Posted in Freedom Friday, Photo Opportunities

Ranger Martin Cover Design

If someone were to have told me this time two years ago I’d be in the process of releasing my second book Ranger Martin and the Alien Invasion, I would have said they were nuts. And yet, here I am. Another book release. Another cover. I’m not ready to take that yacht cruise I’ve talked about just yet. But maybe one day, when all the work is complete and I’m itching to try something new, I’ll indulge in a little R&R. For now, I only have this story to keep you entertained—this Freedom Friday story about the new book cover.

Original photo I'd shot for the cover
Original photo I’d shot for the cover

As with my first book Ranger Martin and the Zombie Apocalypse, I left the cover design process to the very last minute. It was not because I procrastinated, not by any means, but because I didn’t know how best to represent the story through art. I knew it needed a flying saucer, that was a given. I also knew it had to have a dark sky, again, another given. What kept me from going further was how all the elements would fit with one another in a nice little package.

Like last year, I had to dig deep in my 16,000+ original photos collection in an effort to find a handful of images that would work. Not an easy task. I was looking for woods scenery, but then I didn’t know how the spaceship would fit into the design. I was lost and time was slowly creeping away.

It wasn’t until I showed my son a few mockups that the creative juices began to flow. He had some amazing ideas and I wanted to incorporate all of them. One of his thoughts involved an onlooker watching the saucer from behind a tree. The forest scene would be reminiscent of those WWII movies where an escaped POW would be observing enemy planes passing overhead in the distance. I knew of the perfect picture and had no trouble finding it.

His next idea included deep dark clouds with a storm raging in the background. For a while, I wanted that, too. I tried adding clouds from a series of photos I’d taken a few years ago, but none them really worked. I ended up tossing the images and drawing my own clouds. Yep, them there are fake clouds, all right.

The last piece of the puzzle was the saucer. In reality, though, it was the first thing I’d worked on.

So begs the question—what did I use for the saucer? Initially, I wanted to throw a Frisbee in the air, take a shot and paste it into the scene. But my lack of motivation and lack of Frisbee prevented me for doing such a thing. I also had a hubcap I could have held from a fishing pole, yet again, my lazy self said, “I don’t think so.”

I eventually decided to work with a sightseeing landmark, cropping it, playing with the lighting, distorting it to have it look like the saucer in my head. The challenge was the bottom. Because the landmark is a tower, I had to erase the foundation and replace the underside with a pattern. Wouldn’t real life be simple if by the stroke of a mouse buildings could disappear? I’d totally replace them with parks and trees. By the way, if you can guess the landmark, I’ll give you the biggest kudos ever.

After I completed the work, I showed it again to my son. He liked it, but there was still something missing. I thought so, too. It needed color. That’s when I added the green ray firing from the bottom of the ship, the same ray featured in the first book of the series. Once I had drawn that, I knew there wasn’t anything left to do with it. I had finished.

And that’s the story behind the cover to my new book, folks. I really hope you enjoyed it, but most of all, I really hope you like the cover.


Did I miss anything? Do you have a question I may have not answered?

Posted in Monday Mayhem

Ranger Martin Concept Art

Now that the jacket for Ranger Martin and the Zombie Apocalypse is complete, I can concentrate on my golf swing, cracking open a bottle of champagne, and getting my yacht tuned-up for a mid-September Caribbean jaunt of sorts. Ha, as if. I’m going to be busy the next few months more than usual in preparation for my book’s release. So, I thought before heading into the unknown, for Monday Mayhem I’d give you a tour of my book’s jacket. It’s an interesting story. I hope you’ll like it.

Somewhere in Utah
Somewhere in Utah

A few months ago, I complained to my wife, well, more like explained, I hadn’t come up with any concept art for my book’s jacket. Being the practical person she is, she suggested I work through my 14,600+ photo collection and find something in there. My initial feeling was positive. Something I had shot years gone by must have some semblance of my book’s concept. I didn’t worry about it much, but it was in the back of my mind as something I needed to do.

In the meantime, my wife also asked me if I had any ideas of what I wanted on the jacket. I answered her with the very clichéd, overused statement, “I’ll know when I see it.” In fact, that’s exactly what I thought.

Anyway, as the months went by and I sifted through my vast collection of digital photos I had taken over the course of nine years, I was finding I didn’t see what I was looking for. I had a very specific idea, but nothing really stood out as “the” photo I wanted to use as a representation for the book.

Eventually, I spoke with one of my friends about the problem and over a period of a few weeks, the subject would come up over tea. I would hum and haw and he would placate my need for resolution of my creative plight. He’d ask what I was looking for and I’d say, “I’ll know when I see it.”

This whole thing between my wife, my photos, my friend and I continued for months.

Ranger Martin and The Zombie ApocalypseThat is until one day, my friend and I were having tea and talk surfaced of his trip he’d taken last year to Utah. I thought for a moment and asked if he had photos of that eventful journey. He did. I asked if I could have a look at a few. He asked how many? I said a handful; I was looking for those Utah mountains with the flat tops.

A few weeks later, he gave me an assorted collection of photos, and as I perused them, the seventh photo in the lot jumped out at me. Seriously, the “I’ll know when I see it” statement turned into “this is the one” statement. I had no doubt I had the right one.

And right there, within the span of seconds after seeing it I described to him how I would crop, darken and perhaps add a few elements to the photo to make it more dramatic in order to convey the book’s theme. The assessment went that fast.

That very weekend I spent playing with the photo exactly as I’d described to my friend. I didn’t deviate one bit from the plan. I implemented everything I said I was going to put in it and then some.

When I showed it to him a few days later, his jaw dropped to the floor. He couldn’t believe it was the same photo. Hey, I couldn’t believe it was the same photo.

So that’s how the book’s jacket came to be. I hope you found that story just as interesting to read as it was for me to write.


Are you curious about anything I may have not mentioned about the concept art?