Interview With the Artist — Djamila Knopf

As I sit at my table, talking to people looking at my books, people often ask about the artists.  “Who did that cover?”  In this and a few other interviews, I’m hoping to answer that question.

Tales of the U'tanse

Tales of the U’tanse

Since I have different styles of books, some YA adventures, some short story anthologies, and now, my big multi-book saga, I wanted a different look to quickly distinguish the series from the adventures. At first, I created the covers for Star Time and Kingdom of the Hill Country myself, using photographs, but as the story broke free from the current time and place, I needed a particular look,  especially the characters, that was far beyond my ability to cobble together.  I started hunting for just the right look, and after many days of hunting through the deviantART pages, I found the look, and sent the artist a message.

Introduce yourself.  What kind of work is your specialty? How long have you been at it?

My name is Djamila Knopf and I am 24 years old. Currently, I am studying Art and English education in Leipzig, Germany. Besides that I’m doing illustration jobs, but as soon as I graduate next year, I’m going to move from part-time to full-time freelancing. Like most kids, I spent most of my days drawing. Back then, I drew my favourite cartoon characters over and over again and invented my own characters as well. My passion for drawing people hasn’t gone

In the Time of Green Blimps

In the Time of Green Blimps

away. Character portraits are still my favorite thing to draw and paint.

How did you meet up with Henry Melton and why did you decide to help him with his art needs?

Henry found me through my online profile on deviantART and asked me if I could paint two characters for his Sci-Fi novel. When he gave me the descriptions, I was in. I’m a fan of the genre anyway and the world he created in Tales of the U’tanse was fascinating.

Many artists collaborate with others to produce the final image.  Did you create the cover art yourself, or with the help of others?  If this was a collaboration, then who did you work with?

I created the work myself and then Henry composed the background and typography. I have never collaborated with anyone on a painting. So that would be something to try out in the future.

Captain's Memories

Captain’s Memories

Were there any notable difficulties, or high points in creating the image?

The difficulty with each commission I get is having to paint things that I’ve never painted before. Each time, I need to do some research and studies to find out how things work and what they look like. For example, I know how to paint gas masks now. The research part can be just as much fun as the painting itself.

What is the hardest part of doing cover art for novels?

The hardest part is having to step out of your comfort zone, but at the same time, that’s the best thing about it.

Do you prefer to work from a single concept?  Or would you rather read the text and create an appropriate image?

The more information I can get, the better. The brief gives me a general Idea of what the characters look like. But it is the story helps set the mood more than a short description.

Free U'tanse

Free U’tanse

Where is your artwork leading you?  Do you intend to do more cover art, or have you passed that by and are heading for other goals?

Book illustration is definitely what I love the most. I could also imagine working on card art. In general, I still want to paint characters and portraits, but move a little more towards bigger scenes and environments.

Where can the reader see more of your work?  Do you have a website?  Are there other notable works they can find?

You can find my work on several social media sites:

http://shilesque.deviantart.com/

https://de-de.facebook.com/people/Shilesque-Illustration/100005783265621

http://shilesque.tumblr.com/

http://instagram.com/shilesque

Thank you Djamila for all the great art you’ve let me use, and for making it easy to work with someone on the other side of the planet. Thanks again for answering these questions and letting my readers get an idea of who has been creating those interesting faces.

Thank you for giving me this opportunity!

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Editions and Updates

I would love to produce a book that was perfect. The idea of having a book free of typos and grammatical errors drives a lot of the pre-release work of a book.  Right now, Free U’tanse is off in the hands of beta readers who are marking up all the errors I didn’t see as I worked through the book several times. When I’ve removed all the errors that they find, I’m sadly confident that there will still be errors.  Every author I know of has the same problem.  Whether small press or big time NYC publishers, no book is free of typos.

My first book Emperor Dad was an extreme case.  I didn’t know what I was doing, particularly in book formatting and details like pricing the book and how much distributor discount to offer. When, in spite of it all, the novel won the Darrel Award for best novel, I knew I wanted a new cover with the award highlighted.  Biting the bullet, I reworked the novel, applying the layout changes I’d learned the hard way, as well as correcting the typos that had been reported by readers.  I shifted the printer from Lulu to LightningSource and lowered the price.  It was a new book, with a different number of pages, in spite of the fact that it was very much the same story.  So I gave it a new ISBN number and marked it as Second Edition.  That’s what I’m selling today.  I still have a handful of First Editions that I don’t bring to events.  Maybe someday someone will want them.

However, I have received error reports from other books.  These are usually simple typos.  I can sneak into the master files and change “on” to “in” and not affect the layout or page numbering at all.  Posting the changed version to the printer costs money however, so I tend to wait until my inventory is very low.  It’s possible a book that sells poorly will never be updated.  Sad, but true.

Updated Book

Updated Book

I’ve decided to mark these “Updated” books, not as new editions, but with just a little mark so I can keep track of which book has been corrected and which hasn’t.  On the copyright page, in the printing history, I’ve added a little date stamp (e.g. •215) when a book has received minor typo corrections.  The same mark will carry through into the ebook versions as well, and I suspect they will be updated more frequently than the paper version.  Sadly, the main limitation on processing these updated versions is my time.  If I have to choose between writing the next book and posting updates of the old one, I’ll choose to get the new book out sooner.  I hope you understand.

 

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Interview With the Artist — Arthur Wang

As I sit at my table, talking to people looking at my books, people often ask about the artists.  “Who did that cover?”  In this and a few other interviews, I’m hoping to answer that question.

Pixie Dust

Pixie Dust

Arthur Wang showed up in an email one day and I’ve never met him in person, but he did a great job on Pixie Dust for me.

Heya Henry! Sorry for the long wait, I just moved to school to finish up my degree and things have been pretty hectic. Answers to your questions below!

Introduce yourself.  What kind of work is your specialty? How long have you been at it?

I’m Arthur and I’m actually half illustrator, half designer. Illustration is really more of a side-job for me, since as much as I like it, work isn’t as stable as I’d prefer, so I’m actually studying to be a product/industrial designer. With regards to paintings, half of what I do is scifi/fantasy and the other half is a bit of a gloomier, more somber “surreal figurative”, which I usually do with oil paints.

How did you meet up with Henry Melton and why did you decide to help him with his art needs?

We met through the internet! What a modern wonder it is. 😀 I remember hearing the idea for the story and thinking “hey, this could be fun!” I hadn’t really done much young-adult/lighthearted work up until that point, and it was a very fresh change from robots, sorcery, and explosions. I think this was also one of my earliest commissioned/published pieces, and I’m glad I got a start with Henry.

Arthur Wang

Arthur Wang

Many artists collaborate with others to produce the final image.  Did you create the cover art yourself, or with the help of others?  If this was a collaboration, then who did you work with?

Every piece I’ve done has been, I suppose, a solo piece. If you wanted to stretch the definition of collaboration, then obviously the input of the writer that creates the story is of paramount importance, but all the artwork is done myself.

Were there any notable difficulties, or high points in creating the image?

I like painting because it gives the artist the chance to exaggerate certain things, and I remember being fascinated by the way light works on the human body. Specifically, when you see a thin layer of hair (as in the cover!) with light filtering through it, or the how the exact spot on skin where a shadow meets light is always so bright and colorful. I love those little nuances.

What is the hardest part of doing cover art for novels?

Having the artist’s and the writer’s ideas match up! This is an innate challenge when dealing with more than one human being at a time, and it’s still true in this partnership. We have to learn to communicate to each other what we’re looking for, but at the same time complement each other with our individual strengths. Can I, as the artist interpreting the work, elevate the script that I hear through my own skillset? I think it’s my grand goal to make the cover something that adds to the story.

Do you prefer to work from a single concept?  Or would you rather read the text and create an appropriate image?

I like having a piece that isn’t necessarily a literal translation of what’s happening in the book. If you look at old Star Wars posters, for instance, you get a good feel of what characters, environments, and feeling is in the movie, but not necessarily a step-by-step of the plot. I think this is a good approach, and allows us to really get flexibility in portraying what we feel are important things for the reader/viewer to know about the story. I’m always a fan of a bit of abstraction and minimalism in my work.

Where is your artwork leading you?  Do you intend to do more cover art, or have you passed that by and are heading for other goals?

So far, illustration is really a fun side gig for me. I’ll sometimes get approached by writers who’ve seen my work somewhere, or when I’m feeling a little uninspired, do some searching on my own for a fun project to work on. I like the nature of this interaction more, as I can really fully enjoy the process when it’s not the difference between life-and-death. If I don’t like the sound of a project, I can simply turn it down. With illustration not being my main bread-winner I get to be a bit more picky about who I work with and what projects are really fun.

Where can the reader see more of your work?  Do you have a website?  Are there other notable works they can find?

My site is at ArthurWangArt.com, and is split into a “design” section and a “fine art section.” Feel free to take a look, and thanks for reading!

Arthur Wang
Illustrator / Designer
646.934.7188

www.ArthurWangArt.com

And thanks for your time, answering these questions.

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Interview With the Artist — Autumn~Angel

As I sit at my table, talking to people looking at my books, people often ask about the artists.  “Who did that cover?”  In this and a few other interviews, I’m hoping to answer that question.

Extreme Makeover

Extreme Makeover

Autumn~Angel is two people, sort of relatives of mine (sisters of my son-in-law) and I when I met them I hoped that I could get them to do some artwork for me.  Extreme Makeover was the first chance, where they did the cover for me.  Bearing Northeast was the next opportunity.  I had teens sending messages back and forth, and I really wanted avatars for their messaging app.  I’ve been pleased with their work.

Introduce yourselves.  What kind of work is your specialty? How long have you been at it?

Kathryn Angel: Hello. We’re Autumn Angel Art: sisters and a team of artists and writers.  That’s exactly what our specialty is, art and writing.  We’ve been doing both ever since we were little, although as children I focused on writing and Lacy focused more on art.  Once we grew up and both finished high school, our parents encouraged us to focus on our passion professionally, so we did, and here we are now.

 

Bearing NE Avatars

Bearing NE Avatars

Lacy Autumn: If you do any research on Autumn Angel Art, you may notice that our current project is a card game. Not only is our specialty art and writing, but it’s piecing them together to use both visual and text. As teenagers, we always argued over which was better, so finally we discovered to do both as a team. Now you can find us helping each other out, building on each others’ works, as any good team is found doing.

AutumnAngelArt

AutumnAngelArt

How did you meet up with Henry Melton and why did you decide to help him with his art needs?

L.A.: It started as a family connection. Henry Melton being the father of my sister-in-law, naturally, we met each other on occasion. When he was in need of an artist for Extreme Makeover, our art business had just begun, and my sister-in-law recommended me. Henry e-mailed me an inquiry asking if I was interested in the work he needed done. In reply, eager me, I sent him my portfolio and the rest is history.

K.A.: At the time we’d never done any commission work, but we strove to run our own business as freelance artists and writers, so we were happy to take on a job like the one Henry offered.  Even though we had our own projects we were working on, we took this as our first real freelance job.

Many artists collaborate with others to produce the final image. How did Autumn Angel Art work together to create the cover art for Extreme Makeover?

K.A.: Typically our first step is to brainstorm the idea that we want for the picture, but in this case Henry had his own ideas for the cover of his book, so there wasn’t much that we needed to brainstorm.  He sent reference photos and explained what he wanted, so Lacy got right to work on the sketches.

L.A.: I’m the sketch artist and Kathryn is my colorist. Sometimes I sketch pictures on paper first, and then I transfer them to my computer to fit them onto the digital requirements, then I continue my pencil and shading techniques with my art pad. With Extreme Makeover, however, I was very new, and hadn’t learned my “style” so I did everything digitally. I sent the black and white cover to Kathryn and she picked the right colors to use, and painted what I started. It’s incredible to have her with me.

Were there any notable difficulties or high points in creating the image?

L.A.: Autumn Angel Art was young and inexperienced at the time. I started with a sketch of Deena, but at this point, I didn’t quite understand her character, her personality. So here you’ve got this picture of a meek, humble looking teenage girl, with her shoulders slightly slouched and her face full of naivete. Not the same girl as the one we see on the Extreme Makeover cover today.

So Kathryn colored my sketch and we set Deena into a background of redwood trees, the way Henry requested.   Imagine this picture as a slender, brunette Deena that looks more like a high school photo than the front of a book. This I sent to Henry, expecting him to respond like “Great job! Thanks!”

Do you see where I’m going with this? Business is brutal. Money doesn’t fall from trees. Henry considered it a nice try, but explained to me how he wanted it to improve. I was like… “Really?” I thought it was close to finished! But I wanted to please my client, so I sort of wadded it up and threw it into the trash bin, and tried again. Two more times.

The second sketch had five Deenas on it. It looked about like a group of pop stars. After I tossed that one out, I tried a series of portraits, but it still fell short. I began to feel nervous I wasn’t good enough, and finally, I asked Henry, “Can I read the book myself, to find out who Deena is as a person?” I couldn’t put a face to someone I didn’t know.

Afraid of losing my first job, afraid of disappointing the author, all my anxieties came at me head on. It was at this climax of emotion where I told Henry I couldn’t draw him the cover he asked for. We exchanged our final emails, expecting it to be the end, but my spirit wasn’t ready for it to be over.

I think it was a week that went by: I dropped my art pen and stopped to breathe, taking a break from drawing. My subconscious mind started clocking away, forming a picture of Deena, the confident, brave young woman from the novel, the one full of life and action. Even when she was overweight, she was this active, outgoing character. I felt like her as a biker chick was the most fitting picture of her. And that’s when I e-mailed Henry saying I hadn’t given up and I was ready to draw him his perfect cover. Hopefully, I sold him and everyone else, because I was inspired by the novel. In fact, I hope my cover inspires Henry to write a sequel with biker chick Deena! Who wants that? Is it just me? I doubt it.

K.A.: The most notable difficulty I had was actually in learning how to work together with Lacy.  This was our first freelance project, but we hadn’t really found our art style yet, which is important for any artist to recognize.  Lacy wanted realistic art, which at the time my abilities as the colorist didn’t match up to her own artistic talent, and Lacy always noticed the little details that would change from her black and white picture to my colored one: the mouth crooked differently, the shading on the nose or cheeks didn’t match, or the eyes changed shape when I colored them in and added the lashes.  She had high expectations that I couldn’t meet, and that made it difficult for us to produce a cover art that matched Henry’s expectations.  Finally we just had to do what we could; it turned out as the cover art for Extreme Makeover.

At the time, it didn’t feel like there was a ‘high point’, but looking back now, I see that we learned a lot of important information that all digital artists should know, things that we wouldn’t have even known to look up on our own.  Henry served as our art professor, and the job we were doing for him was our application lesson.  (Does anyone know the importance of dpi?  We didn’t!)

When Henry approached us to make the Twitter avatars for Bearing Northeast, we had learned a lot about ourselves as a team, and were more confident in how we worked together.  By adding outlines to the picture, Lacy’s work could easily show through despite how it changed from her shading to my coloring.  I found my place in our partnership, and didn’t have to struggle with the fear that my abilities weren’t good enough.  The difficulties weren’t there anymore.

What is the hardest part of doing cover art for novels?

L.A:. Meeting the expectations and demands of the author whose characters and story aren’t your own is definitely the hardest part for me. Respectively, as the cover artist you need to obey the client’s (in this case, the author’s) instruction since he or she has spent all this time writing a manuscript about this story, these characters, and you are simply the artist, nothing else. There’s a conflict with being given too much instruction and too little; inspiration is a valuable part of the artist’s work, and with too much or too little feedback from the client, creativity is thwarted. So like, when an artist receives positive feedback, all these good vibes come forth from inspiration, but then when it’s negativity you receive, suddenly you have all these bad feelings wanting to be spilled out onto the canvas.

The hardest part about it is definitely seeing the book from the author’s perspective. That’s why you need to learn how to rise above your own, individual creativity and let it sort of merge with that of the author’s – being a cover artist demands a sense of altruism which other artists don’t find themselves faced with.

K.A.:  Yes, I agree.  Art is very much self-expression for artists, but drawing art for another person takes away the right that artists have to express themselves.  Once an artist takes on commission work as a cover-artist, they have to express another person’s thoughts and imagination.  Even with the altruistic spirit that Lacy mentioned though, we -Lacy and I- won’t give someone art that we aren’t first satisfied with; whatever art we make for publication will be a reflection of who we are.  Despite the fact that we’re thinking of someone else’s story and characters, it’s still our art that’s being shown off.  In my opinion, the challenge lies in the inability to match the artist’s level of talent, imagination, and self-confidence with the author’s (or publisher’s) desires for the book cover.  If an artist can’t picture what’s expected, then it becomes hard to create a cover art to reach satisfaction.

Do you prefer to work from a single concept?  Or would you rather read the text and create an appropriate image?

L.A.: I prefer freedom when I do my job, but I have to be trustworthy! The author has to trust me before I can expect freedom!  I think that’s why I enjoy reading the author’s novel and then drawing the book cover from the text: the author says all he or she needs to say inside the book, so if I read it, I can feel inspired from it and do my job accordingly.

K.A.: We read the book so the cover can accurately depict the story.  I know from personal experience how important cover art is in selling a book: I often pick up a book or game based on the art I see first.  It always bothers me when I finish a book and realize the art on the front cover has absolutely nothing to do with the story, or it simply does not match the character that the author has described to me.

Where is your artwork leading you?  Do you intend to do more cover art, or have you passed that by and are heading for other goals?

EscapingtheLair_Rhys

EscapingtheLair_Rhys

L.A.: My artwork has led me to follow my own dreams, which at the moment includes developing a card game, like I already mentioned, but I hope to someday make a living writing…

We are still very much in the business of cover art. We love to stay contemporary and we are always diving into the art of creative marketing, which is what cover artists must do in order to help the author sell books. So yes, we are headed onto other goals, like publishing our own stories – I see us being the cover artists for that – but no, providing services to other authors isn’t a thing of the past. I want to work with people. Variety is the spice of life. I want to be of service for others.

K.A.: Make us an offer. If you like our art, come to us and make us an offer.  We may not be able to say yes, but we’ll definitely consider your proposal before saying no.

Where can the reader see more of your work?  Do you have a website?  Are there other notable works they can find?

K.A.: Yes, of course, our website!  You can find our work at www.autumnangelart.com.  We’re also on Facebook and Twitter, if anyone would like to connect with us there.  We also like to share other people’s great art over on Pinterest for anyone who’s interested.  Or if anyone wants to contact us, then our website has a form that they can fill out and send.  We’d be happy to hear from them!

L.A.: Here’s my chance to advertise. We wrote two short stories for the successfully funded Kickstarter book “Worlds of Faith”, Christian in genre. Check it out on Amazon, on Kindle, and it’s available in print for those of you who are old-school. Also, coming soon is our card game, Escaping the Lair. This game is like a fantasy experience you’ve never had before. Seriously, it’s a lot of fun! Well, more like drama.

Our website keeps you updated. Follow us. The support of our followers and fans: priceless. I would be a nobody if it weren’t for them.

Thanks for the art you’ve provided, and for helping with this interview. I think it will be very interesting and encouraging for artists just starting out.

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Interview With The Artist — Christian Renee Bressler

As I sit at my table, talking to people looking at my books, people often ask about the artists.  “Who did that cover?”  In this and a few other interviews, I’m hoping to answer that question.

Roswell or Bust

Roswell or Bust

Christian Renee Bressler was a lucky choice when I was first hunting for artists to help me with my books.  I was asking everyone if they knew of artist that might be available — and here she was, right in my family.  Roswell or Bust, my second novel was approaching the deadline and I needed a cartoonish image and Christian put it all together.

Introduce yourself.  What kind of work is your specialty? How long have you been at it?

My name is Christian Bressler. I am 27 years old, wife to Brady of almost 6 years and mother to Landri who just recently turned one. I grew up in Canyon, Texas and received my bachelors in Advertising Design at Savannah College of Art and Design in Savannah, Georgia. I recently made the big switch from being a full time graphic designer/brand manager at Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center to staying home with my daughter and focusing my energy on being a mom and on my business. I own Spirited Expressions here in Amarillo, Texas where we do “paint and sip” classes. I also am a freelance graphic designer, working on projects spanning from logos to book covers, wedding invitations to advertisements and everything in between. I would consider graphic design to be my specialty. I have been working as a graphic designer professionally for 6 years.

Christian Bressler

Christian Bressler

How did you meet up with Henry Melton and why did you decide to help him with his art needs?

I’m lucky enough to call Henry my great-uncle! He asked me about working on a cover design while I was still in college. I was more than happy to get the chance to work on the cover of Roswell or Bust. It was such a fun project, I couldn’t pass it up!

Many artists collaborate with others to produce the final image.  Did you create the cover art yourself, or with the help of others?  If this was a collaboration, then who did you work with?

I mostly just worked with Henry to match what he had envisioned for the cover. But I created the cover art myself.

Were there any notable difficulties, or high points in creating the image?

One of the hardest things with any novel, I think, is illustrating the characters. Bringing to life something that is described in text. People tend to develop the image of what they think the characters might look like based on the text and individual perception, so trying to do the book justice was probably the most challenging part. Also, the book cover was created while I was still learning design programs and developing my sense of style. Challenging, but also a wonderful experience!

What is the hardest part of doing cover art for novels?

Same as above. It can be challenging to create a single image to encourage someone to not only pick up the book, but also depict the content. Whether with illustration, photography or even just typography. But this is also why I love working on covers! I like the challenge!

Do you prefer to work from a single concept?  Or would you rather read the text and create an appropriate image?

I think it depends on the project. I think it is definitely more beneficial to read the text first. Then you have a full picture of what could be and multiple ideas can be bounced around.

Where is your artwork leading you?  Do you intend to do more cover art, or have you passed that by and are heading for other goals?

I think a little of both. After I graduated from college, I started working as a graphic designer at a publishing company. I got to get my feet wet in the world of creating covers, and laying out books. Since then, I have done a few covers here and there. I always enjoy those projects and hope to continue to work on more in the future! I’m always up for a new and exciting challenge.

Where can the reader see more of your work?  Do you have a website?  Are there other notable works they can find?

Some of my freelance and stationery design work can be found at www.urbanbeedesign.com. I also create several of the original paintings found at www.spirited-expressions.com.

Thank you, Christian, for a cover that always attracts attention at my table and thank you for taking the time to answer my questions.

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Interview With The Artist — Brad Foster

As I sit at my table, talking to people looking at my books, people often ask about the artists.  “Who did that cover?”  In this and a few other interviews, I’m hoping to answer that question. 

Follow That Mouse

Follow That Mouse

Brad Foster is well known to many people who attend the conventions.  He’s been the Guest of Honor at a few, I know.  He’s very personable and easy to talk to.  When he expressed interest in doing a cover, Follow That Mouse was next in my writing queue, and a perfect project for him.

Introduce yourself. What kind of work is your specialty? How long have  you been at it? 

Brad’s the name. Art’s the game. Ink on paper, digital on screen, I’ve been playing the art game since I could pick up a crayon. One day I might get good at it. It’s a dream….

How did you meet up with Henry Melton and why did you decide to help him with his art needs?

I cornered poor Mr. Melton at a science fiction convention, and basically brow beat him until he gave me a cover to do, just to make me go away.

Brad Foster

Brad Foster

Many artists collaborate with others to produce the final image. Did  you create the cover art yourself, or with the help of others? If this was a collaboration, then who did you work with? 

I did it all by myself, so there is no one else to share the blame. I’m sorry.

Were there any notable difficulties, or high points in creating the image? 

Well, I do recall kind of fixating on getting the road sign absolutely correct, looking all sorts of photo references of what such signs look like in the real world, checking colors, etc. Not so much a difficulty as much as some sort of weird compulsion!

What is the hardest part of doing cover art for novels? 

Deciding if it is best to go totally literal with a scene from the book, or just try to symbolize the over all feeling. I think I got halfway with both of those on this cover.

Do you prefer to work from a single concept? Or would you rather read the text and create an appropriate image? 

I prefer being able to not only read the entire text first, but to be able to ask the writer questions on details. But, I will work however the publisher feels is the best method for them. It’s their baby, after all.

Where is your artwork leading you? Do you intend to do more cover art,  or have you passed that by and are heading for other goals? 

I think I’ve already reached where my art was going to take me: living a life where I can spend most of my time creating artwork is a dream come true. And yes, I hope to do more cover art (Note to Mr. Melton: assign more cover art to Mr. Foster), plus do any and everything else art wise that might come my way. Book and magazine covers, interior illustrations, cartoons, comic strips, posters, logos, art prints, cards, (greeting, playing, and whatever else might be out there to draw), video games, non-video games… if someone needs an artist for a project, I’d love to try it, always have.

Where can the reader see more of your work? Do you have a website?  Are there other notable works they can find? 

I do indeed have a website, loaded with all kinds of art prints and strange small publications featuring my work, and that of other artists I have published over the years through Jabberwocky Graphix. It’s at  www.jabberwockygraphix.com   If anyone wants to go directly to a small gathering of samples of some of the pieces I’ve created in the past couple of years, you can also click here:  http://www.jabberwockygraphix.com/art-custom.html

Thanks Henry, this was fun!

And thanks Brad for getting back to me so soon.  Aspiring artists, this is a man to emulate when you’re trying to make a name for yourself.  He’s always out there, and quick to respond when asked to help.

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Managing Events I Want to Attend

Screen Shot 2015-01-27 at 3.18.49 PMI wish I could be able to sign up for all the events for the upcoming year at one time and be done with it.  Unfortunately, every event has their own way of doing things and their own schedule.  Some events are so popular that you’d better sign up a year in advance, if you can.  Others take a big break after the stress of running the event and don’t even update their website until just a few months before the next one.

That leaves me with the duty to run my list of events every few weeks and see which ones have turned on their vendor registration. I have this spreadsheet to help me keep everything straight.  I put in the date of the events and keep them sorted, with a handy URL list so I can click to bring up their website.

Hotels are another thing I have to keep in memory.  Some of the events are local, so I can commute, but I have forgotten to book a hotel room in times past and that’s too much stress to deal with at the last moment.

There is also the business of whether to get a Vendor table or an Artist table.  Some events even have other classifications to deal with.  Personally, if the (usually cheaper) Artist table is locked off overnight, I prefer it.  However some Artist tables are in open hotel corridors, so I would either have to take down the table every night and put it back up every morning, or risk some pilferage.  So, I will sometimes spend the extra cash to get a protected Vendor table instead.

The last issue is cost, and how it affects when I will register.  Big venue Comicons, with many thousands of attendees also charge a lot more for their table spaces.  Events also take the money up front, so I’d prefer to hold onto my cash as long as possible and register a couple of months before the event — if I’m sure they won’t sell out their spaces.  It’s a gamble.

If you’ve clicked on the spreadsheet to look closer, you might have noticed that nearly all of the events listed are in Texas.  There are two issues for me — travel costs and sales taxes.  Closer to home is cheaper, and if I can keep my tax paperwork to a minimum, that would be good.  However, if a convention invites me, I’ll jump at the chance to go farther afield.

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Beta-Reader Books

IMG_1507Every new novel, after a few rounds of editing, gets packaged into an 8.5 x11 bound format and mailed off to select readers who then have the joyous task of scribbling all over it and telling me where I messed up.  Well, yesterday the shipment of Free U’tanse beta copies arrived and it’s time for me to package them up into mailers and get them sent off.  BTW, that’s not the real cover.  It’s just a dummy until I get the final artwork in from Djamila in Germany.  It’s always a race to see which reaches the deadline first, the manuscript or the artwork.  Some of these Beta copies have nearly the final artwork, others just have a few scribbles.

Preparing for Event Season

IMG_1505It’s been a couple of months since I’ve had a table at a book event and one is coming up before too long.  Although I’ve been selling books from my website during this slow time, I do make most of my sales when I can meet potential readers in person.

So, in spite of my work getting new books produced, I need to take the time to check my inventory and make sure I have enough books to meet the demand. (You can see the yellow-topped Beneath the Amarillo Plains in its transparent box.  Not too many left from my last order from the printer. Time to reorder.)

I monitor my inventory using Quickbooks, but there’s always a need for a manual count to weed out damaged books or possibly ones lost in the hectic business of setting up and taking down so many display tables.

So, I’ll be putting away my Santa hat and digging into all my boxes.  Wish me luck.

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What’s Up Next

Today, I’m working on two very different books.  I can’t show you the covers yet, but I will soon.

The next novel up is Free U’tanse and follows the events of Tales of the U’tanse which came out December 2012.  The U’tanse are humans, captured by the Cerik aliens in Star Time.  Their decendants are enslaved on the planet Ko, trapped by their powerful and vicious masters, and by the poisonous atmosphere of the planet itself.  The U’tanse have inherited the psychic talents of their original mother, but that forms a trap in itself.

The book should be out in March, but I’m always a little uncertain about that.  The best reading experience is Star Time->Tales of the U’tanse->Free U’tanse, and I’m outlining the next book, which should be out in about a year.

The other book project is very different.  My sister Mary Solomon is a famous artist living in the Amarillo area.  She and I have collaborated on a picture book, which is in final layout stage.  Chipper Flies High is a short little tale of a bird living in the swamps of Cape Canaveral who sees the giant Man Bird preparing to fly and goes closer to get a better look and…  Well, that would be a spoiler.

The ideal age for Chipper Flies High would be a youngster old enough to know about rockets and space stations and who enjoy listening to books or just beginning to read them.  There’s about twenty pages of text and pictures.

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