It's August in Phoenix, and getting up to over 110 degrees Fahrenheit. Folks on the street have that zombified look. Consulting a mirror, I see that look on my face, too. Any sane person would be taking it easy, or at least taking off to a cooler climate – like one where it's down in the nineties – but I can't help myself, I've got ebooks to get ready for release, and the time to do it is now.
My current tasks are a cover for Cortez on Jupiter, and a cover plus illustrations for Obsidian Harvest, a novella that I collaborated on with Rick Cook. It was featured in Analog and Gardner Dozois' eighteenth The Year's Best Science Fiction. It's not just a matter of grabbing the sketchbook and scribbling – to do this right, this calls for research.
Ah! Research! A wonderful excuse to satisfy your lust – I mean, curiosity. “Why are you looking at those horrible books and websites?” Research. “Oh. I guess that's okay.” It's usually more enjoyable than the real work. For me, I find that writing and art are often excuses for me to indulge in doing research.
Coming up with a cover image for Cortez on Jupiter was a bear. I didn't want to draw Pablo's art – it's impossible in Earth gravity. Attempts to create a suitable Great Red Spot or spatter drawings fell short. The image that worked was the actual Great Red Spot.
Luckily it was available in public domain. I emailed the NASA/Hubble/STSci site, asking what the proper procedures were – just because I want to avoid any chance of having to change the cover after releasing the book. This resulted in some Kafkaesque correspondence with a HAL 9000-type entity. I groaned, did some more sketches, but finally a message from a human being arrived, explaining that they liked to have a credit line mentioning the agencies involved, and a copy for their files.
I'll worry about how to send them an ebook later.
I also needed to research old fashioned, East L.A. Chicano graffiti,which led to some interesting sites where graffiti fonts were available online. Ironically, it was a science fiction contact, Eileen Gunn, that led me to the most helpful sites.
I was also learned about graffiti-inspired artist Chaz Borjorquez, who has some interesting things to say about the future of art and culture.
For Obsidian Harvest, I needed material on Aztec weaponry:
For the main character, “Lucky” Tworabbit, Rick Cook said, “Think Mexican beer ad.” This led me the iconic art of Jesús Helguera:
Also there were the “steamers.” Fortunately, stanelysteamers.com is a portal to a world that steampunks need to explore. I may just have to draw existing vehicles and decorate them Aztec/Mayan/lowrider style.
And the story does feature intelligent velociraptors:
Then there's the whole subject of putting illustrations into an ePub file . .
The best part of this is, at the end of day, I can call all this “work.”