Saturday, April 19, 2014


From time to time, historical and Regency romance authors complain to me they can't get good, accurate covers for their historical romances. Well, I can't blame them. I write historicals, and I love history so I want my covers to look like real history, not a staged scene. But also being a romantic, there are those parts of history, like chamber pots and men's drawers that I'd just as soon not show for what they were. I'm also a cover artist, and I know I can't even give myself truly accurate covers.

But why can't we get accurate covers? Well, it's darn hard. BUT there is a way And today I'm going to show you how and why.

I made up a very simple but pretty reasonably authentic historical cover for a non-existent novel called LET HONOR PREVAIL. Then I'm going to show you its original parts and how they were altered.

Let's face it, there was nobody running around in 1812 with a camera taking lots of pictures for me to use in the 21st century. There were fshion plates and scenic engravings  and the like. But they don't necesarily fit with today's tastes, especially romantic tastes.You can probably tell the model's face, despite my cartooning of it, still looks a bit too real for the rest. I'd have to work on that. (Several hours' worth. Remember that-time is money.) Because that's a high quality photo of a real man, and the rest is low quality images of early 19th century engravings.

First, I need a handsome contemporary model. Gorgeous guy, and I've used him several times (in an artistic sense) because he's so versatile. But this time all I need is his head, and need to reverse that as well: But it is important to try to line up the posture of both the contemporary model and the "clothes you intend to fit on him if you want to make it look like he's really wearing the garments.

The man's clothing comes from a 19th century French fashion plate. The first thing you'll notice, I'm sure, is the man's appearance is clearly not fashionable today. Look at the sleeves over the gloves. Look at his proportions, and his rather large head. In this case I didn't have to do a lot of morphing but I did wan't to give the man a more long-waisted look because men don't wear their trousers waists as high these days as they did back then. I manipulated color a bit by cranking up the contrast and cranking down the brightness. But this is essentially an ink and watercolor drawing. The man in my design is real. They''ll have to be matched up better. That's where rendering the man plus costume into a "sketch" overlay comes in handy. Reducing opacity lets the original composite man show through, but sometimes not enough and I have to highlight and erase until I've got it right.

Now I have something about like this:

But what about the background? Well, this one isn't done right, at least not for a print book, because the engraving I have is only a small, poor resolution copy of the original. Oh sure, it's in the public domain so I can use it, but on anything the size of a printed book, it will look too grainy. And not only that, I only took a very tiny part of the whole engraving, which meant it had to be blown up even more. It would likely be much too blurry for a printed cover.  I could do things to re-render it, but again, that's really hard, time-consuming work.

So why not just paint a cover? Wouldnt' it be easier? Well, I'm not a painter, but I can assure you even just using Photoshop tools, "just painting" is no small task. And I'm frankly not good at painting anyway. So take photos of models in costume? Okay, but costumes are made of modern materials and so far I have seen very few that really emulate
their historical period. They're machine made and dyed in modern colors. Then there are those telltale zippers and elastic. The models --sorry, they're often gorgeous. But show me even one model who is willing to appear in a shoot without her makeup. Even the men come combed and curled and almost air-brushed before the session begins. And their hair is always wrong. Repainting hair? Well mostly I give up and let them have their makeup and modern hairstyles. Just try painting out makeup. It's sure not a matter of washing the face!

And remember that little bit about time being money? Well it is. Someone has to pay those models and photographers and arrange the setting. Now you're up into the hundreds of dollars brackets. Not too many authors want to pay that. They can, of course, and that's all right with me. But most of us have tighter budgets.

Some historical covers require even more than the simple techniques I've shown above. Someday I'll tell you all about morphing or warping clothes to fit the modern figure. That's actually fun. Kind of like dressing Barbie dolls.

Monday, April 14, 2014


Hello dear friends--

So glad to get back to blogging! There are so many pulls in so many directions, it seems whole days and weeks go by with many things undone. But I like blogging. Why shouldn't I do more of it?

I have been nominated for the "My Writing Process Blog Hop" by Kathararina Gerlach, a German writer who writes wonderful historicals and fantasies, for both adults and younger readers, who posted her own answers to the questions below on her blog on April 7th.


1) What am I working on?
But no, it's not all that bad. I'm really just working on two historical romances, plus cover art, plus planning a major trip, plus... OH LOOK! A SQUIRREL!

Right now I'm in the midst of the third first draft of a no-longer titled historical romance set in 1812 England and the Peninsular War in Spain and Portugal. This is one of those impossible to write stories that has nagged me for about twenty years, and morphed in and out of several major plot changes. My hope is to sell it to Montlake or to self-publish it. To me, this is the most difficult story I've ever written, but it's a very important one that I feel I must write. Since it's told in large part in letters, but the slow travel times of the day meant delays of up to a month before letters arrived makes timing the plot difficult. The plot itself has to be structured like a romantic suspense.

The other story is GILDING LILLY, a Regency Historical I've been wanting to finish for a long time since it's had to be shoved aside for other projects so often. It's a lighter story, which makes it a good foil for the darker war story.

2) How does my work differ from others of its genre?
I don't think I write a standard romance. Yes, I follow the genre formula, and yes you will always find the genreic happy romantic ending in my stories. But I have a very strong interest in human psychology and emotional growth, and I love stories of people overcoming huge adversities. So I have to write stories that are boh heavily character-oriented and heavily plot-oriented. I have heard some instructors say you can't have both. But I can't NOT have both.

3) Why do I write what I do?
I have a compulsion to create, and I particularly love creating stories with words.

I also have a strong love of history. I want to see history as it really was lived, not romanticized to the point of contemporary American heroines in pseudo costumes try to pretend they live in some foreign time and place. I want it realistic. And that's so important to me, I'd rather not sell a story than to make it into a mere costume party.

4) How does my writing process work?
This last year I've been working on changing my writing process. Organization has not been my greatest asset since I quit the day job, so I've been working harder to establish my routine. I am one of those people who must know at least to some degree where my story is going, so I must begin with a story outline then flesh that out enough to be sure it works and that what happens is truly what my characters would do. From that, I begin and write an average of ten pages a day. Research will often stop me cold because I hate writing something that has to be completely discarded. I usually write straight through, but I'm not afraid to skip a section that isn't making sense. And I often make notes on the page using ALL CAPS (and marked by XXXXX to make it easier to find when editing).

I often work on two or more books at once, and sometimes I stagger tasks. It' hard to plan ahead for revisions especially when they're what an editor wants. This can disrupt routine. But I normally go from creative first draft to edits. Polishing, and other author tasks like cooperative critiquing, editing, promotion, etc., have to somehow be worked in, too.

And then there's the cover art, which I really do for fun. But I do have clients, and when they need covers, the need covers. Sometimes the two jobs are more in conflict than in harmony.

Now I get to nominate three more authors for next week, April 21st.So far I have one, so I will have ro get busy and find two more, and wil add them as I find them.

HEATHER HIESTAND, a.k.a. ANH LEOD always has a hundred things to do at once, and yet she gets them done. So I'm dying to hear more about how she does that.

Check them-or Heather- out next week. And thanks to all of you for putting up with my scatter-brained ways!


Sunday, February 23, 2014

The marina and Columbus Tavern (closed)
from our room.
Daughter Lori and I loved the hot tub.
Great place for aching feet.
The Columbus Tavern.- a.k.a. The Ghost Bar

Feet up for the Superbowl (actually I got
bored and went off to surf the  net).
The Atlantis Resort from the sea
As close as we could get to the lighthouse

Our last dinner. On the Poop Deck (That's a nautical
term, not a dog walker's one.)
I only had one lobster.
And fried plantain. 

Lori was hungrier. But then she
did all the work.

Alas, back home...You can see where Mama Squirrel
romped along the railing for her daily handout

Friday, February 7, 2014


Hello, my wonderful friends--

I'm in the Bahamas with my daughter, on our first ever trip together for just the two of us! We've had a wonderful time, and I'm garnering some great ideas for more stories. I'm not getting good connections so I'll probably have to add more notes on the photos later.

Athena Cafe, Nassau, The Bahamas

Clifton Pier, The Bahamas
a historic beautiful beach that is almost unused.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Special Countdown Deal for LADY WICKED

Click here or on cover to buy!
I'm pleased to announce LADY WICKED is a Countdown Deal on Amazon Kindle's new promotional program for their Kindle Direct Publishing authors. For one week only-Nov. 3-10, it is 99 cents! At midnight PST Nov. 10, the deal is gone!

Friday, November 1, 2013

Meeting the Real Heroes

A few fun things about being an author. You get to meet real heroes.

From the Emerald City Writers Conference in October. Montlake generously arranged a morning breakfast with these marvelous firefighters serving doughnuts and pastries and posing with authors.

The rest of the conference was fun too.

Thursday, October 24, 2013


I'm tinkering with my web-blog again-please be patient with me. I'll have it the way I want it pretty soon, but the header is not yet right. I don't necessarily like this beveled oval in the design-probably too much conflicting detail-yet,I do like it. In any case, it's a very complex effect and I wonder if I could ever even duplicate it again. So I want to look at it for awhile. You know how I am about learning things. Must learn. Must experiment. Must keep on going down that road!

And of course every time I change one part, I have to change the rest. The width I have here is probably too wide for a lot of viewers, and I would like the best viewing experience for all of my viewers.

I'm setting up a separate website. Yes, I know I said I wouldn't do that, but I think it will be a good idea now. And I have help now, which is a very good thing. More on all that, too, later!


About Me

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I write write write. Sometimes I travel. Then I write some more. And I have a great family who understand that I write write write.