OK, it’s time to unveil the cover art for Book 2, Veil of the Deserters. (Wow. That was so bad I’m going to keep it).
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I’ve had to keep this under wraps until I got publisher approval. And it was hard. Really hard. Because, frankly, I think this is splendiferous. Uber-awesome. Kickass. Insert other excessive adjective for overexcited celebratory crazy talk here. And I just wanted to share it soooo badly. The book itself won’t be out until the fall/winter, but it feels really good to finally reveal this bad boy.
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When Night Shade told me they were going to use a different artist for the second book, I was a little nervous. OK, a lot nervous. But they assured me that Michael C. Hayes was rock solid, and when I visited his site, I had to agree, though being neurotic, I was still a mite uneasy. And this didn’t disappear at all when Night Shade said they wanted this cover art to be a contrast to the first one. I liked the first one. It was moody and evocative and atmospheric. And cool. But then they said some magic words: “action”; “dynamic”; “fight scene”; and “input.”
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This last one was big. Typically, writers don’t get a lot of say in the cover art unless they are self-publishing or have last names like McBigshot. But Night Shade Books invited me to give some synopses from some heavy-hitting scenes in the book, and any other notes I wanted to add.
Mistakes were made. They really should have been more specific with their invitation.
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I described what Braylar, his sister, Soffjian, and Braylar’s opponent should be wearing and using in excruciating detail. Including tons (and still more tons) of reference pieces—photos from museums, sample images of various coats of plates, ranseurs, some Norwegian mace heads that were carved to resemble demonic faces, lamellar armor, Byzantine scale armor, the way mail isn’t opaque and allows light and shadow through, and rustles during movement. I included the caveat that, yes, it’s fantasy, not historical fiction, but I really tried to capture some realism in the combat scenes in the books, and most covers fail woefully in this regard, and have impractical armor that would be impossible to move in or offer no protection whatsoever. I argued that real armor could be attractive and eye-catching, even if it predated full on plate with all the artistic flourishes, and sent a ridiculous number of images to prove my case. Sure, maybe only purists will notice or care about some of these details, but it was important to me, so I described it in triplicate.
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And above all, I stressed about 33 times that Soffjian, while attractive, should absolutely NOT be cheesecake—no cleavage, no mail bikinis, no overt objectification. Her armor needed to be functional, and she needed to look athletic, proficient, dangerous, and no less badass than her brother.
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Which is to say, I made a total nuisance of myself, and fully expected the publisher and artist to nod, smile politely, and ignore the hell out of me, all the while thinking, “Who the hell is this jackass? And why did anyone ask him what he thought in the first place?!”
But I was stunned and pleasantly surprised—they not only listened, but the artist totally nailed it. The whole thing. The colors, the way everything pops, the movement. And I’m so impressed with the level of detail Michael achieved I can barely put it in words—it’s phenomenal. . . the sleeves and aventail shifting and flowing, the tassel on Soffjian’s ranseur, Braylar’s splinted vambraces, the siblings’ matching long dagger/short sword (a staple of Syldoon and Memoridon armament). And on and on. He used plenty of what I sent as inspiration, and was truly inspired.
Yep, I’m biased, but I think it’s absolutely beautiful. It’s almost a shame we have to put a title and author name on there. Almost.