You may recognize my name from my illustrations for book covers or role-playing games or collectible card games. I’ve been painting scenes of the fantastic professionally for nearly thirty years.
So, you say, you’re a writer now too?
The truth is that I learned to draw by telling myself stories in comic book form. I grew up writing and drawing, drawing and writing. Art gained the momentum when it started paying my bills, but the other muse always whispered to me. A good illustration has a story behind it. It’s never a static thing. Storytelling was always at the heart of everything I created. And I never stopped writing, either.
I grew up in the ‘60s and ‘70s, witnessing massive upheaval and social change. The books and movies I favored always reflected the real world in ways that taught me something about our condition as a culture, as a country, and as human beings. Events of the last decade and a half made me want to tell a story like that. I wanted to address issues of honesty and truth and humanity. In an exciting adventure. With dragons.
The Summer Dragon: First Book of The Evertide begins a trilogy. It tells the story of Maia, a young woman whose family raises dragons for the political war machine, and her search for meaning as her world crumbles around her.
It features twenty-one interior illustrations, including three maps. I painted the cover and laid out the cover typography. It’s my baby, from front to back, inside and out.
Throughout my career as a cover artist, finding the right image for a cover was never difficult, until I was faced with covering my own book. I struggled with it the entire time I was writing it. I didn’t want just a scene from the book. I wanted something iconic and representative of the story. Finally, a friend said to me, “Why not the statue in the ruins?” Bingo. I knew he was right. The Summer Dragon is very much about Maia’s quest to understand her world and the opposing forces that push her into her adventure. I detailed the process of creating the painting in a post on my website.
Tor.com graciously asked to reveal some of the interior art for the first time, and I chose my eight favorites. Here they are with the sections of the manuscript that inspired them.
The Summer Dragon
It was the biggest thing I’d ever seen, colored like the sunset on a bronzed ocean horizon, with tinges of green at the edges of the wings and frill. It had horns like the twisted trunks of trees, and muscles that rippled with every least movement. Its scent wafted down the breeze toward us, rich with stone and earth, sap and spices, rain and lightning. It stretched upward and shook its mighty head so that the frill snapped like a flag. Then it looked lazily around, seemingly oblivious to our presence just down the hill. The air was charged with electricity.
I didn’t feel Darian’s hand on my arm until he shook me twice. “That’s a High Dragon!” he whispered. “Maybe even Getig, the Summer Dragon!”
But something closer to home was wrong. What did Darian know that I didn’t? I watched him disappear into the gloom. The war wasn’t going well—we’d heard rumor enough to suspect it. I turned my back on the compound to see the first red light of dawn touch the waterfall to the north called the Roaring. Lights fluttered on in the village of Riat far below. Smoke in the chimneys spoke of renewal, the turning of the clock. Tomorrow, the Ministry’s gold would flow into Riat through our aeries. Brood Day was a celebration for the villagers too. For all of us.
Father held a hand up. “The dawn is breaking. Any moment now.”
A horn sounded in the village, then another and another. The sound echoed from the cliffs, multiplying. The wagons of the Ministry had arrived.
“That’s it!” Father clenched his upraised hand into a fist. “Shuja! ROAR!”
And Shuja roared, a magnificent, rumbling bellow of power and authority that rattled the broodhouse doors and trembled in the stone beneath my feet. Rannu and Audax added their voices and found a harmonic that resonated off the cliffs and reverberated through the canyons. I cheered at the top of my lungs, unheard. The babies all retreated under their mothers’ wings, but the broodmothers joined the song too. I faintly heard Darian’s laughter beside me.
Then, before the echoes of that majestic symphony began to fade, Father shouted “HAI!” and all three broodsires leapt into the sky.
I pictured Getig again in my mind. The image was still so clear. I could see exactly where each foot had rested: one forelimb there, on that fallen column, the other there, on that cracking block, and a rear foot… “Here!” I pointed at the spot, waving everyone over. By the time Mabir arrived, all the others, including Bellua, had joined me around a large patch of moss.
It contained most of a massive footprint, easily five feet across. Unmistakably, the pad and talons of a dragon’s foot had crushed the moss into the damp earth beneath.
Cinvat. It was the city that our ruined temple had served, long, long ago […] Cinvat was part of the deep background of our lives. It even lurked in the subtext of the games Darian and I played when we were younger. We had spoken once of someday taking our very own dragons into the valley to look for it.
But here it was, all around me. Up the hill to the north where the sun fell bright on the mountainside, broken stairs and the stumps of columns peeked out from between sparser trees. Off the trail behind me, so obvious I don’t know how I missed it, sat the outline of a building above a bowl so perfect it must have been an amphitheater. On the trail ahead was a round boulder with a human profile, the giant bust of a head sinking into the loam. Some king or ancient deity?
Malik & Keirr
Keirr turned and, spotting her poppa, bounced joyfully over to him. Her chirps and playful barks were more than I could ever hope to learn and repeat, the sounds of a happy, sated qit with energy to burn. He lowered his head to greet her, accepting her playful swats and swipes in silence. She stood on her back legs to reach his muzzle and licked his nose happily. Though his lips were burned, he returned her affectionate kisses and allowed her rambunctious greeting to blunder against the wounds in his legs. He kept his head lowered, and licked at her face and ear frills whenever she came near his mouth. She was clearly delighted to have her poppa back, and she wanted to be entertained. But the chuffing noise that rattled deep in his chest indicated that he was in anguish, even during this joyous reunion. He closed his good eye, and did not move either to rebuff or encourage her play.
Mabir sat in a chair behind me in the winter stable, his graving tools arrayed on a table to our right, the broodmothers gathered round. His needle jabbed into the base of my skull like a wasp’s sting, but I embraced the pain. I’d been waiting for this day all my life. The bond mark was a rite of passage for every dragon rider. I knew what to expect, yet I couldn’t push the pain aside. “I’m sorry. It’s not the needle. It’s Darian. I can’t stop worrying about him.”
The Unfinished Horror
Wrists, legs, wings, torso were strapped to the rack. The man-portion above still glowed with horrible nonlife, the green light dim and failing in its hollows. The head lolled back, demonic eyes staring. The dragon below sagged as dead weight, pulling at the unfinished stitches where the two were joined. Dark as char, the dragon crumbled at the extremities and around the deep scars, exposing blackened skeleton. Clotted piles of cold cinder lay beneath it.
The Summer Dragon is available May 3rd from DAW.
All art © Todd Lockwood
Todd Lockwood’s art has appeared on New York Times-bestselling novels, industry magazines, and fantasy/science fiction games, such as Dungeons and Dragons and Magic: The Gathering. He has won more than 15 Chesley Awards, including the Lifetime Achievement Award, and two World Fantasy Art Show Awards. He currently lives in Washington with his wife and three children. The Summer Dragon is his debut novel.