They’re a couple of months late, but I’ve finally completed and posted the annotations for Only Superhuman on my website. The page-by-page annotations and other background notes, artwork, and interviews can be accessed from the main page for the novel.
Last year, I posted the design sketches I’d done for Emerald Blair, the lead character in Only Superhuman. These were illustrations I did years earlier, mostly 2002-3, before I wrote the book. Well, I also did sketches of Psyche Thorne, the other leading lady in the book, but I never got around to coloring them and I didn’t want to post them until I did. Which is something I only managed to do recently.
I hesitate to post these at all, since Psyche is supposed to be a woman of staggering beauty and allure, and maybe that’s something best left to the individual reader’s imagination. Also it’s questionable that my limited artistic abilities can come close to capturing that beauty, even with the excellent real-life exemplars I used as references. But Psyche’s looks are also somewhat unusual, an amalgam of ethnicities, so it may be hard for some readers to imagine what I had in mind. (I’m reminded of how many readers of The Hunger Games were surprised that Rue was black in the film, even though she was specifically described as dark-skinned the first three or four times she appeared in the book. Sometimes readers overlook elements of a physical description.) Besides, I went to all the trouble of finishing the drawings, so I might as well share them.
So here are my illustrations of Psyche Thorne, which, while far from perfect, give a reasonable indication of what I envisioned.
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I based Psyche’s face on several women of different ethnicities that I found to be otherwise similar in appearance and exceptionally beautiful. Mostly she’s a blend of two friends of mine from college, one a strawberry-blond Caucasian, the other African-American, but otherwise strikingly similar in appearance. I also used a photo of Kristin Kreuk to get some Asian influence in there, mainly in the eyes and nose, though I don’t think it comes across as well as I’d hoped. And she’s maybe a bit more chubby-faced than what I had in mind, though I think that’s mainly a shading issue with the cheeks. I am happy with the expression, though; it captures the blend of warmth and naughtiness I was going for.
I wasn’t very happy with the colored-pencil work I did. It was hard to get smooth texture, something that was more of a problem with Psyche’s rich complexion than with Emry’s pale one, and the colors I had available didn’t match the skin and hair tones I was going for very well. So I did a lot of work in the computer to fix it — superimposing translucent layers of solid color that better matched what I wanted, and softening and blurring the pencil lines as much as I could without losing the shading detail. It’s not perfect, but I think it came out reasonably well, considering.
So for the second, full-length drawing, I decided to do the coloring entirely in the computer, something I have very little experience with. I had a few false starts, but I finally got a handle on it, I think. This depicts Psyche in the outfit she wore for her big introductory scene in Chapter 7.
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The shading isn’t as nuanced as I could achieve in pencil, but I think it gets the idea across reasonably well. And I like the translucent effect the paint program let me achieve with the outer dress layer. Easier than trying to create that effect in colored pencil would’ve been.
If her pose and proportions look a little exaggerated, rest assured I based it all on photo reference. I chose a slinky, provocative pose to fit the character and the outfit. She’s angled a little to the viewer’s left, which makes her waist look narrower than it is. Also, she’s a full 6 feet tall, which makes her seem skinnier in proportion. I wanted her to be tall, slim and leggy in contrast to Emerald Blair’s mesomorphic physique. Emry’s build is inspired by tennis star Serena Williams, while Psyche’s owes more to Maria Sharapova.
I don’t know if I’ll do any more character art for Only Superhuman. Again, these are sketches I did years ago, when I had more free time for drawing, and I’m rather out of practice. But I wouldn’t be averse to seeing fan art, if anyone were interested.
It’s been announced by Macmillan that I’ll be appearing at the Joseph-Beth Booksellers in Cincinnati to do a reading from Only Superhuman along with signing that and, presumably, whatever other books of mine they have around. It’s scheduled for Tuesday, January 15, 2013 at 7 PM, and the address is 2692 Madison Road, Cincinnati, OH 45208.
This isn’t actually up on the J-B site yet, though, so it’s possible the specifics aren’t entirely firmed up yet. If any of this information turns out to need correction, I’ll be sure to post it as soon as I can.
I mentioned a couple of weeks ago how stressed I was from the tight deadline on my Trek novel, anxiety about how Only Superhuman was performing, and pain from over-exercising, and how I was starting to feel better as I got close to the deadline. Well, after the deadline passed, I started to feel worse again. The pain came back, my indigestion kept getting worse, and so the stress returned too. I’d lie awake in the middle of the night feeling this ache in my side and be afraid it was an ulcer or a hernia or a tumor or something rather than just the muscle strain that, in the light of day, I knew it probably was.
So I did a few things. One, I went to the doctor and got reassured that it was just a muscle strain, and got some advice on how to cope with it. That actually caused me a little more pain for a couple of days because of one of the tests he had me do, but that finally cleared up a few days later. Two, on my doctor’s advice, I started to cut back on my food intake a bit in order to lose some of the excess weight I’ve put on over the past year or so — fewer between-meal snacks, smaller portions, less peanut butter, fewer desserts. Although I still try to eat pretty healthy, I may have simply been eating too much, and my peanut butter habit was maybe the worst contributor of excess calories.
Three, I got a new mattress and boxspring. My old ones were getting kind of saggy and I thought maybe they might be worsening the pain in my sides; plus I was often feeling quite sleepy and faint-headed during the day. I actually wasn’t sure at first if the new mattress would help, if I’d gotten the right kind that would give me enough back support and what-have-you, if its “pillow top” was too lumpy for me to get comfortable on it. That was itself a source of stress for a while. For the first couple of nights with it, I was awake in the middle of the night and had to get up and then go back to sleep later, but that was due to the humidity or my side pain or whatever, so I couldn’t specifically pin it on the mattress. Still, it caused me some concern.
And four, although this seemed like a long shot, I got a new bottle of the heartburn medicine I take. My recent digestive problems seemed to begin not long after I bought a new bottle of the generic stuff at a different pharmacy than usual. So I’d begun to wonder if maybe there was something wrong with that particular batch, but it was a pretty big bottle and I’m pretty stingy so I didn’t want to buy a new bottle just on a suspicion. I figured that my digestive upset was probably more due to the deadline pressures and so forth. But since the problems were still getting worse even after the deadline, and since there wasn’t that much left in the bottle anyway, I decided to go ahead and buy a new bottle elsewhere.
So the upshot is, it all seems to be working. I’m still a bit sore in my sides, but it’s gradually improving. I’ve adjusted to the mattress and I’m sleeping better and feeling more rested. And my indigestion seems to be clearing up, though I can’t be positive it’s because of the new bottle; maybe getting a better night’s sleep is just reducing my stress, or maybe eating a bit less is putting less strain on the ol’ pipes. Maybe it’s just a placebo effect. But whatever the reason, I am feeling better at long last. Yesterday afternoon and evening, in fact, I felt more relaxed and content than I have in ages. It’s weird, though, but what really seemed to spark my good mood was going for a walk in the heavy rain yesterday. Maybe there were some good ions in the air or something. Maybe it was because I enjoy the sound of the rain, or because it was pleasing to see the little waterfall that formed on the steps of the walkway on the other end of the apartment complex. Whatever the reason, it felt cleansing. And I’m in a better place now psychologically, and increasingly physically, than I have been all month. Hopefully it’ll last.
Simon & Schuster/Pocket is about to put out several e-book omnibuses (yes, that is the correct plural) each combining three related Star Trek novels into one volume. One of them, Star Trek: The Original Series: The Continuing Missions, Volume 1, includes my own DTI novel Forgotten History along with Greg Cox’s The Rings of Time and Dayton Ward’s That Which Divides. In this case, the books aren’t really related, more just a trio of recent standalone TOS adventures, although Rings and FH both involve time travel and there’s a slight bit of cross-reference between them. (Maybe TWD also fits with the general theme of space-time phenomena because it involves a pocket universe, though that’s reaching.) But what the hey, it’s a new edition of one of my books. And the FH cover is being used as the cover for the whole volume:
I admit, FH is kind of an odd choice for inclusion here, since it’s not entirely a self-contained TOS novel but ties into DTI: Watching the Clock as well. Still, I wrote it so that it could work as a TOS novel guest-starring some guys from the future. And who knows? Maybe this omnibus will help bring the story to at least some TOS readers who didn’t take note of it when it was published under the DTI banner. Again, though, this is only being released in e-book form as far as I know.
And yeah, it looks as if all TOS prose tales from now on are going to be subtitled The Original Series, presumably to distinguish them from the new movies.
UPDATE: Oops, sorry, forgot to mention — the publication date is on or around January 29, 2013.
Just a little while ago, I e-mailed the manuscript for Rise of the Federation: A Choice of Futures to my editor at Pocket. And a great sense of relief descended upon me.
I do wish I’d had a few more days to consider and refine things. But I was able to make some major improvements in the two revision passes I had time to get through. For instance, I realized that one character I introduced kind of disappeared afterward, but I didn’t have room to add another scene with him; but it occurred to me that if I put him in place of an associated character in a certain scene, it would actually make that scene work better in several ways, in addition to giving that character more “screen” time. Also, I realized I’d forgotten to make clear how one key decision in the story was a reaction to an earlier event, so I put in a bit of dialogue to tie them together better. And so on. I also had to trim some extraneous material to make room for all that, but I didn’t find much I could remove. I knew going in that I was under a tight word limit (80,000), so I was pretty concise throughout. Still, I managed to nibble away enough to make it fit, give or take a few hundred words.
And the timing is good, because my Star Trek complete soundtrack box set is out for delivery from my local post office, according to the tracking information, so it should be here within hours! Between that and finally being free from deadlines (at least for now), this is looking like a good day for me.
Keith DeCandido’s interview of me from New York Comic-Con in October is now up on The Chronic Rift’s webpage:
It’s mainly about Only Superhuman, but also covers my Trek novels, other original stuff, and my reviews on this blog, among other things. Naturally, the Star Trek project I couldn’t talk about then is Rise of the Federation.