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Category: Artwork

Every story needs its own world

Posted in Artwork, Fantasy, Science Fiction, Setting, Structures of Earth, and The Affinities of Magic

Every story needs its own world and, if you're writing fantasy or scifi, that world has to be built.

I started Structures of Earth not quite two years ago, then put it on pause to write the Chained Adept series first (see background). At the time, I had a vivid image of the river town where the action was happening — the capital city for the country in which the story is set, rather the way London functions for England.

But where was that country, and what place in what world did it occupy?

One thing I learned from The Chained Adept — it's fun (and not too hard) to build a world map for a series and much better to do it at the start rather than to try and retrofit one after most of the story is done. That way, the “real world” constraints can ground the story and drive some of the plot logistics issues.

The world of The Affinities of Magic is a new world, and it needs its own maps. I took Fractal Terrains 3 out for a spin last night and started seeding the world settings until I found one I liked.

The world of The Affinities of Magic

Here's what that globe looks like if you unroll it, with a pointer showing where my temperate northern hemisphere initial city is located. (I haven't designated any national/imperial boundaries yet.)

One thing is already clear — there will be large differences between the cultures on the inner sea and those with access by water to the rest of the world. That inner sea may be 4200 miles wide, but it's still a restricted body of water, warm equatorial water, and the ecosystem in and around it will be unique.

See? That's something I didn't know before I generated this map. Hadn't even thought about it.

Read More Every story needs its own world

Cover Reveal – On a Crooked Track

Posted in Artwork, On a Crooked Track, and The Chained Adept

20161016-on-a-crooked-track5-frontHere's the final draft of the cover art for the fourth and final book of The Chained Adept series. There will still be some tinkering with the position of the author name for consistency with the other covers, but my cover artist Jake Bullock is done with the illustration.

I thought you might be interested in how this sort of thing evolved.

The scene I wanted to illustrate was Penrys returning to Tavnastok in Ellech. The famous Collegium lies across the river, but her passage is barred by some of her old colleagues.

See how it looks with the other three books in thumbnail, compared to other fantasy covers (click to enlarge). This is the acid test for legibility.

thumbnails-on-background-draft2

We began with three sketches to sort out the composition.

Read More Cover Reveal – On a Crooked Track

Bookmarks, business cards, and other stationary

Posted in Artwork, and Just for Writers

2 x 6 Bookmark-VerticalWhenever we send someone a book directly, or sell one at an event, we have an opportunity to include other things. Most commonly, these are bookmarks, which we also distribute wherever we can.

Business cards are also very useful to carry when you're meeting people, or standing around at a convention.

What are they good for? How can we make them maximally effective?
 

Why bookmarks?

Bookmarks are the stand-alone representations of your books. They're popular as leave-behinds in bookstores or at group events, and are the obvious choice for inserts into your books when you sell directly (via online ordering or at trade shows/events).

There is debate about whether all bookstores want them, but many do. If you're not sure, ask.

What's the goal of a bookmark? To interest someone in buying another book. You can't list all your books on a bookmark, as though it were a mini-catalogue. That may seem plausible when you only have one or two books, but it defeats the purpose of seducing the reader with well-designed, professional information.

Instead, set up one bookmark for each series or important stand-alone book. Remember, when you start a series, you may not know how many books there will be, or what their names are. I created the bookmark above (using cover art from the first book) before I wrote a fourth entry and a story collection.

Focus on the first book of the series, name as many of the other books as you can without muddying up the image, and refer to “… and more” after that point. If you create a new bookmark for each series, you can be inventive about including a bookmark for series 2 in a book sale for series 1 to encourage cross-sales. Whenever you have any reason to mail something to someone, include a bookmark and a business card.

And since you may write faster than you use up a print run of bookmarks, future-proof them by using only digital contact information bits, not physical ones. I've moved since I made that bookmark, and I expect to move again before I run out of them.

Why business cards?

businesscard-300dpi-rgbLet's be blunt. If you're in business and you don't have business cards, how do you expect to support a professional impression? A business card is a courtesy to a potential buyer or colleague or vendor. It keeps them from having to write down your contact information themselves.

Better yet, it's another opportunity to sell your product and seduce potential buyers.
Read More Bookmarks, business cards, and other stationary

Setting up for an author event

Posted in Artwork, Book Signings, and Events

banner-1_7x3-foot-rgbOn October 9, I'll be one of several authors at the Foxburg Free Library in western PA, with a table for presenting my books.

For the first time, I've had to make the effort to get the full panoply of gear necessary for such a thing. This includes, but is not limited to: display stands for books, tablecloth, business cards, bookmarks, newsletter signup sheets, promo pens, a cash box, receipt books, and (of course) books to sell. Not to mention a gear bag to carry things in. Tape, clamps,… you name it. Everything except lamps, table, chairs, and tent.

Naturally I had some of this already, but now I'm treating it seriously.

Here's the banner. Click on it for the full effect (it's 3 feet long).

Cover reveal for Broken Devices

Posted in Artwork, Broken Devices, and The Chained Adept

Broken Devices - Full Front Cover - 297x459

Thanks to my cover artist, Jake Bullock, the cover's ready for my current book. Good thing, too, since it'll be out in roughly a month

Broken Devices, book 3 of The Chained Adept, takes place in Kigali, the great southern empire.

Penrys and Najud are underground in Yenit Ping, the largest city in the world, confronted by a heap of chains. Intact chains, like the one Penrys wears. Used ones.

Since they can't be unfastened, there's only one way to get them off — head first. This, of course, renders their one-time wearers into broken devices.

 

Cover reveal for Mistress of Animals

Posted in Artwork, Mistress of Animals, and The Chained Adept

I thought you might like to see how the cover came out for Mistress of Animals, book 2 of The Chained Adept.

Once again, my cover artist, Jake Bullock, did an excellent job. I sent him a scene from the book which I can't share with you because of spoilers, but the “Mistress of Animals” is a young teenage girl, another chained wizard, and not one of the good guys.

He came up with two entirely different treatments, of which I liked this one best.

Mistress-of-Animals-Sketches-1
Read More Cover reveal for Mistress of Animals

Maps are your friend

Posted in Artwork, Mistress of Animals, Plot, Setting, and The Chained Adept

One hemisphere of the world of the Chained Adept
One hemisphere of the world of the Chained Adept

There's nothing like a good map to keep you honest as you tell your story.

When you want to know if someone can ride from point A to B in one long day, without being mounted on SuperHorse™, then you need to know how close those two points are, and how much terrain a horse can cover in a day.

If you want to create a caravan that will make a regular circuit of more than a thousand miles of territory, better work on your mileage-per-day/days-per-market/days-lost-to-maintenance tables. Not to mention your fodder/grain/grazing capacities on the route vs the needs of the freight-carrying animals.

National or sub-national boundaries typically feature mountains or water hazards, not arbitrary straight lines (the mid-Western and Mountain states of the United States not withstanding).

Now, most of us use scraps of paper with just the bare minimum of information and illegible commentary, but I am cursed with the desire for reusability and just enough computer obsessiveness to want to make a “real” map, with real landscapes, for my fantasy series.

Besides, I can't draw worth a damn anyway, so it might as well be computer-generated.

Read More Maps are your friend

Decorative elements for The Chained Adept

Posted in Artwork, and The Chained Adept

One of the pleasures of working with a cover artist is that you can request extras as part of the arrangement.

For the series of which The Chained Adept is the eponymous first entry, I asked for my usual decorative bits for inside the book (ebook and print).

ChainedAdept-Extras-SketchesThe top one will get used for the Title page and for the End-of-Book marker, before any name index or other back matter.

The middle one will be used as a Chapter divider, and the bottom will be a Scene separator.