My book Covers – Updated

Since Kindle covers are hard to see at the best of times, I’m setting up a gallery of mine in the order of their appearance in my story line:
The City of Refuge,  

the second uploaded was, actually the third one I wrote but the first in the cycle, chronologically.  I recently located its very first appearance in my imagination when I was going through some old notebooks.  I had a notation about an idea for a story – and it grew into The City of Refuge.  One of the main heroes, Lord Nebamun, is one of my all-time favorite characters to write about, and I was delighted to be working with him again in Mourningtide, which was published June 1, 2013.
This story follows one of the great kings of Egypt during a time of grieving, when he learns too late of his oldest son’s death and has to withdraw to deal with it.  Peace and quiet are hard to find, and Seti, the king, finds himself in a small town of artists on the border of the desert.  At one point he has the pleasure of guarding his own tomb, which is under construction.  More urgently, though, is the fact that marauders are targeting the town.  He trains the town in the art of battle.
Pharaoh’s Son

I hung on to Pharaoh’s Son, the third in the cycle (soon to be the fourth, with its ‘prequel’ set to come out in about a year) for a long time.  It is a lively story, the one I enjoyed writing most, and I had wanted to consider what to do with it.  I concluded that Kindle and paperback were best for it, as for my others.  I ran into my first experience of the delicacy required to handle historical fiction involving characters that actually lived.  In the case of Pharaoh’s Son, the names are real, the characters are my own – though I arrived at some insights into the character of Ramesses II during the course of writing about him.  I now have a strong disclaimer at the beginning of my historical novels.

A Killing Among the Dead
Chronologically, this is the last in the Egyptian cycle – and the first one I wrote.  Egypt was rocked by a scandal of tomb-robbing and desecration in the Valley of the Kings.  It happened toward the end of the XXth Dynasty (the last of the Ramesside dynasties) when Egypt was going into eclipse.  The scandal was far-reaching and implicated some of the great mortuary temples along the Nile.  The story came to life for me, and its main character, Wenatef, is the closest I have come to a true tragic hero in the Greek sense.

The Safeguard 

        Lavinia Wheeler had watched as her world had been torn  apart over the past three years When the Civil War comes to her doorstep, her generosity in opening her house as a hospital brings a change in her life far  beyond any blessing she could have dreamed of or asked for.
          Between dealing with the Yankee-hating townsfolk, her former slaves, a passel of wounded  Yankees, a government that takes a dim view of people who aid the enemy, and a  group of raiders that is ravaging the countryside, Lavinia isn’t sure that she  has time to care for herself, much less fall in love.

I have another Civil War novel underway with the tentative title of Crowfut Gap.  Another, The Bones, has its roots in the Civil War and involves events set in motion then, but it is set in the present.  The Safeguard features two of my ancestors, who appear as Union foragers…

The Orphan’s Tale

 Set in Paris in the autumn of 1834, The Orphan’s Tale is my newest book. 

‘Autumn is beautiful in 1834 Paris. But to Chief Inspector Paul Malet,   raised in a prison by the greatest master criminal in French history  the season’s splendor is overlaid by a sense of gathering danger: something is afoot.

‘When Malet learns that Victoria, England’s young Heiress Apparent, will be traveling to Paris at Christmas for a state visit, all  becomes clear. Her assassination on French soil would shatter the accord between France and England. And war can be a profitable business for those criminals daring enough to mold events to suit their own purposes.’

 This is a trilogy, with the second book set to be released next year.  While the cover for #2 is problematic (do I use the hero’s portrait – in which case I have to find it or the villain’s?  I don’t like the villain.  Decisions, decisions…)  I do have a projected cover for book #3:

Graphics (a sort of Perils of Pauline… er, Diana)

We all know how important graphics are, whatever you may be doing.  The right graphics (the design for a box of saltine crackers, a book cover) may persuade you that This is the item to toss into your cart (or onto your online shopping list).

I have seen some pretty terrible book covers that provide the outside skin, if you like, for the inner substance.  Even if you know the book, the wrong cover can give you a bad taste.  This happens a great deal in historical fiction.  Somehow, a book about the Wars of the Roses (50+ years before Henry VIII) is not well-served by a painting depicting a contemporary of Queen Elizabeth I. 

For that matter, there’s a famous painting depicting Queen Cleopatra of Egypt calmly watching as her people conduct poison experiments on convicted criminals.  The colorful, well-executed painting can be cropped any number of ways (and, indeed, has been), but I, who am familiar with the painting, am inclined to give the book a miss.  Besides, if you’re talking about Pharaonic Egypt at its height, a depiction of one of the Ptolemies (a dynasty started by a Macedonian lieutenant of Alexander the Great, some 1,000 years after Egypt’s height) is not persuasive.

But I digress.

I took out an ad on a blog site for October.  It was intended to highlight a part of my work.  I write stories set in Egypt, the American Civil War and 1830’s Paris, but the Egyptian work was my concern at the moment.  The banner had to be short and wide.  And it had to get attention.

What to do? 
I came up with this, sort of:


It had all my writing.  And it was rather like a diet of graham crackers.
I tried again:

Second try…

This wasn’t exactly bad, but it wasn’t particularly good, either.  Besides, two of those covers pertain to books that are in the works, rather than published.

Hm.  What I wanted to highlight was a series – a cycle, if you will – with a connection to the grand old city of Memphis.  It is called The Memphis Cycle, and I have four stories published and another moving along at a rapid pace toward a 2014 publication date.  They are standalone stories, but concern the same family over 150 years.

So, what’s near Memphis?  Well, the pyramids, for one.  I looked for public domain photos of pyramids:

 This one was impressive, but it has a problem.  It is too ‘small’ an image.  Blow it up much beyond this size and it gets fuzzy.  I liked the color, but wasn’t sure that a plum-colored sky was what I wanted.

I looked further.  Lots of people are generous enough to take photos of the Pyramids.  I found the perfect shot (from a composition standpoint) after a little more hunting.  The cluster of pyramids was wonderful, and the morning light was better still. 

It seemed to lack something.  Perhaps the sky was too pale?  Hm. What could I do?  It certainly needed a helping of ‘oomph’.  Make that a double helping.  I wanted something to express color and still have the mysterious connotation that those huge tombs have…

I found the perfect photo after a lot of searching among the public domain photos:

This is, to me, one of the loveliest photos I’ve ever seen.  I work in graphics (sort of.  I’m an amateur) and while this may well have been manipulated (though I’ve seen sunsets like these in the south Pacific) it is just perfect.

So…  How to incorporate it into the image I wanted?

I did some concentrated thinking and had the idea of combining the silhouetted line of pyramids with this splendid sky.  It came out like this:

I wasn’t crazy about what looked like muddy green sky to the left.  Besides, it wasn’t wide enough, and I would want text and book covers, as well.  So I fiddled with it and came up with a final banner ad:

This pleased me.  It is not fuzzy (blogger can play havoc with images) and I like the colors.  the sentiment is pretty good, too (I think…  You may not agree).

So I tweaked it one last time for use as a header in my website:

It was fun, I’ll admit.  But it was a LOT of hard work.  Worth it?  Well, I like it.  I hope others do, as well.