Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Once Upon a Cover Design (with Exclusive Cover Reveal)

My cover artist is a genius.

That was my conclusion after my designer, Danielle Fine, created the cover for the next full length novel in the Inherited Stars series, The Outer Planets.

The process of having a cover designed can be intimidating, and I knew this was going to be no easy feat for a number of reasons.

I'd like to share a little of the journey from nebulous idea to completed cover art...and end this blog with the exclusive public reveal of the cover. (Woohoo!)

Let me first explain why the cover presented a bit of a dilemma.

At their heart, the first two books in the series have some noted contrasts. Although The Outer Planets is book #2, it's set in a very different era from the introductory novel, Inherit the Stars. The series takes place over a 1,500 year history, where the first story plunges the reader into a troubled galaxy circa the year 3500 AD in a classic Space Opera Romance. The second book takes a step back to the saga's beginnings in the 2040s, just a few decades from now. It's a Near Future SFR.

The books are also different sub-genres. Book #1 falls more in the rebels vs. evil galactic empire trope--with a couple of major twists. Book #2 is a military scifi/mystery/suspense mash-up.

Add to that, the books have different POV treatments. Inherit the Stars is told solely from the hero's POV. The entire adventure is filtered through his thoughts and perspectives. The cover for this novel placed the hero as the main focal point and makes the heroine a dominant feature of the starry, starry background. It does a fantastic job of capturing the dynamics of the story.

But The Outer Planets is more of an ensemble telling. It has five separate POVs including the hero, heroine, villain, mission commander and an unknown entity with a big reveal later in the story. There's a sense of looming threat throughout the plot which results in the strong mystery/suspense element. Where the first book is more adventurous and epic, the second novel has a dark and twisty undercurrent.

To give you a better sense of the plot, here's the blurb:

What Lissa Bruce knows could kill her.

A female video reporter with an altered identity and a damning secret joins the crew of a research mission bound for Jupiter and Saturn, only to find the past she wants to escape is already onboard.

Lieutenant Mitchell Coe, the loyal aide de camp to a murdered General–Lissa’s late spouse–is the one man with the power to blow her cover…or salvage her heart. But after a series of malfunctions threatens the mission, Lissa suspects she’s not the only one aboard with a dangerous secret.

Because of the unique differences in these stories, the first two books in the series can be read in either order. That's a plus. But the downside is a reader might not realize the works are interconnected without a strong unifying visual theme. I needed a "series signature stamp" on both covers.

But how to go about it? There, I was at a loss. In attempting to express what I was looking for, I think I provided a few muddled and conflicting thoughts and ideas (some that I later realized were totally off the mark).

Would it be best to show the entire POV cast or focus only on the hero and heroine? Picture the Bradley exploratory vessel as part of the design, or only a SciFi background for the setting? Should the inside of the ship be shown, or the planets they are bound for? I needed a design that shared elements with book #1, but avoided any suggestion of it being a true sequel. (The actual sequel will come later in the series.)

To give Danielle a starting point, I filled out a detailed information form about the setting, plot, and characters, and any other elements that might be important to the design process. That helped provide the basic framework. I also included a few links to other covers I liked. (The final cover didn't end up looking like any of them, but I think it helped define my preferences.)

We settled on picturing only the hero and heroine on the cover for the complete novel (it may be serialized, which will involve designing additional covers based on the same theme).

Setting parameters for the images of these characters proved a challenge. The hero, Mitch, is 28-year-old lieutenant in the U.S. Army. That meant finding a male character image with no facial hair or scruff and a clean cut military look. (If you've ever browsed stock images for those requirements, good luck with that.) The heroine, Lissa, is a civilian serving as a video reporter in the ship's Public Information Office (PIO). As part of a Combined Joint Task Force crew, she needed to look professional though not military...and maybe show a hint of the secrets she's carrying in her expression. Also a tough order to fill.

I added a few "please no's" and "I'd likes" to the description list. Please no bare-chested hero or scantily clad heroine (not a good fit for the story), and preferably it would be great to have the characters dressed in the mission uniform--black flight suits--preferably with Mitch's rank showing. (Easy, right?) Please no dramatic, heat-of-passion clinches (ditto the above), but I'd still like a romantic connection between the H & H suggested. (I don't ask for much, do I?)

I confess. Even with the specific details, I didn't have a strong visual fix on what the finished product would look like. At all.

Lucky for me, Danielle was able to interpret exactly what I was going for. When I saw the final result, I knew she'd absolutely nailed it!

Here's the exclusive, first-time ever cover reveal of The Outer Planets.

Now I'd love to hear your thoughts, comments or questions. 

Giveaway! Two random commenters will be chosen to receive their choice of an e-copy of The Outer Planets (debuts in late winter/early spring 2016) or an e-copy of Inherit the Stars, gifted via Amazon.


Laurie A. Green is a three-time RWA® Golden Heart® finalist and science fiction romance enthusiast who founded the SFR Brigade community of writers.

Her extended family includes her husband, David, three dogs, three cats and several horses, all who reside on a ranch in beautiful New Mexico. When she’s not writing, networking, or searching out the perfect cup of Starbucks, she’s usually busy exercising her left brain as a military budget director.


  1. It's a beautiful and striking cover! (Don't enter me for the giveaway, though, I'll buy it when it comes out).

  2. Thanks, PIppa. I love how she captured so many of the elements I was going for.

  3. I enjoyed reading about the process you went through to create this cover that is sure to catch the eye of any SFR reader!

  4. It says SFR pretty plainly, and the eye is drawn to the colors and the balance. Very pleasing!

  5. Lovely cover!
    I had the same problem when looking for a clean shaven military man.

  6. Fabulous cover. And ditto on bare chest, clinches and the like. Oh - and the facial hair.

  7. Thanks, Riley. I do like my SFRs to look like SFRs. :)

  8. Thanks, AR. I love the colors in Jupiter. I was a little worried about Saturn because most of the photos of the planet look so bland, but I love the image she found.

  9. Thanks, Aurora. Most of my heroes tend to be clean shaven, so it's always a dilemma to find a suitable image. I wish there were more stock photos of military types, especially.

  10. Thanks, Greta. Yeah, I'm not a big fan of the typical romance poses. A poll we held quite a while back showed that 85% of those who answered preferred a military hero in full uniform to one with liberal chest exposed or no uniform top at all. I kept that in mind over the years. LOL

  11. This is e-x-a-c-t-l-y the experience I had with Danielle, too! Down to the "no partially dressed people drooling all over each other" & clean cut military guy requests. Dani first created what I thought I wanted, and boy was I way off base. Then she said, "Let me see what I can do." And just like you, I knew she'd nailed it the moment I laid eyes on it. It was one of the most exciting moments of my writing journey.

    1. That is so cool. She is amazing, isn't she, Lea? I think she's getting to be very popular with the SFR authors. Congrats on getting a cover you're excited about!

  12. The randomizer has spoken and AR DeClerck and Aurora Springer are the winners of their choice of an e-copy of Inherit the Stars or The Outer Planets (when it debuts), gifted via Amazon. Congrats! Let me know via FB PM what your preferences are.


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