New Visions

New Visions

Here at Weird Sisters Publishing, new visions keep popping up. Sometimes They are literal visions, AKA illustrations, of the sort I shared a few weeks ago in the post about a new way of approaching Warren C. Norwood’s adventure-filled Windhover Tetralogy.

One of the new visions I’ll share for the first time in this post has been seven months in the making. Another came into being quite suddenly.

And at the end of the post I’ll talk about a convention I’m attending this weekend, SoonerCon 32. It’s the sort of place where new visions may be discovered. I’m even moderating a panel, and participating in another, that directly address ways to discover and create new visions.

But let’s start with the painting that’s been seven months in the works . . . On behalf of a novel that’s been years in the works. Both are proof that things do come to those who wait.

On a pastel variegated background, this square design centers on a paperback book with the thick white paper wrapping over its cover partially ripped away. Superimposed over the book photo are the words, “HAVE WE WAITED LONG ENOUGH?” At the bottom left, smaller words read “Bone of Contention Cover Art ©2024 by Tom Kidd.
See credits below.

Tom Kidd has Created a Cover for Bone of Contention

I’m in no position to complain about long delivery processes, especially not when it comes to Bone of Contention, the third novel in my XK9 “Bones” Trilogy. Book One, What’s Bred in the Bone, was published in 2019. Book Two, A Bone to Pick, came out in 2021.

Here’s the thing: I write slowly, and I tend to write big books. I also have lots of other irons in the fire. So the fact that I still seem to have a loyal fan base waiting for the next one is humbling to say the least. Let the record show that this latest novel – which presents several of its own new visions – is set for publication September 24, 2024.

Unfortunately, I’ve come to the conclusion that this assignment appears to have been my illustrator Tom Kidd’s “Murphy’s Law Job of the Year.” When I was doing graphic design back in ancient days, I occasionally would get one of those. No matter how earnestly everyone involved tried to do everything well and on time, if something could go wrong, it did.

In this case, Tom and his wife weathered the Head Cold from Hell (not Covid. They checked) for a month. He had to get a new computer. And then fix drivers. And then fix other software. Then an update from one of his applications crashed his system. A major client hit him with a rush job. UPS lost an important package that he spent five days time tracking down. None was exactly predictable, and all were troublesome and time-consuming.

This square image collects Tom Kidd’s three thumbnails for the cover of “Bone of Contention,” backed by a green rectangle, and also four images Jan sent to help him visualize Rana Station: “Rex Running” (above the Sirius River Valley), and “Gaudí Park/Green City of the Future” © by Lucy A. Synk, an OPD police detective’s badge by Smith & Wesson, and a pencil sketch by Jan S. Gephardt. The words say, “Three Thumbnails © by Tom Kidd,” and “Resource images by Smith & Warren Badges, © Lucy A. Synk, and © Jan S. Gephardt.” All imagery used with permission.
See credits below.

It Was a Process, For Sure

Any cover project comes with its quirks. Especially when it’s our first project together, there’s a lot of learning on both sides about how to mesh as a team. It’s always a collaboration, a process of finding a creative synergy to create new visions of the work being illustrated. I frequently draw inspiration and great ideas from the artists who work with me.

I usually ask an artist if they want to read the manuscript they’ll be illustrating. Some do, while others prefer to have me lay the groundwork more directly, especially for a particular image I already know I want. Tom not only wanted to read a draft of Bone of Contention, he wanted to read the whole trilogy while preparing for this project. I obliged him, of course!

For this cover, I asked for something that would coordinate well with the first two covers in the Trilogy – which I like a lot. And I also specifically asked for the cover to focus on Rex, who is at least nominally the protagonist of the Trilogy. And maybe, finally, to include Rex’s partner Charlie! Tom ultimately saw more possibilities in Rex’s mate Shady, as well as a new, secondary character who’s on an enigmatic mission. But at least one of the thumbnails included Rex.

This square image shows Tom’s color rough at upper left, marked “First Attempt,” his much more dynamic “re-think” for the “Second Attempt,” and a montage described as, “Jan’s mash-up, using Tom’s sketches, Lucy A. Synk’s orange tree and Sirius River Valley, and Jan’s “Kurtzu.” All imagery used by permission.
See credits below.


The first color rough was a logical development of the chosen thumbnail. But I wanted more of Rana Station’s unique geography, and I repeated my request to incorporate Charlie. Surely there was a way to add him the group on the steps of Orangeboro PD Headquarters.

Sometimes changes can be easily accommodated. Other times they need a major re-think. Tom replied with a whole new vision of the cover composition. It incorporate some of the changes I’d asked for, including adding Charlie.

But remember that thing I said about illustrations being a collaboration? I didn’t think we were quite “there,” yet. Rather than try to describe my desired changes with more words, I replied with a quick and dirty, cut-and-paste mockup that incorporated both elements of his design and some of the changes I thought he should consider.

This square design with a variegated background centers on Tom Kidd’s cover painting for “A Bone to Pick,” a novel by Jan S. Gephardt. The painting image is flanked by a 3D visualization of the finished cover on an e-reader, and as a fat trade paperback book. 3D imagery created via BookBrush. As noted at the bottom of the design, “Bone of Contention Cover Art © By Tom Kidd. All imagery used with permission.
See credits below.

We have a Painting!

This ultimately resulted in a beautiful finished painting. After the first snapshot of the piece on the easel, it took a few more days for the oil paint to dry, then the scan and color-correction process (complete with another computer snafu – Murphy’s Law held true to the end). But if every picture tells a story, well, this one also comes with quite a story.

I’m currently tinkering around with the typography. I’m also waiting for a review that’s supposed to come in July, before I can finalize the look of the cover. But now we have Tom’s art. One of the most important new visions of this year at Weird Sisters is finally coming into focus.

Sometimes new visions are hard to come by. Other times, they pop up out of the blue. That’s the story of the video below.

“Rana Station Flyby” 3D modeled video ©2024 by Adis Resic. See credits below.

Suddenly, A Video!

This most recent of our new visions started as a window-shopping query. I’d been told several years ago that I’d need a full-fledged 3D modeler to do much justice to a rendering of my fictional Rana Station. So when I saw a guy named Adis Resic posting regularly on some of the science fiction groups I frequent, I asked him what he thought it would take.

Soon I was sending him reference pictures and we were talking in earnest. I was astonished by how quickly Adis worked. We started the process on June 6, and I received the finished video on June 12. It’ll soon find a permanent home on the “Meet the XK9s” page of the Weird Sisters Publishing website, ultimately on my woefully neglected YouTube channel, and possibly in ads.

We already have plans to create more new visions together in the near future. But all of that will have to wait until after SoonerCon 32.

This screen-capture from the SoonerCon 32 Facebook page shows a square design with a variegated blue, orange and purple background. At right is a green banner that says, “SCHEDULE IS NOW LIVE! SoonerCon 32 June 21-23, 2024, Norman, OK.” At left what looks like a Renaissance Festival poster shows a multi-storied half-timber building with flags flying, flowers in window boxes, and the SoonerCon logo on the front, above a banner that says, “Welcome New Members!” In the foreground stands the convention’s raccoon mascot, in a Robin Hood outfit with green doublet and hat. At far left a banner shares a QR code, under which the words say, “Full schedule online at” At the bottom center of the image another banner shares social media handles for Facebook: /SoonerconOK, X: @Soonercon, Instagram @Soonercon, and TickTock: @Soonercon. Under that it says, “#Soonercon32.”
See credits below.

See You at SoonerCon?

I’m engaged in the usual pre-convention scramble this week. Anticipating a convention is always fun for me, and SoonerCon is a longtime favorite. I’m packed up for the Art Show, but we’re not running any Dealers Tables at conventions this year. But I do have an autographing session (1 p.m. Saturday) and a reading at noon on Sunday.

Plus, I’m on panels. We’re celebrating “Weirdos” on one (Friday at 5 p.m.). The two I mentioned at the top, both of which involve discussions of ways to discover and create new visions, are both on Saturday of the convention. “How to Design a New Creature” starts at the crack of noon, while “Teach an Artist New Tricks!” kicks off at 4 p.m.

I hope to see you there. I also plan to take lots of pictures and notes for my convention report (sometimes the report turns into several reports. We’ll see). So, if you have to miss it you can still get a taste. Meanwhile, I hope you enjoyed the new visions of my cover and video reveal.

About the Author

Post author Jan S. Gephardt develops a lot of new visions for her company, as the Chief Cat Herder, Manager of Weirdness, and Art Director for Weird Sisters Publishing LLC. Her XK9 Series books are science fiction mystery novels about an uplifted pack of very brainy police dogs. She is in the final stages of finishing the third novel in her XK9 “Bones” Trilogy. Her novel Bone of Contention is set for publication on September 24, 2024.


Most of the artwork in this blog post is preliminary planning work and the finished cover painting, ©2024 by Tom Kidd, for Bone of Contention a novel by Jan S. Gephardt. Jan also created the montages and cobbled together one of the preliminary images for the cover art, and incorporated snippets ©by Lucy A. Synk (used with permission) and Smith & Warren Badges, plus 3D effects from BookBrush. The video Rana Station Flyby is a 3D modeled video ©2024 by Adis Resic. The square promotional image for SoonerCon 32 is courtesy of the convention’s Facebook page. Many thanks to all of you!

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