Monday, July 14, 2014

It's All In The Cover

When browsing for a book to read, either in a brick and mortar bookstore or at an online eBookstore, the choice as to which book to choose often is driven by which cover appeals most to the chooser's eye.  Those that attract your attention get a second look and consideration.  That's why I've been so taken with the covers of my two books, Reno Splits and Falling From The Sky. Those covers got my stories second and third looks and an untold number of sales.  How were they developed?

The cover of Reno Splits was designed by the art department at BookBaby, the company I engaged to convert the manuscript for a Word document to the ePub and MOBI formats necessary for uploading to the various eBookstores.  I've been told it captured the book's theme quite well.

For Falling From The Sky I wanted something different.  With the help of a mutual acquaintance, I contacted Desiree Kern at Greyscale Studios (  Desiree is located in Ontario and I, of course, was more thatn 2,000 miles away on Whidbey Island.  After an exchange of several e-mails we came to an understanding of what I wanted the cover to convey:  a scene that evoked the book's themes of heroism, mystery, suspense and wartime romance.  With that Desiree proceeded to produce several sketches, and after further consultation by e-mail we agreed on the final design.  The result is what you see to the right of this blog post.  I couldn't be happier because Desiree nailed what I thought would attract readers to my story.  And it's working!

I can't recommend Desiree enough.  She's great, a fantastic artist, quick to produce a beautiful product.  I'll certainly be using her for my future book covers.  She can be contacted at

Finally, in an earlier post I promised the first chapter of Falling From The Sky.  Here it is.

Clawing at the late afternoon air to gain lift, Evergreen Belle accelerated down the icy tarmac at Royal Canadian Air Force Base, Goose Bay, groaning and squealing as she approached the end of the Labrador airfield’s runway.  “Come on, Belle,” Lieutenant Alex Kent coaxed as a dark mass of trees loomed ever closer beyond the endline, “get your rear into the air.”

With a shudder and a final bounce, the B-17 broke free from the restraints of gravity and began a slow rise toward the rapidly darkening sky to the west.  “That’s a good girl,” Alex said, patting the lighted instrument panel.  He glanced at his copilot Lt. Pete Stokowski, the latest addition to the bomber’s crew.

Two weeks earlier, Belle’s original copilot, Lt. Rick Dunn, had broken his leg during a flag football game at the Moses Lake, Washington, airfield where Alex and Belle’s crew had been undergoing the final days of flight training before leaving for England.  Thirty-six hours after the accident, Pete had arrived from his previous duty station at Fort Douglas, Utah to take Rick’s place.

The jury was still out as to how well Pete was going to fill Rick’s seat.  There simply hadn’t been enough time for him to become a seamless part of the command team.  Could he be trusted to do the right thing in the hostile skies over Germany?  Rick would have been because they’d trained together for several months.  The cohesiveness between them had reached the point that when the Belle was in the sky they operated as one—a team.  Neither had concerns about whether the other would automatically do the right thing when the shit hit the fan.

He glanced out the cockpit window, his thoughts turning back to Pete’s first hours at Moses Lake.  Before breakfast, the morning after his late night arrival, the crew had assembled in a corner of the enlisted men’s mess hall to be introduced to the newcomer.  That hadn’t gone particularly well.  The minute he and Pete walked in, the faces of the other seven crewmen registered skepticism and dismay.  Maybe it was Pete’s appearance.  Standing next to Alex as introductions were made, he’d shifted his weight from foot to foot, his gaze cast down at the floor.  A good eight inches shorter than Alex’s six-foot-two frame, Pete’s dark eyes and even darker hair, along with a five-o’clock-shadow beard, were a sharp contrast with Alex’s light auburn hair and hazel eyes.  Or maybe it was his squeaky nasal tone, his New York accent and run together words—combinations that made it hard to understand what he was saying.

After a couple of minutes of strained conversation, the crew had fallen into the chow line muttering under their breaths.  Alex had understood their obvious discomfort.  He hadn’t liked the prospect of breaking in a new sidekick on such short notice either.  But more B-17 crews and planes were needed desperately in England to step up the bombing war against the German heartland.  They’d all have to make the best of a less than perfect situation.

For the next seven days, with the knowledge of what they would face in the skies over Europe as his mantra, he’d stashed his concerns and trained Belle’s crew extra hard.  During long hours in the skies over eastern Washington, he’d come to understand that Pete was a damned fine pilot.  Even so, there simply hadn’t been enough time for the two of them to mesh into a real command team.  And that still concerned him.  He hoped his qualms about the situation weren’t noticeable to the rest of the crew.  They seemed to have gotten over their earlier misgivings, even starting jokingly to refer to the Belle’s pilots as Mutt and Jeff.

“Scared we weren’t going to clear the end of the runway, were you?” Alex said glancing at Pete, his voice raised to be heard above the drone of the B-17’s Wright Cyclone engines.

“Nah, never had a doubt,” Pete responded with a chuckle and a smile.

“Well, you look a little pale at the gills.”

“I’m fine, at least mostly so.  After freezing my butt off back down there waiting for the weather to clear—well, I think I’m coming down with a bit of the sniffles.”  He chuckled.  “That’s not the memory I was hoping to carry away from Labrador.”

It was Alex’s turn to smile.  “I’m betting you were hoping to have memories about the cute brunette Canadian corporal that served our breakfast the past three days.”

“What a body she’s got on her.”  Pete whistled softly.  “If I could have gotten her alone, I sure as hell would’ve figured out a way to keep warm.”

Alex nodded.  “I’m still cold—don’t think our flight suits are going to be worth crap in the fifty below weather they told us we’re going to face tonight out over the Atlantic.”

“I’m ready for that, I think,” Pete said.  “I’ve got on two extra pair of long johns, three pairs of socks, and double silk liners under my leather gloves.”

“We’ll see if you still feel so comfy after that hot thermos of coffee your lady-friend corporal sent along is gone.”

Pete grinned.  “She did seem sweet on me, didn’t she?”

“It’s your irresistible charm.”

“Yeah, that and a sawbuck might get me a warmer flight suit.  If I’m not careful I’m going to freeze my balls off.  Now that would be a disaster.”

“Relax,” Alex said as he flexed the cold, stiff fingers of his right hand.  He too was wearing silk liners but had taken off his outer leather gloves to get a better feel for the plane’s control column.  He was going to have to put the outer gloves back on.  “We’re not the first bomber crew to make this jaunt.  There have been hundreds, maybe thousands before us according to what they told us at the start of our orientation stint at Moses Lake.  And none of those crews froze to death on the way.”

“At least none they told you about,” Pete said.  “Bet they didn’t tell you how many ended up down in the water, did they?”

“Doesn’t matter.  That’s not going to happen to us.  I promise.”

“I’m going to hold you to that.”

“Even so,” Alex said, eyeing the instrument panel, “I’d be a damned sight more comfortable heading out over two thousand miles of open water if the fog lifted so we could set down at Iceland to take on more fuel.”

“You know something I don’t?  You heard the final briefing.  That major said we had more than enough fuel to get all the way to Scotland, even if we can’t land at Reykjavík.  ‘It’ll be a piece of cake’ I think is how he phrased it.  You believed him, didn’t you?”

“Let’s just say I’m of the opinion that not accepting as gospel everything higher command tells us is the best way to survive once we start paying visits to Jerry’s heartland.”

“Well if we’d waited for Iceland to clear we might have found ourselves stuck in Goose Bay for the duration.”

Alex smiled.  “And the problem with that would have been?”

“Even with that sexy corporal to keep me warm, Labrador’s still too damned cold for my blood.  Besides, the sooner we get to England the sooner I can start looking for my cousins Artur and Stefan.”

“I thought your family was from eastern Poland,” Alex said as the Belle continued her climb toward cruising altitude.

“Yeah, they are.  My father’s the only one that immigrated to America.  The rest of the family still live on farms outside Lódz, or at least they did before the war started.  When the Germans invaded in 1939, Artur and Stefan fought with the Polish Army.  When their unit was overrun, outside Warsaw, they avoided capture and went underground.  It took them a couple of months but they found their way to Gdańsk where they hitched a ride on a cargo ship.  Somehow their ship made it past Jerry’s U-boats—landed at Liverpool in April 1940.  My mom wrote that the last thing she heard was they’re working as field hands on a farm in someplace called East Anglia.  Going to try and look them up the first leave I get.”

“Well, we’ve got to get over there first,” Alex said, turning his attention back to the control panel, “so let’s get on with it.  Goose Bay tower, Evergreen Belle passing through five thousand feet on heading two-seven-eight degrees true coming right to new heading zero-five-eight degrees true.”

Evergreen Belle,” the tower acknowledged, “turning from heading two-seven-eight degrees true to new heading zero-five-eight degrees true.  That’s zero-five-eight degrees true.  Good luck to you, Yanks.  Give those Kraut bastards hell.”

“Roger that Goose Bay Tower,” Alex said as he began banking the Belle in a slow arc back toward the murky black North Atlantic night.  His stomach churned at the thought of the challenges that awaited him and the crew when they reached England.  The odds of their surviving the required twenty-five mission tour were against them.  He knew that, but he had to stay strong and project confidence.  His men expected that.  They were his responsibility and that was what leaders did.  He’d fight to the last breath to see that they all made it home safely.

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