Friday, October 25, 2013

New Prossia Cover Reveal: the Moment

Redoing Prossia's cover was a metaphor for what this entire project has meant to me; it's a new start, a chance to right the wrongs that I didn't even know I was originally doing. Like the cover, I made sure to go through the proper channels when it came to republishing Prossia, seeking the right advice, laying out a solid plan, and executing to the best of my abilities. It's funny. At times I wonder if the 1st edition of the novel should even count, given how "amateur" I was about handling it. But then I stop and realize I didn't know how much I loved being a writer until I took that first shot at publishing.
Sure, it wasn't the best attempt, but I'm realizing any attempt is an accomplishment in its own right. Better to try than not try at all. That's why the number one advice professional authors give aspiring ones sounds so obvious, but is still so vital.


If you want to be an author, then be an author. In the same manner, if you want to be an artist, then be an artist. If you want to be a leader, then be a leader. If you want to be about something, then get up and do something.

I know; that's easier said than done. No one ever likes to talk about what that requires most of the time. Nobody wants to know that Kevin J. Anderson, a multi-international bestselling author, was rejected by literary agents over 80 times before he finally got his first novel published. No one likes to hear how J.K Rowling wrote out her ideas for Harry Potter on napkins because she was cleaning up her last table for the night. No one wants to know about Stephanie Myer spending a great deal of her time at Critique Circle, a social network for writers so they can get their works critique. Oh no. Who wants to hear about that? 

These people are overnight success stories, right?
No, these people knew what it took to be something. They took a step, even when it didn't lead them anywhere. And then they took another one, and another one, and then another one. And before they knew it, when they turned around, they had an wave of people, like me, asking them how they managed to get so far ahead.

Just take that one step, and you'll have no idea where it takes you. You might find yourself speaking to a classroom of kids, who gaze astonished at your  illustrations. You may have a book signing, and take a picture with a young lady who thinks you're a superstar. You might lead a peace demonstration in your local community, urging your peers to stand up and encourage one another. Or, who knows? Maybe you'll travel with a seventeen-year-old alien girl, eyes brighter than a full moon, who found herself on another world when confronted that first big life question: Where Were You When You Had To Grow Up? Hey, you have to start somewhere.
Think big on a galactic level, and you'll never know where it takes you. Welcome to the relaunch of Prossia.

-Raphyel M. Jordan
See the New Prossia Cover

Thursday, October 24, 2013

New Prossia Cover Reveal: The Final Stretch


Once my poll for the new Prossia cover ran its course, Cover#5 ended up blowing the rest of the competition out of the water. So, what gave me the idea to the winning comp? This particular one went all the way back to James A. Owen suggestion about the original cover being too dark. While I tried to brighten up the covers as much as possible, however, I really wanted to show the cosmos in my cover. Only one problem: space is black. Still, if I needed to brighten things up, I might as well go as bright as possible!  :P

I took the Aly picture done in  Cover #4 and simplified it, wanting to give this cover an edgier vibe. The blue was just a natural fit as well.

Now that I had a solid direction to go, it was now time to get some insight from some more professional eyes. So, in came my fellow Superstar Writing Seminar attendees. I had noticed many authors had submitted potential covers to the group before and got some great feedback. I was hoping I could get the same treatment, and goodness me, I wasn't disappointed. :) While the monochromatic scheme was cool, many felt the cover was still missing a bit of a punch. On top of that, the font I used for the title was nice, but lacking in originality. It was also a hard one to read from a distance.

Once I got all of the feedback it seemed I would get, I ended up putting the cover on the backburner for a while, given I had prequels and republishing manuscripts poking the brain ;). Even so, I messed around with it as much as I could, whenever I got the chance to do so. In the meantime, I had also called up one of my old college buddies, Brianna Higgins. I had my hands tied with wanting to meet deadlines, doing commissions on the side, and trying to find one of those fancy "day jobs" that offer health benefits. In short, I was in need of desperate help, wherever I could find it. Higgins was an illustrator and graphic designer, like me, but she had a special knack for typography. So, I showed her my Prossia logo and asked if she could make up a font based around it. Long story short, you've more than likely seen the font already, if you've seen my ads. ;)

Good art can take time, in some instances. You think it's done and then you smack yourself in the head when you realize you didn't notice the obvious. Once I finished the new manuscript, I found myself spending minutes to hours working on the final cover, changing the contrast, moving the text a bit to the left, adding a little more white in the corner after if became too busy, and then, as many images do, due date arrives and you have to call it a wrap. In that instant, I got out of my chair, stepped back from my monitor to get a good look at it from a distance. I wish I could say I had something profound to say. Nah, I just went "Wow..."

Days later, I received a box in the mail. When I opened it up, a brand new novel with the title "Prossia" was staring right back at me. I sent the printing house the okay for the book and started going to the proper channels to put my book back on the market. Mission accomplished. Prossia was getting republished...

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

New Prossia Cover Reveal: Hit the Breaks

Superstars Writing Seminar

Prossia had been out for a year and some months when 2012 rolled around, and I was sitting back, relaxing, and just waiting to see if it was going to take off. Yeah, I know -_-. If you’re a fellow author, you’re probably hollering “Nooooooo!” right about now. Up to this point, this was one of many numerous mistakes that I had committed throughout my first months as an author. Fortunately for me, I managed to do one right thing later on that year, and that was attending the Superstars Writing Seminar in Las Vegas.

While there, an arsenal of professional writers like Kevin J. Anderson, Rebecca Moesta, Eric Flint, David Farland, Dave Wesley Smith, and James Artimus Owen, taught me the ins and outs of what they were doing to make their passion into a successful occupation. I was given numerous opportunities to sit down and chat it up with these amazing authors, and boy, did I learn a lot! However, one of the most inspiring lessons came from James A. Owen. See, he was an illustrator who loved to do his own book covers as well, like me! So, I took him over to the side one time during the seminar, and asked him what he thought about my current cover for Prossia.

He actually liked it, for the most part (I, of course, geeked out over that  :P). He felt I definitely had the skills to design my own covers along with drawing some illustrations in the interior. However, there was one main issue he had with the current looks of my book. It was way too dark. People wouldn’t be able to read the title of my book from a distance or really see much of the illustration. If that was the case, it wouldn’t stand out that much if it was placed in a group of other novels.

After the seminar was over, I went home and checked out other popular YA sci-fi novel covers. I quickly realized they had a certain “liberty” about them, compared to other books. They were vibrant, energetic, exciting, much like the persona of a teenager! So, after putting my research and advice together, it was back to the drawing board! By the time I had finished, I had seven comps for Prossia’s new cover. I did have a personal favorite, but I wanted to make sure I picked the BEST one and not make my decision merely based on a matter of personal preferences. So, I placed the images in a poll and asked people which one they thought was the best. The results, to my pleasant surprise, were quite staggering, with half of the voters voting for one particular pic. So, I had the layout for my next cover…

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

New Prossia Cover Reveal: the Original


Ah, yes. The original. After learning a few Photoshop tricks here and there, thanks to numerous DeviantArt tutorials, I did a newer version of "A Soldier's Burden," months before I was ready to publish Prossia for the first time. I always knew I wanted to return to that subject and use it as the "gateway" to the book, but I had a few items I wanted to change from the original.
For one, Aly's eyes were constantly mentioned in the novel, and I felt it would be a little unfair not to let the viewers have a real look at them. The one word which was constantly used to describe their brilliance was "piercing," so, in that regard, I wanted to make sure they were the focal point of the cover.

The next item I wanted to address was the planet at the bottom. I did a teaser trailer not long after "A Soldier's Burden" with Aly overlooking a planet, as if she was keeping watch over it. I wanted to give a similar sort of vibe on the cover. I only had one little problem, though. I'd never illustrated a planet before, and I couldn't stand doing backgrounds at the time! Now, here's something many people may not know about us, artists. We have various strengths and weaknesses. Some might be good at character design but struggle with backgrounds. Others may be great with color but lack in executing proper value and contrast. The list goes on and on. In my case, I've always liked drawing characters first and foremost, even when I was a kid, not giving the background or secondary items any other thought. Well, decades later, that practice tends to bite me in the butt a lot. LOL!

Because of this, I now tend to start my illustrations by focusing on the background first, because, if my least interesting subjects are lacking, then my entire composition is weak. Again, this is just me. Some artists don't have a problem with background, middle ground, foreground, the subject matter, or any part of an illustration at all! Anyway, long story short, I had to spend about as much time on illustrating the planet, which is Argustas (where the majority of the book takes place), as I did on Aly.
And last but not least, the expression. In the original "A Soldier's Burden," Aly looked weighed down, tired, but there was still something, hmm, bold about her; strong. I didn't want that to be shown on the cover. No, I wanted the viewer to see a girl, dressed in armor, placed behind this world she's expected to defend, asking, "What in the world am I doing here, because I don't want to be here at all!" She's terrified, something I really wanted to drive home in the novel. Yeah, while Aly's alien capabilities are phenomenal to read throughout the story, I didn't want the people to forget that she's this: just a girl trying to do whatever she could to survive the horrors of the battlefield.  Prossia isn't Star Wars. There isn't a theme song that gets you excited as the story rolls up the screen. No, this is war, civilization's ultimate tragedy.

So, here it was. The cover for my first novel. The illustration that would find itself on web ads, flyers, postcards, you name it. Talk about a proud moment! Years went by, and Prossia still held its place on the online bookshelf, as I honed my skills at writing and learning the quirks of the business. I couldn't have been more grateful for those years that followed Prossia's release...especially since they taught me all of the numerous mistakes I did the first time I launched the book, the cover being one of them. Why don't we save that story for next time? ;)

Monday, October 21, 2013

New Prossia Cover Reveal: Cover Origins


As we near the reveal to Prossia's new cover, why don't we take a look down memory lane? I figured we could start with the image that inspired the original one. :)

So, here I was, months away from graduation, with a manuscript to this sci-fi novel I wanted to publish. I don't think the word, "busy" could describe the numerous undergoings I had back in '09. Still, it's a pretty common tale for most authors. When it comes to this line of work, if one isn't hunkered down with something, he/she probably isn't trying hard enough.

Up to this point, I hadn't told a single soul about my future writing goals after I graduated. I guess I didn't want to have people coming back to me and pointing out my failure if I didn't publish. Then I realized accountability might very well be the best thing for me. So, I decided to announce Prossia at my senior show. I mean hey, if you tell over a hundred people that you're going to have a book out within such and such, I don't think I'll have much  of a choice beyond following through!

The first draft of Prossia had been on my numerous backup files for a while by this point, so I had plenty of time to reminisce on the feelings and emotions I hoped this coming-of-age story. I wanted to present those feelings when I presented the upcoming book to my family, friends, classmates, and other guests at the show. I also found my tagline for the book, the very one you'll see at the header of the new cover: where were you when you had to grow up?

An eerie picture displaying what appears to be a young humanoid creature looking down at a sword, with that question being asked over her head, probably raised a lot of questions. What type of creature is that? Why does she look so sad? Did she just kill someone with that weapon? Is that how she grew up?

I called the title to this early illustration of Aly "A Soldier's Burden." When I finished it, I felt that the simplicity of the image bore a lot of weight. When I approached the subject matter again, I'd come back with some more confidence when it came to drawing on the computer, as this was the foundation to Prossia's first book cover.