Under the Electric Sun (revamped)

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I decided to give Under the Electric Sun a brand new cover and discard the illustrations. The previous cover, and all the brightly colored pictures, gave the impression that it was a book for young children. It’s actually a dark, gritty novel aimed at young adults. So I thought it was a good idea to “repackage” it. (I’m not trashing children’s books at all, by the way. I love them. I just felt like people were looking at the old cover and saying, “Oh, that must be a kiddie book.”)

I also wrote a new summary:

Tristan is a government-issued tutor. Even though he is an android, he was designed to look like a raccoon. With synthetic fur and rubber paws, he could easily be mistaken for a real raccoon — but, unlike an ordinary animal, Tristan is able to talk and give history lessons. His last student frequently insulted him, abused him, and swung him around by his tail. Thus, the electronic raccoon has developed a cynical attitude about life. Fortunately, Tristan’s current student is a kind, gentle young man named Jake Sheldon. Tristan and Jake live in a high-tech city beneath the ruins of Washington, DC. People have lived in the underground city ever since a nuclear war poisoned the surface nearly a hundred years ago.

One afternoon, Tristan and Jake visit Bailey Park, a large room filled with plastic trees and tiny speakers that play birdsongs. As they sprawl out in the synthetic grass, an alien visitor approaches them and says he has studied Earth for a long time. After informing Tristan and Jake that it’s safe to live on the surface, the alien leads them on a journey up a long staircase. While the electronic raccoon and his student are delighted to see real trees and sunlight, their lives quickly become more complicated than they ever could have imagined. As they taste freedom for the first time, they also suffer immense pain and tragedy.

You can click here to download a copy.

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Drawing Esmeralda

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This is the first illustration that appears in my novel, Under the Electric Sun, but it’s actually the last picture I drew. I did this one back in late January, when it was cold and rainy outside. Like the other illustrations, it’s a colored pencil drawing. I keep saying I’m going to learn to paint, but I still haven’t done it yet. The thought of painting intimidates me, honestly. I’m afraid I’ll fail miserably at it, so I just cling to my box of Crayola colored pencils instead.

The girl in this picture is named Esmeralda. She lives in an underground city that looks very much like a vast shopping mall with lots and lots of floors. She works in a “pet” store that sells electronic animals. Her job consists of greeting customers and making sure all the animals have fresh batteries. She’s not one of the major characters in the book, but she’s still a crucial part of the story.

I’m digressing, though. I didn’t intend to tell you about Esmeralda in this blog post. I wanted to talk about the way I kept my mind occupied while I was working on this picture. Colored pencils are extremely time-consuming and tedious, as you might know. (If you’ve never used them before, just imagine you’re holding a regular old Number 2 pencil in your hand right now. And then imagine what it would be like to color a whole piece of paper with it, covering every square inch of the page in graphite. See what I mean?)

Whenever I draw, I like to have something playing on TV (or YouTube) to keep me company during those long, lonely hours. I’m embarrassed to admit it, but I prefer to watch things that other people find horrendously boring. Old VHS tapes, for example, are like gold mines to me. I love the sitcoms, commercials, news segments, and station identification blurbs from the 1980’s. (You might think I’m stark raving mad. If so, you’re not alone. My cousin Ellice agrees with you wholeheartedly.)

For some reason, I’m especially fascinated with The Weather Channel. I can’t really explain it, but The Weather Channel gives me the same sentimental tingle as hot cocoa or chicken noodle soup. That’s why, as I was drawing this picture of Esmeralda, I watched one YouTube video of The Weather Channel over and over again. It’s a thirty-minute clip recorded on July 17, 1982. There’s something so quaint and charming about it. The set is cheap and simple. (And very, very brown.) The people are dressed in matching suits and ties. You might even call them uniforms. And the computer graphics are extremely dull and low-tech. Sometimes they even display lighthearted chalk drawings on the screen, telling you what’s coming up next. (Well, I assume they’re chalk drawings. I don’t really know what they are.) It’s interesting to watch these “vintage” weather reports and see how far The Weather Channel has come in the last thirty years. Today, they dazzle you with sophisticated graphics and cutting-edge computer animation … and, of course, the beautiful Stephanie Abrams.

Anyway, that’s how I kept myself amused while I did the last (and first) illustration for Under the Electric Sun. I’m including a link to the video here, even though I’ll be very surprised if anybody actually clicks on it. Nevertheless, here it is.

(You can click here to download the novel. Since I wrote this post, I decided to cut out all the illustrations. They gave the book a childish appearance.)

Late night sketching

My headache went away, so I grabbed a piece of paper and started drawing again. This is a sketch of Myla Laurel. She’s an amazing photographer/blogger who lives in Dubai. This is only a work in progress. I’m going to wait and see what my friend Emma says before I really, truly, officially declare the picture “finished.”

I’m thinking about adding the silhouette of a palm tree in the background, on the right side of the composition, since Myla lives in an exotic part of the world. Not sure yet. I also want to draw my friends Ananya and G.E. Gallas, but I probably need to take a break from all this and sit still for a little while. I need to recharge. I love to draw, but there’s something extremely unhealthy (and draining) about finishing one picture and then staying up all night doing another. I’ve watched the same “Doctor Who” episode about four times tonight. It’s the one I mentioned earlier, with the Russian submarine and the ice warrior. It’s a good one, but it’s getting old.

It’s time to get some sleep now.

(PS – my novel, Under the Electric Sun, is available on Kindle. You can click here to download it.)