If you are a reviewer and like to use Netgalley to read free books in exchange for a review, now is your chance to get your hands on a Sufferborn review copy! Not on Netgalley? That’s ok, you can create an account and start reading for free.
If all goes well with this one, I will post the following Sufferborn books in the next two months ;).
The long wait for Sufferborn book 3 is coming to an end!
I spent the entire year of 2021 writing “Flesh Embodied” and the entire year of 2022 editing/publishing it. The work has leaked into 2023, but that’s just because this book is HUGE—and in more ways than one! I think all of you fans will be delighted! As important as this book is to the series, it’s not even over yet. Sufferborn will most likely be, in total, 6 books long, putting “Flesh Embodied” right at the center of the action. You are NOT going to want to miss this!
Calling all Sufferborn fans! If you’ve read and enjoyed “Sufferborn” and “Unwilling Deity” and would like to read “Flesh Embodied” as an ARC (advanced reader copy) reader then please send me a message through the contact tab above. I would be glad to hook you up with a free copy for your honest review. I’ll be excited to hear your thoughts on it. 🙂
Manassas, Virginia, 1970, Christmas Eve. In a small house in the country, an eight-year-old girl is standing at the glass door with her cousin of ten. The adults are doing their regular, boring banter in the background. The girl and her parents had just arrived yesterday from their Florida homestead, returned to the land of their kin for Christmas. All day, the girl and her cousin had been running around the yard as kids do, yelling, playing, excited to be reunited again, and even more excited for Christmas to get here. Now they’re a little fatigued, but restlessly awaiting Santa Claus.
It’s dark outside, but the porch light illuminates the old car parked on the gravel driveway. Beyond that is a vast dark field with an unseen forest behind it. The girl rests her forehead against the cool glass, her cousin at her shoulder. They giggle now and again, sharing their own sparse banter, separate from the adults.
And then something moves outside. Someone’s out there! The girl frowns and focuses. The person outside is…sneaking, placing his feet toe-first so as not to make any sound on the gravel. One foot over the other, very carefully, hands poised for balance. He is dressed oddly in weathered greenish clothing with a sort of folded hat on his head and…pointed ears? He doesn’t notice the two children watching him, as he makes his way along behind the car, until he gets to the car’s hood.
Finally seeing the two kids in the doorway, the “person” gives a shocked expression, grabs his hat, and drops down behind the car.
This instance happens in a snap. The girl and her cousin both give a start, whip their heads to look at each other, sharing open-mouthed astonishment, and both of them shoot out the door to the outside to catch this…elf!
Straight through the door, they don’t have far to run to get to the other side of the car. It didn’t matter though. The elf was gone.
“Mom! Mom!” the girl shouts as she and her cousin rush back inside to alert the adults of the mystery. “We saw an elf! We saw an elf!”
Her mother gives a smile. “You did? Wow!” Her reaction is obviously fake. The adults take a minute to humor the children before going back to their conversation. The girl and her cousin check all around the house, under the car, and into the darker shadows out skirting the porchlight. They never find the elf or any clue he was ever there. They are truly shaken up. To them, it means that Santa can’t be far, and they don’t want to ruin their turn to get their present delivery that night. So her cousin marches straight home, as he lives just over the hill, yelling, “I’m going home now, Santa! I’m going right to bed!” The girl can hear his echoing voice as he goes, and she too hurries off to bed.
The story I just told you is true. The girl in the story is my mother with her real-life cousin. The adults, the house, the car, the whole setting—and the elf—all of it is a true story. And it really happened on Christmas Eve.
I have no reason to lie about this and neither does my mom. I believe her, and not just because I too love elves, but because she swears it to this day that she did not make it up.
She saw an elf.
In the next few paragraphs, I will go over why I think the story can be taken seriously.
As the author of the Sufferborn series, a story about a girl who falls in love with an elf as an epic plot takes shape around them, I guess I get my love of elves honest. However, I can tell you that I don’t love Christmas half as much as my mom does. Her love of Christmas never wavered, it’s what brings her joy to this day, and maybe that’s all because she finds it so easy to believe, because she actually saw something. I, personally, was born in the middle of the 1980’s when the fantasy genre was popular. For some reason, I’ve always been drawn to that genre and never wavered in that love interest. I love fantasy, she loves Christmas.
So does this mean Santa Claus exists and that elves are connected to Christmas? It doesn’t have to, and I’m not here to convince you that it does. Maybe the elf’s appearance on Christmas Eve was a coincidence. I mostly want to present the case that elves just might be real. I believe if elves exist, they exist, it doesn’t have to be related to Christmas. If you think it is then that’s fine, I wouldn’t want to argue about that. I try to entertain more realistic scenarios to fit around this story, like Dorhen perhaps: an elf who wanders around the wilderness. But I also find it fun to believe in the Santa Claus myth.
I’ve heard this story retold all my life, and since I’ve been an adult, I’ve asked questions to try to either debunk or maybe get a more realistic picture of the supposed elf in the story. There’s a few points to go over which you might find interesting.
The first point is that my mom and her cousin both saw the elf at the same time, and they immediately confirmed what they saw by sharing that initial look of shock with each other. It wasn’t that one saw something and said, “Hey, I saw an elf!” and then somehow convinced the other that they saw it too. Not at all. Both of their “reports” of the sighting happened instantaneously, and was followed up by both of them bolting out the door, without a single word shared, to check around the car.
The next point of interest would be that they both remember seeing the elf wearing a different color. My mom remembers green and her cousin remembers red. I like to think that he wore both colors combined, which could cause their mixed impressions. Nonetheless, detectives know very well that witnesses to an incident will all remember details differently. The fact that they each remember the elf wearing different colors is a point toward it being a real sighting.
The elf’s clothing was NOT a costume. My mom informs me that this was not a shopping mall-style costume. It was neither shiny nor pretty. It was worn and weathered. Going back to the color factor in the above paragraph, I would lean toward the outfit being mostly green so that the elf could better blend into the forest—since he obviously didn’t want to be seen anyway. That would be a more realistic detail, in my opinion, and adding the fact that the clothes were weathered sounds like a real elf wandering around the forest to me.
My brain wants to paint the image of his clothing being Medieval style, probably because that tends to be what we get with Christmas imagery. Elf outfits in Christmas art usually involve leggings, a tunic, and a stocking cap. Alternately, we get the same thing in my favorite genre: fantasy. So I’ve tried to prompt memories out of her of what type of clothes he was actually wearing. She can’t really drum it up, but I feel like her description of the hat might align with Medieval. The fact that he was tiptoeing was a big one though! The elf didn’t want to make any noise on the driveway gravel, so naturally he’d go toe-first. I once saw a video (which has since vanished off of Youtube, otherwise I wanted to link to it, sorry everyone!) which pointed out that Medieval people might’ve walked toe-first in their soft leather or cloth shoes anyway. It occurs to me that if the elf was wearing 20th century clothing, my mom would’ve easily confirmed it. But she can’t. If the elf was indeed wearing Medieval clothing, what does that mean? Does it mean he can time travel? Does it mean he never aged and has been living since that time period? I have no idea. But it’s just so darn intriguing, isn’t it?
She confirms that the elf DID have pointed ears.
She confirms the elf was male.
She confirms the elf was of average human height, especially since he stood taller than the car and had to duck behind it to get out of sight. However, he wasn’t super tall; we’ll call him average—definitely on the lower end of five feet tall. Therefore, I’m no longer inclined to believe that “real” elves must be short or tiny.
I’ll add that in the late 60’s, early 70’s, Manassas, VA was very country, with lush forests and fields. In 1970, its population was 9,164 (in contrast, it’s 42,772 today). My mom describes the area in which her family lived to have plenty of farmland. And as I saw last year on my trip to my grandmother’s funeral, it has a huge Civil War battlefield landmark all around with plenty of preserved natural landscape. A pretty good place for an elf to wander around, I’d say.
The ages of these kids were either 8 and 10, or 10 and 12. My mom seems to go back and forth on what their ages were at the time. Regardless, she stresses every time she talks about this, that the age range is a pretty good one from which to retain memories. I remember very well being 8 years old. I remember the movies I saw and how I felt about them. I remember what was on tv, my best friend who lived next door, the adventures we’d have in the wild blackberry patch, and what I got for my birthday! And, of course, I remember the following ages in that range!
It wasn’t some kind of uncle prank. There were no family members coming out from around the side of the house laughing, and no one ever came forward later. Once that elf disappeared, he was gone. That was the end of it. If it was a prank, don’t you think my mom or cousin would’ve heard the prankster chuckling about it later on?
That’s about all I know about this bizarre incident. The sighting happened so fast for my mom, but the image is burned into her memory. She’s quite adamant about this. After many years, her cousin began to deny that he saw anything. It’s too crazy to believe. “We imagined it, I’m sure,” he’d say whenever she’d bring it up in their adulthood. But my mom would counter, “How can two people imagine the same thing at the same time?” She retains her childlike Christmas spirit and refuses to give up on this experience, and I don’t think she should. It’s a really cool story and one for the ages. It’s not my story, but it’s still a link to the world beyond our own which I’m constantly looking for and writing about. I wish it were my story, to be honest. I also believe in ghosts and stuff, but I would so much rather see an elf!
I hope my sharing her story has brought you a little bit of joy or hope this season. Don’t take life so seriously and don’t let the world bring you down. It’s ok to believe in elves and other beings of the fantastic!
And it’s ok to believe in Santa Claus too. Merry Christmas!
(This post is approved by my mom)
12/21/22. In the above image, I generated the background using AI, describing an old car at night, and picked the one I liked best for this illustration. When my mom checked out this post, she was amazed to see that the car looks just like the one that was in her grandmother’s driveway. How weird is THAT?
I’m guessing half of you readers opened up the first Sufferborn book and said, “Look, a map,” and then you flipped on to the story without paying any more attention (I’m that kind of reader too ;)), and the other half said, “Uhg! What is she thinking with this map? Doesn’t she know that maps in fantasy novels should be perfect with clear and present routes going this way, that way, and every way? I need to be able to plan my trip across Kaihals! Why can’t I see the windows on the hundreds of tiny houses?” Well, the answer to that question is I’m not thinking about it.
Though I like to tout my love of making art, I am not a cartographer. Is a cartographer even an artist? Or some kind of engineer/designer/mathematical-architect type illustrator? I don’t know. And I wouldn’t know, because I’m an oil painter, I hate math, and I don’t like thinking in incredibly technical ways. I think in enough technical ways when planning out my epic fantasy series and publishing it. By the time I get out of revision and into the design aspect of publishing a book, my brain is coming out of the deep fryer: greasy, sluggish, thickly breaded like takoyaki (why do I do this to myself DX?), and then it’s time to get back into the emotional, artsy, frolicking in the blissful, flowery, fields of imagination and creativity phase: the illustrations. Except there’s that darn map.
Perhaps crafting a map is a good idea when it comes to long-term series development. In that case it doesn’t have to be pretty, because I’d be using it and adding to it over the years, going back to it, and making sure I’m not tripping over the “facts” established throughout the multiple series I’m planning for this world. And this is where I’m coming to the number one factor in my decision.
Even though I had spent twenty years developing the Sufferborn world before publishing book 1, it’s still very much in development. Lots of things change as you make your way through creation mode. Once it’s published, it’s set in stone. Therefore, what I have written in Sufferborn and Unwilling Deity cannot be changed. Everything outside of the places we’ve visited in those books (even right there outside the surrounding wall of Alkeer) is still up in the air. I can literally fill anything into those blank areas. Those blank areas will remain for an indefinite amount of time, waiting to be filled, as I continue on to future books/series. So, I would rather not publish a claim I might wish to change later. Does that make sense?
If you go back and look in book 1, you’ll see the Darklands side of the map empty. Although I definitely knew what was up there at that point, I chose not to reveal it, because it still wasn’t too late to change something if needed.
The other reason not to bother with a map is that this is really not my forte in art. We all have media we love, media we hate, media we dabble in, and media that just didn’t stick, and the ink pen medium is one of the latter, along with the act of drawing the certain lines and symbols that make a map. I am not good at it, but it also doesn’t draw me (no pun intended), so there’s also no real practice under my belt or an interest in practicing.
In short, map making isn’t for me.
“But J.C., don’t you think you should hire someone to do the map?”
Like I said above, the Sufferborn universe is very deep in development, and I’ll need as much “blank space” as possible to make any and all of my future series work. It simply feels impossible for me to sync all my notes with the artist and receive a satisfying product. Also, thinking of doing that feels like the worst migraine of my life, more than just me drawing the map myself.
“So is that it? No maps? Ever?”
To that I’ll also say no. Give it time. I just bought a very nice drawing tablet and might get really good with it, resulting in a new, freeing ability to whip out some maps someday. By then, certain areas of Kaihals should be complete and ready to represent in a visual medium. I imagine it could be a good idea to draw the maps zoomed way in so that it only covers places we’ve seen in Sufferborn so far, instead of showing the whole continent on one 8 X 5.25 page. Look and see if one pops up in distant future editions of the Sufferborn books. For right now, if you see the map disappear out of current books, don’t be surprised.
To those who will miss the map, I am sorry. At least there’s a bunch of copies floating around that have the map, maybe they’ll be collectors’ items someday. For now, for me, for my mental health and stamina, this is probably the best decision. I would much rather focus my energy on making beautiful linocut illustrations of scenes from the books.
Merry Christmas to all! I feel compelled to write this blog right now as a way to get out of a sort of funk I’ve been suffering with. I haven’t wanted to do much of anything online, besides spend money :} . It has been a bad 2 years for me, but this Christmas season, so far, is a lovely one.
My first announcement for today is that the third installment of Sufferborn has been written! It’s only the first draft and will be followed by a long few months of editing, starting in January, but the project is halfway complete at this point. It took me 11 whole months to write it and it is nearly 230,000 words long, whew! For the first two books, it only took about 3 and a half months to write their first drafts, but this year was different. I had trouble focusing. I took on a big computer building side project, two of my relatives died, and I continued to deal with publishing-related woes that are hard to explain to those who don’t work in this business. I was spread thin, and 11 months got the job done.
I’m psyched about Sufferborn book 3! This book is VERY important in the series as it’s at the center of the entire composition and it stands as a pretty big mid-series climax. So buckle your seatbelts, Sufferborn fans. By now, you all know that I don’t write slow books, haha! My books are full of action and drama.
Since I finished the book a little later than expected (LOL), I’m, of course, having to push back the release date. So I’m hoping for mid 2022 now. It’s a very big book and shouldn’t be rushed. I’ll do my best and keep you informed.
I also finished the front cover painting for book 3! Another very big task done. There will, as always, be a back cover painting too, but I’ve yet to decide on a subject. I’m currently working to create a reference and…
Dah-da-na-naaaaahhhh! This brings me to my other bit of big news: I am writing this post on a bitchin’, badass, new custom-built computer—the first computer I’ve ever created with my own hands! It’s beautiful. I talked about this project in a previous post, you might remember, but the finished project turned out slightly different. What I have learned is that building a computer is quite a twisty-turny adventure. You really have to be in tune with what you’re doing and trying to accomplish. But I did it, and it’s just fabulous. This computer is the new center of my publishing company, and not a moment too soon. As it turned out, I wound up deciding to get a Ryzen 5950x, which has 16 cores, instead of my original plan of getting a threadripper. I made this decision after discussing it with someone online who convinced me I didn’t need a threadripper for what I was trying to do, lol. Alongside it, I wound up getting a Nvidia RTX 3070 graphics card. Obviously, I would have gotten a higher tier, but the current graphics card situation was insane, and I just decided to get the best thing I could get my hands on. To be honest, my 3070 is AWESOME. Computer people in the youtube videos act like it has to be a 3090 or you’re just not at the best level, but all that talk is silly. I’m here to tell you this if you are currently trying to get a graphics card. My computer is amazing thanks to my 3070. I managed to get it by watching the Newegg website closely, checking its stock about three times a day (so not too closely, hahahah!) When I happened to catch this 3070 in stock, from a reputable American seller, I jumped on it. Ok, I didn’t even jump on it that quickly lol. I hemmed and hawed for about an hour. I asked my mom if she thought I should get it lol. And THEN I bought it. I paid about 800 dollars more than its retail value, as these were ridiculously inflated this year. My decision was justified though, because it’s for business. I really wanted my workflow to improve. And it has.
The book and the computer were the best things to come out of 2021 for me. I’m really hoping things will be different in 2022. I’m feeling good these days. I get a winter vacation, since I’m letting the book simmer before reading it with fresh eyes. And my day job has lightened up considerably, because this is a slow season for the work I do. So finally, I’m getting some rest and feeling at peace, after a long, grueling year of deaths and penny pinching and emotions coming from places both external and internal.
I hope for now, my suffering is over. And I’m excited about Christmas. How about you?
How’s everybody doing on this fine day in 2021? I just wanted to take a moment to show you how I like to waste my time—haha! Just kidding, I don’t actually consider it a waste. I just love doing crafty things. It’s what gives my life meaning and purpose. Truly, I live from project to project. That’s how I like it. And I’m always thinking of crazy new ways to get paint all over my hands. This time I made a figurine. Check it out…
This is Wikshen (my favorite Sufferborn character. Shhh, don’t tell the others). If you haven’t noticed already, Sufferborn is kinda about him, to be honest. He’s more than a novel character to me, though, he’s an artistic outlet. If I’m trying out a new medium—of any type—you can count on seeing Wikshen appear in that medium. Anyway, about this figurine…
The very first step was sculpting him in the Daz Studio software. I just LOVE that software! I sculpted him using various morphing tools I had to buy to get the job done. I guess you can say he was expensive even to digitally sculpt. And then I used the GamePrint plugin to send my sculpture to the printing company, Mixed Dimensions, to get my sculpture created in real life 3D. It was not cheap, I must say, hahah! This was a high-end pricy little project. He stands at about 9 inches tall and his skin color was printed as well. I only added a few painted elements of my own to enhance his eyes and add his side brand and arm bands, and etc. Some parts of his clothing didn’t print in the color I needed, so I went over those with my own black paint. Consider this post to be a glowing review of all of those services I mentioned: Daz Studio, GamePrint plugin for Daz Studio, and Mixed Dimensions—all highly recommended!
What I actually submitted for printing was an incomplete figure. He had no hair and only wore his underwear. Notice his hair and “battleshift” are both made from organic materials. I wanted this figurine to be partially a hands-on art project for my own personal joy and satisfaction. I had to create the base he is standing on—not because I wanted to, but because I had no idea how the printing process would play out—if I would get a complimentary base or not. It turned out that I was not given a base by default. He arrived as a loose figure who couldn’t stand on his own (poor fella!), so I went to all the trouble to pick out a wooden oval thing from the craft store, stain it, sculpt the rocks and soil using a two-part apoxie, paint it, and added moss for a realistic terrain effect. The finished product turned out better than expected.
And that hair! Thanks to my history of enthusing in the world of Asian ball-jointed dolls, and honing my process for creating wigs, I was able to craft this for the figurine. This part I knew would be a better option than printing his hair from the resin material he’s made of. If I had done that, the figure probably would’ve cost $100 more than it did! I did run through the shopping cart process a few times to figure out my options. So making the hair saved me money, and it looks 100 times better too. I was able to use hand-dyed suri alpaca hair that was left over from a past wig I made (because I totally made a ball-jointed doll of him in the past!). This also makes his hair removeable so I can replace it in case of damage or whatever.
Look at that dirty bastard! The last thing I applied was his battleshift which is made from a scrap of linen I had kicking around. Did I also mention I’m a seamstress? Well, I didn’t actually sew this together, I “sculpted” this garment by cutting and gluing pieces directly onto the figure, so this one is not removeable. His battleshift hides the wire that I used to stabilize the figure to the base, using nothing short of caulk to secure him down, which includes under his feet.
I’m not going to say this project was “simple” or “easy” but it probably wasn’t an expert-level project either. I was able to alleviate my chores a bit by ordering a color printed sculpture instead of primed. The tasks I did take on required a bit of planning and know-how. For instance, I also had to invent a way to let the figure stand safely on his own without facing the risk of falling and breaking off one of those gorgeous, tiny fingers while I worked on him. To do this, I glued a Styrofoam “brick” to a flat piece of cardboard, carved foot holes into the Styrofoam and, voila, he had a temporary stand to prop him up while I crafted his wig.
I have a few mixed feelings about continuing this as a hobby. 1. Yes, of course I want to do another one! He looks lonely without his Kalea to stand there being impressed (or horrified) by his antics, heehee! 2. But it was such an “extra” thing for me to juggle. It took a long time to finish just because each session was spread out across weeks and weeks. I could only work on it a little bit at a time each weekend, sometimes skipping weekends. 3. It’s an expensive hobby…But who am I kidding? I LOVE doing arts and crafts and don’t mind spending money on a project! 4. Um…there isn’t really a fourth feeling. I enjoyed doing this but it’s not very convenient. I’ll just play it by ear. Maybe you’ll see a Kalea figurine in the next year, who knows? Until then I have a Book 3 to finish and a computer to build. Yep, I’m still working on that computer. It will make my future of using Daz Studio a bright one.
Thank you for reading this! If you catch me at a convention in the future, I will most likely have this little guy on my table to make it look cool. He’s a one of a kind.
P.S. I did a little filming as I worked on this project, so you can expect a creation video on Youtube soon…just gotta get that new computer running (*sigh*).
As it is close to the middle of the year, I feel it’s appropriate to give you all an update to the progress of Sufferborn book 3.
I’m expecting its release to be around early 2022—but please don’t think that sounds bad, it’s really not. For the past two years in a row, I’ve managed to release book 1, Sufferborn, and then book 2, Unwilling Deity, in the fall of each year. There is a certain rhythm I intend to keep for my book releases, and as a result, the starting and ending points of each book creation will land a little later in the year, each year (for example, Sufferborn came out in October of 2019 and Unwilling Deity came out in November 2020). After taking my annual “between books break” in 2020, I started writing book 3 (title to be announced) on January 1, 2021. So far, it is taking a bit longer to write this one than the previous two, and I think that is due to my trying to juggle it with various different things like marketing and such. But I am hopeful that the book’s first draft will be finished soon and I will proceed with its publishing tasks.
However! There is one thing in this year that could possibly delay book 3’s release, backing it up a little farther into 2022: I am building my first high-powered workstation computer.
Let’s put an emphasis on “possibly,” because I’m not entirely sure if my pc building venture will actually delay the book. I am having to work more hours at my day job to come up with the money, and my new workstation will not be cheap. As long as I can keep up my discipline and wake up extra early every morning, I shouldn’t lose any writing time. But the cost of pc building will have to be juggled with the cost of publishing (and this year I have to buy another 10 pack of ISBN numbers. Yay :[ ).
The thing about pc building is that in order to make a workstation, and not a gaming pc, I need better/faster components and lots of memory. I want to do this right, so my pc will work faster, longer, and allow me to do complex operations like 3d rendering. I’m EXTREMEMLY excited about what I will be able to do with my new pc—the art I will make—the new software and media I will try! Right now, I’m working on a pc that has a 4-core AMD processor and was the cheapest pc in Best Buy 6 or 7 years ago. I am planning to put a 24-core threadripper CPU into my new computer, so I’m expecting the difference to be like night and day.
As far as pc building goes, there are circumstantial complications for this year: a shortage of graphics cards and insanely high inflation for them in both retail and on the second hand market. As far as getting a graphics card goes, I’m biding my time as I have to save for all my other expensive pc parts, but it’s still a worry. In 2021, building a pc costs more money than ever before. Between it and my busy life, I’m estimating Sufferborn book 3 may release in February 2022. That’s my best guess-timation, but I will follow up if I foresee any developments.
I might also show a few pics of my new workstation pc when it’s complete. I think my Sufferborn art, book covers, and marketing graphics are about to get a LOT better. Art is my favorite part of life. It’s half the reason why I’m in this business. ❤
Finally, it’s here! I am proud to present the brand new cover for Sufferborn (book 1)! It was a long journey, short if you consider the time frame, but a fairly smooth transition. The worst part about it has been my anxiety: what should the new cover look like? Which idea to go with? How long will it take to paint? How long will it take for the final oil glaze to dry? How long will it take to get it professionally scanned? And can I get a ride to the photoimaging company downtown Nashville?
The thing is, I needed to get it all completed before February in order to use the new cover for an ad I had already bought. Though all of those concerns ran smoothly, it was the waiting that hurt the most. When you have a big project (and OMG, yes, making a good, hand-painted book cover is a HUGE project), you just want it to be over and done right now—hahaha, know what I mean? But patience and diligence pays off. Even if it takes a long time, practicing patience and diligence will get you the narrower time frame—procrastination will draw it out for additional months and even years.
So the painting. In my haste to create and get it done, I have been completely uninspired about what to name it. Though I usually love naming paintings, this one I couldn’t quite take the time to care about what it was called—lmao! I slapped the title “Sufferborn Trio” onto the back for the benefit of identification when dropping it off at the photoimaging company and called it a day. Dusted my hands off.
Sufferborn Trio is a great one, I think. In my opinion, it’s a fine replacement for the original cover, titled “Open Heart.” Sufferborn Trio is no less complex and expertly done. I did my best to be as expressive as possible, keeping loose, while at the same time digging in hard to create the BEST possible piece I could within my personal skill boundaries.
Take notice of the two characters at the sides, Daghahen and Lamrhath, the insidious twins who will become quite the epic pillars of drama as time passes. Looking at my references, I knew that the two characters on the sides had to be foggy and recede so that the central figure, Dorhen, can clearly stand out. I had two steps for making that possible: step 1 was to paint them thinly and “coldly,” and step 2 was to go over their whole figures, after they dried, with a whitish glaze. A glaze is when you add a tiny speck of paint to a large glob of pigment-free linseed oil. Because I need my book cover paintings to dry fast, I used liquin original instead of oil for this. I especially used a lot of thin, expressive strokes for Daghahen (at left) to create his elderly appearance. A lot of his blue underpainting shows through. Lamrhath (at right) was painted similarly, but with more careful, thoughtful strokes and coverage. His colored layers are still thin, allowing the underpainting to show through, but all of him is still extremely thin and even, dare I say, underdeveloped. That’s how they both turned out looking faint and cold. It also kept my painting time short and simple, a win-win.
Dorhen, on the other hand, got all my love—as he always does. His face contains the thickest layers of paint on the whole piece, followed by the rest of his exposed skin. Any piece of clothing that appears dark, I take the liberty to keep thin and easily executed, which is something that I’ve picked up in the last decade of painting.
But I won’t bore you anymore with painting techniques. In effort to make this new cover communicate the book’s genre more clearly (dark/epic fantasy), I chose these three characters. These three are present in the prologue of Sufferborn. The twins are the root of the problems that concern the main characters, Dorhen and Kalea. And this scene depicts a moment at the middle of the book when all the elements come together to create the “real” dilemma in the Sufferborn series. This should be a fitting cover indeed.
There you have it! A brand new book cover. Hope you enjoy the book and its new look! If you are a person who misses the old cover, subscribe to this blog on the sidebar for news on when I have posters available. If you would like to get your hands on a copy with the old cover, click the “contact” tab at the top of this site to ask me directly for one. I have a few kicking around and might be able to hook you up (and I’m happy to add autographs)!
That’s right, folks, a new cover for Sufferborn is in the works and will be released soon! You may or may not find this news favorable and I understand either way. So for now, I’ll fill you in on my reasoning and let’s take a moment to appreciate the old book cover.
Why am I changing Sufferborn‘s book cover? The answer is simple: advertising. That’s all. I do love the painting on this cover and will cherish it forever, but in order for me to have more flexibility for advertisement, I’ve decided to design something a little less edgy. Lately, my attempt to buy an ad was rejected for reasons of “blood and gore”—hahah, I’ll take it as a compliment! So that’s the practical reason for doing so. Let’s go back in time a few months though. Although it IS a good painting and I love it a lot, I can’t deny that I’ve felt a slight…hesitance(?) about how the cover was looking. It was one of those things that you love at first, but then your mind starts wandering into foggy territories of doubt. My doubt was so, so slight, it’s hard to explain. I did not voice my doubt for a long time, but it was there. After a lot of wonder and debate and finally asking my husband and friends if they thought a book cover change would be good (my husband was against it), I decided to just leave the cover as is and move on with my plans for book 3… And then the advertising problem happened. It was the answer to my dilemma.
What made the old cover so special? My friends, it was special. Let me tell you. I don’t know if it was the ideal cover for book 1, but I really put my heart into it. Let’s take a look at “Open Heart,” Sufferborn‘s soon-to-be-former cover…
What to say first?… “Open Heart” was designed to express the character that is Dorhen. His soul. I thought, “If I can paint his soul, I will.” The wound is symbolic. In the book, he tells Kalea, “I lost my soul.” And in another scene, Kalea tells him he has an empty heart, or maybe a hole in his heart. The hole in his chest means a lot to this book. It’s everything in the book. The look on his face was aiming to show Dorhen’s desperation in the book. He’s looking at Kalea and showing her his wound. He needs her help and he’s pleading to her. The fire in the forest behind him is his past, a literal representation of something in the story. Even his codpiece is made apparent on the cover—something of his garments that is brought to attention. This, I would say, is a perfect image of Dorhen. Dorhen is a character I’ve had trouble painting and drawing for many years. Not that it’s hard to come up with a brown-haired boy with sad eyes, but maybe its all the emotional signals I had been missing in previous attempts.
How did I construct this character in paint? Dorhen in this painting is made up of a radical number of different references. Even I was shocked at how many things were blended to create this person! Once again, I was also shocked that I had finally created such a perfect image of the elusive Dorhen. Who would’ve thought that all I needed was a photo of my husband, one of my favorite bought art model photos (who looks nothing like Dorhen), and a few stock photos of manly chests? The most recognizable trait of my husband’s is the hands and forearms. I snapped a photo of him doing this pose and it proved all I needed for the arms. As a result of using his meaty Scottish arms, Dorhen turned out looking strong—like someone who can take a lickin’ and survive in the forest. The “strong” trait was exactly what I was looking for too, because I don’t think of the “Norr elves” as being lithe and delicate. The Norr elves are rugged and tough. Male elves (a.k.a. saehgahn) like to fight within their own communities, and building a strong appearance for female elves to ogle is very important to them. Dorhen’s face was a thing of trial and error and it required many layers and a little frustration and repainting to achieve. Each step, whether it was on purpose, unplanned, a mistake, a repaint, or a well-planned system of layers, played a part in achieving this face. When I put down that final “draft” of the face, it was a magical moment.
The fire in the background was by sheer accident, regardless of what I said about it being a direct communication of the book’s content. I was going for a sunset effect behind the trees (to symbolize that his time is running out). Instead, it looked like the forest was on fire, and I went with it. It had to have happened subconsciously though, because I was quite emotional around the time of painting. Lots of emotion was flowing as I worked, and I think it shows quite clearly.
In conclusion, “Open Heart” was emotional, tragic, fiery, sad, desperate, and a little romantic (gotta love that codpiece!). It seemed like the perfect cover for Sufferborn at the time. But now I’m moving on and trying something else. Fans of this painting, do not be sad. It may be disappearing from the book cover, but that doesn’t mean it’s actually going anywhere. I still have the painting and always will. And I’ll see about putting it on a poster for sale soon. Look at it this way: printed copies of this book cover will soon be rare collectors’ items!
When does the new cover come out? I’m aiming for early February (2021). I spent the Christmas season painting and right now the final cover is deep in the works. I will share a cover reveal teaser soon, followed by an official unveiling. The new cover is also one I find very relevant to the story.