Sunday, December 26, 2010

Back to the Drawing Board

Well, after interviewing Karina Fabian here last week, and now that Christmas is over, I'm getting back to the series of posts about my artwork.

You've seen examples of the art work I did in high school, and then some of the stuff I've done since picking up my charcoal pencils after years of not drawing. I started drawing again only for the love of it, with no intentions of trying for anything professional. But that's not how things would turn out.

Grace Bridges of Splashdown Books put out a call for artists to the members of the Lost Genre Guild (an organization for Christians who write speculative fiction). She needed an illustration to be used as an element on a book cover. At first I didn't answer the call-out, thinking the drawing would surely need too be in color. But after speaking with Grace about it, she told me to give it a try and that black and white would most likely be just fine. So I drew the key according the author's description and sent the scanned image to Grace.

Before long I got an email from Grace telling me that she wanted to use the drawing and offering payment. My first professional sale! The drawing can now be found on the cover of The Duke's Handmaid by Caprice Hokstad:

Grace had already gotten the rest of the cover layout done. The dual-sun image is one that she took herself of a sunset and photoshopped to create the two suns referenced in the book. The key was the last element to be added. I personally think the black and white works better than color would have, as a color key would have made the cover too busy, and would not pop out the way it does now against the brilliant sunset.

Of course, Splashdown being a small press, the author's input was strongly considered. From what I've heard, larger publishers give authors very little input when it comes to their cover designs; but small presses work more closely with authors on such things. Caprice gave the overall design and the key itself her seal of approval, and the book was nearly ready to hit the presses.

As a bonus, Grace added the key as interior art, in the upper corners of the pages of each chapter beginning, and also an even smaller version at scene breaks:

How cool is that?

Inside scoop:

The agreement between Grace and I is that I would not resell the image of the key to anyone else. I had no problem with that, of course. I consider it the property of Splashdown Books and Caprice. However, Grace did allow me the freedom to use the key for my own artwork, provided it was infused into a more elaborate piece. I sat on the key image for weeks before being hit with inspiration.

Ah, but I will save that for next time....

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Merry Christmas

Since we're so close to Christmas I haven't had time to prepare another art-centered blog post. I'll pick back up after Christmas. In the mean time, check out this amazing rendition of "O Come, O Come, Emmanuel" by ENYA. Prepare for bone-chilling.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Need a Laugh? Get "Neeta Lyffe"....

OK, hokey blog title. But it's true.

You may remember my last interview with Karina Fabian, and my review of her book Magic, Mensa and Mayhem.

Today, I’m talking with Karina about her latest book, Neeta Lyffe, Zombie Exterminator.

Karina’s got quite the list of Christian and Catholic works: Leaps of Faith (Writers' Café Press) and Infinite Space, Infinite God I and II, not to mention her Catholic dragon detective Vern and his partner Sister Grace, who star in her DragonEye, PI novels and stories. Karina also wrote a devotional with her father, Deacon Steve Lumbert, called Why God Matters: How to Recognize Him in Daily Life.

So what is this Christian writer doing writing a novel about zombies and reality TV? For a publisher called Damnation Books, no less! Let's find out. Welcome Karina.

Karina: Hi, everyone!

Damnation Books?! Seriously?

Karina: Yeah, I appreciate the irony, and Rob calls my royalties from them "the wages of sin." Kim Richards, the publisher, is a good friend from The Writers Chatroom ( a great place for writers who want to learn the biz'.) When she decided to start her own horror publishing company, she chose the name. In addition to the dark horror connotations, there's the catchy slogan, "Damnation, that's good reading!"Even more fun is that she bought Eternal Press, so her authors are wondering if we're subject to Eternal Damnation now. Lots of fun in names!

Speaking of fun in names, where'd you come up with Neeta Lyffe (Need A Life, for the pun-impaired)?

Kim had wanted to publish a small zombie anthology of stories from writers from the Writers Chatroom or those she already knew, and we came up with The Zombie Cookbook ( I'd said I'd try, but I couldn't come up with a fun DragonEye story. Turns out Vern has an aversion to zombies. My friend Becca caught me on IM while Rob and I were on househunting vacation and badgered me, so I decided on something kind of noir-ish--a zombie exterminator who couldn't get a date. She really needed a life. Turned out she had a crush on her partner, and after they take on a huge infestation at a Korean restaurant, he asks her out at last. I wrote in first person and whipped it out in 2 hours, giggling the whole time.

"Wokking Dead" was published in The Zombie Cookbook, and people had such fun with Neeta that a couple asked about her having a novel. Kim badgered me a couple of times, and one day on the Writers Chatroom, we got to talking reality TV, and I had the silliest idea--Neeta training up exterminators on a reality TV show that was The Apprentice crossed with Survivor crossed with Zombieland.

So you’re a fan of reality TV and Zombieland?

Haven't seen Zombieland yet. I don’t watch reality TV, either, except for a few episodes of Chase that Rob and the kids liked because it was kind of like living Terminator. I keep meaning to watch it, though. Truth to tell, I'm not into horror or zombie movies. I think the last horror flick I saw was Friday the 13th, Part Innumerable, which a friend talked me into going to see with her. I've read maybe a handful of horror novels; after an anthology of Stephen King's stuff in college, I swore off.

So why go for a horror novel then?

It's comedic horror. High on humor, some grossness, no heart-thumping terror. I love playing all the clichés, and mixing them up. One zombie with his legs chopped off is still hobbling after his prey shouting, "Flesh wound!" Neeta commandeers a Hummer and runs down zombies--the disk player is blasting ABBA. There are conspiracy theories, environmentalists (though Global Cooling is the crisis du jour). Of course, there's the whole Hollywood aspect. I was giggling for months.

You're known well among Christian spec-fic circles. What kind of Christian values are in this book?

That's a tough one. There's nothing overt. It's definitely not Catholic, as Neeta chops off the head of a guy who's infected because that's worse than the alternative. One contestant is actively gay--or is he just not particular? Roscoe never even told me. He was the most fun to write, though. Incidentally, he says "Oh, Gawd!" all the time, but the one time he was thanking God, he says, "Thank God." But the zombies are simply reanimated meat with instincts and some "residual cultural influences." Their souls are gone. Neeta tells her boyfriend she's waiting for marriage (and she does). Except for some mild innuendo (thanks, Roscoe) and a little swearing and drinking, it's a clean book. Definitely mainstream, though.

So why did you write it?

Because I was asked and because it was fun. I got to exercise my sarcastic side, have some fun with political and social trends, and come up with a really unique zombie story. I don’t write stories with intentional "messages," anyway. It's just a rollicking ride through the absurdities of reality and reality TV--and even the after-reality of zombie-ism.

Thanks, Karina! And now for my review....

"Hell's Kitchen" with heart. Pretty much sums it up :). Neeta's got to whip her students into shape, so they can learn to slice and dice zombies. She's not the heartless terror that Chef What's-his-name is, but she can't afford to be soft when dealing with the undead.

I laughed SO hard while reading Neeta Lyffe. But humor is not Karina's only strong point. The book has an actual plot and real characterization--two things that often lack in parody and humor writing. I became a fan of Karina's writing with the first Dragon Eye, P.I. short story, and then a bigger fan after reading Magic, Mensa, and Mayhem. She did not disappoint me with Neeta Lyffe, Zombie Exterminator.

The book is available through Amazon in both print and Kindle, and through Barnes and Noble in print. (Hm, guess I'm going to have to bug her to get it in Nookbook format!)

You can also purchase directly through Damnation Books. Visit the site to see the trailer and read an excerpt.

Again, thanks, Karina!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

The In-Between

As I said at the end of my last post, this will focus on my more recent drawings. A hodge-podge of sorts, I suppose, but then my next art post will get into the illustrating-for-a-small-press thing, and my inordinate fondness for beetles.

During college my artistic passion waned a bit, and I changed my major to biology. Yes, I know, that's pretty random. But I didn't give up on my creative side. I spent some time painting store-bought figurines, including a Nativity set that took weeks to complete and is still my most cherished Christmas decoration.

I love the camel :).

I also got into scrapbooking after my son was born. Don't let anyone tell you that doesn't take creativity. (And a bit of an obsessive personality....) But it's not the same as drawing when that's something you really loved doing.

So I grabbed my sketchpad a few years ago and drew my old boxer, Rocky.

OK, yes, I posted this before, but he's just so adorable.

Then I decided to draw a friend's cow. Don't ask.

An artist friend of mine saw this and said, "Whoa, trippy cow." And it is thus titled.

But my world is not limited to the mundane, and I had to try my hands at some fantasy work.

Of course nothing says "fantasy" like a blue-skinned elf :P. This was my first attempt at using oil pastels for something other than background (like the scribbling behind the trippy cow).

I also discovered the fun of digital editing...

...and blue-skinned elf becomes green-skinned elf with purple hair :).

And last but not least, since we're talking digital editing, here's a photo I'm particularly proud of:

Yes, photography counts as art! Especially when it is not just "point and shoot." This is a gargoyle that normally guards my bedroom door. I placed him against the tile floor in my bathroom. Got him angled just right and took a few shots on the macro (close-up) setting. I turned the whole image sepia with my photo-editing software, and played with the contrast a bit. I love how his little fanged face just pops out. I'm totally tempted to write a book about a gargoyle just so I can use this guy for cover art.

Alright, that brings us pretty up to date. My next post will technically be a book review and interview with Karina Fabian. Her latest release, Neeta Lyffe, Zombie Exterminator, just released and I had the privilege of reading an advanced copy. (Sneak peek here--I loved the book. Karina is hilarious.) So, look for that on the 19th, and then we'll get back into the art mode.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

The Beginnings of Kat the Artist

I said I was going to get more specific about my artwork. Should I do this chronologically? I suppose that's as good a way as any.

So let's start from the beginning. I loved to draw from the time I was little. Unfortunately, I don't have any of my childhood artwork. Not sure why none of it was saved, but rest assured I was better than the average seven-year-old (or ten-year-old, or twelve-year old).

(OK, so not quite that good...hehe.)

I really started improving in junior high when I discovered a book on drawing in my 7th grade art classroom. The only thing I remember about the book was a drawing of a dog that I copied using charcoal for the very first time. Finding charcoal pencil was like finding my soul mate :). Again, I don't have that drawing--because I gave it to my high school boyfriend, who never gave it back. (Loser.)

Then in high school, I was blessed with an amazing art teacher. Actually, I had a couple of great teachers, but Mrs. Meyer was the best. We just connected, and she knew how to push me and help me improve.

If you read my last blog post, you got to see a couple of my high school drawings. Here are a few more:

The Indian girl won the annual art contest at my high school. The girl is done in charcoal pencil and the background is done in pastels.

Not sure what kind of bird this is. I just found some images in a magazine and combined them. This is called a scratch board. The whole thing is coated in India ink, and the white parts are literally scratched away with a sharp point.

"Welcome to the jungle..." Yep, Axl Rose from Guns-n-Roses. I was a big fan :). This is done in charcoal.

As you can see, I've never been much for doing color art. I prefer to work in black and white, either charcoal or regular pencil. I like close-up work, like portraits or individual items rather than entire scenes. And realism. Even if I draw something fantasy, like a dragon or an elf, I want it to look realistic. I don't have a problem with other styles, this is just what I enjoy working on myself. (Although, I've learned recently that my old high school art teacher holds painting classes over the summer, so I may just have to sign up and let her work her magic again!)

Next time, we'll fast-forward to my more recent stuff, and then after that move into the backstage happenings of doing artwork for a small press.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

The Other Side of Me

I realized I've spent a huge amount of time on this blog talking about my writing. Well, that was, of course, the original intent for this puppy.

But I'm not JUST a writer.

You know this, I'm sure, as you've seen me slip in here and there about my artwork. But it's been sorely neglected, really, considering that was my first and only love for many, many years.

When I was a kid, you'd catch me drawing any time a pencil or pen and paper was within reach. Actually, anything I could draw on without getting in trouble was fair game. My jeans and sneakers were always covered in doodles.

Everyone expected me to "be an artist" when I grew up. I had no idea what that meant, though, and my passion ended up fizzling out after I graduated high school. Oddly, though, it came back when I start writing.

This is the first thing I drew after probably 15 years of not drawing:

My sweet, sweet old boxer, Rocky :).

The really cool thing is that my connections to other writers opened a door for my art. Grace Bridges from Splashdown Books posted a call-out for artists on a writers forum. I answered the call-out, and my drawing of a key ended up on the cover of Caprice Hokstad's "The Duke's Handmaid."

This was a double honor, because Caprice's writing is top-notch!

Sooooo.....what I've decided is to do some blogging here over the next few weeks about my artwork. Get a little more specific, and give you an insider's look at doing work for publishers.

In the meantime, check out Caprice's book. You can find it on Amazon in both print and Kindle edition (the Kindle version is only $4.99!). Also, at Barnes and Noble in print and NOOKbook. (Again, the Nookbook is only $4.99!) If you need it in a different ebook format, you can find that on Smashwords.