Friday, March 15, 2013

Behind the Cover: Series

By Michelle Lee
BWL Art Director

Well, it's been a while, but then again, I have been hard at work crafting covers for the BWL authors when I am not chained up at the university working on the dreaded thesis work.

I know, I know, enough about me - get on with the cover information already.  Sheesh ... 

Series can be the joy, or the pain in the behind, of a cover artist.


The elements of the covers need to match in a series.   This can be a potential issue when an author either doesn't know ahead of time that they are going to continue in the same universe/with the same characters, or doesn't tell the publisher, or does tell the publisher but the artist isn't told.

Much of cover artwork is done using stock images.  This means, if I know ahead of time that an author is planning 3-10 books using the same characters, that I need to find a model that has numerous usable poses.  This creates an added challenge up front – but pays off in the end.  Because when that second book comes along, I already know what images are options, and I simply pull up my bookmarks and run with it.

Alternatively, if it isn't the same characters – the images still need to have the same feel.  So I will start looking for possibles that would work for future books, or I will make sure that I don’t go with an obscure style image, which would be hard to find a matching one later. 

Almost all of the covers that I have created are ones that I personally like.  (There have been a few exceptions however - I won't lie).  I also work hard to try and make each cover unique, despite the fact that I might have fallen in love with an effect, or with the way elements of a cover have come together.  It’s only fair to each author.  After all, cover art should not be like the suburbs – in my opinion, where possible there should be no cookie cutter version of a cover, duplicated numerous times with just small changes made. Obviously, some releases are in genres that just don't sell as well, or are of a length where the cost of an individual cover can be prohibitive.  I do not argue that they are wrong - it is just good business sense to evaluate cost:benefit ratios.  But if it is possible to create a unique cover for each release, in my opinion it should be done.  Yet, sometimes ... a certain cover will just tug at me, and I really wish I could return to it.  Series offer a happy middle ground - they allow me to return to effects and styles I previously used, without short-changing the author.

Series can also be a pain, since stock art is limited.  Again, if I know ahead of time, I can do my best to limit that having an effect.  But I am also an author, so I know how sometimes, secondary characters catch on with readers … or with the author.  Sometimes they just sit there and needle you, wanting to know when their story told.  So I never hold it against an author if they decide to do a spin off.  I just ask that if an author knows ahead of time that the book I am doing a cover for is part of a series, that they please let me know.  As mentioned in my post about the cover art form, there is a spot for just that, and since many series books with have a series title, that also tends to be a dead give-a-way to me.

So let's get down to discussing the details of what goes into a decision about series covers.


As you can see here with Jamieson Wolf’s Hope Falls series, all of the woman have a similar feel to them.  They are all soft, feminine woman, with their gaze over their raised shoulder.  When I was assigned the cover design for these, I know ahead of time that I was looking for a blond, a light haired brunette, and a dark haired brunette.  I wanted them all to have a matching look.  Then, for the background, I needed an image that was wide enough I could pan along it with each cover, so that the background is the same, and yet slightly different, with each cover.

When I don’t know about it being a series ahead of time, then there is a scramble to find images that match what I used before in style.  Take for example these two covers:

The coloration and feel of the image for Family Secrets is rather unique.  It isn't the standard cover image.  There are a lot of warm colors, and there is just a feel to the image that catches the attention.  Now I knew before I selected that image that there was another book in the series, so I made sure that I had something in mind that would work for the second book – Family Ties.  Had I not, it would have been a challenge to try and find an image that had the same feel as the one in Family Secrets.

When I didn't know, or quite honestly if I was told, I didn't catch it (because if Jamie knew ahead of time, I am certain she would have told me) - was that there would be a third book.  So when the third book rolled along, I did have a bit of a challenge to find another image that fit the same feel.  As you can see, there is a slight difference in the feel of the image, but overall, it does match well.  It has the same general pose as the second book, so it ties in, even though the colors are a bit off.

As an example of a series that just came into being (at least as far as I know) is Jude Pittman’s Healing Spirits series.  So I had no clue ahead of time that there would be future books.  It originally was just Bad Medicine.  

Then, she started planning for a second and third book - I am guessing because the characters started talking again.  At that point we had two options – try to match the feel of the first book, or redo the cover for the first book.  

So we have the original Bad Medicine cover, with a woman in a field.  A nice soft cover.  It really didn't fit with where the story-line is going to flow to next.  So unlike in Jamie's case, we decided to go with door number two and instead of matching the existing cover, just started over.

These are the results:

As you can see, the redesign allowed for the mimicking of elements.  Along the bottom of all three covers is a scene image of some kind - a cityscape, a deserted road and a lake in front of mountain, with trees.

Each of the covers has something faded into the upper background - a woman, a martini glass with car keys, and a Native American making music at a drum.

What about if the author wants to keep the cover (or the publisher does) but there still needs to be a way to tie it in?  Well that calls for a compromise of sorts - the tweak.

That's right, a slight modification to the existing covers that creates a series feel.

So, the story of that goes something like this ...

Once upon a time, there was a fair author princess named Shirley Martin.  And she had a couple of books that were kind of sort of tied together, but the nasty mean evil witch cover artist didn't know that. So she cast a spell on the covers, making them pretty - but not uniform.  (Except for the first two that she knew were in the same universe ... so fonts matched).

Then one day, the good fairy publisher came along, and discovered there was a spell on the nasty mean evil witch cover artist, and removed it with a spell of her own - a fourth book spell.  The most wondrous kind of magic.  That allowed the good witch cover artist to take control of her body again (seems she was just possessed, and wasn't really a nasty mean evil witch) and bring harmony to the covers with a touch-up potion.

 With the help of the touch-up potion, the covers were made to match with the use of the same fonts, and an added border.  Having a little bit of fun, the good witch cover artist also brought elements of the cover out beyond the border (see the sword in book 1, twinkles in book 2, twinkles in book 3, and dragon wing in book 4).

And so our story comes to a good end for the fair author princess Shirley Martin.  And for the good witch cover artist too, because she wasn't fed to the mean 'ol troll.

Great story huh?  Nah, I am not mellow-dramatic in any way!

Now if you are looking for the true moster-load of challenges as a cover artist ... let's check this one out.  Keep in mind, I DID know this was going to be a series ... so that didn't create the challenge.

The challenge on Vijaya's series comes about because they are all historicals ... and finding good historical images is challenge enough.  But some of the books have the same characters, and others don't.  Plus, time keeps on a rolling along ... so while a character might be dressed perfectly in period for one cover, it won't work for another.  So finding historical images of the same person, in the different period clothes that I need?  Um, winning lottery ticket anyone?  Cause that is the kind of luck it would take.  Which means something else has to be worked out.

For the first two books, I did luck out.  Jimmy Thomas fit perfectly for the first book, and for the second book, I found an image on his cover art images website with a woman showed from the back, and him in it.  Keeping the same background, just shifting it to a new angle, I was able to tie that in.  I also needed something to tie the whole series together - so there is the sword, and something wrapped around it.

 Now for the third book, since there was a new hero, I wanted to recreate the feel of the first book, so the heroine is front and center, with the hero faded into the background again.

Even though I kept the same style for the third book, I wanted something different for the fourth book.  Especially where the author said fire is a very important aspect to the fourth book.  So that was the focus of the images.  And yet - if you look behind the hero, you will see the same castle as for book three.  Now the woman chosen is thankfully very close to resembling the woman from the third book.  But what about the guy?  Well - chain mail takes care of that. : )

Now, the mermaid wrapped around the sword places this book with a certain heroine.  All of her books will have a mermaid, just like all of the books dealing with the first heroine had a dragon.  

I already have images planned for wrapping around the sword in each of the future books.

Ideally, when a new hero and heroine is introduced, for that first book, it will mirror book one and three, with any later books involving them done different to match the story aspects.

I did say it was a challenge -but not in a bad way. It makes me stretch my creative muscles.  Now had I not know about this ahead of time - well, all bets would be off then.  Remember, I am working on my thesis, so stress is already a way of life for me. : )

Yeah I know, enough about me ...

So you see, a LOT can go into creating a look for a series - because you do want the books to look somewhat similar.  At least as a reader I know I like it when they do.  I hate it when books change cover style mid-series.  Drives me nuts!  I have actually gone back and repurchased books in a series when they were re-released with matching covers, just so everything matches.

Ok, I never said I don't have issues ...  In truth, I have more issues than Time magazine.  : )

As a cover artist, I do my utmost best to make sure that I keep series matching each other - and make the author happy with the end product.

Stay tuned for the next exciting chapter in Behind The Cover where I will talk about the X-Factor.  After that, we roll on along to Author Branding.

BWL Blurbathon Presents Roseanne Dowell's Deadbeat Dads

How many men leave their wives and families and ignore them? After her husband leaves her for a younger woman, Erica Morris starts a group for ex wives of deadbeat dads and was surprised at how many there were. In the process of rebuilding her life,  someone tries to blackmail her. Can she put the past behind her or will it catch up to her?


 Available from Amazon at

Check back March 17th for Joan Hall Hovey's post.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

BWL Blurbathon Presents Rita Karnopp

PARTISAN HEART - Book 2 – Tango of Death Series - Poland 1943-During WW II resistance movements  occurred in every occupied country by a variety of means, ranging from propaganda to outright warfare and the recapturing of towns, as well as hiding crashed pilots. 

Partisan Heart tells the story of a Gypsy girl who follows her beloved into the forests of Poland and the Ukraine.  Their partisan group is willing to risk their lives blowing up train trestles, attacking SS killer squads, and to infiltrate Nazis intelligence to destroy Nazi Germany.  Resistance does exist.  If nothing else, to die with dignity is a form of resistance. h or

    “I am a Jew fighting for his people and I’m fighting for your people, too. I don’t need you fighting me.” He opened his arms to her.
    Vanya moved into his embrace. After a long silence she lifted her face up to him and took his hard kiss. She responded with urgency and passion. He fueled the fire within her and she didn’t want to stop.
    He kissed her cheek, then moved to nibble on her ear lobe.
    “I love how you kiss me,” she said somewhat breathless.
    He answered with a trail of kisses down her neck . . . lower and lower.  She allowed him to pop open the first few buttons on her blouse. He pinned her back against a tree and buried his face into her cleavage. The sensation shook her to the core.     She should tell him to stop, but she truly didn’t want him to.
    How or when he slipped the remaining buttons free, she couldn’t say.

Find GYPSY SPIRIT Book 1 Tango of Death Series  or 

Watch for JEWISH SOUL, book 3 of the Tango of Death Series . . . coming soon - Mayla decides it’s up to her to do whatever it takes to find her twin, Vanya, and baby sister, Zilka ~ before the Gestapo sends them to a concentration camp or the SS kills them.

Stop back by March 15 for a blurb by Roseanne Dowell!

Monday, March 11, 2013

BWL Blurbathon Presents: A Winter Sabbatical by Cheryl Wright

A Winter Sabbatical by Cheryl Wright

Marissa Temple, unable to come to terms with the death of her fiancé, needs time alone.

Close friend Daniel offers the use of his quaint country cottage while he is overseas on a long term assignment. But Daniel forgot to mention his best mate, Travis Johnston.

Marissa finds herself strangely attracted to Travis, but is torn between two loves; the one in the here and now, and the one in the hereafter.

Buy A Winter Sabbatical at:

And do check back to learn about Rita Karnopp’s books on March 13!

Sunday, March 10, 2013

The story behind my latest book: Pathway to Tomorrow

My latest book, Pathway to Tomorrow has just been published. There's a story behind it too.

I live close to the beach, near pinewoods and wonderful, wild vistas. The area is criss-crossed with bridleways because a lot of people ride horses through the woodlands and down to the beach. It is also idyllic dog walking country. Consequently, when a wealthy business man purchased a derelict farmhouse and closed off the adjacent bridleway that led to the open fields and then on down to the beach, it caused a great deal of local angst. Horse riders and dog lovers alike all protested. In the end, common sense prevailed. The new land owner opened up the bridleway again and dealt with his own privacy by planting hundreds of trees and bushes and installing a lot of fencing. Who can blame him? Nobody does locally now that access to the beach is available again. After all, who would want every passerby to be able to see into their house? As well, the building of the house and its adjoining estate has been a source of great local interest for several years.

That is as far as any resemblance to Pathway to Tomorrow is concerned of course. I don't know the local businessman. His house is no longer visible from the path because the bushes have grown, and a huge double gate blocks off his driveway. The demolition of the old farmhouse and the building of a huge property with stables, a gym, a swimming pool and myriad outbuildings prompted the beginning of my story though. After walking past it for months it suddenly occurred to me that it was just the setting I was looking for, for Marcus, my hero.

There is another equally important part to the story too. How did I find Marcus? Well a lot of months ago I was invited to listen to the Red Stripe Band, a fantastic and fun jazz band that has played all over the world and been feted by many big names but, when I happened on it, was performing at a small venue in the Yorkshire Dales. Go to my blog post to see it.

On that evening I 'discovered' Marcus. He wasn't any of the performers but more an amalgam of the whole ethos of the band; someone who lived and breathed music and loved to share it with others. He changed during the writing of course. It always happens when a writer lets the hero take over! And when he 'told' me he could't perform any more but had to concentrate on composition...well I had to let him. Who am I to argue with someone as single-minded as Marcus? I still owe many thanks to the Red Strip Band, however. It was there at the right time, when I needed some inspiration, and I have dedicated my book to it. Thanks for the music Red Stripe.

And what about Marcus' story? Well, when he bought the derelict farmhouse next to Jodie’ Eriksson's riding school he didn't know whether to be amused or irritated by her angry reaction to his plans. Then her sister Izzie visited him and made things a whole lot worse…or was it better…because now he had an excuse to see Jodie again.

Although, when he sees her, it’s not exactly a meeting of minds, they do discover they have one thing in common; they both believe they know what’s best for Izzie, and for Marcus' son Luke. It turns out they’re wrong. The children they thought they were protecting need to be set free. It’s Jodie and Marcus who have the problem; but can two broken hearts make one whole one? The battle lines that were set when they first met have long since been breached but the war won’t be over until Jodie learns how to trust again, and until Marcus allows himself to believe in his son.

Titillating preview by J.C. Kavanagh

WINNER Best Young Adult Book 2016, The Twisted Climb I've been prepping for Autumn book signings and excited to meet new and...