The birth of a book, it’s an incredible process, isn’t it? The ups, the downs, all the joy, heartache and sense of deep accomplishment never goes away no matter how many books you write. And if you stopped feeling any of that, it’s time you hung up your keyboard and called it quits.
Wendi and I are far from that. This latest series, Tau’s Pride, had us laughing, crying, ripping our hair out, UGLY crying, and outright staring at our screens in awe. We’re not kidding when we say we go through as many sleepless nights as you do when you read our stories. We experience it all first. Guaranteed, if we don’t feel it, you’re certainly not.
When it comes to the cover for our books, the process is no different. We agonize over each and every image, we pick apart color combinations, font styles, themes and so much more.
The beginning usually goes something like this: Deb gets Great Idea in the middle of the night. Cranks it out and shoots it over to Wendi at some absurd hour in the morning. Goes to bed thinking “This is GREAT! She’s going to LOVE it!”
Such was the feeling with the first concept (image at right).
Deb then wakes up to an email that says, “Um…it’s a little bright, isn’t it? Nope, not quite it yet. Let’s keep working on it.”
After a considerable amount of grumbling Deb resolves to go back to the drawing board. And go back I did…several weeks later. Sometimes you have to let a project sit for a while and percolate. We had a general idea what we wanted…or rather, Wendi did. I, on the other hand, was thinking, how the hell am I going to top the covers from the last series?
That’s a lot of pressure, albeit, self-imposed.
As we worked through the rewrites, we kept an open mind, not thinking too hard on the cover design, but rather letting images and ideas float in as we sharpened up the story. Last week, as we put the finishing touches on the first book the cover became more important as ever. With the other books we had covers long before the story was finished. This time…nothing.
Wendi mentioned she could see a stadium, a crowd of people, maybe an angel and demon fighting. The more I looked at images of angels and demons, the more discouraged I got. So many of them are incredibly hokey. Yeah, I can work miracles, but honestly, I prefer my cheese on crackers and not on book covers.
Now, the way I compose a book cover is by making a composite of several different images. In some cases I may end up using as many as a half dozen or more individual images for a single cover. It’s like looking at a fixer-upper house, seeing the potential beyond what you see right in front of you. A background here, a figure there, a tree from someplace else…it’s so much more than slapping a single image on a cover and calling it good.
I started with a stadium, a storm, and an angel I could mask out from its original background. What I liked was the angel’s emotion. All the elements were there and Wendi liked the color, but to her, it looked like the angel should be in proportion to the stage.
“Where are his legs? He should be smaller. And his wings look like bunny ears,” says Wendi.
Bunny ears? I rolled my eyes. It’s okay to say that here. She knows she’s particular. That’s okay though, that’s part of why we make such great stuff. We don’t settle. If it’s not right, it’s not right.
The concept was solid though, it was on the right track, and that was all I needed to know to keep working on it.
I went back in and made our angel smaller and searched out a new pair of wings…ones that didn’t look like bunny ears.
That was getting closer. It had emotion, it had the colors, but it still wasn’t quite right. Then Wendi posed the question, “What if we ditch the stadium and go for some kind of stone circle in the woods?”
And so began our search through dozens of Stonehenge-like images, none of them we could agree on. By then, dinner time was approaching and I was feeling anxious. Not in a bad way, rather the kind of anxious when you know you’re so close to something and you’re too tired to execute it.
Some hours later, after food and a dose of Project Runway, I came back to the computer and stared at the screen for a while. This angel wasn’t working, but I liked the emotion. I needed an image that had the same kind of lighting from above, and I now wanted a figure of a man with his hands outstretched.
I searched Depositphoto for a few pages, then I remembered another photo I had in my library. The moment I put it into the overall image, I knew it was the right one. WOOT!
Stonehenge would have to wait until morning. Instead of sending the image off right away, I waited and sent it the next day. We both agreed the new figure worked well, but the stadium definitely had to go.
That’s okay, we were getting closer!
I don’t know how Wendi found the grove image she did, but…she did. She’s good that way. The only problem with it was it had some kind of Druid with a glowing pentagram in the center of it. The rest of it was perfect, exactly how we each envisioned this one crucial scene in the story.
Oh, and Wendi wanted trees. Yes, that was followed by another eye roll. However, we found the perfect rainy grove with the right lighting and I couldn’t say no.
Back to our misfit magic-user. Never fear! Photoshop to the rescue! A little bit of the clone tool, a touch of the healing brush tool and some fancy blending…et voila! Mr. Druid was gone like he never existed. Poof. Right back into the ether.
Once I had all the elements working in harmony, that unmistakable thrill ran down my spine. This was so perfect Wendi was going to be jumping on the bed!
I was right. She confirmed with two words: “That’s it.”
In a matter of a couple hours from the time I sent out that last email, we had our final cover. Though really, it was much more than that, it was a lot of trial and error, doing different things until it all finally clicked. When it’s right, all the pieces fall into place with very little effort. It’s scary-cool the way it happens.
Now, without further adieu, it is our pleasure to present the cover for book one of Tau’s Pride. Packmates, we give you Storms.