One of my favorite things to do is design new creatures and concepts. In The Maelstrom, there will be a number of new oddities, including cheshirewulfs, pinlegs, dreadnaughts, Stygian crows, etc. When I’m writing a new creature into a scene, it’s important that I have a sense of what it looks like. That’s when I reach for a pencil and start sketching.
While I like the book’s illustrations to have an old fashioned feel to them, I’ll confess that technology makes it much easier to experiment with concepts, color, etc. For this creature – the notorious Stygian crow – I began with a quick pencil sketch (15-20 minutes) that I then scanned into my computer. Using Photoshop, I then gave the creature an underlying paint job and then added some textural details and color on top so that it wouldn’t feel “too airbrushy” (a concern with digital painting). In about 90 minutes, I’ve got a fairly well-rendered drawing that allows me to better describe the creatures and bring them to life as I write the novel.