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

Advertisements

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

 

This is the part I hate. This is the part where everything’s turned in, the cover is done, the artwork is (mostly) done, and the only thing left to do is wait for the thing to hit the shelves.

stgcover-front“The Shadow tech Goddess” took me four years to write, and, during that time it went through a number of different incarnations and intentions. I had at first wanted to publish her after Book 2: The Hazards of the Old Ones. She just didn’t feel right–I was floundering around with the concept and, frankly, got a little lost. I decided to focus my energies instead on the Temple of the Exploding Head trilogy, which was bursting out of my head at the time (I always seem to have a Main WIP going, and one in the fire at the same time. The Shadow tech goddess was always “in the fire”, never quite hot enough to be worked and shaped into something useful). Once the Temple was done, then I’d finish up the Goddess. I promised myself that.

I just didn’t have a good grasp of the story even though years had passed. What was the story I wanted to tell?? What interesting concepts would I introduce? I didn’t know.

I was still stuck.

Putting it aside, I decided to finish up the Sands of the Solar Empire, and then I’d get to the Goddess.

Time passed. Sands and Against the Druries came and went. I intended to concentrate on the House of Bloodstein–a tale dealing with my old favs, Lord Kabyl and Sam, the new ne-countess of the House of Blanchefort. Once again the Goddess eluded me and settled into the less swift current of my brain. My publisher, James Barnes, asked me what titles I’d have ready for 2014, if any. I had it in my head to say “House of Bloodstein”, but my mouth rebelled and said “Shadow tech Goddess” instead. James took it and ran.

And so, I was committed with a WIP that had whipped me into submission for years.

The "Back Cover" of The Shadow tech Goddess, with blurb. Enlarge to read text

The “Back Cover” of The Shadow tech Goddess, with blurb

THE LOVES OF PAYMASTER STENSTROM:

I think my issue all along was boredom. I was bored with Paymaster Stenstrom and his presumptive fiancée, Lady Gwendolyn of Prentiss. I love creating relationships, and, Gwen seemed to be the winner in this case, what else was there to write about?? I got it into my head that I wanted to write about different loves–lots of them, each one full of hidden possibilities. I greatly value loyalty in a hero–a hero to me must be, above all else, loyal and trustworthy. So–how could I have Stenstrom indulge in many torrid relationships and have him remain loyal at the same time??

Alternate realities was the answer, and, once I came to grips with that idea the rest was easy. I dreamed of arcane devices and Extra-Planar entities. New corners of the League opened up to me and places never seen danced in my head. Eventually, after a writing binge, I had seven stories ready to go, each dealing with a different love of Paymaster Stenstrom, or “The Turns of The Shadow tech Goddess“. Central to the Turns is the main story which begins and ends in one book. In the book are mentions and casual asides of characters and situations that are not covered to any great degree. Did I make a mistake? Did I pick up an interesting plot thread only to forget about it pages later? No way! They are covered in the six novella-sized stories which are related to the main story. The novellas detail important events which help to bring the main book to be, a la, the hand behind the stage pulling a rope that draws the curtain. Lord A-Ram and Lady Alesta of the Pilgrims of Merian serve as guides shuttling between the books. They often disappear in StG–they are off assisting the “other” Paymaster Stenstroms.

Stenibelle_IISTENIBELLE:
In an alternate universe, Paymaster Stenstrom is not a man and his House is on the verge of extinction. The disgraced 30th daughter of the House of Belmont will either be the final stake driven into its dying heart, or the ray of light that comes to save it.

MELAZARR
Can a crass, foul-mouthed Xaphan woman from Caroline actually be the vessel carrying information that can save all things? Paymaster Stenstrom struggles to keep her alive and, discovers in the process, the amazing woman hidden under her bravado.

ATD 5TAARA
Tiny Taara de la Anderson is Stenstrom’s right hand, always loyal and brave. Does she dream of different things, and how far will she go to get what she wants?

KAT
He felt her claws raking his chest in the cold of the Clovis ruins, and now here she is again at his throat. Who is Kat, and can she believed? What demands does she make of him? The Shadow tech Goddess comes to call on an old debt.

THE ALL-IN-ONE
He awakens in a pit and is the slave of the Lacerta. He hears many voices in his head and remembers many things he himself has never done. He is all aspects of himself, yet he is none of them. He can try to escape the Lacerta’s pit, but, where will he go? Is he better off dangling in the dark dreaming of things other people have done?

THE TEMPUS FINDAL
Of all creatures, the Tempus Findal is the most horrid. She believes she has her own place at last where her insidious power will not destroy. The Gods of Cammara will give her no rest and might undermine all she has attempted to build.

The Shadow tech Goddess will be out March 2014 from Loconeal Publishing. The novellas will be published approximately every three months afterward.

copyright 2014, Ren Garcia

Time to come up with the back cover Blurb for LoE Book VII: Against the Druries. Blurbing is without a doubt the thing I dislike most during the cover creation process–I’m not very good at being brief, I guess. Anyway, here it is. I added the text to the amazing painting of Lady Alesta by Kayla Woodside because I currently don’t have a paint wash of the Book VII cover yet. Carol Phillips is going to start painting it this weekend, she said.

Sorry if the text is a little small–just expand the pic and it reads just fine.

Copyright 2012, Ren Garcia and Kayla Woodside.

The time I live in fear of has come again: time to create the back cover marketing for Book VI The Sands of the Solar Empire.

I find the whole process bewildering, like trying to select a protein bar at GNC: so many choices, so many ways to put two feet wrong. Sometimes I wish I had a line of editors to do this stuff for me, but then I come to my senses and thank the Lord I don’t.

So, I stumble and flail about, trying how best to summarize a 115,000 word book in 200 or less.

All things considered, this book wasn’t as hard to summarize as, say, Book II, The Hazards of the One Ones which caused me no end of pain and suffering. Book VI is a little less complicated than Book II. I think it flows well enough, but what do I know??

copyright 2012, Ren Garcia

Whenever Carol Phillips finishes a new cover it’s like Christmas for me, eagerly huddled up next to my email waiting for that little electronic package to come skittering down the proverbial chimney.

And, here it is…

“The Sands of the Solar Empire” by Carol Phillips

Book VI, “The Sands of the Solar Empire” marks the beginning of the LoE Second Series. You have the same universe, same setting, just a slew of whole new characters and fresh adventures. You’ll meet Lord Stenstrom, a Fleet Paymaster as he takes command of Captain Davage’s old ship, the Seeker. You’ll get to know Private Taara de la Anderson, a thief from Bazz and Lord A-Ram, a fellow from the Admiral’s office as they take on the unknown.

Lord Bannaster of the Bones Club, by Carol Phillips

The cover for Book VI is the usual wrap-around format. The Second Series takes on a bit more of a Steampunky feel as we move away from Colonial Vithland and examine Victorian Esther and the Calvertlands and dives into the seldom-seen depths of the Bones Club where they openly mock the Sisterhood of Light.

It’s a much darker cover than the previous five, even more so than the Temple of the Exploding Head, which is pretty darn dark. It features a steam-driven geared spider with guns, a balloon/air ship and the constellation Camalopardus and the Sanctum Sanctorum of the Bones Club. The Sanctum comes from my recollections of a Masonic temple that I once wandered into, and here it is in full paint, fully steampunked and super-charged a little.

I can’t wait to finish collecting the interior artwork and get it out to the world.

Look for LoE Book VI: The Sands of the Solar Empire coming this August from Loconeal Publications

copyright 2012, Ren Garcia and Carol Phillips

At long last, Book VI of the LoE series, The Sands of the Solar Empire is underway. Carol Phillips is beginning work painting the cover and, to me, the cover is the heart of the book and its completion is a huge ceremonial step toward publication.

Sketch for "The Sands of the Solar Empire" by Carol Phillips

A few things about the Sands. As with the Temple trilogy before it, the Sands was too large to be published as one self-contained book. At 200,000 words, I had to divide it right down the center, with the Sands comprising the first part and Book VII “Against the Druries” being the second. The Sands mostly explores the main character, Lord Stenstrom of Belmont-South Tyrol and how he came to be. He has many secrets (you might notice he’s wearing a mask on the sketch).

The cover depicts a scene from the book where Lord Stenstrom, or “Bel” as he’s known is facing death at the Bones Club, a place where the members openly mock and disparage the Sisterhood of Light (If you look carefully at the chairs in the background, you’ll see several Sisters carved in demeaning positions).

The Sands is the first book in the League of Elder Second Series, where a new slew of characters are introduced.

"Taara" by Eve Ventrue (unfinished)

Bel is the first of many new characters. Also is Josephus, Lord of A-Ram, a man from Calvert, the brooding Lt. Gwendolyn and, my personal favorite, Private Taara de la Anderson from Bazz. I can’t wait to share them with the world.

It should take Carol about a month and a half to complete the cover. By then, with luck, most of the interior artwork will be completed. As with previous LoE books, the Sands will be well-appointed with artwork.

It should be a fun ride.

Bowl Naked

RG

copyright 2012, Ren Garcia, Carol Phillips, Eve Ventrue

The Process of Cover Creation

February 16, 2012

Now that the Temple Trilogy is out in the world, we continue forward with LoE Book VI: The Sands of the Solar Empire. This is always my favorite time as we knock heads and come up with the design of the book. The manuscript is totally done–finished it about a year and a half ago. Of course as I go through the edited copy I’ll, do doubt, make a few changes here and there, but that’s all minor stuff.

It’s time to get the cover of the book going. The Cover creation goes in a very orderly progression, first from my head, then to Carol Phillips, then to sketch and then to paint.

I thought I’d illustrate the process using Book II, The Hazards of the Old Ones as a template.

1)–Concept
First I come up with an idea. I usually have several floating around in my head. I then give them to Carol and I let her pick out the ones she’s most interested in painting (you’ve got to keep your artist empowered and excited). In the case of the Hazards, I took a photo of my favorite idea. My wife standing there represents Lt. Kilos, Tweety is Carahil and my house represents the mountains. Usually my ideas are pretty simple and uncluttered–I leave it to Carol to fill up the composition. Note how I imagined the painting from directly behind the characters.

2)–Sketch
Carol then comes up with a series of simple sketches which get progressively more detailed until we come up with a final sketch. I give Carol a fair amount of freedom and her final product is almost always much more elaborate than what I had initially dreamed up. Note how Carol has tilted Lt. Kilos and Carahil so that you can see their faces, she also sketched the Mountains much differently than I had envisioned them. That’s part of the creative process–things never quite turn out exactly as you originally thought they would.

At this stage of the process being small comes into its own. We don’t have a legal department or a Board of Executives or a line of editors waiting to throw their two-cents in–we do what feels right without having to get it past a committee. What you eventually see, for good or ill, is exactly how we intended it to be.

3)–Painting.
This is by far the longest part of the process. Carol Phillips usually takes about two and a half months to complete a cover from end to end. I try to leave her alone during this grueling part of the game, but it’s unbearable sometimes–like waiting for Christmas to roll around. Fortunately, Carol has a lot of patience with me. Note: we always choose to make use of a Wrap Cover, one that goes all the we around from the front, across the spine to the back.

4–Nixies
We almost always come up with a few extras that we hadn’t thought of at the outset. I sit there and dream something up, pitch it to Carol and then she adds it in. Often times these Nixies don’t jive with the continuity of the story, but we toss them in anyway because we think they look cool. In this example you can see the reflection of Mabs the Cat Goddess in Carahil’s shiny body. That was a late add-in.

Building the cover is always a labor of love, but the end result is always worth it.

Bowl Naked
RG

copyright 2012, Ren Garcia and Carol Phillips


Book V, “The Temple of the Exploding Head” to finally out and ready to go.
I remember putting the final dot on this series back in 2009. It does seem a long time ago. The trilogy changed several times as I did and re-did certain aspects of the story. This story is full of surprises–even to me, the author. You’d think as I created this situation that I’d be in full control. It never quite works out that way. The story comes from somewhere deep within and manifests itself as images and flashes of color that demand to unfold in a certain way despite what you as the suthor may or may not want.

So, after a fair amount of change and turmoil, I’m very pleased with the final product and here it is out in the world for the first time. It’s sort of like putting your kids on the bus and sending them off to school. You watch it drive off and you wonder … you wonder.

The Temple of the Exploding Head is now available for purchase at Amazon.com. Click Here!!

copyright 2012, Ren Garcia

In just a week or two, Book V, “The Temple of the Exploding Head” will be out and that will do it for the “Temple Trilogy”

It’s been a grind and the end result barely resembles the original draft I finished back in 2009. As with anything, the story morphed, went off in unexpected directions and changed before my eyes and quite beyond my control. What began as a small coming of age story, became a complex treatment on what it means to be a hero and all the responsibility that comes with it. I changed characters, amputated body parts (literally) and fussed with the villains without pause for nearly three years Now that the final piece of this puzzle is ready to hit the shelves, I can finally says it’s done.

LoE Second Series kicks off with the "Sands of the Solar Empire" in April (promo piece in production by Fantasio)

But now that we can move on from the Temple, we explore further waters of the LoE Universe with the League of Elder Second Series starting with “The Sands of the Solar Empire” in April. Same world, just a different batch of characters. The “Sands” is a very different story, much simpler and more swashbuckling than the Temple. Also, Lord Stenstrom of Belmont, the main character, doesn’t have some of the advantages the House of Blanchefort does, he has to get by on his wits and his skills. The surrounding cast is also rather odd: Private Taara, a vagrant and petty thief from Bazz, Lord A-Ram, a meek, timid fellow who can barely see, and we also return to Captain Davage’s old ship, the Seeker–much older and ready to be scrapped. The ship also appears to be haunted, squealing and groaning, which makes for great fun.

Book V, The Temple of the Exploding Head will be out by the end of January, 2012

copyright 2012, Ren Garcia