After yet ANOTHER record breaking round, we’re down to 16 covers. I’m so glad to see such a positive response to the contest. But enough about me and my elation, let’s look at what happened after 1,467 votes!
Let’s go over some numbers:
The Closest Contest:
We have a few ties here. The Winter Over vs War Factory and Ringing in a New Year vs An Impossible War were both decided by just four votes! War and Winter were the victors in those close contests. Over earns the tiebreaker in because it’s narrow 52% margin of victory.
The Largest Victor: Bentz Deyo is back people! He brought his following for his cover to The Unleashed to defeat A Gathering of Shadows by 41 votes! The Elven Tales had the largest margin of victory over Death’s Mistress with 71% of the votes. Those are some pretty impressive numbers.
Most Voted On Contest: Unleashed vs Shadows had the most votes with 119.
Least Voted On Contest:
I’m thrilled to say that every contest had 80 or more votes. Four matches were tied for the least votes at 80: The Destiny Thief vs Three Years With the Rat, Surviving the Evacuation: Ireland vs Smoke Happens, Age of Myth vs Explorations: First Contact, and Winter vs War Factory.
Most Votes: Unleashed is back on top with the most votes. Mr. Deyo spoke with me. He’s very determined to make the most of this second chance, and he’s already making good on his word with 80 votes in this round.
So now it’s on to the Sweet 16! This round will last until March 15. That’s 7 days to pick which 8 will move on.
We’re a few days into February’s BCOTM bracket, but I have something special for you all today. January’s winner, Joshua Rafols, was kind enough to share his time with us in the form of an interview. It was a pleasure to get to know him, and I’m happy to share that conversation with you now.
First, Joshua, I want to thank you for taking the time to do this interview. Let’s go ahead and get right to it.
When did you get in to art?
– I started going into art when I was in high school. I started to learn how to use Adobe Photoshop and started exploring different techniques and designs.
How long have you been creating covers?
-I started just two years ago when I was working at Tate Publishing. But previous to that, I used to make notebook covers for conferences and camps at our church.
What got you started in creating covers?
-It was when I started working at Tate. I found a different joy when authors received their books along with the cover.
Do you prefer one medium over another?
-I don’t have any other medium except Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator.
Do you have someone who inspired your own work? If so, who? Why?
-There are a lot of people who inspire my work but my primary inspiration as I work on each cover is my Lord Jesus Christ. Because I believe that as I work for each client, I am also working for the Lord.
What do you look for in a great client?
– A great client is simply someone who gives clear instructions and knows what he or she wants.
What are some of your pet peeves about clients?
– When clients demand for a design that goes beyond the limits of Photoshop, or when they keep changing their design concepts.
What were your initial thoughts where you were asked to do the cover for Loveless?
– My thoughts at first was, this is an interesting book. It wasn’t difficult to visualize and it was easy to do.
Artistically, what were your goals for the cover?
-I went for a minimalist and a bit of mystery design.
How was Marissa to work with?
-Marissa was really easy to work with. She asked for suggestions and gave very clear instructions as to what she wanted – which made it easier for me to do my job.
Can you walk me through the process of creating the cover? How did it go? What were the challenges? How pleased were the two of you with the results?
-I started searching Shutterstock for two open eyes and one closed eye. Then I placed them respectively at the top as the left eye, center the closed eye, and bottom the right eye. So i started with the top eye. To give an effect as if the eye were colored, I brushed random colors on the eyes and placed -if i remember correctly- a screen effect on the color brushes. The center was tricky because it looked like a closed left eye so what i did was i duplicated it and then erased a side for each then arranged it to look as if the eye was centered. The bottom was simply a right eye, which I colored using a gray scale. The challenge that I always face when creating a cover is looking for a font that would match the book. I had the same struggle with this book cover. After sending it to the author, we were both pleased with the results of the book cover.
Loveless was a very well received cover. Is it your favorite? If so, why/why not?
– After I designed it, I honestly thought it was just another ordinary cover. I never really expected it to go this far. Perhaps it is because of its simplicity and minimalistic feel that I myself did not really notice its beauty at first.
Is there anything you’d like to say to readers?
– I just want to say thank you for supporting the cover of Marissa’s book. I greatly appreciate it.
Once more Josh, I just want to thank you for spending time to do this interview. You’re an amazing artist, and I, for one, am glad I’ve gotten to know you.
Thank you and a blessed day
It’s my hope to do interviews like this with all the artists, but they’re busy people, and sometimes it’s flat out hard to find them. I promise you that I’ll do my best to reach out to them and provide more interviews like this.
I’m just stunned typing those words. I’ll ask you to bare with me as I’m simply musing right now, and my fingers happen to be over a keyboard.
I’m weird. There’s no arguing that point. I think the thing that made me feel most odd was that I’ve always known what I want to be. I remember talking with Collin Fogel, the cover artist for Bob, about the stories we would tell. We were in junior high. I remember role playing with my friends Sean and Ben, who later became my best friend and then my brother-in-law (though we’ve considered each other brothers before I even gave my sister away at the wedding).
All my life I felt weird because everyone talked about how they didn’t know what they wanted to do. I was always like, “Dude, I’ve wanted to do this since I was 8.”
On the second anniversary of this wonderful occasion, I want to talk about Bob (the book). Bob started out as a short story that no one wanted to publish. I’d put it aside to write something new because that’s sort of how I work. One day, me and Ben were talking (I never shut up around him). I mentioned off hand that I always thought it would be cool if the “every day normal” version of a grim reaper had to fight the “big and scary ‘IT’S YOUR TIME'” version of death. I think I said, “I always saw them eventually fighting.”
Ben, in his infinite wisdom said, “Dude, you have to write that book.”
So what inspired the original short story?
The first (of two) reason was in fact, Drew. In the book or in real life, Drew was pretty much a center piece of the family. He was getting on in years. Some days I’d go upstairs and sleep next to him just to keep him company (he was usually just waiting for my dad). Drew was a member of the family. Now, I’ll never argue whose dog he was. That dog loved my dad, and my dad loved him. But the credit for picking that dog goes to yours truly. (While I’m being arrogant, I’d like to point out I have this odd habit of paring things that belong together. Trust me on this, the anecdotal evidence is overwhelming.)
My sister and I finally got permission to buy a dog, and we went to the local pound. I will never forget that day as long as I live. We were roaming the cages looking at these dogs. In one cage, was this knee-high dog who seemed to want to kill us. We passed a cage and saw another dog who took one look at us and immediately wet the floor. I took a step back and saw this little, brown cocker spaniel. I am not lying. He looked to his left, looked to his right, then looked right at me as if to say, “You’re seriously thinking about one of these two?”
We picked him, named him, and took him in the car. (Yes…he pooped in my car, but I got over it. He was actually a very loyal traveling companion.)
There’s a bit of debate in the family over where his name came from. You see, I fancy myself a football guru. In those days, there were two quarterbacks at the top of their game: A young Brett Favre and Drew Bledsoe.
Yeah, the name Drew was on my mind, but for the record, I have been and will ever be a 49ers fan. So, to put a long-time family discussion to rest: Yes, I liked the name Drew, and I first gave it thought because of the Patriots quarterback. (Note: This was well before the Tuck Rule and the soon-after hatred I bear for that organization.) But Drew just sort of was. He was never a Fido or Barkey. He was never a dog. He ate what we ate. He went were we went (I mean traveled…he pooped outside after that one time in the car). He was a member of the family. So when I sat down to write about what it must be like for someone who has to watch death, I thought about the relationships and what we lose when people die. I wanted to feel like some parts of us always remain.
Which brings me to my second reason:
Well, I won’t get too deep. It’s been nearly 20 years, but it’s still a bit hard to talk about. My family’s seen some rather hard times. I’m not trying to compare our troubles to others, only speak on how our troubles affected me. There were some very special people in my life that I had to say goodbye to. I won’t go into the details because I’m a private person, and not all of this information is simply mine to tell. But watching those people leave my life ripped a part of myself away. That pain found its way into Bob’s story. These people didn’t die. They simply had to leave.
So as I wrote the full version of Bob, I realized what I was writing about. Inevitably, you have to say goodbye to the people you love. Being in the military, I’ve done that quite a number of times. If anyone’s figured out how to make it hurt less, they’re smarter than I am. It hurts. Every time. Moving, deploying, death. It just fucking hurts. What I wanted was a little way for me to feel like some part of them is with me, and some part of me is with them.
Why am I saying this now? Well…because sometimes, the people we miss actually come back. Last year, when Bob was but a mere “new release” one of those people I had to say goodbye to and I reconnected. This individual had a nickname for me, and the first words the person asked were if that nickname was still approrpriate.
I only cried a bit more than I am as I type this.
You see…I’m weird. I’ve know what I wanted my whole life, and I can say my dream came true. I have new goals to pursue, and WAY more to learn about this dream occupation of mine, but I also know the happiest time in my life. It’s not any one time. It wasn’t JUST that night when I got that Facebook message. It was all the times I felt a bond form that I knew nothing would break. I remember the first time, the first WORDS I ever read to The Junior (Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities, she was 1 night old). I remember teaching The Boy his first Jutsu (The Transformation Jutsu. Now he uses it to hide and ambush you with tickles. Listen, I like Anime, and a young man needs to learn his techniques). I remember the MOMENT Ben became my best friend (We were talking about a particular day on the bus, and how he was ready to stand up for me). I remember climbing trees with Collin.
I could go on forever. And that’s the point of Bob. Life goes on. The human soul, in whatever form you think of it, never goes away. It actually grows. I believe our souls grow each time we form a bond with someone new. Those bonds never break. Even the mortal limits of existence can’t erase a person, and that’s special.
So I created Bob. This guy who has the honor to take that essence of what makes us special and Pass On those memories to others, so that we never really leave.
I want to take the chance to thank all of those who’ve read it. Thank you for reading. Thank you for reviewing it. Thank you for showing interest in my work. I’ll never pretend that I don’t throw myself (figuratively) into my work. I do. Ever book I write has some part of myself in it. That’s because writing is just another form of sharing one’s soul with the world. Thank you for allowing me to share that part of my soul with you.
Happy birthday, Bob. I shall always strive to live because that’s the point of life.
Happy 1st everyone! For me, that means it’s time for a new Book Cover of the Month Bracket, and I’m more excited every time I do this. If you’re curios or new, check out the Book Covers for December and January.
Last month was simply enormous, and I hope to keep this momentum going in the right direction. We have 28 new covers to look at, and the top four runners up from last month have a second shot to win the month!
If you know the authors or the artists, please share this and tag 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.
Round 1 will go from today to March 8.
The Sweet 16 will run from then to the 15th.
The Elite 8 will take it from there until the 18th.
The Final 4 runs from the 18th to the 20th.
The Finals will go from the 20th to the 22nd.
I hope you keep having fun. Please, vote, share, and discuss as much as possible.
Their feedback was honest, sometimes painful, and always helpful. Good Alphas do that for you.
I’m a huge fan of this project for a lot of reasons, and I honestly feel like this project has put me on another level.
So, what’s next? Well, while I wait for my developmental edit, I get back to redesigning The Journals of Bob Drifter. I’m also starting the development of my next writing project, tentatively called The Truth of Emotion. ToE is a short story told from Kaitlyn’s point of view. Kaitlyn is one of the main characters from Caught. ToE is meant to bridge readers from the end of Caught to just a bit before Caught’s sequel (which had a title until I realized I need a new one, so give me a minute on that). The JoBD re-design will take the bulk of my attention, but I should make a bit of progress on those other things as well.
I’m glad to be moving forward on this. Progress always makes me happy.
I’m always happy to feature fellow Slush Brain authors, and I’m especially happy with that author is someone whom I consider a mentor and dear friend. Cindy (C.L. Schneider) is currently very busy setting up for the release of Nite Fire, which is her fourth novel and the first in her Flash Point series.
She was not only kind enough to allow me to post her cover on my site (which you’ll see again on my Facebook Page March 12, and in the March Book Cover of the Month Bracket), she was also kind enough to answer a few questions about the book. But first, let’s show you this beautiful cover:
I think this is a pretty dynamic cover. I’ll cover that more on my FB page next month. Right now, it’s all about Cindy and her newest project.
Cindy, I want to thank you for taking the time to speak with me. I hope the weekend is going well.
What were you looking for in the cover?
In the Crown of Stones books, each cover was a pivotal moment from that book. This allowed me to see them perfectly in my head before the covers were created. The focus was on bringing a particular scene to life and conveying the overall mood of the story. Each of the Crown designs had this sweeping epic feel, which was perfect for the stories. You never see Ian’s face clearly in any of the three covers. His story was very personal and tragic, and I felt like to dive so deep into his tortured psyche, it would help the readers to envision him however they needed to.
For Flash Point, the first book in my new series, I wanted it to be a little more conceptual, more of a general introduction to the main character and the style of the series, rather than a direct reflection of the actual story. While Dahlia has her own troubles and flaws, she is not quite as psychologically tormented as Ian. Not yet anyway ☺. I can’t make any promises for later! To put it simply, Dahlia’s story may still be a roller coaster, but instead of the ride taking you through so many long dark tunnels in a row, this series offers a bit more light.
I wanted the cover to help establish Nite Fire with its own identity and to help set it apart from my other series. I think it does that. The cover of Flash Point has a definite urban fantasy feel.
You went with the same artist you worked with in Crown. Tell us about him and your process for this cover.
My cover artist is Alan Dingman. We met over ten years ago after our oldest children met at an indoor park. Our kids became instant friends that day, and so did his wife and I. Of course, I was scribbling away on some story in a notebook, but once we started talking, I discovered she was a freelance graphic designer and her husband (Alan) was designing covers for a well-known publisher in NYC. Our conversation turned to books, and that was it. We’ve all been friends ever since.
Alan is a portrait artist and illustrator whose work history includes St. Martin’s Press, The NY Times, Rolling Stones, Simon & Schuster, as well as privately commissioned portraits and murals. Alan illustrated Stephen King’s 3D pop-up book, The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon. Currently, three of his cover designs for Simon & Schuster authors are on the New York Times paperback bestseller list.
When I decided to self-publish, I looked at the variety of covers available at CreateSpace. There was nothing wrong with them, but none lived up to the image that had lived in my mind for well over a year. As a lifelong reader, I’ve always had a huge thing for cover art, especially when it comes to fantasy. Many times over the years (in many bookstores), I’ve fallen in love with a book on the art alone. Just as often, I’ve made purchases simply on how the cover image makes me feel. It’s a fascination that made the cover of my first published novel even more important to me.
I knew Alan had the talent I was looking for. I approached him with my idea for Magic-Price, and I was thrilled when he took the job. We worked closely together to ensure he understood my vision. He was incredibly patient. I wanted to convey a very specific mood with my main character’s pose, and Alan went above and beyond to get it right. He took the image for Magic-Price (and the subsequent Crown books) right out of my head, recreated it beyond anything I expected, and then added his own flair.
For Flash Point, I gave him my ideas, including a detailed description of my main character. We had some discussions, and I provided him with photo images for reference, and then he ran with it. After he had the initial design down, we went back and forth on the details. This time, the focus was my main character. He had creative license for a good deal of it, but I wanted certain parts of her depiction to be as close as I pictured her as possible.
Tell us a bit about the new book?
Flash Point is the first book in an urban fantasy series featuring shapeshifting creature-hunter, Dahlia Nite. The series will be set mainly in the fictitious Sentinel City, a supernaturally-plagued urban sprawl. Readers will also travel with Dahlia to parallel worlds, including her own home world of Drimera. Nite Fire is based on the premise that many of our myths and legends are actually tales spun with the purpose of concealing the truth from humanity: that these creatures actually exist and ours is not the only world.
The decision to hide the truth was made long ago by the dragons who rule Dahlia’s world. Humans are not the only ones kept ignorant. Any species that could threaten the health and future of Drimera are kept in the dark. The dragons regulate much of the travel between world by way of an organization called the Guild and the use of dragon-hybrid shapeshifters called lyrriken. Dahlia is a lyrriken, which is the product of a human female and a male dragon in human form. She has some of her dragon father’s abilities, but her human half keeps her from shifting into a full dragon. Dahlia was a decorated and respected executioner for the dragon-queen, Naalish. She was formidable, driven, and fierce. Then one night, one mistake, and Naalish condemned her. To survive, Dahlia fled her world for the only other one she had a hope of blending in: ours.
Flash Point is set many years after Dahlia left her world. She has spent her time among humans hiding and hunting; traveling the country to track down the creatures that sneak in illegally and wreak havoc in the human realm. Though she is considered a traitor on her world, she disposes of these threats and conceals the crimes, continuing to keep the secret and maintain the legends. Advancements in human science and technology have made her job increasingly difficult. Failing, however, would risk invasions no one could afford or likely even survive. But when Dahlia is called in to investigate a brutal (and unexplainable) triple murder in Sentinel City, covering up the crime soon becomes the least of her worries.
Well I’m hooked! Where did the idea for this new book come from?
I’ve been intrigued by anything supernatural for as long as I can remember. I’m a huge fangirl of pretty much any show that deals with fantasy, scifi, and everything in between. The X-Files, Supernatural, Green Arrow, Lost Girl, Grimm, The Walking Dead, Buffy, Haven, Stargate, Sleepy Hollow, Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Killjoys—the list goes on. So yes, my DVR is very full and Netflix is one of my best friends! I’m a very character-driven person. If I connect with a character, I can forgive a lot on the plot or production values. As a rule, I don’t enjoy reality shows. I want to be swept away and can easily suspend disbelief if I can latch onto at least one character. But if I don’t care who lives or dies, it doesn’t matter how kick-ass the hero or heroine is, or how cool the premise, I stop watching.
Another long-time interest of mine is myths and urban legends. I’ve always wanted to write a story revolving around one. While one specific urban legend isn’t at the heart of it, The Nite Fire Series was inspired by my interest in those legends, and my fandom for some of my favorite shows. Like episodes of a TV show, each book will take place over a short period of time, approximately 2-4 weeks. Each one will feature a current threat to the city and her citizens, as the underlying mythology and mystery surrounding Dahlia, the dragons, and the parallel worlds, unfolds throughout.
Is this the beginning of a series? If so, how many books?
Flash Point is the first book in the series. Right now, I’m not entirely sure how many books it will be. I have ideas for four or five, but it will depend on how quickly I decide to bring things to a head. If the overall plot wraps up naturally in four books or eight, I’m fine either way. Though there are plenty of creatures out there to work with, I won’t stretch out the series just for the sake of it, or the overall storyline will suffer.
In conversations with you, you’ve been quite open about how different this book is from Crown. What made you decide to go in such a different direction?
I loved writing Crown of Stones, but I spent years in that world and in Ian’s head. I needed to remember what it was like to do something else. Crown is also a complex and emotionally heavy story. I enjoyed every minute of it and couldn’t be more proud of how it turned out and the impression Ian’s tale has left on many of my readers. But when the trilogy was done, I was ready for something new. That’s not to say Nite Fire isn’t dark and graphic, and it will become more complex as the series progresses. It just has an entertaining atmosphere, sprinkled with pop culture references and some amusing characters that help make it a less emotionally taxing read. I also think the fast-paced, nature and short time frame of the Flash Point allows the reader to discover who Dahlia differently than Ian. You will definitely get a good idea right away, but some of her complexities and her past might not necessarily be known as immediately or deeply.
Simply put: Crown of Stones drops you unapologetically into Ian’s tragic existence and instantly starts putting your emotions through the ringer. That was the point. But sometimes you want a different ride.
In this book, we meet a new character. What do you think fans will love most about her?
Dahlia is resilient. She’s strong. She is confident and snarky at times, yet like all of us, she has her hidden vulnerabilities. She’s survived in the human world for so many years by lying and manipulating. She’s lived on the road, with one fake job and fake identity after the next. Now, she wants all that to be over. Even if deep down, she knows she can’t come clean, Dahlia wants nothing more than to be herself, to live her life without judgement. To be accepted. I think that’s something a lot of us want.
Dahlia is a bad-ass, shapeshifting creature-hunter, yet she still has her insecurities. She wants friends and stability. She questions her faith and her future, as she tries to find her place in a world where she doesn’t belong. Dahlia also has her own clear sense of right and wrong. She works to uphold a greater good. It may not be the one everyone else agrees with, but it’s the ‘good’ she’s chosen to protect. In a bad situation, even knowing the consequences and her odds of succeeding, she still has hope. It’s a human trait that challenges the austere, pragmatic way in which the Guild raised her.
What about this project do you find the most motivating?
Starting a new series can be nerve-racking, but it’s also a lot of fun. There are so many unexplored possibilities, new characters, and plot-lines just waiting to be tackled. And the material for Nite Fire is something I’ve always wanted to work with. I love the obscure myths and urban legends. I find myself doing more research than I actually need to!
Now for the important part. When does the book launch?
The paperback will be available for purchase the last week of February. (NOTE: The Paperback JUST went live! Order your copy here!) Shortly after, I will set up the ebook for a discounted preorder. Follow me on Facebook and Twitter and/or keep an eye on my website for details.
Are there any online events or conventions (real life) where someone might have a chance to meet you and steal an autograph?
I have two in-person events scheduled so far this spring. One is on March 11 -12 at the Big Apple Con, located at the Penn Plaza Pavilion in NYC. The other is May 6-7 at the Hudson Valley Comic Con in Poughkeepsie, NY. I hope to be scheduling more soon. I don’t have a date for it yet, but at some point in March I will be having an online Facebook event to celebrate the release of the Kindle version of Flash Point. I will also be online at the Brain to Books Cyber Convention in April. You can find information on that event, and any of my other online and in-person appearances, on the News & Events page on my website, subscribe to my newsletter, or follow me on social media.
Signed copies of my books are also available directly through me (via email or the contact form on my website) for anyone who cannot attend one my in-person events.
Is there anything you’d like to add?
I hope anyone who decides to pick up Flash Point enjoys reading it as much as I did writing it. My plan is to have book 2 out in the fall, so hopefully you won’t have long to wait to continue Dahlia’s story.
Thank you for stopping by, Cindy! I’m glad you had the time, and I look forward to snagging my copy of Flash Point.
I’d like to thank my readers for joining me. I hope you decide to give Crown of Stones a try, and, when it comes out, Flash Point.