My friends think I can make art and stuff.

I’m better than the average bear I suppose but when it comes to actually doing something professional-grade…I mean, come on. One problem is that my hand shakes before I’ve had my morning coffee and it shakes really badly after I’ve had my morning coffee, so it’s always difficult for me to draw a straight line. Even that aside, there’s still a lot I don’t know.

All of which I neglected to mention when my wonderful editor friend offered me a freelance gig to draw the cover of a YA fantasy novel. The book, I learned, is part of a popular French series called Tara Duncan. The publisher my friend works for acquired the English-language rights and they needed a cover for the American version.

Why did my friend think I was qualified to draw a fantasy cover?

That is a very good question.

In any event, I accepted the job and promised to deliver a colored illustration within a week, which privately I wasn’t sure I’d be able to accomplish because of all the tutorials I’d have to watch on Youtube.

First I needed to know the details of Tara Duncan’s appearance as well as the appearances of all her buddies since there was a very good possibility I’d have to draw them for the cover. My friend emailed me some character descriptions and some translated text. I learned Tara is a 12-year-old girl (actually she’s an alien hybrid, who’da thunk). Her hobbies include having a white forelock, flying, hanging out with a Pegasus, and battling a masked enemy called the Magister.

I looked at some of the media that had been created around Tara including a TV show:

…as well as a bunch of covers from the French and Japanese editions of the book.

I’m not the biggest fan of the French cover. It’s all right, I guess. When I think of French fantasy art, I think of Moebius or Sylvain Despretz. This is kinda quaint, with the robe and the flying horse and the castle.

Especially compared to the Japanese cover which looks like:

I mean, holy shit, are you for fucking real? The artist, I learned, is named Range Murata and he’s been working since the 90s. His work is amazing.

Interesting to note: the French Tara Duncan appears 17; the Japanese Tara Duncan appears 10 and makes me feel like Chris Hansen is right around the corner.

Back to brass tacks, I banged out three thumbnails for the American Tara Duncan cover and sent them off for consideration.

First thumbnail: I wanted to include Tara on her pegasus, flying over her hometown of Paris. I didn’t want to push the fantasy element too hard and figured the fact that she’s riding a flying horse would get the point across. So I dressed her from the Gap.

Second thumbnail: Tara rides her noble steed away from the clutches of the Magister. I probably got the composition from the box of a video game.

Third thumbnail: Tara hovers over Paris and has a staring contest with the Magister, who appears on the horizon. I kind of liked Tara’s pose on this one, but it’s a pretty lazy composition. It’s hard to tell if she’s hovering or if she’s a giant squatting next to the Eiffel Tower.

Fortunately no one liked the third one. The publisher instructed me to go ahead with the first thumbnail in which Tara rides her horse above Paris. Except they didn’t want Paris, they wanted a full-on fantasy landscape.

Which I didn’t really know how to draw.


To be continued…

A dude in my office (let’s call him Edvard) always spoke into his phone REALLY LOUDLY. Ostensibly, Edvard’s calls were professional, but he had the habit of disclosing uncomfortably personal facts and observations. For instance, he was fond of saying shit like: “Social media is like sex. Until you try it, you just won’t understand it.”

And Edvard didn’t talk into his handset like a civilized human being; instead, he turned around, like a rock star surveying his audience, and blasted his voice across the floor.

A coworker of mine–who is not really a coworker because we work in different departments (which just goes to show how loud Edvard was)–compiled a biography based on roughly a month’s worth of eavesdropping.

Actually, ‘eavesdropping’ is probably the wrong word because it implies a choice to listen which, because of Edvard’s volume, didn’t really exist.

So this is Edvard’s biography, as told to an Anonymous victim.


1955 (July 8th) – The day he was born (blood type: O+); GM had 50% of the global automotive market
1960s – Grade school, got nothing below an A-, except for a D in penmanship
Late 60s – early 70s – Remembers something about the escalation of the Vietnam War
1969-1973 – In high-school, learned to program APL
1971 – Saw Bruce Springsteen in Oswego
1973 – Graduated from Westchester High School
1977 – Graduated from Hamilton College
1978 – Met Gary Cohen – currently Mets’ TV announcer
1979 (June) – Got involved in the PC industry – been involved in disruptive technology ever since
1981 – IBM gets involved in the PC industry
Early-to-Mid 80s – Did online stuff with 110/300 baud modems.
Mid 80s – Got involved with online technology
1985 – Saw some commercial showing “social reach”
1987-1997 – Worked at G_____
• held binder-stuffing parties
• 1989 – Had a team that used hypercard stats
• 1989 – Microsoft includes Solitaire in its 3.0 OS – wrote a piece about how games improve mouse and keyboard skills more than formalized training
• 1994 – Got involved with internet technology
• Spent some time (5 years) on the PR side of the house
• left to look for the analytical holy grail
• spent ensuing 13 years trying to “replicate the magic”
1989 – Got married and moved out of New York City to Connecticut
1991 – Son Benjamin born
1994 (June 15th) – Daughter Samantha Jane born
? – Used original precursor to Expedia/Travelocity/Orbitz
1998-2002 – Worked at a conference company – ran the trade show Auto World
2002 – Son diagnosed with diabetes
Sometime between 2002-2008 – Joined AMR
2009 (January) – Laid off as VP of Disruptive Technologies at AMR, began personal tech blog
2009 – Hired at D________ as a Senior Research Fellow – Can talk to anyone about anything, but strategic imperative limits him to thirty minutes
2010 – Daughter got 790 Verbal, 800 Math, 800 Writing on SATs; SAT IIs: 780 Chemistry, 800 Math, 800 Spanish; on track team (runs 7 minute mile)
As of Jan. 2010, has flown over 3,000,000 miles in his life
As of Feb 2010, the most valuable tool on his cell phone was a fake ring.
2010 (April) – Forced a plane to land in Chicago after complaining about a woman in her late 80s “hacking up a lung”
2010 – Going through a divorce, moving to Manhattan
2010 (September) – Laid off from D________

Non-dated facts:

Son, Benjamin, goes to George Washington, has a 50% scholarship
Daughter gets 100% tuition – 50% of college class graduated from high school as sophomores
Had rotator cuff surgery – one other surgery as well (within last 27 years)
“Basically” blind in left eye

Buzz phrases and quotes:

Huge chicken and egg problem
Product and brand hodgepodge
Kumbaya Zone
The Perfect Troika
The buggywhip of current technology
Shadow social phenomenon
When it rains, it rains
We can be victims of change or agents of change
Telling me not to make jokes is like telling me to not breathe.
In the beginning, technology was something that we technologists kept to ourselves.
It’s not like we’re rabble-rousing for the sake of rabble.
I know my friends are idiots, but there is that “expert from afar” phenomenon
I’m stupid enough to know the things I shouldn’t do
I obviously think I’m a pretty smart guy…
D________ succeeded on accident where everyone else has tried on purpose and failed
I love Sponge-Bob

Today’s trick, one day before my flight to Japan, was to fit

6 pairs of underwear
5 pairs of socks
6 pairs of ski socks
5 pairs of unneccessarily expensive base layers (or ‘long johns’, if we opt for the unsexy name)
2 pairs of ski gloves
2 pairs of jeans
8 t-shirts (why the hell do I need 8 t-shirts in sub-zero temperatures?)
3 long sleeve shirts
2fleece midlayers
1 pair of pjs
1 towel
1 goggle
1 pair of ski boots
1 pair of skis
1 pair of ski poles
1snow helmet
1 pair of snow pants
1 insulated shell

into this:

And soon it will be in the tender hands of the TSA. As will my genitals.

What a rush. What suspense.