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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

Monday, June 6, 2016

Book Cover Art Status and Preserving the Print Experience

Monster wearing a metallic mask
Credit: Pixabay.com


I continued working on my book cover illustration for “Circa Sixty Years Dead” all last week. I’ve been colouring it with coloured pencil and so was about to fill in the background sky. Then it occurred to me that I would probably have to replace that part with digital paint when it’s time to upload it to Amazon. I want the sky to have the realistic effect of a smooth, blue-black colour. Not only would that take too long to colour in with pencil but it would also require too much lead; I’m drawing this on 18-inch-by-24-inch paper. So, that will be the only digitally produced part of the illustration when the book is published. I try to stick to the original artistic experience as much as possible when publishing my art and books. In this case, that experience comes from paper, ink and coloured pencil. As hand-produced art stays closer to the artist’s creational act than does digitally produced art, print copies of books stay closer to the original copy than do e-copies.

I’m going to sound like I’m contradicting myself here because, while I’ve always been a believer in hand-produced art like I have in the importance of printed books, I admit that digital is needed in today’s marketing world. I’m first and foremost an artist and that includes writing. But I use marketing as a tool to sell my work and, like any tool, it’s used to get the job done easier—in this case, the job of selling books. As an indie/self-publishing author, I don’t have time to pencil a perfectly solid coloured sky and I’m not in the financial position to hire an artist. I thank God that I have a background in art!

I hate to say it, but this isn’t my only contradiction to art philosophy. I’ve said in past posts that I’m biased for print media. And so this very ebook project that I’m working on is a contradiction to my belief in the physical book being part of the art of storytelling. That’s why I had published The Fool's Illusion in both print and digital formats. I believe in preserving the printed word and so the physical aspect of storytelling and reading. But I also understand that there are people out there who either can’t always afford the print version or don’t want to carry extra bulk in their suit case, backpack or purse when on the go. I was able to provide both versions for Fool’s Illusion because it is a fool collect- ahem--excuse me--a full collection of short stories. I don’t think there would be many people out there willing to purchase a $5 book consisting of only an 8,630-word story.

So this release of “Circa Sixty Years Dead” will be limited to ebook form. However, if you are a print media nerd like me who believes in the sensual experience of reading, then please let me know that you would be willing to pay the larger price for a print edition of the story and I’ll see  about publishing it in that form as an option. But whatever happens, I will make sure “Circa” eventually reaches physical format: it will go into my next short story collection, The Hidden, which will be offered in print as well as ebook.

Speaking about print media, I came across a really neat New York Times article while surfing the ‘net the other day. It talks about advanced print technology preserving the printed word and image. Not only that, but it shows how the technology enhances the printed image with tactile effects, and so how it brings out the experience of the very world being portrayed. In this time when virtual reality is becoming the next big thing in computer technology and entertainment, print technology is helping to save the sensual aspect of literary and artistic culture. In a sense, it’s saving reality from the total dominance of virtual reality.

I’ll have more next week about the illustration and “Circa Sixty Years Dead”.

Until then . . .




Sunday, May 29, 2016

Science fiction History and Sci fi-Horror

Boris Karloff as Frankenstein's Monster.
Credit: Universal Studios/Pixabay.com


I said that I would talk about one of the other panels from last Sunday’s Intergalactic Expo. The panel was author J. Daniel Batt’s “The History of Science Fiction”. It was really neat and more informing than I thought it would be. Like the panel on steampunk that immediately followed, this one discussed the many definitions of science fiction which his own seemed to be a very broad but inclusive one. Also like with the steampunk panel, the root question that is at the bottom of all science fiction was brought up: “what if?” As in what if a certain scientific phenomenon was to occur that never has before, such as interdimensional space travel.

But another underlying element of the genre was also talked about: fear. And so J. discussed how fear of the unknown, such as unexplored reaches of space today and unexplored regions of our own earth centuries ago, has inspired storytelling. He said that because of this, science fiction and horror are not that different from each other. And so they can easily create a mixed genre of storytelling--sci fi-horror. Sci fi-horror continues to be a popular mixed genre today. I talk about this in detail in my article at Examiner.com that I published just a few minutes ago. Take a look at it and then answer this question either in the box below or in the box at the article’s site: Do you think there is less opportunity for the mixed genre of sci fi-horror or more opportunity for it as science fiction more quickly than ever becomes science fact?

Updates On My Short Fiction and New Blogs


I’m almost finished with the first level of colouring the cover illustration for “Circa Sixty Years Dead”. I’m anticipating a cover reveal for next week.

I’m also working on revisions based on critiques from my Tuesday night writers’ group for a new science fiction story. This one happens to be a sci fi-horror itself. I’ll have more details on it as I work more with it.

I’ve been planning the new Super Freek blog throughout the week, mostly a new description for it which will indicate focus on late 1960s and 1970s cult sci fi and fantasy films. Once I “relaunch” that blog, I’ll begin planning and work on the atompunk one. To stay up to date with these and my other projects, subscribe to the Far Out Fantastic Site using the form located at the bottom right.

Until next time . . .




Monday, May 23, 2016

Genre Question: Is Steampunk Science Fiction?

A man riding a steampunk-style robot cat.
Photo Credit: Solomon Barroa/Pixabay.com



Defining science fiction can be tricky. The term science fiction can refer to anything related to science that is fictionalized, even if the story is simply set in space and with a futuristic technological background. Star Wars falls under this loose definition of science fiction, which many, including the creator of the franchise himself, George Lucas, do not like to consider it as such. Others have a more strict definition which is often: any scientific, plausible phenomenon that has not yet become a reality. Along with this definition is that the scientific phenomenon is central to the plot. Perhaps trickier yet is defining science fiction’s subgenres such as space opera, post-apocalyptic, cyberpunk and steampunk. In fact, some raise the issue whether or not steampunk is science fiction.


Defining Steampunk

So what is the definition of steampunk? For sure, steampunk is alternative history fiction which doesn’t necessarily have to convey scientific explanation. However, in its early years, this subgenre often dealt with retro future technology or technology reflecting our own of today with the exception that it ran on more primitive resources available during its time setting, the 19th century, such as steam and coal. William Gibson and Bruce Sterling’s novel, The Difference Engine is an example of this in which information and communication technologies are used in the setting which are much like our own computers of today only at a much more primitive level.

Is It Science Fiction?

However, over the years, steampunk has opened up to ideas that go beyond alternative Victorian settings and retro futures based on them. It has come such a long ways that many people now ask, “Is steampunk science fiction?” This is something that was discussed at a panel entitled “Steampunk Is SciFi (?/!)” at this past Sunday’s Intergalactic Expo, Sacramento’s big annual sci fi con. The panel was almost canceled, but a friend of mine who I hadn’t seen in years until then, saved the day. The panelists themselves were not able to make it, but my friend, who I won’t name here because I did not get his permission to use it, decided it would be a great idea to turn it into a Q & A session.
At the panel, we discussed how steampunk has opened up to other cultures beyond that of Anglo Victorian, cultures such as Asian, Latin American and U.S. Western. It has also opened up to many fantasy genre elements like magic and the supernatural, including the paranormal such as vampires and werewolves. Some stories mention very little about the science and technology of the setting and centre more on the fantasy. Yet some are equally mixed with supernatural and scientific phenomena. Many of China Mieville’s books are like that, namely Perdido Street Station. Sometimes this mixing of genre elements are for not much more than commercial ends rather than literary or ascetic ones, other times they are just the opposite and truly convey the author’s (or director’s/screenwriter’s) vision.

But let’s return to the question: “Is steampunk science fiction?” My friend gave a straight out answer of yes. Mainly this was because, as with all science fiction, it is a subgenre that asks the question “What if?” Like much of science fiction asks questions about what future technology and science will do to society, steampunk asks questions about alternative pasts, such as “What if the atomic era never occurred?” (I credit my friend for this example), or “What if World War I was never fought?”, or, better yet, what if Imperial England never lost her colonies?” Whereas science fiction overall asks questions about the future such as “What if robots become the most intelligent race on the planet?”, steampunk asks questions about the past, questions that speculate what would have happened if certain events in history didn’t occur, or if certain ones did occur that didn’t in reality.


To Come

Speaking about steampunk and retro futures, I’m planning to launch an atompunk blog. However, I don’t have a date for it yet. I’m also still working on the colouring for my book cover art for “Circa Sixty Years Dead”. I’ve been behind on it, especially this past week since I’ve had graduation ceremonies and related events to attend for graduates in the family. I’m hoping to catch up on it during the week and to publish the book in the next couple of weeks. So next week I will try to have the cover reveal. I’d also like to talk about the other neat panel I attended at yesterday’s expo; it was about the history of science fiction and was hosted by a really interesting author by the name of J. Daniel Batt. The best way to keep updated is by subscribing to the blog. You can do that on the form at the lower right.


So, in your opinion, is steampunk science fiction? Feel free to leave your answers in the box below.

Until next time . . .





Sunday, May 15, 2016

How Do You Motivate Yourself to Write On a Bad Day? Watch Author Interviews

Friday the 13th logo with black cat.
Photo Credit: Pixabay.com


I almost didn't do a blog post today. It's been a rough couple of days. And I literally mean a couple of days. So that mean's it started yesterday--Friday the 13th! I'm not superstitious (in fact, 13 is one of my favourite numbers), but, believe it or not, it started with a broken mirror. However, I can't say whether the mirror broke yesterday or earlier in the week. It was the passenger side-view mirror to my car which I  hadn't been driving in all week until yesterday and so I didn't notice that it had fallen out of its frame until I started driving. But apparently it had fallen off and broke into about four or five pieces.

So I've been on a quest for a new mirror since yesterday and have been to three places. The first place didn't sell mirrors for Chevy Classics, the model of my car. The second place ordered the mirror and I picked it up today only to find out that it didn't fit the frame due to its shape. The O'Reilly counter clerk said it was the only mirror for that model of car they were able to order from their main Sacramento store. He suggested that I try the Auto Zone. I did that only to find out that not only did they have to order the mirror, which would take three days to arrive, but they charge 40 bucks for the glass alone (which is all I needed, was the glass). O'Reilly only charged $13 for the mirror.

I was so pissed that I was not in the mood to write. Then I remembered some YouTube videos of author interviews that I intended to watch this morning but didn't get a chance. Normally when I have writers' block or lack inspiration or motivation to write I'll either read an author's bio or interview or will watch a video of either and that motivates me again. This is especially the case if the author is one who I really like such as Neil Gaiman or Harlan Ellison.

While I was watching some of these videos earlier this evening, I saw a lot of links to full length ones and so ones that covered a half hour to an hour-and-a-half's worth of footage. Unfortunately, I didn't have time to watch the full length ones but will watch them eventually. There are full length interviews of and speeches by authors such as Neil Gaiman, Charles Stross, Anne Rice, and Margaret Atwood. I included a speech here by Gaiman from a few years back when he attended a college graduation at the University of the Arts. This speech helped me continue pursuing writing for a living regardless of all odds. I thought I would include it here since this is graduation time for both secondary and post secondary schools. If you ever doubt you can make a living as a writer because of what mainstream, practical society says then I strongly suggest you watch this video. For those of you who may not be writers, I also suggest you watch it because it can help with just about any career you desire.





Book Cover Illustration

I just started the colouring for the cover illustration for "Circa Sixty Years Dead". I was slowed down a little because I realized that I needed to select a hue for it since that's what seems to be popular among horror fiction covers right now. The hue I selected is a combination of blue and black for a night setting in the scene. I'm going to try to have it done by next weekend. 

Let me know what you think of Gaiman's commencement speech in the box below.

Until next time . . .