Friday, June 18, 2010

If WATERLOO Had Gone the Other Way

The Battle of Waterloo was won by the Allies- Britain, Prussia, Russia, Austria and other smaller countries like Belgium- against Napoleon's Grand Armee 195 years ago today. It was a defining moment in history, yet from so long in the past, it's hard today to see how it changed the world- or how things might have been if the French had won. It's just really hard for people in today's world to grasp the battle, what led up to it, just how long Europe had been engaged in this enormous struggle, and why in the world Britain had to get involved at all.

I'm not going to get into all of that- history is easy to find all over the internet if you're curious about it. And if you really want resources, just ask me and I'll give them to you. But I will tell you what Britain's stake was and how their loss would have made everything different. This is just my opinion of what would have happened, and of course nobody really knows. And a lot of people disagree, but here's how I see it.

Throughout the entirety of Napoleon's hold on the Continent, Britain remained the thorn in Napoleon's side. Britain held supremacy on the seas, and Britain controlled a large part of the world- or at least controlled most of the trade. Napoleon might control all of Europe, but the world eluded him as long as Britain lay outside his grasp. He had made attempts at Britain and in 1805 it had looked like he might succeed. He had massed a huge flotilla of flat-bottomed boats to ferry his massed army of over 200,000 across the English Channel. Then suddenly he abandoned the entire project and dashed off across the Continent to answer a newer threat. The truth was, his flotilla had little chance of success and his craft were not suited for a Channel crossing.

And before this, there had been Trafalgar, when the British soundly defeated the French and Spanish fleets. Late in 1806, Napoleon issued the Continental System to counter the British Embargo and to try to isolate Britain from all European trade. Although effective, Britain still had the rest of the world for trade, and France did not.

So Napoleon had to conquer Britain or his Empire was doomed. But in 1815, he was cornered. He had recently escaped Elba and swept through France, gathering supporters in an amazing blitz. The frightened Allies once more prepared for battle, knowing it would take all of them jointly cooperating to keep what they had regained and finally defeat the Corsican Monster. At Waterloo, Mt. St. Jean to be more exact, Wellington was still without most of his Allies when Napoleon attacked. Blucher's Prussians were close but still dangerously separated, and the Austrians and Russians too far away yet to make it in time. But the ferocity of the fighting British Allies kept the day going until the amazing old man, Blucher, finally managed to battle his way to the field of contest, catching the French off guard from their right, and trapped in the pincers. The day was done, and Napoleon fleeing back toward Paris.

What if Blucher had not succeeded in his fierce flurry to reach Wellington? Napoleon was very good at catching his enemy divided, and he had done this once more, so it could have succeeded. What if Wellington had made a few more errors, in site, perhaps (no, he would never have made THAT mistake- he was a genius in picking battle sites). Or what if his troops in the little chateau of Hougoumont had failed in their desperate daylong battle to hold Wellington's right? It would have all been over, and French flags would have flown on the ridge at Mt. St. Jean.

Austria, Russia, Prussia would not have mattered. They would have crumbled as they always had in the past. Although Wellington had wisely made his retreat plan along with his battle plan, the French would have followed them across the Channel in every ship that could be commandeered, and with a good part of the British Army still at sea trying to get to Belgium, the defense of Britain would have been meager. Pitchforks and cudgels just don't do much against muskets and cannons.

When France captured Britain, they would get with it all the navy, the merchant vessels, the trade routes, the colonies- literally the wealth of the world uncontested. Whether they could have held it is another question, since everything they had held had been a precarious balance all along. But the new United States of America wouldn't have contested. All the Spanish and Portuguese world was not strong enough.

In short, France would have become the great world empire, instead of Britain. Not only would we all speak French, but we would be operating under the Napoleonic Code of Law. The French Revolution had in truth been dead in France from the beginning of Napoleon's Empire. Independence as we have known it would have been different, if not dead. And in Napoleon's Empire, people who disagreed or failed to live up to his demands didn't last long. His demands were not always rational, and always any failure had to have its scapegoat. Not to say that doesn't happen now to at least some degree, but it was a way of life in France's domain then.

How much we would have evolved from that, it's hard to say. Modern France is not an example for this because it is based as much on Napoleon's defeat as his successes. But it's pretty clear our world today would be far different. Nor can we even be sure whether we'd like it or not.

So tell me, what's your take on it?

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Now for my Bookmarks...

Now that I've got a cover for LADY WICKED, my coming-soon release from The Wild Rose Press, I just had to do a bookmark. A little re-positioning, fine-tuning, and some blurbs and addresses. And a new design on the backside. Add a subtle color gradient for spice. (Oh yeah, I put a dress on her. Just because I could.)

For those of you who have a thing for RT cover models, and you know Jimmy Thomas, you may recognize him in the embrace silhouette. He's got some fabulous photos I'd love to use on covers, and they're not all that expensive- and pretty cheap for the e-book or bookmark size- $5. For the full size, $15. Not bad. Yes, I can get images at Fotolia, Dreamstime and iStock for only a few dollars, and that's where the ones on the cover of LADY WICKED came from. But they're not Jimmy Thomas! Go check his site out at

Now off to VistaPrint for cheap printing. Yes, I'm cheap. I know that. I think there's some kind of elitist trailer trash blood in me because I take great pride in either doing the work myself or getting it done cheap, yet well. VistaPrint has its drawbacks but if you learn to work with them, free is a great price. I design bookmarks to fit as a pair on the standard post card. Then I use my very precise Fiskars trimmer to cut them. 100 post cards are free if you wait for the sales, and that gives me 200 bookmarks.

The above designs show the front and back. When I have them printed, I put two to a card- fronts on one side and backs on the other. The tricky part is getting the center perfect on both sides, and making sure there is a bleed area (extra color that doesn't have anything vital like type on it). Not all of VP's printing materials come out in quite the right colors, but their post cards have never failed me. The back side isn't glossy, but I like it in color anyway. That's usually an extra $9.99, but this time was $7.49. Uploading two photos usually costs $5 each but is 50% off right now, and sometimes is free.

Monday, June 14, 2010


At last! My cover for LADY WICKED! The wonderful artist is Tina Lynn, who I was so pleased allowed me a lot of input into the design, even to picking the background and cover hero and heroine. This can never be perfect, of course, especially for historicals, because artists these days are limited to what royalty-free photos they can purchase and alter to fit. Adding costume details is something very few artists are willing or able to do, which is probably why you see so many semi-nude people on ebook historical covers. And the lipstick? Sorry, no self-respecting model these days would be willing to be photographed without it. I've painted out eye shadow before, but lipstick is just a nightmare to even try.

I don't have a pub date yet but that will be coming soon, and I hope will be before the end of the year.

So did you ever wonder what goes into a cover design? Well, I'll show you a few of the elements. I don't happen to have purchased but one of these in this photo, though, so I'll show you a different couple, who we couldn't use for other contractual reasons (but the photo is royalty-free and paid for, so don't worry).

In this cover design, the man and woman came from different photos, and had to be matched together, the woman flipped horizontally so they both were lit from the same side. She had on a very modern gorgeous red low cut strapless, which of course had to go. His lighting was much too bright for hers, so he had to be darkened. And shadows had to be added all around. Her photo was much like this one of the couple, so dark it was hard to tell her hair from the background. Of course, all that background in the portrait photos had to be removed, carefully so the poor heroine's hair didn't go with it.

I had fallen in love with this stone staircase a long time before, even though it is probably from a cathedral on the European Continent. I love the light, airy look, the subtle colors. But that wouldn't work for a dark medieval hall. You would never find such intricate and elegant stonework in the fairly simple, pragmatic medieval hall in my book- I know that. But by hiding a lot of the architectural detail but keeping the curved stairs leading to that mysterious door, it incorporates the same spirit as the bell tower in my story. In darkening, it lost the subtle coloring I love, so we added this radial gradient color glaze. It's not opaque, as it is here, and can be faded out, erased in places, or extra darkening shadows in others as needed. Tina is more conservative than I am-- I am just plain flagrant when it comes to color. She kept just the hint of color.

The fonts make up an entirely new layer. I don't have Tina's work on this, but I'm showing you a sample in a similar font with a simpler but similar effect. She and I don't have the same font adjusting software. I put it against a mottled green background so you can see how the shadowing gives it dimension.

So when you finally have all these elements just the way you want them, the layers are all merged into one design. You always keep a copy of the separate layers, though, because chances are excellent that when it's all assembled, suddenly something will pop out at you and say, "Lookee here! Glaring ERROR!" No, I don't think I ever did any cover that I didn't have to back up and fix something.

So, you just thought covers were just painted? Not anymore! These are just the basics. There are eyes to be painted green, sometimes hair to be changed. There could be a sword to add, perhaps a swath of tartan- but not this time. Making a book cover is an intriguing art.

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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.