I love your book covers…these men are gorgeous. But I have heard/read that, as an author, you have no input as to what goes on your cover. Is that true? Because when I read a novel I invision that hero from the front cover with all his actions and thoughts. Have you ever gotten a cover on your book that just was way off the mark to your ‘visual’ hero? Now that would be a fun blog!!
The answer is yes. More often than you can imagine. As I’ve said before, I’m a very visual writer. I’ve found more than once that I’m stuck on a story because I thought I could skip the first step in my process. Er, the second step, really. The first is to give my characters their names. I can’t do anything until I know who they are, and their names are a huge part of that. My hero in A LONG, HARD RIDE was originally Aubrey Davis. My editor wasn’t keen on Aubrey, while I thought it the perfect Southern name for my Southern set story. I gave the name to my hero’s father instead, and then named my hero Trey. It was easier than I’d anticipated to make the mental switch.
The second thing I do is find pictures to represent my characters. As a rule, I don’t use famous people. I’ve done so once or twice, mostly for secondary characters though I did use Jesse James for Rennie Bergen in INFATUATION, but for me famous people already have their own personalities. I’ve seen them in the news, in the movies, on TV. I need my own characters. I don’t want celebrities to act the parts. I want my story people to come alive, and I need photos I can attach to them to make it happen. I have a folder of model agency bookmarks and use them all the time. One of my favorites is SMG Models, though I’ve also used 62 Models & Talent. Less often, I’ll tear pictures out of magazines, but that’s only because I rarely have magazines here to tear from. Print ads have some great visuals, though more often than not, the models are way too young to have any character in their expressions. They’re bland baby faces without depth, and give me nothing to build on, no stories to tell, no secrets.
The cover for BEYOND A SHADOW, the story of Alexa Counsel and Ezra Moore, has to be my biggest disappointment. Maybe seeing the photos I used for the characters will help you understand why? The cover depicts two Caucasians, the female a blonde. Not exactly what I had in mind, and GOD do I love that book. Such a let down not to get something more representative of the content on the cover but such is marketing
If you’re thinking that might be Jeffrey Gaines, you’re right. I love his music, and he made a great Ezra Moore, with his longer hair and shorter hair both, as Ezra cut his dreads just in time for this book, heh. It was clear that Ezra was black and Alexa was brunette, yet I got stock “romantic” art instead. And green art at that, sigh.
The cover of LARGER THAN LIFE was one I liked well enough, but it didn’t seem to do anything for readers. I’m thinking if my image of Mick Savin had been used instead, things might’ve been different. (And, really, you all should click the links and read the excerpts. These books are good, LOL!
For my September Blaze, ONE GOOD MAN, Harlequin’s art department got it right. I may have mentioned that for all HQ novels, the authors fill out online AFS (art fact sheets) and give tons of detail about the characters’ looks, clothing, and scenes we think appropriate for the cover. The scene they chose for OGM was perfect, well, almost. The characters aren’t wearing what’s shown, but the porch railing and the desert mountains in the distance are exactly right, and I’m guessing the link I included to a photo of the Guadalupe Mountains came in handy.
The characters themselves aren’t too far off, and I actually included links to their photos, too, to give the art department a visual. If you missed it the first time, you can see a video of the cover shoot here. I’m really really pleased with this one, and I like being able to give input. I gripe every time I have to do the AFS because they really are a lot of work, but with this end result, I should just shut up about it, right? I’ve pasted this cover scene after the jump. Enjoy!
From the back porch, she could see the sun teasing the tops of the rocky peaks, and she guessed it was between eight and ten. Either way, she was surprised Kell wasn’t up and on the phone. She was also surprised at the sense of absolute peace that enveloped her as she braced a shoulder on a rough hewn beam and leaned, arms crossed, into the railing.
The day would be miserably hot before it was over, but for now, she welcomed the dry warmth, the air that smelled of piñon pine and raw earth. She didn’t pick up wafts of spicy meats cooking, the way she did when walking to and from work and past the Cantu’s. She didn’t catch the scents of exhaust and farm animals that were constants in Weldon. She smelled solitude and comfort and calm.
She breathed deeply, realizing when she finally heard Kell stirring inside, that her blood was stirring, too, in anticipation. And then she smelled coffee and smiled. Life. The only way it could get any better would be for her not to be in danger of losing it. She didn’t want to lose it. Especially not when she’d just found her place and her man.
Oh, that sounded so good. Her man. Her place. She knew she was running on adrenaline, endorphins, and those hormones had a lot to do with her state of mind. The state of her heart was another thing. She hadn’t stopped thinking about Kell since meeting him.
Yes, he was working her case and that kept them in contact. But her thoughts weren’t about bloodshed and loss. She thought about the way his eyes crinkled at the corners, the way his mouth did the same when he smiled. She thought about his teeth and his tongue, the pressure of his lips against hers.
She thought about his brothers. Brennan. Terry, whose full name was Terrance, he’d told her. She thought about his mother decorating his house, about his father teaching Kell how to cobble together a computer to cut costs – all stories Kell had shared over their reheated soup and sandwiches before they’d returned from Midland to Weldon.
She thought about his mentor, a family friend, being the lead investigator on the murder case, how Kell was now honoring Warren Sheets by continuing his work. He was an honorable man, her Kell. A good man she was going to fight for. Now that she’d had a taste of the real thing, she couldn’t see herself settling comfortably into spinsterhood, even with a daily cup of tea with JB, and a calico cat for company.
Behind her, the door onto the railed and covered porch opened, and Kell came out, two cups of coffee in hand. He had on jeans. Worn jeans. Tight jeans. The lower legs bunched at the tops of his boots. His gray athletic T-shirt hung loose. She didn’t know if she was happier to see him or the drink.
“Good morning. Did I wake you?”
He nodded as he sipped.
“I didn’t mean to.”
“It’s quiet out here. I’m going to wake to any noise. Especially when I realize that it’s you making it.” He sipped again. “I like you here with me.”
“Because you know I’m safe?”
“That, but mostly because I like you.”
She felt her heart beating harder, and she turned away to look at the view. Hope was hard for her. She felt it, didn’t know what to do with it, how to respond without giving too much of herself away. He might like her, but he might not be ready for the things she was feeling.
And really. She needed to find out first how ready she was herself. “How often do you spend time out here?”
“You like it?”
“What’s not to like? I can smell more than vomit and antiseptic. I can hear more than crying babies and excuses from insurance companies for not paying claims.”
“I thought you enjoyed your job.”
She nodded, cradled her cup in both hands and lifted it to her mouth. “I do. But this is the first time in all the years I’ve worked there that I’ve taken a break.”
Kell moved to stand beside her, leaning a hip against the porch railing. “You’re either extremely dedicated or insane. All work and no play makes Jamie a –”
“A woman who’s figured out that staying busy is the best way to live in the moment,” she said. “Instead of . . .”
“Instead of dwelling on the past,” he finished for her.
Bringing her history to this idyllic place had not been her intent, but the words had slipped out before she could stop them. “Yes. And I’m sorry for bringing it up.”
“We’re here because of your past. We’re together because of your past.”
Were they together? Or were they both just here? She glanced at him, founding him studying her intently, his eyes gravely serious over the rim of his cup. She wanted to look away. She didn’t want him to see the things she was thinking. She didn’t want to let slip words he wasn’t ready to hear.
And so she started to turn, to focus on her coffee and the scrub brush and stunted trees struggling to stay alive beyond Kell’s clearing. He reached for her drink, took it from her hand, set her cup and his on the table between the two porch rockers behind them. Then he reached for her.
He moved her to face him, his hands on her waist, and lifted her to sit on the railing. She draped her wrists over his shoulders, hooked her heels around his thighs and held on as he moved to stand between her spread legs.
His expression was that of a lover, compassionate, involved, present. His words ones she needed desperately to hear. “I can deal with your past, Jamie. It’s not going to scare me away.”
Did he know she’d thought that it might? “You’re a Texas Ranger, Kell. I think not running away from a crime is part of your job description.”
He shook his head. “That’s not what I’m talking about. And I’m pretty sure you know it.”
She did. That was the thing that scared her. “I’m trying not to read anything into anything. I’d rather rely on what I know is real.”
“Then let me show you what’s real,” he said, and lowered his mouth to hers.
He tasted like coffee. Sugar and cream and beans grown on an Indonesian hillside. And he tasted like Kell, smelled like Kell. She’d come to know his scent and his taste. He was so familiar already. She knew his movements, too, the insistent thrust of his tongue juxtaposed with the tentative request for entry.
She brought him closer with her heels, her hands, her longing. Beneath the cotton of her camisole, her breasts tightened. Beneath her khaki shorts, her sex grew damp. His kiss did this to her. Made her body ache, weep, want. And kissing him back nearly broke her heart. How would she ever in her lifetime get enough of him?
Needing space, time . . . sanity, she pulled away, dropped her head onto her shoulders and closed her eyes. Kell was quiet; she knew he was watching her, knew he could see the buttons of her nipples pressing into the fabric of her top. She wanted him to see, wanted him to know. Wanted him to want her, to crave the way she did.
Holding her waist with one hand, he skated his knuckles over her breasts, the peaks, the swells, one side then the other. When she grew dizzy, wobbling, her head spinning, her equilibrium lost in lust, he helped her ease down from the railing. But he was too late.
She’d already fallen for him hard.