Monday, January 27, 2014

Evolution of a Cover

One of the most exciting moments for me as an author, aside from writing that first sentence or the last one, is when you first get to see the cover for the book you created. At Dreamspinner Press, I give my potential cover artist some notes on what I have in mind. If I’ve located some stock art that might support my vision of the characters or setting, I’ll send that along, too.

In the case of my new book, Legally Wed, I worked with amazing cover artist Anne Cain, who has done the covers for Chaser, Raining Men, and Hungry for Love. She has really helped me build a look and brand for my contemporary romance novel.

In the case of Legally Wed, I provided Anne with some notes on what I wanted and telling her how Duncan, my main character, lived on a houseboat in Seattle’s Lake Union (for those of you who don’t know, the lake is very near downtown and the whole perimeter of the shoreline is dotted with various houseboats, ranging in size from tiny to huge, including the Sleepless in Seattle houseboat). I live just above Lake Union and had been out recently, taking photographs of houseboats and I sent Anne one of those, which she ended up using in the background of the cover. You can see it here.

Also, was different in that, in addition to my male/male couple who fall in love in the story, there was also a female character who plays a major role as the best friend of one of my boys (and potential wife! Oh, it’s quite a story! You’ll need to read it to see how it all plays out). Anne created a cover initially that included this female character, Marilyn, and I loved it. You can see it here.

I shared it quickly on Facebook. I was immediately surprised by the reaction it got. Many readers didn’t like the inclusion of a woman on the cover and many were confused, thinking the book was a ménage, which it most decidedly is not.

After a lot of deliberation and discussing the potential impact the current cover with Dreamspinner head, Elizabeth North, we in the end, decided to remove Marilyn. We simply didn’t want people to get the wrong idea from just a glance at the cover. This is a love story about two men finding each other, after all. Marilyn was removed, although her spirit stayed strong in the book itself. So here’s the final version. And, as much as I mourn poor Marilyn’s absence, I really think the final version is cleaner, simpler, and has more impact. What do you think?

Love comes along when you least expect it. That’s what Duncan Taylor’s sister, Scout, tells him. Scout has everything Duncan wants—a happy life with a wonderful husband. Now that Seattle has made gay marriage legal, Duncan knows he can have the same thing. But when he proposes to his boyfriend Tucker, he doesn’t get the answer he hoped for. Tucker’s refusal is another misstep in a long line of failed romances. Despairing, Duncan thinks of all the loving unions in his life—and how every one of them is straight. Maybe he could be happy, if not sexually compatible, with a woman. When zany, gay-man-loving Marilyn Samples waltzes into his life, he thinks he may have found his answer.

Determined to settle, Duncan forgets his sister’s wisdom about love and begins planning a wedding with Marilyn. But life throws Duncan a curveball. When he meets wedding planner Peter Dalrymple, unexpected sparks ignite. Neither man knows how long he can resist his powerful attraction to the other. For sure, there’s a wedding in the future. But whose?

He hadn’t been going to do it, but on Saturday he was downtown and he couldn’t resist wandering into Ben Bridge, just to see what they had in the way of wedding bands.

And he saw it right away. He knew that the fact his eye fell upon it first thing was fate talking to him. Before he had even spoken to a salesperson or glanced at another item, he saw the simple white gold, diamond-studded band in the display case. “That’s for Tucker,” he had whispered to himself. He hadn’t really been expecting to buy an engagement ring and he certainly couldn’t afford its exorbitant price tag, but the thought of the light that would come into Tucker’s eyes when he opened the box was so thrilling and romantic, he couldn’t resist.

The clerk, a young woman whose dark hair, olive skin, and green eyes mirrored Duncan’s own, came up to him. “Can I show you something?”

And Duncan recalled being at a loss for words. This little side trip into the jewelry store had really been intended as only a fantasy, a sort of appetizer for the better things to come.

“I just love that simple band with the diamonds right there.” Duncan had pointed down to the ring.

“Oh, it’s a beauty. Would you like to try it on?” She was already stooping down to take the ring out of the display case.

“Oh, it’s not for me.” And suddenly, Duncan had stopped, unable to speak, so filled up with love for Tucker was he. He gnawed for a moment at his lower lip, looking away from the smiling and expectant face of the clerk, and drawing in a deep breath to compose himself. What did he have to lose, anyway? He smiled, looking down to see his hands trembling. “It’s for my, my—” His voice had trailed off. What to call Tucker? He was his boyfriend, he supposed, yet he seemed like so much more. But partner was so presumptuous, because they didn’t live together for one and had never registered as domestic partners in the state for another. “It’s for the guy I hope will be my fiancé,” he had finally blurted out, hoping the clerk didn’t notice the tear he could feel standing in the corner of one eye.

He wondered what she would do. Would she regard him with disdain? Would her attitude change? Would she laugh?

But her face had immediately brightened and her smile was as wide as his own. “That’s fabulous!” she exclaimed. “I’m so happy for you.” She had pushed the ring across the counter. “He’s a lucky guy. And I’m not just saying that because he’d be getting this gorgeous ring, but mostly because he’d be getting you.” She winked. “You’re a catch.”

Duncan had picked up the ring with one hand and had reached for his wallet with the other.

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Note: This post originally appeared at the Guys Like Romance, Too! blog on January 24, 2014.

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