Category Archives: Book Covers

Ninja Penguin Comic — Oh, Yeah. Ninja Penguins do Exist!

We are working on a side project that has grown to be something fairly large. At first, it was to be a somewhat simple iPhone multiple choice game, but it has now grown to a less-than-simple game and a paperback to boot.

Our hero, the penguin learned his ninja skills while studying under Master Namakemono (a sloth) in Okinawa. But, being a penguin, he had to leave for cooler grounds and before his training was complete. Master Namakemono gives him the final task of traveling all 47 prefectures of Japan. If he reaches Hokkaido, he will become a master ninja penguin.

Here are two over-the-top cartoons I did that will be included in both the game and paperback. The language may change and it probably is too silly, but that is the style of the book:


These two will bookend the sections for Mie and Shiga prefectures–both of which are historically rich with ninja clans.


We are having a lot of fun with this project. More comics and information to come…

A Cartoon-style Book Cover from Start to Finish: Momotaro, the Peach Boy

Clay & Yumi Boutwell have just updated their Momotaro Japanese reader. It will be out in paperback very soon. The ebook version should update tonight. Here is the new cover I just finished.


I thought it might be fun to document the steps I took.

1) First, I sketched out some ideas in a notebook:
(Click any image below to see a larger image)

Idea Sketch

2) Once I had what I wanted in mind (including a few changes), I pulled out the good paper and started sketching there.


3) Then I inked it. I don’t do many line shadings here. It makes it easier to use Photoshop’s magic wand if the open spaces are left open.


4) I scanned the image and did a quick magic wand in Photoshop to get rid of the background. (I first made a copy of the original!!) Under Blending Options in Photoshop, I added a thick stroke so I could easily see the dots the magic wand didn’t pick up.


5) Next, I put a Blending Color Overlay over the original so I can easily tell where I need to color. Here I did the monkey with flat color.
I just used the magic wand to select the dark brown area, created a new layer called “dk brown” and filled that with brown. Did the same with the lighter color.


6) With my Wacom Graphics Tablet (you can use a mouse if you like torturing yourself), I put darker and lighter browns to give shadows and sheen.
Maybe the flat color looked better…


7) And I colored in the rest of the characters–every color has its own named layer. Don’t be lazy!


8) And added some shadowing and details and lines:


9) And added a starburst background using a Brush I found–maybe this one.
I decided the oni needed to be orange.


And here is how the paperback will look once printed:


The ebook should be updated tonight. If you’ve bought it before, please email Clay (clay AT The Japan Shop dot com) and ask for a free updated version. The new update also includes the Tortoise and the Hare story as well as MP3s for both stories. Click here to view in Amazon. (If you see the new artwork, it has been updated.)

The Temporal and A Temporal Trust Book Covers

The Temporal and A Temporal Trust are now available at Amazon (and soon elsewhere).


Originally, the redhead was the cover for book one (with a red background). I decided, however, The Temporal was more about Suteko and A Temporal Trust, about Kaileen. These covers are the result of much tweaking and experimentation over the course of the past year. Whew. I’m finally happy with them–I think.

Here is the first page from A Temporal Trust.

Chapter One

“How many of them, boy?”

The old man’s eyes were wide, his mouth hanging open as if still in the process of releasing his last word. Sam couldn’t tell if it was from fear or simply the anticipation of the moment.

Sam closed his own eyes and shut out the world around him. Patterns soon emerged within his mind that represented Nephloc—the dark creatures under the enemy’s control.

“Three—no, four,” Sam said, opening his eyes and turning to Marcus who was not twelve inches away. “And they are closing in fast.”

Seeing a burgeoning smile, Sam determined the wide eyes were revealing anticipation and not fear.

Sam looked down from the rafters upon which they were hiding and watched as Suteko walked casually around a chair on the floor below. She wore her long, silky hair back in a ponytail. Her clothes were loose to enable quick and varied movements. She was dressed for battle.

She was the bait.

The Temporal – a 327 Page Supernatural Thriller

A Temporal Trust – a 370 Page Supernatural Thriller

Tanaka: Sons of Redemption Cover and Chapter Five


Tanaka, Sons of Redemption is coming soon. We are about a quarter through the last major revision before publishing (I hope). I started this whole writing thing with a short story called Tanaka and the Yakuza’s Daughter–still one of my favorite stories.

Here is the current working cover. Joe may have his quibbles about the figures in the sun. So it all may change.


Here is a chapter introducing the bad guys:

Chapter Five


The air in the small room was thick with cigarette smoke, heavy with the heat of a dozen computers and lit by twice as many screens. A bald man in a dark gray suit crushed out his Marlboro with one hand and continued flicking a remote control with his other, changing the view on the monitors.

Without turning, he spoke to the shorter man standing behind him, wearing a black woolen suit and a thick, spiked mop of completely white hair. “Let’s see if you got the right one.” He leaned closer to the screen, brushing off specks of ash, then turned to a shirtless younger man slouched over a computer keyboard. “Zoom in on him,” he ordered. The large dragon tattoo across the man’s back rippled as he tapped a few keys and reached for his own cigarette.

“That’s him, all right,” the bald man said as one of the monitors brought the distant figure into sharper focus. “It has been more than twenty years, but that’s definitely him.” The man’s face broke into a smile that seemed almost a sneer. “He seems surprised to see his own name. How very modest of him.”

“Look. They are going inside,” said the shorter man in a thick Russian accent.

From half a world away, the suits and the shirtless youth eavesdropped on the man and his daughter.

“Daddy,” the girl said, “what is this? What’s inside the envelope?”

The audio was laced with a little static, but anyone proficient in English could easily understand the words.

“Nothing,” the father responded.

A smile crawled across the bald man’s face. It felt good to be pulling the strings again. The shirtless youth held a set of headphones to his left ear, then put it back down and tapped a few keys on his keyboard. The view on one of the monitors changed to a grainy image of the man and his daughter inside their apartment, a small dog trotting over to greet them. The room was dark and the camera was not intended for low light, but the audio feed was better than before.

“Nothing? Why?” asked the girl.

“Quickly, go to your room and pack your things. Please,” the man said in a low, hurried, but otherwise collected voice.

“What’s going on?” the girl insisted, her voice cracking with obvious concern.

Suddenly the voices fell silent. The eavesdroppers heard unintelligible whispers and a few barks from the dog. Eyes wide, the bald man shouted, “Increase the volume!”

The black-suited man chuckled to himself and said, “Don’t bother. He knows that the apartment is bugged. We won’t hear their voices again until they leave.” He turned and tapped the shirtless man on the shoulder. “Are the tracking devices registering?” The dragon danced as the younger man turned away to check another screen, then turned back to give a thumbs-up.

“We are ready,” the black-suited man said. “They may leave their apartment, but they cannot escape my men.”

Within a block of Tanaka’s apartment, two men waited for Mikhail Sokolov’s command; they would follow the father and daughter wherever they might go, driving them toward the other half-dozen who could be called in a moment’s notice.

“Anyway, I can’t understand why you people don’t just kill him. Why make this so complex?”

The bald man looked him in the eye. “Mikhail, we don’t do things that way. Nee-san’s wish is to bring him here to Japan: alive if possible, dead if not.”

Nee-san was the most powerful woman in the organization. She was second in command, an extraordinary position for a woman in the yakuza. When the Oyabun—the boss—was away, she had complete authority. When he was around, she had his ear. All the men feared her and obeyed her commands to the letter, no matter the cost or the consequences.

The bald man continued. “But as stipulated in our contract, your pay is cut in half should he arrive without a pulse; you get nothing at all if the lack of pulse is due to your actions.”

Mikhail held his gaze, then shook his head and looked away. “The longer we draw this out, the greater the risk my men are taking. Now you tell me that he has CIA connections. This makes me nervous. I did not plan for that.”

“Should I doubt your ability to carry out the job successfully? Perhaps we are paying you too much?”

Mikhail’s mouth started to twist into a snarl but then he closed it, deciding it would be less risky to ignore the insult.

The bald yakuza smiled at him, attempting to look friendly but only managing to look predatory. “Don’t worry, comrade. If we can’t make him come to us, your men may kill him without a pay cut. But I am confident that he will come to Japan willingly.”

“When do you play your part in this?” asked Mikhail.

“Very soon. First, his mother must die.”

“When will that happen?”

The bald man smiled again. “Tonight.”

New Cover for Temporal Book One by CJ Martin (and Book Two Update)

The image you see on the right of a Red Headed woman is now the cover of the forthcoming Book 2 (The List of the Temporal)–the only perk out of being unknown and unread is I can do things like this and no one will notice. 🙂

Here is the brand new cover for Book One of Suteko, the Japanese Temporal:

Book Two, The List of the Temporal, should be out later this month. I am in the final editing stage now.

Tanaka, Sons of Redemption is due out mid-December. My partner, Joe Lemont and I are also making great progress.

Blog Announcement: Two Tocks Before Midnight Audio Book Cover Art

Wayne Farrell, who has a wonderful and quite appropriate voice for the story, has agreed to record it as an audio ebook. More on this later…

Here is the working cover art that I just finished.

I hope to be able to post examples of Mr. Farrell’s talent soon, but until then… Two Tocks, the Audio Book, is coming soon!

If you haven’t read the novella, please check it out at Amazon, here.

E.C. Smith’s Epic Fantasy Novel: Bitter Dawn — New Cover & New Name

I had uploaded an earlier version of Mr. Smith’s huge fantasy (155,000 words!) here. Well, he changed the name and I had to do a much higher resolution image so he could print it. Unfortunately most of the images I had used were too small. So… I redid the whole thing.

I hope you like it better than the old one.

Get the free sample on your Kindle. If you like fantasy (think Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings) with elves and dwarves and things like that, I am sure you’ll love it. I’m not a big fantasy reader (okay, I have ready Lord of the Rings and a few of the Narnia books…) but I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Get the free sample and if you like it, buying it would make E.C. Smith’s day.

The Temporal Book Cover by CJ Martin

In addition to the previous post about E.C. Smith’s Covenant ebook cover, I also recently finished the cover for a novel I’m working on. It is called The Temporal.

I’m not sure why, but both covers called for red-heads. In my case, the red-head is a bad guy–bad girl, actually. And Mr. Smith’s red-head is a good girl.

I’ll write a little more about The Temporal soon. Basically, it is a “supernatural thriller” and so far comes to 52,000 words. I’ve finished a full first draft and about half of the book is fairly polished, but it is still has a ways to go.

The anticipated Tanaka novel: Sons of Redemption is still being edited.

E.C. Smith’s Covenant ebook Cover Design

I’ve been working my way through a 155,000 word fantasy novel written by a friend of mine. Today, I finished the cover for his novel and I’m liking how it is turning out.

The woman is from an image by Dreamtwist found here:

Dreamtwist was kind enough to allow me to use it–thank you!

You’ll hear more from me about Mr. Smith’s Covenant books. Hopefully, Book One will be published on Amazon and Nook in a few months.

If you are interested in fantasy and would like to read an “uncorrected manuscript” as the New York publishers say, please contact me to be on a beta reader’s list. I think it reads pretty smooth, but extra eyes prior to publication is always good.

Two Tocks Before Midnight eBook Cover

I’m about to release a 9,500 word novelette. It will also include the 500 word The Handkerchief (click to read here).

Here is the cover:

Here is my tentative product description:



The Strange Affair of October 24th, 1859

A flurry of forgeries appear in museums and among collectors. The members of the Agora, a society dedicated to the betterment of man, have taken it upon themselves to stop the rogues.

But among the forgers, there is a murderer.

I have never been fond of sentimental ramblings so I will keep this short.  Indeed, if not for the insistence of my friends, I would just as soon let the matter slip away with the sands of time.  But repeated pleas from the curious and the morbid compel me to share with you the strange affair of October 24th, 1859.

Nearly forty years after the incident, Carl Brooke recalls his part in unravelling a mystery that was for decades left unresolved.

A member of the Agora Society goes missing only to reappear months later with a stranger and an ancient parchment. The scroll is thought to be the lost Book of Jasher and dated 9th century B.C.

The Paleo-Hebrew was consistent; the gevil sheepskin scroll was as one would expect. It seemed authentic.

Then I saw something that would lead to the death of three souls…

On the night of October 24th, 1859, death, lies, and jealousies abound. Only one man, Carl Brooke, has the knowledge and expertise to stop the murderer. But will he succeed?