Tag Archives: book covers

Drawing the Bow of Destiny

Okay, it's a pun about drawing a bow, and creating the cover art for a new novel. P. H. Solomon released his new book the other day, and he's stopped by to tell us about his cover artist and share a blurb with us.

There are two things important to publishing a book: good editing and a good cover. When it comes to fantasy, a good cover is essential since the artwork must be original and capture the essence of the story. When I committed to self-publishing, I knew I needed to commission an original cover for The Bow of Destiny.

Last year I did a little fund raising to publish my book. From that I could afford to hire an artist but I didn't know how to find or choose one. Then someone tweeted some fantasy artwork, one of which was a piece entitled, “Robin of Loxley”. I immediately knew the artwork captured much of what I was looking for as cover-art for The Bow of Destiny. The archery and forest scene being very compelling for communicating theme and setting – both very effective for a fantasy novel.

I looked up the artist, Christopher Rawlins, and queried him about cover-art based on the original. Christopher was willing to take on the project. We settled on the cost and I provided him with general descriptions. When Christopher sent me the first version I was stunned. He had nailed it on the first try. We went through a few iterations to best show the title until we settled on the final version you've seen. Since then, many people have contacted me on my blog or over social media and let me know they loved the cover. It's all due to Christopher's intuitive efforts. Below is his bio and a short interview with him:

Artist Bio

“I have lent my brush to a huge diversity of subject matter and styles. Portrayal of humans, horses, animals, and landscapes, using contemporary and modern techniques have earned admiration, acclaim and a large following. I am passionate about strong compositions, realism, detail, accuracy, dramatic lighting and strong compositions.

My artworks have been used for numerous book covers, albums and magazines, as well as entire books growing a wide audience of authoritative scholars who respect integrity, as well as faithful patrons and enthusiasts who love the action-packed and emotional style.

I have a passion for history and art so to bring history to life through my artworks is a dream come true. My approach is to try and put yourself / the viewer there to bring a true-to-life realism that the books of my childhood lacked. Detail of research for any painting is key if you are attempting a realistic representation. I research many of my artworks in detail and travel abroad to battlefield locations, museums and military archives.

Artist Interview

What's the best part of the work for you?

It’s a great honour to be entrusted with creating an artwork for someone else’s vision, bringing something to life visually. An entire world full of fanciful characters and other entities that the author has dared to dream about, labour over and then I’m allowed to give that world and those characters faces, costumes etc… It’s a real privilege, there are millions of artists so to be chosen for something that is so dear to someone is wonderful and as close to recognition as you are likely to come by.

Can you describe your process — and how you work with authors?

The process is always different; some authors have a very strong idea, particularly when it comes to characters. They have already seen the artwork in their own mind.
’s really just an exercise in taking their vision and giving it a visual. That said it’s often more difficult because you know that they have such a clear idea you’re terrified that you’re not going to meet their expectations and that the characters won’t appear how they have in the authors mind. In this case for ‘The Bow Of Destiny’ I was given a very strong brief, down to eye colour and hair thickness. This was incredibly helpful but again illustrates how intimately the author knows these characters and put tremendous pressure on you to execute it. It’s like painting someone’s loved one from a description of them. It’s never going to be quite right.

What have you noticed most in terms of trends in the marketplace for covers?

Almost all artworks I’m asked to undertake for book, CD, game covers etc… have much more of a Hollywood feel than in the past. They all have a movie poster quality about them. Were all so used to seeing that kind of artwork it’s fairly natural to expect.

What is your inspiration?

That’s very difficult to answer. Everywhere and everything I guess. Unless I’m given a specific brief it’s usually music, a lyric, a haunting melody that sort of thing. I’m always looking at other artists work, looking at their treatments of similar subjects or even more abstract pieces in an attempt to push the boundaries. Movies too, they have the scope of motion, and it’s trying to bring that motion to a static piece, that’s the challenge.

Who are some of your favorite artists?

Again, that’s very hard to answer. I see artists every day that genuinely blow me away, be it composition, design or superb execution I’m forever seeing images that are just stunning. That’s one of the many wonders of the web, a sharing of information and images that otherwise would only be seen by a very small number of people.100 or so years ago I would have trotted out the names of a few well known masters, but nowadays because of the wealth of information sharing it’s impossible to list out the names of all those that have wowed me. I have a new favourite almost every day.

How do you begin a cover?

It’s the background really. The sky dictates the image really. It sets the mood and the lighting; from there the distance and the middle ground take shape. Then I play around with the composition of the characters in a simply silhouette form to see what works best. Then work the characters up, basic costumes, accessories, weapons etc… I usually leave the faces until last because that’s the hard part. Once you goat a great looking character you’ll persevere with the face until you get it right. If I started with the face and had nothing else I may well give up with frustration, but the fact that you can see the rest of the image there save for a face or two give you the impetus to carry on.

About how long is the process?

This very much depends on the complexity of the image. The cover for ‘The Bow of Destiny’ was relatively straightforward with the exception of pressure of getting someone else’s vision right. I have recently created an artwork for the ‘Battle of Chillianwala’ a real battle that took place in 1849, part of the second Anglo-Sikh war.

This scene contained approximately 40 characters and 7 horses in 5 different uniforms plus an array of cannons, lances, swords, rifles and shields. All of which had to be referenced / researched to make sure they were historically accurate which is quite a task in its own right, that
’s before you drawn a thing. Something like this can take around 80 -100 hours and take you to the brink and back several times over.

What do you love other than art?

Obviously, my very supportive wife Zoe and our family, who allow me the time and space needed to get into the zone. I love a variety music which as mentioned often provides me with inspiration and a keen love of classic cars and all things old.

The Bow of Destiny Blurb

Haunted by his past. Hunted in the present. Uncertain what is real.

Athson has seen things that aren't there and suffered fits since being tragically orphaned as a child at the hands of trolls and Corgren the wizard. When a strange will mentioning a mysterious bow comes into his possession, he's not sure it's real. But the trolls that soon pursue him are all too real and dangerous. And what's worse, these raiders serve Corgren and his master, the hidden dragon, Magdronu, who are responsible for the destruction of his childhood home. Athson is drawn into a quest for the concealed Bow of Hart by the mystic Withling, Hastra, but Athson isn't always sure what's real and who his enemies are. With Corgren and Magdronu involved, Athson must face not only frequent danger but his grasp on reality and the reasons behind his tragic past.

About the Author

P. H. Solomon lives in the greater Birmingham, AL area where he strongly dislikes yard work and sanding the deck rail. However, he performs these duties to maintain a nice home for his loved ones as well as the family’s German Shepherds. In his spare time, P. H. rides herd as a Computer Whisperer on large computers called servers (harmonica not required). Additionally, he enjoys reading, running, most sports and fantasy football. Having a degree in Anthropology, he also has a wide array of more “serious” interests in addition to working regularly to hone his writing. The Bow of Destiny is his first novel-length title.


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Upcoming Events

9/29/15: Guest appearance on Entertaining Stories, hosted by fantasy author C. S. Boyack.

9/30/15: Guest appearance on speculative fiction author, Emory Skwara's site.

10/1/15: Guest appearance on Cindy's Notebook, hosted by author, Cynthia Harris.

10/2/15: Guest appearance on Brain to Books hosted by speculative fiction author, Angela Chrysler

10/2/15: LIVE interview 1:30-2 ET on “Tell Me a Story ” via Blog Talk Radio, hosted by Annette Rochelle Aben and The Bow of Destiny will appear the following month in the review section of the digital magazine, The Magic Happens.

Current & Upcoming Titles

Book 1 of The Bow of Hart Saga: The Bow of Destiny can be found at these online retailers: Barnes & Noble, Kobo, iBooks, Amazon – Kindle & Smashwords. See the book trailer.

Prequel short stories to The Bow of Hart Saga:

Trading KnivesKobo, iBooks & Barnes & Noble, Smashwords and on Amazon

What Is Needed Barnes & Noble, Kobo, iBooks, Smashwords & Amazon

Additional Title:

The Black Bag Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Smashwords & iBooks

Upcoming Titles:

Book 2 of The Bow of Hart Saga: An Arrow against the Wind due out 4/18/2016. It can currently be found for pre-release orders at these select online retailers: Barnes & Noble, Kobo & iBooks.

Book 3 of The Bow of Hart Saga: The White Arrow is due out Fall of 2016 (links pending).

Future Works in Planning:

A parallel series to The Bow of Hart Saga is also in process as three novellas.

There will likely be a sequel trilogy for The Bow of Hart Saga and possibly at least a prequel book.

Guardians of the Gate epic fantasy is also a book/series in development.

The Black Glove adventure-fantasy series is also in development.



Filed under Uncategorized

Recruiting some helpers today

I have a final cover for The Experimental Notebook of C. S. Boyack, and I'm looking for some volunteers to share it on their blogs. I have to say, it's pretty awesome looking too.

I'll probably drop a few personal emails along with this recruiting poster. My intention is to show off the beautiful cover for a few days, then hit it next week with some blog tour type information.

If you're one of my advance readers, next week is the time for those who would like to post something. I'm also willing to write something or participate in an interview if you like. (First come, first served if you would like to invite Lorelei my Muse, or Lisa Burton the robot girl. I'll only do one each for them.)

If you'd like to play along, please contact me at: coldhand (dot) Boyack (at) gmail (dot) com


In other news, I actually won something yesterday. I won a copy of Milele Safari, by Jan Hawke.

This was part of the Rave Reviews Book Club's Back to School Book & Blog Block Party. The party goes on all month, and there are prizes every day. All you have to do is visit the sites and leave a comment to enter. There are also some pretty cool grand prizes at the end of the tour. Here is the roster of participants, and it gets updated every day.


Filed under Writing

Let’s Talk About Cover Art

I had a house full of family, and didn’t make tons of progress this weekend. We had a great barbecue and a wonderful fireworks event in our driveway. We even had a visit from a grouchy neighbor who must have forgotten who shovels the snow at his house in the winter. I don’t have a ton of things to talk about, so let’s discuss cover art. I don’t claim to be an expert after hiring out three covers, but I’m no longer a newbie either. Your experience might be different from mine, but I can still talk about mine. I started out wanting to hire someone new. I wanted to help introduce a new person to the world, and put in a considerable effort on that front. I sent a string of business emails to Boise State University, College of Western Idaho, Idaho State University, and even the Meridian School District. I directed the last one to three specific teachers at the district. I thought it would be wonderful to meet at a coffee shop and go over ideas. I still think this would be great, but it wasn’t meant to be. My email barrage received not one single response, not even one telling me “no thanks.” I started leaving voice messages, again nothing but silence. Eventually, I decided if these folks were no more professional than that, I really didn’t want to work with them. It is important to decide what you don’t like. For myself, I don’t like photographic covers. They are better suited to a different genre than I write in (erotica perhaps). I also don’t like the 3D art style. These look like posed Barbie dolls to me, and scream lesser quality. People will judge a book by its cover, and I don’t want someone thinking poorly about my book before giving it a chance. Please note that I said, “for myself.” You can do whatever you like. I knew what I wanted with Wild Concept, and started looking for artists who did similar work. Sean Harrington has a web comic that I love, and his art style was just what I had in mind. I wanted a comic style, because the main character, Lisa, could be a comic book hero under other circumstances. I thought the story might appeal to that market, and those who enjoy the Marvel movies. I settled upon a scene from the story, then got out of Sean’s way. Here’s what he delivered:

 Wild Concept

Panama is a paranormal story set during the building of the Panama Canal. Two former cavalry men get asked to go to the construction zone and sort out an unusual problem. Sean Harrington didn’t want to take on a project that involved a demon, and I respect that. I started emailing artists that I like, and they were prohibitively expensive. One of them referred me to Eric Dagley.  We exchanged emails, and my ideas. I wanted to get the menace of the demon into the cover. I also wanted a special badge with the star placed upside down. Eric liked the project, and we struck a deal. I really like the eyes, people are drawn to eyes. I also like the colors he used, and it tells readers what kind of story it is at a glance. Here’s what he delivered:

It became obvious that I wasn’t going to be able to use the same artist for all my books. Recently, I saw an article about a young artist named Leon Tukker. He draws science fiction art and I thought it was perfect for my next story, Arson. Here’s what he delivered:

image I’m pretty excited to get Arson available on Amazon, but this weekend didn’t allow much opportunity to work on it. I’ve learned a few things about art. You really want to catch a shopper’s eye. You are probably competing with other covers, and they need a reason to click on yours. I believe they all accomplish this. Covers need to look good in a thumbnail sized image. Some of the titles can fade at the smaller sizes. I hate to suggest black on white, or white on black, but this will stand out. My deals all worked the same way. I sent an extensive email about what I wanted. The artist returned several line drawings for me to assess. I won’t include any of Eric’s because he doesn’t want any of his preliminary images displayed. They look like this: image image It became my job to assess the options and make suggestions. We exchanged several emails at this point. When ready, each artist sent me a Paypal invoice. I had the option of half now, and half upon completion. I paid completely at this point. I received a complete piece of art without letters, and a complete cover from each artist. I’m considering having them printed and framed for my office. I’m still struggling to keep my two worlds separate, and am dragging my feet. It is the author’s job to come up with the concept. You really need to know what you want here. Shop around for artists who can create what you want. You are paying the bills and get to have some say. There will be less arguments about style if you do your homework.


Filed under Writing

Writers must be Readers

They say to be a good writer you must be a good reader. I don’t suppose anyone ever placed a gauge on the word “good”, so I take this to mean reading fiction will teach writers something. I’ve been told personally to read more, and by a professional editor no less.

They don’t tell you that after you become a writer, you’re going to be a critical reader evermore. I enjoy reading as a source of entertainment, but now I’m watching for things we aren’t supposed to do. I also watch for things that are done really well.

I snuck through the basement of the writing cabin and peered around the corner. Bento* was waiting at the top of the stairs.

“What are you doing?” He asked.

“Hiding from Lorelei**,” I said.

“She is not here. There is coffee. Come.” He turned and headed for the kitchen.

I walked into the paranormal office. The fire was out, and the will ‘o the wisp was safely in its bell jar. Bento had placed sheets over all the furniture. I went into my main office and grabbed my iPad.

I took my place in the big overstuffed chair. My muscles ached from the yard work yesterday, so I hoisted one leg onto the ottoman. Bento dropped off my coffee, made a fire and left.

I finished my six pack of horror stories. Some of them were pretty good, some of them weren’t. I suppose that’s why they were bundled together like they were. Still, I can’t complain for 99 cents. I was exposed to writers I may have never read otherwise. I may read a couple of them again.

I managed to find some errors in the tales. The last one took place during a blizzard with all the characters stuck inside an English pub. It had some really cool concepts about angels and the devil. This was a good story. I didn’t think it was the best choice when one of the characters took after the bad guys with a baseball bat. I can see an English pub having a cricket bat, but not a baseball bat.

See what I mean about being a writer? Ten years ago, I probably wouldn’t even notice. I have a theory most of our customers wouldn’t notice either.

I finished and bought the next story in The Dresden Files. I love these stories. I like the way Jim Butcher ramps up the tension. Within three chapters there were about four separate groups who wanted to kill Harry. I can’t wait to see how it all works out. The best sign is – I read about half of it today.

Still, Harry looked in the rear view mirror and gave me a complete description of himself. Writers are told never to do this. I don’t care. It worked for the story, and that’s what matters.

Bento returned with his own cup and refreshed my cup. “Why are you hiding from Miss Lorelei?”

“She wants me to write. I mean all the time. It’s not like I don’t have new ideas, and I’m even writing them down in a notebook. I just want to move ahead with my self publishing work.”

“Do you have a new story?”

“Almost. I have a half assed plot and some cool characters. I still want a McGuffin and some kind of double cross.” I checked my email and turned the iPad toward Bento.

“Is that the cover for Panama?”

“Almost. I might even have it by next weekend.”

“I hope so. Miss Lisa*** will be home soon, and I’d like to tell the Marshals it has been published.”

“You can stay as long as you like. We’ll make up a place on the couch for you if she comes back before publication.”

“While you’re feeling generous, I have some more invoices for you.” He slapped them on the coffee table.

“Grab some of that dwarven gold from the basement, and I’ll see if we can get Game of Thrones on one of these computers.”

* Bento is a supporting character in Panama. He’s filling in at the cabin while Lisa’s on vacation.

** Lorelei is my Muse. I’ve been looking over my shoulder for weeks, but she’s giving me a little space.

*** Lisa is the main character in Wild Concept. She’s a robot and works as my assistant now.


Filed under Muse, Writing