Judging a book by its cover

Let’s just admit it.
Despite everything our mothers taught us, all of us have judged a book by what we see on the outside, at one point or another. This is something I try not to do, being a writer. I’ve read some great books with bad covers, and some bad books with great covers. But at the same time, I’ve also read some great books with great covers.

I have to admit, my feeling on book covers is best summarized with one of Shannyn Sossamon’s lines from the movie A Knight’s Tale: A flower is only as good as its petals.
So as an independent writer who decided to go the self-publishing route, the book’s cover was, in fact, a big deal to me. I thought about it a lot, and often. I started thinking about it before I was even done writing the first chapter. We’ve all seen them, haven’t we? Those e-books that might be great stories, maybe they even have good reviews, but the covers look like something that belong on Photoshop Disasters.

I knew I wanted a simple cover, and I knew I wanted something Aztec-inspired. But beyond that, I hadn’t a clue. I looked around at a lot of services offered by artists who I’m sure could have done a lovely job with it, but at the end of the day, I was just another penniless writer, looking for my outlet for all good things in life – Truth, Beauty, Freedom, and above all things, Love.

Well. That settled that. If I wanted a book cover, I was just going to have to make it myself.

Over the course of several weeks, I looked everywhere for an Aztec calendar stone. Not a full-sized one, I’d never have anywhere to put that! But a small one, maybe an Aztec wristwatch stone, would be perfect. I don’t know how I became fixated on it, but it turned into a months-long search for the perfect picture of an Aztec calendar stone. I looked and I wrote, and I wrote and I looked. But the writing was going better than the looking, and before I knew it, I had completed the novel and was on to the task of editing, still with no cover.

What was I going to do? I was going to end up with one of those horrible Photoshop Disasters-style covers, I just knew it! I spent more time looking, and looked harder. The answer to the problem came one day, through no remarkable means. All that time, all I had to do was open my jewelry box.

Now, I make jewelry. I make a lot of it, mostly to sell on Etsy. Despite how much I make, I actually wear very little. I have a few bracelets I like best, and I wear those almost every day. My wedding ring and engagement ring rarely come off, obviously. Other than that, though, I only have a few necklaces and a few pairs of earrings that I wear, and I don’t wear them all the time. I was surprised that I’d forgotten it, but as soon as I made the rediscovery, I knew that I had found my cover.

My husband and I got married on a sweltering August day in Illinois. Because the Midwestern heat wasn’t enough, we then flew to Acapulco, Mexico for our honeymoon. The city was amazing, and I would love nothing more than to go back someday, but one of the most interesting things we did there was explore the local market.

It was amazing to see all the tents and tarps, run together to create some massive outdoors shopping center. It reminded me of all the fantasy stories I read, and I ran from stall to stall without ever really taking in what there was to be seen in each. Eventually, one stall caught my eye, selling silver jewelry brought in from Taxco. The gentleman running the stall handed me a basket and told me to pick up anything I liked. I found quite a few pieces, some for myself, some as gifts for my family. But the one piece I really fell in love with, the only piece I ended up asking my husband to buy for me, was a pendant in the shape of the Aztec calendar stone.

Pentax Optio WPiI don’t have a great camera. Actually, we’re not even sure where it came from. My husband served in Okinawa, Japan before we married, and most of his possessions were shipped back to the States when it came time to change duty stations. When we unpacked one of the boxes, we found a small Pentax camera that had seen better days. There were gouges out of the front, an ironic crack across the ‘waterproof’ emblem, and I couldn’t even make out how many megapixels it said it was supposed to be. It took a good hour on Google to find out what it was.

We still don’t really know where it came from, but it’s my favorite camera of any I’ve ever used. I snapped a few shots of my necklace on the coffee table, and cleaned them up in Photoshop. Honestly, it took a lot less work than I expected, and this was it! This was perfect. It may not be the most eye-catching cover in the world, but it has meaning to me.

Publishing Death of the Sun marked a new beginning in my life, the part where I decide to throw caution to the wind and just take a chance with my writing, see if anyone else likes it as much as my friends say they do. It only seemed fitting that it bear an image of something that represented another new beginning, now several years behind me. My Aztec pendant was the first gift my husband gave to me after we were married. That was the first step in my life transforming into what I always dreamed it would be, so it’s only fitting that it be included in the second step, as well.

Will that become a trend? Hmm… I don’t know.
After all, I don’t really know how my dream car would figure in.

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