Interview with June Book Cover of the Month Winner, Shawn King.

Interview with June Book Cover of the Month Winner, Shawn King.

June_Cover_CollageLRHello everyone! As most of you know, I’ve been interview most Book Cover of the Month winners.  Click on each month to see those interviews. December. January. February.  April. I wasn’t able to reach the artist for March, but here’s the announcement for it. I never could find anyone to talk to for May, but here’s the announcement for that. Here we are with June’s winner though, the man who designed For Steam and Country!

Without further delay, let’s get right to it!

17021908_10155098568413236_2286658657248334324_n
All images used with Mr. King’s permission.

First off congratulations on your cover winning my blog’s Book Cover of the Month of June.  

Thanks, Matt! So, uh, I never received my winnings…I was told there’d be money involved. I’ve got bills, man, and a cat to feed. Just kidding, just kidding.
It was quite the surprise to see it was in the running and the support it received. Made me a very happy artist/designer.  And happy to see someone who so thoroughly enjoys cover art/design — that, obviously, means a lot to me.
When did you get in to art? 

Oh you know, the usual story of being snatched by the creatures under my bed as a child and thrown into a tiny, dank cell and forced to draw every day… Huh? Only me?
Honestly though, like most children, I was always drawing growing up…but when other kids moved onto other interests I continued on drawing. I can remember making up my own Power Rangers and Ninja Turtles characters (my mom actually painted the Turtles on my bedroom walls — she’s the one I have to thank for passing down the art gene), and then I discovered Spawn later on and began copying the art from those comics and others I’d sneak out of my brother’s room — he’d eventually give me his whole box so I’d leave him alone.
So yeah, basically I’ve always been into art.
51rSoV0BOGL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_How long have you been creating covers?
I’ve actually only been creating covers since maybe the end of 2014. I worked on my first cover in 2013, but it wouldn’t be until the later part of 2014 that I secured a position with a publishing company (Ragnarok Publications) and began doing the design/typography for their covers…and the rest, as they say, is history.
So I’ve really got a special place in my heart for Ragnarok — without Joe Martin and Tim Marquitz (great author by the way, if anyone reading this hasn’t checked out his work, do that now) taking a chance on me I’m fairly certain I wouldn’t know all of the kickass authors and industry professionals I do now, and who knows where my career would be…
What got you started in creating covers?
Since becoming a bibliophile around the age of 15 I’ve wanted to work in the book industry. I used to say I didn’t care if I were the mail-boy, as long as I got to work for a publisher. There’s no graphic design jobs around here so I kept reaching out to publishers and finally one brought me in, Ragnarok Publications. I gained a lot of experience with them, and they eventually introduced me into experimenting with photo-based art, which I’m really enjoying at the moment.
Do you prefer one medium over another?
As far as physical art I’m mainly a graphite and pen type.
As far as covers go as a medium I do enjoy the character-focused pieces (urban fantasy mostly), but I’m real partial to fully designed covers as there’s just something intriguing about them, an extra sense of wonder at where this idea came from, what was the designer thinking, what are they trying to convey to potential readers, and sometimes the “Whoa, how’d they do that.”
Do you have someone who inspired your own work? If so, who? Why?
I can’t really say that I do. I gather inspiration from all over and try not to focus on any one thing too much. I will say, though, that I really like the design work on oldschool fantasy covers — even the over-the-top ones manage to hit the right fantastical mood and leave me wondering how I could work some of its elements into my own designs.
What makes you choose to work with an author or not? 
Well, I’ve had a couple horrendous clients in the past, so I know a couple signs to watch out for. One thing I’ve noticed though is everyone I’ve work with in the book industry have been fairly easy to get along with, and they’re usually very appreciative and supportive.
516b4sBesELWhat do you look for in a great client? 
I’m looking for a sugar-client (kinda like a sugar daddy, or sugar momma, but not gender-specific) who can sweep me up in their arms and deliver me from the dreadful day-job…huh…oh, sorry, wrong type of client.
For art/design clients, most times I don’t really know until I’ve gotten a little ways in, but if they’re appreciative and respect my work and opinions then I’ll do whatever I can to help them. And once I get one of those clients I try my best to keep them! heh
What are some of your pet peeves about clients?
Haha, hmm let’s see if I can think of some without pissing anyone off…
I don’t hate it, but I don’t like it when someone tells me how easy a task will be…like they think I can just make a couple clicks and *poof*.
And, should go without saying, but any type of unwarranted hostility is a surefire way to end our working relationship. I put up with that for years from one client, and I’ll never do it again.

Other than that, since entering the book world, I’ve been lucky to have very good and respectable clients. Authors can be crazy…ehh, let’s face it, they ARE crazy, but I’ve had the best time working with them.
What would an author need to do to work with you? Do you have a link to your standard rates, or do you negotiate fees by author?
Easiest way is to just inquire via my website, stkkreations.com. I don’t have rates posted anywhere as it could cause some issues if they change and I forget to update them wherever they’re posted, and depending on the style of cover it can also alter the rate, but I’m always willing to discuss that and I’m fairly easy to talk to…I think…
51ex3PMhSnLHow did you come to be chosen to create the cover of For Steam and Country?
I believe Jon heard (or saw) of me through some mutual author friends and contacted me inquiring of my interest in his new fantasy steampunk novel. I love the ideas and imagery of the genre so I was immediately interested.
Artistically, what were your goals for the cover?
I wanted to be sure I expressed the genre clearly but without overdoing it, and that I could create this character without it looking recycled (whether that be just your generic steampunk character, or overuse of stock — that last part should really be paid attention to as there’s a lot of covers out there that use straight stock photos so the end result is a slew of books with basically the same character on their covers…yikes).
How was Jon to work with?
He was a total jerk and constantly talked about my momma. Nah, seriously he was quite easy to work with. He didn’t have any excessive changes and he listened to my reasoning behind certain things I did with an appreciative and understanding ear.
What inspired the idea for this cover?
The general idea was Jon’s. He wanted to show the protagonist, a young female who knows nothing of adventure and the bravery it requires, but will quickly find out.
He gave me a few necessities, like the cape, sword, ship, obviously it has to look like a steampunk character, and other than that pretty much let me run free.
Can you walk me through the whole process of that cover? From commissioning to final product? How did you feel about it once it was finished?
Let’s see, the commissioning part is kinda boring: Jon approached me, rates were discussed and agreed upon, and that’s about it…pretty standard I guess.
Once all the financial business was taken care of, Jon gave me a description of what he was looking for, and I started gathering resources and pinning down some rough ideas of what I wanted to do. From there there’s a lot of extracting elements from other elements or backgrounds and piecing them all together into something new that you won’t have to worry about finding on anyone else’s cover.
In the end, I’d say I’m very pleased with how it turned out. I had a lot of anguishing fun making it and I think it was pretty well received.
Is it your favorite cover? If so, why?
It’s definitely one of my favorites. It’s one of the ones where I started getting comfortable with my style of character-driven covers, and the most complex one (roughly twenty photo resources were used on this one) I’ve done so far.
61S5hacOB3L._SX313_BO1,204,203,200_What can we expect to see from you next?
I actually just finished another cover for Jon, for his novella Gravity of the Game that will release in October.
I’m currently working on cover art for the sequel to Kirk Dougal’s Reset (very fun series for those who haven’t read it — detective story within a video game story). Those are a fun silhouette style.
I’m also working on design work (typography mostly) for a few different authors.
I’ve got a few projects I’m working on for Vault Books (a specialty press, look ’em up if you haven’t) for authors Dan Wells, Mercedes M. Yardley, and Larry Correia.
Basically, I’m all over the place haha.
Is there anything you’d like to say to readers?
Thanks for taking the time to read this little interview, I hope it wasn’t too boring and maybe even inspired a few of you to explore your creative side — the world can never have enough art.
Once more Shawn, I just want to thank you for spending time to do this interview. Your cover was great. I look forward to seeing more from you.
Thanks so much, Matt! This was an excruciatingly painf…I mean, uh, very enjoyable interview! One of these days I’ll get better at talking about myself haha.
(END INTERVIEW
And there you have it folks. Shawn was fun to talk to. And he’s the only designer so far with two covers in the Book Cover of the Year Bracket (He was involved in the design of The Heresy Within).  We’re so close to that bracket. I’m really getting excited about it. Until then…
Thanks for reading,
Matt
Advertisements

August Book Cover of the Month Midway Update

August Book Cover of the Month Midway Update

With just about seven days left in this month’s bracket, I thought this would be a good chance to update you all on how things have been progressing. Things started off fast, but we’ve slowed down a bit.

2,433 votes the support has been nice to see, but some of these covers need your help.

Colony Lost by Chris Philbrook has taken the lead an run with it.

Least Voted for: Kaiju Wars by Eric S. Brown currently has the fewest votes (31). Fans of Brown should rally to help this cover get at least a bit more credit than that.

The Sweet 16 is the closest round so far. Half of those matches are within 10, but Philbrook is the story here as he’s got a commanding lead in every round, so anyone who wants to beat him needs to summon the followers by the dozens.

A quick reminder of how the tournament works. The easiest way to win is to have the most people vote for you in every round (like Philbrook). The trick is you have to have the most people vote you through in each round, all the way to the final.  As an example, 10 people (the second most) have voted Blood-Stained Heir all the way to the championship, but that’s not enough because Norman can’t get past Black Ruins Forest (though he’s only four votes away). Just remember. It’s not total votes. It’s not simple championship votes. The winning cover has to have the most votes in each round of the competition.

515dtiG8DILSo let’s take a look at the three covers that have the BEST shot at upsetting Philbrook.

Blood-Stained Heir can grab victory if he gets 23 people to vote him all the way through to the championship. (That’s assuming those 23 voters aren’t answered by voters of Colony Lost or Black Ruins Forest.)

Black Ruins Forest actually needs more championship votes than Heir. While Forest has what it needs to get to the last round, the cover is actually further behind than Heir. That said, if Forest can get 26 people to vote it all the way through, it’ll take the lead.

Lucky or Not, Here I Come is actually the third-closest contender if one looks at the bracket as a whole. It’s behind Black Ruins Forest, but not by much. That said, he’d need a massive show of overall support because he only has one championship vote so far. He’d need 33 people to vote him all the way to the championship in order to take the lead.

Getting 33 people to vote anyone all the way through would be a great start, but believe it or not, the 23-vote lead Colony Lost has in the finals is actually the smallest margin of victory he has. Anyone cover not mentioned above would need more than 40 unanswered voters to push the cover all the way to the championship, and that’s not nearly enough to upset Colony Lost in that initial round (Colony has more than 100 votes in that first round.)   

This will be the only update for this type of bracket. It’s been an amazing tournament to watch thus far, and I hope readers continue to support their authors by voting, liking, and sharing the bracket with as many people as possible.  You can vote at this address!

I’ll announce the winner is just seven days!

Thanks for reading,

Matt

The August Book Cover of the Month Tournament has Begun!

The August Book Cover of the Month Tournament has Begun!

August’s bracket has 31 plus The Girl Who Could See by Kara Swanson which is only the second book ever to get third chance at the title.

We’re doing another “vote all the way through” bracket. I think two weeks is the sweet spot. This gives people time to vote. I like to make sure people get the credit they deserve, so please show your support. Please vote and share as much as possible to get people a chance to pick their favorite.

As always, I’d appreciate it if you tag the authors and artists if you know them. I try to tag or friend every author I can, but sometimes it’s hard to track someone down. Max participation is a huge deal to me. The more people who vote, the more recognition these authors and artists receive, and I want this to be as legitimate as possible.

If you are the author, let’s remember to be good sports! 1) Please feel free to message or contact me at any time. 2) Please feel free to like, share, text, ask for support, and call everyone you know. I absolutely want max participation. However, if you’re going to offer giveaways or prizes, please offer them for voting, not just voting for you.

Also, while your summoning your army of voting soldiers, please make sure you ask them to vote in every match. Part of the idea of this is to get exposure to as many artists and authors as possible. By all means, if you can get 1,000 people to vote for your book, do it. Just please also send some eyeballs to the other matches.

A final note to authors and artists: I currently have links to the books’ Amazon pages. If you’d prefer I switch that link to sign up for your newsletter or like your social media page or whatever, just send me the link and let me know. I want this to help you. I want this to be as helpful as possible, so whatever you need me to do to facilitate that, just let me know.

I hope you keep having fun. Please, vote, share, and discuss as much as possible.

All you have to do now is head over here to vote!

Thanks for reading,

Matt

Writing Update: The Discovery Draft of Repressed is Done!

Writing Update: The Discovery Draft of Repressed is Done!
kaitlyn
All images are the intellectual property of M.L.S. Weech. Any reuse or distribution without his consent is a violation of copyright law.

I bring tidings of joy to all fans of my work! The discovery draft of my next book is done. I’ve made a few Facebook posts about the project, but now that I have something written, I can talk about the project a little more.

Repressed is a novella featuring Kaitlyn from Caught. It takes place three years after the events in Oneiros Book One. Below isn’t exactly the book blurb, it’s just a quick summary for my wonderful blog followers:

My name is Kaitlyn, and I have superpowers. No really, I’m an empath. About three years ago, I met some people, and well all have powers now. The five of us who survived the day we met, not all of us made it, live together. The thing is, they think that because I’m a teenager, I’m not ready to help them save the world.

* * *

When Kaitlyn decides to protect a new girl from bullies, she gets a taste for using her abilities and secret training like the heroes of the comics that she loves to read. But as she starts to do more, she learns her powers don’t work exactly the way she thought they did.  Things get even worse when she learns that hero work isn’t as easy as the comics make it seem. When hatred and ignorance come to a boil, Kaitlyn has to decide what it really means to be a hero, and her decision puts the lives of three other classmates at risk.

END SUMMARY

caught-front-coverThis isn’t the sequel to Caught.  If you need to position it in your mental timeline, consider it Oneiros 1.5. I wanted to do more (shorter, not short) fiction, and I also needed something to bridge the (even larger) gap between book one and book two in the actual trilogy. That, combined with my love for this character presented me with too many opportunities to pass up.

The biggest opportunity was for me to test myself, which I want to do with every project I take on. You’ve seen my reviews regarding YA novels (Here’s my last one in case you haven’t.) It’s not accurate to say I hate the genera, but I’m certainly not a big fan of some of the overused themes. A part of me felt that if I was going to stand here and talk about how much some of those themes bothered me, why not take a crack at the genre? It would force me to stretch, and resist some of what I think a lot of YA shortcuts. The main issue: the stupidity or ignorance of parents.

I see this too much in YA, and I didn’t want to fall victim to it, especially since four out of the five members of Oneiros are adults. So I took it upon myself to add that challenge to an already interesting plot. As if that weren’t enough, not only do I have to keep Sal and Kira working as loving, attentive parental figures (not to mention Dom, Brandon and Chris, who all have at least some brief appearances in this story), but they’re powerful psychics. That’s a challenge that I think I’ll have to do even more work on in subsequent drafts.

Why do this? Because one of the reasons I love writing is it’s always a challenge. I want this book to make me a better writer, and I want the next book to take me even further. Writing outside of my normal genre (if anyone accuses me of having one yet) does that for me. I don’t have any other plans to write YA in the future, but I still get to practice first person, and it opens the door for more in that world soon.

What does that mean for Oneiros? Well, I just don’t know when to stop. While there’re a few intense moments in Repressed (and even a few Caught easter eggs), this is a YA novel. In my opinion, if your main character is a 16-year-old girl, you’re writing a YA novel. Rather than fight it, I embraced it. My hope is the people who love Caught will appreciate seeing their favorite characters again as a way to tide them over until I finish books two and three. Also, this book sets the stage for one of the major points of conflict in book two. You see, Kira and Sal have very different ideas on how Kaitlyn should be raised. Those issues get touched on here, and they’re explored more in book two. We also get a sense for how truly powerful Kaitlyn is, and what that amount of power costs her.

SomethingAlwaysRemainsWhat’s next? Repressed is about 35,000 words at the moment. It’ll go in a digital drawer for at least two weeks. I like to step away from a project. It gives me time to separate my emotions from a project. I just finished it, and I feel like a genius. The reality is there are some things to work out and typical Matt issues to smooth away. I won’t be idle in that time. I’m hoping to have Sara’s edits on Bob Drifter back, and my main goal is to try and get the second edition out before I do another draft on Repressed. While I wait for that, I’m going to start looking at 1,200, a story about a homeless veteran who’s using his abilities to help other homeless vets keep their sanity, that is until a monster who feeds on magic shows up.  I still, ambitiously, would like to release Repressed, 1,200, Oneiros Book Two and Oneiros Book Three out in 2019. I’ll work on them with Oneiros being the top priority until they’re done. Having this draft done means I have at least one release already locked in for 2019, four to go. (Did I mention I also plan to release a few more novellas? Like I said, I don’t know when to stop.)

I hope my stories keep you all engaged the way my favorite authors keep me clamoring for more of their work. If that’s the case, I hope a post like this lets you know how committed I am to continue entertaining you.

Thanks for reading,

Matt

 

 

 

Announcing the July Book Cover of the Month

Announcing the July Book Cover of the Month

Hello everyone,

The July Book Cover of the Month bracket has just wrapped up. This turned out to be the second-most voted on tournament in the nine-month history of the bracket. It was great to see all that participation, and fun to watch the leads change hand. We had 5,750 votes. I want to offer my thanks to everyone who got involved. We don’t get those kinds of numbers without a lot of people getting involved.

Five different books took the number spot at one point or another in the tournament, but one had the championship spot when the time hit 0:00:00.

The July Book Cover of the Month is…

 

The Heresy Within by Rob J. Hayes! If you’re curious about how I felt about the book, check out the Facebook post that I posted when this book first landed on the bracket, here.

Let’s look at the stats!

History of how X won.

Hayes received 260 total votes. It actually finished fourth in overall voting, but it won where it needed to (the semifinal and final). He beat The Queen of Swords 26-14 in the Final Four, and he beat The Girl Who Could See 15-8.
July_Cover_CollageThe Girl Who Could See did manage to tie a record. First, she had the most votes in the tournament. Next, she finished as the runner up, which means she is only the second book ever to receive TWO extra chances to become the book cover of the month.

 

That said, Hayes is the winner this month, so let’s look at his book.

Amazon blurb.

Amazon:

(START BLURB)

 

This is the 2017 self-published re-release of The Heresy Within by Rob J. Hayes.

As any warrior will tell you; even the best swordsman is one bad day away from a corpse. It’s a lesson Blademaster Jezzet Vel’urn isn’t keen to learn. Chased into the Wilds by a vengeful warlord, Jezzet makes it to the free city of Chade. But instead of sanctuary all she finds is more enemies from her past.

Arbiter Thanquil Darkheart is a witch hunter for the Inquisition on a holy crusade to rid the world of heresy. He’s also something else; expendable. When the God Emperor himself gives Thanquil an impossible task, he knows he has no choice but to venture deep into the Wilds to hunt down a fallen Arbiter.

The Black Thorn is a cheat, a thief, a murderer and worse. He’s best known for the killing of several Arbiters and every town in the Wilds has a WANTED poster with his name on it. Thorn knows it’s often best to lie low and let the dust settle, but some jobs pay too well to pass up.

As their fates converge, Jezzet, Thanquil, and the Black Thorn will need to forge an uneasy alliance in order to face their common enemy.

 

(END BLURB)

As always, I’ve purchased the book and added it to my TBR. (For those who are new to the deal, I buy the Book Cover of the Month to read and review in the future. I bought Manning’s cover, Howard’s cover, Deyo’s coverJones’s CoverHubert’s Cover,  MacNiven’s cover, and Jon del Arroz’s, and they are also on my TBR. Manning’s review is here.  Howard’s review is here. I finished Deyo’s cover, but I haven’t posted a review yet. (About two weeks away.) Jones’s book is third on my TBR at the moment.

 


Here’s
 Hayes’s Facebook page. Give it a like if you’re curious about him and his work.

I don’t know who the artist is yet, and I’m a bit behind with interviews, but I’ll get back on that soon since I’m nearly done drafting Repressed, a novella featuring Kaitlyn from Caught

The August bracket is still under development, but it looks good so far. It’ll kick of Sept. 1.

I will continue to identify and select covers for each day from Amazon’s New Release section for fantasy and science fiction. If you follow and like my Facebook page, you can see what covers will make the bracket.

Thanks for reading

Matt

The July Book Cover of the Month Halfway-Point Update

The July Book Cover of the Month Halfway-Point Update

July_Cover_CollageGreetings all,

With just about seven days left in this month’s bracket, I thought this would be a good chance to update you all on how things have been progressing. This has been a record-setting month in a few ways.

4,918 votes (at the moment) is already enough to make this month’s bracket the second-most voted on bracket in the nine months I’ve been doing this. I thank everyone for their support. It’s always great to see people support their favorite artists and authors.

We’ve had three books hold the lead so far.  Winged Hussars by Mark Wandrey started out in the lead. The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter by Theodora Goss held the lead for a day before A Gathering of Ravens by Scott Oden took it for a few days. The Girl Who Could See by Kara Swanson has held the number one spot for the last few days. The Heresy Within by Rob J. Hayes even held the top spot for about 12 hours. This is a very tight race, and with this format, anyone can win if they get a solid push near the end of the voting time.

51IDNC3FGHLMost Voted on so far: Swanson has the most round wins and the most votes overall with 276 total votes.

Least Voted for: The Light of Burning Shadows by Chris Evans currently has the fewest votes (81). Fans of Evans should rally to help this cover get at least a bit more credit than that.

The Elite 8 is the closest round so far. The top four vote-earners in that round are within eight votes of each other. Swanson is only four votes ahead of Oden in the final four.  So looking at each round of votes, Swason has a pretty solid lead in the first two rounds, but life gets a bit tough after that.

A quick reminder of how the tournament works. The easiest way to win is to have the most people vote for you in every round (like Swanson). The trick is you have to have the most people vote you through in each round, all the way to the final.  As an example, 21 people (the most) have voted Winged Hussars all the way to the championship, but that’s not enough because Wandrey can’t make up the 63-vote deficit he has to Swanson in the initial round. The last time I did one of these contests, I was worried because I thought a person could win the championship without winning a round. I had a problem with that. Further study of this bracket and the reports I have access to have put my mind at ease. It’s not as simple as a round by round, but it at least won’t allow a person to snatch a championship with only a few people voting for them. Just remember. It’s not total votes. It’s not simple championship votes. The winning cover has to have the most votes in each round of the competition.

This will be the only update for this type of bracket. It’s been an amazing tournament to watch thus far, and I hope readers continue to support their authors by voting, liking, and sharing the bracket with as many people as possible.  You can vote at this address!

I’ll announce the winner is just seven days!

Thanks for reading,

Matt