How the Dinotopia Fantasy Book Series Saved Me

Breathe Deep, Seek Peace.

I know. I know. It isn’t Harry Potter, or Wheel of Time, or the Lord of the Rings, or the Dresden Files. It’s… dare I say… better?*

This post comes on the coattails of a delightful tweet where a class of students is reading Nic Stone’s Dear Martin, and one student’s reaction to an important part of the book. It warmed my heart so much to watch, and I immediately remembered when I was that age, or younger, and the series of books that hit me in the emotional space.

James Gurney - Design Heard 6

The book series was called Dinotopia, written in 1992 by James Gurney, surrounding a fictional island in the 1800’s where intelligent dinosaurs and people coexisted peacefully. The series began with three books that artfully depicted delicious, crisp scenes reminiscent of 1950’s art, da Vinci-esque machinery, and vibrant clothes, all surrounding a cast that felt almost small-town in nature; salt-of-the-earth folks. The colorful books won Hugo awards, and were apparently super successful.

And, I didn’t own either of the three of them. I read the first two, piecemeal, at Waldenbooks (rest its soul) because they were too expensive for me to buy. I randomly came across them at friends’ houses, but was too uncomfortable mentioning it because it was fantasy, and fantasy was fake.

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Of Earth and Blood (excerpt), Chapter 1

Yeah. Soren crawled down that hole.

Yeah. Soren crawled down that hole.

(Pulled out the ol’ second book for a spell, just to see how the two stories lined up. I’ve done a lot of rewriting of the first novel. I

decided to post it here. It is a long, 4k excerpt, and only half of the first chapter. You are warned. lol)

If you spend enough time talking to your shadow, your shadow talks back. Not that anybody listens.

My toes touched carpet that touched sand, a salt-sea breeze drifting through cinderblock walls. The sun filtered hot through rafters. Two chairs waited, one wedged between a pair of identical full-length mirrors.

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Where I Find My Character Inspiration

It all starts with a sketch...

It all starts with a sketch…

Not sure if I’ve written about this before, but with current events in Ferguson only a few miles from where I live, I figured I’d reinstate where I find inspiration.

The really short answer is: everywhere. I mean, I’m a creative guy. I love people. I’m full of inspiration. Boom managed. Short-blog readers rejoice. 🙂

There’s a longer answer to this that I feel I must elaborate upon. Come! Follow me down this little path. Continue reading

Guest Post: Emily Russell

*Taken with implicit implication and con permisso de Emily Russell.

*Taken with implicit implication and con permisso de Emily Russell.

I haven’t been on this blogosphere for very long–two months, give or take? During this time I’ve had the good fortune to get to know quite the charismatic and compelling writer. Given tomorrow (11/13/14) she will have her very first novel (Aurian and Jin: A Love Story) available for purchase, I decided it’d be nice to get to know her a little better VIA A GAUNTLET OF FLAMING SWORDS.

Oh. Didn’t pay gas last month. I guess this questionnaire will have to do.

First off, I think she’s awesome. She writes my brand of conflict, my brand of fantasy. Anyway. Onward.

?) Before we get down to serious business, tell us a little about yourself. I’d love to hear about hobbies, passions, foci outside the book writing business. Anything you want to share.

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Nautilus Book Update

Cover art for the novel.

(Possible) Cover art for the novel.

I’ve been pretty busy lately, what with having an extended leave from work. It’s been a rough few weeks, but given my veins pump ink half the time, I’ve been writing more and more.

Between proofing Of Salt and Wine (50 pages left!), I’ve been working on an autobiographical-type book on Scrivener–decided to break the program in–while pushing forward with my Nautilus high fantasy novel. A short excerpt of what I wrote earlier today:

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Book Review: The Magicians by Lev Grossman

The Magicians Cover Art

The Magicians Cover Art (and it looks like, the audiobook cover art)

The Magicians is a novel about what-ifs, about magic and its consequences when poorly wielded, and what I’d argue every single reader has ever wished at one point in his life to do: escape reality and go somewhere else. In this case, it’s a place somewhere in New York, called Brakebills, and it’s a school of magic. Fun. Yes, there will be spoilers. Continue reading

Book Cover Ideas

 

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So I’ve recently seen some other fantasy writers’ cover art (Aurian and Jin, among others) and it’s got me actively thinking about my own.

I’ve spend the past four years considering this book cover idea, and I’ve had several “THAT’S IT!” moments. To be perfectly frank, if this book were a baby, I’d’ve had two false labors and two botched C-Sections. Yeah. Nothing about this enjoyable piece is coming along smoothly. Actually, I’ve come to think of it more as a Pinocchio than a real boy. I redid that poor boy’s left forearm more times than anything else…

So the title was a really, really long process. The words themselves took half of Mr. King’s so-called million words, and the cover art is no better than anything else. I’m not sure if I have many followers, or watchers, or whatever, still interested in this webpage, but I want to run it by people, and if interested, you could leave your vote on your favorite book cover idea.

The tagline for the book is “Soren has run from his demons all his life, but when a priest begs him for help, he can’t help but take up arms against those in the Astral who would go to war against him. And this time? The demons are real.”

Three sentences. Yeah whatever. Given it’s book one in a series of seven (I like series of seven. I don’t know why.), It’s got a few themes. Titles, for instance. This novel is named “Of Salt and Wine,” because those are the symbols/tools most connected with the evil he fights. Book two is “Of Earth and Blood,” and so on. It’s taken from one of the lines he says in the book, 2/3rds of the way through: “Those of Salt and Wine, I come for you.” Kind of like a war cry, I guess. It was originally called “It Gave Me a Name,” because his darkness, yes, a character, gives him the name of a demon. I liked the rhythm, but it had too many words. People would get confused, I thought, so I strived to be more and more simple in my idea. It perhaps could even end up as “Salt and Wine,” although I absolutely love the “Of” at the beginning, as if it were part of a much larger thought. Which it is.

So the book cover should be as important. I began this project with the idea of a layout of symbols or tools, a la Game of Thrones or Guy Gavriel Kay’s novels. Book one would have a series of thirteen horizontal staves, or several pieces of jewelry, or better yet, a vintage 1800’s tattoo of skulls and vines and whatever the evil looks like. Several experts added their thoughts, stating the best way to sell a fantasy is to depict a scene from the book on the cover, with Magic: The Gathering-esque card art for the cover, similar to the Wheel of Time books. It would most likely have Soren standing in a septagram on the altar of a church while a big read, Diablo-inspired demon pours green liquid into a played priest’s throat. I like those ideas, but I’m thinking a little more traditional. Something I could lay out for all seven books in the series, with small but connective variations. In fact, I’ve already rough-draft finished book two. I’m that serious about this stuff.

So, I’ll run through a handful of ideas. If any single one presents more of a visceral response, please please please say something about it. I don’t mind if you’ve never been here before and are never coming back. I’d absolutely love the feedback.

1) Horizontal (or vertical) staves, all of different woods, straight, like prison bars

2) The “O” of “Of Salt and Wine” being Soren’s personal symbol, while the S of Salt is actual salt and the dot of the i in Wine is actually a goblet of wine

3) The wall of masks Soren has in his home, all looming down

4) A tattoo of Soren’s, laid over polished hardwood floor (he has twelve)

5) The Blackwood Shillelagh, his Modus Operandi for the book and most important item he uses, glowing at the bulb

6) Vintage 1800’s art in the form of a tattoo, possibly using a human or demon skull as the focal point, with dandelion leaves spread out (think this, only inked and not so 3D)

7) Closeup of a man in a suit, tightening his tie, with his sleeve cuff charred or burned or even aflame

8) Closeup of a man in a kurta, signing a mudra, the head of a snake tattoo stretching across his wrist

9) “Evolution” type silhouette, with the four demons, Jack, Olivia, and Soren, walking down the street one behind the other

10) Demon symbol for Ferrulous (circular and striking)

11) Soren at the top of the stairs, wailing at a door half-covered in tar

12) Soren in the septagram, hands up pleadingly, in the classical pose like daVinci and other Reformation artists, toward a demon

13) Soren’s childhood door, half-covered in tar, with Soren’s symbol scratched in chalk

14) A goblet of wine, ringed in salt like a Margarita

15) A man in a top-hat, face obscured, standing off-kilter to a backdrop of brick

16) A man playing chess alone in a park

 

That’s all I got. Any thoughts? 

 

Chris