I’ll be handing over the manuscript for book three at the end of May. I won’t start on the illustrations for some time. First have to get books one and two all illustrated up. However, as I work through the prose, I take a little time here and there to whip out a speed sketch from one of the scenes. It gives me a chance to at least have drafts of the final drawings lying around. It also allows me to work out the style for the final images. Trying to keep them light and sketchy and moving.
I won’t be posting a lot of illustrations from book three as they will contain a lot of spoilers for the first two books. Never the less, there will be plenty more to post when the actual drawing begins.
Warming up to illustrate book one. Like I mentioned yesterday, I’ll be editing book three and cranking out the drawings for book one over the next few months. Yesterday I drew my favorite supporting cast members, the Grubians. Those of you who have read the webcomic will be familiar with these rapscallions. And if you liked them there, wait till you get a load of them in the novels.
Fair to say, these guys are my Shakespearean clowns, although they play a pivotal role in the first three books. My inspiration for them goes well past Shakespeare. My magician friends will notice a similarity to another tall and short magic duo. Except my big guy is the non-talker. Yep, Penn & Teller. Two of my biggest influences in magic since the third grade. They were the starting point for these two.
Halfway through writing book one, I realized another influence for this pair were Mr. Croup and Mr. Vandemar. If those names aren’t familiar, google them and then get the book that pops up in the results. I also recommend getting the comic adaptation and the BBC tele-play and of course the BBC radio drama version. Trust me on this.
Lastly, the names. Was it too obvious? My devious Grubians are named after Clive Barker and Neil Gaiman, the two writers I can’t live without. Well, also Susan Hill, but I have another character based on her we’ll get to later.
That’s it for today. Back to editing book three and sketching up the art for book one. I’ll be sure to post my progress on both.
Time usually flies, however in the case of “The Conjurers”, the series seemed to have fallen into a temporal loop. Much of that was because, from the beginning, I was trying to do something different. Found a few potholes but also found a few things that worked. So where does it stand now?
My editor and I came up with a timeline with definitive dates and goals to get this done. A lot of what slowed us down was having portions of the stories told through sequential art. Prose blended into comics and vice versa. That’s great if you have the text finalized. We didn’t. So, change some prose and you had to change the drawings. Change a drawing and you had to add some prose. Round and round it went. We made a few compromises on the scope of the illustrations and also put all our focus on getting the prose done.
This weekend I sent out book two. Now I’m onto the final pass on book three and simultaneously illustrating book one. That means book one is actually, really, truly in production. Which also means I should have a publication date soon. The next few months will be more insane than the last few (in which I was only re-writing one book). along the fall through this rabbit hole I’ll post updates on the illustrations for book one and the manuscript for book three. Confused yet? Me too. That’s why I have it written down. Either way, I think the trip will end up in wonderland, which is not a bad place at all.
The trials and tribulations of writing a fantasy novel series.
So, ya, about that fantasy novel series. Where are they at and what’s happening? Are they ever going to come out? It’s been a while since I’ve posted anything about the novels, mainly because there wasn’t a terrible lot to post about. Thought I’d give a quick run down on their status. Good news and bad news. Bad news first? Good idea. Get it out of the way. Here we go.
The Bad News
I have no idea when “The Conjurers” book one will launch. From the get go, I had an ambitious idea of creating a hybrid fantasy novel that weaved prose in and out of the illustrations. Cool! Exciting! Never been done before! Yes, all very well and nifty, however, as is to be expected when doing things four miles away from the nearest box, you bumble your way along a foggy road that has never been mapped. The first tree in the road was attempting to write the prose and work out the illustrations at the same time. But when the prose changes, so do the illustrations and when the illustrations change the prose needs adjusting. Round and round it went for a bit. Finally a couple faint, swinging lights appeared in the fog.
The first was coming to terms with the fact that, on my inaugural outing writing a fantasy series, I wasn’t going to be able to pull off some the word C.G.I. where text blended into a sequential series of drawings and then seamlessly merged back into traditional prose. It was clunky and at times, too comic book-ish. Once I accepted that, there was another looming issue.
The original draft of book one was just over ninety-thousand words, and that was before adding in the pages and pages of illustrations. The book would’ve been more a piece of furniture than a fun read kids could tote around in their backpacks. Thankfully, a new creative director had just flown over on white, feathery wings to my publisher and she had the light bulb moment that pulled the whole project out of the muck. “Why not split book one into two books?”
And boom! Just like that, books one and two were written. Sort of. Now I could focus on polishing the text for book one and finalize the what and where of the illustrations. Right now, as I wait for notes on the final edits for book one, I am sharpening and molding book two (formerly the second half of book one) into it’s own complete story arc. The neat bit is that where book one was torn in half makes the series more of a cliff–hangar serial. That is to say, at the end of the new book one everyone dies. Just kidding.
The Good News
Onto the good news! Mainly, that book one is nearing completion and should have an official release date soon. The second breath of fresh air is that, because books two and three are more or less written, there won’t be any delays between releases. By the time book one thumps onto shelves, I should have book two wrapped and will be putting the finishing bits of spackle on book three.
In the meantime, I’ll be posting more often, given that I have a slightly sturdier grip on this eel like process. And that also means, as I promised myself, I’ll post a lot more sketches.
Officially out today! Notice anything different? I’ve gone back to what I call the “Garfield” sized books. Remember those collections? Apart from nostalgia, I went back to this format to help bring the costs a bit, which is a tall order when dealing with Amazon and Createspace.
On the plus side, the book already has fifteen reviews in the first day! A humongous thank you to my newsletter subscribers. I’m working on putting together another free book as a thank you. It may or may not be Dog eat Doug related.
I get a lot of questions about DeD volume 1 and when it might be re-released. Well, I can answer that now: soon. The lovely people at Andrews McMeel made it super easy for me to get the rights and the full color files so that I could publish it under my own banner. I’ll have more on that once I get the files and stitch together the ebook version. Might add in some extras. Who knows?
And lastly, a quick word on the Conjurers books. I have sent the final edits off to my publisher. Now we can start locking down the layout and the illustrations. That’s something I can grind through much faster. So expect to start seeing lots of bits and pieces as the book comes together.
It was a long, tough learning experience. Just to give you a rough idea, the first draft of book one was 90,000 words. Add to that the fact that I was doing something completely different with the illustrations, blending and weaving them in and out of the text. Well, myself and the genius team at Crown Books found a way through it. I think you’re going to enjoy the ride.
Indeed, this project has taken a lot more work than anticipated and I anticipated a lot. However, my editor and publisher want to get it right. Doing things outside the box means a lot of growing pains and learning as you go. Been a ton of that.
So, as it goes right now, I’m streaming words for book two, as you can see in the photo. Yes, that’s a tiger with a rabbit in its mouth and it’s not what you think. Unless you think it’s something more than a tiger with a rabbit in its mouth. Then you’re on the right track. I have a solid, working outline of book two. Nine chapters in, I’m discovering lots of cool bits that don’t show up when you outline stories. The focus on book two is getting the words down, fast and furious. Type it into the box with all the circuits and such, cut of the jagged edges and send it off to my ridiculously patient editor. By that time she should be sending me the manuscript for book one. That needs final line edits, final art direction and final, final art.
While things have been delayed quite a bit, the good news is we’re figuring out this odd way of slipping from prose to art and art to prose and a few variations in between. The other good news is that there won’t be a delay between books. That, right now, is key. And the first webcomic companion will finish its run soon. There’ll be another companion right after that one, which should be much less experimentally. More on that later after I finish torturing my Lamy on this draft.
Another drawing to set the scene. No sequentials or dialog on this one. A bit more traditional in the sense that it’s just a visual for the scene. It’s more to set the tone of Emma’s darkening journey. On the left side I used a cutaway technique to make the page appear torn in the shape of the entrance into the theater.
Here’s a two page spread from chapter seven. Might have to makes some changes if some of the prose ends up on the left side. Again, spoiler filter on, so I won’t divulge exactly what this scene is. This two page spread accomplishes several things. First off I can visually set the mood that flows from the text. Second, I can show all the important bits instead of spending several paragraphs describing what you see here. And my favorite bit, I can drop in Easter eggs that relate to book two.
This book started with an empty toolbox for blending illustration and prose. As I go along certain techniques pop up, but I don’t want to over use them. It also has to make sense within the context of the story. Here for example, two of the characters are walking into the rough section of the city. Dilapidated factories, boarded up shops, anything that represents the collapse of the magical industry. Instead of bloating the prose with description, i decided to “wall in” the text with the buildings surrounding the characters. This, again hopefully, not only conveys some of the description visually but also mirrors the characters experience. And it was also a chance to slip in a bunch of magician references.
Had to share this one for all of you reading the speed drawing experiment that is the Conjurers webcomic. You can probably guess who the boy is falling out of the sky. Completely different style than in the comic, but I think his general essence comes through. Keep reading the webcomic to see how he gets here.
This is a two page spread from chapter five. There will be a bit of text above the drawing on each page. I wanted an introductory drawing of the city for the reader. Now, I could easily spend weeks just adding more and more detail to every nook and cranny, however, time-wise I had to stay focused on what this spread needed to accomplish.
Using a distant vanishing point, the drawing creates a sense of depth as if you are riding into the city. The same view as the main characters. So while there are no panels or dialog on the page, hopefully the picture tells at least three hundred words. Leaving out the sky was not so the text would be clear on a white background, but to give it a pop up book illusion, as if the buildings are standing up and out from the page. Maybe it works or maybe it was a cool idea with poor execution. Let me know what you think.
Moving along with the art from chapter four. This posted piece is a two page spread. The previous page is all prose ending with the kids entering the carriage. You flip the page and voila, you get to see what they see. I needed to accomplish a lot in this spread. First off, I’m setting up the interi
or of the carriage (it comes up again later) but more importantly, I get to show a little of what the Grubians do as opposed to just chatting about it in the prose.
Meanwhile, the dialog helps set up some more important elements, all set against a static background where the characters move from panel to panel, hopefully giving it a cinematic effect as opposed to hopping from panel to panel.
Art for the Conjurian map in progress.
Inking the cover for book one. I’m trying to keep my line art thin and clean. Once I had the rough layout, it took a bit of mind twisting to decide on a final style. I don’t want it coming off as overly comic bookish and at the same time I didn’t want to do a full on painted piece. Mostly because it’s not my strength and also, I didn’t want to stray to far from the interior art.
So here is the beginnings of some clean inking. Already made a color guide so that part shouldn’t be as challenging as it normally is for me.
So this is what a first draft looks like. At least the hand scribbled part. After the notebooks, I transcribe it all in to the computer, cutting and patching bits as I go. Then I give it one more look, jotting down a few notes of things that need renovating and it’s off to my editor.
There’s lot’s more to be done. Rewrites, cover art and interior art. All of which I am greatly looking forward to.