Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Seven Ancient Wonders in colour

When my Seven Fabulous Wonders series was still in print, I used to carry around some laminated A3-size pictures of the ancient Wonders to show children when I visited schools. Six of them were paintings I found in books and enlarged, but I could not find a picture of the pyramids at Giza as they would have appeared at the time they were being built, so I had to paint that one myself.

Great Pyramid at Giza (about 2500BC)
After these books were retired by their publisher, this picture went into a box with the rest of them, where it stayed until I created the ebook editions and realised I needed some e-covers. I dragged it out and tried to create a cover from it, but gave up when I realised:
(a) it was the wrong shape.
(b) it was too big for my scanner, which was refusing to talk to my new computer, anyway.
(c) I'd have to paint the other six ancient wonders to make the covers look as if they belonged to vaguely the same series. A daunting task, when I wanted to get all the books up by Christmas!

Cue some experimentation with silhouettes and a digital camera in place of my stubborn scanner, and eventually seven covers evolved looking something like this.


But the ancient Wonders still lived as colourful places in my head, so once I'd finished my Pendragon Legacy series for Templar, I promised myself I'd have another go at the paintings. Out came my pyramid painting again, this time exactly the right shape (well, almost... the observant among you will notice I had to stretch it a little) for replacing the scarab in my existing cover design.


In a thoroughly Egyptian mood now, I tackled The Cleopatra Curse next. This time, I decided to focus on the chariot race of the story, rather than the seventh Wonder of the Ancient World - the Pharos lighthouse of Alexandria, which appears here in the background.

Zeuxis, the lighthouse boy, driving the Roman team to victory.


Happy with the two Egyptian books, I decided it was time for a challenge, and set out to recreate the one ancient Wonder that has vanished completely... the Hanging Garden of Babylon (or, in some accounts, the Wall of Babylon). No doubt influenced by watching Oliver Stone's film Alexander the night before, with its amazing CGI effects of the city, I ended up with rather more wall than garden:

Tiamat and Simeon play a game of Twenty Squares under the Ishtar Gate
I added a dragon, which plays an important part in the story, looking as if it might have crawled off the walls themselves. You see here the Ishtar Gate with its gold aurochs (bulls) and sirrush (dragons, or possibly unicorns?) - both ancient creatures apparently common back when the original walls of Babylon were built. The two children are playing the game of the title, Twenty Squares - sometimes called the Royal Game of Ur - on a simple board scratched into the pavement, just as the guards of Babylon might have done to pass the long hours of their shift.

To be honest, the right side of this picture (meant to suggest the Hanging Garden) didn't work so well, and watercolour is difficult to change once it goes wrong. So I fiddled about with it - the joys of digital images! - to focus more on the dragon, and ended up with two possible covers:

 

I haven't quite made up my mind about the green / orange background, so at the moment you'll find the orange one on the Kindle edition, and the green one on the epub. (Poor Tiamat got cut out of both, but I'm claiming artistic licence.)

I hope the new covers reflect the ancient and magical settings of these books. Four more Wonders to come, once I've finished painting them...



Click HERE for two more covers - The Colossus Crisis and The Olympic Conspiracy.

Click HERE for the fiinal two covers - The Amazon Temple Quest and The Mausoleum Murder

***
You can see the new e-covers in action, and read extracts from these books, at the following stores:

THE GREAT PYRAMID ROBBERY
Kindle / Nook / Apple / Kobo

THE CLEOPATRA CURSE
Kindle Nook / Apple / Kobo

THE BABYLON GAME
Kindle / Nook Apple / Kobo


(For Kindle, when you see the book page just click on your country's flag to be taken to the correct Amazon store.)

Sunday, 6 April 2014

Over at the History Girls today...

Today I'm over at the History Girls blog, revealing all about my public library loans from the beginning of my publishing career to the present day. (That's 14 years, in case you're wondering... not long enough to get famous, but too long to be called a sparkling debut any more... a perilous time in any author's life!)

Click here to read more

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