#Art of Fantasy 89 (Legends): Clyde Caldwell


Today’s legend  brings back many memories of reading and playing Dungeons & Dragons and, of course, of half-naked woman warriors I drooled over as a teenager with equal parts wonder and guilt. Clyde Caldwell is a 40-year veteran of the industry who contributed to the golden age of fantasy with his work on Dungeons and Dragons. He certainly requires no introduction from me.

Clyde has produced hundreds of cover paintings and illustrations in the fantasy genre and over the years became well-known (or maybe infamous) for his portrayal of strong, sexy female characters, which is his favorite subject. Rather obvious, really. He also did fantasy covers for publishers like Ace, Avon, Popular Library, Warner books, Zebra, Houghton-Mifflin, and Doubleday, and of course, magazines like Heavy metal, The Savage Sword of Conan, Epic Illustrated, Dragon, and Dungeon, and many others.

Clyde worked almost 10 years for  TSR, the publisher of the Dungeons & Dragons RPG and series of books, painting the D&D calendar from 1985 to 1993, and the covers for the 1987 Dragonlance Calendarand even the 1990 Forgotten Realms Calendar. He was also the cover artist for the D&D Gazetteer module series, the popular Ravenloft series, and has had work included in several TSR Art Books.

And things didn’t stop there. Embarking on a freelance career in 1992, Clyde continued to paint and illustrate, from covers for a series of Baen Books to gaming art for Wizards of the Coast, Precedence Entertainment, White Wolf Game Studio, Palladium Games, and even tattoo designs for Bullseye Tattoos.

Below are a few iconic cover illustrations. Feast your eyes.













 Like me and many of my literary and artistic heroes, Clyde “…roamed the red sands of Mars and explored the world at the earth’s core with Edgar Rice Burroughs, and was whisked away to other worlds, alternate dimensions and adventures in the future by Isaac Asimov, Robert A. Heinlein and Arthur C. Clarke.” When I look back at the stories and art that shaped me, these are the guys that captured my imagination.

It goes further, fantasy greats like Frank Frazetta, Roy G. Krenkel and Jeff Jones inspired Clyde to get into fantasy illustration. They are part of the same stable that inspired me to almost become a comic illustrator and who nurtured my love of fantasy, along with authors like Howard and Burroughs and Eddings and many others. They continue to do so still.

We’ve one more “Legends” post left. I’m open to suggestions. Is there anyone in particular that you think I should feature that belongs in the “Legends” category? Let me know below.



Mark Lawrence On Writing

pof-ukEvery now and again I share some writerly advice from other more successful writers here. As a writer, I believe we never stop learning and this is my way of having you along with me as I nurture my own limited skill and attempt to sway Lady Luck to cast her eyes favorably upon me.

Mark Lawrence, bestselling author of The Broken Empire and The Red Queen’s War trilogies, published a blog post a while ago where he and two other authors delve into the questions of luck and skill and the roles these play in finding writing success. I saw certain themes repeated there and it reminded me how we as writers share similar fears and insecurities. We also have access to the same basic tools.

Below you’ll find a few excerpts that I think are foundational to a writer’s mindset. However, I urge you to read the blog post in its entirety as it attempts to answer the following:

i) Are hard work and skill sufficient to assure writing success, or is a large measure of luck required?

ii) Is the skill element also due to hard work, or is the skill mostly written into our DNA such that hard work can uncover it if it’s there, but if it’s not there then no amount of hard work is going to get you to the necessary level of talent?

From Mark Lawrence:

I’ve always felt that the odds against publication are long however skilled a writer you might be, and that achieving the ‘required’ level of skill simply buys you a lottery ticket. You then need to be lucky. Others disagree and maintain that skill will win out. Of course what constitutes sufficient skill is, like beauty, in the eye of the beholder, and it’s essentially impossible to judge how good your own work is by any useful metric.

From Django Wrexler:

…if you really love what you’re doing, then you can keep doing it, and accept that it may not ever be enough to make money. If you really want to pursue making a living at it, you need to change up what you’re trying to sell. Try a new style, try a new genre, get some criticism outside your usual circles and stretch beyond your comfort zone to address it. Most of the time, when I see someone who has worked for a long time without success, they’ve fallen into a comfortable groove and stopped improving their work; it’s easy to do, but it means nothing’s going to change.

From Myke Cole:

The odds are just as long for all of us, and the only difference between myself and anyone else is that I have made the continuous decision to get up every morning and stay in the fight. I’ve met with some success that way, but I take each accolade with the full knowledge that my momentum could stall at any time. That every novel is my debut. It never gets any easier

As for me, the best advice I keep hearing is that to grow as a writer you need to write a lot, every day if you can. This seems obvious. With most things, if you do it often enough, you are bound to get better at it, if you pay your attempts enough attention, that is. The second thing is, you have to read just as much. Reading teaches you how other writers write. Remember the post about Hemingway and Gaiman? They did the same, even emulated other authors they admired.

Whether you have talent or not, you’ll learn from others and over time you’ll develop a feeling for things. If you worry that you’re not good enough, don’t fret. Most of us live with that fear. The key is to not spend time worrying about it but to focus on your writing. Remember, you are writing because you love writing. Something is compelling you to paint with words. That feeling, that impulse is the key to your success and should be strong enough to overpower doubt and fear. Not vanquish them, just wrestle them into submission so that you have space to work.

I keep changing things up. Right now I get up at 4 a.m. and write for two hours before the little ones wake up, and then it’s bustling time to get them ready for school before I go to work. Most writers agree you need luck to succeed in this industry. Most writers also agree that you get luckier the harder you work. So, although you can’t control luck, you can at least increase your chances of getting lucky.

I’ll let Mark Lawrence have the last say because in the end, no matter how hard you work or how talented you are, or even how lucky you get, it comes down to the quality of your writing:

So write because you enjoy it, but write with passion, be honest, write like your life depends on it, tell your secrets to the page. If it matters to you, it might matter to the reader.

You can read Mark’s post in its entirety here.

Enjoy your weekend!



#Art of Fantasy 97(Legends): Peter Andrew Jones

peterandrewjonestalismanofdeathcoverpaintingAnother legend who requires no introduction and whose work will forever populate the halls of nostalgia is British artist and illustrator, Peter Andrew Jones. His illustrious career spanned 40-plus years, during which time he produced a massive number of fantasy and science fiction illustrations for books, magazines, and movies. Peter continues to receive commissions still and you should check out his website above.

Back when he was starting out, his art tutor, Bob Spearman encouraged him to attend the Saint Martins School of Art in London where he initially studied Graphic Design in 1970. Later, after being prompted by a visiting lecturer to combine his interest in realism with his imagination and skill, Peter discovered  a love for fantasy and science fiction which naturally prompted his career. Once he made the decision to become an illustrator things happened very quickly and Peter was soon neck-deep in producing covers and illustrations for fantasy and science fiction publications.

Over the years Peter has illustrated and painted book covers for  Isaac AsimovRay BradburyArthur C. ClarkeGreg BearLarry NivenPhilip K. Dick, and many others. An anthology of his fantasy and science fiction work that he created between 1974 and 1980 was published under the title, Peter Jones: Solar Wind. While most of his commissions were for UK-based publishers like Granda, Futura, and Sphere, some might recognize his style and art from the early issues of Heavy Metal magazine. Peter also painted movie posters, and of interest here is the poster he did for The Sword and The Sorcerer.

He is well-known for his contributions to the Fighting Fantasy game books which were ff1_wraparoundcreated by Steve Jackson and Ian Livingstone in the 1980s, and particularly for having provided the original cover for the first title in the series, The Warlock of Firetop Mountain.  He also illustrated covers for Starship TravellerTalisman of Death, and The Riddling Reaver, as well as over twenty cover illustrations for Joe Dever’s Lone Wolf game books and a number of covers for Mark Smith and Jamie Thomson’s Falcon series. A number of his fantasy images also appeared on the covers of Games Workshop’s White Dwarf magazine.

John Blanche, art director of White Dwarf said this about Peter’s version of Elric of Melnibone:

Peter’s strong design sense and dramatic choice of colours have combined to produce the definitive image of Elric, as the battle-crazed albino, dominated by his demon sword, Stormbringer. . .

Peter works primarily in hand-mixed oil paint and acrylic, using a unique painting medium he invented that he calls “acryloil.” And here is something interesting and utterly fascinating, Peter’s handmade prints that he sells via his website are sometimes embellished with gold and rare pigments such as lapis lazuli. That is pretty awesome.

Below is a small sampling of his work, scoured from across the Internet. Enjoy!




Peter Andrew Jones







I had to force myself to stop collecting images for this post. Researching this week’s artist truly started as a leisurely stroll down memory lane but soon turned into a mad rush to find as much as I could for fear of running out of time. Alas, in the end, it was the running out of space thing more than anything else, that forced me to call a halt to my frenzied spree.

Peter’s work remind me how fortunate I was to have had the reading experiences I did as a kid. I even remember how addicted I became to those choose-your-adventure books. But it was the covers that drew my attention first, and like Jeffrey Jones and Frank Frazetta, Peter’s covers held mystery and intrigue, and for a young kid, even darkness.

Talk to you soon.


#Art of Fantasy 96 (Legends): Rowena Morrill

00074629Something slightly different to what I usually post. However, this week’s artist belongs to the “Legends” club and must be celebrated.

Rowena A. Morrill, born in 1944 and known professionally as Rowena, is an American artist who specialized in science-fiction and fantasy illustrations. She is widely credited as one of the first female artists to impact paperback cover illustration. Her notable artist monographs include The Fantastic Art of Rowena and The Art of Rowena and her work has also been featured in a variety of anthologies including Tomorrow and Beyond and Infinite Worlds.

Rowena started at an advertising agency in New York City, but after showing her portfolio to Charles Volpe at Ace Books, she received a commissioned to illustrate a romance cover.  That got the ball rolling. Rowena’s first design for a horror novel was Jane Parkhurst’s Isobel (1977), showing a naked woman holding up a chalice for a demonic Monster. She also illustrated the  cover art for a few H.P. Lovecraft collections before turning her attention to science fiction and fantasy. She later became known for her paintings of covers for works of Heroic Fantasy, similar to Frank Frazetta and Boris Vallejo. An example is her cover for Ellen Kushner’s anthology Basilisk (1980), showing a topless, sword-wielding woman confronting a naked male wraith with a two-horned unicorn in the background.

Rowena used acrylics and oils on illustration board, coating the image with a high-gloss glaze and thin coats of paint, which suits her style of imaginative realism perfectly. Originally classically trained, Rowena studied in Italy but took up the fantasy genre to support herself after moving to New York in the late ’70s. And it paid the rent very well because she forged an illustrious career out of painting speculative fiction covers.

Over the years Rowena has created several covers for  authors like Anne McCaffreyIsaac AsimovPiers Anthony, and Madeleine L’Engle. Her paintings have appeared on hundreds of calendars, portfolios and in magazines, including PlayboyHeavy MetalOmniArt Scene International, and Print Magazine.

Rowena has been nominated for the Hugo Award five times–four times in the “Best Artist” category. In 1984, she received the British Fantasy Award and was also named Artist Guest of Honor for Chicon 7, the 70th World Science Fiction Convention, held in 2012.

Two of Rowena’s paintings, King Dragon and Shadows Out of Hell, were discovered hanging in one of Saddam Hussein’s palaces in Iraq.

Below is a small collection of her work. Each image links back to the gallery of origin. Enjoy!












I know what you’re thinking, and I agree. My childhood was awesome in a slightly cheesy way, but you have to remember, tropes today was yesterday’s awesomeness.

My apologies for being late this week. New Zealand has been in the news of late as Mother Nature threw everything she had at us. We were hit by a 7.8 magnitude earthquake earlier this week followed by Tsunami warnings, and now storms, even a mini tornado in Kapiti. We had to evacuate our homes during the night on Monday and, well, the experience was surreal. Two people died and the damage on the South Island is really bad.

At this rate, I won’t be surprised if New Zealand becomes a gateway for Cthulhu.




Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets: Yes Please!

valerian_and_the_city_of_a_thousand_planetsThis Luc Besson directed spectacle features aliens and monsters and awesome starships that remind me a little of The Fifth Element, which should come as no surprise given that it’s the same director, but there is also something else, something very familiar and I can’t seem to put my finger on it. It’ll come to me later, I’m sure.

Anyway, the plot description:

Special operatives Valerian and Laureline maintain order throughout the universe for the government of the human territories. Under orders from their commander, the duo embark on a mission to Alpha, an intergalactic city where diverse species share their technology and resources for the betterment of all. The ever-expanding metropolis is also home to sinister forces that jeopardize the future of mankind.

And here is the trailer:

Yes, I’m excited. Yes, I know I don’t know whether it’ll be good. That is okay, though. The trailer is gorgeous. I love what I’m seeing and I’m allowing my imagination to immerse itself for the sake of fun and spectacle.

I’m also excited because we found an artist for our anthology releasing next month and his work is gorgeous and our stories are fun and different. And this trailer triggered my excitement for both the movie and our inlari universe.

So enjoy and let me know what you think.




#Art of Fantasy 95 (Legends): Arthur Rackham

bird_on_a_lanternWe’re going really far back in the past this week. Arthur Rackham (19 September 1867 – 6 September 1939) was an English book illustrator and widely regarded as one of the leading illustrators from the ‘Golden Age’ of British book illustration which roughly encompassed the years from 1890 until the end of the First World War.

Arthur had a reputation for pen and ink fantasy illustration with richly illustrated gift books like The Ingoldsby Legends (1907) which was based on the 19th Century collection of myths, legends, ghost stories and poetry prepared by Richard Harris Barham (under the pseudonym of Thomas Ingoldsby of Tappington Manor). Other gift books included Gulliver’s Travels and Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm (both 1900).

Although acknowledged as an accomplished black-and-white book illustrator for some years, it was the publication of his full-color plates to Washington Irving’s Rip Van Winkle by Heinemann in 1905 that particularly brought him to the public’s attention. The following year he followed it up by illustrating J.M.Barrie’s Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens.

Rackham won a gold medal at the Milan International Exhibition in 1906 and another one at the Barcelona International Exposition in 1912. His works were included in numerous exhibitions, including one at the Louvre in Paris in 1914.

Also, Guillermo del Toro claimed Arthur’s style influenced the design of “The Faun” in Pan’s Labyrinth. He also liked the dark tone of his gritty realistic drawings and had decided to incorporate this into the film. In Hellboy, the design of the tree growing out of the altar in the ruined abbey off the coast of Scotland is actually referred to as a “Rackham tree” by the director.

Below is a tiny collection from his massive oeuvre. Enjoy!












As a young kid, not yet in my teens, I used to spent my summer vacations with my grandparents on their smallholding in Hoekwil, a village nestled high in the hills along the Garden Route in South Africa. That is where I first saw Arthur’s illustrations in a book my grandmother gave me. She had tons of books and each vacation felt like a treasure hunt as I discovered new stories to devour. I don’t recall whether it was Rip Van Winkle or Siegfried and the Twilight of the Gods and mind you, it could have been Grimm’s Fairy Tales for all I know, but I still remember the ambiance generated by Arthur’s illustrations.

This happened so long ago my recollection is hazy at best, and yet, I remember the feeling more than anything else of paging through an old hardback with yellowed, crinkly pages and staring at the scraggly lines of Arthur’s illustrations. My young mind found them utterly fascinating and even scary because of the way he drew some of the characters. The pointy-toed shoes and scrawny necks and weird angular bodies were strange and silly and yet I kept reading. Those were the discovery days. Fairy tales served as my gateway to further fantasy.

Anyway, my eyes are tired and eyelids heavy and I’m not very successful at keeping them open at the moment. Besides, it’s almost 2 AM here and I need to get up early.

Chat to you soon.



The Awesome Power of Short Fiction

517nqklla7lI dedicate this post to those who love reading short stories and to those who love writing them (including this writer).

I’m reblogging an article from ScreenCraft about why short stories make such great movies. On top of that, and as a way of confirming the above, a producer friend of a friend explained that short form prose is far easier to adapt than a full-length novel and for various reasons, chief of which, is the flexibility and creative freedom to explore further where the author hinted only vaguely.

The publisher at Kōsa Press recently compiled a collection of over 40 shorter form stories that I had to study in preparation of writing my own for the as yet unnamed anthology coming out this December. Actually, all the contributing writers had to read the collection first. It contained pieces from great authors like Bradbury and Hemingway, and we had to focus on their use of literary devices and economy of words to convey powerful imagery and tone and analyze whether it served the story and in what way. It was an illuminating experience, to say the least, and, at the end of the exercise, I found that I viewed flash fiction and shorter form stories with a newfound respect and adoration. Not only that but my attitude towards short prose had changed dramatically.


With this in mind, I would like to share with you this article, which explores the topic a little further and goes on to list a number of great movies adapted from short stories, like The Grey, for instance, or even The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, and yes, even Total Recall and Blade Runner.

Novels, being a longer form, have the freedom to encompass sprawling timelines, multiple narrative through-lines, and large casts of characters or multiple main characters. Short stories, on the other hand, are often focused on one major event or transformation for single main character.

If you’re thinking that sounds a lot like a movie, you’re right! Often, short stories are easier to adapt than novels.

Based on the short story “Ghost Walker” by Ian MacKenzie Jeffers, who also co-wrote the screenplay with director Joe Carnahan. Critic Roger Ebert gave the film 3 and a half stars out of 4, and wrote that the unrelenting harshness of The Grey so affected him that he departed the screening of a different movie on the same day: ‘t was the first time I’ve ever walked out of a film because of the previous film.’ That’s powerful storytelling.

You can read the rest of the article here.