About the Badge of Honor CoverBadge of Honor was the very first medieval novel I wrote. When I was dreaming this out, it wasn't even as a novel. It simply was as a fun escape from my normal world. It was only after several years that I wrote it down in novel form. When I began playing with self publishing systems to document them for my editors, I used this as my "test case" - meaning I had to think up a cover.
I've been in the Society for Creative Anachronisms (SCA) for many years, so I had several medieval outfits. I also have been taking sword class, so I own several medieval swords. I grow my hair out to waist length to donate to charity, so I was pretty set there too. I took some photos of me from the back, with my sword, with a generic background. Then I added in an English landscape photo that I'd taken on one of my trips to England. This is near Stonehenge.
I'm not sure this scene really "says" much of anything at all, though. It's a woman with a sword, I suppose, but where is she? Why is she there? It's fairly generic.
Years later, when I finally began "actually" self publishing my books, I used Debi Gardiner to design custom created and illustrated covers for the stories. This way each one could perfectly tie into the plot and relationships. I held off on publishing Badge of Honor until five of my other books had been put out. With this one being my very first, I felt a very strong attachment to it and wanted to make sure I'd weathered any chaos / issues with the first books before I put this one out to the public.
So by this point Debi and I had already settled on the basic look for the series - the golden ring, the stone background, and other key elements. Here are the covers we'd finished up to this point.
Now the question was how to combine that series look and feel with this particular storyline.
One of the key symbols in Badge of Honor is a snowdrop flower. Interestingly, there's a little debate over the snowdrop. It definitely isn't "native" to England in the sense of being there for millions of years. However, researchers can't quite tell if it was brought in by the Roman invaders, or after that. It's hard to precisely date these sorts of things. I went with the theory that the Romans HAD brought in the snowdrop so that it was found in various places by the middle ages.
Debi began with a beautiful snowdrop image. I loved the white against the blue background. I love how the snowdrop naturally has a green "badge" on it which matches with the symbolism of badges in the story. I also love how the badge is naturally formed by an upside-down heart! Very neat. The flower also has a shape of a woman in a billowing skirt, so it stands for the heroine.
The differences between these three initial versions are fairly slight. The one on the left has thin lines, while the middle one has thicker lines. The rightmost one has a thicker, green stem as well.
Of these three I liked the first one a lot. I wondered if the petals could be drawn in slightly, to give her a more "closed off" feel. With the petals resembling skirts on a dress, I wanted to give more of a sense that she was emotionally held within, holding her passions close to her heart because of the dictates of duty.
Also, I worried that the two little "flower parts" on either side might make the overall image look too much like a beetle with wings. I.e. those would look like legs. So even though they're anatomically correct for the flower, I had her remove them.
Debi came back with two sets of designs to look at. The first two involved single flowers. Both had the "legs" removed. One was the normal version, and the right hand one had the flower petals more closely brought in. Both are accurate styles of snowdrops that exist in nature. Of the two, I found I liked the left-hand one more, as it has a softer feel to me.
Debi also did a trio of images with multiple flowers in it, in both styles. I found, looking at these, that I liked the single flower best. I aim for simple, clear images in my cover, so the reader focuses in on it and really absorbs its symbolism.
We were now all set! A single flower, with the gently spread petals, the green heart badge, and the sweep of stem across the top. It was just what I wanted to represent the heroine and her story.
Here the final snowdrop in full context. The entire process took us less than two days, and I'm thrilled with the results. It gives exactly the sense of the main character here, and the snowdrop is key to the storyline.
I highly recommend Debi for any graphic projects you might have! GardinerDesign.com
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