Today I am so pleased to welcome David R. Slayton to Joyfully Jay. David has come as part of the Coastal Magic Blog Tour to talk to us about his upcoming release, Dark Moon, Shallow Sea. Please join me in giving him a big welcome!

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Bringing Dark Moon, Shallow Sea to Life

I knew I wanted to do something special to promote this book. It’s my first high fantasy and the book of my heart (Sssh, don’t tell the others). It’s also one of the first books I wrote and the kind I could never find: epic fantasy about a gay main character that wasn’t about being gay.

I thought it would be fun to see if we could bring the characters, Raef, Kinos, and Seth to life in a way you don’t often see for book promotion, and it was a challenge, mainly because I had no idea where to start.

I began by looking for a photographer, someone who would get what I was trying to do. Partnering with Stephanie Tyson of Lost Stars Imaging was an easy choice. She does a lot of cosplay photoshoots for Denver FanExpo.

We talked about location and concept before deciding on the pavilion at Cheeseman Park. It had the classical columns and slightly ruined look I wanted as much of the book has a Greco-Roman vibe.

From there it was a matter of finding the models. Years ago I worked for a store in Cherry Creek, Denver’s fancy neighborhood and we had done some charity fashion shows. I remembered a few agency names from those days and started making calls.

A few of the agencies I spoke to didn’t really understand what I was going for but Cassie at Wilhelmina Denver came through with lots of options, including three guys who fit the look of the three characters I wanted to shoot.

I already had some character art courtesy of Novae Comic to use a reference—

DMSS pic 1

–as well as my own ideas of what the characters looked like. I knew it wouldn’t be a perfect match and readers always have their concept of a character’s looks (which is why we didn’t put any faces on the cover):

dark moon shallow sea cover


I like it when a reader can form their own ideas about a character’s appearance.

Booking the models was a lot easier than I expected and Cassie talked me through the rates and contract.

I made my choices and just needed one more outside person to help: a stylist, someone who could do the makeup and hair.

I knew that Angela at Indie Six here had done some very fun photoshoots to promote the salon. She immediately got the look we wanted for each character when I sent her the models’ pictures paired with the Novae art. The salon is also very close to the park so getting the guys ready and then getting them to the site wasn’t going to be hard.

Now that we had models and their sizes, my partner and I got to work putting together the costumes and props. I quickly got stuck on two items: Seth’s sword and Raef’s dagger. I bought a few foam prop swords that are used for cosplay but they looked too fake for the effect I wanted even after I painted them. Then I remembered that I already had the perfect sword: an old wall-hanger my stepfather and I bought years ago (when I was fifteen) at a flea market. I’ve had it almost my entire life. I dug it out of the garage and gave it a long polishing. Several rags later I could see myself in it.

Raef’s knife was a different problem. In the book he summons a blade of pure darkness that allows him to open any lock. I tried to find props or steel daggers I could paint, but none were a good fit. Finally, I bought a sheet of black acrylic and using a Dremel tool I sawed out a jagged shape and wrapped the hilt in a strip of soft black leather. It was perfect, or at least good enough for a photo or ten!

The guys arrived on time, got dressed in turns, and Angela got to work:

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Costumes complete, we drove to the park, which is car free, so we had to hike in. I felt like I was taking my sons for an outing and definitely got a few looks from the people we passed!

Stephanie took over a hundred shots and we selected the ones we liked best. She photoshopped out the occasional skateboarder and added a bit of texture to the ground or sky.

I love the final result and the pictures are getting a lot of views on social media.


Dominic Roma as Raef

Raef is the last worshipper of the moon goddess, Phoebe. Her death stopped the tides, darkened the night sky, and left the ghosts of the dead without a path to the Underworld. When he learns that the knights of the sun have hidden a box inside their temple, Raef sneaks in, hoping for a little payback:

DMMS pic 4

Raef is torn between his hatred of the knights and the memory of when he considered their order his brothers.


He also knows he must stay hidden. As the moon’s last worshipper he is a heretic and discovery would mean a quick death in Hyperion’s fire.

DMSS pic 6


Jake Mills as Seth

Seth is a Knight of Hyperion, charged with guarding the box that Raef covets. Earnest and loyal, he wants nothing more than to be forgiven and healed of the flaw that causes the god’s fire to burn him whenever he conjures it to fight back the blood-hungry spirits, the Grief, that haunt the night since Phoebe’s death.

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Losing the box sets Seth on a journey to questioning his faith and its role in his self-worth. Noble and a bit broken, he’s trying to find his place in a world he helped break.

DMSS pic 8


Jake Nicholson as Kinos

Raef is surprised to find the box doesn’t contain gold or jewels, but a living man, Kinos. The mystery of why Kinos is in the box is too great to resist, so Raef steals Kinos. Pursued by Seth and the other Knights, Kinos is the mystery Raef must solve, or the moon will never rise again.

DMSS pic 9

Kinos is lost in Versinae, the city by the Shallow Sea. When Raef steals him he immediately must decide between trusting the thief or risk imprisonment by the knights.

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The guys were super professional and did a great job.

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I especially appreciated Jake Mills lifting that shield and sword for so long:

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Everyone involved did an awesome job bringing the book to life:

DMSS pic 13


Let us know what you think about how the photos turned out and if you read Dark Moon, Shallow Sea, out October 31, 2023 from Blackstone publishing, let me know if you think we captured the characters as you pictured them.


Coastal Magic Convention is a casual reader weekend in Daytona Beach and takes place February 22-25, 2024. You can check out the website at if you want to learn a little more about the event. And if you are interested in signing up and joining us a the beach, you can register here

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The first in a new epic fantasy series from David R. Slayton, Dark Moon, Shallow Sea is a powerful story of divine betrayal, ghosts, and self-discovery, perfect for fans of the Dark Souls series or Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson.

When Phoebe, goddess of the moon, is killed by the knights of the sun god, Hyperion, all who follow her are branded heretics. With Phoebe gone, the souls of the dead are no longer ferried to the underworld, and instead linger on as shades who feast on the blood of the living.

Raef is a child of the night. He lives in the shadows, on scraps, eking out a meager existence as a thief. But when an ornate box is sequestered in the Temple of Hyperion, the chance of a big score proves too great to resist. What he finds within propels him on an odyssey across the sea and back again, altering the course of his life forever.

Seth is a knight of the sun. But unlike the others of his order, the fire of Hyperion only brings him pain. He believes he deserves this penance, exacted for his unknown origins. Tasked with recovering the contents of the box, Seth must also venture beyond the horizon if he’s to learn the truth about himself.

In a dying world divided by the greed of those in power, Raef and Seth find their destinies intertwined—and learn they might have more in common than they ever imagined.

Preorder Link: Amazon


David R. Slayton (He/Him) grew up in Guthrie, Oklahoma, where finding fantasy novels was pretty challenging and finding fantasy novels with diverse characters was downright impossible. Now he lives in Denver, Colorado and writes the books he always wanted to read. His debut, White Trash Warlock, was a finalist for the Colorado Book Award. In 2015, David founded Trick or Read, an initiative to give out books along with candy to children on Halloween as well as uplift lesser-known authors or those from marginalized backgrounds. David is a regular speaker and panelist at fan cons and writing conferences. Find him online at