Drawn to the Vampire, Part 7

I took a longer break than expected since my last Drawn to the Vampire post, though that one was met with an overwhelmingly positive reception on the interwebs. Facebook, Twitter, DeviantArt, Instagram–I still get notices from people telling me how much they liked it (including Christian Camargo, the subject of the illustration!!). OK, I’m boasting a bit, and I rarely do that. But it felt good. Moving on…

These last couple of months have been busy for me. We moved into a new house in July, and since then we’ve had numerous friends and family come to visit from the Midwest and beyond (meaning, when they come, they’re here for a while–no complaints we’ve had a blast!). We also rescued a new dog (yay!), but we don’t get to keep him (awe–he’s just not the right fit for a house with young kids). In addition, I’ve been working on a novella intended to be a companion piece to my first novel, and I’m happy to say that I’m well over half-way done. I’d love to have the first draft done by the end of this month, but we’ll see how much life I can continue to ignore to see that through. Ah, the life of a writer…

But, back to the vampires. That’s why you’re here, right? This latest addition to my list of favorite pop culture vampires is another classic. Her story predates Dracula by more than 25 years and it very likely influenced Bram Stoker‘s writing. For the uninitiated, I’d like you to meet…

Carmilla

mi-vampire_carmilla

Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu was an Irish writer and the author of the novella Carmilla about a young female vampire, set in central Europe. In addition to being a vampiric precursor to Dracula, it’s also presented as a casebook of Dr. Hesselius (along with four other tales in Le Fanu’s In a Glass Darkly), and while the doctor is not presented in the same manner as Stoker’s vampire hunter, Dr. Van Helsing, Le Fanu’s character is recognized as being the first occult doctor to appear in literature.

Le Fanu’s Carmilla is also noted for its homosexual themes, though its lesbian tone and nature are quite tame compared to the standards of today. The story begins from the perspective of a young girl named Laura, who lives with her father in a forested castle in Styria where she longs for companionship from a girl her own age. An unfortunate carraige accident leaves the stranded Carmilla in the care of Laura’s father, and the two girls seem to recognize one another from a shared childhood dream.

I’ve read this story numerous times, in both written and audiobook format. With Halloween approaching (about two weeks away as I write this), the mood always strikes me for a classic piece of gothic horror. I’ve tried watching theatrical versions of the tale, but I’ve yet to find one that had any substance. The modern producers and directors want to make it a tale of lesbian eroticism, and that’s just not what the story was. Don’t get me wrong, the lesbian tones do exist in the book, but they’re suggestive at best, and in the most heated instance quite mild. Do not turn to this novella if you’re looking for some late-night erotica–trust me, you’ll be disappointed. I should correct myself and say that there’s a YouTube series based on the book (a modern retelling) and it’s been met with a fair amount of praise. Check it out.

As far as my illustration goes, I struggled with it for months–quite literally. Looking through my digital archives, it was late May when I began working on this, and mid-June when I left off (and here we are, mid-October). I did two early versions of the illustration before I settled on a third, which is what you see here. Evelyn Nesbit, who was idealized in the early 1900s as a Gibson Girl, was the initial model for the illustration, though I felt she appeared a bit too old for the teenage Carmilla. I’m quite happy with the end result of this digital poster, though I have no desire to spend this much time on a future post.

That’s it for today. If you’re a fan of gothic horrors (and, like me, a fan of Showtime’s Penny Dreadful), you should definitely check out Carmilla, available here as a free download. And if vampires are your thing, perhaps you’ll give my own book a shot–The Well of Gilgamesh: A Wampyr Novel is available at Amazon.com. Get your copy today! [star fade]

RIP, Prince

We lost the Purple Rocker today. Pretty sad. This isn’t a bandwagon post; I didn’t just become a fan following his death. Though I currently live in Seattle, I spent the last 13 years in Minneapolis, and it’s hard not to be influenced by Prince and the impact he had on the music scene of the Twin Cities.

I won’t lie; I was a fan, but hardly obsessed. I never went to a party at Paisley Park, nor did I attend one of his concerts. But man, he was a talent. My appreciation for him started with the 1989 soundtrack to Tim Burton’s Batman movie. I had the cassette, and I listened to that thing endlessly. It was my favorite tape. Whenever the Batdance video came on MTV (back when they still played a thing called “music videos”) I would stop what I was doing and watch. I’ve seen the future and it will be…

That was some good sh!t.

As a tribute, I decided to put together this poster graphic.

Mi Prince

Lots of purple there. A bit of First Avenue‘s star wall in the background. They’re doing an All Night Dance Party this Saturday, April 23rd (NO COVER!) to honor him. That’s frickin’ awesome–wish I could be there for that. But damn, this is so sad.

A friend of mine, angvogt, once told me a story about driving past Prince’s mansion with a friend, and there appeared to be an open house going on. They proceeded to park their car and enter his home to see what was going on. Security stopped them at the front door (it wasn’t an open house). They were politely turned away, but apparently even the entryway to his home was every bit as purple as you’d assume.

My cousin Brad once managed a Subway restaurant–I believe in Edina–and he recounted a time when Prince and his entourage arrived just after closing one night (1 or 2 in the morning). A gentleman–presumably a body guard–knocked on the door and informed them that Prince had a craving for a sub. My cousin, not the type to be starstruck by anyone, assessed the situation and decided to let him in. Afterall, they hadn’t yet broken down their equipment (I really don’t know if he would have allowed Prince in had they already put things away). Of course, I was fascinated by his story, so I asked him what Prince was like. His response? “Short.” He’s a man of few words, my cousin. 🙂

And finally, here’s a great video of him jumping on stage for a guitar solo. Dude could rock. RIP, Prince. You’re already missed. UPDATE: I had to change the previous video I posted after seeing this one. Much better representation of the Purple One’s skill. Credit to Jamie Penick for posting this on his own Facebook page.

And the Winner Is…

It looks as those Design #5 was the favorite! The results are posted below.

THE WINNER

Here are the results:

Results

I don’t mind telling you, I’m surprised by the results. I intentionally witheld my personal preferences so as not to skew the results, but my personal favorite (as well as that of my wife) came in last: the White cover. The response to that one seemed to be that the text was a tad difficult to read, which I understand.

My second favorite did, in fact, come in second. The fedora in the blood-drenched alleyway with the torn cover was an early concept that I still love, and fully intend to use in terms of self-promotion (as is evident by my blog and twitter headers).

The “well” design on black was one of the first ideas that I had, and franky, I included that for sentimental reasons. I have a specific promo idea in mind for that graphic, but frankly, I didn’t really expect that place highly in the poll (third ain’t bad, though!).

The fedora in the alley with the blood-text was a decent fourth, and again, I feel it was the difficult-to-read “Gilgamesh” text that prevented that one from rating higher.

But the winner of the lot is the most shocking to me, being the simplest of the designs. I took inspiration from a couple of other book covers, both of which were equally simple, and utilized a minimalist’s color pallete. From a purely psychological standpoint, it makes sense. It’s not really a secret that in marketing the color red has long been used to garner attention. That was the design most commented on, with the comments typically being, “If I saw that on a book shelf, that’s the one I’d be drawn to.”

I still plan to create posters, postcards, and book marks as promotional material, so I have a feeling each of these designs will still see the light of day in one form or another. I want to take a moment to thank everyone for stopping by my blog or Instagram account to share your views and votes for this project. Again, I will elaborate on the nature and content of the book itself in the very near future. I have a little tweaking to do to the book cover before I go live, but I will let you all know when the book is finally available for purchase.

Until then, I encourage you to follow my blog, twitter, and instagram accounts. I’ll have an official author page on Facebook soon enough, as well as an offical website to promote my book. If everything works out, this will be my first of many novels. This is an exciting journey that I’m embarking upon, and I’m thrilled to have all of you along for the ride!

Judge My Book By Its Cover

I wrote a book.

The Well of Gilgamesh: A Wampyr Novel.

There’s so much I want to tell you about it–about its inception, about the blood, sweat, and tears that went into it. I want to tell you about the story itself, how it evolved, how it came to be what it is today. But before all of that, I need something from you.

Your judgment.

“Don’t judge a book by its cover,” they say. But that’s exactly what I’m asking of you. I’m going to give you a brief summary of the book, but other than that, I just want to show you a few cover designs. Below, you’ll find five different options that I designed, all of which speak to me on different levels in regards to the book’s content, and I want you–my friends, family, and virtual  acquaintances–to help me pick the best cover for my novel.

Which of these covers speaks to you the most? Which book, if you were to see it on the shelf at your favorite book store, would inspire you to reach out to it, to peek beneath the cover and inquire as to its contents?

After examining each of the five virtual mock-ups, at the bottom of the page you’ll see the poll. Simply click and submit. It really is that simple.

But first, here’s what it’s all about:

When Ayden finally has the chance to confront his obsessive fan—the man in the red-feathered fedora—he seizes it, though it may be the worse decision of his life. It isn’t long before a dark and deadly picture emerges; his were the stories whispered by candlelight, the reason darkness is feared. He calls himself Hendrik, and he is a vampire.
Hendrik claims lineage to a pre-Sumerian tribe of naturalists who discovered the key to perpetual life through artificial selection, splicing a new branch onto mankind’s evolutionary tree: a breed of humans born into darkness, fueled by bloodlust, and living the lives of gods, laying the groundwork for the earliest surviving work of literature, The Epic of Gilgamesh. Hendrik’s interest in Ayden is unclear, but when a centuries-old feud is reignited, a bloody turf war ensues and Ayden is unwittingly drawn into a nightmarish world of feral cannibals and preternatural carnage.
Set against the turbulent winter of Minnesota’s Twin Cities, The Well of Gilgamesh: A Wampyr Novel is a briskly paced story that combines ancient mythology and a remarkable modern scientific theory into a vivid and stirring tale of one vampire’s mysterious fixation on a local musician and another’s desire to repopulate the frozen metropolis with a new, deadlier breed of vampire.

And now, onto the covers. Behold…

Cover 1: Fedora, Blood TextCover 1 Mockup

Cover 2: Fedora, Torn PaperCover 2 Mockup

Cover 3: Blood Splatter on WhiteCover 3 Mockup

Cover 4: Stone WellCover 4 Mockup

Cover 5: Red Background (Modern, Minimalist)Cover 5 Mockup

OK, now that you’ve seen the concepts, take the following poll and let me know which is your favorite cover. Just click the button next to the cover that you like the best, then click VOTE at the bottom of the poll. Perhaps you’re torn between one design or another, and if that’s the case, by all means leave a comment. Your opinions are not only welcome, they’re encouraged! Some of you are my art and design comrades, so please, let the opinions fly! The results will be posted next week.

The release date for my novel will be posted within the next few weeks. Follow my blog to stay up to date. Feeling altruistic? By all means, tell EVERYONE YOU KNOW about my blog and my book! Thanks for stopping by!

Lite ‘Em Up Washington

Last, but not least, Lite ‘Em Up Washington! (Again, check the first post for details on this set of posters). This was not on the commission list. In the late summer of 2015, I moved from the Twin Cities to the Seattle area, and in light of the move, I decided to do a version of the Cheech and Chong poster for the great state of Washington. It’s particularly appropriate since Washington is one of the few states where the recreational use of marijuana is actaully LEGAL. Not that I partake–it’s just not for me–but I will absolutely defend anyone’s right to do so. I’ve said it before; toke ’em if you got ’em.

If you live in the Seattle area and you’re not a Seahawks fan, shame on you. At least, that’s what any Seahawks fan will tell you. Seriously. I thought Vikings fans were obsessive. Anyway, I figured I better incorporate the Seahawks colors into this one. A couple other icons of Seattle include Pike Place Market with their recognizable signage, the Space Needle (of course), and Seattle’s very own Nirvana (and it’s always cloudy in Seattle). And of course, since this is the only one of the designs I’ve done where it’s actually legal to toke in the given location, I had to include the tagline, “IT’S THE LAW.” Let’s just say that it wasn’t difficult to turn this one into a location-specific poster.

CC WA Poster

I particularly enjoy the smoking salmon bong that Chong is holding. Get it? Smoked salmon? Puns are great, aren’t they?

And that’s all she wrote. As I mentioned when I posted the first of these designs, the final concept that they ended up using was a very neutral version of my original concept, so these more elaborate versions never saw the light of day. Sad, I know. But that’s why I’m sharing them here. Who knows, though. Maybe they’ll decide to revisit them and we’ll get to actually print some of these. One can only hope. But I have plenty of other designs to share, and I’m constantly creating more. And check back soon, as my big vampire reveal is just around the corner!

Lite ‘Em Up Nebraska

Number four in my Cheech and Chong poster series (which all began here).

This one went through a few changes before we settled on this design. Initially Cheech wore an oversized cowboy hat, similar to the Nebraska Husker‘s mascot, Herbie Husker, but that was deemed too proprietary. I think they could have gotten away with it (I left off the “N” and used a slightly different style of hat), but it’s not my decision. I’m happy with the trucker’s hat with the embroidered pot leaf, so this works, too. Personally, I really like Chong‘s corncob pipe and country-boy bibs. Yee-haw.

CC NE Poster

I’ll keep this one nice and short; you’re coming here for the images, after all. This particular design resonated with me, only because my hometown highschool team utilized the same school colors, along with the “N” (Nashua Bulldogs–GO BIG RED!), and Nashua, Iowa, is smack dab in the middle of northeast Iowa’s farming country. Maybe I’ll tweak this in the future to “Lite ‘Em Up Nashua.” Maybe.

One more left, and the next one is just a design I did for fun. Come on back now, ya hear!

Light ‘Em Up Kansas

I took a break from my Cheech and Chong posts yesterday to address a weighty issue. The gravity of the situation demanded it. Personally, I feel the post was loaded with brilliance. It was, dare I say, genuis. But I’ve wasted enough time discussing the past. And though time is relative, I feel we should move on.

Rock, Chalk, Lite ‘Em Up!

The third of my Cheech and Chong posters is for the state of Kansas (see the story behind the posters here).

I don’t want to lie to you, my wonderful and trusting readers; I do not follow many (or more accurately any) sports. But as my boss informed me as I was originally working on this one, the University of Kansas Jayhawks fans have a “Rock Chalk Chant” that they, well, chant at Jayhawks games. I’m not going to go into details here. If you’re interested in that, check their wiki. Regardless, it seemed appropriate enough to incorporate into the design.

Since I don’t follow sports, I struggled with how to make this one appropriately “sports-related” to a local Kansas team, so I basically made Cheech and Chong look like obsessed fans, with a team-colored wig and painted face (along with the outline of the state of Kansas behind them).

CC KS Poster

I don’t really know if this would resonate with Jayhawks fans, but I find it wonderfully amusing. I hope you do to. That’s all for now. Two left, so check back soon!