I have now officially started work in earnest on the fourth book in my Dark Galaxy series. Part of that work is designing the cover. It’s also one of the most important parts of the entire book-writing process. A good cover will go a very long way towards getting your books noticed. Most authors have to hire somebody to do a cover for them. But I’m lucky in that I have graphic design training and I enjoy geeking about with 3D packages, which means I can create my own sci-fi covers.
Using a powerful 3D package to make the cover is not a speedy process, but luckily it will take months to actually write the book, so there is a lot of time to work on the cover. I have already blocked in the main elements, and the focus of the cover is a spaceship orbiting a giant artificial planet. The scene is still a little underlit, so you have to squint to see them, but they are both there. The spaceship, and the planet. This mysterious artificial planet is hugely important to the Dark Galaxy universe, and it is introduced in the first book of the series, Galaxy Dog, thusly:
Altia was entering the Drifter System, and it never failed to take her breath away. The most obvious feature, of course, was the light sail. It had been visible for hours as she approached, a unique landmark within the galaxy. The sail was an enormous self-supporting artificial construct, the product of megascale astroengineering. It was positioned next to the star, Drifter Prime, at a position chosen by its architects to balance gravitational attraction towards the star and radiation pressure away from the star. This made the radiation pressure of the star asymmetrical, and this created thrust. The star was essentially tethered to the sail, being pulled along on its own solar wind. The thrust and acceleration was very slight, but the star’s fuel was enough for billions of years. Drifter Prime had been traveling for a very long time indeed.
That wasn’t all though. There was an entirely artificial planet in orbit, which had been dragged along by its parent star, constructed to be carried through the galaxy forever, or even journey between galaxies. The entire artificial planet could be thought of as a kind of passenger compartment in a galactic-scale vehicle, but a passenger compartment that could carry billions of passengers.
Altia’s transport, a small science ship called Panoto 5, dove towards the artificial planet, which grew to fill her forward view screen. The government of Tarazet was doing its best to learn about the entire site, but their efforts were focused on one single location. This area being investigated by the Science Ministry was the largest feature of the planet’s surface, the Rift. It was a kind of canyon that was cut two kilometers deep in the planet’s mechanical crust. Panoto 5 descended on gravitics towards a complex of buildings, the gray of the human architecture standing out against the bronze of Drifter architecture. From a distance, the human buildings looked like nothing more than gray fungus on the face of a bronze sculpture.
There is still a lot of work to be done on the cover, of course, for example the spaceship needs to be more brightly colored and the planet needs to look bigger, but the idea is already taking shape even on this very preliminary work in progress. The only thing I’m completely happy with is the starscape in the background. I found a page with a great picture of stars that I could use. It’s a government space agency, so I pretty much knew that copyright wouldn’t be a problem. And I was right. The copyright page specifically says it can be used on book covers, as long as the credit is included in the book. The credit is: ESO/S. Guisard. And I will put this in the front matter.
So, work has begun on Drifter Prime. Just a few months of hammering away at a computer keyboard to write the text and tweaking 3D objects to create the cover now stand between me and publication.
A quick note on open source
Every element of this cover, from text, to image is created using Blender. Blender is a free and open source 3D creation suite. It supports the entirety of the 3D pipeline; modeling, rigging, animation, simulation, rendering, compositing and motion tracking. Blender is well suited to individuals and small studios who benefit from its unified pipeline and ongoing development process. Blender is cross-platform and runs equally well on Linux, Windows, and Macintosh computers. Blender has no price tag, but you can invest, participate, and help to advance a powerful collaborative tool. No other, more expensive and better known products made by the Adobe corporation with their aggressive money making strategies were required. In addition, the docx file required by my publisher is created using LibreOffice, and so no money has to be given to that other software giant, Microsoft, with their equally aggressive pricing, just to get a book written.
You don’t have to wait for Drifter Prime to start reading the Dark Galaxy series. Galaxy Dog is the first book in the series and it is an old-school story of robots spaceships and rebellion across a galactic empire. A small group of friends, one woman, one man, and one robot incite a revolt and take on the might of the Tarazet Deep Space Navy. They find an immensely powerful alien spaceship so, even though the rebellion is extremely outnumbered, they still stand a chance. Galaxy Dog combines the action of military sci-fi with the heart of space opera. There are robots, aliens, space battles, and all the good things that make sci-fi so enjoyable. Galaxy Dog is available from Amazon right now, so just click the link and download a copy.