The Quest for Zombie Art

zombiehorde

It’s been almost a year since I published The Range on Amazon. Considering I’ve spent zero time and cash on promotion the sales have been okay. I guess. I’ve had a few reviews that have pleased me with their honesty. Indeed the first run had a few irritating typo’s and errors which I hastened to correct speedy fashion.

What I have secretly enjoyed is the compliments on how well I portrayed my central character, who is female. That much alone was worth the time bashing my head against the screen saying: “Do girls do that? Do they say that sort of thing? Is that how they think? Arrrgh!”

I wasn’t expecting my book to rocket to the top of the charts and movie deals to come flooding in. That would be somewhat silly. One can dream though, right?

Before publishing I read a lot about how self-published writers can promote their work. There are countless blogs and sites with tips and tricks to help an author promote their wordy goodness. I didn’t exactly ignore them, but instead took them on board with a plan based around my Bloodwalker Legacy trilogy.

I had hoped to finish the second book, The Holt, by May 2015, spend the summer editing and taking feedback from beta readers, and then move to publishing in November. One year per book seemed a realistic goal. Yeah. Right. I’m just over half way through and struggling to find time to get stuck in to the writing part, let alone finishing, editing, tweaking etc.

The day job is a cruel time sucking mistress, despite how much I love it.

Right now this is how my brain feels.

minddesert

And that’s after a week’s holiday spent sat in front of the computer with my fingers suffering the wrath of my noggin cranking out the good stuff. One word at a time, right? They all form up to join that army of words to complete the big picture.

Book cover art.

I had no idea what I wanted on the cover for The Range. Every time I tried to sketch something out it just looked wrong. I don’t do “art” at least not in any serious sense. I sketch and doodle, but even that falls short of what I envision. I know the mantra for self-published authors is to leave the cover to someone else. Do not get involved. Yeah. I get that, but I wanted to give an artist at least some idea of what I wanted.

But nothing came. I really hadn’t got a monkeys.

I had a vague idea the cover had to look different to other apocalypse/zombie novels.

For some time I have written short stories inspired by the artwork of the highly talented Christina Deubel. So when she offered to paint something for The Range I was more than happy. And indeed her painting Dauntless is an exceptional piece of work.

Dauntless_by_Christina_Deubel

It captured how I wanted my lead character to feel – isolated, facing her fears, overcoming the dark nature of humanity.  Christina’s work continues to amaze and captivate me. A few months ago I made a promise to myself. When this trilogy is finished I’m going to rewrite some of my short stories that are based around Christina’s paintings. I’ll flesh them out and make them bigger and better.

I’ve been jotting down plot ideas, characters, etc around my series Ground Fall in readiness for when I return to it. When the time is right.

Just to toot Christina’s abilities once more, take a look at my absolute favourite painting of hers – Courageous.

Courageous

I find this totally stunning. I have this as my desktop background. Never ceases to inspire.

I found my mental image at last.

Earlier this year, whilst sat on the beach in the two days of summer we get in the UK, an image sprang to mind. I don’t know where it came from but it was so clear and exact I had to sketch it up as fast as possible before it faded.

Suddenly I knew how I wanted the cover of The Range to look. Right down to the angle, lighting, theme, artistic style and so on.  I was kinda pissed I hadn’t thought of it before, but at least it was there now. Not only that but I then knew what the covers for The Holt and The Retreat would look like too!

Eduardo style.

Having already established that art isn’t me, I had to reach out to a proper artist who could bring my cover to life.

Research time! I ambled around Amazon looking at book covers, trying to see if there was a particular style I liked. There was one. The artist Eduardo Garay Arnoldos who did the cover work for The Undead series by RR Haywood. Amazing series by the way! Check him out on Amazon.

TheUndeadbyRRHaywood

Eduardo’s style matched what I was looking for. It was gritty and dirty. Rough and dark. It suited the theme of The Range perfectly. I contacted Eduardo to ask if he was interested in producing three covers for my books, and also sent him a brief of what I was looking for. He was keen, no doubt. But I haven’t heard back from him in a few months and I’m eager to get going.

Are you an artist?

Here’s the brief I sent to Eduardo:

It’s night time, so dark and moody!

The would be hero’s are in a place called the Range, which used to be a small holiday park near the coast, long abandoned until the big viral outbreak. It consists of a dozen small log cabins and a farmhouse, winding path through the centre and lots of trees. At the entrance is a big gate, tall to match the high white walls that surround the park.

At that moment the Range has been under siege for about a week by the infected, these are not entirely zombies, as they’re still alive, imagine a cross between zombies and those insane things from 28 Days Later, so they’re pretty messed up. The twist in my story is that whatever virus was unleashed didn’t just create the basic infected, but evolved a percentage of people into what are called Bloodwalkers. These are big brutish creatures, still human in appearance but much taller, reaching 7 feet or so, and are more muscular, ferocious hunters with deep red skin.

So, the scene I pictured is from outside the gates looking in. The gates have been bashed open, so you’re looking in over the top of lots of infected that are swarming outside the Range ready to rush in. Inside are our hero’s – gathered around a 4×4 truck, Land Rover or Toyota Land Cruiser, doesn’t matter what the make it is really. There’s a young teenage girl on top, Pin, with a bow, the leader, Samantha beside the truck, and her friend Louise, both students before the outbreak, and their nerdy red-headed pal Garf.

The body of the crowd is illuminated by the 4×4’s headlights.

Basic description of Samantha – late teens, student, brown hair, curvy, jeans, bloodied vest, on her last legs, exhausted from the fight, wounds on her arms. Louise is a big chested girl, angry, Amazon warrior type. Both dirty, worn out but not giving up. Pin is thin, long dark hair, jeans, t-shirt. Garf has red curly hair, doesn’t appear to fit in with the rest of the bunch as he’s more at home in front of a computer.

Other characters, bit parts, have crossbows, home-made tools like spades, gardening tools etc because at that moment they don’t have much to defend themselves with.

There has been a fire as the residents tried burning the infected horde with home-made petrol bombs outside the walls.

Essentially after the siege the gates have been bashed in and this is a last stand moment, desperate, do or die scene. As it’s dark, I liked the idea that the infected near the front would be lit up quite well, and less detail on those at the back, or nearer the camera point of view, and with a few big red muscular Bloodwalkers in the crowd.

Although the scene is only half way through the book, it’s a big deal as it decides whether our hero’s win the battle and survive or die right there and then. So I was thinking very dark, lights showing up the horde and the hero’s gathered together for a last stand in the centre. I pictured less detail at the bottom so I can put in the book title etc.

Here’s my (very) rough sketch:

therangesketch

I know it’s basic but I hoped it would give an artist an idea of composition.

So imagine it all worked up by a real artist, rich and lush with good detail and that raw element of life and death.

I want to capture that gritty, last stand feel.

So right now I’m searching for an artist who bring breathe life into that theme. Today I had a look at the deviantArt forums to see what other people are asking. I don’t know how to handle things like contracts etc, whether the artist retains the rights to their work and I just lease it from them, or what.

I dare say I can figure all that out. It shouldn’t be hard.

Costs – how much?

And then comes the problem of price. I have a fixed budget in my head of around £200 – £250 for each cover, so about $300 – $380. And I’d very much like the artist to take on all three covers to maintain the continuity of style.

Again, I don’t really know if this is too little or just right or what? I dare say some cover artists charge a great deal for their time and I guess you get what you pay for in terms of quality, style, time scales and so on.

I know there are websites around where you can make requests for artists, submit your brief, set a fee and see who replies.

That’s great and everything, and I’m thinking I’ll go for it at some point. It’s was hoping to find someone via a more personal method, someone I could build a relationship with, someone who can see and understand my vision and interpret it with their own style. Maybe an artist who was willing to read the book too, learn about the characters and get a feel for the story.

Experiencing the story must have an impact on how an artist captures it in visual form, right?

I hoped that once I found an artist I could trust to work with me, from concept to final piece, I’d be happy to employ their creative skills again on future books.

Is that too big an ask?

Should I just be grateful for what I can get? Or hold out for that one artist I can connect with and feel comfortable, even excited about?

As for The Holt…

It’s coming along. Slow and steady. I’m enjoying the flow when I have time to get it, er, flowing. I think it was Stephen King who said something about getting your butt in the chair and you do not move unless you absolutely have to.

I’m trying, Kingy. I really am.

The words do come. But so do the interruptions. I turn off my phone. Leave my emails alone. I have my Word doc open and I write.

But oh those unexpected interruptions that life dishes out, just when I’m in the zone…argh. Just argh.

On a cheery note!

A blogger pal of mine, Sarah Potter, has just showcased the proof copy cover for her novel Desiccation. Go take a look. I couldn’t help but have a big smile for her when I read that post. It sure is a proud moment to hold that specialness you’ve worked so hard to complete in your hands.

Good for you Sarah! Can’t wait to read it.

I’ll leave you there, dear blog reader. Right now I’m back to writing. Things are afoot and I can’t wait to find out what happens next.

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3 thoughts on “The Quest for Zombie Art

  1. Thank you, Dave, for the mention. I love the cover to my book, but it cost me! You can find the artist, Jamie Noble Frier at http://www.TheNobleArtist.com. He was wonderful to work with and the result worth every penny. I asked him to produce a cover in the same style as those on the 1960s Amazing Stories. Then I sent him an excerpt from my book to show him which scene I wanted illustrated. After that, he emailed me a rough sketch and we worked from there.

    I think book covers are so important. And if you’re doing all the book’s editing and formatting yourself, the investment in a cover doesn’t not seem so huge. Hopefully I’ll earn it back from sales, as I’d like to publish my other four books with equally cool covers!

    Eduardo Garay Arnoldos’s style of covers look ideal for your genre. Go for it 🙂

    • Jamie sure has a wonderful artistic style. The commissioned pieces are stunning. I was thinking of something gritty for The Range and so on, but with Jamie’s work there’s something there that intrigues me – the lighting is of particular interest as I like the idea of my covers being dark yet illuminated by shots of light and fire, and the way that filters through the crowds of beasties.

      • Jamie is wonderful to work with and totally gets what an author is asking for, while adding extra dimensions that one would never have thought of. He has a lovely gentle charm and sense of humour, too. He will be guesting on my blog, immediately I’ve got around to sending him some interview questions.

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