Cover Art Evolution – K’nat Trap

Every book I release has a cover that is produced by myself and my graphic designer brother, Byron. Since we are working in the Sci-Fi, Space Opera genre and in one particular universe, we try and have starships on the cover to get that fact across to future readers. We also have a certain style that we carry over from book to book so that readers get a visual clue that this new novel fits into the same universe as the last one they may have read. Being consistent with the branding helps readers find you and stick with you throughout your series.

All the covers start out with a concept doodle, by either myself or Byron. For K’nat Trap the original idea was mine and I imagined a K’nat starfighter being targeted by another fighter’s computer system or heads up display.

I didn’t have in mind any particular color but knew that the star field had to be blurred to suggest speed and that there had to be some kind of target reticule. The book’s title would be in the same font as the other series books and so would the author name.

The first thing I had to do was build the model of the K’nat Trap. That was already underway and after it was finished, I photographed it against a black felt background and sent the high definition image to Byron. He sucked it into his series book template in Photoshop and then added the text. He used a stock image for the target graphic while he worked on doing his own original version.

The green color was striking and it would stick with us for the whole process. I had a few suggestions for this version; punch up the brightness of the stars and the target. Also, we needed to start adding subtitles that declared the book to be a Star Saga story.

Now we’re getting somewhere! The image popped and the color was still working for us. Now to take out the stock image target and add Byron’s original version.

At this point I decided to try another color. The resulting experiment turned out to be too red and green or Christmas-like.

We tried again, this time going all red. The font changed to what we refer to as the bad guy font or Votainion font and it appears on the Devon’s Blade and The Blood Empress covers. Unfortunately, we felt it didn’t have the right impact so we went back to the regular series font. Byron also added some engine flare in blue.

I showed this one and a green one to some folks at work and they all seemed to prefer the old font an the green color. More comments indicated that the white lines in the target were distracting. So we changed things again, going back to green.

After studying this version I decided to call it done. It was eye-catching and it looked sharp. We could have kept tweaking but at some point you just have to pull back and let it be. This whole process took about a month for us to finish but of course building the model took many months and so did writing the book.




The Rising Cover

We’re coming down the stretch for the release of The Rising, Book 2 of the Star Saga. Here is the cover as it stands today. What can we tweak to make it even better? Leave your suggestions in the comments.

One thing I’d like to tweak is related to a sense of speed. Perhaps a motion blur to the green starfighter. The explosion has some sharp angles near the leading edge of the wing that jar my eye. The only other thing I have is perhaps some navigation lights on the starfighters.
The Rising Cover 1-30-16

Cover Reveal – The Blood Empress

Next month I’ll be releasing the second novella set in the Star Saga’s Starforgers Trilogy. It’s a coming of age story about the young Empress Nykostra of Voton. Set between book’s two and three, the story deals with how the Empress rose from a guarded youth to a powerful leader of the largest stellar empire. It works great as a stand alone story but if you’re reading the saga books, it fills in some gaps that avid readers will appreciate.

Here’s the cover art by my brother, Byron McConnell. It features an image of Mars standing in for Con One and the KiV-4 trainer model in 1/48 scale. The color scheme for the series is orange and blue with orange denoting the Empire and blue the Alliance. This story being all about the Empire, it’s mostly orange. Where as Devon’s Blade is mostly about the Alliance and so it predominately blue.

The Blood Empress 10-27-15 High Res

The Blood Empress goes on sale next month, so stay tuned for the release date. In the meantime, go snag your copy of Devon’s Blade and then leave reviews everywhere you hang out online. Thanks!

KIV-3 Photo Shoot

This past weekend my brother Byron was in town with is digital camera. We took many pics of the models I constructed for the next Star Saga book cover. Below are some of our untouched pics. We shot them during the late afternoon catching the golden light of the Magic Hour. A black bed sheet was held by myself behind the models so that later Byron could pull them out with Photoshop.

This is the original cover sketch we were trying for. I decided not to bend the wing over on the large model, so that we can use it again in a later cover shoot. We can probably do that damage in Photoshop if need be.

Above is the main KIV-3 model in all its green and yellow glory. Byron will put it on a space background and add lots of expody bits to ensure that it looks torn to shreds.

This is the Vickers fighter flown by the hero, Devon Ardel. It is 1/48 scale and the angle is designed to show it pulling away from the bigger KIV fighter in a victory roll. Byron will add glowing engine and motion blur in Photoshop.

This is another enemy starfighter, a KIV-1 that our heroine is going after next. It is also turning away from camera. Byron will again add a glowing engine and perhaps give it some motion blur.

These are just three images of many dozens we took of the models. He will flip through them all and select the best angles for use in the final cover art. When I get the first design thumbnails from Byron I’ll show you how they are coming together to make an exciting space battle scene.

New Short Story and Some Drawings

I found a remnant of a short story and decided to finish it up. It’s a starfighter story from the enemy’s point of view. Set in the years just after the start of the Great War, it tells the story of the birth of “The Red Ace” of Voton. The war’s first hated enemy ace, Kron. He flew the KIV-3 fighter from a base on , a remote Alliance planet known as Alifax.

That’s about all I’m at liberty to discuss about the story for now. But I’m authorized to show you these thumbnail sketches of a Votainion resupply freighter in the story. It’s a three canister model with a single, C class tunnel drive. The Votainions had tunnel drive ships before the Alliance.

Here are some draft sketches I did as I was finalizing the design. The KIV-3 is shown for scale because its a single seat fighter. I might just have to build this bad boy for a cover art photo shoot.

The story will be offered to subscribers of my newsletter for free. So if you want to read it when it comes out, best hand over your email address and join the fight. For the Emperor, of course! *slams fist over chest in salute. (Below is a model of a KIV-3)

Back Cover Art – Starveyors

Source: via Ken on Pinterest


Here are some back cover thumbnails I did for the Starveyors paperback. The first one shows the Silicant, Eighty-eight engaging the Votainion fleet at Selene. I like this, but it might be harder to pull off.

Source: via Ken on Pinterest


A slightly more refined version of the second thumbnail which shows the Alliance Fleet at Voton and perhaps some of the opposing Votainion Fleet. I like this one because it should be easier to pull off. Lots of repeating ship images perhaps flipping the images left and right of center.

My cover artist, Byron, is working on using some pictures of the S. S. Sokol model seen in my blog header for the back cover of Starforgers. These images will go in the star field band that extends around the spine and onto the back cover. That’s why they are rectangular shaped.

The front covers of these books have already been created with the coins. For the paperback versions, these images will be tweaked with an eye on making them more realistic looking and less like computer graphics. I’m not a big fan of CG on book covers, I’d much rather have some original art, but unfortunately there is no room in the budget for the kind of epic paintings I’d like to commission.

Unseen Art of a Novel

Many times while producing a novel I’ve had artwork generated that was never seen in the final production. Some of that art was intended for covers, some of it was intended to help me keep things straight in my head, like maps and some of it was just me doodling with a pencil.

Below are some 3D renderings that my cover artist has done for the back cover of the Starforgers paperback novel. He recreated my S. S. Sokol model and was experimenting with different textures for it. The results were very interesting.

S. S. Sokol 3D Model by Byron McConnell.

Battle scene from Starforgers. In this scene he was attempting to layer over the model with Photoshop and add details that were not originally there.

Here is a blueprint-like version of the ship taken from the wire-frame. I like this because it shows how long the ship actually was in my imagination. None of these images will in all likelihood make it to the final cover, but each of them is a step along the way. I love to show off these sketches as we go along, because  sometimes they are works of art that are never seen by most people.


Tyrmia Cover Revisited

Yesterday I sketched out some new ideas for the Tyrmia cover. I was mostly concentrating on covers that made use of simple imagery or perhaps just type fonts. One in particular caught my eye, forgive the pun. The idea was to use a close up of a Tyrmian’s eye and within the pupil area of the eye, have a gleam that is in the shape of a human female – Zerdy the hero of the story.

The title could be placed below the eye and the author name below that. We already had come up with the fonts we liked, so I left those the same. Anyway, I showed the design to a new friend of mine who does digital art for video games. I had approached Jeremy about doing the book’s cover if we could come up with a unique design. My Art Director, Byron and I, had come up with several concepts for the cover art but we just couldn’t find one that would be striking enough and not offend anyone. I let Jeremy take a stab at doing the eye cover and we’ll see what he comes up with.

I really like the idea and I think it could be very visually striking. Which is what you want in a cover as that’s the first thing your reader sees and in many cases is what initially draws them to your book. The importance of cover art for Indie books can not be over emphasized.  The book must look as good as anything a major publisher could do in order for the book to succeed.

Tyrmia cover sketches

The Tyrmians are olive green and their eyes are a saffron color. The shape of the pupil will be something not quite human and the eye itself is slightly bigger than a human’s, so we’re hoping it will shout “Alien” at the viewer, thus signalling that this is a SF book and not a Horror novel. Also, the addition of the woman’s reflection in the eye is spot on to the plot of the book, which focuses on how a human female helps these aliens.

With Jeremy knocking out the cover image, Byron will focus on putting together the many other parts of the cover including the spine and the back cover. About all we can say for sure is that the book will be predominately greens and yellows and will be something you will want to have on your shelf. A prized piece of art as well as a decent read.

More pictures and updates as the artwork progresses.

Starforgers Character Art

Sometimes I like to sketch out what my characters look like while I’m creating them for a novel or a short story. I don’t claim to be an artist, just an art hack. But those sketches are useful to me for setting the tone of the story. I’m sure other writers do this and just never show them off, but you know me, Mr. Open when it comes to these kinds of things. So with that in mind, today’s post will showcase some characters or uniforms from my next novel, Starforgers.

Votainion Commander

Starforgers is set in the First Generation of the Starstrikers Universe. It deals with how the Great War between the Alliance and the Votainion Empire started. The Votainion warship commanders of that time were wilder and often participated directly in combat. I pictured them dressed in vibrant colors and carrying swords and blasters and generally mixing it up right along side their warriors. Pictured above is Lord Kantor, the leader of the armada that first encroaches in Federation space and winds up starting the Great War.

Kantor pilots his own Eight-wing and overseas planetary invasions dirt-side. He’s a little crazy and definitely well-loved by this troops. The “V” shape of his uniform is a visual cue for the “V” in Votainion. This design also reminds me of early Klingon uniforms from the original Star Trek TV show.

Starforger Uniform

The early Federation uniforms pre-Alliance era, are considerably more swash buckle than the conservative war weary uniforms from Starstrikers. Men and women both wore their hair long and in a single tail and the uniforms had capes. Gotta love capes. Totally impractical, but cool looking. Before the Great War started, uniforms were more for show and bravado than functionality. They were designed to entice recruits to join the fleet and see the universe. Whenever you saw someone in a starforce uniform, you could count on them to tell you some fantastic tales of adventure from beyond the Outer Rim of the known galaxy.

Stellar Ranger Uniform

The Stellar Rangers were the cowboy lawmen of the Outer Rim worlds. Based on the Texas Rangers and just about every 1950’s Space Western. I wanted them to have a real earthy tone, wearing leather jackets and tan or brown clothes. The hero of Starforgers – Devon Ardel, comes from a backwater world where she leads a rag-tag group of Rangers. If you’ve read any of the stories in Tales From Ocherva Volume One, you will already be familiar with the Stellar Rangers.