Thinking About Covers

Since I completed my first draft and started editing (coming along nicely, thanks for asking) I have started to think about the future.

I now know that I will continue the story of Byrhtnoth in a second book. Perhaps a trilogy. More? Who knows. That brings with it a problem, A Title.

So far the book has been called “Byrhtnoth” or just “My book” (My Precious!). I need an overall “Chronicles of Byrhtnoth” or “Byrhtnoth’s Saga” type of thing. I’ll talk about that another time.

The other thing a book needs is A Cover. This is something I have been thinking about for a long time – I wouldn’t say before I started writing, but close to it. I have ideas for covers to books I haven’t even written.

I have been reading recent posts by Derek Birks about what he looks for in a cover on his blog here . And just looking at other authors books and deciding what I like. More important what I don’t like! My first conclusion is that you need a professional. However good you are, or think you are, an amateur cover always looks just that. People judge a book by its cover. So, by extension, if your cover looks amateur, the contents must be.

Many of the covers that I have liked have been produced by the same designer, Avalon Graphics.
Books by Helen Hollick , Richard Denning and Madalyn Morgan (the latter a previous student at the same group, I attend – see here)
They also do web graphics and advertising materials.

All this was swirling around in my head when I saw a mention by Helen Hollick that Avalon Graphics was having a special April Offer on web advertisements. This was too good to miss, so I got in touch.

I had an immediate reply from Cathy Helms (always a good sign) and we decided on three banners – for this blog, Twitter and a Facebook page I was thinking of starting. I sent her a couple of pictures of background I had come across online and liked.  I  requested a sword (Books of this period have to have a sword, don’t they?). I hadn’t found an image of a sword I liked, but I was specific in my request. It had to be the correct period (early to mid 10th century), It had to have a pattern welded blade and some gold on the hilt. The Battle of Maldon poem mentions Byrhtnoth’s “golden hilted sword”.

Cathy did her best. She also found it difficult to find the right sword, we had to abandon the pattern welding, but within a few days she sent me three potential designs. There was a bit of discussion: background from number one, font from number two and sword from number three. Then, back to original sword. That was it!

Within a week I had the perfect image to put at the top of this blog. I had to change the colour of the blog to match – do you like it? The same image is on my twitter account @YoungByrhtnoth (please follow if you don’t already), and my brand new facebook page

Every time I look at them, my heart swells with pride.

Thank you Cathy, I’ll be back. All I need to do is make my book worthy of what I am sure will be a wonderful cover.

Interviewing a Character – Jack (a Pirate?)

For the letter J in my intermittent hijack of the AtoZ Challange,  I am not interviewing someone from my book, but a character who has been around a lot longer, although he is a few hundred years younger than Byrhtnoth.


Q : Would you like to introduce yourself – who you are, what you do?

A : Captain John Madder at your service, but you can call me Jack. I am first mate on the ship Worcester


Q : Where and when are you? Are you a real historical person or did your author create you?

A : Not sure where I am at present – I died yesterday. At least it was on the 11th April 1705 that they hanged me on the sands at Leith, between the high and low water mark. They said I was a pirate. I am/was a real person, reviled by history – at least in Scotland!


Q : In a few brief sentences: what is the novel you feature in about?

A : I feature in no novel but my author has written much about me; in journals and blogs and a few chapters of a sadly neglected book of non-fiction. We started a novel but were interrupted by that uncivilised boy with the unpronounceable name He’s nowhere around at the moment, is he?


Q : How did your author meet up with you?

A : We met in archives when she was researching family history. We share a name but, as far as I know we are not related


Q : Tell me about one or two of the other characters who feature with you – husband, wife, family? Who are some of the nice characters and who is the nastiest one?

A : I had a wife – and sons, but they died. I have a daughter, Isabella, but she will not long survive me. I hardly know her, I have been at sea so long. She, the sea, is who I love.

The worst man I know is Mr Roderick Mackenzie, secretary to the Scottish Company Not only did he bankrupt Scotland with that expedition to Darien (I’m told that place is now in Panama – I’ll say no more!) but he boarded our ship under false pretences and seized the crew. So who is the real pirate?


Q : What is your favourite scene in the book?

A : I remember a voyage to southern Spain. We sold a load of fish and bought a barrel of wine at Malaga. We drank the whole lot. At least I think I remember it.


Q : What is your least favourite? Maybe a frightening or sad moment that your author wrote.

A : That would have been my death. There were three of us; the Captain, the Gunner and me. They hanged me last, because they said I was a Scotsman. I was born there, but left as soon as I could – like most intelligent Scots!


Q : What are you most proud of about your author?

A : She’s doing quite well at this writing lark, but it was me that got her started. We were doing quite well with that non-fiction book she planned to write. Then she insisted on trying fiction and while my back was turned that young lad jumped in and flattered her with talk of swords and battles – I could tell her few tales of battles…


Q : Has your author written other books about you? If not, about other characters?
How do you feel about your author going off with someone else!

A : Just the blogs and things. I got a bit upset when she went off with that boy – she’s old enough to be his mother (I was going to say grandmother but then she’d abandon me all together!) I’m not that bothered. She’s only using him to “hone her craft” as she says, and then we’ll be together – she needs a proper man.


Q : As a character if you could travel to a time and place different to your own fictional setting where and when would you go?

A : Well, don’t tell anyone, but that’s what we’re planning. First she’s going to rescue me from the rope and then we’ll be off travelling – visiting relatives in time and space. Time travel meets genealogy; or Dr-Who-do you think you are? as she calls it.


Oh, and just for the record, I’m not a pirate – well not much!

Read more about Jack on my other blog