I jotted down a short synopsis in my journal while riding the bus. I attended an author’s panel at the Bazaar and, sure enough, BJ Sikes, who was one of the presenting authors, asked me.
Somebody at the panel said something like if you can’t describe your book’s theme within 17 syllables then you don’t know what your book is about. They were actually referring to another author who said this, if I remember correctly. I add to the advice: if you can’t explain the theme of your book in one average length sentence (about one to one-and-a-half lines, typed) then your book needs a lot of work, particularly in the areas of focus and plot. In other words, if you can’t summarise your book within one or, at the very most, two sentences then chances are the story is going in too many directions for the reader to follow.

I pretty much explained “Circa Sixty Years Dead” to everybody as this:

A young archaeologist’s obsession with an ancient goddess statue is destined to haunt him for the rest of his life.

And that’s all it should be--a very basic summary of the plot or theme. Anything more than that risks creating spoilers.

I need to get this book rolling so, though I normally publish to my blog on Saturday or early Sunday morning (post-midnight), I may do a special post for the book cover illustration reveal or perhaps even full cover reveal between now and Saturday. The best way to keep updated is either by subscribing to the blog at the form below and to the right, follow me on Twitter at @starosep2 or Like my Facebook page. In the meantime, if you have any suggestions or comments about what I’ve done with the book cover art so far, please let me know so I can see about making improvements. You can leave your comments in the box below.

Until next time . . .

Man steering a 19th Century-style time machine.
Credit: Steven Arellano Rose, Jr.

Sunday, August 7, 2016

How Your Readers Can Serve as Your Editors

H.P. Lovecraft profile cut out from a page of his work, Dagon.
Credit: Studio Hades/

I hope you had a chance to check out last week’s post that featured guest blogger L.G. Keltner. She gave a lot of really great details about her Self-Help 101 novella series, including details on the writing process. Speaking of which, I want to talk about a part of the writing process this evening, one that actually comes after the book releases—post-publication editing.

I was reading an article a while back from a Star Trek fan site. It talked about an editing error in the most recent Blu-ray edition of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan Director’s Cut. Apparently, the error was in the opening scene of the film where the wrong graphic information on the bridge simulator’s screen was used. The mistake was discovered by hardcore Star Trek fans after the Blu-ray released. I’m not sure how big Hollywood production companies handle the ones who overlook these things but I can imagine they are much less forgiving than indie film makers and self-published authors.

Well, a self-published author is as forgiving as the author forgives him or herself. But the audience can still catch the error. Yet no author should beat him or herself up for it. We’re all human and so we all make mistakes. But when your audience brings up mistakes you’ve made in your book, you should thank them, apologise for overlooking it and say you’ll compensate them in any way you can. Ideally, you should re-revise your book and then re-launch it offering free copies to whoever bought the original version. Maybe that’s not feasible for all authors but every attempt should be made to compensate.

I’m not saying I’m going to lay back and publish my future work and let my readers contact me about mistakes I overlook in my book. I’ll definitely welcome the comments. What I’m saying is that authors, especially self-publishing ones who can’t afford editors, should work to their advantage their readers’ criticism. It’s an opportunity for the author to correct those errors and relaunch a better edition of the book. As I said, we all make mistakes. Besides, some of the most famous writers’ books have contained early edition mistakes, including H.P. Lovecraft’s.

In order for mistakes not to bite too hard after a book launch, probably the best thing to do, especially if you don’t have an editor, is to launch a beta version first. And so before releasing the official version of your book, you can release a version for an audience you select to provide you feedback. I plan to do that with my next short fiction collection. My upcoming single short story book, however, I plan to launch without a beta since one to three bucks wouldn’t be near a loss for many people as 13 bucks would. If you see major or noticeable mistakes in “Circa Sixty Years Dead” then let me know and I can see about doing a relaunch for it and giving you a free copy of the corrected version. But before I can do anything with “Circa Sixty Years” I need to finish the book cover illustration.

Book Cover Illustration Progress Report

Incomplete drawing of a six-armed goddess statue coming to life.
Credit: Steven Arellano Rose, Jr.

I’ve darkened the landscape like I said I would a couple posts back and coloured in most of the face. Once I paint in the black sky with marker I’m going to go over all the coloured-penciled parts with a colourless pencil. A colourless pencil is not a regular black lead pencil like some people may think. It’s exactly what it’s termed: a pencil with no colour. It’s used to make the colours more solid. Open line strokes were a problem with my book cover illustration to Fool’s Illusion, a problem I’m trying to avoid here.

If everything goes according to plan, you’ll see a cover reveal next week. If that’s the case, the release of “Circa Sixty Years Dead” won’t be much further! So be here then for more updates. You can also stay up to date by visiting my Facebook author page or follow me at Twitter.

Until next time . . .