Need a cover for a sci-fi novel, for print as well as ebook versions. Hoping for a .PSD or .TIFF with layers; I am good with photoshop and can resize/crop to get the ebook version.
Title = "Viking". Author = "Daniel Hardman". Here are a bunch of ideas about thematic elements. I'm sure you'll not want to use all of them, but one or two would be nice.
Action takes place on a planet that's relatively earth-like (jungle, familiar trees, ocean, snow-capped mountains), but that has a binary star and rings (so an arc of a ring and two suns would be visible in the sky). One sun is orange and slightly bigger than earth's; the other is small, blue, and very bright.
The word "viking" comes from "vicarious reality" -- vikings are mercenary explorers that have implants that relay what they see and hear to remote scientists who give them instructions. Implants are not overly obvious -- maybe just a bit of tech or LEDs along the temples, an unusual iris, etc. Vikings wear protective gear but not space suits. Main char = Rafa, a latino man in early 30's, wiry, no tattoos or piercings. Secondary characters = asian woman (late 20's, "elfin", attractive, long hair in single braid, also no tattoos or piercings), jamaican man (early 40's, grizzled temples, lanky, could have dreadlocks or not). All vikings.
A sunset that shows the rings and two stars, with one or more vikings in silhouette, is one idea I had.
There are about 20 vikings on a crew altogether. They are the dregs of humanity. Aside from the first two I described, I would expect most of the others to have scars, tattoos, piercings, broken teeth, ragged or flamboyant hair (e.g., fluorescent mohawks). The vikings are at each other's throats. The three I described first are deliberately abandoned by the others and have to survive by their own wits and grit.
The sky on this planet sometimes contains pods or schools of translucent blimp-like creatures (round) with dangling tentacles (green--they use photosynthesis to convert sunlight to food), and a tutu-like fringe around the circumference that they use to move. These creatures are huge compared to humans -- 30 to 100 meters across. They are dangerous and attack Rafa and the 2 secondary characters at one point, while the vikings are on foot. (Besides energy from sunlight, they also have mandibles underneath their body, in the center, where they ingest other food when they get the urge.)
One way to incorporate these creatures into the visual design would be to show a close-up of a viking's face with a tentacle wrapping around his/her neck.
Another scene that would be visually interesting has vikings approaching a herd of large 6-legged herbivores (maybe 8 ft tall at the shoulder). These animals have skin/scales rather than fur, and some have brilliant red crests. Think elephants without the ears and trunk, and with an extra pair of legs on a center pelvis that's higher and wider than the front/back leg frameworks. The scene ends with a stampede, in which main character (Rafa) is nearly trampled.
Spaceships don't figure in the novel much, but there is a portal that teleports people from one location to another. It's a parabolic arch, shiny metallic, about 40 feet high, with glowing letters (not our alphabet--use stylized Korean if you need something) at eye-level on one leg of the arch. If you incorporate this element, you might show a different horizon inside the arch than the one on the outside.
My main goal with this cover is to catch the eye of a sci-fi fan, so I want enough that's unusual for them to recognize the alien-ness and to be intrigued. However, there's no need to go overboard; I imagine some of the items I'm describing would be difficult to produce.
Here is some text that I'd like to put on the back of the cover, or on a fly leaf. (You don't have to incorporate it, but you could. Even if you don't, I thought it might give you a better sense of the story...)
Rafa thinks he's left his dangerous past in law enforcement behind by entering the witness protection program. But when he's falsely accused of murder, he can only exonerate himself if he breaks cover and endangers his new family. Sentenced to life in prison, he takes the only productive job available to hardened criminals: he sells himself to a company who needs “disposable” employees for the hazardous job of exploring planets ripe for development.
These disposable explorers are implanted with special technology that transmits their neural impulses via faster-than-light signals back to scientists on Earth, providing a vicarious reality of sight and sound. They are nicknamed “vikings,” and on most missions they die quickly.
But Rafa’s mission turns out to be far from ordinary. His employer is up to something, and so are Rafa's old connections in crime and law enforcement. Can Rafa survive a brutal alien wilderness and the subtler manipulations of his human puppeteers?