Covers of the LOE Series

October 9, 2017

We’re up to 12 League of Elder books now, and we’ve pumped out some sweet covers over the years, all by the Queen of the League of Elder, Carol Phillips. A lot of times the artwork gets messed up by my poopy text.

I thought we would review all of the covers naked with no text.

But, before we begin–a quick note of comments. Over 5 or 6 years, this blog has received only a handful of comments. I’d love to hear what you think–do you like these covers? Do you hate them?  Say something–let me know all about it.

Book 1–Sygillis of Metatron

LoE

The original Book 1 cover by Pat Larsen

Back in 2009 we put out the First LOE Book: Sygillis of Metatron. The original cover wasn’t done by Carol P, it was sketched by Pat Larsen. I used it for about a year, and then was told, in no uncertain terms, that the cover came up short in a number of areas.

 

I determined that a change was needed. I took to the internet looking for an artist to redo the cover for Book 1.

The very first name that came up on my search was Carol Phillips–fantasy artist. I sent her a note. She responded and it’s been golden ever since. I sent Carol a number of scenes from the book and allowed her to pick which one she wanted to try. Eventually, she settled on the scene in Metatron where Captain Davage is reunited with Syg. I thought the scene needed a little something, so we added Carahil, though, as written, he had already escaped Metatron prior to Syg’s arrival. Little changes that don’t fit in with the narrative are called Nixies. Nixies add a little drama to the scene.

Book1

Sygillis of Metatron, revised, by Carol Phillips

 

Carol’s cover was designed as a front-only image. We used a grab of the city of Metatron for the back cover. Not until Book 9, “Stenibelle”, would we use a front-only design.

 

Book 2: The Hazards of the Old Ones.

Book2

The Hazards of the Old Ones, by Carol Phillips

 

Book 2 is without a doubt the most metaphysical and pastoral cover of the group. We usually select exact scenes from the various books, this one was more abstract, combining several scenes together as one. We presented it as a wrap-around cover, with the scene extending to the spine and the back cover. I thought that the scene looked best all at once–it lost a lot of impact wrapped around, so we eventually revised the cover to the front only.

 

Book3: The Dead Held Hands

Book3

The Dead Held Hands, by Carol Phillips

 

Book 3 is the first in the Temple of the Exploding Head trilogy. It carries on the tradition of featuring Carahil on the cover, he has been on all three so far. Carol often places a “surprise” on the spine–in this case it’s Castle Blanchefort in the background. I had to beg Carol for the green flags on the spires of vacant Castle Durst.

 

Book 4: The Machine

Book4

The Machine, by Carol Phillips

 

Book 4 is one of my favorites. Once again Carahil appears on the cover though he’s a little harder to find. Thomasina 19th appears on the spine. The green cars are actually “cable cars” with cables going all the way up to a vehicle in orbit–though Carol didn’t want to have a cable messing up her artwork, thought it was a “Bob Ross” move. I thought the Princess Marilith vending machine was a nice touch. Carol put her initials “CP” on the dumpster.

 

Book 5 The Temple of the Exploding Head

Book5

The Temple of the Exploding Head, by Carol Phillips

 

I remember I was on vacation in Florida when we started working on this one. I told Carol to “Go Nuts”. I think the results speak for themselves.

 

Book 6: Sands of the Solar Empire

Book6

Sands of the Solar Empire, by Carol Phillips

 

Book 6 is the beginning of the Belmont Saga, featuring the intrepid Paymaster Stenstrom. The scene takes place in the Sanctum Sanctorum of the Bones Club. I based the scene off of a Masons lodge that was being torn down–they had a central oculus.

 

Book 7: Against the Druries

Book7

Against the Druries, by Carol Phillips

 

Book 7 is one of my personal favs. I’ve had a crush on Lady Alesta of Dare for some time., and there she is. I like the drama in the painting. As per usual, one of the giant Cronins appears on the spine.

 

Book 8: The Shadow tech Goddess

Book8

The Shadow tech Goddess, by Carol Phillips

 

The first book in the Shadow tech Goddess series. I think this is one of the prettiest covers–I like the colors. I also enjoy seeing Hannah-Ben Shurlamp on the cover.

Book 9: Stenibelle

Book9

Stenibelle, by Carol Phillips

 

Book 9 sees a return to a front-only cover. Book 9 also sees Paymaster Stenstrom as a woman in an alternate universe. This one seems to be Carol’s fav cover. She likes the color scheme and the various element, like the flying hookers swooping down to pounce on Stenibelle. Stenibelle, who appears as a man in other books, looks amazing.

 

Book 10: The House of Bloodstein–Perlamum

Book10

The House of Bloodstein: Perlamum, by Carol Phillips

 

The House of Bloodstein books add a touch of horror to my usual sci-fi/fantasy. The Machine in the background returns from the Temple books. The silver kingfisher is King, a favored character of mine.

 

Book 11: the House of Bloodstein–Mentralysis

Book11

The House of Bloodstein: Mentralysis, by Carol Phillips

 

This cover features Queen Ghome, one of my favorite bad guys. I just love her. I wanted a really colorful cover, and Carol delivered as usual.

 

Book 12: The 6th Turn–Kat

Book12

The 6th Turn: Kat, by Carol Phillips

 

A return to the Shadow tech Goddess books. This once deals with an alternate version of Kat, who really developed into a cool character over the various drafts. Carol designed her with a massive Mohawk, which I wrote into the story.

We made a conscious effort to make the Shadow tech Goddess sub-books look the same, so the formatting for this one resembles Stenibelle.

copyright 2017, Ren Garcia and Carol Phillips

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14291686_10154531872029586_2865426175355244435_nIf anybody had told me five years ago that I would have written a non-fiction book, I seriously would have laughed.

I mean really…

I don’t write non-fiction. I write about spaceships and Shadow tech and other oddities. Fiction is easy for me to write.  Non-fiction puts too much of a strain on my imagination.

And, if somebody would have additionally said the “non-fiction” book in question would have been about myself during my military years, I would have turned gray with fright.

A story about me? Who would want to read about me? Honestly, I couldn’t imagine a Hell more horrific than having to read page after dreary page of a book detailing the  insipid Wonder Bread doings of me.

But, here it is: 10 Weeks at Chanute, a daring but admittedly short detailing of my doings as a trainee Airman in the US Air Force. I had always thought that writing a tale about me would be hard, would be too much. Writing weird sci-fi is easy because it has nothing to do with me. But this–this is a glimpse into my soul.

HangarI was sent to Chanute Air force Base is 1992 to learn how to perform maintenance on jet engines. Chanute, for all of its long history, had been a place of training. I was just one of many to go there. But, I would be one of the last.

Chanute was dead–chopped, shut down, and, about a year later, would close its gates forever.

In 2012, I felt an odd calling to return to Chanute. I’m not certain why. I took the long, somewhat uninteresting drive across Indiana to what was left of Chanute. Twenty years of being abandoned had left its mark.

I wasn’t quite prepared for what I saw that stormy afternoon.

Chanute HQ BW 2So, when I got home, I started writing that non-fiction book I’d dreaded for so long. I had to write it, to get it off my chest. I wrote about me, and Chanute, how it had made me into a better person. I had no idea where I was going with it or what I was trying to say, I just wrote.

And then I lost it. I lost the Chanute manuscript. Even though I was only a few thousand words into it, losing those initial words would have been devastating. It’s difficult if not impossible to re-write something already written. I searched and searched for the manuscript. If I couldn’t find it, then that would be the end. My crazy urge to write a memoir would be over.

But then, there it was, hiding in the back of my drawer in an old jump drive I’d forgotten about.

Chanute was on again.

White Hall BW 3And I went on a tear. I wrote about my experiences and my state of being in 1992, how different things were back then. I wrote about Chanute, about its customs and heritage ninety years in the making. Those are things needed to be remembered and properly preserved.

I wrote about the funny things, the good times I had and the friends I made. I wrote about my sorrow twenty years later, seeing what had become of the old place.

Thirty thousand words later– just barely novella size–I was done. I said what I needed to say.

This tiny little book–I was amazed at what I had created. In just a few words, I told my story and Chanute’s story as well.

What more could I have asked for?

10 Weeks at Chanute is available in paperback and ebook at Amazon.com from Hydra Publications.

copyright 2017, Ren Garcia

 

 

The Making of Kat

July 12, 2017

Kat cover Front FinalIn a few days the paperback of The League of Elder, Book 12: Kat will be out. This journey has taken plenty of twists and turns over the past three years when I started it. Every book has its own flavor, and this one was certainly no different.

The issues I encountered with this particular work were unlike any I’d seen before.

First of all: I wasn’t satisfied with the story. When I first came up with the story, my intent was to simply add-on to the events from Book 8: The Shadow tech Goddess. In that book, our hero, Paymaster Stenstrom, encountered a sinister Knife-class Black Hat in the lonely, but oft-visited, Ruins of Clovis located in the Vithland region of Kana.  There, he encountered three Knife-class Black Hats, two dead, one alive, all searching for evidence of the identity of the fearsome, yet elusive, Shadow tech Goddess. After brief skirmish, the lone living Black Hat captured Stenstrom’s companions, Lord A-Ram and Lady Gwendolyn of Prentiss. Due to her astounding agility and her Shadow tech tail, he called her Kat. She then forced Stenstrom to descend into the catacombs under the ruins, where he encountered the dead bodies of her two companions. Despite everything, Stenstrom found himself fascinated by Kat, at the hints of blonde hair and sparkling green eyes through the mask. As Stenstrom begins his quest across the Plains, Kat’s name was added to the list of seven mates for him. And then she was horribly killed by the Lacerta in the Ruins of Caroline.

stg-7

Kat–as she originally appeared in Book 8, The Shadow tech Goddess. Panting by Eve Ventrue.

So, that was that for Kat. In the subsequent StG books, I wanted to explore the various alternate versions of Paymaster Stenstrom and his loves. For the 6th turn, it was Kat’s turn. My plan was to simply pluck her as is from the pages of Book 8 and give her a fresh lease, adventuring with Paymaster Stenstrom as he battled the horrible demon Bellathauser.  I used the KISS technique: Keep it Simple, Stupid.

 

But, that’s when my troubles began. I was about 40 thousand words into the story. I had thought to keep these StG stories short, anywhere from 40 to 60 thousand words, and I had accomplished that with Stenibelle at around 50k.

With Kat, though, I found myself disliking the story, for lots of reasons.  I found I was repeating myself. I never have issues with Writer’s Block, but, if I think I’m revisiting previous material, that can slow me down considerably as I strive to keep things fresh–I call that Writer’s Thunk! With Kat, I felt I was reheating old stuff at every turn–I mean this is the 12th book in the series, it’s hard to keep coming up with totally new material, but still.

After thinking about it, I came to the conclusion that most of the book’s issues came from the character of Kat herself. Simply ripping her out of Book 8 was not satisfactory for me at all. She was flat and uninteresting, her interactions in the story perfunctory at best. Her story was too similar to that of Sygillis of Metatron back in Book 1–the taming of an unruly Black Hat, etc. And, rather embarrassingly, I found her relationship with Paymaster Stenstrom reeked of Instalove.

Kat Sketches

Early sketches of the rebooted Kat by Carol Phillips. Kat’s spark, her ever-present brightness and zest for life is evident in the sketches.

Action was called for. I was certain if I could get the character of Kat right, then the rest of the book would follow. So, I went back to basics. In Book 8, Kat was a fully-powered Knife-class Black Hat. We’ve seen plenty of that in the previous books, while only hinting at the horrors they suffer during their training in a place called the Shade Church. I thought if I removed all her of skills and make her a trainee with limited skills, that could introduce all sorts of opportunity for growth.

 

 

Paige 2

A theme emerged after the additions, that all things, no matter how unlikely, have the potential to better themselves. (Painting by Carol Phillips)

I went to work, adding a few scenes to the front of the book to give Kat a little life–never in my wildest dreams did I think I  would eventually add up to 40k words, almost doubling the size of the book. I found myself intoxicated in the creation process, exploring the revised Kat character, seeing what was there, all the while, keeping the plot moving. I came up with Autocons and Sentrils.  A-Ram and Alesta, who had been absent from the book, reappeared. The two dead Black Hats from Book 8 became Kat’s sisters, Bird, Walker and Wheel. All of this was organic characterization, everything in real time, on the fly. In 40k words, Kat went from being a rather pat and uninteresting fantasy character to something special, stealing every scene she’s in.

 

Book 12: Kat has everything–lots of action, loads of imagination and fantastic situations the League of Elder is known for, plus fully developed characters that grow before your eyes.

Stg-blueThe 6th Turn: Kat is published by St G Press/Winter Wolf.

copyright 2017, Ren Garcia and Carol Phillips

Ah! The four year odyssey that is the House of Bloodstein books is nearing an end. The second Bloodstein book, LOE Book 11: The House of Bloodstein: Mentralysis is in post production.

Manuscript: Done

Editing: In-Progress

Cover: Done

Cover Lettering: Not Started

Interior Artwork: Collecting

16145780_881938518576004_1412179644_o.png

The House of Bloodstein: Mentralysis,  by Carol Phillips

The cover for Book 11 is a Technicolor dream. I had wanted tons of vibrant color, and Carol Phillips delivered. It super trippy and suitably weird, which I was hoping for. Unlike the previous covers which contain greater or lesser amounts of Nixies (Elements in the portraiture that are either exaggerated  or not “as presented” in the text) this cover, except for one small detail, is pretty much how the scene is presented in the book.

 

BLURB:

Blurbing is my bane, I hate it. Taking a 138 thousand word book and pot-boiling it down to a few-hundred descriptive words is a chore. I recall blurbing Book 1, with its sort of back-and-forth character interaction was almost impossible to properly accomplish.

This book wasn’t too terribly bad:

The House of Bloodstein: MENTRALYSIS

They thought the episode with their cousins to the east, the Bloodsteins, was over, something to laugh about at the grand table in fond nostalgia, but they were wrong. They were so wrong.

And Castle Blanchefort has fallen!

Lord Kabyl has lost everything: his wife, his kin, his family fortune… And his home, once a safe haven, is overrun with enemies seeking his blood.

In what follows, he must join forces with ancient enemies and with people who do not exist. He must treat with sinister, possibly untrustworthy gods and barter away his soul for urgently needed arcane help, or face certain death at the hands of forgotten tyrants and their terrifying machinations from a bygone age.

And, how can a strange science known as Mentralysis, practiced in secret in the hidden places of the League, hold the key to ultimate victory?

What should have been obvious to Lord Kabyl from the start has at last become crystal clear: Foolish is he who dares possess the Ultimate Object, for misery shall be his only reward.

League of Elder Book 11: the House of Bloodstein: Mentralysis will be available Summer 2017 from Loconeal Publishing

copyright 2017, Ren Garcia and Carol Phillips

10 Weeks at Chanute

September 7, 2016

chanute-final-cropped-frontWithout a doubt, 10 Weeks at Chanute is a radical departure from anything I’ve ever written before. It went from a cathartic impulse, to a lost manuscript, to a surge of creativity and a finished product that I’m quite proud of.

BORING OLE’ ME

In nearly ten years of writing, I’ve been careful to keep myself out of the equation. Some authors make themselves the star of the show, with their writing a distant afterthought and by-product of their cult of personality. That is totally not me. If you’ve ever seen my tables at the various shows I attend, you won’t see my name splashed up in giant letters on towering banners with me dominating the space as a Grand Poobah over my devoted followers–all you’ll see is The League of Elder, my series with my name nowhere to be found.  I’m just the little irrelevant guy pulling the strings, the odd things and places I’ve created are the undisputed stars of the show, I’ve never made any pretense about that. That’s how I like things.

So, all of a sudden, here’s this little book, 10 Weeks at Chanute–no spaceships, no Shadow tech, no dashing people or daring-do, just a story about me and my military experience set as it happened in suburban 1992.

Me??

chanute-airstrip-1

Abandoned, lonely  Chanute, 20 years later in 2012.

IN RUINS

I served in the Ohio Air National Guard from the end of 1991 to 1997. I went to Basic Training at Lackland AFB with all the other recruits and then finished up my training at Chanute AFB in Illinois. Though most trainees disliked desolate, landlocked, remote Chanute as a “real drag”, I actually loved it, found peace and an easy affinity with the place. I credit my time at Chanute for creating the mature person I am today. In 1993, about a year after I graduated, Chanute closed, just one of many bases to be shutdown and abandoned by the military.  Twenty years later, I decided to return to Chanute, just to look around and reconnect. I wasn’t prepared for what I saw: the desolation, the ruined buildings, empty streets, broken windows and utter silence. It was like walking straight into Silent Hill where the only demons roaming about were in my head.

chanute-final-1-cropped-backSeeing a place that I loved in such a state of smash had a profound effect on me. I sat down and started writing about my experiences, both at Basic and at Chanute. I wondered if I could actually accomplish such a thing, and, even if I could jot down a few thousand words, would anybody want to read it? How could the exploits of boring old me as an Airman in the military during a time of peace be of any interest?

I got about four thousand words into it and then stopped. I was busy pumping out my League of Elder books, the Temple Trilogy at the time if I’m not mistaken, and I had to put it aside in order to get the other books produced. Writing books is one thing, publishing them is another, much longer process. Eventually, with everything going on, I sort of forgot about it.

I forgot about Chanute… 

Time passed. Books were published. I’m not sure why, but in early 2016 as I finished Kat, the latest of the Shadow tech Goddess books, I became rather nostalgic for my little Chanute epic. Lost projects, if given enough time, can find new life, and Chanute was rapidly reawakening in my imagination. I thought about the story, about my time there, and I was suddenly flush with things I wanted to put into the book. The sheen of twenty years had taken effect–Chanute seemed now like a Wonderland to me, a place crying out to be remembered.

hospital-bw-5

Chanute’s abandoned hospital, situated in the heart of the old base, a neglected derelict in 2016, still maintaining a fragment of its haunting beauty despite broken windows and overgrown trees.

I was ready, at last, to continue and give the story the attention it deserved.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t find it.

I couldn’t find Chanute…

Try as I might, I couldn’t find the file. I knew, back in 2012, that I’d penned down around four thousand words–not much but a decent start. The only file pertaining to the story I could find in my archives, was a mere two hundred words. Losing three thousand words, words that could never be replaced, would have sounded the death-bell for the project. I could not had recovered from such a loss. Words, once written, can never be replaced. I searched and searched, I lamented what was lost, I despaired. Then, in the back of my desk drawer, I found an old jump drive. On the drive was a copy of Chanute, four thousand words, just as I had left it years earlier.

I was elated.

white-hall-bw-5

P3, White Hall, once the crown jewel of Chanute, a dangerous, rotting place in 2012. It was torn down in 2016, a great hole left where it had stood since the `30’s.

I sat down and wrote. Over the next few months, four thousand words increased to twenty-three thousand–not quite a novel-length, but enough that I needed to tell my story.  I filled the pages with humor and bawdiness of an earthy sort that soldiers tend to indulge in. I wrote of the birth of my ambition, my fear, my growth as a person and as an Airman, and my sorrow at what was lost. Those who have beta-read the book tell me it’s a fine glimpse into the life of a modern soldier, seeing what a soldier sees, feeling what he feels, far from the lurid, blood-soaked tales of Full Metal Jacket and other romanticized military stories.

It’s just a story about a soldier and a great place that died.

And so passes Chanute AFB. But, perhaps with my little story and other little bits of shared memory, it will live on through the ages as a great place that once was that should not be forgotten.

10 Weeks at Chanute, will be published by St G Press in early 2017.

copyright 2016, Ren Garcia

 

 

bloodstein-purple CroppedFinally, after years of work, LoE Book 10, The House of Bloodstein  is available! The HOB series consists of two books, this one, subtitled Perlamum and Book 11, subtitled Mentralysis.  Mentralysis is already written, just going through the usual editing and pre-publication process which can take a long time. It should be out in 2017.

All authors are different. Some are note-takers, scribbling down thoughts and sudden ideas for consideration later. Others outline the story from beginning to end, making the work into a full-fledged project. And then there’s me. I write on-the-fly, no notes, no outlines, nothing. I just write. It works for me most of the time. The problem with writing how I do is I tend to change my mind in mid-stream a lot. It’s never the case where the story I intended to write at the beginning is what ends up in the final product–and that is triply so for HOB.

As much as I complain about the NaNoWriMo month as a destructive stunt and waste of time, HOB started as a NaNo project I did to appease a friend about five years ago. It was a fairly straight-forward tale, but it lacked the manic imagination and strangosity I’m known for. In fact, as I finished the first draft, it reminded me of those feel-good ABC After-School Specials I used to have to watch as a kid. There’s a term in Spanish that applies here: The first draft of HOB had no tiene chiste. What that means is the story was plain, boring, had no oomph, had no pop. Love or hate my books, nobody’s ever bored, and HOB, due to the emphasis of NaNo on word-count, was full-on boring.

Cover mock-up

This cover mock-up, although beautiful, looks more like a cover one might find on a romance book, which is not the case here. We moved this image to the interior. (Carol Phillips)

So, there I was with a 50k manuscript that I, frankly, hated.

I moved on to writing the oft-mentioned but seldom-seen Shadow tech Goddess. As I wrote, the candy-coated mess that was HOB stayed in the back of my head like a doomed bug fying in a window pane. But, you know, sometimes, the addition of one or two elements can make all the difference, like that elusive missing piece of a puzzle that, once found, pulls everything else together. I’m not certain when it happened, but that missing piece for HOB hit me–hard–and I went back to the story. 50k words quickly exploded to 170k, enough for two complete books.

With this addition, all the old imagination came back in earnest, in spades. HOB went from a moribund cake-walk with no chiste, to the weirdest, most epic, most sprawling book in the LoE series yet with tons of chiste. I held nothing back… it is all out there and I am so happy to share it with the world at last.

HOB 4

The Wunderlucks, Ernst, Clara, Rusty and Aiken, are a bunch of bullies that are fun to hate. (Carol Phillips)

BLURB:

 

I usually suck at blurbing–it’s a lot harder than you might think, but, this one just sort of wrote itself for HOB

Mysterious and elusive, Lady Chrysania of Bloodstein calls from the ruins of her castle. She dwells in the dark, hiding her face, ravaged by an ancient curse. The only way to break the curse is to win a game called Perlamum. If she loses, she dies. She looks to her Vith kin in the west, begging for help acquiring the all-important pieces she needs to play the game. Lord Kabyl of Blanchefort, his Ne-Countess Sammidoran, and his cousins answer her call. However, collecting the Perlamum pieces for Lady Bloodstein is a deadly game. They must face a host of perils:

-The terrible Black Hat in the city of Waam who knows their every move.

-A hated rival on the planet Xandarr and the bewildering labyrinth of Gods Temple.

-The man from Shook who cannot be killed. -A family of vile bravos from the south.

-The diabolical Dead Men of Mare, nigh invincible creatures straight from an insane nightmare.

To even the odds, Kay and Sam turn to a forgotten graveyard deep in the Telmus Grove, and the great eminence resting there. Can Lady Chrysania of Bloodstein be helped, or, for that matter . . . . . . can she be trusted?

The House of Bloodstein  is out on Amazon–CLICK HERE to go to Amazon.com. I also have several signed copies available. If you’d like one, message me. I’ll even pay the shipping and throw in a little swag.

copyright 2016, Ren Garcia and Carol Phillips

 

 

HOB: Picking a Cover

November 4, 2015

One of my personal favorite portions of the book creation process is the formulation and execution of the cover. It’s a lot of fun putting my head together with talented artists, like Carol Phillips, and seeing what shakes loose.

For my next book, the unbridled House of Bloodstein: Perlamum, the planning process followed the usual pattern.

SO MANY SCENES

First, we hash out what scene we want to layout for the cover. I usually pick seven to ten scenes from the book that I think are interesting, pertinent to the general tone and feel of the book, and that will be strong enough to catch the eye of a passing shopper.

Unused cover ideas generally are placed in the interior of the book. (Carol Phillips)

Unused cover ideas generally are placed in the interior of the book. (Carol Phillips)

I type up a quick synopsis and send them off to Carol. Now here’s the weird part–even though this is my book with my characters and scenes, Carol has a great deal of say-so in what shows up on the cover. Using her polished artist’s eye, she selects what scenes to expand upon, often asking to read those select parts of the book, and scribbles up a few quick sketches for reference. Then, between the two of us, we agree upon the final subject matter for the cover. As for the rejected cover ideas, those almost always end up in the interior of the book–Carol’s work is just too good to throw away.

WHAT’S A “NIXIE”?

Most of the covers we do have at least one Nixie lurking around in them somewhere. A Nixie is an element on the cover artwork that either A)-has been greatly modified or exaggerated from the text, or B)-wasn’t in the book at all. We do this to give the cover composition a little more life and eye-candy where needed. Usually the Nixie isn’t too egregious and we never promise something on the cover that is not delivered upon in the book–we just change things around a little bit sometimes. For the House of Bloodstein, there is one minor Nixie in the artwork, but nobody other than Carol or me knows what it is–and I’m not telling.

The House of Bloodstein, by Carol Phillips

The House of Bloodstein, by Carol Phillips

Depending on her workload, it takes Carol about three or four months to finish the cover–all of it painted digitally one little element at a time. Since Book 2 (The Hazards of the Old Ones) we’ve opted for a wrap-style cover, meaning the artwork goes all the way around to the back cover, including the spine. Having a larger canvas to paint on allows Carol more freedom create a knock-out piece of work, though she has to be careful to place the key bits of artwork on the front part of the painting (the right side) and a bit less on the left side (the back) allowing for the rear-cover text. You can tell on the finished work above the left side of the composition has a lot more free space than the right. Carol also likes to put a little surprise on the spine.  Can you see what the surprise is??

GOING LOOPY FOR LETTERING

bloodstein-textHaving the finished piece of artwork is just the first part, now we’ve got to letter it, and that’s a great deal tougher than you might first think. It takes talent to thoughtfully, and tastefully, letter the cover. You want the lettering to pop out, to be easily readable from a distance, or, more importantly, from a tiny thumbnail on a website. As The House of Bloodstein is a somewhat gothic tale, I wanted something in that tone, and I imagined the lettering in a twisting block layout. After some mixing and matching, we decided on the above, it’s got the gothic theme I was looking for, I like how the letters fit together and the purple matches the artwork well.

Current cover configuration for Book 10--The House of Bloodstein

Current cover configuration for Book 10–The House of Bloodstein

Now, comes the painful part–how to add the lettering without covering too much of the artwork. That is always a struggle–what to sacrifice without losing the spirit of the composition. In this case, we couldn’t find a good spot to put the lettering, either going high or low, it ruined the artwork. We decided on the old trick of dimensioning down the general size of the artwork, creating a significant void space where the lettering can freely go. We’ve done that before, way back on the revised cover to Book 2, we scrunched the entire piece onto the front creating a void space on the top and the bottom. Here Carol uses a gothic pattern stained a handsome shade of red and black to fill in the void.

The back cover is full-sized and covered with around 250 words of back-cover text strategically placed around the characters.

The over-all effect is great. You get the impact of the large-sized lettering without having to cover up too much of the artwork–we still get to witness Lord Kabyl of Blanchefort  locked in a mortal struggle with a horrific giant-sized space guy in the cool green passes of the Telmus Grove. Cool stuff.

MATCHING TONE WITH CONTENT:

This cover mock-up, although beautiful, looks more like a cover one might find on a romance book, which is not the case here. (Carol Phillips)

This cover mock-up, although beautiful, looks more like a cover one might find on a romance book, which is not the case here. (Carol Phillips)

One final word of note. Unless you’re aiming for some sort of sick satire, you want the tone of your cover to match the tone of your story. If you’ve written a twisted tale of the macabre, you really don’t want a lot of sunshine and lollipops on the cover, otherwise you’ll confuse your readers. The House of Bloodstein is an imaginative action thriller, so we opted for an action scene. Had the book been more focused on romance, we would have selected the cover mock-up on the left, which gives the impression of loads of romance, conflict and general male/female drama to come.

Bowl Naked

RG

The House of Bloodstein: Perlamum, will be released in late 2015 from Loconeal Publishng

copyright 2015, Ren Garcia and Carol Phillips

 

I have, I think, over a thousand sketches, drawings and paintings of the various scenes and characters in my books. I love commissioning artwork–it’s a bit of an addiction, I think.  When I was a kid I loved all the illustrations in my Chronicles of Narnia books. I’d stare at the pictures by British artist Pauline Baynes for hours. Baynes also illustrated JRR Tolkien’s Farmer Giles of Ham, which I also loved.

A manga painting of Sygillis of Metatron by Bea Kimera

A manga painting of Sygillis of Metatron by Bea Kimera

I swore if I ever managed to collect the crazy ideas in my head into an actual book I’d have it plastered with illustrations.

Flash forward about thirty years. I made good on my promise. With an average of twenty-five maps and illustrations per book, I’ve got over 200 in print and counting.

A Picture is worth … a thousand less words.

The practice of adding illustrations to the interior of books seems to have vanished in modern times. When folks pick up my books to have a look at them, they almost always fan through the pages–what are they looking for??  Most books don’t have anything but printing in the interior and checking the pages for them usually comes up with nothing. But, imagine their surprise when they flip through my books and come to a page with a beautiful  illustration. It’s a genuine moment.

Illustrations are also helpful when you’re dealing with a fantastic, completely made-up world like what I write. You have to describe everything, and that can derail the plot. Modern readers don’t like that, plot is very important Instead of spending a couple thousand words going over one of my whacky creations,  why not toss in a cool picture and go a little lighter on the descriptions?

Princess Marilith Covered Up_001

Princess Marilith of Xandarr, by Carol Phillips

A Creative Symbiosis

I usually give my artists a lot of freedom when they create an illustration. Some authors can be quite exacting in what they expect, me, I’m easy. I rather enjoy seeing how the artist interprets the subject. If I see something I really like, I’ll often add it into the writing, it’s only natural to do so.

Take this image of Princess Marilith of Xandarr by Carol Phillips. This is one of the first commissions I got from Carol, going all the way back to Book 1. As you can see, it’s a nude. I don’t recall asking Carol for a nude. Princess Marilith is an angry, spurned, blue-haired woman, heartbroken and vengeful. However, my early visualizations of her were fully clothed. Carol’s painting of her captured those various feelings–you can see how upset she is in her painted face. Her unexpectedly nude body is strong and beautiful. I was captivated by what I saw. Inspired, I went through and re-wrote the Princess, making her essentially nude in the story. She comes from Xandarr, a very hot and dry place, so it seemed to follow. Wearing only light veils or nothing at all, daring you to look her in the eye, has been her trademark ever since.

An early painting of Professor Hannah-Ben Shurlamp,  by Eve Ventrue

An early painting of Professor Hannah-Ben Shurlamp, by Eve Ventrue

Revving-Up my Creative Process

I usually come up with an idea or a character years before they actually appear on the page.  Typically, as the image clarifies in my head, I get all excited and commission a drawing of it. Seeing the finished artwork gets me going every time and influences what happens in the books.

Take Hannah-Ben Shurlamp, EVoR. I was sitting at a Burger King several years back when I came up with a foil and opposite number for The Professor–Lt Kilos’ brainy husband. I imagined a tall, rather swarthy woman dressed all in white, her skin powdered to pearly perfection, her raven hair tucked up into a large white wig. I immediately sent a note to my friend, the amazing Eve Ventrue, gave her the details and waited a week or two to see the results.

Eve came up with Hannah-Ben sitting in an opulent padded study. As usual, I incorporated her study into the writing, the image of Professor Shurlamp sitting in her fine red room is her standard calling card.

That first painting of Hannah-Ben was stunning, she was beautiful, but I thought she was missing a little something.  She was too demure, too unassuming. Professor Shurlamp is anything but unassuming–everything she does is big and bold and in-your-face.

Professor Hannah-Ben Shurlamp as a mile-high hologram on the planet Eng (Carol Phillips)

Professor Hannah-Ben Shurlamp as a mile-high hologram on the planet Eng (Carol Phillips)

Not enough wig, not enough eyebrow and piercing stare. I wanted something beautiful, yet sort of horrible as well, rather like Gerald Scarfe’s work on Pink Floyd’s The Wall. Just like that. I wanted something cool, but a little creepy.

Enter Carol Phillips, the Queen of the League of Elder who has contributed probably 40% of my massive art inventory. Carol went to work and produced the second painting of Hannah-Ben.

Working with Carol for so long, she is often able to pop my head open, pull out the mess that’s inside and paint beautiful things with it. The painting Carol created of Professor Shurlamp was absolutely perfect. She was a mile high, she had the wig, the eyebrow, the “You are nothing to me” expression … everything was perfect. Even her snowy white gown was perfect–look at the frills, the buttons, the tight waistline and the bows. So many bows …

Seeing this thrilling painting gave me the added “oomph!” to finish The Shadow tech Goddess, a tome that had taken me four years to write.

Hannah-Ben Shurlamp, by Carol Phillips

Hannah-Ben Shurlamp, by Carol Phillips

And then came Stenibelle, another book where Hannah-Ben Shurlamp makes a notable appearance.

I wanted another image of Hannah-Ben for the book, I thought it would be a nice touch, and this time, Carol came up with a true masterpiece–the ultimate image of Professor Shurlamp holding her Glyph with scores of data orbiting her head. This image gave me chills when I first saw it (really–no kidding!!)

Seeing that giant wig, those curls, that glyph-wand in her hand helped me figure out the various twists and turns in the story that had been giving me a few minor fits.

So, when in doubt, get a piece of artwork and let it fire your imagination, you’ll be glad you did.

Copyright 2015, Ren Garcia, Carol Phillips and Eve Ventrue 

The League and Fake Sciences

September 7, 2015

Over nine books, I’ve introduced a number of sciences delving into all sorts of odd things.  Of course, I’m not a scientist, and therefore, all the sciences I introduce are pure fantasy. As they are fantasy, I don’t hesitate to make these made-up sciences as bizarre and off the chain as I can.

Here they are in no particular order:

 

GYNOLOGY:

Lady Vendra of Cone, who spent time in a convent on Carina 7, was a suspected Gynologist. (Eve Ventrue)

Lady Vendra of Cone, who spent time in a convent on Carina 7, was a suspected Gynologist. (Eve Ventrue)

The science of maiming, enslaving and killing men is practiced on the dark, remote world of Carina 7. The ladies inhabiting Carina 7 are the descendants of the haremites of the Emperor King of Ming-Moorland. After centuries of being tormented by the Emperor, the ladies of Carina decided to turn the tables to some extent and created a whole science dedicated to enslaving, fighting and killing men. Any lone man who happened to make his way to the stony surface of Carina often found himself an unwilling victim and test subject as they refined their techniques.

Eventually, Gynology became a well-honed and proved science. A trained Gynologist, armed with a host of man-killing weapons, could effectively control men using various scents and an insidious device known as “The Barb”. A “Barbed” male would be enthralled to the Gynologist for the rest of his life, however long that lasted.

The Sisterhood of Light took a secretive interest in Gynology and managed to replicate some of its various tenets. What the Sisters do with this incorporated knowledge is currently unknown.

 

ANTHECARY:

Anthecary is a mind/body enhancement technique practiced on Onaris, particularly in the south Calverland region. Onaris’ majestic Lone Rider Mountain is the home of the Stoutback, a huge, six-legged lizard the locals have (somewhat) domesticated. Those herding the creature, known as Stoutback Shepherds, must do so in the near vertical pastures dotting the mountain’s face. Unable to afford technology to assist them in getting around in this grueling and dangerous environment, the shepherds developed a mind technique called Anthecary which would allow them to “stick” to the vertical surface of the mountain using their minds.  Anthecary also “hardens” their bodies, allowing them to stand upright without having to brace themselves. When the League Stellar Marines adopted the giant S/K pistol as their standard-issue firearm, they adopted the use of Anthecary to combat the deadly recoil of the weapon. “Hardened” in an Anthecary state, the S/K can be safely and accurately fired.

 

CABALISM:

Xaphan Cabalism is a veritable mixed-bag of herbology, home-remedies, quack medicine, folklore, arcane investigation, machine science and religion all rolled into one. Cabalism was the Xaphans answer to the Hospitalers in the League, attempted to treat wounds and other medical maladies using pieced-together knowledge from various sources. Though rightly considered to be horrendous quacks and frauds, the Cabalists did managed to gather some practical knowledge, primarily through seducing and or abducting Hospitalers.

 

MENTRALYSIS:

In the burgeoning field of communicating with unconscious and comatose persons, Mentralysis is in the forefront. Using sophisticated computerized devices known as Mentralysis Decks, one may speak with a sleeping or comatose person as if they were awake. The Gold Coast of Hoban is the home and major research center of Mentralysis.

Mentralysis Archetype chart.

Mentralysis Archetype chart.

A major breakthrough with this science came when it was discovered that within all people is a Sleeping Self (SS) which takes control while asleep. The SS has a unique and independent personality, and may be very similar to the Waking Self (WS) or may be radically different. Mentralysists, through analysis, have determined there are seven types of Archetypical people, depending on how different the SS is from the WS.

Mentralysists have determined that various neurosis due to incompatibility between the WS and the SS can be treated, and oftentimes cured, using Mentralysis techniques.

 

CYBERLITICA:

Given the fact the League is full of people with an excess of spare time, a number of novel fads have come and gone through the years. One fad that took hold and has continued to grow is Cyberlitica, where one fabricates a completely different persona of either a fictitious person or, in some cases, of themselves. Using Cyberlitica, the fabricated “Changling” has a birth-date, public records of their passing, receipts, diplomas from various universities, have taken husbands or wives, and may have criminal records. The overriding goal of Cyberlitica is to create a completely convincing persona. If a Changling happens to make the posts, that is an added benefit. One man, a Lord Sharper of Stillville, divorced his wife after he learned most if not all of her glamorous wealth and exploits were fabricated via Cyberlitica. The Sisterhood of Light doggedly investigates Cyberlitica, and those who have been found to have created a Changling face heavy fines and or imprisonment.

 

BONDARISM:

The city of Waam with an assortment of Bondar-inspired vehicles moving across the sky (Carol Phillips)

The city of Waam with an assortment of Bondar-inspired vehicles moving across the sky (Carol Phillips)

Never underestimate the Xaphans for coming up with crazy sciences. Bondarism, practiced in the city of Waam, is no exception. Bondarism is the notion that the human body can experience accelerated evolution if the body is rigorously stressed by placing it into unusual and uncomfortable situations. Buildings and various vehicles built with Bondarism in mind, have little to no ergonomic considerations, are suicidally unsafe and are impractical in the extreme. However, the people of Waam do appear to exhibit a number of advanced abilities, including the ability to fly and walk up walls. Perhaps there is something to Bondarism after all.

 

TA (Time Apparent)

TA is a form of Time Travel being studied by the Hospitalers. Time travel is a very difficult thing to achieve, though the mechanics of it are fairly well understood. Temporal Gravity  (TG) is the most difficult aspect to overcome, as your TG ceaselessly attempts to pull you back into your proper place in time. Perception is also a very confounding thing to deal with, as time travelers will “forget” what they’ve come to do. (A legendary machine is said to have overcome all these problems, though its existence is in dispute)

An odd solution to the various issues with time travel is called Time Apparent by the Hospitalers. With TA, instead of sending your physical body ahead in time, only one’s consciousness goes. Once in the future, your consciousness will inhabit your body, in whatever condition your body happens to be in. You could appear as an animated corpse, a skeleton, a cloud of dust, or, in some cases, as a group of people if your material has been reincorporated into new life forms.

TA is only effective going forward from your apparent place in time. It has yet to be approved for general use by the Sisterhood of Light.

 

copyright 2015, Ren Garcia

 

 

The House of Bloodstein

July 22, 2015

Riding fast on the heels of Book 9, Stenibelle is Book 10: The House of Bloodstein.  It is comprised of two volumes: the first being Perlamum, and the second Mentralysis.

Cover mockup for the House of Bloodstein, volume 1 (artwork and lettering by Carol Phillips)

Cover mockup for the House of Bloodstein, volume 1 (artwork and lettering by Carol Phillips)

ZOMBIES AND DRAGONS AND GODS, OH MY

I wrote the Bloodstein books to be fun, to be exciting. I tormented my imagination until truly weird and amazing things popped out of my head. Using the previously introduced House of Blanchefort characters, we embark on a journey across the League and beyond.

In the past, I’ve tried to avoid monsters that have been covered by other authors–vampires, witches, werewolves, etc. I was also going to avoid zombies--too over-done, too formulaic.  But then I had a bright idea–I figured out a way to use zombies that hasn’t been tried before, so you’ll find the zombies in The House of Bloodstein as breath of fresh air–dead air.

I also decided to tackle everybody’s favorite fantasy monster: dragons. Again–I never do the expected and well-trodden, if I’m going to have a dragon, it’s going to be a weird dragon. ‘Nuff said.

Here’s the current blurb for Volume 1:

THE HOUSE OF BLOODSTEIN: PERLAMUM

Mysterious and elusive, Lady Chrysania of Bloodstein calls from the ruins of her castle. She dwells in the dark, hiding her face, ravaged by an ancient curse. The only way to break the curse is to win a game called Perlamum. If she loses, she dies. She looks to her Vith kin in the west, begging for help acquiring the all-important pieces she needs to play the game. 

Lord Kabyl of Blanchefort, his Ne-Countess Sammidoran, and his cousins answer her call. However, collecting the Perlamum pieces for Lady Bloodstein is a deadly game. They must face a host of perils:

-The terrible Black Hat in the city of Waam, who knows their every move.

-A hated rival on the planet Xandarr and the bewildering labyrinth of Gods Temple.

-The man from Shook who cannot be killed.

-A family of vile bravos from the south, and, worst of all, the Dead Men of Mare, nigh invincible creatures straight from an insane nightmare.

To even the odds, Kay and Sam turn to a forgotten graveyard deep in the Telmus Grove, and the great eminence resting there.

Can Lady Chrysania of Bloodstein be helped, or, for that matter …

… can she be trusted?

 

The House of Bloodstein. Perlamum will be out September 2015 from Loconeal Publishing.

copyright 2015 Ren Garcia and Carol Phillips