Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Happy New Year!

I would like to wish you a Happy New Year and may 2009 fulfill your dreams and bring you health and happiness!
Happy New Year!

Top 10 of my favorite 2008 reads

Each end of the year brings with him a time for looking back over the good and bad things of the year to pass and looking with hope to the year to come. Looking over my 2008 reads I have to say that it was a good year with many wonderful reads. I usually have a hard time making such a top because most of the times I love the books for different reasons and considering different aspects of each book I enjoyed, every title deserves a first place. Still, I’ll try to make a top of my favorite 2008 reads despite their year of publication (re-reads not included):

1. Carlos Ruiz Zafón - “The Shadow of the Wind”

2. Bill Hussey - “Through a Glass, Darkly”

3. R. Scott Bakker - “The Darkness That Comes Before”

4. Patrick Rothfuss - “The Name of the Wind”

5. Brian Ruckley - “Winterbirth” & “Bloodheir”

6. Peadar Ó Guilín - “The Inferior”

7. Peter V. Brett - “The Warded Man”

8. Ekaterina Sedia - “The Secret History of Moscow” (review not yet published)

9. Andrzej Sapkowski - “The Last Wish”

10. Ian C. Esslemont - “Night of Knives”

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

FARSCAPE #1 sells out in 5 days

Copies Still Available at Comic Shops Nationwide
as BOOM! Studios Evaluates Second Printing

After garnering near unanimous critical acclaim, BOOM! Studios announced today that FARSCAPE #1 is completely sold out.

Fans should keep in mind, while distributor Diamond Comics are completely sold out, Farscape #1 may still be found at direct market retailers across the country. BOOM! Studios is working closely with Diamond Comics Distributors and evaluating the demand for a second printing.

"We are tracking the unfilled re-orders carefully at the moment. But a second printing looks like it may just happen," said Marketing and Sales Director Chip Mosher.

FARSCAPE #1 is written by television series creator Rockne O'Bannon with script by Keith R.A. DeCandido, interior art by Tommy Patterson and cover art by fan-favorites Dennis Calero and Joseph Corroney!

Picking up directly where the television miniseries FARSCAPE: THE PEACEKEEPER WARS left off, fans can look forward to show creator O'Bannon steering their favorite characters into new and original stories, keeping with the existing canon - and then extending it!

Since the release of FARSCAPE #1, critics across the internet have raved:

"FARSCAPE is probably the best TV series made into comics I have seen so far." - Independent Comics Site

"Fans of the TV series should rejoice ..." - Broken Frontier

"...FARSCAPE #1 is everything that made FARSCAPE a cult hit and fan favorite, successfully translated to a new medium." - Watch Farscape

"There's action, sex, exposition, and a bit of humor... Pretty much everything you want in a FARSCAPE episode. Color me happy." - Comixtreme

"...the scenes definitely ring true to the show, even some four years later." - Comic Book Resources

"...for those of you who weren't FARSCAPE fans during the TV series run and don't understand what the buzz is about, this is a perfect opportunity to jump in!" - Comic Related

"It's good. Very good... Strongly recommended." - Dave's Rants

Debuting on the SCI-FI Channel in 1998, FARSCAPE follows the adventures of astronaut John Crichton, who has a freak accident during an experimental space mission that catapults him across a thousand galaxies to an alien battlefield. Suddenly, he's trapped among alien creatures wielding deadly technology - a battle that 20th century sci-fi pop culture never prepared him for. Hunted by a merciless military race, Crichton begins his quest for home from a distant galaxy.

A groundbreaking award-winning sci-fi production, FARSCAPE from The Jim Henson Company and [HALLMARK] has become a global favorite. Named by TV Guide as one of television's "Best Cult Shows Ever" and most recently named by EMPIRE Magazine as one of the "50 Greatest TV Shows of All Time," FARSCAPE is known for the overwhelming fan-based campaign that led to its miniseries production. The show has continued to find new audiences as it airs in syndication and is available on iTunes and DVD.

BOOM! Studios has a limited supply of FARSCAPE #1 A,B & C available on their website on a first come, first serve basis.

About BOOM! Studios
BOOM! Studios ( is a unique new publishing house specializing in high-profile projects across a wide variety of different genres from some of the industry's biggest talents. In its inaugural year, Wizard Magazine named BOOM! "Best New Publisher." Founded by the creator of the TV show EUREKA, Andrew Cosby, and his partner Ross Richie, BOOM! Studios continues to be on the leading edge of comic and graphic novel publishing.

Monday, December 29, 2008

An update

I hope that everyone had a wonderful Christmas and that Santa brought you the gifts you wished for. On my part Santa brought a new special gift, I had a lot of snow and the atmosphere was wonderful (the photo is taken outside my window :)) and it remind me of my childhood days when the snowy days were the usual deal.

I finished “The Mammoth Book of Best New Horror 18” and Ekaterina Sedia’s novel, “The Secret History of Moscow”, too, but because of some very lazy days I didn’t start writing the reviews. But those lazy days are approaching the end and I will start writing the reviews this week and post them at the beginning of the next week. This week the posting might be scarce because we have some invitations from a few friends to spend some time at mountain cabins, but from the beginning of the next week the schedule will come to normal as well.

And don’t forget that The David Gemmell Award started his voting process since 26th of December and you can cast your vote for your favorite 2008 novel on the award website.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Stop #3 on Sue Lange's Virtual Book Tour for The Textile Planet

First off, let me thank Mihai. for hosting the third stop on my virtual book tour of The Textile Planet. The Textile Planet is a serialized novel published at with one new episode going up every other Sunday. At the time of this writing four episodes have been made available (

I feel I should talk about BookViewCafe (BVC) itself for a bit. It's a cooperative website run by twenty print published authors. We all have previously published novels, novellas, and short stories in the traditional book industry. BVC represents a way for each of us to try out Internet publishing models. The group includes such writers as Ursula K. Le Guin, Vonda N. Mcintyre, and Sarah Zettel. Needless to say, I feel quite honored to be a member.

Most of the work offered through BVC consists of out-of-print books, as-yet-unpublished stories, or work that is experimental in nature and unavailable elsewhere. That's one of the draws of the site: you can't get this stuff anywhere else. Another draw is that so far all of the stories are free. There are plans to provide some of the work for sale in ebook format and/or actual hardcopy printing, but there will always be free fiction available. We update the website daily with new content right on the first page. It's been a very busy and exciting launch due to the great response we've received from the online community.

My own offering, The Textile Planet, is speculative fiction with 32 episodes in all. The story follows Marla Gershe, who runs into trouble on the Textile Planet and has to run to the end of the Galaxy to escape. What she discovers there promises to be the solution to all of mankind's problems, but only adds to Marla's. It's a dark tale of satire which will resonate with anyone who's ever had a bad day at work.

I'm hoping readers will try out the interactive content that goes with the episodes: links to back story, sound files, Youtube video, that sort of thing. Skipping the links won't hinder an understanding of the plot, but the added content is fun. There's a form for feedback too. Love that feedback, good or bad. I did a trial run with about 50 beta readers and received a great response from that effort. I'm confident about it now that it's out there in the wild world ready for service, but you never know. With a piece like mine that is experimental in nature, it's hard to know how it will come off. Who's going to be stopping by and what are they expecting? Will it seem surprising, or silly? Will they get it? Who knows?

I invite the Dark Wolf readers to stop by and see what they think. No charge. And send that feedback!

The Textile Planet:
Sue Lange's website:

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas!

I wish you all a Merry Christmas and may Santa put gifts under your Christmas tree and smiles on your souls and faces.

Happy Holidays!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

In the mailbox

I have been treated before Christmas with a few more books. And I am hopeful that in 2009 the postal service will run smoothly :)

- "Mirrormask" by Neil Gaiman (through the courtesy of Bloomsbury Publishing);
- "The Graveyard Book" by Neil Gaiman (through the courtesy of Bloomsbury Publishing);
- "The Golden Cord" by Paul Genesse (through the courtesy of Paul Genesse);
- "Gladiatrix" by Russell Whitfield (through the courtesy of Russell Whitfield and Myrmidon Books);
- "Piper" by Helen McCabe (through the courtesy of Myrmidon Books).

Thank you all very much.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Three Crow Press

Yesterday Morrigan Books launched a new online magazine, Three Crow Press. Three Crow Press is a magazine specializing in quality speculative fiction, fantasy (urban, dark and gothic), horror and steampunk as well as non-fiction pieces and articles.
The first issue appeared on Winter Solstice and gathers very interesting content:
- 7 pieces of fiction written by Francesca Forrest, Mark Rossmore, F.R.R. Mallory, Klaudia Bara, Alice Godwin, George Rizen and Catherine J. Gardner;
- an interview with Elaine Cunningham conducted by the owner and editor-in-chief of Morrigan Books, Mark S. Deniz;
- a featured artist, Ursula Vernon;
- and a few reviews and articles written by Reece Notley, T.A. Moore, J. Lee Moffatt and Mark S. Deniz.
It is an interesting ezine and if you want to read the first issue and those to come you can find it at the Three Crow Press web page.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Upcoming release & Cover art

Robert, the Fantasy Book Critic, has his wonderful series of articles for the end of the year where many authors make a review for 2008 and a preview for 2009. Through such an article I found a new upcoming novel which turned my interest on. And also the novel has a very interesting cover art.

Kevin J. Anderson will release a fantasy trilogy, “Terra Incognita”, and the next year the first book in the trilogy will be published, “The Edge of the World”. The novel will be published by Orbit Books on June 2009 in the US and on July 2009 in the UK and it has a very interesting premise:

War has raged for twenty years between the Broekari and the Aidenists. Divided by their worship of different gods - each sons of the Creator, Ondun - it seems likely that the war will never end. But then the Aidenists make a startling discovery. A merchant ship, sailing the very edge of the world, hauls aboard a large sea turtle. Inscribed upon its shell is an ancient map - a map that seems to show the way to paradise: the lost kingdom of Holy Joron, the third son of Ondun. Across the world, an ancient parchment is unearthed by the Broekari. This parchment also shows a map - a map that points the way to the Key of Creation, and thus to the kingdom of Holy Joron. And so the race is joined. Will the children of the sons of Ondun finally find peace in the fabled lost kingdom? Or will they take the hatred and death of two decades at war to paradise...?

And I have to admit that the cover art turned my interest further on, because it has an interesting concept and an attractive look. So, I added another title for my wishing list of 2009.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Fantasy Art - Alan Lathwell

© The artwork presented on this post is used with the permission of its author. All the artwork is copyrighted. Please do not use the images without the permission of the artist or owner.

Alan Lathwell is an English artist who lives and works in London as a freelance illustrator. He has worked in a wide range of subjects and styles and his works appeared on magazines, books, games and trading cards. His work “Hells Horseman” won an ImagineFX competition and another work, “The Warrior”, is featured on art album “Exposé 6”.

Interview - Alan Lathwell

Dark Wolf: Alan, thank you for the opportunity of this interview.
Which is your first recollection when it comes to art? Do you remember when you start drawing for the first time?
Alan Lathwell: I honestly can’t remember a time when I didn’t draw and my earliest recollections are looking through comics and creating my own comic characters.

Dark Wolf: Who do you consider to have influenced your career so far? What are your main sources of inspiration?
Alan Lathwell: I like the work of so many artists, but in the fantasy field there are two artists that made a huge impact on me when I was younger; one was Frank Frazetta and the other was Philippe Druillet.

Dark Wolf: Do you prefer to work with a specific tool, I mean do you prefer the traditional tools or the digital ones?
Alan Lathwell: I’ve always painted with traditional media and I particularly love the qualities of oil paint, but as an illustrator painting digitally has so many advantages. I try to replicate the look of oils when painting digitally and I continue to use oils when working on my own personal projects.

DW: I’ve seen that some of your works are started in pencil for example and finished with the digital method. Also I’ve seen that other works are made using the both methods. Can you tell me please what your method of work is? Do you always start with a paper sketch and then use the computer?
AL: It varies, it’s good not to be too rigid in your methods. My usual process starts with a rough outline that I colour digitally. This stage is very loose and is where most of the experimenting takes place. When I’m happy with the colour rough I paint over it, bringing the whole picture to a tighter finish. My favourite software is Corel Painter, which is excellent for replicating traditional media.

DW: The majority of your works have fantasy themes. Do you enjoy this genre? How did you become interested in this genre?
AL: I love fantasy art and I always have. I’ve experimented with other genres but I always return to fantasy art, it offers so much scope for the imagination!

DW: I really liked many characters from your works and they made me think of medieval times and historical figures. Are you interested in history too? What inspires the creation of these characters?
AL: Yes, I’m very interested in history, from the might and power of ancient Rome to the barbarism of the dark ages, it’s always fascinated me. I also enjoy ancient mythology and find this a great source of inspiration too.

DW: Some of your works have horror influences. Did you ever thought trying this genre? Would you like to use this theme more often in the future?
AL: I do tend to concentrate on the darker side of fantasy and enjoy painting demons and skulls, horror would be a natural progression from this.

DW: How did you feel when your work was featured in the “Exposé” book? Do you plan to publish your own book in which to gather your wonderful works?
AL: Expose showcases the best in digital art from around the world, so to have my work included was fantastic. It would be a dream come true to publish a book of my own work and if the opportunity arises I will certainly jump at the chance.

DW: How did you become involved in “The Erth Chronicles” project? How was the work on this project?
AL: The creator of Erth Chronicles, Richard Johnson, invited me to submit some concept designs after seeing my work in Imagine FX. After reading the book, ‘The Enemy’s Son’, and seeing some of the marvellous artwork on the official website, I contributed a few designs and went on to paint all the promotional material to accompany the release of the book. The website offers a unique opportunity for artists to get involved with a live project and showcase their work at the same time.

DW: Would you like to be involved in other such projects in the future?
AL: Things have really taken off for me since getting involved with Erth Chronicles so it’s not always easy to find the time. However, projects like this are a great platform for artists to promote themselves and get their art seen by a much wider audience.

DW: Now, I know that this question is a little odd, but which one do you consider to be your best work so far?
AL: The great thing about having your work on community websites is that people tell you which pictures they like best and at the moment the two images I get the most feedback on are ‘Death’s Warrior’ and ‘Dealing Death’. I personally do not have a favourite, as an artist I’m constantly striving to do better with the next image.

DW: What do you consider to be the most rewarding moment of your career so far?
AL: Winning the ImagineFX/PNY Challenge was definitely a high point for me. I entered ‘Hell’s Horseman’ as an afterthought and I could not believe it when I won. It was this that made me upload my fantasy images to the community websites and since than I haven’t looked back.

DW: I know that one of your favorite shows is “The Simpsons”, I hope I am not mistaken (I absolutely love that show too). Would you like to work on such a show or other such project?
AL: Working on animation would be quite a departure for me but I’m always keen to explore other genres.

DW: Would you like to experiment in other fields too? I mean would you like to work on a comic book, graphic novel, concept art or gaming industry for example?
AL: I’m currently working on the Luna Moon Hunter comic ( due to be released sometime next year and at some point I would like to write and illustrate my own comic, it’s just a matter of finding the time. I love playing video games and would really like to get involved in the production side.

DW: What are your plans for the immediate future? What other projects do you have?
AL: As well as the Luna Moon Hunter comic I’m also illustrating a children’s book on knights. I love illustrating children’s books although I do have to adapt my style a little. The great thing about being a freelance illustrator is you just don’t know what you’re next job will be and I think it’s the variety that makes it such a rewarding career.

Alan, thank you very much for your time and answers. It has been a pleasure.

You can find a complete portfolio of Alan Lathwell at his DeviantArt page.

© The artwork presented on this post is used with the permission of its author. All the artwork is copyrighted. Please do not use the images without the permission of the artist or owner.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Kreativ Blogger Award

Doug from the wonderful blog SciFi Guy nominated my blog for another very nice award, Kreativ Blogger. Thank you very much Doug, I am very happy for this nomination.

Here are the rules and my nominees:

1. Mention the blog that gave it to you.
2. Comment on their blog to let them know you have posted the award.
3. Share 6 values that are important to you.
4. Share 6 things you do not support.
5. Share the love with six other wonderful blogging friends.

6 values important to me:
1. Family
2. Friendship
3. Loyalty
4. Integrity
5. Sincerity
6. The Simpsons - not a value, but I love this show too much not to mention it here :)

6 things I do not support:
1. Treason
2. Cheating
3. Selfishness
4. Pessimism
5. Thieves
6. Censorship

6 wonderful blogs and friends:

1. Best Blog for traveling, through reviews, imagination and photos: Barbara Martin

2. Best Blog for Series Reviews: Dragons, Heroes and Wizards

3. Best Blog for Fantasy Reviews: Fantasy Book Critic

4. Best Blog for a wonderful association Fantasy Reviews and Coffee flavor: Fantasy Cafe

5. Best Blog for Fantasy Debutants: Fantasy Debut

6. Best Blog for Literary and Speculative Fiction: OF Blog of the Fallen

Tuesday, December 16, 2008


In my reading experience and in building my book collection I didn’t pay much attention to the signed copies, until recently. Recently I discovered how much I enjoy when I receive or buy a book which has a dedication from the author to me. It gives me a great pleasure and makes my interaction with the respective book even more personal.

I found out about a new such opportunity, a giveaway which has as prize a signed copy of a debut novel. The author R. Scot Johns launched on October this year his debut novel “The Saga of Beowulf”. In November he also started a blog, The Adventures of an Independent Author. In order to promote his novel and his blog R. Scot Johns is offering a copy of his debut novel, “The Saga of Beowulf”, signed by him. In order to win the autographed copy you will have to post a comment of his blog and to provide contact information. The contest is running until New Year’s Eve. You can find the full information about the contest of Scot’s blog.

Here it is a little information about “The Saga of Beowulf”:
"I wanted to tell the story in its entirety, and in the original setting of 6th century pagan Scandinavia," says author R. Scot Johns. "It has never been done before in its full scope, with both the historical and mythological elements intact. And it took me ten years, so now I know why."
"Breathtaking in scope and rivetingin pace," the story follows Beowulf as he embarks upon a fateful quest for vengeance against the creature that slew his father, setting in motion a sequence of events which will take him from the fetid fens of Denmark to the frozen fields of Sweden as he battles men and demons in a quest to conquer his own fears, all the while fleeing from the woman he has sworn to love.

Good luck to all!

Monday, December 15, 2008

Interview - Peter V. Brett

Peter V. Brett went to the University at Buffalo where he received his Bachelor of Arts degree in English Literature and Art History. He made his debut this year when his novel “The Painted Man” was published on September by Harper Voyager. The novel will appear in 2009 in the US under the name of “The Warded Man” at the Del Rey (reviewed here). Also in 2009 on August will be published the sequel of his debut novel, “The Desert Spear”. Peter lives in Brooklyn, NY with his wife Dani, their new daughter Cassandra, and their evil cat, Jinx.

Dark Wolf: Peter, thank you very much for the opportunity of this interview.
Your debut novel “The Warded Man” (“The Painted Man”) is strongly set in the fantasy genre. How much interest do you have in the genre? What made you write inside the genre?
Peter V. Brett: I have enormous interest in the genre. Epic fantasy has always been what I loved reading, right from my early childhood. I’ve only read a handful of science fiction books, and I am generally bored by other genres or straight fiction. So when it came to writing, there was never a question in my mind. Fantasy was it, and I don’t expect that to change.

Dark Wolf: With such an interest in Fantasy may I ask who are your favorite authors and which are your favorite titles?
Peter V. Brett: Oh, so many. I’ve read hundreds of fantasy novels, though even that is only a tiny fraction of what’s out there. How about I just list 10 of my favorite books in no particular order?
1. The Hobbit, by JRR Tolkien
2. The Elfstones of Shannara, by Terry Brooks
3. Homeland, by RA Salvatore
4. Master of the Five Magics, by Lyndon Hardy
5. When True Night Falls, by CS Friedman
6. The Shadow Rising, by Robert Jordan
7. The Runelords, by David Farland
8. A Game of Thrones, by George RR Martin
9. His Majesty’s Dragon, by Naomi Novik
10. The Subtle Knife, by Phillip Pullman

Dark Wolf: You proved to be very ambitious writing your novel in difficult conditions, on your way to work, on the subway… What made you keep writing? Did you want at one point during your writing to abandon?
Peter V. Brett: Never. Writers, myself included, frequently use “I don’t have time to write!” as an excuse for not producing, but it’s a lie. When things are important in our lives, we MAKE time to do them, and they get done. When they’re not important, we don’t. Writing is important to me, and so I made time for it during my commute, and at home each night, even when it meant less time spent doing other things I enjoy. I think I would keep on writing even if no one ever bought anything I wrote again. I just feel… better about myself when I am writing, and sometimes, I am as eager as anyone to see what happens next.

DW: I know that theoretically “The Warded Man” is not your debut novel, you wrote other novels too. But how did this novel become the first published one? Is there a chance for the other works to see the light of print?
PVB: It’s true that I wrote some other books before The Warded Man. It became the first to be published, frankly, because it was better than the others. I think I learned more about writing with each subsequent book I’ve written, and those early works reflect a lot of errors that I have since learned to spot and correct.
However, I do think those other books hold some promise, and I have not ruled out going back and fixing them after I finish all this demon business. Right now, I have more demons stories than I know what to do with, and that is my main focus.

DW: “The Warded Man” has quite a story in itself and I read that it suffered a lot of changes since the initial manuscript. Do you miss those changes? Is there an element dropped from the manuscript which you regret not including it in the novel? Is there one which will appear in the future novels?
PVB: While my US and UK editors made comments and suggestions, I always had creative control of my manuscript, as is the case with most authors. For instance, my US publisher asked that I make the final manuscript 10% shorter than the original, but all the final decisions about what to cut and where were mine.
I honestly feel the book is better for the cuts, even though some of the deleted scenes are, in my opinion, quite good. They were sacrifices to the gods of pacing and plot, and worthy ones, at that. I will be posting many of those deleted pieces on my website so that readers can still enjoy them, and there are a few that made their way into the sequel, The Desert Spear.

DW: Speaking of changes, did you follow a precise structure established since the beginning or did the story suffer changes while you were writing it?
PVB: I think all stories change as they are written. It’s kind of inevitable. I am a meticulous planner, writing out detailed outline stepsheets for everything I can think of before I start writing prose, but even so I frequently have ideas or insights while writing that can cause the story to veer off in an unexpected direction. It’s one of the reasons writing is so fun.

DW: Lately many fantasy novels try to come with new and innovative elements in the genre and one of them I believe to be your novel. Do you think that the fantasy literature can improve? Do you think that these new elements can drive new readership toward fantasy genre?
PVB: I think literature can always improve. That’s not to say that classics of the fantasy genre like The Lord of the Rings or the Morte D’Arthur won’t always be so, but as our cultures change and evolve, so too must our media in all its forms, in order to keep current and avoid stagnation. There are a great many writers out there now testing the limits of the fantasy genre and having a great time at it. I’m happy to be considered part of that, and wish I had more time to read the great variety available. I think there have never before been so many fresh voices and new ideas in fantasy as there are right now. It’s a wonderful time to be involved in the industry from a creative perspective.

DW: Your fantasy world seems quite dangerous and a hard place to live. Where did the idea come from and what inspired your created world?
PVB: I always wanted to write a book about demons, but I think a lot of the emotion behind it was inspired by how I and my fellow New Yorkers felt during and after September 11. I was working in a midtown Manhattan high rise office at the time, and was given a terrifying view of the smoke as the Twin Towers burned, and the panic on the streets. Even for a long time afterwards, the fear in people was palpable, and in many, it became an ingrained thing. I wanted to write about that, and used demons as a metaphor. But also, I wanted to write about the inner strength of those same people, the strength that made them forget their differences and band together to help one another pick up the pieces, even strangers they’d never met.

DW: Beside the use of demons as a metaphor to a present reality did you transpose other problems and situations of our world into your novel?
PVB: I think having characters in a novel deal with issues and themes similar to those people deal with in the real world is what makes a story compelling, so of course I try to do that whenever possible. Religion, sexuality, courage, ethnocentrism, the loss of loved ones, and countless other issues are dealt with by the characters as they go on their adventures, and hopefully some of those themes will resonate with readers and relate to the trials they face in their own lives.

DW: I’ve noticed that the Krasians from your story resemble a lot with the Arab culture and society. Did the Arab culture inspire the Krasians and how did other cultures inspire and influence your story?
PVB: The Krasians are inspired by a number of cultures, though the Arab influence is the most obvious. They are also modeled after the Spartan citizen soldier model of ancient Greece, the war philosophies of Sun Tzu, martial arts from Korea and other countries, etc. I wanted to make them a society whose entire culture was designed to fight a war they had little hope of winning. I think there’s a tragic beauty to that.
For most of the other places in the first book, I was going for a more Western feel, making the broken kingdom of Thesa a combination of the pseudo-medieval setting of most fantasy books and the American old west.
As I’ve said in other interviews, though, there isn’t meant to be a particular political statement in the conflict between the two cultures. I try hard to tell both sides of the story, and create a world that is complex and raises moral questions about the actions of all its leaders, just as ours does.

DW: The glimpses of your fantasy world, geographically, historically or religiously, were very intriguing and made me want to see more of it. Will these aspects of the novel be developed in the future novels of your series?
PVB: I hope so. There are places I have planned outside the borders of the map in the book (which covers an area approximately the size of Texas), but it may be a while before I have good plot reasons to go there.

DW: When I am thinking of your upcoming novel, “The Desert Spear”, I have to admit that I am looking forward to two particular conflicts with which you teased the reader in “The Warded Man”. And I refer here to a discovery of Arlen regarding the Core and to the final phrases of your novel. Would the upcoming novel be centered on these events? Can you reveal something about “The Desert Spear”?
PVB: No comment about the Core. That will be dealt with eventually, but I am giving no spoilers. The Desert Spear will focus mostly on the life story of the Krasian leader Jardir, and his campaign in the north, as well as the story of Renna Tanner, the girl from Tibbet’s Brook whom Arlen was supposed to have an arranged marriage with. Of course, it will also feature Arlen, Leesha, Rojer, and plenty of demon ass-kicking.

DW: I really liked your novel and I was thinking that now I have a new ongoing series which I follow. Will your series be settled into a trilogy or will it be developed in more volumes if I’m permitted to ask?
PVB: I am contracted for three books at the moment, but it was never a trilogy in my mind. My plan for the series was always for it to be done in five books. I have a definite end in mind, but I want to take a little time to explore the world and characters before I get there. Afterwards… who knows what the future holds? I have some other projects I would like to work on, but if there was interest, I would certainly consider revisiting the demon world, most likely with an entirely new cast of characters. I already have some notes and ideas, should that come to pass.

DW: Besides finishing your series do you have some ideas for a future novel or other projects?
PVB: Yes. As I said above, I hold some hopes of returning to some of my earlier, non-demon books. I have 2.5 books of an entirely different series written, with notes for two more. I also have some other ideas I would like to develop when I have the time. I’m still fairly young at 35, and I hope to have decades of writing ahead of me. Even though it can be incredibly difficult and stressful at times, there is really nothing I would rather be doing.

Thank you very much for your time and answers. It has been a pleasure.
Thank you for the opportunity. I really enjoyed it.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

"The Mammoth Book of Best Horror Comics" edited by Peter Normanton

"The Mammoth Book of Best Horror Comics"
edited by Peter Normanton
Format: paperback, 512 pages

The anthology of Peter Normanton, a comic book collector who proves his line of expertise in “The Mammoth Book of Best Horror Comics”, is not just a simple anthology. It is a trip through the history of horror comic books, an initiation trip for the beginners and a recollection trip for the fans of these comics. It is a little museum spread along the pages of Peter Normanton’s book.

The anthology is structured in four parts which capture four time periods of the horror comic books, “The Dark Age of Comics 1940s and 1950s”, “The Terror Returns 1960s and 1970s”, “The Faithful Few 1980s and 1990s” and “A New Millennium for the Macabre 21st Century”. Each part has an introduction written by Peter Normanton explaining the particularities of each period, introducing the artists and the authors of the comics and revealing a little the market of horror comic books.

“The Dark Age of Comics” shows the beginning of the horror comics and the issues had by them with the pre-coded rules. The art of this period is a little crude and a bit simplistic, but not without their own charm. The stories seem to follow a certain pattern, with some of them concentrated on former Nazi officers and scenarios around them following the end of World War II. But they form a nice introduction to the world of horror comics.

“The Terror Returns” follows the comics in a new period, with a development in the art. Also the range of subjects increases with accents put on Science Fiction and supernatural themes.

“The Faithful Few” shows a development in the art and the stories of these comic books. The stories become more complex and powerful and it seems that other published fiction is transpose into comics. This section has two strong pieces, “The Dunwich Horror” an adaptation of H.P. Lovecraft’s story and “Purgation” a dark horror comic.

“A New Millennium of the Macabre” brings the reader to the present days of horror comics. The art and the stories are more diverse because the present days offer new techniques of work and new sources of inspiration. However the comics using the photo manipulation aren’t as powerful as those drawn.

“The Mammoth Book of Best Horror Comics” doesn’t gather all the names of horror comics’ history, that would have been impossible, and it doesn’t bring the big names of comic publishing into this anthology, they are largely known. But Peter Normanton’s book makes a timeline for the horror comics and shows the reader the evolution of these particular comic books.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Book Reviewers Linkup Meme

John from Grasping for the Wind is trying to update his blogroll and came up with a very nice meme, Book Reviewers Linkup. Here it is something about his idea:
So take this list, add it to your blog, and add a link to your blog on it. If you are already on the list, repost this meme at your blog so others can see it, and find new blogs from the links others put up on their blogs.

A Dribble Of Ink
Adventures in Reading
The Agony Column
Barbara Martin
Bibliophile Stalker
Blood of the Muse
The Book Swede
Breeni Books
Cheryl's Musings
Dark Wolf Fantasy Reviews
Darque Reviews
Dave Brendon's Fantasy and Sci-Fi Weblog
Dragons, Heroes and Wizards
Dusk Before the Dawn
Enter the Octopus
Fantasy Book Critic
Fantasy Cafe
Fantasy Debut
Fantasy Book Reviews and News
Fantasy and Sci-fi Lovin' Blog
The Fix
The Foghorn Review
The Galaxy Express
Graeme's Fantasy Book Review
Highlanders Book Reviews
Jumpdrives and Cantrips
Literary Escapism
Mostly Harmless Books
My Favourite Books
Neth Space
OF Blog of the Fallen
The Old Bat's Belfry
Pat's Fantasy Hotlist
Post-Weird Thoughts
Realms of Speculative Fiction
Rob's Blog o' Stuff
SciFi Guy
Sci-Fi Songs [Musical Reviews]
Severian's Fantastic Worlds
SF Signal
SF Site
SFF World's Book Reviews
Silver Reviews
Speculative Fiction Junkie
Speculative Horizons
Sporadic Book Reviews
Temple Library Reviews
The Road Not Taken
Urban Fantasy Land
Vast and Cool and Unsympathetic
Variety SF
Walker of Worlds
Wands and Worlds
The Wertzone
WJ Fantasy Reviews
The World in a Satin Bag

Foreign Language (other than English)
Cititor SF (Romanian, with an English translation) [French]

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Fantasy Art - Caniglia

© The artwork presented on this post is used with the permission of its author. All the artwork is copyrighted. Please do not use the images without the permission of the artist or owner.

Jeremy Caniglia is an American painter born in Omaha, Nebraska on July 13, 1970. He graduated in 1993 the Iowa State University with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in drawing, painting and printmaking. In 1995 he received the Master of Fine Arts degree from the Maryland Institute College of Art. His marvelous works were featured on magazines, books, albums and CD covers and are in private collections around the world. In 2004 Shocklines Press released a book “As Dead as Leaves – The Art of Caniglia” which features his works from the last 10 years. His works and talent were rewarded with two nominations for the International Horror Guild Award for best artist in dark fantasy and horror in 2003 and 2004 and in 2004 with the prestigious award. In 2005 Caniglia was nominated for the first time for the World Fantasy Award for Best Artist in Fantasy.

Interview - Caniglia

Dark Wolf: Jeremy thank you for your amiability and the opportunity of this interview.
What has attracted you toward art and when did you become aware of your talent?
Jeremy Caniglia: The first thing that really attracted me to the arts would have to be the church paintings and frescoes that I observed as a child. I grew up in a strong Italian Catholic family and we would always visit different Churches and Cathedrals. I found myself always staring at the emotional renaissance style paintings on the walls while mass was going on. I loved the drama and depth in the artwork.
I first was interested in art as a career when I was in High school. It was my junior year and I was taking band as my artistic elective. I wasn’t doing very well and I got kicked out of band, and I really did not care, but then I was forced to take an art class.
It was a dream come true. I could not believe that a two - dimensional surface could become three- dimensional with the stroke of a brush. When I started creating art for the first time it was like a light came on and this is what I wanted to do in life. I wanted to turn a blank canvas into a scene from my imagination. It was incredible to see the emotional reactions of people to something I drew or painted. I now had the power to irritate, manipulate, or motivate. This is the path I would choose and I haven’t stopped painting… since taking that first art class.

Dark Wolf: You studied with the abstract expressionist Grace Hartigan. How did your teacher change your career? You were attracted by the abstract since the beginning or did your teacher have an influence on your choices?
Jeremy Caniglia: As you might know Grace Hartigan died last month and I am still quite depressed from loosing such a great friend and mentor. She was such an incredible artist. She was filled to the brim with life and love for all things artistic.
In 1993 I was selected and given a full scholarship by Grace Hartigan to come study under her at the Maryland Institute College of Art. It was the most incredible two years of my artist growth in a school setting. Grace was brilliant. One of the best abstract expressionist to come out of the 1950's. She had learned and painted with Jackson Pollack and William De Kooning. Her stories were incredible and her insight into my work was like a director giving advice to an actor. She questioned my development and made me really refine what I wanted in life and art. Even though we had very different styles our message was the same. We painted life for what it was... love, birth and death. She is such an inspiration and I still hear her voice in my head when I paint today. I really feel after looking back on that time that she subconsciously brought a lot of modern contemporary feel to my figurative work.

Dark Wolf: You also say that you are influenced by the Old Masters, such as Leonardo da Vinci and Caravaggio. How did they inspire and influence you?
Jeremy Caniglia: Artist that have had a huge influence on me are the old masters. Leonardo da Vinci's old drawings created in brilliant burnt sienna tones on yellow paper in his notebooks are brilliant. His studies hold so much inspiration. His inventions, science, animal, and human studies are amazing! It has always pulled at me emotionally. I love looking at them and to this day I study them like they are clues from the past to the hope of the future. I am also captivated by Caravaggio's paintings and his in-depth technique of drama in art. His use of color and chiaroscuro... use of light and shadow is unmatched. His work is very theatrical in a way almost as if the viewer has just come upon a scene on the streets and they are witnessing it first hand. They are harsh and at the same time honest.
These two artists are very inspirational to my work. They keep me digging deeper into my imagination for new ideas that are just as bold and truthful.

DW: Your portfolio consists almost exclusively in Horror works. What attracts you towards this genre?
JC: The main thing that attracts me towards the genre of Horror is the human condition. I feel that life is so short and fragile, that it must not be taken for granted. I try to explore and express the many emotional levels and layers that life gives us and the ones that most people turn away from.

DW: I really like your works and your approach on Horror. And I mean here that your works are not necessary gory or bloody, but more an in depth and psychological horror. Does psychology play a role in your creations? Are you interested in psychology?
JC: Psychology plays a huge role in my art. My work as I mentioned has always been about the human condition and the layers that are hidden beneath it. I show situations that most people don't want to even talk about. For instance suicide, rape, and street violence. Suicide is increasing in our modern society. It is an issue that needs to be addressed. Why are the youth in such despair that they feel they have nowhere to turn. I also feel for victims of rape who are preyed upon by the wolves of our society. I am also saddened by the street violence of the youth and gangs in the inner cities. So many lives lost for what? My work makes people see the issues they would like to sweep under the rug.
I am very interested in psychology and I read a lot. Carl Jung is amazing and has so many great ideas that I agree with. He really emphasized the importance of balance and harmony in our lives. He cautioned society on relying to heavy on logic and science and search for inner spirituality and appreciation for the unconscious realm. I try all of these things in my work.
I also love Joseph Campbell and his ideas of universal truths. I also feel Henry David Thoreau's book "Walden" has great insight into society and what is really important in this world. One quote that I love is when he said "There are none happy in the world but beings who enjoy freely a vast horizon".

DW: Do you think that the Horror works have a more powerful impact on the viewer, psychological and emotional, than other works from other genres?
JC: Yes and no. I feel that a lot of horror art does have a powerful impact on viewers but I also see art from other types of genres that are just as powerful. A great painting is a great painting and really doesn’t have to belong to a movement or a genre for the universal message to be seen and felt.

DW: Also many of your works are focused on children. How much different is a child subject than an adult one? And speaking of emotional impact does a child have a more powerful impact in a horror setting than an adult person?
JC: Children are a huge part of my art. Children are the seed of hope for the future and they must be protected at all cost. I have two children and I am very protective of them. I really feel paintings with children have a more powerful impact then adults in paintings. The reason I feel this way is because the children represent the innocence in all of us that we try to preserve. It seems like from are early days in youth that society wants us to grow up so fast and devour the inner child that we have in all of us. It is important to hold on to the dreams we have as children and keep that spirit alive.

DW: Your interest in Horror goes outside art as well? I mean do you enjoy Horror movies and novels?
JC: I really don’t watch a lot of Horror movies or read that many horror novels. I mostly find myself reading old art books and a lot of Thoreau (Walden). I spend most of my free time with my wife and kids and enjoying a very simple life.

DW: You illustrated a great number of Horror novels. What implicates the work on book covers? For which novel did you enjoyed the most making the cover?
JC: Yes, I have illustrated over 60 novels so far. I always read every story I illustrate because I have to get into the world that the author has created. It is very important to me to immerse myself in the story like an actor does in a movie. I really enjoyed the covers I created for Margo Lanagan’s “Red Spikes”, as well as Douglas Clegg’s “Neverland” and Tom Piccirilli’s “Choir of Ill Children”.

DW: Did you meet any of the authors of these novels? With which one would you like to work again and with which new one would you like to work?
JC: I have met with most of the authors that I work with. When it is not possible to meet with them in person, I mostly e-mail ideas back and forth with the authors.
I would love to work with Neil Gaiman or Guillermo del Toro.

DW: You have also your own book, “As Dead as Leaves”. How was the work on this project? How selective you had to be with your works for this book?
JC: “As Dead as Leaves” brought together 10 years worth of paintings, drawings, photos and etchings. It only has about a ¼ of my work in it but it has some of my very important paintings that I wanted to document. This project took about 2 years to create and a lot of layout and design work. It does have some covers in it but it has a lot of my art that has been sold in personal gallery and Museum shows. The book goes through the seasons of my work as well as life itself. It ranges from scenes of angels and bliss to scenes of pure hell. Everything that life gives us.

DW: At the beginning of your gallery is stated and I quote: “He creates imaginary worlds, where civilizations have gone to pieces, in hopes that they will choose another path”. How are looking Jeremy Caniglia’s worlds? Is a story behind this worlds and their art presentation?
JC: Every one of my paintings has a story in it. Most of the time I leave it ambiguous so that it can be interpreted many different ways. Yes my art is a type of warning. It shows worlds gone wrong in hopes that society will choose another path. I show people a glimpse of their own mortality in hopes they will love their life and go home and hug the person they love. I think people spend their whole lives searching for signs and angels... and all the time they were right in front of them. They are the faces of their lover, children, and family. They just need to be reminded what is really important. I feel my art does offer hope, it is subtle but it is hope.

DW: Do you think that our world will suffer a tragic end? Do you think that our future is more grim than bright?
JC: I don’t think our world will suffer a tragic end. This is yet another dark time in our history. War, terrorism, disease, and poverty have engulfed the globe. It seems to me that peace or the concept of peace on earth, or even between neighbors at times seems like a lost idea. People always ask why a majority of my art centers on birth and death. I guess the answer would be it helps me understand the impermanence of life on this planet.
By bringing ego and materialism into perspective we will find truth and wisdom lying within those willing to listen. There is always light in the darkest of places and our future is bright.

DW: Speaking of books, art and imaginary worlds, did you ever considered crossing the border on the writers’ side? Creating so many powerful images did you ever thought on putting those wonderful images in words?
JC: Yes, I am currently working on two short novels which I hope to finish by 2010. I have them mostly written but I am still editing and rewriting them. They are stories that are based on the worlds inside my paintings. Very surreal.

DW: How much different is promoting your art book than a personal art show? Do you like the interaction with the viewers at your art shows?
JC: Promoting my book was a lot different since some people in the Horror genre had never seen my personal work and the people at my gallery shows had never seen my book illustrations. I have found that my work is crossing a lot of genres of people and they are enjoying the book for the work of art that it is. The book is almost sold out in Hardcover and I have some softcovers available as well.
I love interacting with viewers. I love to hear their insight into my paintings even if it is bad.

DW: You won International Horror Guild Award for the Best Artist. How did you feel when you won this award and what changes did it bring to your career?
JC: I was very honored to win the IHG award and to be including into such a history of incredible artist. It did bring a lot more interest to my work as well as some movie concept work. I must say that awards are great but they by no means make you a better artist. I don’t feel I need an award to validate my art. In the end it is the artist who must validate themselves and find the truth in their own work.

DW: You work almost exclusively with the traditional methods. And you have success in fields, Horror genre, book illustrations and covers, not necessarily dominated but influenced by digital art. Have you tried the modern tools used in art? What do you think about the digital art?
JC: I have tried my hand at digital art but I am not comfortable with it. I love oil paints and I love the smell of turpentine and the feel of paint moving on a canvas. I must have the real mediums in my hands to create.
I personal love some of the digital art that is being created for books and movies. Art is art no matter how it is made. As long as it comes from imagination at the controls of creativity.

DW: In the future would you like to work with someone in particular? What projects do you have for the future?
JC: I would love to work with the band “The Shins” or “Death Cab for Cutie”. I love their music and I would love to create art for one of their projects.
I am currently working on a new artbook that will feature about 50 of my latest personal oil paintings that no one has seen. I hope to have the book finished by late 2009 or early 2010.

Thank you very much for your time and answers. It has been a pleasure :)
Thank you I really appreciate your questions.

For comprehensive information about Jeremy Caniglia and for a complete portfolio please visit Caniglia's website, Caniglia Art.

© The artwork presented on this post is used with the permission of its author. All the artwork is copyrighted. Please do not use the images without the permission of the artist or owner.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

"The Last Wish" by Andrzej Sapkowski

"The Last Wish"
Format: Paperback, 288 pages
Publisher: Gollancz

Andrzej Sapkowski is a Polish writer who comes for the first time in English with the translation of his book, “The Last Wish”.

Geralt of Rivia is a witcher. And a witcher is a hunter. Geralt hunts monsters for a living. He is a trained fighter and a sorcerer and he travels the world in search of the monsters. But sometimes not everything and everyone he meets is what it seems to be.

Andrzej Sapkowski’s “The Last Wish” is a collection of seven short stories. Actually one of these stories is written in episodes throughout the book and interpolated between the other six short stories. These stories (“The Voice of Reason”, “The Witcher”, “A Grain of Truth”, “The Lesser Evil”, “A Question of Price”, “The Edge of the World” and “The Last Wish”) although are not connected to each other build the character and the story of Geralt. The stories also outline the world inhabited by Geralt, a pretty dark and grim world and populated by a long list of monsters. It is not a developed world, but it is an interesting one. I cannot pick a story which I liked more, because I liked each one of them for their unique situation.

The first thing that made me love Andrzej Sapkowski’s book was the humor. The author brings in his stories myths, legends and fairy tales, including Polish and Eastern European ones, giving them a new interpretation and outcome, usually parodying them. I not only once found myself laughing from all my heart of the new interpretation given by the author. I also liked how Andrzej Sapkowski ridicules some aspects of our world and made me think even more of them. I entertained myself with author’s ironies to political aspect, plastic surgeries, inflation and insurances, to name a few. The author also manages to bring me a little closer to the story with the help of these aspects.

Geralt is not the strongest character I have encountered through my readings, I even think that he suffers a bit here. Still, I liked the character and his story. What attracted me the most to Geralt is that he is not the perfect hero and he has his defects. I also liked a lot his sarcasm and irony. When Geralt met Dandilion on some of the stories his relationship with the troubadour brought forth some amusing dialogues.

I believe that “The Last Wish” is a great asset of fantasy literature and Andrzej Sapkowski a strong voice of this genre.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Black Quill Awards

Dark Scribe Magazine is a free web-based publication that focuses exclusively on the creative forces behind horror, suspense, thrillers, and other dark fiction and non-fiction works. The target audience is formed by readers of horror, suspense, thrillers and other dark genre fiction, genre authors, publishers, retailers, and webmasters, aspiring writers, and bibliophiles. You can find on the Dark Scribe Magazine interviews, reviews, book trailers, contests and articles.

Dark Scribe Magazine also hosts annual awards, The Black Quill Awards, which honor those works of dark genre literature – horror, suspense and thrillers – from both mainstream and small press publishers. The Black Quill Awards are on the second edition and the nominees for this year awards were announced on the magazine website. As on the first edition of the awards (you can find the list with the first winners of The Black Quill Awards here) each section will have two choices for the winners, Editors’ Choice and Readers’ Choice. Any registered reader can vote on Readers’ Choice. The eligibility period for DSM’s yearly awards will run from November 1st through October 31st. You can find more information here.

Here are the nominees for the 2nd Annual Black Quill Awards:

Dark Genre Novel of the Year:
- Duma Key by Stephen King
- Generation Dead by Daniel Waters
- Ghost Radio by Leopoldo Gout
- Leather Maiden by Joe R. Landsdale
- The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
- The Price by Alexandra Sokoloff
- We Disappear by Scott Heim

Best Small Press Chill:
- Into the Cruel Sea by Rich Ristow
- Johnny Gruesome by Gregory Lamberson
- Miranda by John R. Little
- The Confessions of St. Zach by Gene O'Neill
- The Shallow End of the Pool by Adam-Troy Castro
- Veins by Lawrence C. Connolly

Best Dark Genre Fiction Collection:
- History Is Dead: A Zombie Anthology edited by Kim Paffenroth
- Inferno: New Tales of Terror and the Supernatural edited by Ellen Datlow
- Killers edited by Colin Harvey
- Mama’s Boys and Other Dark Tales by Fran Friel
- Poe’s Children: The New Horror edited by Peter Straub
- The Number 121 to Pennsylvania by Kealan Patrick Burke

Best Dark Genre Book of Non-Fiction:
- A Hallowe’en Anthology: Literary and Historical Writers over the Centuries by Lisa Morton
- Beauty and Dynamite by Alethea Kontis
- Book of Lists: Horror edited by Amy Wallace, Del Howison, and Scott Bradley
- Horror Isn’t a Four-Letter Word by Matthew Warner
- The Monster of Florence by Douglas Preston with Mario Spezi
- Zombie CSU: The Forensics of the Living Dead by Jonathan Maberry

Best Dark Scribble:
- “Afterlife” by Sarah Langan
- “Captain’s Lament” by Stephen Graham Jones
- “Dust and Bibles” by Michael Colangelo
- “Teeth” by Stephen Dedman
- “The Blog at the End of the World” by Paul Tremblay
- “Turtle” by Lee Thomas

Best Dark Genre Short Fiction Magazine:
- Apex Magazine – Editor Jason Sizemore
- Cemetery Dance – Editor Richard Chizmar
- ChiZine – Editor Brett Alexander Savory
- Clarkesworld – Editors Sean Wallace and Neil Clarke (current), Nick Mamatas (former)
- Doorways Magazine – Editors Brian Yount and Mort Castle
- Shroud Magazine – Editor Timothy Deal

Best Dark Genre Book Trailer:
- Daemon / Production by Yossi Sasson (Author: Harry Shannon)
- Day by Day Armageddon / Production by Ivan Simoncini (Author: JL Bourne)
- Duma Key / Production by Scribner (Author: Stephen King)
- Ghost Radio (Trailer 1) / Production by William Morrow (Author: Leopoldo Gout)
- Sweetheart / Production by Circle of Seven (Author: Chelsea Cain)
- The Price / Production by Circle of Seven Productions (Author: Alexandra Sokoloff)

The voting closes on Sunday, January 25th, 2009 and the winners will be announced Monday, February 2nd, 2009.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

In the maibox

The past week the postman had quite a busy week, although sometimes the postal service seems to work some magic and manages to loose some packages. Well, I hope that that particular magic will never work again. Anyway, here are the latest books I received:

- "Shadow's Edge" by Brent Weeks (through the courtesy of Orbit Books UK);
- "The Company" by K.J. Parker (through the courtesy of Orbit Books UK);
- "Body Count" by Shaun Hutson (through the courtesy of Orbit Books UK);
- "Voices" edited by Mark S. Deniz & Amanda Pillar (through the courtesy of Mark S. Deniz and Morrigan Books);
- "The Absence" by Bill Hussey (through the courtesy of Bloody Books);
- "The Garbage Man" by Joseph D'Lacey (through the courtesy of Bloody Books);
- "Silver Mage" by C.M. Debell (through the courtesy of C.M. Debell).

Thank you all very much. I am really looking forward to read this books.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Fantasy Art - Maciej Kuciara

© The artwork presented on this post is used with the permission of its author. All the artwork is copyrighted. Please do not use the images without the permission of the artist or owner.

Maciej Kuciara is a Polish artist born in 1984. His talent was rewarded with several awards on the digital art websites and forums. Some of his works have been featured on publications such as “Epilogue Masters of Fantasy”, “Exposé” and “D’Artiste”. Between 2005 and 2008 he worked as a concept artist at Crytek Studios and from this year he became an art director at the same Crytek Studios.

Interview - Maciej Kuciara

Dark Wolf: Maciej, thank you for your time and amiability.
What did attract you to art? Do you remember your first encounter with the art?
Maciej Kuciara: I have been interested in all kind of drawings and paintings ever since. Not literally in art, but rather in something that most people understand as ‘awesome pictures’. As a kid, I tried to mimic that ‘awesomeness’ within my drawings. That itself made me practice, although a real thing started for me not more than 6 years ago.

Dark Wolf: By which artists are you inspired? Who do you consider to have mostly influenced your work so far?
Maciej Kuciara: I think most Craig Mullins, Dusso and Iain McCaig if we consider living ones. I think the level of professionalism and artistic eye of those guys if a pure inspiration for many artists among the industry. I also always like Rembrandt portrait paintings a lot, especially that in my opinion he was true master of light in painting. Also Zdzislaw Beksinski, I always admired his work.

Dark Wolf: What are your main sources of inspiration?
Maciej Kuciara: I take inspiration from everywhere, pictures, TV, newspaper stories, things seen on street, or just whatever comes up to my mind. I think finding an inspiration and good idea to complete your work is essential, without it, even perfectly rendered pictures are just boring. I believe that pictures that aren’t telling any story are perceived less interesting, than those which might look a bit worse, but give you interesting idea and story behind them. Good ideas combined with good rendering and techniques are what make the pictures we see ‘super awesome’.

DW: Many of your works have a major Fantasy or Sci-Fi theme. What does attract you to Fantasy and Sci-Fi? Does your interest go beyond art?
MK: I think fantasy and sci-fi theme is always a good area to come up with wicked ideas that might not be seen in real world. At some point, fantastic themes make your imaginations easy to understand as well.

DW: I’ve seen that your portfolio has many landscapes and environments. Do you prefer working on landscapes? How does a landscape put your skills to test and how much different is than working on a portrait for instance?
MK: I love landscapes and I feel much more comfortable with creating them, than working on character designs. It might be that because I can’t really paint correct anatomy, which is a fundamental thing to know and understand in my book, if you go with character designs. Landscapes themselves give me a lot of mind freedom, because whether I make them technical and organic, they will look and feel much more natural, than unrealistically looking characters. With characters, you can do crazy things, I think Iain McCaig is a perfect example of amazing character designs and storytelling. Good ideas with very good anatomy knowledge make character based artworks mind-blowing. I think I just miss that mind-blowing thing in my character designs, and thus I just feel more comfortable with working on environmental pieces.

DW: Also some of your landscapes have an Asian culture influence. Is the Asian culture a major influence in your work and how much different is the working technique on these landscapes?
MK: Not really. I think thou Chinese and Japanese culture produced amazing architectural and visual style over centuries, which for us Europeans is even more fantastic and uncommon. It has gone into couple of my paintings, but it’s rather coincident that I used Asian culture as inspiration for so many pieces.

DW: Do you still work in the traditional way or you use exclusively the digital tools?
MK: I prefer working on digital media, maybe just because it’s more sufficient way of getting things done and corrected within short amount of time. I personally don’t have any art education, however knowing at least a bit of traditional art techniques as well as basic art rules is something that will definitely help you to produce much more valuable artwork.

DW: I enjoyed on your portfolio a number of works focused on different machines and vehicles. What did inspire these works and is this a different experience from your other works?
MK: As for any concept or illustration, I gather inspiration from very different sources. I love spending time on creating interesting environments, however every once in a while it’s always good and refreshing to work on something else, like vehicle designs for example. Working on vehicle designs is something totally different from environmental work, not just because of different subject you are focusing on. Vehicle work requires much more thinking about functionality. In most cases, it just has to look believable. If your concept is meant to be used by 3d artist later on in production, it is crucial that you focus on making things not only looking interesting and unique. Most likely it has to have a solid function and meet many other requirements that can come up from designers.

DW: I read also a few explanations on your works in which you state that the respective work was an experiment with the colors. Do you tend to experiment a lot and is there a particular color spectrum which would you like to improve on your works?
MK: I strongly believe that large understanding about colors is something absolutely necessary, if you consider working on environments and production concept art overall. Speaking from game concept artist experience, I have been going through hundreds of mood color paintings and sketches, level concept artworks and matte paintings. Having large understanding how color behave in different environments is something that will make your, and your art director’s life easier, since you will be able to come up with quick solutions and create solid vision just with simple color brush strokes. It happens many times, that you need to create something that you cannot possibly refer to real-life photos and that’s where knowledge about colors comes in handy.

DW: I really like “Journey in Finding the Lost Mushroom” and I also know that this painting has a story behind it. Would you like to tell us more about
it, please?
MK: I can’t even remember when I did that painting lol! But yea, I guess it relates much into things children dream about, something like a fairy tale story that you try to imagine yourself. I tried to picture something, that I thought might be interesting and funny, which is a little dwarf, that want to find some sort of mythical mushroom that brings imaginations into life. He’s being followed by sneaky pipe-smoking cats that figure out opportunity to get benefits from that mushroom first, but are too lazy to find it themselves. Old idea thought it was fun to work with it back in days.

DW: Seeing this painting I wonder if you ever thought of illustrating children books or if you want to write and illustrate your own story?
MK: I like to vary my work time to time as I mentioned before. Working on children books or doing fairy tale pictures is something absolutely different, than concepting or direction concept artwork for computer games for example. About writing own stories? Not really, I’m just not great person to come up with stories that appeal to large audience.

DW: How is the work in the gaming industry? How much different is from the freelance work and what new opportunities of work and development such is work bringing?
MK: The major difference you get from working full time on games, than as a freelancer, is that in most cases, your projects will take much more than just a couple of weeks. Working as a concept artist for games means for you months of creativity in pre-production period, where you get an opportunity to come up with amazing designs and ideas. After pre-production is over, you might run into less interesting things to work with, supporting production assets work and illustrating/concepting anything that will make your game look even better.
Being freelancer usually means you’re not attached to a project as much as you would be while working full time on games. Your project deadlines are much shorter and amount of things to produce much smaller. Your projects will vary in genre and subject a lot as well, where in gaming it will mean usually spending at least couple of months on one thing.

DW: I’ve seen that you are now working as an Art Director. How much different is this position from that of Concept Artist and what new responsibilities brings this position?
MK: Art Direction means having a vision, bringing that vision to life and making sure everyone on your team buys it, follows it and dies for it! As an Art Director you won’t spend much time on conceptualizing and painting. There are various things you need to care about and ensure that everyone trusts you in what you are trying to create. Every decision you make will have a large impact on production values, which means also that every mistake made will cost your team time and stress, and your manager’s money. As an Art Director you will be looking at many aspects, such as game color palette, artistic vision, references and so on. You need to be actively feeding your vision to every artist that work for you, be sure that every asset that is being build is meeting quality requirements, is consistent with what you are trying to produce as well as meets technical requirements.
As a concept artist you don’t really care about any of things listed above. You get your task and you do your best to conceptualize in a way, your supervisor envisions it. You don’t have to look at the big picture, but rather focus on smaller chunks of work.

DW: In the future besides the work you make in the concept art would you like to try new and different projects? I mean comic books, cover art and such other projects.
MK: I’m not sure. In free time, as personal thing, probably. Being Art Director for big company as Crytek means a lot of responsibilities that need to be taken care of and often extend after your work time. It is a big and responsible task, but also something that in result give you game that you can be proud of. Seeing your vision and directions getting there, amazing work artists are producing and how all that looks in motion is a great professional but also personal experience I would like to go with for some time.

Maciej, thank you very much for your answers.

For more information and a larger portfolio please visit Maciej Kuciara website.

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