Book 4’s Cover Design

Creating the fourth novel cover

So, here we go again!  After releasing two novelettes in 2015 which extended the D’mok literary universe, it’s time to tackle the next novels. These days, you don’t really “do” one book anymore. The expectations is TRILOGIES. Yes, this means there will be two more in the D’mok Revival series coming. 😉

I promise to write about the process of taking my fourth manuscript and evolving it into its final form in a future blog. This post is specifically about the new cover.

For some quick background, I am very proud of the five covers done to date. I’ve had the distinct honor of privilege of working with Glenn Clovis, an amazing 3D artist. He’s brilliant, incredibly talented, and PATIENT!  This is important, as working with “a client with a vision” (like myself) is NEVER EASY. Not to say I’m a high maintenance person per se, but I’m trying to create a specific look and with that comes some creative direction.

Here’s the first three novels:

book 1 coverbook 2 coverbook 3 cover


Here’s the first two novelettes:

mindwalk coveraloan conspiracy


I deeply respect and appreciate Glenn’s creative genius. I believe we iterate and evolve designs very well together. Sometimes it’s a suggestion on lighting, or transformation of a small part of something he’s already created. However, having “creative vision” is NOTHING without a creative master to make it manifest.

I’ve mentioned before the pressure that builds to have an impressive and more memorable cover book-over-book. I always want to push it and create something more amazing in the next round.

And so, here we are, “the next round.”  D’mok Revival: New Eden!

Novel number four represents a pivot in the D’mok literary universe. Many important things have changed since original trilogy, with ripple effects of how the Nukari Invasion came to an end.

So what should be on the cover?

I set forth a goal, what I wanted the cover to communicate:

  • It had to be familiar
  • It needed to focus on what New Eden looks like as it’s important the plot (starting in book 4 and moving forward)
  • I wanted to show the influence and adaptions being made based on exposure to Nukari technology
  • I wanted to represent the changing of the guard (leadership), in a way
  • I wanted the station to look capable, like someone wouldn’t mess with it, and would be able to destroy it if they tried


There’s a few things I knew already that would influence the visuals:

  • New Eden is not where Eden was, so the red nebula is out. A new location visual would be required
  • New Eden is the same “class” space station as Eden, just much larger, and enhanced
  • Examples of the Nukari technology are clearly illustrated on the third cover (the overlapping armor scales, and creature-esk look)
  • Books one and two featured a ship used by Mencari, so showing it again would create great consistency


The most important thing to “get right” was the station. There were many comments from the first book’s cover that I recalled.  For instance: “I’m not sure what I’m looking at? Is that a satellite or a weapon?” “It looks evil.” I didn’t want history to repeat. This time, I want to make sure people know what it is.

We looked at the source material.  First, the original space station:


Second, the Nukari ship (The Leviathan):


Third, the Nukari space gateway:



So, here was the an early approach to the design of the New Eden station:

first station version

You have to start somewhere!  I loved the dome. The arms had segments, but they were very understated. The body looked still under construction to me, and I was looking for something more finished.


second version

That’s a leap! Loved the direction it was headed. The upper struts that connected the arms didn’t feel organic enough (something my test group also mentioned). I liked the reshaped arms, but wanted them even bigger!


third version

Another leap. I also loved the flairs put on the ends of the arms.  Those will come in handy later…  Though, my test group still didn’t get the direct connection to the Nukari technology with the overlapping tiles and such. There was a suggestion to change the light from blue to red like the Nukari, saying that would help create a stronger connection.

Interesting!  I LOVE feedback. Now, a quick aside, RED is usually used to represent bad things. This seems to be common across cultures in the world too. Even our own beloved scifi tend to follow this.  For instance, red blaster fire or Light Saber colors are used in Star Wars to represent the Empire or Dark Side. Hell is typically pictured as fire and red. Red auras are seen as people that have a “devil-may-care” attitude, are willing to try anything, and quick to anger. People with blue auras are seen as rare, bold, and charismatic, peacemakers with the ability to smooth out angry situations.

Based on this, I provided the feedback to Glenn, and this was the result.


fourth version


I reviewed this with my review team. They felt it was a HUGE leap in connections to the first and third books.

I placed it into my cover blocking and played with how to display the station with respect to position and size.  Placement actually was pretty easy.  I needed to follow the “Z” eye scanning pattern people unconsciously use to read in the Western culture.


I also considered putting the original ship in the lower left, following the first book. I then added a small stream of ships headed to dock into the left-arm, and one slightly larger ship coming toward the viewer’s perspective.

However, when shown to my review group they felt it was a bit TOO similar to the first book.  Then I had an idea.  Going back to my “changing of the guard” display goal, what if a slightly larger ship heading at the viewer’s perspective was the original ship from books one and two? What if I had a new ship in the lower left heading toward the station?  I’d create the Z pattern, trigger the concept of being familiar, and present the changing of the guard all at one time.  It would be EPIC!

Of course, this meant I needed a new ship. It would need to be New Eden tech, with a similar Nukari influence.  We’d never designed New Eden tech before. Oh, the design challenges are endless (and awesome)!  So I mocked up a very crude concept for Glenn.

I’ll hold off on this ship for the reason that after coming up with an awesome design, the final cover composition worked best WITHOUT IT!  I know!  We spent so much time coming up with something so awesome. I’ll use it, just not for this cover. It’s the “Lexor Class” ship that gets mentioned starting in book 4, so there should be lots of opportunity to use it.

On to working on the final book 4 cover.  Together we mocked up a few different ideas (locations, angles, position of elements).

I wanted to go with a green and blue nebula. This would be distinct from the other major novel covers, and contrast with the orange-red glow from the station.

early rough

But one design really popped past the others. I loved (and so did my review team) loved the station on an angle, in a more ominous presentation.

Of course, this was just the beginning of the refinement.  Here’s a list of things we tweaked through numerous designs:

  • Presentation of the city under the dome (Rinow city)
  • Window placement on the station
  • Red glowing light from other places than the arm

Here’s the final version of the cover:

final cover

There’s so many fine details about this station and the surrounding area of space. For instance, the gleam off the dome, the trail of ships going into the arms, the windows on the station… I think it’s amazing and beautiful.

In the end, I believe I accomplished all my main goals for this with exception to a changing of the guard. However, one could argue that so much obvious Nukari technology shows something is up at New Eden…  Exactly what I want people (that are familiar with the series) to wonder about.

So, that’s the story about book 4’s cover development!

D’mok Revival: The Aloan Conspiracy Novelette Cover Design

Readers always ask where the ideas come from for book covers. I’ve posted a number of times about the process I’ve used and the evolution of the various covers in the D’mok Revival series. I guess it’s important to keep that tradition alive.

For those that are current in the D’mok Revival series, you’ll remember Speru Chew’s world of Alo. It’s the first major adventure in book 3, D’mok Revival: Descension. Without spoilers, politics abound on that world. One of the pinnacle moments there involved the moon set ablaze with energy, and the resulting power burst that streaked away from it.  It’s certainly one of the moments that comes to mind when I think about Rhysus Mencari’s experience there. It seemed fitting to evoke the memory of that event, and provide a picture of what Mencari saw there.

This is a space opera series, so I went to the traditional presentations from books and television. Picturesque images are common place. So I created an initial sketch.

Crude mock-up for the second novelette

Crude mock-up for the second novelette

The blazing moon was peaking over the horizon of Alo. I sent it, along with some example photos (thank you Google Images) to my amazing illustrator Glenn Clovis. As a sidebar, I could never say enough about Glenn. He’s amazingly talented, a dream to work with, and makes manifest your dreams!

He sent back this amazing image.

First version of the cover based on my crude sketch.

First version of the cover based on my crude sketch.

Beautiful, isn’t it? It felt very Star Trek the Next Generation or Star Trek Voyager (which is great). Though, it felt very still. That wasn’t Glenn’s fault, it’s exactly what I asked for from him. It needed some type of action, something that would pull people in. Good covers make people go “oooh,” and also makes them ask questions—makes them want to be there.

Then I remembered “the streak” from the end of the chapter. I created a quick sketch and shot it over to Glen. The following is my original with Glenn’s response.

cover-thoughts untitled

You’ll notice the dramatic shift in design. How incredible. It really punched things up.  As always, I took it to my Facebook page to get feedback from my incredible fans and followers. It was received very well, though some people mentioned it looked like a highway of light more so than a streak. Fair enough!

I put another tweaked version out there, that was better received.

My "comet effect" version

My “comet effect” version

Glenn made a few adjustments, and BAM!  The final cover was ready.

Glenn's final version with the series branding applied.

Glenn’s final version with the series branding applied.

So there you have it!  D’mok Revival: The Aloan Conspiracy will be available on Amazon within a day!  Check it out and let me know what you think.  Don’t forget to post your review on as well.  🙂

D’mok Revival: Descension’s cover design

The pressure was on. The Awakening had a fantastic cover. I loved the nebula and the arachnid-like space station. Then came the incredible visualization of the asteroid base for Retribution’s cover. After two amazing starts, I fretted about how to keep the trend going–even topping the previous ones!

What to put on the third cover? It had to be visually striking, invoke an emotion. I thought about the core story of the third book, and the tension slowly building over the course of the trilogy. Inspiration struck! It was obvious. I had to show the Nukari armada.  I smiled as a vision appeared in my mind.

I scrawled down the image on a scrap of envelope paper.  Now, for those that have not read the third book yet, this is NOT a spoiler for the following reasons: 1) their armada has been threatening since the first book, 2) the back cover tells you the armada comes out swinging, 3) the prolog at the beginning of the book talks about the armada and a gateway being built.  I won’t provide any spoilers or additional information about the scene than what I just mentioned.

Now, beyond the general descriptions of Nukari ships, no rendered versions of their vessels existed!  If I wanted to display them, we needed a design. Then there was the gate. There were aspects mentioned in the book, but nothing out-rightly specific about the visuals. It’s always fun to provide enough information to let the reader visualize their version in their mind. But, if I wanted that on the cover too, it would also need to be visually concepted.

So began the design for Nukari ships. I wanted them to be aggressive, dangerous looking, and capable. They needed to look like they could take a pounding, and deal great damage.  I made a quick list of the things that instilled fear people, as its the effect the Nukari would want their ships to have on opponents.  I looked to our “lizard brains” for stimuli there…  There’s 6 questions your lizard brain asks of every pieces of stimulus throughout the day: 1) can I eat it, 2) can it eat me, 3) can I kill it, 4) can it kill me, 5) can I have sex with it, 6) can it have sex with me (perhaps unwanted).

A few obvious criteria jump out: can it kill me, can I kill it, can it eat me.  Then I went to nature, what types of nature’s gifts create natural offenses/defenses for animals? Skin texture, natural body covering (scales, shells), body coloring, claws, teeth, a solid body structure, muscular composition, body size, and distance based defenses.  I then performed an animal image search on Google looking for various creatures.

After searching various creatures with tusks (boars and mammoths), horns (rhinos), and sleekness (black panther), I came across the Pangolin.


Beautiful creature.  It doesn’t look very deadly, but it looks well defended with its sturdy body scales.

This was the upgraded vision…


I sent the concepts off to my amazing 3D designer, Glenn Clovis, who began to render a number of options.  Some were more industrial, some more organic… Here are two of the many versions he did.  I’m showing these because they’re both officially a part of the D’mok Revival universe and protected assets (thanks to copyrights).  Yes, the ship on the bottom will be used–I’m not tell where, when, or how yet… But I do know.)


I really loved the slick, smooth, almost squid like version (at the bottom).  But it didn’t “feel Nukari” to me.  The overlapping armor layers of the top ones were like the Pangolin, and felt great.  I knew this was the right direction.

He reworked the design based on some feedback.

SO COOL!  Though the initial ship seemed too small.  Perhaps it would make a great fighter, but not the big “Laviathan” ship mentioned. I provided some feedback, and the next evolution appeared. He also started to apply the overlapping armor layers to the gate.
gate render
I liked where this was going. It still looked too vulnerable in the middle. I also wanted the front to look like “a deadly face.”  So we swapped the front cannons with longer, tusk-like components.  I also suggested we continue the layers of body armor to the rear of the ship.
I made some suggestions like the following…
Glenn took that and iterated.  To simply the design, we dropped the side cannons, and added a larger front cannon (inspired by the Bird of Prey from Star Trek).  After review, I thought it was cool, but had him add a second smaller one directly under it (it would have its uses).  We ended up with the following design:

There, now that we had the ship, we could go after the gateway.  I wanted the designs to look related since the Nukari made both the ship and gate technologies.  After a few revisions, the overlapping armor was applied to the design.

Now we had to combine them.  We investigated a few angles (head-on, from the side, from an angle, etc.).  I wanted a dramatic scene.  My very first vision had an extremely closer perspective looking up at a sharp angle. We ended up being a little further back since the up-close view looked a bit distorted.  I wanted people to see the amazing detail of the ship, gate, and future nebula.
Glenn assembled the complete picture.
The nebula was instantly striking (he’s so good). There was some lighting tweaks, and some changing of the effect within the gate. In the end, to provide scale, I thought we could go back to the “fighter” design and add some in.  It would make it look like an armada coming through the gate (Which was the point), and help explain the big ship was — BIG.

And BOOM!  It’s one of those things where you see it and go, “THIS IS IT!”  I was blown away.  I was thrilled!  We’d done it again. I love collaborating with Glenn.  He’s a visionary, so very talented, and easy to work with (and patient with me).

I hope you enjoy it as much as I do!