Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Signed/Sketched Copies of Art of Death!

We're now less than a week away from the release of Art of Death!  Those of you who have bought from Dreamspinner Press before might already know that the first twenty customers to buy a paperback through their site can often get a signed copy.  Well, I should have probably warned the Dreamspinner folk that if they put a piece of vellum in front of me, I'm going to draw on it. ;)

I just finished up with 20 signed original ink sketches, and they're on their way back to Florida to be inserted into the paperbacks.  So that means that the first twenty people to buy a paperback copy of Art of Death through the Dreamspinner Press website will get a signed copy WITH an original sketch!

The sketches will be given out at random, so unfortunately there's no way to request a specific sketch.  But I hope the twenty of you will enjoy what you get!  FYI, here are the sketches:

1. A ferret
2. An angry cockatoo
3. Porter #1 (Art of Death)
4. Pogo #1 (DOTU)
5. Riley (Art of Death)
6. Westwood (Art of Death)
7. Samsid (DOTU)
8. Pogo #2 (DOTU)
9. Ebo the cockatiel
10. A dandelion puff (an homage to Porter)
11. A dumb fat bird
12. A dumb kiwi
13. A weird turtle with a birthday hat
14. A snowman with a pitchfork
15. Porter #2
16. Random profile of guy with swooshy hair
17. A cockatiel in a tree
18. A sheep standing on a wedge of cheese
19. A sheep getting yelled at by a bird
20. A linseed oil bottle with a red liquid inside, and a paintbrush

Here's another photo:

Because I seem to have identity issues, the images are each signed "Ana Bosch," but they also include my initials and "Bob," which is how I sign all my artwork.  Each piece of vellum has also been imbued with magical powers via the oil from my fingers, after which the sheets were rubbed all over my chest.  (Okay, that last part didn't actually happen.)

The signed copies will be available starting July 2 here on the Dreamspinner Press site.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Manga and Romance: They will rob you of your innocence (as if you had any to begin with)

As part of the Manga and Romance Blog Hop, today I'm going to talk about how manga, yaoi, and gay romance chipped away at my childhood innocence—in the best possible way.

It all began on a bright sunny day in the 1990s...  Or maybe it was cold and cloudy.  Hell if I remember.  I was eleven years old, and my mom had taken my sisters and me to Blockbuster to rent movies.  (Remember when people used to go to a store to rent movies?  Good old VHS tapes with a sticker telling you to be kind and rewind, etc.)

Anyway, even at that age, I was completely absorbed in my own characters and stories, and my pet project at the time had a major character named Maurice.  So when I came across a movie called Maurice and read the back of the cover, I thought it was "funny" that the character named Maurice was gay and decided to make it my pick for the day.  My mom took a brief look at the back of the box and said, "Gay?  Why would you want to watch that?"  But she let me rent it anyway.  I think she didn't look too closely at the warnings on the back of the box, such as the big bold one that said, "This movie will forever corrupt your daughter and offer her first glimpse of men's penises other than when she walked in on her dad in the shower and laughed her head off."  (I'm paraphrasing.)

As it turns out, I was a little too young to truly appreciate Maurice.  But even then, some of the more heated moments in the movie stuck in my mind like the glue my mother used to make for us out of rice while all my classmates got to use that fancy Elmer's stuff from the store.

A couple years pass, and my friends get me into Sailor Moon, which was airing at around six in the morning on TV every weekday.  Granted, in the mangled American TV version of Sailor Moon, they turned one of the men from the first season's gay couple into a girl, but I was tech savvy enough to navigate the web (at that time known as "America Online") and discover the truth behind Zoisite and Kunzite.

Things didn't really click for me, however, until I was fourteen or fifteen years old.  By that time, I was heavily into anime, and my friends had introduced me to Neon Genesis Evangelion (which, by the way, I do not recommend unless you like to see lots and lots of creepy and grotesque sexualized imagery of fourteen-year-old girls).  But, again while surfing online, I stumbled upon some (pretty tame) "yaoi" fan art of Shinji and Kaworu.  I asked myself, "All these fascinating pictures I really like are labeled 'yaoi.'  What does that mean?"  So I went to Yahoo.com and did a search.

Thus was the end of my innocence.

Throughout the next decade or so, I watched and read every yaoi title I could get my hands on.  One of my favorites at the time was the manga series Kizuna, a love story between a former kendo prodigy and the son of a yakuza boss.  I had to buy the books from an online Japanese import shop and then download text translations online, or text summaries if translations weren't available.  Apparently now you can buy the whole manga series in English, which is still on my list of "things to do when I have money."

The manga that probably had the largest influence on my own storytelling, however, was Yami no Matsuei (which you can also now buy in English under the title Descendants of Darkness).  This was primarily a fantasy story about (some very pretty) gods of death who judge the souls of the deceased and handle cases where those souls are interfering with human life.  This series also has one of the better anime adaptations, which I also recommend.  What I loved most about this series was that it had a very strong plot, and the plot really was the focus, but there was also a steady stream of m/m content throughout.  While I appreciate straight-up romance, I prefer stories about other types of struggles that happen to also have strong romantic themes.  This is the way I approach most of my own work.

Later in college, when my interests as an illustration major began shifting toward a more detailed and "realistic" aesthetic, I began branching out from just yaoi and began exploring m/m novels, movies, and TV from the U.S. and other countries.  I even revisited Maurice, both the novel and the movie, and both remain favorites for me.  (The audiobook of Maurice is also wonderful, and has the best narration I've heard on any audiobook.)

Now in my own work as an artist and writer, I like to try to find a healthy balance between the fantasy of yaoi and the (relative) realism of other m/m media, as well as the balance between plot and romance. I'm looking forward to my 7/2 release of Art of Death, as well as the time that more of the m/m elements begin to pop up in my webcomic, Demon of the Underground, because I'm really happy with the balance I've found in both.

Check out the other participants of the Manga and Romance Blog Hop, and be sure to leave a comment on my blog or another participating blog for a chance to win the GRAND PRIZE!  There's lots of m/m and yaoi giveaways, and you don't want to miss the opportunity to shed the last of your innocence, do you?

Monday, June 18, 2012

Too Late to Chicken Out

The release of Art of Death is exactly two weeks away, and as much as I'd love to go crawl back into my hole and pretend I've never written anything, it's a little to late to do that now.

Don't get me wrong; I'm excited and thrilled that this novel is going to be published. But I'm also a whole lot more nervous than I thought I would be. There's a lot to be nervous about. Will people buy the book? If they buy it, will they like it? What if there are mistakes that I missed?

The thing I'm probably the most nervous about, however, is the "heat level" of the book. Let's face it, The Dragon Tamer could easily carry a PG-13 rating. Art of Death? No way. This is a hard R. This is the first time I'm putting out anything with any sort of graphic content in it. (Yes, my webcomic will have some graphic content, but it hasn't happened *yet.*) The sex in Art of Death is integral to the plot and the development of the characters, but in a way that makes it even harder, because I can't even cobble together a "clean" version of the manuscript for people I know without feeling like I'm losing huge chunks of character development.

I finished up with the galley proof today, and one of the editors passed along some really positive and encouraging feedback from the proofreader that helped to put my mind at ease.

Anyway, with only two weeks left before the release, I thought it would be good to share an excerpt from the novel.  This is the opening scene of the novel, and you get to experience a bit of the joy of an art school critique.  I'll probably share one or two more excerpts before the release, but for now, here's the first scene:

Monday, June 4, 2012

Art of Death: I have a blurb!

Anyone wondering exactly what Art of Death is about?  Wonder no more!


Despite the support of his rich older boyfriend, starving artist Riley Burke is determined not to be a trophy—hence his second job as a nude model at the local art school. It’s important to him that he pay his own way, so when the artist Coliaro requests a private modeling session with him, he jumps at the chance to earn some real cash.

Then he hears the rumors—that Coliaro is undead. That his worshippers perform rituals to fill him with life energy.  That every time he paints a male nude, the painting transforms to depict a gruesome murder.  And that shortly after, a young man turns up dead.

The source of these rumors is a man named Westwood, who claims to be an instructor at the school and warns Riley not to get involved. Riley ignores the advice—but when the rumors pan out and another murder looms, he turns to Westwood for help. Westwood is clearly keeping secrets. He’s dangerous, and Riley doesn’t know if he can be trusted—which makes him all the more attractive. Riley is in way over his head… and his involvement with the undead may make him the ultimate target.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

I owe it all to Alex

By now, I should know that no matter how many times I read through a manuscript, a handful of errors will deliberately hide from me until after I've already submitted it to the publisher.

To be fair, The Dragon Tamer was completely clean when I sent it in.  There were other improvements needed, but no typos.  Unfortunately, I can't say the same for the two novels I've submitted.  (Who would have thought that eradicating errors in a 10,000-word short story is a little easier than a 96,255-word novel?)

For me, the main culprit is dropped words.  My first drafts are usually quite clean (in terms of typos), but when I go back to edit, I always fall victim to MS Word's lovely habit of additionally selecting the word right before the block of text I'd intended to replace.

I'd just submitted Bonds of Death, sequel to Art of Death, to the publisher.  After submitting, I decided to go through the manuscript one more time—because nothing feels better than finding mistakes after it's too late to do anything about it (note sarcasm).  But since I had other work to do as well, rather than read the manuscript the same old way, I decided to have Alex read to me while I worked.

Other Mac users may already be familiar with Alex, but I'd never "met" him before.  For those of you who don't know, Alex is a robotic text-to-speech voice that comes with the more recent Mac OS's that sounds much more natural than previous computerized voices.  He's incredibly easy to use, and you can set up a shortcut so all you have to do is select the text you want him to read and then hit the shortcut, and he'll read it.

I know PC's have some sort of equivalent, because as a teenager on a PC, I used to write joke plays and make all the computer voices act them out.  (Ahh, good times...)  But I haven't used a PC in about five years, so if anyone else knows how to do text-to-speech on a PC these days, feel free to chime in.

Anyway, I was pretty impressed with Alex's reading of Bonds of Death.  The prose flowed better than I expected, and he even got almost all of the characters' names right.  He sounds a little ridiculous when he says "okay" and "yeah," and the dialogue is always hilarious because he's not a good actor, but what he's absolutely wonderful at is helping you find errors you might have missed when reading with your own eyes only—especially if you're editing under a deadline, and into the wee hours of morning when your mind isn't as fresh.

With Alex's help, I caught three dropped words, one duplicate word, one singular word that should have been plural, and two wrong words ("though" instead of "through," "hey" instead of "he").  If I'd had my eyes on the text at the same time he was reading, it probably would have been even more effective—although I hope not, because that would mean the manuscript had even more errors in it.  Of course, now I feel horrible because I didn't catch those errors before submitting the manuscript, but at least I know they're there and can fix them in the edits.

Meanwhile, I've finished the latest round of edits on Art of Death and will likely get a galley proof next.  Although I really combed through that manuscript and don't think there are any errors left, you can bet Alex is going to help me through the galley proof, just to be sure.

(and now, Alex is reading my blog entry before I post it...)