World Building Wednesday: Cover Art

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Hey Space Cadets, how are you doing today?  Things are good here, the interview with The Dead Robots Society Podcast went well.  As soon as I know when it’s going to go live, I’ll spread the word.  I tried not to sound like too much of an idiot, but you’ll have to be the judge of that.  And on the writing front, I’m half way done with my short story for the Four Horsemen Anthology.  I’ve also started the outline process for book four, which we’re tentatively titling Maternal Vengeance.  I don’t know the date book three, Operation Breakout, will go live but I’ll keep everyone posted.

 

Now, on to today’s World Builder Wednesday!  Today we talk about cover designs!  I’m no expert, and I’m actually colorblind, so this is a hard one for me.  My friends Corey and MLS Weech are actually much better at this part, so you should check them out if you want an expert opinion on the topic!  To my way of thinking, there are several steps you have in picking the cover for your next best seller, and I’m sure I’m missing a few. So rather than tell you this is the way, let me just say that this was my way. That’s right, the Burger King of cover designs.

 

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The first step in picking out a cover was to figure out my genre, since I know each genre and subgenre have their own idiosyncrasies.  Once I knew where my book would fall in the pantheon of fictional greatness, it was a simple matter of looking at other well received covers in that genre.  I found out what expectations they created, trying to get a general feel for my own design.  This step is the most dangerous, as you could spend hours drooling over art and lose yourself so completely that your wife and kids send out the hounds and form a search party.  Be warned, never browse covers alone!  Seriously, that’s my PSA for the day!!  Don’t do it, you’ve been warned!

 

Once I knew what I wanted, overall, I started to figure out designs for my own book.  How could I come up with a cover for my own book that fit within this niche?  You want to do two things; show your reader what type of book they’re getting, and not create false expectations of your own book. You don’t want pictures of spaceships on your novel if they’re planet bound.  Nor would your cover have some half naked beefcake if you’re writing lesbian erotica.  The cover HAS to show the potential reader what they’re likely to find inside.  For me, this meant considering the overall theme of the book and scenes from within it.  How you choose to go about it is largely dependent on the book you write, but you have to have a starting point for any potential artist you hire.

 

After you pick the general idea you want for this masterpiece, you begin the second most dangerous part; browsing the portfolios of cover artists.  This is another phase that can suck you in, and still your soul.  You could lose days, weeks, maybe even years rousing the artistic awesomeness of the various cover designers out there.  Don’t be that guy, be disciplined and direct.  After all, you have to get this done an expedited manner so you can write the next great American novel there’s always more books to write, so you can’t afford to get sucked into the outer trappings.  I was lucky for this stage, I had another author, Chris Kennedy, lend me his cover designer.  He made it easy by serving as the middleman, but I know this will always be the case and don’t need to learn to stand on my own.  My advice, at least for finding good cover artists, is to start searching now so when you’re ready you just have to reach out.  And find several you like, as you never know when they’ll be available.

 

Just to show you an example of my process for my pending short story, “No Marine Left Behind.”  This story tells Sashala’s journey during Phase Guinshrike of Tim C. Taylor’s Renegade Legion, into Lance’s world in Fortress Beta City.  For this story, I told the artist to give me space Marine’s in bad assed power armor.  I wanted them to be in some burning woods after a shuttle dropped them off, and I wanted the dying Beta City in the background.  This is the progression of the art in question.  Hopefully this helps clear up my muddy explanation of the process!  If not, least you get pretty pictures!!

 

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Until next time, stay frosty and don’t forget to keep your powder dry! 

brown_bess

JR

 

–> As usual, all images came from the Google’s “labeled for reuse” section or are screen grabs taken by JR Handley for use under the Fair Use Doctrine.

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World Building Wednesday: Technology Creation

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Hey Space Cadets, I hope everyone is doing great and voted in my friends Clash of the Covers contest!  I’m still working on the Four Horsemen Anthology and hit a bit of a time snag.  Try not to shudder, but I had to do something disgusting and unpleasant…. I filed my taxes today.  I know, I cried too, there’s no shame in it!  As for the next novel in the Sleeping Legion Series, well I’ll start outlining that this month and writing it as well. I will keep you posted on the progress as I try to bump up my production speeds!  Pulp glory here I come!

 

Now, on to my World Building Wednesday topic!!  Onward I say!  Today we talk about how I figure out the technology of my futuristic worlds.  Let’s start with your restrictions, which is especially important if you’re writing in someone else’s sandbox.  In Boss Man’s universe there is no such thing as FTL because science doesn’t think it is viable at the moment.  That doesn’t mean it is impossible, but because of the perceived improbability of this method, he decided against using it.  Other limitations imposed on your technological development might come from your subgenre; is it space opera, military science fiction or hard science fiction.

 

A famous example of how this played out would be from Star Trek, where they got around the limitations of science as we know it by using warp drive.  This used Albert Einstein’s theory of special relativity.  He speculated that the speed of light in a vacuum will be the same from any frame of reference moving at a constant speed. I won’t go all technical (Translation, I don’t know all of it), but basically it showed that FLT wasn’t possible.  However, he speculated that you could instead bend space-time to traverse long distances in an expedited manner.  Then Mexican physicist, and SciFy Nerd, Miquel Alcubierre theorized it might actually possible, without violating the theories of his predecessors.  Way back in the dark ages of 1994!  I mean, they didn’t even have Facebook back then.  Or Myspace, for us old timers in attendance!  If you want to know more, click the links at the bottom of this post.

 

When I write science fiction in my own universe I plan on running with the theory Dr. Alcubierre gave us and traveling faster than light, if not in fact, then in deed.  So, now that you’ve considered your own limitations you need a starting point.  I tend to look at science and technology as we know it and then postulate where it might go in the distant future.  This is mostly guess work, lots of technical research and some good ole fashioned SWAG!  Not that kind of swag, but a scientific wild arse guess!  Okay, quasi scientific in my case but work with me here!  This does require you to know your world so you can have the end points, since the starting points would be today. 

 

How do I stay abreast, well I follow several science blogs that break it down for you Barney Style.  I’ll work on collating it for you as soon as I can.  Another way I use is to pick the brain of my father-in-law, a trained biologist and my dad who’s a mechanic who understands machines.  Then I made friends with people way smarter than I, and let them prevent me from looking like an idiot.  Well, more of an idiot than normal!

 

To recap, basically I do some research to know the limitations I’m starting with and then I guess where things might go in the future.  But that’s how I do it, what is your process?

 

 

Until next time, stay frosty and don’t forget to keep your powder dry!  

brown_bess

JR

 

 

 –> As usual, all images came from the Google’s “labeled for reuse” section or are screen grabs taken by JR Handley for use under the Fair Use Doctrine.

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Faster-Than-Light (FTL) Travel

Interstellar Travel

Warp Drive

When Covers Clash

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Hey Space Cadets, today I wanted to bring you a guest post by my friend.  Author MLS Weech is running a contest to judge book covers, and you could vote too!  He’ll share the origins of this contest and tell you more about what goes into it.  All you book nerds out there will love it, so pop on over and look!  Without further ado, here’s Matt!

 


 

Before I get started, I’d like to thank J.R. for letting me do a guest post. I hoped my book cover of the month brackets would be well received, but I had no idea that it’d be so widely viewed. I’m really thrilled, and I’m glad J.R. was so interested he asked me to do a guest post on his blog.  It’s always an honor when someone asks me to share some thoughts. 

 

I took some time thinking about how to approach this, and I decided I wanted to go a little more in depth with how this started, and how I find the entries for the brackets.

 

In 2012, I started my last tour of duty in the Navy as an instructor at the Defense Information School.  In the Navy, it’s not enough for us to have one skill. Instead, we work to master all the major communications skill sets. When I arrived there as an instructor, I had to brush up on all my abilities. One thing I’ve always loved was design.  Now, before anyone who’s met me blasts this post, I am speaking about my affection for the art, not my ability or desire to do it. I found out that my skills in photography gave me a LOT of talent in the field of editing design. I’ve also been able to work with award winning artists for the last few years, and I picked up a thing or two. I’ve been an instructor there ever since. I’ve been called on to judge contests for the school and the Navy as a whole.

 

Since I’ve been teaching, I’ve developed a habit. You see, it’s weird, but I have this strange reputation at the school. I’m uncompromising and a bit crass.  Even I can admit that. I want the best from my students. That makes me feel bad some times, and I wanted an opportunity to simply give credit to work I thought stood out for some reason. So what I started doing was going to Navy.mil to look at the work my students do. If you have the time, please stop by. There are some amazing images and stories there. It’s essentially like an associated press for the world, but only for Navy information.  Anyway, I go there when I have a few minutes or I need a break. I view 10 pages of images, and I share the images I like on my FB page (my alter ego’s page, not my author one).  When I share it, I talk about why the image stood out. I’ve even noticed a few others following my example. The idea is I want my students (and the world) to know how proud I am of them. As a teacher, it’s my job to push them to where they can be.  Once they leave the school, I’m free to be every bit as proud of them as I want to be.

 

One day, I was on Amazon. Believe it or not, I was checking to see how J.R.’s book, The Legion Awakes was doing in terms of its ranking. I was just tooling around and saw a cover that I thought was awesome.  So, I threw the image on my author page and called it my Book Cover of the Day. (That was The Gender Secret in case you’re curious.)

 

I kept it going and I wondered, What should I do when I finish all these images?  I’ve been aware of Brackify for a while, so I sent them an email, and they were wonderful!

 

I spend a good portion of my day looking at visual products and critiquing them.  I like providing examples of covers that stand out for one reason or another. So my goal is to highlight great covers for great books. I even took it one step further by buying the book that won so I can do a review on it. This way, readers know that sometimes you can judge a book by its cover, and THEN see if the content of the story holds up.

 

To top that off, if I can, I try to get a hold of the artist and interview them. So this has organically become a fascinating tool to talk about great art and where it comes from. Maybe it can even help authors connect with outstanding designers for future products.

 

So that’s the story on how a whim turned into a project. I’m thrilled with how December went, and I look forward to January’s Bracket, which goes live Feb. 1.  I’m already halfway through the month of February.   This probably means my scheme to do a book cover of the year bracket is sure to happen.

 

Thanks again J.R. for the chance to post on your blog. If anyone has any questions about what I look for or how I set up the bracket, just let me know in the comments below.

 

Thanks for reading,

Matt

 


 

Thank you for reading my good friend MLS Weech’s post, and please check him out here. Also, mark your calendars for February 1st, 2017 so you can vote in this awesome contest.  An idea so epic — I wish I thought of it!

 

 

Until next time, stay frosty and don’t forget to keep your powder dry!

brown_bess

JR

 

 –> As usual, all images came from the Google’s “labeled for reuse” section or are screen grabs taken by JR Handley for use under the Fair Use Doctrine.

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