Hi, everyone, and welcome to a news update and some official Cover Talk for the Kai Gracen series’ new art! We’re so pleased to have author Rhys Ford popping in today to share the new covers with us, so here we go. Enjoy!
Sometimes life throws you challenges. Like you’re a juggler with two tennis balls then someone you can’t see tosses in flaming oranges for you to catch. That’s kind of what it’s like to be an author because you’re so focused on the tennis balls (writing) then all of a sudden ORANGES ON FIRE! (authory things).
That’s kind of what happened with the Kai Gracen series. Things moved quickly and BOOM… mass market paperback editions are being released. For those of you wondering what mass market paperbacks are, they are the traditionally sized smaller paperbacks usually sold at brick and mortar book stores, airports and other stores selling reading material. Trade paperbacks are the larger sized, usually almost the size of a hardcover book. Mass market are usually half the cost of trade.
Dreamspinner Press has been pushing into the mass market paperback sphere for almost a year now (if not more) and what that means for the M/M genre is a great exposure to a wider demographic. Our books will be available and seen in different markets, often alongside of mainstream paperbacks. But what that means is if you have a series, things have to look tight and cohesive.
Oh, and you have to get stuff out a hell of a lot earlier than normal. Like almost a year earlier.
This also sometimes means new covers.
There’s a lot of reasons for new covers. Everything from the artist you’ve been using is not available to the books need to be brought up to trend or polished a bit. I recently did this with the Sinners and Hellsinger series so when it came time to look at the Kai Gracen series, things lined up on several fronts to consider redoing the covers and branding them for mass market.
That’s when the discussion of what Kai’s covers should look like and who should do them happened.
In the end, I had the greatest honour and most fantastic experience of working with Christian McGrath, an industry-leader in the urban fantasy genre in bringing Kai’s new covers to life.
I cannot tell you how much I enjoyed working with Chris and having him pretty much pull Kai’s world out of my words and put them into illustrations for the new covers. As an art director for production work and graphic designer, I know how time consuming the process can be and I can’t even imagine what it’s like to work at Christian’s level of engagement. But man, I am so so thankful he not only took on the project but kicked its ass.
Now, keep in mind the only thing Chris had to go on was my descriptions of Kai taken from the series bible I’d created and the loose outline of his world and what was going on in each book. The process is a fairly tight one. Chris reads the word vomit I threw at him and probably rolls his eyes at tropes. I can admit this. I roll my eyes at the tropes and write them anyway but he was great to work with and never commented on a gun-toting, dragon killing elfin chimera except to ask what kind of clothes Kai preferred to wear.
Which of course was the ONE thing I forgot to add in my dissertation on Kai Gracen.
I wanted to show you all what goes into making a cover and how tight of an artist Chris is. Because dudes, from the comps to the finals, it was pretty smooth. And I’m really happy with the way they turned out. I wanted something with a more traditional urban fantasy feel to them and Chris more than delivered.
For those of you who have read the series, you know the world is a bit chaotic, containing everything from black lava fields to a pretty tech-heavy multi-level city. So in discussing what to portray on each cover, I chose an environment background to provide a feel for each book and these are the comps Chris first mocked up and then the covers he finally created.
In Black Dog Blues, I wanted to capture the understreets of San Diego and after a bit of discussion about clothes, etc. The comp was a little bit darker but keep in mind, sketching stuff out is usually a quick, fast and dirty rendering just to see if we’re all on the same page. Still, you can totally see the original comp in the final piece.
For Mad Lizard Mambo, since so much of this book takes place in the desert, I knew I needed to have that as a background but if you’ve ever been to the long stretch of road between San Diego and Las Vegas, you’d know it’s not the most sexy of places. BUT we did have an opening scene in Pendle and I thought, THAT was where I wanted to show. Once again, discussion of colour really shifted the scene’s impact in the final and note the changes from the sketch to the final in the position of the cover model and the weapons he’s holding. Those changes shift the reader’s focus and give a better engagement. It’s more dynamic and the reader is placed there on the scene. I really like this one. Well I like all of them but I love the lava.
Now for the newest book, Jacked Cat Jive. This one is tricker because it’s a new book and choosing the backdrop and how Kai is presented gets a bit complicated. The scenery chosen depicts the Badlands to the east of San Diego and really captures a slice of the book I was very excited to write. This book brings a lot of conflict to Kai’s world yet at the same time, the run he’s on also gives him a lot of answers to questions he didn’t even know he was asking. I think Chris captured the essence of this book perfectly. Again, discussion of colours and shifts in perspective give a different look and feel from the comp to the final and I love all the subtle shifts.
So that’s the journey of Kai Gracen’s cover art and how things look in the beginning and what comes out in the end. There’s a lot that goes into cover art and if your artist is good, they ask a LOT of questions about what you see as the cover. Mind you, covers shouldn’t be an exact rendering of a scene but rather capture the essence of the book and characters. I’m extremely happy with what Chris created and I can’t wait to see what he’s got in store for future books.
About Jacked Cat Jive
Book Three in the Kai Gracen series, Releasing 5 March 2019 from Dreamspinner Press
Stalker Kai Gracen knew his human upbringing would eventually clash with his elfin heritage, but not so soon. Between Ryder, a pain-in-his-neck Sidhe Lord coaxing him to join San Diego’s Southern Rise Court, and picking up bounties for SoCalGov, he has more than enough to deal with. With his loyalties divided between the humans who raised him and the Sidhe Lord he’s befriended and sworn to protect, Kai finds himself standing at a crossroads.
When a friend begs Kai to rescue a small group of elfin refugees fleeing the Dusk Court, he’s pulled into a dangerous mission with Ryder through San Diego’s understreets and the wilderness beyond. Things go from bad to downright treacherous when Kerrick, Ryder’s cousin, insists on joining them, staking a claim on Southern Rise and Kai.
Burdened by his painful past, Kai must stand with Ryder against Kerrick while facing down the very Court he fears and loathes. Dying while on a run is expected for a Stalker, but Kai wonders if embracing his elfin blood also means losing his heart, soul, and humanity along the way.
Jacked Cat Jive is on pre-order right now on Amazon both as an ebook and a mass paperback. Release Date is 5 March 2019 and you can grab it as well as the other two books in the series at Amazon.com
You can discover more about Christian McGrath and see his work at ChristianMcGrath.com
About the Author
Rhys Ford is an award-winning author with several long-running LGBT+ mystery, thriller, paranormal, and urban fantasy series and is a two-time LAMBDA finalist with her Murder and Mayhem novels. She is published by Dreamspinner Press and DSP Publications.
She’s also quite skeptical about bios without a dash of something personal and really, who doesn’t mention their cats, dog and cars in a bio? She shares the house with Yoshi, a grumpy tuxedo cat and Harley, an insane grey tuxedo as well as a ginger cairn terrorist named Gus. Rhys is also enslaved to the upkeep a 1979 Pontiac Firebird and enjoys murdering make-believe people.