Cover Art for The Thirteenth Tower, Part Two

In part one of this post, I shared the black and white images of the cover art for my book, The Thirteenth Tower, drawn by the talented artist, Ferdinand Ladera. Now, in part two, it’s all about the colored versions. Most of the color studies are featured in this post, but not all. Some of the changes in a few of the images were so subtle that it seemed unnecessary including them.


Without further ado, here’s the first color study Ferdinand supplied:

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It was nice, but kind of glum and hazy, and there was no snow on the trees. I, being a busybody, had also noticed that in some of Ferdinand’s other work the sky often had different shades of color and I wondered if something similar would work here. So I asked him to toy with that along with the color of the ivy on the ground, just to see if something interesting could come of it. It backfired, and further solidified my suspicion that I really don’t know what the heck I’m talking about. I told him to ignore me and just keep on with the coloring like a sane person.


So the weird coloring was fixed, as was the ivy on the ground. Originally it had a dark shadow behind it that wasn’t really visible in the black and white version, but in the colored version it didn’t look quite right. So he removed the shadow and reworked the ivy a bit so it was more like tendrils twining along the ground. After that, it was just a matter of tweaking the background for less haziness and more clarity.

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At this point, we were getting close. I still wasn’t completely happy with the trees. I wanted a bit more clarity and have them a bit more vibrant in color. Taking the feedback, Ferdinand produced this image:

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It was pretty much spot on. It looked great and, thinking it was what I wanted, we said that it would be the final image. So Ferdinand increased the resolution to our requested specs, added more detail, and sent the image to us for one final approval.


But I couldn’t give it.  In the few days that passed between receiving the final image, I had this nagging feeling that the picture just wasn’t quite right. It was weird, because it was exactly what I asked for, yet I didn’t know if it was right, if it would make a good book cover.


So, Anders (my boyfriend and partner in crime publishing) shrunk it down to paperback-sized proportions, printed it out and wrapped it around a book. We then propped it up on a shelf and stood back to look at it. I’ll admit, after doing that it did look better. And it was kind of cool seeing it in book-form. Exciting. But in doing so, I realized one thing I didn’t like about it: it was too… blue.


Now, it was only that blue because I asked Ferdinand for vibrant color, and he delivered. At this point, though, I honestly had no idea how to fix it. I mean, I didn’t really know what I wanted anymore, so I wasn’t sure how to proceed.


So, we went to a fantasy and sci-fi bookstore to do a bit of recon on other book covers. Now, I always knew my cover would be a bit… abnormal. Most covers have people, but I specifically didn’t want a person on mine. Going to the bookstore just reinforced what I already knew: most book covers have people. It was encouraging, though, because some of the book covers were… well… let’s just say that even with an electric-blue sky, I still think my cover looked better than some of them.


Anyway, I wandered among the shelves for quite some time. I paid particularly close attention to the few covers that had landscapes, trying to see similarities and how they could be applied to my cover. One thing that stood out was that there was usually a fair amount of open space/sky. There was also a prominent feature somewhere, like a castle or animal. Looking at my cover I realized that the trees were too high, and the falcon too small.


We were then faced with a conundrum. Do we try to fix the picture as is, or scrap it completely and start over? Wandering through the bookstore gave me an idea for a cover that was completely different than what I had. Should I pursue that instead? It was a hard decision, as I think both types of cover could work.


Not wanting to completely abandon the original idea, Anders and I sat down and manipulated the picture in Photoshop to reflect the needed changes as best we could. We added text for the title and my name and everything, trying to get it looking like a book cover. We wanted to see if there was still potential for a cover that we both liked. I’m happy to say, there was.


So we mailed Ferdinand and explained the changes we wanted, and sent him a copy of our manipulations to illustrate what we meant. I was really worried that Ferdinand would be upset, that he wouldn’t want anything more to do with us. But he was super nice and said he’d be happy to do it.


Taking our latest changes into account, the picture then evolved into this:

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A definite improvement. The sky was still a little too dark, and the falcon a little too small. I wanted some cloud textures and we played around a bit with the color of the falcon.

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Almost there. Some adjustments to the sky ultimately led us to the final image. Again. (For reals, this time.)

final-image-cloud-a Click to enlarge


And there it is, the artwork that will serve as the cover for my book. Part of me is still unsure if will be a good book cover. I don’t know if it has that “oooh” factor that will draw people’s attention. But I love it, so that will be enough for me.



Interview with Author Angeline Trevena

In an ongoing effort to help promote authors, I’ve decided to try out doing author interviews. My very first guest is a writer of horror short fiction–the delightful and intriguing Angeline Trevena. Welcome, Angeline!


Angeline Trevena

Tell us a little about yourself. Any interesting talents, hobbies, or wonderful quirks that are uniquely you?

I am probably the least likely horror writer you’ll ever meet. I’m terrified of the dark. If I ever need to get up in the night, I do so with my heart racing. I avoid looking at the dark mirror, avoid peering into the darkest corners of the room, jump into bed in case there’s something hiding underneath it. One evening, while writing a short story, there was a thunderstorm, and I managed to seriously creep myself out!

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Cover Art for The Thirteenth Tower, Part One

Designing the cover art for my book was a fun, and educational, experience. It was something of a luxury, having a vision of what I wanted yet letting someone else do all the hard work to bring it into being. In this case, that someone was the talented artist Ferdinand Ladera. I must say, it was a pleasure working with Ferdinand. I was a rather picky client, and he obliged my finickiness with good humor.


However, during the process one thing became stunningly apparent: I don’t know the first thing about designing book covers. If there is one lesson that I took away from this experience, it’s that a pretty picture does not necessarily result in a good cover. But, as the chatty “they” are so fond of saying, “a picture is worth more than a thousand words.” So I thought I’d share the process with you, from the early sketches down to the final result.


To keep this post from getting too unwieldy, I’ve decided to split it into two parts. In part one I’ll share the black and white sketches. Part two will feature the color studies and the final image. The second part will be somewhat longer, as there are more colored images than black and white ones. There were also some setbacks on the path of finalizing the image, but I’ll talk about that later. For now, let’s look at the sketches.


It started with me giving a description of what I had in mind. I wanted a snowy forest, with a falcon somewhere in the image, and ivy growing upon one of the trees and twining across the ground. I found some pictures of forests with angles similar to what I was thinking. With the given information, Ferdinand supplied the following two sketches:


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My first thought was, “wow.” Had I been forced to settle for one of the pictures as-was, I would have been pretty happy, even with it in black and white. But this was just a first draft.


So I considered what I liked and didn’t like about both pictures. That was really hard. Both pictures were good, each having its own strengths and weaknesses. The result was that I liked the trees in one picture, but liked the falcon in the other. I didn’t like all the birds in the sky, as it made me feel like there must have been a dead animal somewhere (which is probable, given it’s a forest, but not relevant for the purposes of the cover). I also didn’t like all the bracken on the ground, as I felt it made the forest look much harsher than I imagined and also might be too cluttered for the purposes of a book cover. There was also the ivy missing that I wanted on one of the trees. Ferdinand took the feedback and provided the third sketch.


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And there it was. The picture I had in my mind (or near enough, anyway), now sketched in black and white. I loved it. It had that calm, quiet feeling that I was looking for. I’m honestly still kind of amazed that Ferdinand was able to capture what I wanted so quickly. I approved the sketch and we moved on to the color study.


Please stay tuned for part two where I’ll share the colored versions of the sketches, and the bump in the road when I realized that a book cover needed to be more than just a pretty picture. Not to mention, of course, the final image that will be the cover of my book, The Thirteenth Tower.


You can find part two of this post here.




Summer is here, and in Sweden that means long, sunny days. It’s nice, and a little weird, waking up at 2:00 am and seeing the sky still blue, with the sun just below the horizon. Surreal. But that’s one of the reasons why I love it here in Sweden.
Particularly pleasant this month is that I have family visiting, so I’m taking the month off from writing to have fun and relax. Which is also why this month’s update is so short. It’s kind of hard, stepping away from my book when it’s so close to being finished (I hope to have it done by the end of the year), but it’s not often I have family from California here in Sweden, and the manuscript will keep.
I hope the summer months find you happy and well and I hope you’ll join me next month where I’ll be sharing the cover art for my book as well as writing about the process of creating it. Until then, a little poem:

‘Twixt and ‘tween the river’s bend,

A hollowed log upon ferny fen.

On moony nights do the fae here dance,

While frogs on stools swap parlance.

Book Review: Realmgolds

Realmgolds Realmgolds

Mike Reeves-McMillan

Published March 2013 by C-Side Media

Rating: Two stars



I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.


Realmgolds is a steampunk fantasy novel about Determined, the Realmgold of Denning, who is forced to contend with the eruption of a civil war within his borders. He receives guidance and assistance from Victory, Realmgold of neighboring Koskant. However, a magical treaty prevents anyone from Koskant crossing Denning’s border under arms, so Determined and Victory need to get clever in how they tackle the uprising.

Despite that there is a war going on, this book is pleasantly low-action. Most of what takes place is “behind the scenes”, focusing more on the people making the decisions than those carrying them out. While I appreciate the idea of it, the execution, for me, fell flat. For a story focusing on people, there was surprisingly little character development. Far too infrequently were we allowed in Determined’s head to find out what made him tick. He tackled each problem as it came up with rarely an indication of what he was feeling. This made it very difficult for me to get more than a vague idea of what he was like, and that’s a shame because it made me not care – about him or the story.

The writing was competent, though there was far too much “telling” and not enough “showing” for my taste. The result was a flattened narrative that made me feel as though I was reading a very long newspaper article rather than an engaging novel. This, combined with the emotionally distant characters, made the reading laborious.

The world was interesting and well conceived. I liked how magic and high fantasy races were married into a technological world, which gave the setting a freshness that is sometimes lacking in fantasy novels. There is also a depth to the world that is hinted at in the story, leaving plenty for future novels to expand upon. This is a good thing. For, despite the story’s shortcomings, the potential is there. I hope Mike Reeves-McMillan takes that potential and runs with it. Even if his books aren’t for me, it will be interesting to see what he does next.