Category Archives: Artwork

Cover Talk – Australia > U.S., Joanna Bourne Edition

I don’t feel like I need to add much to the title, except to reiterate how obnoxious I find the “sexy” covers so prevalent in U.S. romance cover art. I basically don’t look at books that have covers like this – and always look at books with covers like the Australia edition. The man-titty tells me it’s a sex-romp in which the relationship will be based primarily on the physical, which means I will find it unsatisfying, while the fully dressed woman in roughly accurate historical costume tells me the book is character-focused, which means I’m more likely to find it satisfying.




Filed under Artwork, Reflections on Romance

Now THIS Is a DIY Cover

So…after nearly 11 hours of work, off and on, what I have under my metaphorical Christmas tree is a book cover.

Yes, I just spent my entire day fiddling with the effing cover. A lot of this was the learning curve of not just Gimp but also how Gimp-created images do (or do not) play well with other programs. Next time I will know how to render these graphic elements a lot more quickly.

Anyway, I am quite proud of the cover I put together, especially considering just how do-it-myself it was:

  • I made the clothing seen in the picture, the jacket specifically for the purpose of Regency novel covers…from an original pattern based only loosely on Jean Hunniset’s costuming book for the period
  • I had to rearrange the furniture in my house to get a suitable set-up
  • I took the photo OF MYSELF with a delay on my digital camera
  • I spliced together three different photos to make a “scene’ (the couch and figure, the baseboard, the wallpaper) and rendered it into something closer to a painting than a digital photograph using a free program I’d never used before
  • I created the cover graphic (“a Regency novel”) and had to create a separate graphic for the title in order to achieve the text depth and orientation I wanted
  • I put the cover layout together myself using three different programs because none of them alone would quite do what I wanted (Powerpoint, MS Paint, and Gimp)

I am sad I am not hitting publish tonight but, y’all, I am bushed. And in the end the only person I’m letting down with my publication schedule for this book is myself. I can look myself in the eye and say “I did the best I could” without cringing and knowing the words for a lie. Maybe if I go to bed sooner than later I’ll be up for a little coding in the morning and submit this beast before work. If nothing else, after wrestling with Gimp for so long, a series of MS Word hoops are going to feel laughably easy.

In the meantime, I present you with the cover to my newest novel, A Christmastide Courtship.

courtship with title


Thursday morning postscript:

Reading back over my post from last night, I feel I should clarify my out-of-pocket expenses for this.

(1) $35 (approximately) for the jacket – 2 yards of fabric, thread, buttons. (Part of me doesn’t even want to count this since I know have a cute little jacket I can wear out and about!)

(2) $59 for the font, which is “Respective” by Mans Greback, from (which I plan to use as the cover font for all my historical novels, so the per-cover use will drop with every book I publish. Right now it’s about $20 because I’m about to re-make my covers for the Twelfth Night books).

That’s it. Everything else was just time. (Soooo much time, lol.)

Granted, I made a lot of use of items I had to hand for other reasons. If you don’t cosplay…if you don’t have a good digital camera…if you don’t have old-school furniture to pose with and a fabric stash to make wallpaper out of…then you might have a higher expense list. But for me, it was <$100 which is a pretty nice price tag. I can spend that on myself for Christmas since hubs & I don’t do gifts so much as time and food. 🙂


Filed under Artwork, Publishing

Hi. My name is Lily, and I’m addicted to doing things the hard way

Or, If You Want Something Done Right, You’ve Got to Do It Yourself

I make reference here sometimes to the fact that I like to make costumes. I am by no means an expert seamstress or designer, but I am decent at both and improving by the project, and I have tackled conquered some hella-hard challenges (such as full 18th-century costumes for both husband and myself…and, yes, I made my own stays and paniers). I have been known to do things like make a corset in one night, without a pattern until I made one off my own measurements and intuition (I was trying to use someone else’s method and, boy, did it stink). Generally I create my own patterns, either off of other people’s methods or designs that I want to replicate, not so much because I want to be that hardcore Project Runway as because I just can’t find commercial patterns for what I want. Which is often historical or fantasy-oriented, which at the commercial level tends to get dumbed down to vaguely similar-shaped garments that in no way match the contstruction methods or patterns of original garments.

Here’s the dirty little secret about historical clothing: a lot of it was not hard to make, in terms of putting the pieces together. It was hard to make because it was either made by hand or decorated in ways modern minds can’t conceive of accomplishing.  It was also generally custom made to someone’s figure, so unless you’re making your own pattern off of ratios between your own measurements, the fit won’t be quite as perfect.

So. I have been thinking about book covers and such for soon-to-be-released (they will be, damn it!) upcoming works as well as re-publishing my Twelfth Night novellas with covers more in line with the new stuff and pretty ebook files now that such seems entirely possible thanks to JW Manus.  I have ideas in mind for some of the images that would be feasible with props I already have on hand, like nice gloves that look vaguely vintage. But at least one cover requires a partial body (the neck-waist so popular in romance composition right now), with something resembling period-accurate clothing.

I have a photographer picked out (actually it’s a couple, yay, teamwork!), and they are scouting locations for a shoot. I have basic design concepts in mind. What I don’t have is wardrobe. I don’t need much–just a spencer jacket (basically a 19th-century bolero)–because I can either drape uncut fabric for an “empire gown” or hike up my 18th-century petticoat to just under the bustline. Either way works, as long as the jacket covers the top of the “skirt.”

The jacket is the sticking point. I want to get this photo shoot done before Christmas, so I don’t have time to buy a custom-made piece on Etsy (I checked the ready-mades, and none would fit my needs, alas). I don’t have anything in my wardrobe of real-life that could be, at a stretch, vaguely Napoleonic. None of the costume shops I have access to do, either. My choices are to completely abandon the concept of a body shot or to make my own spencer.

To that end, I purchased fabric and buttons at my local Hancock’s Fabrics, ignoring all my usual rules of only buying period-accurate fabrics. I actually found a really fabulous fabric, because it is double-layer so I don’t have to line anything, just French seam or flat-fell the seams, and I won’t care–I won’t–that it’s a poly/nylon blend and not silk. Or linen. Or cotton.

I spent tonight at my local academic library taking photos of the relevant pages in Janet Arnold’s Patterns of Fashion and Jean Hunnisett’s costuming handbook. (I had to take pictures because my friend who is a librarian there and normally checks books out for me has too many fines to take anything out right now. Yes, that’s right, my librarian friend has kept books for so long she has an exorbitant fine at her own place of employment. Indeed, she is a tragic biblioklept.)

So, the good news was that all relevant volumes were on the shelf.

Bad news was that I didn’t really like any of the patterns in either book. None of them were quite what I have in mind. So it looks like I will be making my own original patterns, after all, with help from those ladies in the areas I most need it still–armhole angles and sleeves.

Sigh. And here I thought this was going to be easy, what with just copying a pattern from one of them and all.

Or, as Anne Taintor would put it:


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Twelfth Night Cover Art

I have had my cover art for Twelfth Night picked for a while–possibly even before I picked my cover for What You Will.  I found this painting when I was first looking into the idea of using public domain images for my covers, and I just fell in love with it.  It’s sexy and playful and, as the post where I first saw it pointed out, “oddly powerful.” 

It was not necessarily going to be one of my covers, except that I found an image to use for the first novella that worked very well with this picture–the girls are both in yellow, they have similar masks on, and they have similar hair (which is necessary since the two heroines are twins).  That parity made up my mind for me.

So, without further ado, allow me to introduce my cover art for Twelfth Night:   “Pierrot’s Embrace” by Guillaume Seignac.

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“But soft, what light through yonder window breaks?”

Or, I found my first cover girl, and she is striking.

I spent a good 11 hours over the course of the weekend researching potential art to use with my first story.  Actually it ended up being my first 50 or so stories, since I think I downloaded about that many images which I felt made strong cases for becoming cover art for one of my ebooks.

The first two stories that will be released are a brace of parallel novellas about twin sisters, which take place over the same night, at a masquerade ball.  The fact that there are two stories which call back to one another was definitely on my mind as I searched for potential images.  I needed pictures that would in some way reference one another and yet be powerful in their own rights, and relevant to the story at hand in their own rights.  I found a lot of beautiful paintings of beautiful girls that would not work, not because they did not suit the mood of the story but because they did not suit the mood of any other painting that also suited the mood of the story.

I realized how very useful my various niche obsessions can be.  I have sewn historical costumes for a very specific time period–one for which there are not readily available commercial patterns, so I had to make my own.  I put a great deal of research into learning which types of silhouettes and sleeves and waistlines go with each period in fashion history, and so it was highly useful for me to be able to recognize at a glance whether an alluring picture was too modern (er, relatively speaking…read:  too Victorian) for my purposes, or if it might “pass” as Regency era. 

I also learned a lot about what I don’t know about art in a very short period of time.  I found a new favorite impressionist painter.  I got a joke about one of the artists whose work will be on a cover, which I had read months ago searching for “masquerade painting” and understood only in abstract.  After seeing the master to which that post compared him, I comprehended the criticism in a much more direct way.

I had a long conversation with one of my first readers about the potential pairings of images, and I have thought about this for the past three days, and in the end I am following my own preferences and instincts (or maybe it’s just preferences) in what I am using for my first two covers. 

Allow me to introduce to you Miss Viola Alexis Gardener, heroine of the novella What You Will which will be released as an ebook on June 1, 2011–exactly one week from today!

The painting is titled, directly, “Lady at a Masked Ball.”  It is by Pierra Ribera, a French painter, and held in a private collection.

I love this picture.  It is simple, but it’s bold, and she is lovely.  She is ready to mask, and she looks both innocent and mischievous at once–exactly the state Viola is in as she prepares for her masquerade. 

I also learned a bit about necessary compromises.  If I am not commissioning original artwork which I can make the artist re-do until it suits my specifications, then I will at points have to bow to the inevitable and give up finding a painting that fits every detail of my story.  For instance:  Viola and her sister are dark blonde/mousy brown with gold highlights, not red-heads.  Viola is wearing an 18th-century dress, and it is green, not the yellow swathed about her here.  But since I did not happen to find a picture of a beautiful blonde in a green sack robe, I decided evoking the spirit of the story would have to be good enough–and it is.


Filed under Artwork, Publishing, Research

“As the Golden Orb Rose in the Sky…”

Or, Finding the Picture Worth 1,000 Words

I am, by nature, a procrastinator. It is not that I put things off until the last minute so much as that I put things off until they must be done.  There is, if I may be so bold, a fine but marked distinction between the two. 

Thus, with my first e-book due to be released on June 1, I have reached what I would term the point of necessity for dealing with certain practicalities, such as deciding what to do for the cover art.  One of the review sites I read had a column dedicated to ebooks sometime in the past few months, and what I took away from it for purposes of my own marketing was that a plain cover is better than a bad cover, but a good cover is best of all. 

My first thought was to discover whether public domain images can be used for ebooks.  They can, and with no questions of legality if it is either a digital image of a 2-dimensional piece of art that you created (such as scanning an image from a book) or a digital image from a database specifically dedicated to putting works in the public domain into digital format for free use. 

Public domain in paintings = painted before 1923. 

The alternative to public domain would be some of the free use databases, some of which specifiy that their images can be used commercially at no cost to the user, or to subscribe to a site such as Shutterstock. 

If I were writing contemporary stories, I would probably do the latter.  Since I am writing historical romance, I think old paintings would suit it better.

The only problem is finding an image that evokes this story more than any other–and then finding a digital image I can use for ebook publishing, or finding it in a textbook to create my own digital copy.  There is also the question of how much it needs to appear to be a romance genre piece versus historical fiction with a love plot or subplot.  And then the Marketing 101 issue ofWill this catch someone’s eye enough to make them stop and look at my ebook?

It is enough to make a gal’s head spin.  The good news is, I love art.  The bad news is, I have the feeling I’m about to be getting a master’s level crash course in Western art from 1773-1923. 

Luckily, my first two stories are parellel pieces so I will not be seeking markedly different images for the two of them.  That means one search will suffice for both.  And since I have rough drafts and/or outlines of my following six stories, I can keep my eyes peeled for appropriate images for them.  Ah, multi-tasking, the only way I can accomplish anything these days….

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