Thursday, March 1, 2012


Sometimes a man’s past resurges like a vengeful phoenix rising from forgotten ashes.

Such is the problem faced by the characters from Dragon & Hawk in the second book of the series, Out of Forgotten Ashes. Evan Jones, immigrant from Wales now living in the Arizona Territory of the 1880s, has had some wild adventures establishing a new life in his new country. Reyna, the woman who captured his heart, is as different from him as night is to day, and he has learned to open his mind to their cultural differences. For instance, he’s come to accept her explanation of totems, the animal spirit guides that reflect one’s strengths and weaknesses: his is the Red Dragon of his homeland while hers is the Red-tailed Hawk of the Arizona desert.

Unfortunately, Evan has a past the just won’t leave him alone. More than one phoenix arises from ashes he thought long cold to threaten his new life.

To thoroughly explain what you’d like to see as cover art in a way an artist can capture is a challenge anyway, but more so when you’re dealing with mystical or fantastical elements. One of the best “firebird” images I found is this one by an artist identified as “Angeliq/Jovana G.” from Serbia:

There is a scene in the book where Reyna (while she and Evan are staying in San Diego) makes a supplication to the Mayan goddess Ixchel, walking into the Pacific Ocean. I found this image on Big Stock Photos that almost fits (I would rather she had her arms raised but there were no photos like that):

My concept for the cover of Out of Forgotten Ashes would be to replace the sun with a rising phoenix and make the whole thing nearly blood red. This is a story of not only threats of past indiscretions coming back to haunt, but possible vengeance for perceived wrongs—and the woman of mystical power who stands in the way.

In searching for imagery it’s vital to respect copyrights. You’ll notice the watermark on Big Stock’s photo, and that I provide the web address for Angeliq’s original artwork. If I were the one actually making the cover for a book, I would purchase the photos and/or pay usage fees. I would contact the artist and tell her what I had in mind and see if it was available for purchase as cover art. Big Stock offers royalty-free images to use on book covers, within certain guidelines. They are a great source, though they don’t always have exactly what you might be looking for. As an author, I know I don’t want people pirating my books, so I take pains to make sure I follow the rules on using photos.

That’s why I truly respect folks who create cover art for Champagne’s books. While they may not always hit the nail on the head, it’s the author’s responsibility to convey their concepts as precisely as possible. Just make sure to credit any images not your own with the proper artist and/or source so rights can be purchased if needed.

Jude Johnson is the author of Dragon & Hawk, Book One of the Dragon & Hawk trilogy. Book Two, Out of Forgotten Ashes, is scheduled for release April 2, 2012, with Book Three, Dragon’s Legacy slated for July 2012.


  1. Very dramatic images. Strong.

    And excellent advice on the copywriting of art.

  2. Interesting post, Jude - I love that pheonix image.

  3. Thank you, Julie and Romy. That phoenix really embodied rising flames to my mind. And I must say, I'm pleased with the final product that Amanda Kelsey created. It's now on my website, along with an excerpt: