Blog post number 4 Written: 05-17-2021 Uploaded: 02-11-2022
I grew up in a small dusty desert town, with two stoplights and more churches than intersections. Our town was too small to have a fiber optic cable run out to it. I didn’t have regular internet access until after I moved out of my parent’s house and across a couple of counties to take up my first job working on big commercial jets in 2015. Even though I graduated high school in 2012, I was living like it was the 80’s still. Using a card index to search for books in the library, listening to the same few songs over and over on the CD player strapped to my bicycle as I rode miles to see friends and dates.
There was only one book store, which has since closed because its owner has retired. But She had a milk crate on her front porch with used paperbacks for a dollar each. I spent many of the dollars I hard-earned with my labor, shoveling livestock manure, chain sawing trees, stringing barbed wire, the usual. On those used paperbacks. Always picking the 60’s and 70’s sci-fi books with the wildest covers. Yes as a middle and high school student, I still often judged a book by its cover. Both people’s tendency to judge a book by its cover and that cover art on those old paperbacks I collected drove my selection of art and artist for my book’s once it was ready, once I knew I had written, ‘the one’.
I collected enough of these bargain paperbacks that I began to recognize some of the artists, and I realized it was the same artist that did some of the cover art for the 80’s CDs I was playing on my bicycle. Frank Frazetta. That man, and his art, became the standard for which I judged the quality of the science fiction and used CDs I was purchasing. Let me be frank, (pun intended) Frank Frazetta was an artist. He drew and painted and sketched with his hands, his brushes his grease pencils. It wasn’t any of this computer-generated stuff that you see on so many book covers today. Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying that it isn’t art, that it doesn’t take skill to make art on your Ipad, and some of those who do are highly skilled and have produced breathtaking art that way too, but it understandable feels less organic, less flawed. Much like how many people prefer the sound of old vinyl compared to modern mp3 musical recordings. I digress, my point is, I was very taken with his art, and read every book I could find in that little book store with his art or art that even remotely resembled his work. That was the kind of sci-fi I grew up with, the kind I grew up to love, the kind I tried to emulate with my writing. For, what better way to write a classic than to write a classic?
I also played some tabletop BattleTech, and I started writing seriously, with battle tech fan fiction. I wrote The Descendant in 14 days, over 7 consecutive weekends in August and September of 2017. Unfortunately, Frank Frazetta passed away in 2010, and I knew, as a small-town boy, even if he were alive, there’s no way I could get such an industry-defining man to make art for my book. However, I had the next best thing. My paternal grandfather was a high school art teacher for over thirty years before he retired. And while in 2019 when I was working with a publisher and taking steps to print the book it had been eight or so years since he had retired, and he hadn’t painted anything since then. He is a very opinionated and stubborn man, every person who has ever met him either loves him or hates him, there is no in-between. He’s also a very private person, and it was no easy task, to convince him to take up his brushes again, especially for something that would be printed in mass and distributed publicly where he had to worry about Copyright infringements and royalties and ownership and printing rights and so on.
But I managed to convince him. And he painted the masterpiece that is now the cover of The Descendant, and then later a second (the Red Balaur, Tarko) which you can see along with the vignettes on the publisher’s website, I know even have a third painting or “illustration” as he calls them since they’re so small (10’x14’ ish) and this third one will be the cover of the second book, with the working title of “Fallen. He is rather humble, or even dismissive of these little “illustrations” he’s been doing for me, but it’s been enough that he has taken up doing his own art again, not just what I ask him for.
I cannot articulate in words how much I appreciate his art and having his art be the face of my books. So much so that when my original publisher was waffling about using his art at all, or making him change it because of semantics I pulled out of the contract, and for a while, wasn’t even going to publish the book. I am just as grateful to have found another press with the Immerser who was willing to use his art and seem to appreciate it as much as I do.
I am immensely proud to have real, hand-painted watercolor art on the covers of my books. With color and depth and not just some blacks and grays and a well-toned shirtless man on the cover of The Descendant and I hope that My grandfather and I can crank out another dozen books with my writing and his art. I hope this little glimpse hasn’t muddied the waters even further, and instead shed some light on my influences, on why I wrote what I wrote, and have the art that I have. If I had been unable to convince my grandfather to paint for me, I have no idea what I would have done for cover art, or if I would have even printed the book at all. I guess the moral of this story is, make it the way you want, and stick to your guns.