Anthology Cover Art: Unfettered


Unfettered is coming.

In April, I announced the fantasy anthology, one built to help alleviate the medical debt I received last year from my uninsured battle with Hodgkin’s cancer. Almost two-dozen authors are donating short stories, most of them friends of mine, all of them eager to contribute to an anthology that will hopefully be enjoyed by a great many readers.

For those of you who don’t know, here is a list of authors contributing:

Terry Brooks, Patrick Rothfuss, Naomi Novik, Brandon Sanderson, RA Salvatore, Tad Williams, Jacqueline Carey, Daniel Abraham, Peter V. Brett, Robert VS Redick, Peter Orullian, Carrie Vaughn, Blake Charlton, Kevin Hearne, Mark Lawrence, David Anthony Durham, Jennifer Bosworth, Lev Grossman, Michael J. Sullivan, Eldon Thompson, Todd Lockwood

All but six of the authors have turned in their contributions, asking for more time to contribute something great. I am more than happy to give them that time. I want this project to be something that withstands the ages, an anthology that fans love to read and re-read.

The other writers have turned in excellent stories—several them, I believe, being contenders for awards. Todd Lockwood has written one of them. A first time published writer, Todd has turned in a great tale, one that will introduce fantasy fans to the world that Daw Books will be publishing in Todd’s 2014 debut novel.

But that’s not all he’s done. Todd has also managed to finish the artwork for the Unfettered cover! I think it is absolutely gorgeous. Moody. Atmospheric. It captures the intent of the project—not only from the authors being free to do what they like but for me to be free of cancer as well as medical debt!

Click on the cover above to see it in detail!

As you can see, it’s a dynamic piece with a lot going on! I was surprised to see that Todd had taken elements from only my story contribution and set them in the top 1/3 part of the painting. The knight. The vampire. Death. The Vatican. It’s scary cool seeing my own work brought to life in a different medium by such a talent as Todd Lockwood.

Here is what Todd had to say about painting the cover and how it came to be:

The cover for the Unfettered anthology began months in advance, when Shawn and I first talked about his plans for the book. At the time, we didn’t know what any of the stories would be about, so Shawn suggested an upraised fist with a broken manacle. That seemed a little obvious and simplistic to me. We batted the idea around some more, and agreed that Shawn, himself, might be appropriate, since the anthology–theme, title, and content–was inspired by his (second) victory over cancer.

That’s where the idea lay until June of 2012, when it finally came time to do the painting. Since it was largely fantasy based, we agreed that Shawn ought to be in a cloak, and the notion of broken chains seemed more than appropriate. But then what? That alone might have made a good cover, but with so many authors contributing, I felt like the cover should say more. I’m on record as disliking montages as a general rule, but they have their place; the book itself was a montage, so it would work well here, provided I had enough imagery to work with.

Shawn sent me a list of stream-of-consciousness visuals derived from the stories he’d read so far, and asked his authors to send more. While there was some good symbolism, not all of it worked compositionally, and there was a fair bit of redundancy (at least three dragons, for example, including my own), so I realized that I would have to interpret loosely the ones that worked, and fill in the gaps between with other things that had the right emotional content.

And so, there is Shawn, tattered from his fight, but unbeaten, swinging his shattered chains. The knight and the Vatican derive from Shawn’s story, as does the spectral face above it. The owl, the faerie, the rose blooms, and thorny vines were also inspired by stories, and are the most literal elements. The crows and the splash of blood are things with emotional heft that filled out the movement of the piece. The ghostly, anguished face just above Shawn’s fist is thematic, and could apply to many of the tales within–it’s certainly background to a personal battle of any sort. Finally the teeth of a dead thing beneath the leaves began as a quest to fulfill one of the author’s suggested image ideas without giving away the points of a plot I hadn’t read… and finished as a glimpse beyond the veil to the things that frighten us most; the unknown, a foreshadowing of horror… or death.

It may seem overly dark for a project that is ultimately uplifting and hopeful, but it serves the stories, and ultimately that too is symbolic: it is always, as they say, darkest before the dawn. Let light be drawn out of the darkness then. Turn back the cover and read the book…

When Todd returns from the San Diego Comic Con, we will put the final touches on the actual cover of the book. That is when I will start taking orders! Yes, the day is almost here!

In the meantime, you might want to order The Dark Thorn, which is about to be sent to the printer! Those who order a S&N edition of The Dark Thorn have the right to purchase the same exact S&N edition number of Unfettered!

Given the talent in the anthology, those 500 S&Ns are going to go quick!

More when I know it! Stay tuned!