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Sunday, July 24, 2016

Book Cover Illustration Progress Report

Here’s how far I’ve gotten on the book cover illustration for “Circa Sixty Years Dead” since last week:

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


As you can see, I haven’t even gotten to the sky yet. But I finally darkened all of the ground. But not enough. I didn’t realise this until I coloured in the man at the bottom. Here’s a close-up of him:

Colored-pencil drawing of a young man dropping a camera in fright.
Credit: Steven Arellano Rose, Jr.


I know, it’s blurry. But the man is very small in the picture to begin with. I just wanted you to see the contrast in shades. Also, he looks like Frankenstein’s monster, but he isn’t. I lightened the top of his hair to give the effect of reflected light, but it makes his head look flat so I’m going to change that.

I had made peach the base colour for his complexion. However, because the main scheme of the drawing is blue I needed to make his complexion as such because that’s what it would look like in a half-moon’s light which the light source in this picture is based. So, in order for him not to turn into the Invisible Man, I had to darken an area of ground around him. But I don’t want to give the realism away by leaving a surrounding blotch that says it’s there to show the guy in the picture. So I need to colour the rest of the ground that same tone. I’ll be doing that throughout the coming week.

But don’t expect a cover reveal next weekend because I won’t be doing the full post then. Next weekend I’ll be volunteering my time helping with a vintage video game event at a local library. Because of that, I’ve lined up a guest blogger: L.G. Keltner. L.G. will be talking about her book, Self-Help 101: Or How To Survive a Bombardment With Minimal Injury, so you don’t have to keep hearing about mine that I keep talking about but never launch. I did a cover reveal for L.G.’s book last month. If you missed it, then I urge you to go check it out.

Please feel free to leave any comments about the progress of “Circa Sixty Years”’s cover illustration or anything else. Comments about the illustration will help me know what improvements you think it can use. Which reminds me, the informal contest I talked about last time is still on since nobody’s contacted me or left any comments about where the mistake in my book cover illustration is. See last week’s blog for more details. I’ll give you another week to find the error or, if it proves too hard for too many people, to ask for hints.

Until next time . . .

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Book Cover Art: Photo-Sharing Apps and Giveaway

I was at one of the thrift stores in my town looking for a tee because I don’t like today’s styles in clothes. Not that I have a problem with anyone else wearing knee-length kaki or silky shorts or big brand gym tees, but today’s style just isn’t my thing personally. I’m a vintage type and so I buy and wear ‘60s/’70s style; I’m a nerd for those eras. Anyway, I didn’t see anything there that I liked as far as clothes go. But the store was having a Four-book/$1 deal. So I went to the book section to look for vintage paperbacks, especially ones with good book cover art.

Book Cover Art From the Frazetta-Vallejo Era

I found something by the late sci fi/fantasy author John Morressy, who I’ve heard of several times but haven’t really read any of his work. The book was a high fantasy called Kingsbane, the third part of the Iron Angel series. I’m not a big reader of high fantasy, although I do read at least one title in the genre a year. But this first printing from 1982 bears a book cover illustration that makes you want to stare at it for hours. As you can see below, it shows a warrior battling a towering, cloaked spectre like the Ringwraiths from Lord of the Rings. The style is much in the tradition of Boris Vallejo and Frank Frazetta, both of whose work dominated sci fi/fantasy paperback covers of that time (late ‘70s/early ‘80s). There’s an energy that runs through that style that today’s digital tools can’t capture. It’s the energy called human passion.


A paperback book cover depicting a warrior raising a knife at a cloaked figure.
Credit: PEI/Playboy Paperbacks


Book Cover Art on Photo Sharing Sites

While I was looking for other books to literally get my buck’s worth, someone called my name. I looked up to see an uncle of mine walking toward me. So we talked for a while and he was telling me about how he’s been using Instagram to display his art for a comic he and a friend are collaborating on. He said he’s been displaying illustrations in stages and therefore showing the process of the work. I told him that I should do that with my book cover illustration for “Circa Sixty Years Dead”. So I made a new account for myself planning to put several stages of “Circa”’s book cover art on it, including what I’ve done to date. The problem is that Instagram doesn’t want any nudity or even partial nudity and I didn’t see any filters that limit the age range for posts. The statue in my illustration is nude. So until and if I can find an age filter on the app, I’ll just have to show you the progress here:


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



As you can see, I’m getting very close to finishing it. So I’m aiming to have the cover reveal by next week.

Giveaway: Guess the Boo-boo

The only problem is that I’m going to have to use marker for the black sky, because it will be too tedious to use a coloured-pencil and will take up too much lead for all that space. So I will have to go extra slow when coloring around the edges of the statue because correcting a mistake made by marker is a hell of a lot harder than correcting one made by pencil. I’ve already had to fix a coloured-pencil mistake.

The first person to correctly guess where the mistake was gets a free copy of The Fool’s Illusion. I’d say they get a free copy of “Circa Sixty Years” when it comes out, but I’ll already be making that available for free for a limited time. But if the winner can’t get “Circa” during that time, then he or she can let me know and I’ll arrange to give them a free copy in lieu of The Fool’s Illusion if they’d like. To guess where the mistake is, leave your answer in the comments box. Hint: It’s not in the sex organs, if that's where any of  you were thinking of looking. That being said, it is somewhere along the edge of the statue.



I’ll let you know next week if I have stages of the book cover illustration on Instagram, depending on the filters available. If not Instagram then maybe Flickr who I also have an account with, but I have to see what their content policy on nudity is. Another place you can see updates about work is at my new Facebook author page. Be sure to like it and feel free to post any comments you may have.

Until next time . . .

Sunday, July 10, 2016

The Book According to Science Fiction

A robed alien.
Credit:Pixabay.com



I’ve been lately amazed at what science fiction can do for real life. Of course, it inspires innovations in science and technology, but there’s something else that it inspires: religion.

Maybe it shouldn’t be that surprising. Both science fiction and fantasy are made of the mythic element, which that element comes from speculation. Almost all religious texts such as the Bible and the Bhagavad Gita are, at least in part, fiction. Many of the stories from these texts came from oral origins where they were told by word-of-mouth through generations and memorized. As nobody’s memory is perfect, these stories were changed and reinterpreted through centuries. Not too mention, they were told according to the knowledge of the times which, compared to the knowledge we have today from modern science and technology, that knowledge was limited. So people in ancient times believed that people ten times larger than the average person existed and that spirits had sex with living humans, both of these examples being from Genesis of the Bible.

So like these stories were speculations, science fiction and fantasy are speculations that convey universal truths through their themes such as the consequences of mad science (Frankenstein) or questions about where a person’s soul (or conscience) goes after they die. Let alone, sci fi attempts to anticipate the future like religious prophecy does. Because of these functions, religions can be made from science fiction and fantasy easily. That’s why you have such religions as the Church of Scientology (which was started by the pulp sci fi writer, Ron L. Hubbard) and even a church based on the Force philosophy in Star Wars, the Church of the Jedi. Now how legit these religions are may be a different story.

So, all summer I’ve been researching such religions. This includes the book I’m reading, Inside Scientology by Janet Reitman who is a really good journalist who does an objective study of the religion. I also watched a real freak-out (the way I like them) of a movie Friday night, a mockumentary called Arise. It was produced by an organization that calls itself the Church of the Subgenious. The organization is based on ideas from popular science fiction movies and it basically shows that speculative pop culture does what religion does: give people a sense of belonging and understanding of themselves if not of God, who in this organization’s case is Bob (Bob Dobbs to be exact).

I want to discuss religions such as these and their sci fi/fantasy roots in more detail but don’t have time to do it now. But with the sci fi revolution going so strong today, I want to leave you with a link to an article from The Guardian that tries to answer the question, is science fiction the new religion? Take a look at it and then leave your own answers to the question in the box below.

“Circa Sixty Years” Cover Illustration Update

I’m still working on the illustration for “Circa Sixty Years Dead”. I found out I had to put a second layer of coloring on the landscape since it’s the second darkest part of the picture. I’m not as much an illustrator as I am a writer, even though I have a background in art. So it takes me longer to produce a painting than it does a story, considering. Each of the two is a full-time job for me.

Until next time . . .

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Self-Publishing: 3 Links to Your Independence as a Writer

This Fourth of July weekend I’ve been trying to finish the cover illustration for “Circa Sixty Years Dead” and so far am making progress. I also started a new short story for the first time since . . . I don’t even want to say. For me it’s been hard to write new short stories each week as I’d like because, as a self-publishing author, I’m a Jack of all trades. Unlike with traditional publishing, a self-published author has to arrange for the book’s design, including its cover illustration, formatting and marketing. In my case, not only do I arrange for the cover’s illustration, I make it. That’s because I like doing the art, since I’m also a visual artist (I minored in the subject in college), but it’s still a hell of a lot harder work than one would think. But as there are many hardships to self-publishing there are also many advantages to it, ones that add up to freedom. I’ll list three links to some really neat articles by other self-published authors that talk about that freedom as well as the disadvantages of self-publishing in a bit. But first I’d like to talk about an important reason for going the self-publishing route.


The Number One Importance of Self-publishing: Freedom

Why self-publish your book as difficult as it may be? Above all, because you have the freedom to write what you want and show it to the world. Before the technological miracle of the internet, authors had to basically kiss ass up to major publishing houses such as Random and Simon and Schuster. Top book publishers such as these would often only accept what they felt the majority of readers wanted. If you wrote retrofuture sci fi such as (what we call today) steampunk or atompunk, your manuscript would return to you with a rejection slip. But when internet got rolling in the late ‘90s publishing was no longer an impossibility for aspiring authors, especially those who had their own unique stories and styles. So internet and the programs born from it--such as blogging, social media and self-publishing platforms--have freed the author from having to put him or herself at the mercy of a top publishing house. Like the personal computer freed information sharing from elite government and corporate exclusion and into the hands of the people in the 1970s and ‘80s, the internet today has freed the author from the necessity of top publishing companies.

I went the self-publishing route mostly to publish what I wanted to write as well as to publish period. For several years, I had written short stories and submitted them to magazine publishers and they were always rejected regardless of how original they were. Some were maybe rejected for being “too” original. I did get some rejection letters that showed hope though, which I’m really thankful to those editors who sent me them, letters such as one that indicated in the editor’s hand-writing why they didn’t accept it. Letters such as that help an aspiring author a lot, both with his or her writing itself and with knowing where to submit to. But when I finally learned of self-publishing and Amazon in the mid 2001s, I knew that publishing my own work was the way to go.

But another thing that has particularly freed the speculative fiction author from limitations of publishing success is the present day science fiction/fantasy revolution. As the author of one of the articles below says, years ago it was hard for aspiring writers to break into selling science fiction/fantasy because it was not taken that seriously by the majority of critics or even by a general readership. It was seen as merely escapist, pretty much comic book level reading (although even comic books have recently been taken more seriously, and for the better). But with the success of the current geek revolution has come the success of the speculative fiction one, mostly due to popular TV and movie ratings in the genre. So now it’s so much easier to get acknowledged as a writer of sci fi or fantasy, including subgenres such as horror and even sub-subgenres like steampunk. Yet to do so, at least as a self-published writer, you need to work hard at it, especially at the marketing level, but above all at the writing itself: you need to write with good quality.

Links to Writing-and Publishing-Independence

Here are three links to celebrate your freedom to self-publish that both discusses the advantages and disadvantages of publishing your own work. Self-publishing isn’t necessarily for everyone. Some people don’t want the hard work of marketing and book design on their shoulders which is okay. But if you want to publish badly enough like I did, this is probably the route to go or at least give a try. These three articles discuss in more detail what’s in store for a person who’s thinking about going that route.

“The Indie Sci-Fi Revolution”
This is a really great article by a really neat speculative fiction author who talks about the history of indie sci fi writers.

“How to Get Started (And Get Ahead) In Science Fiction Self-Publishing”
What I like most about this article from io9 is the point that it makes about writing the fiction you love as opposed to the fiction that’s popular on the market, which self-publishing makes it easier to do so.

“The Truth About Self Publishing”
While the author gives her reasons in detail about why she went the self-publishing route, she also shows the work that an author has to put into it. She gives some really good advice in marketing your writing especially through online social networks and forums, advice that even I find useful after having marketed through social media for more than three years.



I’ll have more of the cover illustration to my book done by next weekend and so will keep you updated on the progress. If everything goes by as planned, I may even have a cover reveal for it here by then! Until then, here’s a question for you: Do you think self-publishing gives an author more independence in his/her writing? Why or why not?

Have a safe and Happy Independence Day and . . .

Until next time . . .


Four American Revolutionary cartoon ghosts playing instruments.
Credit: YouTube/Filmation Associates


Sunday, June 26, 2016

The Stories That Book Cover Art Can Tell

Book cover depicting a space soldier firing a ray gun at a tentacled monster.
Credit: Wikimedia Commons



When you think about it, the art to a book’s cover is the story in visual form. It either symbolically or literally shows the story that waits in between the covers (or, in the case of e-books, beyond the cover page). The book cover art that does this symbolically does so more efficiently and easily. That’s because a lot more about the story can be said that way than when only depicting a single scene like a lot of pulp fiction books did in the early half of the previous century (as much as I love the art work of those covers).

With my own book cover art, I try to balance out symbolism with literal depiction, especially today when many books’ digital photographically realistic cover illustrations seem to sell more. However, I want my covers to both preview and tell the books’ stories without giving away any spoilers. That’s what I’ve been trying to do with the cover illustration for “Circa Sixty Years Dead” which, speaking of realism, I am presently colouring in (with pencil, not digital “paint”) the details of the goddess statue.

In one sense or another, almost all art tells a story or at least contributes to doing so. George Lucas has been trying to show this with his Museum of Narrative Art that he’s been struggling to establish for the past couple years. It was only Friday when he announced reconsidering the location for his museum for the second time. My current article at Examiner.com talks about this and what the museum will feature which will be everything from sci fi/fantasy movie concept art to fine art. But one of the things I like best that Lucas’s museum is trying to do is removing the dividing line between fine and popular art. Something that publishers have been doing lately with literary and genre fiction. 

You’ll see “Circa Sixty Years Dead” in its illustrated form hopefully by mid-July. No, I’m not talking about a graphic novel version, although I would like to see it in that format myself someday. Better yet, being a big comic book fan, I’d like to be the one putting it in that medium of storytelling. If I do the cover reveal by next month then expect to see the book release as early as the first week of August. More on this next time.

Until then . . .

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Guest Author Cover Reveal: ‘Self-Help 101 or: How to Survive a Bombardment With Minimal Injury’

Of course, this is not my own book cover reveal for “Circa Sixty Years” that I’ve been promising you! Did you expect me to be that prompt with it after having put it off for the last two months? But it is coming along, so you don’t have to worry about that. I’m not as much an illustrator as I am a writer, so that part of my book takes a little longer than I often anticipate. I’d say I’m about half way there. Maybe that’s wishful thinking on my part, maybe not. But until my book cover art is ready to go, here’s a fellow author’s cover reveal for her upcoming novel (which will probably be out before my little short story single). It’s a very funny story that takes place around Independence Day and is planned for release just in time for the 4th of July holiday. So you can celebrate your freedom to read with this one. The details are below.



The Details



Book cover with crayon-style lake and firework illustration
Credit: L.G. Keltner and Jamon Walker


Title: Self-Help 101 or: How to Survive a Bombardment With Minimal Injury
Author: L.G. Keltner
Genre: YA/holiday/humor
Length: 25,000 words
Cover Art: L.G. Keltner and Jamon Walker
Release Date: June 28, 2016

Blurb:

Dani Finklemeier has self-published her guide to taking over the world, but she still isn’t rich.  Now she’s eighteen, still babysitting for money, and looking forward to starting college in the fall.

Of course, she has to survive a 4th of July outing with her family first.  That’s a challenging prospect considering she has to be in close proximity with a group of cousins known as The Fallible Four.  As if that weren’t enough, she also has to deal with the fallout of her parents learning more about her relationship with her boyfriend Seth than she ever wanted them to know.

The good news is that, if she survives this holiday, she’ll have plenty of material for another self-help book.

Bio:

L.G. Keltner spends most of her time trying to write while also cleaning up after her crazy but wonderful kids and hanging out with her husband.  Her favorite genre of all time is science fiction, and she’s been trying to write novels since the age of six.  Needless to say, those earliest attempts weren’t all that good.

Her non-writing hobbies include astronomy and playing Trivial Pursuit.

You can typically find L.G. lurking around her blog, on Twitter, or on her Facebook page.



To Come . . .

I have family in town for the Father’s Day weekend, and so we have gatherings both Saturday and Sunday. Because of that, I have to slow down on both my writing and book cover illustration but I’ll have more information about the two next time.

Until then . . .


What do you do with your dad on Father's Day?

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Gawker: To Report News or to Entertain With It?

When I found out about Gawker Media filing for bankruptcy, I was scared that that would be the end of io9.com which Gawker owns. But that won’t necessarily be the case. That is if whoever buys Gawker Media, which so far is Ziff Davis, mother company of PC Mag and other tech websites, decides to keep io9. I’d like to believe io9’s sister company’s, Gizmodo’s, declaration that io9 and itself aren’t going anywhere. But that could be wishful thinking on their part. Hopefully it’s self-determined faith or confidence instead. Much of what I’ve read at io9 is reliable journalism. However, while Gawker Media claims to produce authentic journalism, one of its other outlets, Gawker.com, specialises in gossip news. So it shouldn’t expect to be taken seriously. Specialising in gossip cannot only endanger celebrities’ reputations but also the jobs of the media company’s employees.

Gawker.com admits that it specializes in gossip media. Gossip is pretty much what got not only it but all of Gawker Media into trouble. Besides exposing celebrities’ private lives, media gossip often turns into rumours which eventually turn into lies. Yes, the people have a right to know but only that which effects society. Hulk Hogan’s affair with his friend’s wife had nothing to do with the rest of society; it had to do with him and those two friends. So Gawker.com was asking for trouble when one of its reporters exposed the tapes of the affair without Hogan’s permission.

But gossip news groups are like that. They are more about getting the audience’s attention to make money, make fun of others or both than they are about reporting necessary news. They sell to the uninformed of society by basically making people’s personal lives, especially celebrities’, into the entertainment that readers seek in the work of media artists--such as actors, directors, and authors--and athletes. Journalism is supposed to report on what impacts society rather than entertain. A celebrity retiring from their work will effect society as far as audience and fan-following go; what that celebrity is doing in the privacy of their own home with family or friends won’t impact society.

If Gawker Media survives the lawsuits that have been threating it, let’s hope the company will be a little wiser from now on. Hopefully it has learned that gossip can go too far when it gets into the private lives of celebrities. Perhaps it already has. According to the editors, in response to Peter Thiel’s threat of suit, “Gawker Media has not put a lot of effort, over the years, into being likable. We have earned a long list of enemies.” I can’t say whether or not Thiel is justified in his action against Gawker Media, but I can say that perhaps the company will from now on limit its outlets’ reporting to what impacts society. And leave the entertainment to the celebrities being covered.

Next time . . . 

I'll have updates on my projects, including my cover illustration for "Circa Sixty Years Dead" which I'm still working on.

Until then . . .


A wide-opened mouth.
Credit: Pixabay.com