The Blog/Diary of Novelist Sam Batterman

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Friday, January 30, 2009

Fun with Fossils

Welcome back. I wanted to continue a bit regarding the web site, which is now up and running at about 95%. I still have some tweaking to do, but I'm pretty happy with it. The fossil background was also done by Justin Gerard of Portland Studios. While we focused much effort on the Garden of Eden landing page, the fossil page is important because it's the background for all the other pages in the experience. 

First off, I wanted this background to scream controversy!

Wayback is about a group of scientists visiting the Antediluvian world. The Great Flood is anathema to the scientific establishment. So, I wanted the background to be a mixture of things that should not go together.

The background for the piece that I gave to Portland was a fossilized dinosaur or trilobite along with ancient Sumerian stone tablets and modern technology that was left behind by our travelers.

Here is the stream of Justin's thoughts during his creation of this piece...

...I am exploring this strata, and I find this ancient Sumerian writing, Wow, that's exciting, so I keep going, expecting maybe to find more writing, or ceramics or something, when whoa I find dinosaur bones, which shouldn't be here in this period of strata, so that is kinda weird. So I keep going, and as I chip away a bit more rock falls off to reveal a petrified circuit board in the midst of all this.  Which is of course, really really strange.  And so the image, is trying to catch the moment of profound strangeness that I as an paleontologist would be feeling as I see this, the very moment after I have uncovered this circuit board within it...

I think his thought process says it all. Here's the progression of the idea...

The things I wanted to include in the composition:

Justin's first cut at fusing multiple things together using Photoshop...

First sketch...


I hope you enjoyed this fun ride. You can download this artwork on my author site, Just flip the pages of the book to Downloads and follow the instructions there. You can also download Dan Bressler's soundtrack.



Sunday, January 25, 2009

Working with Portland Studios

When I began working on my author web site during Christmas break 2008, I decided to commission the backgrounds of the web site to Portland Studios, a Design Studio based in Greenville, SC. My experience with this company was nothing short of exceptional. 

I first became familiar with Portland Studios though the incredible artwork of Justin Gerard, an amazing artist with an already legendary style and following to match. You can see some of his artwork here. Some of my favorites are To Chain the Beast, Christian and Apollyon, and Nehemiah and the Wall.

When I envisioned my web site, I knew I wanted something very different than the typical table/grid layout that most author sites follow (no offense). I wanted something that would allow a visitor to loiter and savor the art, the sounds and the atmosphere of the site.

Portland Studios has a number of web sites that inspired me, but their Beowulf site clearly impacted me the most. Alas, at the end of the day, I could only afford the art, not them doing the whole site for me. 

More on the web site development will be posted later, this post is about the development of the landing page - The Garden of Eden.

Like most things, the designs started with Justin, Matt Silver, the account manager, and I getting on the phone and discussing what I was looking for.

Upon arriving at my site (, I wanted a visitor to think about the overall theme of Wayback, which deals with the time period right before the Great Flood, approximately 1,600 years after creation. The Garden of Eden is still there, but it's overcome by the effects of the curse and off limits to human beings. The two trees are still there...The Tree of Life and the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. I specifically asked Justin to stylize both the trees...and make the Tree of Life otherworldly and the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil almost immortalize that fateful decision of Adam and Eve to disobey God. We played with idea of the "gardeners" placing paving stones around the trees, as if they "played" with the danger before actually committing the transgression. Something I think that I do and everyone else does as's human nature.

So, I mailed some initial sketches that I made to Portland. Here were my original ideas.

From a viewpoint perspective, I was looking for a view through the overgrowth to the center of the Garden. The effects of the curse should be very noticable. Thorns, massive trees, even lurking dinosaurs would be cool...

The trees...this sketch influenced the end product with the notion of "subtle" faces in the trunk and twisting the tree to almost frame out where the fruit was "plucked" from. Justin and I both knew that the truck and root systems would provide a lot of character.

Bonsai trees have a lot of the properties that I wanted the Tree of Life to have. In the end, the idea from Justin that the Tree of Life is a sapling, as if it is immune to the effects of the curse and impacts all the plants around it.

The design flow was rapid with the design moving from sketch to final in less than two weeks.

The initial sketch showed the angel with the sword, the Tree of Life and the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil along with the overgrown garden with tones of gray.

Once this was approved they moved to a more detailed line drawing. It was here that the Tree of Life took on it's unique view and I think Justin nailed it.

Finally, the end result arrived in the style of an oil painting. More perfect than I could have hoped for.

For the web site, I added a number of particle systems in Flash to animate the Tree of Life growing fruit, leaves falling from the aging canopy and the sword of the angel flaming. I played with the idea of sinister eyes glowing in the subtle faces of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, but in the end, decided it was too cutesy and obvious, so I cut it.

The final piece of icing was the addition of the background soundtrack that my friend, and college room mate nearly twenty years ago, Dan Bressler created. Dan is one of those guys who is remarkably talented-a literal savant with music. After reading the manuscript for Wayback he knocked out the soundtrack for the landing page in a night - yes, one evening. Amazing.

Hope you enjoyed the back story of the landing page.


Sunday, January 18, 2009

Learning to say "Thanks"

When you are rearing children you work hard to establish good habits and polite manners. One of the main tenants of politeness is that of thankfulness.

When you go through the effort of getting a book written, accepted by an publisher, edited and sold in the marketplace you learn that it takes the effort of a multitude to make one person get noticed.

When I started writing Wayback, nearly two years ago (Summer 2007), I didn't know where it would go. Could I even finish it, was the story interesting to anyone other than me, was the grammar right, did I use the right literary mechanisms, would people like it, or even read it?

These questions haunted me and still do.

As the story began to come into focus I decided to "Open Source" the story a bit. To give it some sunlight and see what people thought. This was hard for me. Exposing something that comes from your mind in the form of writing is different than showing someone a drawing or a painting.
As least to me it is.

Responses ranged from raw curiosity to great feedback and encouragement. Some people read the manuscript and never responded at all, while others gushed about it. If you add this schizophrenia to the earlier points about questioning everything about my own story you get a true mental illness. :)

What I learned was that when you write you write something that interests you, and in the case of writing for the Christian market, you write something that you believe will please God and communicate some truth from His Word.

Nothing else matters.

That said, I've wanted to post this particular entry for a long time and while there is a page in my book to say "Thanks" I wanted to start a bit early.

My wife, Susan, far beyond anyone else was my greatest encourager. In fact, she was surprised to find that I wanted to be an author initially. Not that I hid it from her, it's just that family, career and everything else pushed itself ahead of my desire to write.
My sister, Marnie was one of the first to read my stuff and encouraged me every step along the way. We've always been close and this was a special thing to me. I then included my mother-in-law, Donna and sister-in-law, Bonnie. Both of them continued to encourage me and while I don't think it was their "cup of tea" they accepted me - that was important.

After my sister got done reading the earliest work and didn't respond with a "it really stinks" or "don't quit your day job" I asked my parents for their opinions. What can I say, they're parents. They loved it and jumped on the band wagon. This was nothing new, my parents have always supported me and stood behind me in both my good and bad decisions.

As I got feedback from my immediate family, I pushed beyond them to my closest friends. Chris, Beth, Tim and Carla. All of which supported me and cheered me on. How important are great friends? VERY.

The person who started all of this was next on my list. My high school teacher, Mr. Robin Maples, who I had lost track of over the twenty years since graduation. Back in tenth grade I won a creative writing contest that I entered at the spur of the moment. I was not a writer, I wanted to be a programmer and I really didn't like English and Language very much. Mr. Maples (I still have a hard time calling him "Robin") said one simple phrase to me after reading my first place entry around the topic of "Thanksgiving" - "you might have a gift there - do something with it." That might not be an exact quote, but look how important it was. It simmered in the back of my mind for over twenty years. Words are important and sometimes we say them quickly without thought. His quote after reading the Wayback manuscript was "count me a fan."

Being a book that focuses on the first six chapters of Genesis, I looked to my pastors for their opinions of the writing. The pastors at my church, Valley Forge Baptist Temple weighed in on many of the questions I pestered them with - especially Scott Wendal and Lamar Eifert. They had nothing but encouragement in their responses. Pastor Randy David, my youth pastor also enjoyed the manuscript and sent me his thoughts.

Grammar being the worst of my sins in the creation of this manuscript; I sought out an editor to scrub the early parts of the work before I submitted it to publishers for consideration. Cindy Ley, a professional editor, took evenings and weekends to look at every sentence and every word. Thank you Cindy, who knows what would have happened without your work?

Over the past year, literally dozens of people have read the all of you, I say a huge "Thank You."

Dave Caldwell, Dawn Pleasants, Ben Coulton, Jenalee Good, Paige Martin, Dave Davis, Earnest Grooney, Matt Maney, Nathan Gifford, Chris Lovett, Dan Bressler, Dan Wooster, Joe Hicks, Rory Bond, Troy Bond, Jeff Rapp, Lois Rall, Matt Wendal, Beth Capelletti, Kelly Unruh, Phil Spense, Pat Reeves, Joe Poley, Pastor Dave Jones, Carol Cobb, Charles Cobourn, Bert Arrowood, Jeff Hamm, Andrew Harrod, John & Mary Bergstrom, Rebecca Levis, Joy Caldwell, Jamie Aylestock, Jan W., Rebecca Misiura, Jodi Kappel, Nate Gray, Philip Martin, and Henry & Thea Miller.

In short, writing a book and sharing it with others does two things: one, it make you grow rhino skin and believe in your own ideas and two, it makes you learn to say "Thank You!"

I hope this didn't bore you. I had to do this - it was cathartic!

Hi! Welcome to my Site

I'm so glad you visited my web site. Writing is a new adventure for me and I'm learning all kinds of new things that are very different from my "day job" as a Software Enginner working for Microsoft. 

My first novel, Wayback, is due out May 1, 2009 published by VMI Publishers out of Sisters, Oregon. 

I'm currently hip deep in the final edits of the manuscript and working with a wonderful editor, Rachel Starr Thomson ( and at the same time trying to get my author web site ( up on its feet. It should be running by February 1, 2009. You can find a link to this blog and more information about Wayback there.

Thanks again for visiting and please check back soon.