posted by Doranna

Any author will tell you...when it comes to book production, there are so many ways to get it wrong. Even in the midst of a striking cover, of layers of copyediting and oversight, of proofing and editorial discussion...

Oh, yeah, the packaging details come out wrong.

Ctbmsm Sometimes it's a subtle thing...something only you the author will notice. Sometimes it's so blatant as to be the topic of conversation at conventions for years. I, for instance, am still explaining and apologizing for the cover of Touched By Magic. No, there are no pastel unicorns in the book. In fact, there are no runty, swaybacked, ewe-necked, girly-butted, loaded-shouldered unicorns anywhere in any of my books. That particular two-book series does have striking draft-sized feral unicorns of the sort one Does Not Trust, and they are indeed not your average horse colors, but...

Seriously. No pastel. It is safe to pick up this book; you will not get Cute Overload My Little Pony cooties when you read it.

Barrenlands suffers a different kind of detail malfunction--for although the artist did a magnificent job in incorporating some of the subtle details of the character and in choosing a great action sword fight to illustrate, he then put one of the participants of the fight on horseback, completely impossibilifying the action in question. (The horse has also arranged its legs so as to tip over in the next breath, but...okay, maybe I'm the only one who would notice that.)

There are other ways for things to go wrong. There's the cover for Seer's Blood, which is perfection unless you notice that the two male characters have swapped their distinct hair color. Hair color is a theme, I's wrong on the Touched by Magic cover, too, as well as the otherwise stupendous Wolf Justice cover. A Feral Darkness gets the hair right, but don't ask me what that little popgun is in my heroine's hands...and I swear I sent Cardigan Welsh Corgi reference photos to the artist. Honest.

When it comes to bloopers, though, Seer's Blood blows the rest of 'em out of the water. Have a copy? Turn you to the title page. Take a gander at my name. Not that it's an important detail or anything, or that it really matters if it's spelled right.

So...yeah...when it comes to the final product, I never make any assumptions.

That's why it's so very cool when everything comes together. And when it's even more cool when it comes together and goes beyond...

I'm talking about the new Jess again, of course.

Not that I'd meant to, since I recently chatted about this one. But I was looking at the book again this morning and thinking how marvelous it how that everything came together. Not that this was coincidence--the book's editor, Julie Czerneda of the Star Ink imprint, oversaw every detail. And the artists at Mondolithic Studios pondered any number of cover concepts before we all went "Ah!" in response to the perfect one, and then engaged in much discussion to be assured of things like equine expression, movement, and especially that color (and if you haven't looked into the complexities of dun coloration, one day you're in for a treat!). The cover blurbs came in from those most generous authors who agreed to read the book, filling the back cover and spilling right over into Elizabeth Moon's forward. And mine editor went the extra mile and beyond to acquire a graphic for the Compton Crook award (for best first SF/F/H), won by Jess in '95.

I mean, it really doesn't get any better than all that. Blurbs everywhere, a gorgeous, eye-catching and accurate cover, beautiful production values...

Oh wait. It does. Because--and I don't even remember how this came about--along theDurginjessdingbathalf way, we decided to use a bit graphic as a dingbat. And I wanted it to be the right bit, so...I drew it, and I stuck it into Photoshop, and I sent it along. And it not only went to the typesetting/production team, it went to the artists, who incorporated it right into the overall design of the cover. So if you see a copy of the book, and you see those bits...

Those are mine. Me. I did that! And the bit shown is exactly the bit that Dun Lady's Jess carries--her eggbutt snaffle with a copper roller in the center.

(For the record, none of my mounts has ever used that bit. But Jess wanted it, so I gave it to her. You know how characters can be sometimes.)

If you do have a chance to check out the book, take a moment--look twice. What you're seeing is a rare thing indeed...a book where everything past the writing was not only done beautifully, it was done right.

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