Derry, Northern Ireland

Derry, Northern Ireland
A book I'm working on is set in this town.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Zeroing in... we go...
I'm liking this layout for A65 more and more. I tried it with the book at an angle and Casey more upright, but it was hard to read the title on the real Alice's spine. This version just feels better, though it still needs cleaning up and maybe a bit of adjustment in the spacing. I also think I may have a bit too much room at the top...but I'll think about that tomorrow.

This work took most of the evening. Doesn't help I'm working on my old Mac Mini. It's a good little computer but it's struggling to handle a file this size. Right now, in Photoshop psd, the image is just under 200 megs...which isn't all that big, these days. But I've had this little beast for 12 years, so...

I was thinking of asking another antiquarian book dealer to read the story and give me feedback on the archivist aspect, to make sure Adam's right and proper, but it's getting into book fair season. We start picking dealers up for the San Francisco Fair and Miami Map Fair, next week, then comes the big boy -- Pasadena -- the following week. No one will be able to focus.

I just don't want to send the story out thinking I know everything I  need to know about archiving and researching rare volumes only to find I made a stupid assumption and everyone thinks I'm an idiot. That would hurt the book and I want anything but that, right now. I've worked too hard on it.

This may well prove something I always say about myself -- that I know just enough about something to get me into trouble.

Monday, January 15, 2018

I've been thinking, again...

After I'm done with A65, UG and P/S, I may shift The Cowboy King of Texas into a romantic comedy novel, just to see what happens. I could also do it with Find Ray T, though that has more adventure  and suspense in it than romance and comedy. I guess it all depends on if A65 is a hit.

I'd like to make enough money to live on from my books, something nowhere near possible, right now. I guess another possibility is turning Blood Angel into an erotic horror piece and Carli's Kills into something damn close to torture porn. Then there's Darian's Point's three stages to write. That's another direction to go.

I guess this means I'm close to being done with A65. The more I look at the mock-cover I did, the more I like it. I can start pulling that together, now. In fact, I like it more than the artwork I paid for. That now seems garish and not really suited for the book...not even the paperback. My mistake for asking it be done too soon...though I thought at the time I was close to being completed.

It's funny, but I now can't picture anyone else playing Adam but Daniel Radcliffe...if it ever gets made into a movie. Big if...but still, fun to think about. Dream about. Picture in my mind's eye. I think that's what influenced my choice of model to use on the cover. I don't know his actual name but he's got a nice mix of cute and nerdy going.

There are some dark aspects of the story...but I don't think they overshadow the fun. I hope they don't. Of course, it's not like I'm going to reign them in. They're there to enhance the positive aspects and fun parts. Counterpoint to emphasize. Shakespeare liked to do that, albeit in his tragedies, mainly; put in comedy to give the audience a break.

Hmm...another step in my writer's ego -- comparing myself to Shakespeare...damn, I can be arrogant.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Took all weekend to get to this point...

I think I finally have the basis for The Alice '65's dust jacket. After trying a number of sketches in various media and poses and re-workings, I surrendered to the reality of my artistic limitations and went to Shutterstock to build up a new possibility...and this is what I came up with. It's a rough mock-up but I like it.

I was already using this model for Adam's face in my sketches; I just didn't have a photo of him with the right expression and pose...nor was this guy in anything but that plaid shirt. Then I tried a composite -- shifting his head from another pose onto this one -- and it worked well. So well, it changed my mind about the shirt. This could be what he wears on the plane and during the final confrontation, once he's back in his own clothes. It is a rather Adam shirt.

Casey -- I'd looked at a number of female poses and found one I could sketch in the right way but not a face...until I looked this time. I like this woman's off-beat prettiness and like how her hair is, but I had to go through 12 pages of her before finding one I could use that didn't have the top of her head chopped off...and I still had to flip the image to get her doing it the right way.

Gertrude was easy; I just had to make do with a black jaguar to find one on a white background. You can still make out the spots. I'd need to adjust that...but that's an easy fix, as well.

What matters is, it gives the cover a playfulness I wanted. One friend suggested tilting the image of the book...and I may try that. I also need something brighter with the font; right now it just sits there. Still, I'd like to hear if anyone else has anything to suggest about it.

By the time I was done, I had a nice little headache and eye strain from the computer screen, so I removed my glasses and watched Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban and realized something about the first two films I hadn't noticed -- not once in them is Harry ever held like a child should be...with love and care and attention. Not until Sirius Black does just before he leaves. Granted his aunt and uncle are vile people, and truth is they should have been reported for child abuse, but no one else holds him or comforts him or anything along those lines as a parent would their child.

Son-of-a-bitch, that broke my heart.

Friday, January 12, 2018

Color changes everything...

I worked on getting Adam's pose set for the cover and got reminded that just because something looks good in outline, once you add color it all changes. A leg that was just the way I wanted it suddenly became fat and bloated. And him grabbing a branch while reaching for another became comical in the wrong did making him a bit pigeon-toed.

Of course, reality is it's been years and years since I've done a full figure in color. I've done faces and torsos, but I think the last full frame person I sketched or painted in color was decades ago, and that was in acrylics, not pencil. So I'm relearning things I used to know. I'd share the image but it's too big for my scanner and the lighting would throw everything off in a photo.

At least it's opening up new possibilities in composition and medium. I'm pretty sure some of the ideas I had won't work because they'll wind up being too busy for the cover. But others are maybes...including one done in pen and India ink...

Still no word back from the Brits, regarding A65. I guess that means they didn't like the book and are trying to find some nice way of letting me know. Oh well, it's good to know now and not later.

I keep telling myself.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Updating time...

I spent this evening updating Bowker's site with information on what I have published and what is upcoming. That's where I get ISBNs from, for my books, and by doing this my books are listed in their system for reference. I've also asked the Library of Congress about what is needed for a designation of theirs. I sort of have an idea of how to build a reference number but am not sure about its classification.

I'm amazed I got that much done. I started sinking into a black hole of self-flagellation about A65 while waiting at Boston airport and during the flight home, since none of the people in England I asked to proof it for me have gotten back to me. I managed to break out of it by grabbing a piece of scrap paper and using a ball-point pen to do a couple of studies of the face I plan to use for Adam. Not necessarily this expression but similar.

The darker one I did first and had more time with. His face wound up a bit too thin, though, and eyes too small and close, so I started on the second one and this is as far as I got before we were on approach for landing. Not great but I did them in the back of a jumpy, half-empty Embraer 190 jet, so I'm not going to snarl about them. And they did quiet the whirlpool I was sinking into.

I could blame my emotional near-collapse on eating poorly and not much sleep and a rough few days with too many fuckups, and I'm sure none of those things helped, but they're just the symptoms of my ennui. I just haven't been able to battle it back like I used to. And that doctor who looks like Charley...reality is, this crap pretty much grabbed a solid hold on me about then. Too many fucking memories got dredged up...for too many people lost in too horrible a time...

I'm still searching for a way out of it and now I'm pretty sure the only thing to do is focus on nothing but artwork, over the weekend. Get Adam, Casey and Gertrude set and ready for the cover. Get my head out of this loop of uncertainty and back into something concrete. Keep working on the bits until it all comes together and satisfies me. Even it I have to redo them a dozen times each.

Hell, that's just like my writing...rework and rework and rework...

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Potential synopsis for "The Alice '65"

In Boston waitin' on a plane so thought I'd share this. If anyone wants to comment, I'm open to it.


Lewis Carroll’s Alice's Adventures in Wonderland was first printed in late 1865, but the illustrator so disliked how they turned out they were recalled to be replaced by a new printing. All but around 50 were returned and destroyed, and of those 50 fewer than half are still in existence.

Adam Verlain knows all about this because he’s a library archivist for a university in London, and books are his life. But when that library acquires a newly discovered copy of The Alice ‘65, he declines the opportunity to travel to Los Angeles to pick it up. He has sworn never to leave his careful, cloistered world because his father was robbed and killed on a similar business trip. He only agrees to go when he is told the book will be brought to him at the airport and he can return, straightaway...meaning he will be surrounded by security.

However, from the moment he boards the plane things start to go wrong...and then he meets the amazingly beautiful Casey Blanchard, the movie star who inherited The Alice '65. She will not let him have the book unless he accompanies her to a premier of her latest film for reasons that seem...well, quite odd.

But Adam has to go along with whatever Casey wants in order to get the book and keep his job...even as his world crashes into a chaotic mix of a too-cool artist, a protective mother, a drill-sergeant stylist,  questionable edibles, mistaken identity, hysterical fans, Hollywood royalty, their courtiers and minions, maniacal LA drivers, an outlandish party, a drowning pool in the middle of Beverly Hills, a love-struck wild animal on a homemade veldt, 25 cans of salmon...and the horrible realization he’s falling heal over heels in love with a woman every man in the world desires but who he knows could never love him back.

Or could she?

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Driving in New York City...

If you can help it, do NOT drive in this city. OMG, today was so insane, I was glad I wasn't carrying a gun because I'd have killed some people. This is from a guy who's used to LA's nastiness and bumper-to-bumper freeways and still can pull out his own attitude when driving, if it will help him get someplace faster. But New Yorkers are fucking devils behind the wheel.

I'm talking about forcing their way into your lane ahead of you even though no one is behind you. They can't follow, they have to be in front. So they can stop. Put on their flashers. And make a delivery. While holding you up.

And there there's the chaos at La Guardia. I've never dealt with that airport before and never want to, again. I arrived in Terminal B...but to get a shuttle to the rental car facility, you have to be bussed to Terminal A. Right past your rent a car agency. And they won't let you off. And what's even better? Terminal A is so backwards an airport building, even Bangladesh would be embarrassed. Now I know why people refer to that airport as being Third World...though I do think that's being insulting to Third World nations who have actual functioning airports.

It took me a solid hour and a half to get off the plane, get my checked bag, get my rental car and start away from the airport. And I got honked at a dozen times for not breaking the law when there was a cop right there -- as in Run that red light; maybe he won't stop you and give you a ticket. Of course, reality is he might not have, because two of them ignored drivers turning left from a right turn only lane.

But I got the job done and grabbed a bite to eat, since I hadn't had lunch, then headed to Hartford, where I'm spending the night before job 3 in Boston. It was also nightmarish, but that was typical rush hour traffic and I only wound up screaming obscenities four times. At least I was able to avoid the worst of the 95 and zing up to connect with the 84. Out there, you just have to deal with the idiots who think the left lane is for cruising at the speed limit and will not get out of your way to let you pass. That kind, you find everywhere.

But I'm here. Trying to correct some mistakes I made on the first two jobs -- like forgetting to leave address labels for the one in Houston and not putting documents in with the one today. I've had myself a nice cup of tea and indulged in a Boston Cream donut. I almost feel human, again.

Just almost.

Monday, January 8, 2018

Some research for "Place of Safety"

The middle section of Place of Safety takes place in Houston from 1973 to 1981, so I did some driving around to verify things I sort of remembered. I lived here from 1985 to 1993 and still have a sense of the city -- I didn't need navigation to get anywhere except the house where the job was; that was in a gated community and they had Fox News on their big-assed TV, so I didn't want to know anything except to get there and get gone.

Anyway, Brendan's staying with his aunt in the Shepherd/Kirby area and working at his uncle's bar (under the table) in a place just below the Heights, which is up Shepherd. So he and I drove up and down the street, and as I recalled it's one-way for part of it...but I think that started later in the 70s. I'll need to check it out.

We also went roaming through some of the neighborhoods and found a house that could be his aunt's. I passed it by, looking to see if there was another that might be more exact, but Brendan wouldn't let me. He'd settled on this red brick place that was simple in a post-colonial style, with an open yard and a couple of oak trees in front. The driveway's on the wrong side and in back is a garage apartment instead of a pool house, but it works for me, and he likes it.

So he had me circle around...not an easy thing to do when rush hour's beginning and your exit is onto a backed-up Shepherd...and we had to hunt for it, again, because those streets are twisty and turny and not all of them have street signs...but we found it and that was that. Now he knows where he's going to live while in Houston.

I had some damn good barbecue turkey at Rudy's -- a chain, I know, but I love their sauce. I'd take some home with me if I was flying Southwest all the way back instead of just to NYC, but Jet Blue already screwed us out of a $100 change fee so I'll be damned if I'll pay to check a bag if I don't have to.

Oh well...1 of 3 jobs down, now.

Sunday, January 7, 2018

In Houston.

Pouring rain.

Watched the Golden Globes during my flight.

Worked a little on the synopsis...and now have 4 versions...

Had Jack in the Box Tacos as I drove to my hotel by the Galleria.

Damn, they ruined the park by the Transco Tower.

Starbucks closed early.

Sleepy. 'Night.

Saturday, January 6, 2018

Took all day, but...

Getting the right position and feel for Adam to be used on the dust jacket of A65 took all day. Literally. I think I reworked it two dozen times, just to get it right -- shifting his legs a bit and then his feet and then how the suit coat flows and his face and which hand to have grasping the vine and on and on. I'm still not completely happy with the coat's empty arm and may play with that more, but this is pretty much what it is.

I re-roughed the full layout, coming up with a good set-up for Casey's positioning -- her being a bit in front of him -- and Gertrude stays where she is and works even better there. But it's just in rough pencil. I did this in ink because I'll be using it to set the colors on the artwork. I'm not going to outline in black, like a graphic novel. I want it more raw than that.

I think I'll also rotate him a little bit counter-clockwise. Give him more of a Tarzan swinging in the vines feel. I thought for a bit about having the vine run between his legs, but I tried it and that was just too much. Giving a hint of being pigeon-toed was enough.

Off to Houston, tomorrow, so won't get more art done till I'm back on Thursday...after NYC and Boston. The life of a travellin' man.

And now, after looking at this sketch while I type, I can see where the right panel of the suit coat should flow a bit differently...give it more the feel of a diminish the left coat arm...

Jeez, I wonder how many times I'll redo the color art before I'm satisfied?