Nothing has been posted on this website in the past nine months, and for that I must apologize. Over the last eighteen months, and especially in the past six, the course of my life has drastically changed. That said, I will not bore you any further with all of my personal details, but instead discuss how my latest fantasy novel came to be completed, and ultimately published during the COVID-19 pandemic.
When the government asked all Canadians to stay home until the spread of COVID-19 was under control, I did my best to comply. On March 16, I stocked up on groceries, picked up two bottles of bourbon, and then hunkered down by myself to wait out the three or four weeks everyone was predicting it would take to flatten the curve. We now know all too well that as the disease continued to spread, it quickly became apparent even four weeks was being extremely optimistic. Monday begins week seven of my self isolation, and I am starting to feel like we are living in a zombie apocalypse, only without the zombies. It makes me think of Bill Murray in Zombieland. When starved for company, Murray used makeup to look like a zombie so he could go outside and walk among the un-dead brain-eaters.
Besides cooking, cleaning, and doing laundry, the one thing that kept me from rotting my brain by watching TV all day long, was the fact that I still had five chapters left to finish for book five in my Daemon Knights series. I had originally planned on completing this book by the fall of 2019, just in time for Christmas, but as usual, life’s untimely twists and turns just kept getting in my way, despite my best intentions, and we all know which road is paved with those.
Way back in the fall of 2016, I created a detailed outline for Prophet, but it remained more or less untouched until I brought it along with me on a family cruise to Mexico in the spring of 2018. In fact, some of the at-sea scenes within the book were actually fleshed out while I was sailing along the coast between Los Angeles and Puerto Vallarta. After returning home, I vowed to do at least some work on my next book every day until it was completed. In December of 2018, I retired from Red Tuque Books, and that was the only reason I had over 90% of the book completed by December, 2019.
By the end of March, 2020, the book was written and I was reading through the manuscript one last time before turning it over to the proofreader. The pandemic shutdown, of nearly everything but grocery stores and gas stations, made getting books produced far more difficult than it normally would be. As the weeks went by, the process blossomed into a much harder do-it-yourself project than ever before. I had to find a new proofreader, update the manuscript, format the inside of the book, come up with some kind of cover artwork, have my web/cover designer layout the cover file, and then find a printer able and willing to do a print run.
Even while still working on the manuscript, I had dug out my pencils and water colour set to start work on a cover image. I wanted it to be a scene from the book. My first attempt took four days and ended in complete failure. Forced to scrap what I had done so far, I started over with a completely new concept. By now the clock was ticking, and I had to admit, at least to myself, that my former level of artistic skill had atrophied due to lack of practice. The last time I produced a completed water colour painting was in 2007, for the cover of FireDrakes. Even then it was only done at the last minute, out of necessity, but the details of that will have to remain a story of woe for another time.
After emailing out scans of my painting at various stages, seeking advice from my cover designer and some family members, I finally had a completed watercolour painting ready for my designer to slap onto the cover. I was not 100% satisfied with my work, but then I have never been completely satisfied with any of my paintings. Typically, I just stop working when I think anything else I might do will only make it worse and not better. At least with the cover art out of the way, I was able to focus on finishing the inside of the book.
I can still remember reading some of my favourite fantasy and science fiction novels back in the seventies. Many of those books contained illustrations. It was something I always thought of doing with my own novels, but never did. I spent many hours creating detailed pencil drawings during my teenage years, and even did a few in my early twenties. The last time I actually drew something good enough to show anyone, however, was back in the late twentieth century. The only drawing my first four books contained was a map I created in 2007 for Firedrakes. That map was included because it seemed traditional, and I believed my fantasy world just had to have one.
I wanted Prophet to be different, and as it worked out, while waiting for proofreading and a cover file, I found myself with some time on my hands. The end result, after about four days of effort, was three pencil drawings that I inserted when the updated manuscript was being formatted for print. I even used my sister’s favourite of the three drawings as the image for this post. Will I be doing something similar for the next book? Well, that will depend on what feedback I have received from readers by the time I finish writing it. One of the interesting byproducts of spending a few weeks creating artwork for Prophet, is that I already have a cover image concept in mind for book six, which I fully intend on completing before the end of 2022.
While I wait for the print run to arrive, I am left to try and figure out just how the hell I am going to sell my books with all the markets, bookstores and libraries closed. Having retired from Red Tuque Books, I no longer have easy access to Amazon, so at least for the time being, they will only be available from this website. Thank God for Canada Post.