Sketching Concepts for Book Covers

I was recently asked on Twitter about my book covers for my mythical trilogy – The Chosen One of Allivar. How were they made? Where did the idea come from? I sketched art for most of my early life. I also wanted to become an architect, so visual imagination comes easy for me. I started with conceptual imagery, where I wanted a simple image to morph into various shapes, keeping the basic cover intact. Consider the following image:

In this image, which is the original sketch provided for “Rise of the Fallen”, I had in mind the body of a dove – the symbolic bird of peace. In its grip is a broken olive branch. The head is faceless, an emanating glow of light, which represents the creator of the heavens – The Unseen. The creator has seven perfect wings. In the foreground are the ten heavenly worlds he creates and a creature who becomes the chief antagonist. This is the image I supplied to the digital artist at Brown Books Small Press, the company I negotiated for private label publishing. To produce such a book cover would be too expensive, so the process became to select stock art and compromise. Here is the final compromise of the concept:

Notice it is not very close to the concept, but we were able to keep wings and eventually add two sinister eyes in the background. What we did keep intact was the image of a rusty metal door like that of a jail cell.

Here is the conceptual art to book II – “Bound to Forbidden Lands”. Notice the body has not changed, but now at the tips of the wings claws appear instead. There is now a menacing face topped with a crown, standing over the entrance to a valley – the forbidden lands. There is also two dragons, representing the guardians to the lands, and the clinched fists breaking from chains. The title to the book has a double meaning. Bound as in the direction of, and bound as one is when enslaved.

Here is the final compromised cover:

Finally, for book III – “Last Stand of the Living”, here was my original sketch. Notice the body is the same, but the head has been replaced with a three-headed war eagle. You will not understand this concept unless you read the story. This body now has seven wings and seven shields. Its talons are open to grasp its prey and is surrounded by weapons. In the forefront are the scales of justice and an hour glass running on empty.

Here is the compromised final cover:

Maybe when I get really rich from the story, I’ll commission a genius artist to fulfill my concept. In the meantime, life is about compromise.

So if you are struggling at an acceptable book cover, sketch to the best of your ability and supply to an artist, along with a narrative of your concept. Obtain the first draft, revise as often as needed, and compromise on the final output.

I hope this helps those that want a book cover to match the vision of their stories. Also remember that good authors provide clues, hints and imagery in their narrative for a reason. I promise if you read the entire trilogy, you will find yourself re-reading it to see what you missed.

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S is for Slavery

Today’s A to Z writing challenge is the letter “S” for Slavery. Here is a definition:

the condition of bondage.
a state of subjection.
severe toil; drudgery.

In my mythology, “The Chosen One of Allivar”, all of the seven living races are bound into slavery by the actions of a King whose mind is ruled by an evil immortal. Slavery is used to keep people in fear and ignorance. It was used to keep a large number of people physically weak so that they might not rise to their own freedom. Slavery is no doubt the worst action of human kind. I am a white man – I will never know how a Black person feels inside. I will never know the feelings of the Jewish people, or any race that has experienced slavery.

This last Memorial Day weekend, my wife and I stopped at the battlefield of the siege at Vicksburg, Mississippi. There I saw a battlefield were a siege lasted four months. I heard the history of how Black men gathered in the cause. Most Union leaders were surprised how valiant Black men fought. Why, I am not sure. But it led the Union to recruit 200,000 Black soldiers. Why do we fear people of dark skin? Why do some fester hatred and bigotry for those different than us? I recall being moved by the film “Glory” of the needless deaths that wars bring. I was brought to an emotional reality when I saw the headstones, some unmarked, at the Vicksburg cemetery. War and death are senseless.

It is these questions that I hoped to answer in my trilogy. The race of the Vanavaran is black skinned. Through time and separation from interaction with the Vanavaran, the other six races come to fear them, when they are no different, except in external appearance. I also created the race of Bermules who are tall, strong and docile. Two races; the Kernsh and the Cayden are very similar in appearance – short with white skin. Then there is the Dayanaran, who you could liken to the Indian race of Asia. The Kassaran are similar to the race of Asians and finally the Nephilliad are the white race. In my story, the seven races must reconcile and defeat the plans of a rebellious immortal, who despises all the living, regardless of their skin color.

In particular, I created the Bermules to display characteristics all human races here on earth should aspire to be. Because the Bermules do not look anything like we expect a living being to be, we should have no prejudices against them. Yet, by their size and strength alone others will fear them.

One of my characters is named Beloth. He is a Vanavaran general raised by a tormented King for the sole purpose to instill fear in the races and against his own race, only due to the color of his skin that the others have been told is evil.

As the story progresses, the seven races are freed and are united to make a final stand against evil. In many respects, it is an issue that has played out for thousands of years in our real world. It is an issue that may destroy us all yet. For the impact of slavery is never completely healed or forgotten. Evil forces test our abilities to coexist and it is their plan that we fail. We can rise to a great purpose and defeat evil, or fall by our differences. We have the free will to make that decision. My story is an allegory of the world we live in, where we, the living, will decide its ultimate fate. How will we respond?

To learn more about my mythology, follow this link to my website.

Surviving the Wilderness

As a fantasy author I go on trips to spark the imagination and for research. So on my 53rd birthday I decided to temp fate – to rebel against and resist the power of father time. My ever faithful and fearless son Ryangaard, joined me on this most perilous of journeys. I warned him of the perils and beasts ahead and yet he stood with me to the challenge – his bravery unmatched.

I was determined to climb the deadly and perilous summit of Elk Mountain, Oklahoma. Well not really a mountain, but a rather large hill, void of a shrubbery. It immediately began as a perilous journey fraught with danger as we encountered many beasts and giants. Feast your eyes on the giant colored dragon of the lands. Look real hard – right there – on the rock. Oh, he was vicious! He had large fangs and a mean streak a mile wide. We almost soiled our armor. Yet, at the sight of our bravery the dragon fled, knowing full well defeat would have been his fate.

Now as we climbed higher and higher, the heat swelled and we sweat profusely from the perils still yet to come. There were funnel webbed spiders awaiting us at each rock we encountered. It was told to us by a fellow knight (park ranger) of even more dangerous perils ahead. Venomous and writhing terrors awaited us. Be on alarm for the fangs of western diamond back rattlers and copperheads. But at the sound of our heroic footsteps, they trembled and crawled back into the darkness of the underworld. The undaunted heroes forged on.

As we neared the summit we had endured much peril as our Gatorade and snack supply grew thin. We stood upon the brink. Below us, the gap of the Wichita wilderness stood open before our eyes. We had made it! We had cheated death before lunchtime.

But at the summit, the two heroes faced the giants of the lands. They did not surrender their hold on the lands without a fight. We clashed with the mighty titans and hewn their mighty heads and lay them there for all followers of histories legends to know of our perilous journey and brave deeds. See their heads? Right there, see those round skulls? You can even see the anguish on the face of the titan on the far right. Oh, how brave we were – Ryangaard and me!

Finally, we shared the last of our sustenance (Gatorade) and sang a conquerors ode to the end of our perils.

“The hills are alive with the sound of absurdity! They shall sing of our perils for a thousand years!”

Oh, let’s not go there again. For it is such a silly place!

Jalapeno and other flaming peppers

I was born and bred in Texas. West Texas to be exact; where we are weaned on jalapenos and other flame throwing peppers. Peppers add spice and heat to a variety of dishes. Sometimes I just pop a pepper whole and suffer the burns later. Peppers are high in heat, but in vitamin C as well. Now while I was growing up, my mother made a snack by hollowing out peppers, filling them with cheese and baking until the cheese melted. It is fabulous. So when my wife and I married I tried to reproduce my mother’s recipe, but without the recipe. Bad idea. Very, very bad idea. So the brain surgeon that I am purchased a cayenne pepper, because it resembled the shape I recalled from my memory even though there was no sign at the supermarket produce section to confirm the variety. Now my wife, 3 years younger than me, was only 6 at the time. She had no idea of the Scoville scale, nor did I but that is irrelevant at this point in the story. We were in love and ready to tackle the real world. Sometimes, life tackles back and piles on for a 15 yard penalty, or in this case a complete ejection from the dining table.

If you have ever seen the Scoville rating scale a Jalapeno has a rating between 3,500 to 8,000 Scoville’s. I assume Scoville is some guy that ran around screaming “Holy Crap” when he tested the various forms of peppers and the scale represents the number of times he said, “Holy Crap, Holy Crap, Hooooly Crap!” You get the point.

Well, a cayenne has “holy crap” scale in the range of 30,000 to 50,000. That’s a serious 4 scale fire alarm. Luckily I didn’t accidentally select a Naga Jolokia pepper that has a Scoville of over 1,000,000. That’s right – this pepper is in the range of law enforcement pepper spray and is considered a Tinyatoxin. So stay far away from Tinyatoxin’s, unless you want to shape-shift into Puff the Magic Dragon. But, I digress as usual.

So here I am, the new chef on the scene. I hollow out the peppers, stuff them with cheese and bake them in a hot oven. My mouth was watering in anticipation of the treat to follow. My child wife, not knowing, but trusting me completely, awaits as well. We take one bite of the pepper, and yes, you guessed it “Holy Crap, Holy Crap, Hoooooly Crap!” We are running around with our lips on fire, eyes watering, waving our hands to try to cool off the chemical burn. If you have seen “Alien”, you know the creature has acid for blood. I am positive that blood is made of cayenne pepper. Yours truly, the Einstein here, accidentally rubs my eyes. I won’t repeat what I said for the sake of your children and grandchildren.

Well by the next morning, after we survive the night, the final burn arrives and I won’t go into that. I am sure as an adult you need no narrative to spark (no pun) your imagination. So my child bride matures really quickly and refuses to let me ever purchase peppers again. She knows Scoville real well now. She begs me to call my mother. I did and explained our trauma. All I can tell you is I never heard my mother laugh so long and hard. She finally had some revenge for all the fits I gave her as a young boy. Once she regained her composure, she said it was a banana pepper. Banana peppers have a “holy crap” factor of only 100-900. What I tried to eat was only 56 times greater in Scoville’s rating. Holy crap, I am lucky to still have all my plumbing!

Well needless to say, you gain wisdom from all your human follies. So every time I go to the supermarket, I switch the signs for banana and cayenne peppers. I do this as a public service, so that everyone can gain knowledge of the Scoville scale. If you should by chance go shopping and hear a large number of people screaming “Holy Crap, Holy Crap, Hoooooly Crap” and see an honest looking guy, sporting a wide grin, chuckling and whistling going by you, you know who it was.

Bon Apetit!

So come on, share some of your cooking follies. Join my band of absurd followers. We are on a journey together.

Man Club – July Edition Alpha Females

I have scientific proof that women are in fact wolves – in women’s bodies. Read here for context. Now, in additional research, I found 6 signs you are dating an alpha female:

#1 She is demanding. Well, that was a hard one to discover! I guess they really are all alpha females.

#2 She is sarcastic and condescending to you. Wow – what Einstein was paid for this research!

#3 She insists on paying her share of the bill. Well, for that one, I can be a submitting chihuahua.

#4 Her non-verbal communication is evident. There is no confusion when the middle finger is present. Tapping fingers and feet, burning stares, quivering lips and flush red skin are also a dead nonverbal give away.

#5 She invites the pack over. This is called a “girls night out”, but in reality it is an offensive strategic planning session on the methods to dominate the world and all men chihuahua’s. This is your clue to call an emergency meeting of the Man Club. Get out while you’re still alive!

#6 A chunk of your hiney is missing. This is caused when you misread another pack member’s body language and stare a little too long.

This is why the Man Club officially adopted the Life Continuity Plan and promulgated regulations in our codification. It took months to develop and here it is.

Rule 1 – when the alpha woman growls, take refuge at the man cave.

I told you we men were simple! Address a problem, solve it, done. It’s why the Man Club has record membership renewals.

Attack of the giant hickey vampire

This is an actual photo of my back. Nothing was modified with Photoshop. What you are seeing is the result of a technique used today by my massage therapist. This technique is called “cupping” therapy. She places cups that suck your skin and muscles to expose the areas in need of the most massaging. Now she could have cupped those love handles completely off and it would have been fine with me.

But the image conjures up all kinds of book titles, doesn’t it?

  1. Attack of the giant hickey vampire
  2. Lustful leeches land on lone loon’s lagoon
  3. The Texas mosquito massacre
  4. Revenge of the salty sea sucking squid

If you look closely at the largest cupped spot you can see the canals of Mars, the smaller orbiting freckled moons and the largest orbiting moon – “worthless US currency.” This should inspire you SciFi authors.

Now this technique did not hurt, it just sucked – BIG TIME! Luckily she only performed it on my back, neck, legs and feet. Had she applied this on my chest, well, the story “purple nipple twister” might have been forthcoming. I had to draw the line somewhere.

Finally, here is your chance to have some fun and display your creativity – at my expense. What title for a novel can you create from this photo that will now haunt you for life? Bwahahaha.

The Philosophy of Justification

You’ve met them -whether in the dealings with family, friends or colleagues. They are the philosophers of justification. What I mean by this is that any action a person deems important to themselves is immediately justifiable. All others are the ones who have a problem. I am by no means a great studier of philosophy, but I am decent at the observation of human nature. All of us, including myself, can be judgmental against the actions of others. We can easily justify our judgment and it becomes our own philosophy. We have in fact have become a judgmental society and we can justify this as well. If you are right leaning in the terms of political persuasion, you are justifiably correct – at all things. If you are left leaning, your thoughts are justifiably correct – at all things. There is no middle ground and no need for rational and logical thought. We can’t help it, we are human.

We seek to join others who share in our sense of justification and condemn others who do not. Many believe theory is synonymous with fact. We have already justified this in our minds. It is what we want to believe. Therefore any news, credible or hoax, are immediately accepted as fact because they support our very own justified conclusion. We will not entertain a rational debate.

At times we cannot watch a movie or read a book, because the story line offends our sense of justified intellectualism. An atheist can never read a story regarding a creator, as it offends their thesis that no creator could possibly exist. Even a fantasy story that deals with a creator is somehow offending. We cannot and will not accept anything less.

When I released my mythological trilogy, “The Chosen One of Allivar”, I received a tweet that the title alone would prevent it from being a best seller. Again, someone has justified that anything titled “Chosen One” would immediately be not credible. I had many state immediately that is was a stealth Christian novel. They had already justified it as so. Then I had a Christian state it was so unchristian like. When we fail to open our minds to new experiences and thoughts, then the world becomes closed to us and our growth as a human being ceases. We withdraw from the world and guard our own sense of justification. We do not enter into any discussion, other than to demean someone else who somehow cannot see your light.

As an author, I want to delve into the very reason people behave in the manner they do. So in each of my three completed stories of the mythology and the sixteen to follow, you will see not only narrative of the author who wishes to entertain, but the author that wants the reader to expand his/her grasp upon the thousands of years of philosophy into our being. Two of the greatest gifts we have are the art of listening and observation. Above all, you have free will, the ability to expand your knowledge and to make your own educated and rational decisions. Sometimes those decisions, although justified at the moment of the action, are later discovered to be no more foolish than any one else. This my reader is called wisdom. We the living are no more near wisdom, than we were thousands of years ago when great philosophers pondered and debated our meaning in this universe.

“I am the wisest man alive, for I know one thing, and that is that I know nothing.” Socrates

“Only the dead have seen the end of war.” Plato