An Offbeat Halloween Graphic Novel

Witches and Fish Graphic Novel Cover by illustrator Duncan Long

Readers wanting an offbeat Halloween story should check out my graphic novel Witches and Fish which can be purchased in print of Kindle format at Amazon.com.

Need even more horror/Halloween “eye candy”? Then you’ll enjoy my Horror Gallery and my Pre-Made Horror Book Cover Gallery.

===============================
Duncan Long is a writer/illustrator who has created work for HarperCollins, Amazing Stories, PS Publishing, Pocket Books, ILEX, Asimov’s Science Fiction, Moonstone Books, Enslow Publishers, and many other presses and self-publishing authors. See more of Long’s artwork at Duncan Long’s Illustration Gallery.

Tags: , , , , , ,

Comments (1)

Audio Book Version of Stonewiser: The Heart of Stone

Stonewiser fantasy audio book cover artwork

Author Dora Machado reports that the first book in her award-wining fantasy trilogy is now available in audio book form.

And, yes, that’s my artwork on the cover…

If you’re looking for a riveting novel to listen to, you can buy the unabridged audio version of Stonewiser: The Heart of Stone at Amazon.

====================
Duncan Long loves creating the artwork for fantasy novels like Machado’s The Heart of Stone. You can see more of his fantasy artwork in his Fantasy Artwork Gallery.

Tags: , , , ,

Comments Off on Audio Book Version of Stonewiser: The Heart of Stone

Cover Reveal for John Chadwell’s Legends and Liars

front cover illustration for John Chadwell's science fiction novel

I recently had the chance to create the cover artwork and layout for John Chadwell’s new science fiction novel Legends and Liars. It was a pretty straight-forward design job with an illustration that would reflect the idea that much of the story would take place in space. The lettering then “nailed” it as a science fiction novel. We used a “yellow” color scheme to give it a bit different look.

Chadwell’s sci-fi novel is a good read and available in both print and kindle formats.

=================
Duncan Long creates book covers for science fiction and fantasy novelists. You can see much more of his fantasy and science fiction artwork (as well as illustrations created for the covers of horror and action-adventure books) at Duncan Long’s Portfolio.

Tags: , , ,

Comments (1)

About That Weird New Art Director At Amazing Stories

Amazing Stories

It’s official. Visitors to the Amazing Stories website were told Sunday: “Duncan Long recently joined the staff at Amazing Stories as its Art Director.”

Let me answer two questions (you may, or may not be asking):

Yes, it is a great honor. It’s also a childhood dream come true given the influence science fiction has had on my life through the years, both in terms of entertainment as well as helping me earn a living with both a few sci-fi novels as well as illustration work.

No, I won’t be ending my writing and illustration work. Until Amazing Stories transitions to its print format, everything at the site is pretty much automated as far as the artwork is concerned with only an occasional need for serious art directing on my part. So for the time being, if you have a book or magazine in need of an illustration, my services are still available and I’d be happy to get that attention-grabbing picture you need for the cover rounded up for you.

Partly as a way to celebrate, and with the help of Amazing Stories‘ editor and owner Steve Davidson, we’ve made my fantasy graphic novel Witches and Fish (in pdf format) available for download or online viewing. So I’m hoping you’ll help me celebrate by downloading a copy for yourself or friends.

Witches and Fish Graphic Novel Cover by illustrator Duncan Long

Now — time to celebrate a little on my own! Yippee!

================================
Duncan Long is a long-time science fiction and fantasy fan — and now the new art director for Amazing Stories magazine. You can see more of his fantasy and sci-fi artwork and book illustrations at Duncan Long’s Online Gallery of Science Fiction and Fantasy Artwork.

Tags: , , , , , ,

Comments Off on About That Weird New Art Director At Amazing Stories

The Amazing Kreskin and Witches and Fish

The Amazing Kreskin - Reader of Witches and Fish

I about fell out of my chair today when this email came from The Amazing Kreskin himself — written after he’d finished reading my graphic novel Witches and Fish:

I just had the most remarkable experience of reading and viewing your book… This is the first time I have ever read a graphic novel and it will remain memorable that the novel was yours. A most intriguing mystical story and I have to tell you your artistry is absolutely brilliant. There were a number of scenes that I found myself moving back over perhaps 4 or 5 times. I compliment you on your gift…. I wish you continued success in your work.

ESPecially,
Kreskin

Wow!

All I can say is a big “THANK YOU” to Kreskin for reading my graphic novel and taking the time to write. He’s a very kind and generous entertainer, and it’s always a pleasure to see him perform on TV. And it’s a special treat when he takes the time from his extremely busy schedule to get in touch like this.

You can learn more about The Amazing Kreskin at AmazingKreskin.com.

And you can still (but not much longer) read Witches and Fish for free online at Scribd – Witches and Fish or you can order a print copy (with three times the detail as the web version) at Amazon.com.

Witches and Fish Graphic Novel Cover by illustrator Duncan Long
===============================
Duncan Long is a writer/illustrator who created the graphic novel Witches and Fish as well as the illustrations for the graphic novel The Werewolves of New Idria (written by John Chadwell). You can see more of Long’s artwork for free at Duncan Long’s Illustration Gallery.

Tags: , , , , , ,

Comments (3)

K. Rowe’s Sci-Fi Adventure Space Available Now Available

K Rowe science fiction novel picture by book cover artist Duncan Long

K. Rowe’s Sci-Fi Adventure Space Available in a Kindle version as well as print.

As I prepared to create this book cover illustration, it presented a rather odd problem; one of the central elements for the cover (and one of the running jokes in the plot line) is an alien artifact that looks like a giant tin can. One might think having a common thing like that to illustrate would be a breeze. And in some ways it was. But the catch is that it is supposed to be bus-sized. So if care isn’t taken, the results can either look like the perspective is horribly wrong or that a human-sized character is the proverbial knee-high to a grasshopper.

Worse, during the first draft of the cover artwork, the artist (me) didn’t realize the “can” was huge rather than a regular-sized tin can. So my first stab at the book cover produced an alien artifact that was out of scale by about a factor of about 100.

Ooopsss moment with a book cover picture

After this ooopppsss moment (which likely either rewarded my client with screams of fear or laughter upon seeing the results — hopefully the latter), I went back to the drawing board and put the “can” into the distance so its size would allow it to be seen in its totality, and also allow for the landscape to give a feel that it was distant (rather than close with a tiny ant-sized guy in the foreground). To give the eye another clue to size, I added some tracks in the sand leading off toward it. At this point the character was also turned slightly to offer more of a profile view. Additionally his leather jacket was painted in at this point, with the design having a subtle “sci-fi” look to it.

Kathy Rowe book cover artwork for science fiction novel

Now we were in the ballpark with the cover layout and character, though things weren’t quite there just yet.

To give the idea that the distant object was more than just some alien Quonset hut, we decided to add a “power surge” glow (which occurs in the story) at the base of the artifact and also reduce the size of the sand dune around it. Additionally, I moved the guy to the front right of the illustration to put him in the spot where the eye tends to settle when looking at the picture.

The trick here was flipping the background but keeping the character in the same orientation and moving him to the right so his injured droopy ear could remain facing the viewer (his other ear according to the story being upright like a Vulcan’s). I also made the footprints more noticeable to further cue the eye to the size of the distant artifact.

The result was what became the final cover illustration:

Kathy Rowe final book cover picture

Adding the tracks also told a little “story”: The character had been visiting the artifact, and now was walking away. The sky with twin moons helps complete the science fiction feel so a reader can instantly identify the genre of the story when glancing at the book cover illustration.

The only other hurtle in this project was matching the character’s face to pictures of him in the previous novels in the series, as well as making him conform to the text descriptions in this and previous books in the series. So during the process of creating the cover, the original character sketch I made (shown below on the left) was gradually modified into its final configuration (on the right). Fortunately such work is pretty straightforward with digital paintings like this where the character is in a layer by himself so he could be easily modified without changing the sky or other features around him.

Science fiction character sketch and final version

And that’s the cover illustration. The client cropped the illustration slightly, added lettering, and the cover was good to go.

The story is pretty amazing and most science fiction fans will love this book.

Here’s the “blurb” about it:

Book Three of Dar’s Adventures in Space. Captain Dar Meltom sets his sights on a mission of utmost importance. With the stolen Plexus in the cargo bay of the Marsuian, he heads to Satiris, the planet of his ancestors. Once there, he encounters dangerous creatures, and Lukxia, the last purebred Satiren female on the planet. Dar deploys the Plexus, hoping it will bring Satiris back to life. Rather than keeping Lukxia as a second mate, he presents this most precious gift to Krodus, his long-time worst enemy, now friend. But that’s not enough adventure for Dar.

Lurking not far from Erotis is a wormhole. It’s the very one that brought his father Edward Meltom, Earthling astronaut, to the Ontarrin Galaxy. The explorer in Dar wants to find his father. So together with his mate, Parnela, and Schmuff his Nouian engineer, they tempt fate and enter the wormhole.

What awaits them is anything but a warm Earthling welcome.

If you’re a science fiction fan wanting a “good read,” check out Rowe’s novel. You can read a couple of chapters for free with the “look inside” feature at Amazon. Just be forewarned: Once you start reading, you’re going to be hooked — and entertained for the next few hours as you read the rest of the story.

———————————
Duncan Long is a book cover artist who sometimes has trouble deciding what the apparent size of alien artifacts should be. You can find more of his science fiction book cover illustrations at Duncan Long’s Online Portfolio.

Tags: , , , , ,

Comments (2)

Stuart Jaffe’s Southern Belle In Print (& Electrons)

Final book cover illustration and layout for paranormal mystery novel Southern Belle

The third book in Stuart Jaffe’s Max Porter paranormal mystery series is now out. The mystery Southern Belle can be found at Amazon in both Kindle and print formats.

There were several interesting challenges in creating this book cover illustration. Foremost was the need to make it appear similar to the previous two book illustrations in the series. In this case, that meant keeping most if not all of the picture on the left side of the front cover and making the color and main character consistent with the previous covers, yet making it all enough different so that a casual observer wouldn’t mistake this new book as one of the previous titles.

3 book cover illustrations by artist Duncan Long

So basically, we had the design equivalent of walking a tight rope. Only with a delete key in case we fell into the lions’ cage below.

Fortunately keeping things different was fairly simple this go around because there would be a ghostly lady to go with the detective specter who had appeared on the previous two books. That proved true — except for the “fairly simple” part.

Here was the first stab at the task:

Jaffe Southern Belle early cover layout with character's legs in the frame

Our first idea was a “Hello, Mrs. Robinson” shot (for those who remember The Graduate movie poster). It was a good idea, but didn’t work perfectly for two reasons: First, a bright glow was needed to make the legs stand out, and that drew too much attention away from the detective. And without the glow and because of the “everything on the left” layout limitation, the legs looked as if they might be growing from the detective in some horrible resurrection gone wrong — not the look we were aiming for.

Back to the drawing board.

Next came:

Jaffe Southern Belle book cover illustration

While the gal in this sketch had too much color for the palette we were working with, this experiment suggested the idea would work. The only catch was that there was no real interaction between the characters. So…

Jaffe-Southern Belle with flipped gal doing some business

As can be seen, I flipped the picture over and then painted in a hand/arm to reach up toward the detective. Originally she held his tie, but space limitations proved too small for her to grasp his tie. Fortunately the painting was digital, so it was a snap to move the gal over a tad to play with the detectives right coat collar instead of his tie. By adjusting the gal’s apparent height, we were able to put her elbow into the space in the lettering — almost as if that had been the plan from book one. One of those happy little coincidences that one is sometimes blessed with during layout. The interplay of her holding his collar not only brought the characters together but also hinted at the intimacy that would be part of the storyline.

A little comparison between the two versions of the gal also shows how I revamped her jewelry, hair, and dress for a closer match to the story (which had her based in the 1940s).

At this point we were almost finished. The author felt our lady needed to look a bit more decayed on the left side of her face (the viewer’s right) as well as having her hair on that side appear like she’d been in the grave for some time.

These last changes led to the final version of the Southern Belle cover illustration:

Jaffe-SouthernBelle FINAL version of the book cover illustration

As this illustration suggests, Jaffe’s Southern Belle is a very different story.

Here’s a quote to give you a feel for just how strange (and intriguing) the story concept is:

Max thought he had enough trouble dealing with one witch in Winston-Salem. But a new case brings to light an entire coven of witches.

Angry, cursed, dead witches.

Lucky for Max he has the aid of his partner, the ghost of 1940s detective Marshall Drummond, and his sharp-witted wife, Sandra. Together, they’ll face enemies at every turn, and things only get worse when the mysterious Hull family and the FBI start poking into Max’s life. He’ll need all his team can give with a case that involves the theft of a cursed bell, dark magic, spirit possession, and ghastly murders.

All in all, just another day at the office for Max Porter.

You can read more from Southern Belle with the “look inside” feature at Amazon.

Or, better yet, take a look and buy the book. It’s a good read and if you want a mystery with a twist, this is it.

======================
Duncan Long is a writer/illustrator who loves the challenge of creating book cover artwork to match the plots of novels. You can see more of his artwork and illustrations at Duncan Long’s Portfolio.

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Comments (4)

A Win/Win Solution to Ebook Piracy

Duncan Long suggests a new way to help authors by transforming ebooks and piracy.

For many authors, piracy is killing their careers. This is especially true with some genres like science fiction and horror where an author may see 10,000 downloads of a pirated title with only a few hundred sales (and sadly I’m not exaggerating with these numbers). While all those pirated copies don’t translate into lost sales, some of them do.

What if there were a way to transform those pirated copy downloads into “sales” that put money into an author’s pocket?

If that were to happen, the piracy issue would be stood on its head. Authors, instead of issuing take-down notices, making threats, and generally cursing the theft, would encourage folks to “steal my book.” Abruptly there’d be a shift of publishers, authors, and even government agencies from attempting to limit the downloading of free ebooks to encouraging such downloads and file sharing.

This isn’t pie in the sky.

There are several models that could do this.

One has already been used. A few years back, WOWIO offered all the ebooks at its site for FREE — with the authors of each book getting paid for each free download. While this sounds impossible, it was made practical by placing a few pages of ads in each book. Advertisers basically paid for the cost of distribution and royalties. WOWIO pocketed a bit for its services and the readers got a free ebook to read.

Everyone was happy.

Sadly WOWIO was a bit ahead of its time and also used the PDF format when Kindle and others employed other ebook files for their books. Thus WOWIO failed to get enough readers and sponsors to make its project viable. Since then the company has gone back to selling ebooks, with only a very few promo books available for free.

But the model has the potential to negate the “theft” aspects of piracy through free ebooks, and as such is worth considering.

To make this model work over the entire ebook industry, all that’s needed is a mechanism to “count” eyeballs viewing an ad. Then the stage will be set for authors/publishers to get paid for their work and readers to get free or low-cost ebooks.

Such a system wouldn’t require rocket science to put in place. It would be much more than an afterthought with today’s technology.

But such a tracking system isn’t essential. The tracking could even be “low tech” with just a slightly different payment model. Advertisers could employ an old trick used by mail-order businesses for almost a century now. When someone buys a product, they supply the advertiser with a code keyed to the ebook the ad appears in. The minute the advertiser gets an order, he would know what ad/ebook generated the order.

With mail order this is done with the old “Department” so and so added to the advertiser’s address. The “Department” actually is a code telling what issue of a magazine or newspaper the ad appeared in. For example, “Dept. 6SW” might be used to designate the June issue of Short Wave magazine — thus when the guy at the ad desk saw “Dept. 6SW” he knew where the ad that generated the order had come from. A slightly more complex system used with ebooks could generate a “per sale” royalty to be paid to the author and publisher.

To be sure advertisers didn’t cheat, the ads could be sent first to the publisher to record and then on to the advertiser so the order could be filled. Again, the more ebooks/ads the author gets out there, the greater the chance of orders being made, and the greater the earnings potential of each free ebook that is downloaded.

Of course for display ads for big-ticket items like cars, TVs, or what-have-you, this system wouldn’t work. In such cases the models used today with magazine and TV ads would be used; basically the publisher would keep track of how many ebooks were downloaded from the various torrent and file-sharing sites (or perhaps these numbers would even be sent via these sites in exchange for the publisher releasing new titles directly to the sites). These display numbers would then be presented to advertisers as “circulation numbers” with payments figured according to how many eyeballs the ad had reached.

So even a hundred-year-old tracking system or the current system used by TV and magazines could make the free ebook work for authors/publishers and advertisers.

What’s the downside?

Well, not much if at all once the system is up and running.

Sure, there are a few readers (I won’t call them “snobs” but…) who might object to ads in books. However ads regularly appeared in paperbacks in the 1950s and 1960s and no one objected. People are used to seeing ads everywhere and readers will soon become accustomed to a few pages of ads in their ebooks.

Don’t think so?

Well, I’d bet those who object the loudest to the notion of ads in ebooks right now most likely thumb through magazines or read newspapers (all loaded with more ads than articles) without complaint. Basically it just depends on what we’re used to.

Additionally, once readers understand that a “free” ebook is paid for by advertising, they won’t think twice about a few ads in a free book (and if they do, authors can sell ad-free ebooks to them with a price tag that reflects the difference to such customers). I suspect a few “this page of ads made your book free” public service notices could easily win most readers over.

Now, consider the transformation the free-with-ads-ebook model could make: If ebooks become free with ads that can be tracked and counted, each copy that’s read would make the author and publisher money (and the advertiser as well through more sales of their product) — even if it is distributed on what are now pirate sites.

Overnight torrents and other pirate sites would be helping authors rather than hurting them.

And the pirate sites — also ad supported — likely would make more money as well since the traffic to the sites would increase as folks realized they could download free ebooks without guilt. No longer would there be any stigma attached to free downloads and file sharing. No more government threats to close the sites and jail the owners. Piracy would be transformed into a way to actually help authors who are offering the reading entertainment we have grown to love and want.

Additionally, the poor could have also have access to just as many books as the rich now do. The system would be a great economic leveler, placing ebooks into the hands of people all around the world for free — while still helping authors and publishers.

This system would basically be a win/win/win/win/win situation (I may have left out some win’s, but you get the idea).

My only question is this: Will enough readers, publishers, authors, and advertisers be brave enough to make this work?

Stay tuned….

============================
Duncan Long is a writer/illustrator whose worked in the publishing industry for decades, with nearly 100 of his books published including 12 novels with HarperCollins. Often vexed by the piracy of his books, he currently makes his living mostly as a book cover illustrator for publishers and indie authors. See his book cover pictures at Duncan Long’s Portfolio of Book Cover Artwork.

Tags: , ,

Comments (4)

About the Emotions In a Pretty Face

Great Hexe nightfall z book cover art by illustrator Duncan Long

I often have folks tell me that I’ve captured the emotions of a character created for a book cover perfectly. Or that I’ve created a really pretty face on a character. There are a few tricks to make such things happen. And they aren’t quite what you might think they’d be. In fact, there’s a bit counter intuitive.

I’ve found that often people “see” the features different actors in my illustrations. Sometimes that makes sense because there is a resemblance. But often different viewers actually see very different “faces” in the pictures. For example, when I get finished with a character, I may think, “Man, I hope that doesn’t look too much like” so-and-so. And then a client who sees it will say, “That’s great — I see you made her a little like” some other actor. And then my wife will come into my studio, look at the monitor, and says, “Does that look too much like” a third actor. Same face. Three different “looks” according to which person is studying it.

So often there’s to be a tendency to see what we expect or perhaps want to see sometimes.

With women’s faces, there’s another oddity: The less defined the face, the more “beautiful” it will be perceived by most people (I’m not sure if this is true with the male face — the only study I’ve seen on this used women’s faces). For example, the “prettiest” face an artist can create is just two eyes/eyebrows, nostrils, and lips. Now when you think about encountering such a person in real life, that minimum of features would be terrifying!

But most people “see” a beautiful face instead.

Hollywood took advantage of this for years by putting gauze or Vaseline on lens to “soften” female faces. (More recently the high definition has taken female actresses in a disastrous direction, showing all their skin imperfections when the camera closes in. One movie is said to cause gasps in the audience when a closeup of a gal’s face shows nose hairs. Too much detail is sometimes detrimental.)

A third psychological “mind trick” I often work with is that when people are presented with photos and look at them for an extended time, they tend to see the expression change on a face. It doesn’t change of course. But the mind perceives the face as making subtle changes. My contention (and I have no proof for this) is that the mind also tends to “shift” expressions in the direction it wants to see them go. For this reason I often make my faces as expressionless as possible so people will tend to “read” the expressions they’re wanting to see in them. I think this works — but have no proof.

For the same reason, I try to make facial expressions subtle so they can easily be “dragged” by the viewer’s mind into the configuration they want to see. At least that’s my theory.

Well… I’ll quit now before giving away all my trade secrets.

======================
Duncan Long is a professional book cover illustrator who likes to play with people’s minds. See more of his book cover artwork — including faces with strange emotions and beauty — at: Duncan Long’s Portfolio

Tags: , ,

Comments Off on About the Emotions In a Pretty Face

Reworking Eleanor of Aquitaine

Eleanor of Aquitaine book cover illustration by Duncan Long for a book by Robert Fripp

One of this week’s illustration projects was to rework and update my illustration of Eleanor of Aquitaine that I did seven years ago for a historic book written by Robert Fripp.

The original book cover project was tricky because the only recorded “picture” of Eleanor of Aquitaine was a medieval statue along with some contemporary written descriptions of her (which mentioned her riveting blue eyes).

So no little thought had to be given as to how much was “her” and how much the style of the times. Then she had to look like an actual human being AND ideally attractive — but no cheating to make her look more attractive than she likely was. So lots of hair splitting and “cultural archeology” to determine what she must have looked like. (Hopefully the results were close. But I guess we’ll not know until we all get to Heaven as the old hymn goes.)

Since I did the original picture, I’ve got a bit better at creating realistic faces, so this week’s work mostly had to do with enhancing her skin tone and texture as well as reworking some of her crown — and a bunch of time getting the folds on her scarf under the crown more realistic.

Hopefully it will meet with the art director’s approval.

You can find out more about Robert Fripp’s book here: Power of a Woman. Memoirs of a turbulent life: Eleanor of Aquitaine

======================
Duncan Long is a professional book cover artist and graphic designer. See more of his book cover pictures at: DuncanLong.com

Tags: , , , , , ,

Comments (1)