Tuesday, July 6, 2010
Guest Blogger - Alice Duncan
Okey-dokey, so I was wracking my smallish-sized brain, trying to think of something to write for this blog in July, and coming up blank (I was practically blogged to death in June, since that’s the month HUNGRY SPIRITS came out). However, something just happened that points out both the magic and the mayhem of publishing: cover art!
PECOS VALLEY REVIVAL is an historical cozy mystery that’s going to be published by Five Star in January of 2011. So today (June 23) I was sent the cover art for review. Mind you, Five Star is one of the few publishers who listen to authors when it comes to cover art. Here’s the cover, and I think it’s gorgeous:
There’s only one thing wrong with it. Wanna take a guess at what it is? Well, then, I’ll tell you. That lovely cactus on the cover is a saguaro, a cactus that only grows on Arizona’s Sonoran Desert! Fortunately for me, Five Star actually pays attention to its authors, so I requested they maybe replace the saguaro with a blooming yucca. Mind you, a blooming yucca might not be the most gorgeous flower in the universe, but it is New Mexico’s state flower, and both the Pecos Valley and PECOS VALLEY REVIVAL are in New Mexico. A yucca. None of your fancy-schmancy poppies or roses or irises for us, by gum. I think our state insect is the scorpion, and I’m pretty sure our state bird is the buzzard. Actually, I know our state bird is the roadrunner, but you hardly ever see them here any longer. In fact, the only time I ever see roadrunners anymore is when I visit California. Go figure.
This little mishap made me think of other cover-art snafus I’ve either experienced or heard about over the years, and I thought I’d share. Carola Dunn, whose Daisy Dalrymple books are set in the 1920s, only in England, once had to have the cover artist change the uniform of a guard at the Tower of London because he was wearing the emblem of Queen Elizabeth II, and up to that point in time, there had been only one Queen Elizabeth. Christina Dodd, who is a wildly successful romance author, was once given a cover that showed the heroine with three arms. I’m not kidding. And I, during what I laughingly call my writing career, was once given the exact same cover art for a book (GABRIEL’S FATE) that I’d been given for A GAMBLER’S MAGIC. I tried and tried to convince my editor that the cover was a duplicate, but by that time Dorchester was no longer interested in me (because they’d decided to dump me—story of my writing life), and it took intervention from my agent to get them to pay attention. My editor at Dorchester apologized and said he thought I was “just being cranky.” Right. Anyhow, they changed the cover to one of those generic western-romance covers that’s probably been seen on a hundred other books—but at least it wasn’t a duplicate of one of my own covers.
Hmm. Now there’s an idea: give an author the same cover for all of his/her books. That way, the public will always know if their favorite (or not-so-favorite) author has a book coming out. Unless they think it’s an older book from the author. Okay, so that’s a bad idea. Forget I mentioned it.
Anyway, on another book of mine, a romp featuring the soul of a guy named Chester Pease, which accidentally ended up in a jug of corn whiskey and was drunk by a certain individual (the first Harry Potter, as a matter of fact, which points out yet another bout of mayhem in my writing life), the cover gods gave the book a blood-red cover with a goblet of what looks like blood and an overlay of a guy who looks like a zombie. The reviewer for Romantic Times actually called me at home and asked me why the cover was so grim when the book was so funny. I couldn’t tell her, ‘cause I didn’t have a clue.
In the overall scheme of cover art, however, I must say that, while my career has been floating belly-up in the goldfish bowl of publishing for lo, these many years, I’ve been given some really great covers. My all-time favorite so far is the cover for HUNGRY SPIRITS. I had a good deal to do with that cover, by the way (I’d pat myself on the back, but I can’t reach). In the book, poor Daisy Gumm Majesty (our heroine) has to teach a cooking class (Daisy; who can burn water), and I used as reference a book called 65 DELICIOUS DISHES, published by the Fleischmann Yeast Company in 1919 (I had to get their permission to use the title of the book, but that’s yet another story). Here’s the cover of the Fleischmann book:
And here’s the cover Five Star’s cover artist came up with:
As far as I’m concerned, what the cover artist did for this book was pure magic!
For the next Daisy book, I’ve sent Five Star another picture, a Norman Rockwell painting that appeared on a Saturday Evening Post cover in the 1920s. I hope someone will create another HUNGRY-SPIRITS-like cover for that one. It is, by the way, GENTEEL SPIRITS, which will be published in July 2011. GENTEEL SPIRITS has Daisy acting as spiritual advisor to an egotistical actress, and this is the picture I sent to the cover gods at Five Star. I hope they can do something with it that turns out as well as the HUNGRY SPIRITS cover did:
For some reason known only to God, seeing the covers of my books for the first time is the very most exciting part of the entire publishing biz. Which, given the state of my career, is probably a really good thing.
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