This weekend I received an email from Will Renfro (www.inkenstein.com), the extremely talented artist who has done the interior illustration for my upcoming Cemetery Dance story, "Living by the Highway." It's hard to explain the utter thrill of seeing something which has only existed, visually, in my own head suddenlybrought to life with pen and ink (or whatever media it might be). He captured all the elements of the story in a very detailed, stunning set of images. Not everything matches what I had in my head, nor will it what I imagined match the image that hopefully builds in the reader's mind when the story is finally, gently, placed in their minds. Never is. Everyone has their own references, experiences which are brought to the table. But the illustration is always the first thing the reader sees (usually), the draw as it were. This one will definitely do that (it creeped out my daughter as she looked over my shoulder - always a good sign).
Not always do you get to have this double whammy for a story - words and pictures. Still, though, in the few remaining print magazines out there, it's usually standard. The first time was way back in Fantastic Stories where my Great Flood story, "Lavish" was illustrated. Two images actually, and they were both fantastic (no pun intended). I was honored that my first story in CD, "Mermaids" written with L.L.Soares, was illustrated by a Necon friend of mine, Glenn Chadbourn (who has gone on to do some incredible work with Stephen King). More recently, Michael Apice's "Selection" illio was brilliant, especially when he emailed me the color version which still hangs on my wall today.
One thing I learned in this business is to appreciate these too-few moments of joy, when you see one more piece of a dream come true. As a writer, we want others to read and enjoy what we've done. And when it happens, when we have this brief moment in the sun, it makes all the crap that came before worth it. And don't get me wrong, even with the above-mentioned crap, it's worth it.
PS: 19% done with draft three..... If anyone's counting. :-)